This Saturday just gone I abandoned the patch again. It is an interesting time of year, or could be at any rate, and so I've been getting out of the house early on weekdays and birding before going to work, so missing a weekend wasn't really a problem. So far weekday birding has not been a great success. I'd go so far as to say that it has actually been extremely boring. It has been nice to be out early and have the patch more or less to myself, but I'm just seeing the same birds again and again to the point I feel we're on first name terms.
"Morning Bill!" (Bill is the dull male Stonechat)
"Morning unusually large long Redpoll!" (that's me)
So on Saturday it was time to get out of Dodge. Again. No gigantic twitch though despite the quality on offer, but there was nonetheless an American bias. Some research on Friday establised that there were some Yank waders at Frampton, with more just around the corner in Norfolk. Seeing these along with a veritable boatload of regular waders would surely make a grand day out. James agreed, and so at 5.30am he was outside my house in his car we were on our way.
In short, and barring dipping Lesser Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpiper, and missing a Black Stork by about a quarter of an hour (doh!), it was all it promised. Frampton is sensational, the water levels magnificently managed. The reserve is carpeted in birds, thousands of them, and with paths going all around the edge as well as straight through the middle there is good viewing at any time of day. On arrival it was clear and bright, and our pitiful wader knowledge was stretched to breaking point instantly. Dunlin and Curlew Sandpiper eh? I'd confidently ID the latter and move to the next bird along which was clearly a Dunlin and then be cursed with self doubt about the Curlew Sand. I just don't see enough of them in Wanstead. In fact the number I've seen in Wanstead is zero, and which is why going birding in other places is just a really good idea. Out of your comfort zone, back to the basics of birding, bring it on. We ended up seeing 20 species of wader during the day. The total number of waders I've seen in Wanstead is 16, some of those extremely fleetingly. We left Frampton with close to 70 species on the list, although to my chagrin Great Tit was not one of them and remains my most wanted Lincolnshire tick.
The journey around that 'corner', the Wash, is horrible. Slow and horrible. The A148 is worse. We encountered two accidents serious enough to shut the road and were diverted down country lanes, at one point behind a caravan. Wouldn't it be a bummer if we met a caravan diverted the other way I quipped? 30 seconds later the first caravan met that second caravan, and rather than one of them reverse (which was quite possible as it happened) the first caravan chose to just give it a go and predictably wedged itself against the other one. Excellent. Amazingly once unhitched caravan #2 proved extremely light and manoeuverable and a bit of wiggling managed to get them separated, but it still took 15 minutes to sort out. I fail to see the point of caravans, why not just stay at home and watch TV rather than tow a large tupperware box on wheels to a field in order to sit in it and watch a smaller TV in a less comfortable chair?
We eventually made it to Stiffkey where a Wilson's Phalarope was showing superbly. Both previous experiences with this species had been extremely distant so this was a real treat despite not being able to find the Pec. No matter, we were still winning, and later at Cley we got equally good views of a Long-billed Dowitcher with bonus Spoonbills and a Little Gull. We rounded the day off with a short sea-watch on a flat calm sea. I was expecting this to result in precisely zero birds, but there were Razorbill everywhere, fly-by Red-throated Divers and Common Scoters, Gannets, a few Terns.
95 species in the day, and the two vagrant waders in Norfolk were county ticks no less. In addition to the lack of Lincs Great Tit we didn't even see a Coot, so much for planning. Regrettably I forgot to take any photos at all, so I have raided the archives for an old one instead. It is always a bit of gamble leaving the patch at this time of year, anything could happen, but we got away with it. A most enjoyable day. Variety is the spice of life, especially when landlubbers like us get to see expanses of water bigger than puddles.