Friday, 13 June 2014

Spectacled Warbler, Gun Hill, Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk - Saturday 7th June 2014

A fantastic bird, this Spectacled Warbler. You can't really ask for more than a springtime singing male carrying nest material, can you?

Way too tricky for me to take photos of it with my cheap little camera, so I gave up trying after the about my 30th shot of empty sueda and just concentrated on getting good views. And good they were. During the couple of hours I was on site, the bird pitched up in various different shrubs and belted out its song. The sun was out (briefly) and the orange legs and contrasting plumage looked great. The rest of the time it was deep in the sueda, giving occasional glimpses as it worked through the brush. Otherwise it was brief flight views before disappearing again for a few minutes.

Plumage-wise, it was like a watching a Common Whitethroat with the contrast and vibrance turned up. The head was darker (more Lesser Whitethroat like), the mantle appeared to have more brown and orange and less grey. The bill looked bigger, perhaps accentuated by the head shape. It looked more correctly proportioned than a Whitethroat, which always look small-headed (and a bid scruffy) to me. And then were the legs: Kia-Ora orange.

Its song was difficult for me to pick out, but seems purer than, less scratchy than a Common Whitethroat. I did here it make a Sylvia-type alarm rattle a couple of times.

I'd actually travelled down on the Thursday afternoon, after a funeral in Leeds. I arrived on site around 19:00, and the bird hadn't been seen for 1.5hrs. The birders on site were all viewing from the salt marsh, looking north into the sueda and dunes (unlike the following day when everyone was in the dunes, looking south). I stayed with the other eight or so birders until the sun went down, picking through the Skylarks and Linnets in vain. A pair of Spoonbill flying over was a nice bonus, if nothing else, as were the showy Sedge Warblers along the sea wall.

Fortunately, my birder friend Chris had space at his excellent B&B in Sheringham, so I shared a few too many drinks with him and got up late on Saturday (08:30!). The bird was still there - and still is at the time of writing: a record 11 days and counting. I had to dodge some heavy downpours, and still got soaked on the journey out and back from Gun Hill, but it was well worth it for this little beauty.

The scene at the Spectacled Warbler twitch, day six...

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