Lifers are always special birds and even with my modest UK list, the magnitude and importance gets greater and greater. They are amongst everybody’s special birding moments – ask any birder about any rarity and they will have the key moments (plus location/year/month) stored up in the memory and instantly recalled (and ready to offload) for when they first saw one!
An impromptu virtually full ‘car park’ of verges and ‘pull ins’ made it pretty obvious where the trek for this Pallas’s was to begin and there in the distance (about a mile and a half away!) the human dots forming the gallery. Reassuring Yvonne that it would still be there and another yomp was well worthwhile, we set off........
You see the whole spectrum of people and emotions walking in an and out of a twitch! Relaxed happy smiling faces walking out, all too ready to offload encouragement like: “not far now”, “it’s showing really well’. The comedians who tell you it was it was showing TOO well until eaten by a Sparrowhawk. The dour miserable Yorkshireman who tells you to not disturb the Bramblings he’s watching on the fence. (Oh, excuse me as I stand by you and wait 10 minutes then eh? We didn’t!)
And then, those walking in (like me). Head down, calves burning.... can’t stop sorry! The thought of a missed by minutes dip is unbearable so you speed up as you get closer. Did I really need to bring the big lens? (Answer YES!)
We joined the gallery at a comfortable distance from the tangled copse of shrubs/wild rose and waited. It was only a 5 minutes wait until movement was seen and yesssssss, Pallas’s Warbler was on my list! The much abused term ‘showing well’ certainly applied here, it was less than 20m away but generally behind foliage and ALWAYS on the move! In fact after three really good displays, I still didn’t have a sharp image!
When it came into full view it was invariably obscured (for me) by the fire beaters!
Another 30 mins had elapsed during which, one or two keepers were in the bag – mostly of it’s arse end or random parts behind twigs!
I finally got a shot with the head in clear view - against the milky white sky - grrrrrr.
And then, a pager bleeped, the owner absorbed the news and announced somewhat excitedly - " ****ing hell - Red-flanked Bluetail at Burnham Overy, close to the end of the boardwalk"!
Wait a minute, that was only 50m or so from us…….
In the time it takes to throw a bag over the shoulder , we were off – a brisk walk / jog to where the excited finder was pointing the bird (another lifer) out. An anxious wait followed as it skulked, briefly flew and skulked again – neither giving conclusive views.
Then it suddenly appeared, sat on a low branch barely 20m away, Red-flanked Bluetail - astonishing views which you can judge from this.....
It then dropped onto a path and after a couple of pirouettes gave a classic view of flanks and tail......
These views were never bettered and it progressively flew further and further west and after 100m or so we let the others get on with it and we returned.......
.....to the Pallas’s Warbler – now sulking as there was only one birder there watching it!! Sulking, skulking, whatever, I continued trying to get the ‘shot’ and had to come away pleased with this one sharp image – Pallas’s Warbler will be on my gallery list too!
With time running out, we retraced our steps in a leisurely (smiling broadly) manner nodding and acknowledging the new influx of birders….. heads down, calves burning - is the Bluetail still there……can’t stop sorry!
You have to feel sorry for several birders making this journey for the second time that day but we would have done it too! After four days of dips, yomps, wet feet and occasional decent birds, this day had produced ten minutes of birding heaven, two lifers and a feeling that more than balances the agonies of dipping. I can’t remember being so upbeat about a day out – Norfolk – birding heaven, on the fifth day anyway!
I'll finish with a landscape (mobile phone shot) taken into the sun walking back from the dunes - simple black and white image - who needs a sunset....