Saturday, 17 October 2020

Rufous tailed Scrub Robin at Stiffkey

I set off this morning with a plan to visit Stiffkey and Holme for some migrant hunting. It rained most of the way up and was still raining when I got to Holme at 8am to find a group of ten birders present in the field beyond the car park and one person reported seeing two Bluetails at first light. Another birder reported Pallas's Warbler on the golf course side of the trees so with no sign of the Bluetails I set off to look for the Pallas's  joined by a couple of other birders. We couldn't find the warbler but did find a cracking Red-flanked Bluetail. I fired off a couple of distant record shots through the dank mist but the bird was spooked by more birders coming from the car park. 

Red-flanked Bluetail so called because it has red flanks and a blue tail

Red flanked Bluetail about to be spooked

Among the new birders was John P and Barry W. and they mentioned the report of Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin at Stiffkey. I had planned not to look at my phone intent on just enjoying a good days birding at both Holme and Stiffkey and this had spoiled that plan. I left for Stiffkey much sooner than planned and managed to park in the Greenways Carpark. I could see a few birders out on the saltmarsh and walked out to join them wearing my face covering and keeping my "social distance". The bird popped up and I managed a record shot and good scope views but as more people arrived it was less comfortable so I left within ten minutes of getting there and decided to go looking for Pallas's Warbler in the campsite woods which was my original plan. Ten Goldcrest came through with some Long-tailed Tits but surprisingly there was no Pallas's with them. A bit further down a couple of guys had cameras pointing to the skies and I knew they had the Pallas's  and sure enough they had. I watched it do a few circuits and managed a couple of pics before I walked back to the car seeing Woodcock flushed from the marsh on the way. The crowd had really built up at the Robin now but I couldn't help try to have one more look which was a mistake as when I got back out it proved very difficult to keep distance especially when the bird showed and everybody wanted to get a view so again I left having seen it fly just the once. When the masses moved I kept away which was difficult as they clearly had views of the bird which I didn't but in the panic to see it some just gave up on the 2m rule which I didn't want to give up after all the hard work I've done since March.

Stiffkey marsh when I arrived

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

When I left

The police arrived soon after and demanded that the crowd followed distancing better and looking back from the car park it looked as if most had taken the advise. I've managed my birding since March really well, I've stopped taking my Dad and brother in the car which hurts and I've avoided hot spots, I've tried to stay within a couple of hours from home most of the time and I postponed my plans to bird Shetland or Scilly and coming away from this twitch today I couldn't help feel a bit grubby about the experience which is a shame as under normal circumstances this would be a great gathering for a great bird. 

Pallas's Warbler at Stiffkey

Year list now 266

Life list now 418

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