Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler – Blakeney Point, Norfolk

Having spoken to Peter on Sunday and found out about his aborted trip for the Red-necked Stint and Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler we agreed that if either of us fancied going up to Norfolk now that the Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler had reappeared then we would go together. With the bird showing well during Sunday afternoon I rang Peter back and suggested that if the bird was relocated on Monday morning then we would go, he agreed.

We decided against going first thing just in case the warbler had disappeared overnight (as they often do). I had mentioned to the lads at work that I would be late in because I had a Doctors appointment. At 8:45 the next morning I was stood in the queue outside the doctor’s surgery. I was in my suit and tie and while my birding stuff was in the boot of the car I still felt fairly sure that I would be going to work rather than taking a day off and heading north east to the North Norfolk coast.

Amazingly the next message reported that the bird had been relocated and thus began a very long day. I fled from the doctors and jumped into the car. I rang Peter and headed off towards Swindon. We met outside Peter’s parents house at 10:45am. I rang the office to say I would not be in and took a days holiday. Peter jumped into the driving seat and we headed off.

Throughout the journey the pager reported the continued presence of the bird and the excitement began to grow. We were always concerned that there wouldn’t be many birders on site by the time we got there and that it might be difficult to locate. The weather forecast was also a bit worrying with heavy thunderstorms on the way. At about Peterborough we had a long gap without any news from the pager and we began to get a little nervous. We were well beyond King’s Lynn before we had further positive news.

However, the torrential rain which began to hit the car just outside Cley was not so welcome. We arrived in the Coastguards Car Park at about 2:30 right in the middle of a huge downpour. We needn’t have worried about there not being many birders on site, the car park was packed.

The rain was so strong it was debatable whether it was worth getting out of the car. Peter took forever to get ready and so I headed off on my own with the lightening flashing behind me in the east. The strength sapping shingle seemed endless and with Peter a long way behind me I felt sure that he would be getting nervous. I met Stuart with about 200 yards to go. He was on his way back and he said I would have no problems. I arrived to find a large semi circle of birders surrounding a small sueda bush no more than knee height and no bigger than 10 foot across. The bird was in there but in true locustella style was walking around out of sight for the most part, like a mouse.

Peter arrived 5 minutes later and eventually we had a quick glimpse and we could begin to relax.The various features were picked out in instalments with our views becoming progressively better as the bird became more active in the better weather and as its plumage began to dry. Yellow underparts, unstreaked vent, obvious white inner webs to the tertial tips, rufous rump contrasting with olive brown mantle and darker tail and was that a glimpse of white spots on the tail tips, I’m still not sure.

Just to upset the relaxed atmosphere a Mega Alert at 3:50pm reported that a Green Heron had been present near Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire from 11:30am to 3:40pm at least, and after a short delay we decided to go!

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