Monday, 1 April 2013

April phal

First-winter Grey Phalarope flying east inshore at Kelling, Norfolk, this morning.
Typically, the weather for the long Easter weekend has been dire. A bitingly cold easterly wind meant that a few days in Norfolk were very unlikely to deliver migrants at what should be an exciting time of year. So on the second morning out on my 'away patch' at Kelling, I wasn't hopeful of much turning up. After a brief Woodcock flying over the water meadows, I put in a session on the beach counting Red-throated Divers moving east into the wind (more than 40 over half an hour) and photographing gulls. While scanning a distant group of Common and Black-headed Gulls over the sea several hundred metres to the west, off Salthouse, I glimpsed a small wader fly among them. It was only there for a second and I got no detail on it, but my suspicions were immediately aroused. I walked down to the tideline and scoped carefully, but could see nothing. Then, 15 minutes later, while photographing more gulls at closer range, a small shape whizzed past below them: Grey Phalarope! I shouted it out immediately to local birder Chris who had just arrived on the beach, and fired off a series of shots as the bird flew past. It paused briefly on the water, allowing me enough time to run up the beach to call over Marcus who had also just arrived. Thankfully, the phalarope lingered briefly for him to see it, before flying on east towards Weybourne.

The bird was on show for no more than five minutes before moving on towards Weybourne.
It seemed extraordinary for a Grey Phalarope to turn up in such conditions at this time of year. April phalaropes of any description are pretty much like gold dust in Britain; perhaps it had wintered in the North Sea, rather than being a new arrival? It appeared to be fully in non-breeding plumage still - I've yet to see a 'red' bird in summer attire, surely the Holy Grail for phalarope watchers everywhere and a truly rare sight in Britain.

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