Tuesday 15 July 2014


Early on Monday morning whilst grafting away at the office, I noticed I had missed a call from 'Mega Man' Phil Andrews. This could only mean one thing. Somewhere in a distant corner of the British Isles was a rarity that we both needed to see. Unfortunately I had temporarily mislaid my pager which was not really a bad thing considering the amount of work I had to get through this week. Luckily though, Phil had also taken time out to send me a quick text with the simple question.... 'Do you need Great Knot?'.

I quickly logged onto the Rare Bird Alert website and within a few seconds I had all the information there in front of me. There was indeed a GREAT KNOT and it was only a few hours drive away in East Norfolk. I was pretty gutted to be honest. There was no way I would be able to make a move that day bearing in mind the pile of paperwork I needed to get through by the end of the week. With a three week break in Australia looming I needed to knuckle down and get my house in order before Friday night.

The Siberian rarity continued to be reported at Breydon Water throughout the day, except for a few hours during early afternoon when it disappeared at high tide. After putting in a twelve hour shift, I tipped Phil off that I may be available for a hectic twitch during the following afternoon if the bird remained. 

GREAT KNOT (adult) - Breydon Water, Norfolk.
Photo by Chris Bromley

Early on Tuesday morning I noticed on my Twitter feed that the bird was still present. I packed the car with my kit in anticipation of a possible trip east later in the day. Luckily, my understanding colleagues agreed to cover for me throughout the afternoon and after an insane, six hour stint at work, I was on my way over to Coventry to meet up with Phil. After a relatively stress free drive in the stifling, summer heat we finally arrived in Great Yarmouth just after 5.00pm. The bird had disappeared for a while at high tide again but to our relief it had returned.

As we approached the South Wall at Breydon Water, I noticed the familiar faces of two of Leicestershire's finest, Colin Green and Dave Gray. They soon pointed me in the right direction and I quickly relayed the information back to Phil. There probing away in the mud, albeit rather distantly was  just the fourth ever GREAT KNOT for Britain. The views were far from crippling but after dipping the Lancashire bird twice in 2004 and after a false alarm from this very same location in 2009, I was just grateful of any views at all. Unfortunately the estuarine specialist did not venture much closer during the two hours we were on site but views were pretty good every now and then as passing cloud blocked out the sun. It is times like these that a decent scope is worth its weight in gold.

GREAT KNOT (adult) with Oystercatcher (behind).
Breydon Water, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.
Photo by Chris Bromley

The GREAT KNOT spent most of the time associating with a small group of nine Red Knot but would wander off to feed on its own occasionally. In comparison to the Red Knot it was less portly and flatter in appearance. It was also obviously tapered at the rear with a slightly longer bill. The intricacies of feather detail were pretty difficult to establish due to the distance involved but the dark breast band always stood out and the mottled scapulars were also evident as it clouded over. At around 7.00pm the group of knot were joined by a small flock of Dunlin. This seemed to make them pretty restless and inevitably after about ten minutes the mixed flock of waders flew off down the River Yare.

Other birds on site included the odd Whimbrel amongst hundreds of Curlew, a scattering of Sandwich Tern and Common Tern and a collection of 18 Mediterranean Gulls of varying ages but mostly adults. 

The GREAT KNOT twitch!
Photo by Adam Archer

The GREAT KNOT in Great Britain

This long distance migrant breeds in the tundra zone of north-eastern Siberia and winters from Pakistan to southern China and south to Australia. Since the late 1980's around a thousand birds have also been discovered wintering in Oman with smaller numbers in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. As mentioned above, this Norfolk individual will be only the fourth ever record for Britain. All records are as follows:

2014 - Norfolk - Breydon Water - adult from the 13th July to the 15th July (pending acceptance).
2004 - Lancashire - Skippool Creek, River Wyre - adult on the 31st July. Then again from the 16th to the 17th August.
1996 - Cleveland - Bran & Seal Sands, Greenabella Marsh - adult from the 13th October to the 5th November.
1989 - Shetland - Scatness & Pool of Virkie, Mainland - 15th September only.

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