Wednesday, February 07, 2018

πŸ“– #11 ~ Norfolk Epic!

❄️ 🌀 1C Wednesday 7th February 2018 ~ ** WARNING ~ Like the day itself this post is long and epic πŸ’€  ~ Arrived home at around 8:30pm tonight completely exhausted after a 350-mile roundtrip winter birding on the north Norfolk coast, in the company of Alan Boddington and Geoff Hood from the Brandon Marsh team. The weather, although bitterly cold with a brisk northerly breeze was beautiful today with almost wall to wall winter sunshine throughout!

Fulmar ~ This image from previous visits to Hunstanton!
Having arrived on the coast at Hunstanton we decided that it was worth stopping briefly along the roadside above the cliffs for Fulmar. The cliffs here are a regular summer breeding site and it wasn't long before two or three birds rose above on the wind, the stiff wings and shallow wing beat unmistakable. In fact, we observed from the comfort of the car before moving on.

One of the Twite at Thornham Harbour today
Our next stop was Thornham Harbour for the small flock of Twite that is regularly seen in the area. No sign initially from the car park so we took a walk over the small footbridge to check out the saltmarsh and channels. A couple of Rock Pipits were flitting around the mud and along one of the aforementioned channels a pair of Red-breasted Merganser, the male looking resplenadant in the low sunlight. In the distance a huge and noisy flock of Pink-footed Geese on the wing. Out towards the sea, a Peregrine flew low along the sandbank before landing, scattering a flock of Brent Geese. Just below us two Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Curlew and then a small flock appeared, Twite! We followed them back to the car park, where they settled briefly to drink from the puddles, lovely sight.

Lone Knot on the Brackish Marsh at RSPB Titchwell
RSPB Titchwell next for the 11:00am high tide and a leisurely walk along the west bank path towards the beach. A look west across the wet marsh and the partially dry pool failed to yield Water Pipit, two Meadow Pipit and Rock Pipit only and a couple of distant Marsh Harrier. The freshwater marsh is completely submerged, save for a couple of small islands which provided a resting place for three pairs of Red-crested Pochard, a dozen Avocet and a lone Brent Goose. The usual selection of wildfowl also scattered throughout with Pintail, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and decent numbers of Pochard. The brackish marsh provided better opportunities for waders and not far out a single Knot. This along with various counts of Grey Plover, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Curlew and Redshank.

At the beach, the wind, as you would expect was biting and the sea pretty rough, this would be challenging to say the least but we settled down and made the best of the dunes for shelter. I'm always amazed to see Great Crested Grebes at sea, particularly in this weather, but there were at least a dozen or so offshore, bouncing around in the swell. In the foreground along the tideline a couple of hardy Sanderling, and literally at our toes the ever scavenging Turnstone. Back offshore and a small black duck with white wing bars low over the water, a Velvet Scoter, which Geoff and I followed until it dipped down behind the waves. Further scans produced Common Scoters, Guillemots, Goldeneye, single Goosander and a possible Razorbill but as I said earlier it was challenging so we moved on back to the centre.

On route back, we stopped occasionally to scan and while checking the brackish marsh once again managed to find two Greenshank and a single Spotted Redshank! On the opposite side, across the saltmarsh, a small eruption threw up several Snipe, Little Egret and Teal, the culprit, a ringtail Hen Harrier, fantastic views as the bird flew low before dipping down, pretty close in by viewing standards. Water Rail and Cetti's Warbler just before arriving back at the centre, where a female Brambling was noted on the feeders.

Some of the confiding Shore Larks at Holkham Gap
A stop at Cholsey Drying Barns to have our packed lunch before our final two destinations of the day at Holkham and Salthouse. Cholsey was interesting, with Lapwing and Golden Plover across the fields, but unfortunately didn't yield Corn Bunting during our short stay. However, good views of many Brown Hares, three Grey Partridge, several Red-legged Partridge and a large flock of Yellowhammers along the hedgerow near the winter crop feed! One species in mind at our next stop Holkham Gap! It was a decent slog along the beach to find the small flock of Shore Larks but entirely worth it, in fact, it was feeling pretty springlike by now or was that just the ten layers of clothing kicking in?

A few of the 100+ Snow Buntings at Salthouse!
By the time we reached Salthouse the day was quickly ebbing away so after a cuppa at the car we made our way up to Gramborough Hill. Primarily for the large flock of Snow Buntings, which we were told were happily sunning themselves on the shingle. As we arrived it was obvious that the birds had had enough leisure time and were making ready for roost, a large flock in flight above.

Snow Buntings over Gramborough Hill
In fact, despite not seeing them close to the ground it was pretty impressive stuff, the birds circling overhead and being joined by more small groups, Starling-esk! We thought this a fitting end to a great days birding, which in fact hadn't ended, with a Barn Owl hunting directly over the car on our return. It didn't even end there when on route home in the twilight the unmistakable silhouette of a Woodcock flew directly over the car at Heacham and another Barn Owl along Brandon Lane. For me, it didn't end there either, with two further Barn Owls on route back to the marina after dropping the guys off at Brandon!!

BUBO Listing
BUBO does not currently include American Horned Lark