Thursday, 27 October 2016

A Perfect Day - Burnham Overy beach meets Boris and Arthur

Last Saturday had me heading for one of my favourite birding locations on the North Norfolk coast, Burnham Overy dunes.
A birder I know had found an Isabelline Wheatear hopping about in the sand dunes, the first in Norfolk for over 40 years. I have only seen one Isabelline Wheatear in this country since I've been birding and that was over ten years ago, so the prospect of seeing one so close to home was irresistible. Besides, I had made it to the half term holiday so my time was relatively free.

It is about a mile and a half walk out to the dunes, which is part of the reason for their appeal. This cuts down the number of people. But the weather this late October is more like that of late August so there was still a constant stream of dog walkers and families heading out along the seawall, today with a larger than usual contingent of birders too. Just about everybody who keeps a Norfolk list was there.

The wheatear showed well, alongside a Northern Wheatear, the common wheatear in this country. In the bushes nearby an elusive Pallas's Warbler, the seven-striped sprite, occasionally showed itself.
Two Waxwings, those harbingers of winter, flew in off the sea and landed atop the bushes in front of us. And further along in the dunes a lone young shorelark shuffled around almost completely oblivious to its constant stream of admirers.

It was a good day's birding. I spent quite some time exploring the dunes away from most of the other birders. Doubtless there were more scarce and rare birds hidden in the dunes, but nobody found them today. Just about everybody was hoping to find Norfolk's first ever Siberian Accentor following this species' remarkable influx into the country in the past two weeks, but it didn't happen.

What was on the beach and was attracting a constant stream of inquisitive onlookers, was the corpse of a Fin Whale which had washed up a couple of days previously. A post mortem had already been undertaken, so big chinks of it had been cut away, but it was still a mighty impressive beast, if more than a little smelly if you were unlucky enough to find yourself downwind of it.

On the way home I thought to myself that if all those other dogs could manage the walk out to the beach, then maybe Boris and Arthur might enjoy it too. But would Boris behave? Would we be able to let him off the lead (which he would be pulling on without let up)? Would Arthur bravely bark at every other dog he saw? Would his little legs carry him that far?

Is the Desert Wheatear in this picture somewhere?
Next morning I was just a little peeved to see there had been a Desert Wheatear on the other side of the dune to the Isabelline. It had only been identified from a photograph late on in the day. I had birded that area. I sat and rested there for ten minutes or so. Whether or not it was there while I was I shall never know.

Come Tuesday morning the Desert Wheatear was still there, so I headed back, along with Sue, Arthur and Boris.
It was a 'family' day out which left me extremely proud of my two dogs. Initially we kept them on the lead, but Boris was pulling and Arthur just wanted to be next to him. Arthur gave a few little barks the first time he saw other dogs, but got bored of this after a while and realised he didn't need to bother. All other dogs were trotting along unleashed. After ten minutes or so we decided to take the plunge. Boris just trotted ahead, but returned every time I said his name. Arthur kept with us.
The pair of them probably met more dogs than they have ever met in their whole lives. Everything went very, very smoothly. They even made friends with a couple of spaniels along the way.

But it was when we climbed the final dune and descended the other side, with miles of open sand stretching out before us, that Boris really came into his element. I missed his initial joy as I was chatting to another birder, but when faced with wet sand Boris cannot help himself. He just rolls around in it, trying to become at one with the beach. He runs at full pelt back and forth, splashing through the puddles and diving into the sand. He certainly provided entertainment for those sitting on the beach. Nobody else's dogs did this.

I left Sue with the dogs for a while as I nipped off to see the Desert Wheatear. There was a bonus too as the Isabelline Wheatear was found just before I arrived. I took the chance to study it once more with just one other birder as it picked amongst the tideline debris.

Arthur's little legs carried him all the way back. Boris was still full of energy.

There was time for early afternoon fish and chips in Hunstanton on the way home. Boris and Arthur snuggled together on the back seat and when we got home the day started to catch up with them. They were the quietest they have ever been!
Even come Wednesday morning the two boys had a lay in.

Left to right: Boris, Angel, Gerry, Sue, Arthur


  1. how cute are your dogs. We have a rescue dog that barks like crazy on the lead when he sees another dog, tail wagging and pulls like crazy. we let him off the lead and he trots along nicely. I think it is the lead that makes him crazy barking.

    How sad that the whale was beached. I wish they would find out why they are coming in.

  2. This whale had a spinal injury and was I think dead before it was washed up. Injury possibly caused by a ship blow.


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