Saturday, 7 June 2014

Spectacled Warbler, Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk

Spectacled Warbler 1 singing male
Spoonbill 1 adult
Egyptian Goose 2
Marsh Harrier 1 female
Avocet 5

UK Life: 399; Year: 254 (Spectacled Warbler)

I didn't go with high expectations of the Spectacled Warbler. I'd seen them before, abroad, but never had great views, and they always seemed quite skulking birds. Also the illustration in the book seemed to suggest that it was little more than a small Whitethroat, almost indistinguishable in fact, except for the dark, almost black lores of the Spectacled Warbler, and the diagnostic song of course. Finally, the weather forecast was pretty grim for the whole country today, and I had visions of staring for hours at a distant bush in pouring rain, waiting for a fleeting glimpse of a skulking small whitethroat. Fortunately, the day turned out to be nothing like that.

We joined the group of 50 or so birders on the edge of the saltmarsh at Burnham Overy Staithe in bright sunshine to discover that the warbler was showing very well. So well in fact that scopes were rendered obsolete. The bird was gathering nesting material and building a "cock" nest, i.e. a nest with no female, and it was in a bush no more than about 10m in front of us. Every 2 or 3 minutes the bird would return to the bush with nesting material, disappear into the heart of the bush for a minute, before flying out and often perching up to sing just a few metres in front of us, or occasionally singing during its display flight. And what a smart bird it was, much brighter than I expected, with surprisingly obviously dark lores on a blue / grey head and with chestnut coloured wings.

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