My visit to Willow Tree Fen in Lincolnshire was actually part of the journey down to 'Norfolk and Environs' where I was taking part in the Leigh Ornithological Society's 2017 Annual Winter Trip. However, this adult 1st winter male Bluethroat was such as special bird that it just had to have a post all to itself!
I'd first got wind of the bird a weeks or so ago and, after investigating its location, I decided I could try to see it on my way down to RSPB Frampton Marshes, the first stopping point for our L.O.S. trip. I didn't know if anyone else in the party would want to see it, but as soon as I mentioned it there was a lot of interest.
Armed with a map and an excellent location description kindly supplied to me by Craig Storton who I contacted through Facebook, we found the location with little difficulty and, as we parked on the road near the bridge leading to Willow Tree Fen, we could see a group of people staring into the reeds along the path up from the bridge, just as Craig had said. After a wait of barely ten minutes or so, out popped the Bluethroat to feed on some mealworms which someone had previously put down for him and we had cracking views for around three to four minutes.
The bird is about the same size as a Robin, with longer legs and a slightly more upright posture. Indeed, like the Robin, it used to be classified as a Thrush, but now is thought to be more akin to the Old World Flycatchers or Chats. Like many birds they are insectivorous, but eat berries in the winter.
This is possibly one of the 'white-spotted' race rather than the commoner 'red-spotted' race although there is still some debate. Bluethroats are usually found on the east coast on passage in spring and autumn. However, there have apparently been records of them at Martin Mere WWT and Marshside RSPB in the past.
The Bluethroat normally winters in North Africa or the Indian subcontinent, but this one has presumably overwintered here in the UK as it's rather early to be seeing one here.
To finish off here's a very short video of the Bluethroat's behaviour on the path where it was it feeding. The crowd were ecstatic as it flew back into the reeds - listen to what I say at the very end of the video :)