My partners in crime were AK (driver), DC and CW. We found ourselves in Norfolk as some patches of light began to appear in the sky and a Song Thrush was heard singing near the service station. We took a very short stop to look for Golden Pheasant at the Golden Triangle, but none were seen, although some saw the Woodcock.
The Northern Harrier (only a third record for Britain I believe) was high on the list of target birds. We found shelter from the winds behind a building at Thornham Marsh as we put the telescopes to use. The North Norfolk coast has as I’m sure you know some large areas of marsh and many of the raptors we saw today where at long range. They included Marsh Harriers and Hen Harriers. At closer range Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were both seen. On arrival we had found a Lapland Bunting in flight as it kept returning, and we had excellent close ups of Spotted Redshanks. I heard and saw my first Skylark and Meadow Pipits of 2011. Dark bellied Brent Geese were all over the area and Little Egrets gave bursts of flight. Flocks of Knot flew by the shore and the air was full of the calls from Curlew and Redshank.
The next stop was of course the nearby Titchwell RSPB Reserve. It was interesting to note the work that has been done on sea defences to protect at least part of the reserve. Things had altered a great deal since my last visit. Alarming to note how much land may eventually be lost however. We were soon finding the odd Little Egret and more Brent Geese, a flock of Linnet and a flock of Twite and Skylark. At least three Water Pipit were seen, one of them giving an excellent close up sighting.
On the pools and mud we had the likes of Gadwall, Pintail, Shoveller, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Goldeneye, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Turnstone, Black-Tailed Godwit and twenty plus Ruff, one of them being especially light in colouring.
We later made of in the direction of Cley. One of the really good sightings for me over the weekend was watching thirty-five Snow Buntings at close quarters as they dropped into a car park. The American Wigeon was found without too much trouble on the pools that edge Cley Reserve. We walked alone behind and on top of the dunes seeking Shore Lark. The outward journey in the wind brought us none, but on the return a small flock of Shore Lark flew in and landed not to far off us. Eventually these give us one of the top sightings of the trip as the birds fed on the stony ground.
All agreed that the top bird of the trip was the Northern Harrier although today it was seen only at distance. When will this bird be split from Hen Harrier I wonder? It certainly looks very different, seems to hunt differently and has a very different flight. When we watched it flew at great speed and not like a Hen Harrier at all.
By the time the light had begun to fail I think we were all ready for a rest. It had been windy but dry and the wind had not in anyway spoilt the birding. As we returned to the B + B we found thousands of Pink-Footed Geese in what seemed to be a turnip field. Obviously going to roost and feed for the night. There may well have been other species of geese in there with them but the failing light made identification impossible. It appeared as a carpet of geese and more birds where flying in as we left. A fish and chip supper went down well tonight.
More to come.