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Sunday, 4 December 2011

Heading East Gets West. Sponsored by Toffee Crisp.

Dear readers I am not going to apologize, for the lack of input, on this blog. Equally I am not going to apologize for the small amount of birding I have done since the summer. Circumstances have changed, I have a new job, which is taking up time, and when not doing that I have family who need me first. I have missed many good birds, many lifers and so now I have to take my chances when I get them. Some of you won't be able to comprehend what I'm saying here but others of you will. It's all about priorities I guess but for this year my feathered friends have had to take a bit of a rest. I've still seen good birds, I've still had great days out. I've still dipped and equally still had my bits of luck.

A recent piece of fortune was this Desert Wheatear, an addition to my Shropshire life list. This photo was taken on my belly due to the harsh winds that were whipping Titterstone Clee. I probably resembled a scene out of Frozen Planet (thinking Walrus here) but it got me the shot.

                                                 Desert Wheatear, Titterstone Clee, Shropshire.

Equally some other recent Shropshire lifers that have obliged have been Steppe Grey Shrike and Red Throated Diver. Obviously the deflector shields have been removed from the county this autumn. 

So with December on us it was with great excitement I learnt of the arrival of a Western Sandpiper at Cley. I really wanted this bird. So on Friday evening the negotiation began with my wife. You know when you know you can go virtually immediately and this time I knew I could go. Normally it is me who cannot go but this time several usual suspects were working, or couldn't be bothered or were washing the cat. Some had already been to see it. Only one brave soul ventured to come with me and that was Dave Western.

So at 4.15am (Saturday 3rd December) I picked Dave up with my drive through McDonalds coffee and donut in hand. The journey was very good, my sat nav found a new route and we made Cley in 3hrs 30mins. The journey included a stop off for more coffee  and a double sausage and egg mcmuffin, and allowed us views of Fox, Barn Owl and Deer along the way.

We pulled up at the NWT reserve car park along with about 20 more cars with bleary eyed birders dropping in. One of the reserve guys accosted us all for £4.50 and gave us a sticker each which wasn't a bad deal for a sticker.

Onto the reserve we charged and got to the 3 central hides and chose the central one to view from. In we went to find it chocca block filled with scopes. Establishing that the bird was distant and left of a mole hill, and was running in and out of view, I was wondering how I would get to see it. A local old chap was kind enough to let me look through his already set up scope and the bird seemingly ran out and let me glimpse it for a millisecond as it hid under a Lapwing. There was no way we would get a good look at it from here. All I could say was the size was good.

Suddenly the flock got up and moved Left and all dropped down on the left hand side of the hide where we were standing. A bit closer now and books appeared and much debate ensued but the light was better here and we were getting excited when we started to see much clearer views of this wader.

I decided to use the benches at the front of the hide as nobody else seemed to be using them. The birds got up again and swirled round for an age but then dropped in on the island nearest to us. All the Dunlin were obscured on the far edge of this island but then they all started to walk around to the front just as the sun shone through. The wader we all wanted was coming closer and closer and eventually appeared and put on a great show for us for about 20 minutes on the closest bank. I shot some photo's but my lens wasn't quite powerful enough to get a real close shot. I guess digiscopers would have won here. One shot was ok and shows the overall feeling of the bird next to a Dunlin. 

                                                     Western Sandpiper (left) with Dunlin.

Western Sandpiper On My Life List!!

The Dunlin flock got up and moved further away taking the sandpiper with them but our eyes were now accustomed to what we were looking for and in total we viewed the bird for about an hour. Happiness all round.

So back to the car we skipped and second breakfast consumed. Dave seemed to be the one with the massive bag of food on this trip. I got rewarded with a Toffee Crisp! 

We headed to Burnham Overy. No Rough Legs at this point so we carried on to Titchwell where a Yellow Browed Warbler had been for a long while now. The weather wasn't helping us, high winds, one minute sunny the next overcast, then rain. We perservered and located the YBW heard it call 5 times but did not get a single view. A very frustrating bird and how anyone can post "showing well" for this bird, on the bird news services, god only knows. Maybe that's on the days when they trap it! The only obliging birds at Titchwell were the trained Robins an example of which i photographed. We also picked up a Mealy Redpoll, amongst the Goldfinch flock, feeding near the visitor centre.

We had wasted an awful lot of time trying to see the YBW and tiredness set in so we decided to head home as we'd seen what we wanted to see. In the car park Dave rewarded me once more with a Toffee Crisp!

En route I started to get nodding off syndrome and pulled in for a rest at several locations. One in particular though was memorable, a small lay-by after Guyhirn on the A47 just passed Wisbech and virtually at Thorney. Whilst i rested Dave had been scanning the fields to our left. Suddenly he said, in a very unexcited way, 8 common Crane flying in. I thought he was taking the mick but then he said, "I'm getting out to scope them". By some randon chance we had seen 8 Cranes! Another birder pulled into the lay-by and told us these had been reported in the area before but we hadn't seen this news. (I discovered later on this was John Hague who I am on a facebook birding group with). He told me about a cafe car park further up the road that we could view from. Off we went and fortunately the light was good from here and I got this shot. This is the biggest group of Crane I have seen in the UK.

With another dose of Adrenaline we headed home and got to the A14 where I stopped for a coffee. Dave produced another Toffee Crisp for me (must have been a family pack) and we motored back listening to talk sport. Eventually I got home to discover a homemade curry waiting for me. What a day!