A quick dash after work (ahem) for the male Trumpeter Finch was a stunning success yesterday evening. I even took the Dipmonkey and still scored. I'd arrranged with Shaun to hold off during the day and go up together, and then the Monkey decided he would like to come too, despite not needing the bird. Fair enough though, the more the cheaper, er I mean merrier. And to make up the team, Muffin came too, keen to add to his list of rarities.
After waiting for Shaun to make a cup of tea, have a shower and clean his van, we were off! I was slightly worried that by arriving at 7pm the bird might have gone to roost, but I needn't have worried, and there were reassuring pager messages all the way up.
It is fair to say that the Cley Square was having a rather good evening. In addition to the Trumpeter Finch on the shingle at the end of the East Bank, there was a Thrush Nightingale at Walsey Hills, which is basically at the opposite end of the East Bank. Less than a mile east, a Marsh Warbler was singing at Gramborough Hill, and less than half a mile west, an adult male Red-backed Shrike was at Cley Coastguards. Wanstead eat your heart out.
We were obliged to go and see the Trumpeter Finch first, it being the "biggie", and after a brief slog over the shingle we were able to spend some quality time with it. It first showed very well on the fence below the ridge, and then fed right in front of us. For a bird that is pink, its ability to disappear against the shingle is amazing.
The lure of the Red-backed Shrike eventually proved too much, and we had to tear ourselves away. We left Shaun to try for the Thrush Nightingale which he still needs (the rest of us having seen one years ago), and drove the short distance to Cley Coastguards. Wow. Shrikes, you just can't beat them, and there is not much to trump an adult male Red-backed. We drank it in. Much as a Trumpeter Finch is very very rare, and pink, both qualities that appeal to me, the Shrike immediately pushed it off the top spot.
Another tick for Muffin, poor kid. Shaun was having no luck with the Thrush Nightingale, so we went and picked him up and returned to the Shrike so he could enjoy it too. Then we had a choice between standing around hoping the Thrush Nightingale would show (or sing), or standing around hoping that the Marsh Warbler would show (or sing). In the event we did neither, and went and got Fish and Chips. I don't think we missed much, certainly the Thrush Nightingale was neither seen nor heard again, although I think the Warbler did show briefly. Nevermind. Of the four birds on offer, I saw my first two choices. And in fact if I'd have dipped the Finch and just seen the Shrike, I'd have been perfectly happy.
Muffin had a great time - he got to be one of the boys. He's a proper birder, not like the three of us. Whilst we were running down the East Bank, he was stopping and looking at the resident birds. Avocets, Redshanks in flight, BT Godwits, Eygptian Geese. For a six year old, his identification skills are rather good. Satisfyingly good I might add.