Sunday 16 October 2011

A very happy birthday!

Plenty of great birds today in glorious weather, and opportunities to say hello to a number of friends!

Jono and I started off at Thorpeness in Suffolk – it’s a good site for gauging what’s on the move early morning, has turned up numerous good birds recently, and offered options to move north or south up the coast. Plenty of finches were on the move, including c15 Redpolls and a few Siskin and Brambling. In the bushes, a few Blackcaps darted about in and around berry bushes but a vocal Yellow-browed Warbler refused to show more than briefly.

Shortly after leaving here, I received news of a Booted or Sykes’s Warbler at Landguard, no more than half an hour away. JL needed Booted, while I would still like to see Sykes’s properly after awful views of the skulking Channerwick bird before the ID had been clinched last year… so, a win-win situation! On arrival, the bird was showing superbly well…


The bird has swung to and fro throughout the day between probable and definite Booted. I’m far from expert, but still reckon it’s the latter, because:

  • there’s a lot of contrast in the tertials
  • the bill doesn’t look long enough to me - I’m also pretty certain it has a faint dark tip to the lower mandible (though this was hard to discern in the field, and Sykes’s can show it anyway, I believe)
  • the primary projection doesn’t look particularly short, nor the tail particularly long – the bird generally felt quite well proportioned to me
  • the head pattern also favours Booted in my view – super clearly extends back behind the eye
  • and finally, it always felt rather warm toned, albeit in strong sunshine – my sense is that Sykes’s tends to be rather greyer, colder toned on the mantle

Couple of relevant links and pics – check out tertials in particular:

There – I’ve nailed my colours to the mast, though would be interested to hear what others reckon. If I’ve screwed it up, then I’ve learned something along the way!

Our next move to East Mersea took in two rather less difficult birds to identify. A Glossy Ibis, noted for their incessant spinning while feeding:


…and a Grey Phalarope, with an abnormally long bill, I thought:


Excellent. Though for one twitcher, the other birds in the area were simply too much to resist, and he departed somewhat hastily after no more than 3 or 4 minutes on site:


Blimey, we thought… something must be good! Well, certainly not good enough to persuade me to run (and besides, in my fourth decade on the planet, I may not physically be able to any more, who knows?), but still very very nice: a Pallas’s Warbler at Bradwell. We turned up to find no-one really looking for the bird, let alone at it, but happily in a stroke of sheer brilliance birthday luck I found it (or it found me) within the first couple of minutes, and we enjoyed great views as it fed in small trees. Awesome birds, absolutely tiny, and so smart in a very stripy sort of way. I make it my sixth in the UK, only the second I’ve heard to call (a soft upslurred ‘boiiing’, like a distant quiz show buzzer) and the earliest date yet. Take that: stats, done.


Finally, we played the game of chance that is the Dartford Crossing on a Sunday night, and won! Our prize came in the form of the stunning adult Isabelline Shrike at Cliffe. Unfortunately, this wasn’t particularly close, but in still and crisp conditions, views were superb at 60x. “Always go and see shrikes”, said my chauffeur. In fact, said my chauffeur at least a dozen times while I was extolling the virtues of small stripy phylloscs in remote locations…

Anyway, thanks to all the folk who’ve wished me Happy Birthday or just said hello today – I apologise to anyone who expected a Rob Martin-esque find somewhere along the coast, but that’s setting the bar a bit high!

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