Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Norfolk Long Weekend trip - DAY ONE

On Thursday the 3rd my day was spent at University finishing an epically large assignment I had to complete. This was completed at about 8 on Thursday night and then submitted online. Phew! I could finally relax, I had an hour or so then went to bed to try and catch some sleep before the long drive south to Thornham harbor on the North Norfolk coast. I think I managed about 10 minutes sleep before I had to get up at 2:10 on Friday morning. The first pickup was easy as Brian got his mate who is a Taxi driver to drive him to my house, next through to Hetton to pick up Jack Snipe Colin and then finally onto Easington to pick up Derek the Finch.

After a few fuel stops for me and the car we arrived at Thornham harbour at around 7:45. Pulled the car over and first year tick of the trip were just in front of the car 2 Brent Geese. We got out of the car and stood in front of an old abandoned barn where we were sheltered from the wing. A flyover Lapland Bunting provided the next year tick of the day, it was seen again later on. The huge saltmarsh was alive with your common birds including a nice flock of TwiteSkylarks, and Meadow Pipits. The last bird being a long overdue year tick, they have either taken a hammering in the North East or they have moved onto pastures new. A flyby Spotted Redshank also provided a nice year tick, a common wintering wader on the Norfolk coast but as rare as hen's teeth in the North East in winter. Scanning toward Titchwell RSPB for the prized Northern Harrier only supplied a few Marsh Harriers but a ringtail Hen Harrier was a nice consolation for the lack of the Northern Harriers presence.

Our next stop was Titchwell RSPB where I soon added Linnet to my year list they are superb birds when you think about it. The next bird of note was a superb Water Pipit, a long awaited lifer for me. There was a bird in Durham during the spell of bad weather we had but I resisted the urge to go and twitch a bird that is pretty common. Views were distant and poor due to the strong winds and distance, the bird flew off and headed towards the hide and not surprisingly so did we. We were rewarded with good views of the Water Pipit and Derek managed the photo shown below. A large selection of birds were on view from the hide including some Brent Geese that I managed to grab a small video off before they flew away. Around the islands were Dunlin2 Avocet, and a nice selection of wintering Ruff. One bird was very white and I managed to grab a video off it that can be seen in this post below. On the way out of the reserve I could hear a Robin calling. On glancing to my right I was expecting it to be sitting somewhere on a near by bush. I couldn't see it and I then realised it was sitting about 5ft from my face!

(Water Pipit - © Derek Charlton)

(Brent Geese - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Ruff - Andrew Kinghorn)

(very tame Robin - © Derek Charlton )

Our next stop was Cley Marshes NWT in the hope of seeing the fairly long staying drake American Wigeon, on the way Colin managed to spot a Red-legged Partridge in a nearby field and I managed to see the bird on passing but sadly no where to stop to have a closer look. Before going to look for the American Wigeon we headed a little further along to coast to Salthouse to a beach car park in the hope of finding Snow Bunting and perhaps that Spoonbill that had been knocking about that area. On pulling into the car park a flock of about 35 birds took off and landed beside me drinking from a pool it was the flock of Snow Bunting. Some of the birds in the flock were just superb looking birds, one was really white with a brownish coloration to the rump. We got really close to the birds and they allowed excellent views. From here we managed to see Great black-backed Gull a bird that had evaded our trip list. One thing I did notice was the lack of large larus Gulls.

Our next stop was actually Cley Marshes NWT itself, we walked along the east bank and managed fairly good but distant views of the drake American Wigeon that has decided to spend the winter there. Then onto the beach where a walk up the beach revealed no sign of the reported Shorelarks, however a walk back produced about 10 Shorelarks that flew overhead and landed on the shingle of the beach. We then enjoyed amazing views and I managed a short video. From here was had a walk back to the car and headed for our accommodation at Wells-next-the-Sea, we dropped our stuff off and then straight back to Thornham harbour for another look for the Northern Harrier. A distant male Hen Harrier put in appearance early on as did 2 Spotted Redshanks, thankfully this time I managed a video of one of the birds. The video can be seen below. As expected 4 Marsh Harriers were whizzing around Titchwell RSPB reserve in then distance. 2  Egyptian Geese flew in from the west over the saltmarsh and I alerted everyone so they could get onto the birds in time before they disappeared towards Titchwell RSPB. We had all but give up home when Derek said something like "That's it.......isn't it?" a few frantic "Where?" 's were let out from me but sadly I was unable to get onto the bird. About 10 minutes passed and it was getting pretty gloomy and then Derek spotted it again and this time I got onto it "Yeah, thats it alright!". The gingery wash to the underparts stood out a mile even at the great range the bird was. For another couple of minutes we enjoyed good but fairly distant views of the Northern Harrier as it flew back and forward up and down. The birds flight style was quite noticeably different to the Hen Harriers and Marsh Harriers and its hunting style is also very different. But more on that in a later post..........

(Shorelark - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Spotted Redshank - Andrew Kinghorn)

Did I see the Northern Harrier again or did I have to just be happy with the distant views I got on Friday evening? Stay tuned folks.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

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