However, the best find – if judged in terms of the "high" it provoked (and finding rare birds is all about that euphoric rush) – occurred earlier that week. Two friends were in Norfolk and wanted to see Yellow-browed Warbler and Firecrest. I duly provided both their targets in a quiet area east of The Dell at Wells Woods."Now", I said, "Let's go to the drinking pool and find an Olive-backed Pipit." For more than 25 years, I'd wanted to find an "OBP" at the drinking pool. I'd managed a team-find of this Siberian pipit on Fair Isle in 2014, but – brilliant though this was – it did not shed me of my need to encounter my own, in Norfolk, in Wells Woods, at the drinking pool. Half-an-hour, as we walked up to the drinking pool, a dark passerine flew up from in front of me and landed on a sapling… an OBP! It gave decent views to three incredulous, adrenalin-fired observers for 45 minutes before melting away into the wood. It was never seen again. Pure fabulousness. Prophesy come true

James Lowen 




2017 TOP TEN: #2

Crikey! We're close. For a reminder of previous entries, click on the links. 

#10. Best plant: "Roding Orchid"

#9. Garden Hawfinch

#8. Best twitch: White-winged Scoter

#7. Best place: Picos de Europa, northern Spain

#6. Best birding experience: Firecrest Day on Portland
#5. Top voyeuring: mating Hornet Moths

#4. Top cat(s). One week, two Lynx

#3. Best detective work: Bedstraw Hawk-moth

... and now...

#2. Best self-find: Olive-backed Pipit in Wells Woods

It has hardly been an epic year for finding my own scarce birds. In spring, a team-found Cattle Egret in Dorset and a (county rarity) Wood Warbler in Norfolk were as good as it got. A Grey Phalarope on an October seawatch with Rich Moores didn't really cut it either. I could (should) have gone out with Stuart White one September Sunday, but elected to take Maya to a party instead: he found the Burnham Overy Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler. But despite unpromising conditions (not a schniff of easterly for the whole of October), I did manage to find two decent scarce. The second was Radde's Warbler at Portland Bill, which Phil Saunders and I found on call and – nervously – claimed without ever seeing it in the field. (Fortunately it turned up in the Observatory net two hours later, which pleased and relieved us in equal measure.)