Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Norfolk Away Day!

Pale-Bellied Brent (top-left)
A change of scenery yesterday with Paul, Derek and Jim and a very enjoyable day trip to the Norfolk coast.

We decided to begin our day at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Cley Marshes and try for the long staying Western Sandpiper. Quite a rarity to the UK having been blown in all the way from America. We'd determined that the best viewing would be from the Teal Hide, a hide which overlooks Pat's Pool, an area apparently favoured by the bird.

On the walk down to the hide a single Snipe, plus a group of Brent Geese were in flight, showing a lighter Pale-bellied Brent, which I luckily managed to pick up on camera.

On arrival at the hide we were informed that the Sandpiper had just been seen among a small flock of Dunlin but unfortunately had moved in to an area just out of sight from the hide. Not only this but a few seconds later a Sparrowhawk caused complete havoc and the sky was filled with around C50 Black-tailed Godwit, at least 2000 Golden Plover, 18 Avocet, plus various numbers of Lapwing, Ruff, Wigeon, Pintail and Teal. Fortunately, around 45 minutes later order had been restored and we finally made contact with this 'miniature Dunlin like bird' which seems to scurry around in the traditional style of a Sanderling!

After this eventual success a short drive up the coast to Salthouse for a quick look out to sea and a scan of the surrounding shingle and pools. The sea-watch produced very little of note, the highlights here being Great Black-backed Gull and Guillemot, but the pools and shingle yielded 7 Snow Bunting, Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Goldfinch, plus a dozen or so Turnstone and a lone Redshank. A little tip! If the coffee man is in the car park make sure you try one, best coffee I've tasted in years!!

1000's of Pinkies at Holkham
Next, a drive to Holkham and on arrival here the astonishing site of thousands and thousands of Pink-footed Geese, both the sky and fields awash with these astonishing birds. In the surrounding fields we also managed to pick up Common Buzzard and both Red-legged and Grey Partridge.

A walk through the pines and down to the beach and salt marsh gave up Coal Tit and Goldcrest, but unfortunately on arrival at the dunes we'd not been able to make contact with a reported 4 Shore Lark, Skylark, Linnet and Meadow Pipit the best we could muster. Running short on time a brief sea-watch had several Red-breasted Merganser and a group of possible Scoter, too distant to confirm, I'm certain I also had Gannet. The beach had of note, Oystercatcher and around 60 Sanderling.

Grey Partridge
Back near the car park better views of Grey Partridge, plus a lone Ross's Goose, easily identifiable among the Pinkies, being a white goose. A surprise wintering Chiffchaff flitting in and out of a hawthorn as we tried in vain to confirm a distant Buzzard, other surrounding birders adamant it was the local Rough-legged, but not for us!! Too distant for absolute confirmation.

With light fading our final destination of the day was RSPB Tichwell and with Jim desperate to clock the reported Arctic Redpoll we made straight for its last reported position. In conclusion we did manage a lighter bird among a flock of Lesser Redpoll, which a few other birders insisted was the bird, but we've personally recorded it as a probable but unsatisfactory view as they were spooked only minutes after making contact!!

With clear blue sky and a setting sun over Tichwell, the final stage of our Norfolk visit was just brilliant recording: 2 Little Grebe, C500 Golden Plover, Bittern, 3 Spoonbill, 3 Little Egret, 4 Marsh Harrier, Barn Owl, 7 Ruff, Spotted Redshank and my first Norfolk Chinese Water Deer.