Saturday, 4 February 2012

In Search of Winter Birds - Norfolk 2012 (Day 2)

Another bitterly cold day in north Norfolk, but undeterred we headed out for a full days birding. Our first port of call was to be Cley Marsh in search of the long staying Western Sandpiper, but we made a brief stop just west of Holkham to view a field full of geese. A flock of about 200 birds were present, including White-fronted, Barnacle, Pink-footed and Greylag. After a brief stop, we carried on to Cley deciding to walk down the east bank rather than go into the reserve, since all the pools were frozen. A fair selection of waders were present including Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Avocet, Grey and Ringed Plover, Knot and a good number of Dunlin.

Black-tailed Godwit - Cley Marshes

Duck species included Pintail, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon and of course Mallard and a single Little Egret was also present.

Dunlin - Cley Marshes 

After a little perseverance we eventually managed a couple of brief views of Bearded Tit, but the surprise sighting was a lone Woodcock, which we are thinking may have just arrived from the continent in an attempt to escape the cold weather.

Knot - Cley Marshes

Unfortunately, and despite our best efforts, we were unable to locate the Western Sand so we headed up the beach to look out to sea. Loads of Red-throated Divers were either sitting on the sea or flying by, along with the occasional Guillemots and three drake Eider. Satisfied that there was nothing else to find at Cley we headed off to Holkham. We parked at Lady Anne's Drive and scanned the fields; several hundred Pink-footed and Dark Bellied-brent Geese were present and two Egyptian Geese flew in, one of which was very confiding. 

Egyptian Goose - Lady Anne's Drive, Holkham

A brief view of a Rough-legged Buzzard kept us scanning for a while, before heading out to Holkham Gap in search of Shore Lark and Snow Buntings. We were fortunate that other birders were watching the Shore Larks, so we were quickly onto them.

Shore Lark - Holkham Gap

Sometimes they can be extremely unapproachable, but this group of four were very confiding, and quite inquisitive, for that matter, often standing tall as I stalked closer to watch them. Two of the birds were very well marked so I presume that they were males, since in the breeding season males have brighter plumage, and longer horns.

Shore Lark - Holkham Gap

A flock of at least 25 Snow Buntings were also present on the beach, we did see them briefly and very distantly, before they flew even further away and with the light fading fast we didn't pursue them. Our next stop was Burham Overy Staithe in search of Lapland Buntings and a better view of the Rough-legged. We found a couple of Lappy's straight away and so headed down the track towards the fresh marsh. A mixed flock of geese included 200 Dark-bellied Brent and a handful of Greylags, with a couple of surprises in the form of a Black Brant and a Tundra Bean Goose.

Tundra Bean Goose - Burham Overy Staithe

It was bitterly cold on the sea wall so we didn't stay long, but just long enough to see the Rough-legged fly up and perch on a distant tree. Our final stop of the day was to Wells harbour where we added Little Grebe and Turnstone to our tally, and then it was back home for a warming cup of tea.

So after two days birding we have seen 108 species, which is not a bad total given how quiet it seems to be up here, not sure how many more we will add tomorrow as it is snowing very heavily outside at present.

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