As ever this Autumn the weather was ridiculously warm if overcast. All the action was in an area called the dell, which is basically a large open area of ground surrounded by mixed conifers and deciduous trees, mainly silver birch. Right from the car-park there was loads moving. Flocks of long-tailed tits numbering into the few dozen, quite a few goldcrests mixed up with them and not insignificant numbers of chiffchaffs. Quite a few birders were on site as well, so many eyes made light work. By the east end of the dell there was a stand of silver birches which held a sizeable flock of small birds. Quite quickly I heard the distinctive call of a y-b warbler but it took a good 10 minutes to track it down. Everything was very mobile near the tops of the trees and the light was very dull with the cloud cover. Consensus was that there was at least two birds there, which showed briefly in the canopy. I also picked out 5 bramblings feeding in with them. Of the olive-backed pipit though, no sign. Talking to others on site it was apparently a swine to see as it was very un-pipit like in that it stayed in the trees rather than coming into the open.
By about 9.30 I decided to move off and try my luck elsewhere. I went only about 5 miles or so to Burnham Norton where a Steppe grey shrike had been holding court for some weeks. This is a very rare bird, itself being a sub-species of the southern grey shrike (Lanius meridionalis meridionalis). Initially it attracted crowds of a few hundred but now there were about 20 at any one time.
Many birds of this species are incredibly tame, perhaps coming from the Russian steppes they don't meet many people. This one was no exception and made more so by being baited in with mealworms!!
First of all it was perched on a bush about 50 yards away, nice views but distant.
After about 15 minutes it decided it was hungry and flew down to an area right in front of us, then back to a bush but slightly nearer.
So, what else did I manage to connect with. I had another go for the olive-backed pipit without any luck. Moving long the coast though I stopped near Holkham looking out over the freshmarsh. This is a well-known spot for rough-legged buzzards and there was a crown onto a bird in the field a long way out. The views weren't great but the jizz of the bird, the very light plumage including a very pale head and a hint of a pale-rump in flight were good enough for me.Finally I moved onto Holme where there were 2 Pallas's warblers feeding in sycamores in the car park. No chance of a photo as they were moving like lightning and rarely showed well but when they did you got glorious views of what is termed the 7-striped sprite. This is so-called because of distinctive pattern of stripes on its head.
Overall a very good day. One lifer, 4 more years ticks, taking me to 242 for the year against BOU and 245 against 400 club rules. Two and a bit more months to get another 10 birds to break my personal record.