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Sunday, 4 July 2010

River Warbler

On Sunday 4th July, a message had been received on Suffolk BINS, tantalizingly informing me that a River Warbler had been seen and heard SE of Norwich and further details and access would be released at teatime.
At 5.25pm the news was released that the bird was at Thorpe cum Haddiscoe, on area of marshy land owned by Chris A. I always enjoy chatting to Chris A and family when I usually see them on a twitch during the Scilly season every October. Headless chicken time saw me eventually picking up Rob W & James W and we found the site by following the River Warbler signs and the direction of Dick F himself.
Parking in a field we walked back to the entrance of the field skimmed its perimeter to walk to the edge of Haddiscoe/ Thorpe marshes. We overlooked a dyke lined with reeds and 2 big bushes on it's western perimeter. By now a steady crowd had gathered, eventually numbering 300 plus and a long wait ensued. At around 7.20pm it started to sing intermittently, its impressive, distinctive and loud zre-zre-zre-zre-zre "sewing machine" song. It appeared to be singing from one of the bushes but we couldn't see it.
During the wait I spied an excellent Hobby feeding over the distant bushes on the west side of the marshes as well as a female Marsh harrier quartering the fields and an overflying Green Woodpecker.
Other birders present included Ricky F and our photographer friend from the village west of Gorleston, Andrew E, Morris B, James B, Richard W, John H, Steve S as well as many others ( it was particularly nice to see Neville S) including head twitcher Lee E, but where were our other birding friends from Lowestoft, Yarmouth & Norwich?

After an hour (!) we were informed by Julian B (thanks to Julian for finally letting us know, this not meant as a sarcastic comment on Julian, but it would have been nice if other birders could have told this a little earlier) that it had been seen from the car park field looking directly onto the western most bush. The bird started to sing virtually constantly, right on cue from around 9pm, actually 8.55pm & subsequently pandemonium broke out (following Julian's news) as most of the birders started to walk and even run back to this area. As I went back, I lost my mobile phone and had to go back and retrieve it and subsequently I was one off the last to join the throng of birders who were looking at it from the car park.
Apparently it was perched deep within the bush and viewable only in a few telescopes at the front and left of the crowd. I had no chance of viewing the bird at the very back, but Justin L had the bird in his telescope and kindly let me have a three minute view of the bird. A big, big thank you to Justin, a true gentleman. It was perched deep within the bush and could be seen singing its swivelling around as it sang. 
I could clearly see a large dark grey- brown warbler with indistinct short supercilium and pale eye ring, its yellow inner mandible and diffusely mottled grey-brown streaking on the upper breast. I could only see the head bill and upper body/ breast. A wonderful sensational bird to see and above all hear (and 21 years since my last at Boughton Fen, also in Norfolk!).
Somebody else wanted to see the bird so I moved back to the original field and the bird had apparently flown and could be seen occasionally just to the left of the base of reeds near 2 thistle plants, Neil M kindly let me see through his telescope (thanks Neil) and I could see the left side of the bird obscured by the reeds. Slightly later, I was finally able to pick the bird up in my telescope, but it was now more of an indistinct blob in the fading light (10pm). Sorry there are no pics of the bird as it was difficult enough just to see it. Rather pathetically all i could take was a picture of the bush it sang from.
One final treat, was a wonderful Tawny Owl that sat in the road directly ahead of us driving back through Ashby wood, it was nicely illuminated by the car's headlamps as I stopped the car, we watched the bird for about 30 seconds before it flew left and just before I could reach for my camera!
UPDATE 5 July: We went back the following night hoping for better views, but sadly we didn't see it at all this time. It only sang in short bursts mostly from the further away on the marsh behind the wood. A Barn Owl flew past very close by and a more distant Marsh harrier also seen.

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