28 Jan 2023 Winter surprise

I find it hard to get out wildlife-watching in January. It basically means birds, which is clearly fine, but the days are short, and my binoculars are on an extended holiday in Austria, courtesy of Swarovski. Nevertheless, this past week has seen a couple of notebook-worthy species; just don't expect anything decent in the way of photography. I spent time surveying birds in Kent, where these Turnstones devouring Whitstable oysters caught the eye. 



James Lowen 

We also saw the wintering Pallas's Warbler that Andy Taylor was delighted (and surprised) to discover at Swalecliffe on 2 Jan. I've not seen a winterer before, and most pleasing it was. A hyperactive bird with intense yellow colouration and a right hoverer too, displaying its rump for all to enjoy. And pretty vocal too: god, I love the Pallas's call. 

On Thursday afternoon, news of two big birds broke, both of which were sufficient to rouse me car-wards. However, with not enough daylight to see either the same day, I decided to wait on news the following morning. Negative news on the Falcated Duck in Lincs settled the wrangling in my mind as to whether a bird consorting loosely with Mallards (albeit with Wigeon on site too) was likely to get the green light from BBRC. I've not been for a Falcated Duck before, so it made sense to restrict myself to one with pukka credentials. Instead, it was a waiting game for the second rare bird, but late morning, friend Keith Langdon clapped eyes on (and released news of) James McCallum's latest stellar find: a (Richardson's) Cackling Goose near Brancaster. I've only seen a couple of Cacklers before, on a trip 20 years ago to Islay, so one in my home county was definitely an exciting prospect. Seeing it proved challenging due toe the combination of distance, views obscured by a hedge and the bird often immobile with its head concealed. But eventually some decent views were garnered. The photo, however, leaved much to be desired - but then I'm rubbish at digiscoping even at the best of times. So... where's Wally?