Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Birding Weekend in Norfolk

I spent the whole of last weekend birding in Norfolk trying to find wintering species and at the same time trying to keep as warm and dry as possible. On Friday morning I drove down to Thetford and met the rest of the guys in the car-park at Nunnery's. The first target bird was the long-staying Black-bellied Dipper Cinclus cinclus cinclus. This bird is an example of the nominate north European race with the black/brown underparts (as can be seen in the picture below). The mainland British race, gularis, has a strong chestnut area below the white breast. It was easy to find but not so easy to photograph as the light was really poor and, stupidly, I had not brought a tripod. So hand-held, 400mm lens whacked up to 1600 ISO and I could only manage 20th sec. Hence slightly blurry shots. Still, good views of the bird and a good start to the weekend's birding. Jay, Kingfisher and Marsh Tit also put in an appearance to add to the list.
Black-bellied Dipper Cinclus cinclus cinclus Thetford
A real bonus was a sighting of an Otter working its way down the bank of the river Little Ouse (I think!). It was more-or-less permanently underwater but by following the bubble trail it was possible to follow the beast underwater and plan ahead to take a picture when it momentarily broke the surface. Again the light was poor and so is the photograph.
Otter Lutra lutra on the Little Ouse in Thetford.
After Thetford it was off for a couple of hours walk around Lakenheath Fen RSPB reserve on the Suffolk-Norfolk border. A brief sighting of Bittern and a lone Whooper Swan were good to start with but we failed to see any Common Cranes. There were swift views of Bearded Tits, a couple of Stonechat and at least five Marsh Harriers hunting over the extensive reed beds. A powerful Peregrine Falcon belted along the river hoping to catch an unwary Teal or wader and so were we! But there weren't many waders to be seen apart from hundreds of Lapwing on the move - as were Fieldfare. After a good period of grubbing about at Lakenhath it was time for the mini pork-pies and then the drive to north Norfolk to our weekend's accommodation.
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus. The lone bird at Lakenheath
By the time we arrived at our digs it was getting dark so that was the cue to start worrying the wine that needed tackling before setting off to the local boozer for beers and food. Then it was back to do damage to the Talisker single malt!
The following morning saw a bitingly cold and strong wind with rain in the offing. But being as tough as commandos on a mission we were up and at it down at Titchwell RSPB reserve fairly early (After a leisurely full cooked breakfast, coffee, juice toast etc. - commando food) It was freezing and spitting with rain but we managed to rack-up a number of species including a female Red-crested Pochard, a good number of Brambling but unfortunately not a lot on the sea. Sea-watching was difficult as the sea was cutting-up and the wind was whistling in from the North-east blowing optics and people all over the place. It didn't seem to bother the birds though as this shot shows:
Oystercatcher  Haematopus ostralegus battling against the wind and waves at Titchwell
After Titchwell we drove down to the beach at Holme to search for a flock of approximately 80 Snow Buntings that had been reported from there. It didn't take long to locate these birds as they were very flighty and there were a lot of walkers about. We finished the day at Holkham trying to see Woodcock and Tawny Owl before heading back to the digs for more wine and more whisky.
Sunday and the wind was colder and stronger than yesterday and it was bloody freezing. Still being commandos we were out at Choseley drying barns early morning (after a leisurely full cooked breakfast, coffee, juice toast etc. - commando food). This was a good decision as we had great views of a Merlin as it came zipping through the fields and we passed a flock of at least 5 000 Pink-footed Geese searching for suitable feeding fields - a great spectacle as they flew over us in the early morning light. The hedges held good numbers of Yellowhammer and Brambling and there were a few Corn Buntings hanging about.
From Burnham Overy Staithe we walked the sea wall out to the dunes and saw virtually nothing apart from a couple of Common Scoter and a couple of Red-throated Diver out at sea. So we set off for Holkham Pines to look out from the Tower-hide for White-fronted Geese - duly found; Rough-legged Buzzard - not found and Barn Owl - found. There were at least seven Marsh Harriers competing for food over the marsh as well as three Common Buzzards, a Sparrowhawk, a couple of Kestrel and a Barn Owl. Who'd be at the bottom of the food chain?!
We twitched a Purple Sandpiper feeding in a pool in a field at Cley. Strange habitat for a Purple Sandpiper we thought but apparently feeding in freshwater pools by the sea is a well-known feeding strategy of these birds.
On the way back we had great views of a Barn Owl feeding by the side of the A149 and a number of cars had pulled over to enable the occupants photographic opportunities. So we joined them. Again poor lighting and poor photographic skills prevented me from securing some decent shots.
Barn Owl Tyto alba feeding by the side of the A149
We had to cut the birding short as the pub was was the Talisker and yet more wine. We popped into the supermarket at Wells for some milk and came out with three more bottles of wine...just in case.
Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus - Part of a flock of at least 5 000 birds near Choseley
The tally for the weekend was 114 species which was not bad considering the iffy conditions. We had seen anumber of mammals too and quite a lot of dead things!

No comments:

Post a Comment