28th March 2010
The plan for Sunday was quite straightforward, help Gary see a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker for his yearlist and then travel around the area mopping up any other birds he needed. Three hours in and there was no sign of any LSW, although we had seen good numbers of Crossbill, plus Siskins, Redpoll, Grey Wagtail, Nuthatch etc. At midday birdsong had decreased and with sightings now even less likely we decided to drive to Kessingland to have a look for the Pallid Swift. We arrived to find both Alpine and Pacific Swifts swooping around each other, frequently in the same binocular view. Having watched them from the seafront, we went to the nearest pub, the Sailor's Home, where we continued to watch both birds whilst drinking Broadside.
Me & Gary enjoy a drink and a couple of swifts
Escaping back into Norfolk before the border authorities noticed we were gone, we went to Winterton Dunes to look for migrants. The area was barren, between us we saw 2 Magpies, 2 Skylarks and a Chaffinch before Phil found a lone Wheatear. Having hugged the totem pole for luck, we were about to head for home when Gary's "mega alert" alarm went off. Lesser Kestrel at Minsmere. We ran for the car, saving ourselves around 5 seconds, and set off back into darkest Suffolk. This was my first proper spur-of-the-moment twitch, everything else I've been for has been long-staying. On the way we were held up by a Porsche, it's not often you can say that!
Arriving at Westleton we scanned for the Lesser Kestrel, which had by now flown off. Near to us a birder picked out an Alpine Swift above the woods, my third in three days. With no Kestrels in view, we carried on towards Minsmere. Whilst watching some Red Deer and a Swallow, a birder drove down the drive shouting "it's at Westleton Heath" before zooming off. Watching everyone run to their cars and jump in was sort of like an alarm at a well-staffed fire station where only two people can fit into each badly parked fire engine. After turning round we made our way back to where we had parked previously and set off down the heath. Eventually we came to a clearing where there were already 100+ people scoping into the distance. It didn't take long before I got good but distant flight and perched views of the Lesser Kestrel in the evening sunshine, at times framed by Red Deer and Rabbits. A magical moment and a cracking bird.