Another lifer in 2022 – Dusky Warbler in Norfolk

The original idea was for a Monday birding trip, to see the stunning White-tailed Lapwing which moved from Lincolnshire wintering grounds to Norfolk. Sadly, the bird disappeared overnight so we had to change plans. As a potential lifer has been reported daily on the north coast of Norfolk in the last two weeks, it was an obvious choice of trying to treat ourselves with a lifer.

The beginning of the trip was quite stressful due to the nationwide fuel crisis. We simply could not find a station where diesel was available. By pure luck (or intuition?) we made a little detour from our main route to another Shell station. The presence of a tanker lorry gave us hope and after 30 minutes of waiting, we could continue our trip to Norfolk.

At Stiffkey Pan an Eastern Palearctic breeder Dusky Warbler (Philloscopus fuscatus) was found on 27 March 2022. I have tried to twitch this species a few times already, without any success – last time it was also in Norfolk. We became more excited when the bird was reported again in the morning.

We walked along the western leg of the River Stiffkey and managed to hear the typical, almost Eurasian Blackcap-like chattings (calls). It was always moving around a small area of Willow trees on each side of the small river. When we finally spotted it, a group of walkers flushed it and we lost it for a good while.

The Dusky Warbler is an East Asian breeding species but vagrants often occur in the northwest part of the Western Palearctic. Thanks to Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok for offering this superb photo for this post. © Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok

We took a break at midday with a nice walk on the seawall towards the Blakeney Channel of the Blakeney National Nature Reserve. We enjoyed the views of incoming Brant Geese, Black-tailed Godwits or Eurasian Curlews, flyover Eurasian Spoonbills and the murmuration of 700 Red Knots over the mudflat. Early afternoon we returned to the trail to find the warbler. More birders have joined us and with joint efforts, we finally had decent views of the feeding bird on the other side of the river. The Dusky Warbler showed brilliantly as it moved out of the branch cover. At some point, the bird perfectly blended into the colouration of the bark of the willows. The group of birders was more than happy with the views, especially those who had just seen their first Dusky Warbler.

Stunning views from the seawall towards the extensive Blakeney National Nature Reserve. © Gyorgy Szimuly
Meandering tidal drainage channels in the Blakeney National Nature Reserve. © Gyorgy Szimuly
The beginning of the Blakeney Channel as the River Stiffkey enters the tidal zone. © Gyorgy Szimuly
Picturesque Blakeney Channel with Brant Geese. © Gyorgy Szimuly
Coastal Common Gorse in full glory. © Gyorgy Szimuly
Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus). © Gyorgy Szimuly
We decided to celebrate our life bird with a nice lunch and stopped at the White Horse Restaurant in Brancaster Staithe. Hasan’s Pan Fried Bream looked very posh and indeed was delicious. 11 species were scored from the front house terrace.

To top the already brilliant day, we visited the unmissable Titchwell RSPB Reserve and the Titchwell Beach. The temperatures dropped significantly in the later phase of the afternoon as the intensifying southeasterly winds swept over the reserve. As always, the reserve did not disappoint. I spotted my first of the year Sand Martin (a single bird). From the Island Hide we enjoyed the views of the beautifully elegant Mediterranean Gulls, feeding Pied Avocets, Ruddy Turnstones and other birds. Hasan spotted a pair of Red-breasted Merganser on the Brackish Marsh. We saw the first Sandwich Terns flying over the area. An uncommon European Shag also made appearance with a single Eurasian Spoonbill.

As the tide receded, shorebirds became more active at the beach. Some unidentifiable terns, Sandwich Terns continuously moved east against the blowing winds.

We found shelter from the cold winds at the edge of the slowly recovering sand dunes. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The eBird Trip Report can be seen here: https://ebird.org/tripreport/47311

It looks like that Hasan brings me luck when we are birding together. This was the second life bird this year and interestingly both were Phylloscopus species. Thank you Hasan Al-Farhan for this memorable trip and the great company, as always.

2 thoughts on “Another lifer in 2022 – Dusky Warbler in Norfolk

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