Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Norfolk Lifer!

Temp - 16C/18C - Breezy, Clear, Occasional High Cloud - Wind ENE @ 14/20 mph

Now let me see, winds from the east, autumn migration in full swing, a few rarities around, where would you go, Spurn, Lincolnshire coast, Norfolk?

Holme Dunes
After meeting at the Brandon car park at 6am Pete, Jim, Trevor and I decided to take a punt on Norfolk. With the UK weather presently stuck between low pressure to the west and high pressure to the east, things looked ideal. On route a couple of Red Kite and Common Buzzard over, and both Pete and I recorded single Barn Swallows before arriving at Holme Dunes around 8.30am.

Good Passage Of Meadow Pipit
Armed with 'twitcher' Pete's pager we were getting up to the minute birding information but for the Norfolk area things seemed a little quiet to start. While getting organised at the Beach Road car park the adjacent field contained a few early ticks with Green Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush and Song Thrush all recorded.

Greenshank skimming - One of a half dozen at RSPB Titchwell
From here we took the coastal footpath, with a plan to walk to the Holme Bird Observatory and back, it was a gorgeous morning with a stiff breeze but to be honest, great conditions for any migrants to simply pass straight over! A Chiffchaff was singing in the thicket, Pete and Jim also picking up a late Garden Warbler, which I got a fleeting glimpse of before it hit deep cover, Blackcap also heard. On the marsh flybys of Little Egret and within the pools a lone Bar-tailed Godwit was seen. Several Skylark and Linnet overhead, along with a constant passage of Meadow Pipit and a single Common Snipe. At one stage to the west a distant flock of Pink-footed Geese, lovely to see these iconic birds returning to our shores from their breeding grounds in Spitsbergen, Iceland and Greenland. Out to sea the Brent Geese are also returning in numbers to the east coast and waders included the odd Grey Plover, and various counts of Oystercatcher, Redshank, Knot, Dunlin, CurlewTurnstone, not to mention the odd Ringed Plover.

Spotted Redshank - RSPB Titchwell
At this time of year the pine wood a Holme can offer some mouthwatering prospects and so it was no surprise that we spent a good while exploring. Goldcrest could be heard constantly throughout our stay and on the edge of the pines towards the shore a lovely Redstart, elusive at times but offering the odd tantalising view. Offshore a group of at least eight distant Gannet passed through. At one stage a brief view of the rear end of a Muntjac Deer and a Kestrel perched beautifully, unfortunately with it's back to us for the whole time! A Sparrowhawk overhead shorty after and we paused, not for the first time, to check our more bird calls, with Willow Tit and Coal Tit located.

However, despite being  reasonably confident of hearing Yellow-browed Warbler on at least two occasions, we failed to connect with these elusive little characters. The final birds of note before eventually moving on were a couple of Brambling, which calling high in the pines moved off, but not before I managed an albeit too brief a view. The walk back to the car, this time along the dirt road produced Marsh Harrier and a good deal of visible migration, with occasional pockets of Thrushes moving through, these contained mostly Song Thrush but included several Redwing within, a couple more Brambling overhead just prior to returning to the car park.

Red-breasted Flycatcher - A 1st for me, Jim & Trevor!!
Our next stop was purely good timing as on route further up the coast a Red-breasted Flycatcher had been relocated at Warham Greens, only ten minutes away. Now I'm not a 'twitcher', I simply enjoy my birding, but I have to say that I can see the attraction for people travelling hundreds of miles to see species not that common to the UK, provided it's not an obsession! This little bird was a real stunner and a pleasure to see, but talking to Pete it appears not all twitching is this simple, thankfully we located the bird immediately on our arrival!

Grey Plover - Sadly not one of the summer plumage birds!
After the excitement of the flycatcher we decided to spend the remainder of the afternoon at RSPB Titchwell, deciding to forgo reports of Cattle Egret, Great Egret and Ring Ouzel in the area. A quick scout on arrival for the reported Yellow-browed Warbler in the car park proved fruitless and after joining the footpath the first Cetti's Warbler of the day. A flock of around 60+ Golden Plover to the west and a stop at one of the channels produced WigeonPochard, Tufted Duck, Teal and a lone ♀Red-crested Pochard.

The freshwater marsh was once again awash with waders and these included various counts of: Black-tailed GodwitAvocet, Ringed Plover, Knot, Dunlin, Ruff, Oystercatcher, Greenshank, Bar-tailed Godwit and Curlew. A few Egyptian Geese were also present, Shelduck and the usual selection of gulls, with Yellow-legged Gull the pick of the bunch. The saltwater marsh held excellent numbers of Grey Plover, several still showing signs of summer plumage and before ending up at the beach, Spotted Redshank. A short sea-watch in the now chilly wind ended with a fly-by Great-crested Grebe, Gannet, a small flock of Common Scoter, a lone Red-throated Diver and several Eider Duck. On the beach Sanderling, Turnstone and Oystercatcher, plus a couple of Marsh Harrier over the wet meadow on the walk back.

With a species count of 95, fish, chips and a pint on route home, an altogether stunning day in Norfolk!