Anyone for Desert?

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First view of the bird suggested Black-eared Wheatear

I was passing Cley NWT this afternoon and decided to take a look for the Shore Lark, which had been reported earlier, along the shingle ridge behind Sea Pool. As I walked down Iron Road towards the sea I could see several birders looking intently over the shingle, between the pool and the ridge, although by the time I’d reach the end of the track they’d dispersed. I got to the spot and scanned around but there was no sign of any Shore Lark or anything else for that matter. Oh well, I walked along the ridge, somewhat aimlessly, towards Arnold’s, when I noticed a small passerine on the edge of the shingle. I took a look with my bins and was amazed to see a sandy coloured Wheatear with pronounced black face pattern – not unlike a  Black-eared Wheatear, melanoleuca! As quickly as it appeared it dipped down below the ridge and was lost to view. I didn’t manage to see the tail pattern. As the bird failed to re-appear and with no field guide to hand I quickly texted a local birder for back-up. I continued to search for the bird whilst another birder approached. I told him there was an unusual Wheatear nearby, which I suspected could be a Black-eared. He had a copy of Collins with him, which helpfully refreshed my memory of the salient id features, and fortunately, before long, the bird re-appeared. At which point the tail was more visible and other features apparent that suggested not BEW but a stonking adult male Desert! Mark and Steve arrived shortly after and confirmed the id. What a bird – but I didn’t get to see the Shore Lark!

Later it revealed it’s true identity – Desert Wheatear, adult male in near summer plumage

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Isabelline ‘in the bag’

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Record shot – Isabelline Wheatear, Gun Hill

Having been denied the opportunity, through a conspiracy of commitments, to get up to Yorkshire to see the Siberian Accentor and the ‘supporting cast’ of Isabelline Wheatear, I was delighted this morning to read a pager message announcing the presence of another Isabelline Wheatear, this time on the Norfolk coast! By the time I’d gathered the family together and got down to the start of the Gun Hill track, a couple of hours had elapsed. However, I needn’t have stressed, as the bird was showing well immediately on arrival. There was a regular Wheatear close-by, to emphasise the differences, and a nice Pallas’s Warbler in a nearby bush to provide additional interest. A nice bird, a UK and a Norfolk tick to-boot.

Pallas’s Warbler – providing additional interest

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‘regular’ Wheatear, providing a helpful comparison of id features

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Another few record shots of the ‘star bird’, showing some of the key identification points: thick black tail band, upright stance, dark lores, plain wing coverts contrasting with black alula and overall greyish buff colouration

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Cornish Cornucopia

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Prime target for the trip – Dalmatian Pelican. Distant views on the Taw Estuary, now returned to Cornwall

We’ve just returned from a few days birding with our travelling companions Bob & Sue, in the South West. Following in the long and noble tradition of GPOG, we stayed at the Beachside Holiday Park, Hayle, and toured the various valleys and birding hot-spots of the Land’s End peninsular. The weather was fabulous with blue skies, a gentle breeze and peak temperatures of 18 degrees – perfect conditions to enjoy this lovely corner of the country. We managed to collect a couple of long-staying national rarities during the trip – Dalmatian Pelican on the Taw estuary and Hudsonian Whimbrel in Mounts Bay, together with a good supporting cast including: Baird’s & Pectoral Sandpiper, Richard’s Pipit x2, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Yellow-browed Warbler x3, an off-shore Osprey, Hen Harrier, Chough and Cirl Bunting. There were still a few regular migrants around like Swallow, Whinchat, Wheatear and Spotted Flycatcher keeping us entertained whilst searching out the scarcer species. The total trip list was 114 species.

Juvenile Baird’s Sandpiper, Davidstow airfield

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Hudsonian Whimbrel, Boat Cove, Mount’s Bay

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One of several Yellow-browed Warbler found during our trip

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Some of the more regular species which kept us occupied whilst searching for the less common. A nice Raven at Pendeen

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and Wheatear

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An elusive Red-breasted Flycatcher in Kenidjack

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Two Richard’s Pipit at Portgwarra – an adult and 1st winter, I presume

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A total surprise – Osprey, seen off-shore at Pendeen

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A late juvenile Common Tern at Argal Reservoir was a nice bonus after the Pectoral Sandpiper

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A stop-off at the traditional site on the way home, produced several Cirl Bunting

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