Despite being a fairly regular visitor, Black-crowned Night Heron is a bird I still haven't managed to catch up with, partly due to being stranded in the practically birdless Northwest. I'd been having thoughts about attempting to twitch the highly elusive Old Moor bird so I was pleased when a showy 2CY bird turned up at Thornton Resevoir and stuck around until I was home from my trip to Cornwall. After dipping the Two-Barred Crossbill near Clitheroe on Sunday, me and Scott Reid resolved to head to Leicestershire early the next morning but unfortunately rain cancelled play. This happened to be a stroke of luck as the Norfolk Roller was relocated on Monday. This lead to a brainwave from Scott who suggested enlisting Austin Morley and attempting double twitch with a night's stay in Norfolk and some classic north Norfolk birding, a proposition I couldn't resist.
Tuesday morning saw me and Scott heading towards Cherry Corner at the ungodly hour of 5am. Here we picked up Austin and headed south, arriving at the reservoir just after 7am. After some initial confusion we found the correct spot and were informed by a well camouflaged local photographer that the bird had moved behind some reeds. After a short but nerve-wracking wait the bird emerged giving stunning views. The blood red eye was particularly noticeable, giving the bird a striking appearance. The bird showed well around the inflow for a couple of hours allowing me to capture this record shot.
|Night Heron, Thornton Resevoir|
After enjoying this bird it was on to Norfolk and we arrived at Horsey around lunchtime. After what felt like an hours walk we arrived at the correct location to find the Roller showing well, albeit distantly as it fed along a fence line. Despite the distance I was elated at finally catching up with this stunning vagrant, especially after missing the well-twitched Yorkshire bird last year. After achieving satisfying views of the bird and a number of cracking Dark Green Fritillaries, I enjoyed a celebratory pint of Nelson's Revenge in the Nelson's Head Pub. Unfortunately the distance of the bird and the heat haze prevented any attempts at photography but I got this shot for posterity.
We then headed to Blakeney where we pitched the tent at the pleasant Galley Hill Farm campsite. Then it was on to Cley NWT where we enjoyed an array of waders on the North Scrape including a stunning Wood Sandpiper and a moulting adult Curlew Sandpiper. Also nice was a flyover Spoonbill and 3 Little Gulls. The rest of the evening was spent at Kelling Heath where we dipped Dartford Warbler, a bird I've only seen on a couple of previous occasions. This faded into insignificance however as dusk fell and we were treating to an incredible display by a stunning male Nightjar which responded to us clapping and waving around a white tissue. The bird gave incredible views flying around us calling and displaying, a real treat. The sound of this ethereal bird churring, likened to stout pouring from a tap by the excellent Tim Dee, with a background accompaniment of jazz piano emanating from Kelling Heath campsite was a fantastic if surreal experience. Elated, we headed back to the campsite scoring a nice Tawny Owl on the way home.
The next day was comparatively quiet with no success at Kelling Heath and a failed seawatch in crap conditions off Sheringham producing nothing. The Montagu's Harriers also failed to play ball despite over 3 hours searching. This was a shame as Monties was a potential lifer for both Scott and Austin. My mood was lifted however by the sight of a group of 5 Turtle Doves which included 3 juvenile birds. The joy of seeing these subtly beautiful birds was sadly tempered by the realisation that I may never again see a larger group in Britain.
|Turtle Dove, North Norfolk|
After this we headed to Titchwell where we got similar fare to Cley with the added bonus of 2 juvenile Bearded Tits and 2 female/juvenile Red-crested Pochard on Thornham Pool. We finished the trip with a cracking fish and chips in Hunstanton before hitting the road for the long drive home during which, we somehow crossed the M1 on two separate occasions. A fantastic trip with good birds and great company. Special thanks to Scott for all the driving, it was really appreciated!