So here we are again back in Norfolk for a spot of winter birding and a chance to catch up with birding friends from around the country. Our trip would normally begin at Lakenheath Fen, but this year we decided to start in Thetford. An odd place to start one might think, but this year a black-bellied dipper, the nominate (European) race of the British sub-species, had decided to take up residence on a small stream next to BTO headquarters.
During previous visits to Norfolk when this sub-species has been present, we have spent hours looking, but to no avail, this year however, we spent seconds looking and there it was! Unfortunately, the light was very poor and combined with steady rain photography was difficult. We spent a good half an hour enjoying what proved to be a very confiding individual, in stark contrast to the birds I normally see in Valency Valley, Cornwall. The British sub-species of dipper has a rich reddish brown colouration between the white breast and the dark brown belly. This individual lacks this reddish brown patch, as can be seen on the picture above.
|Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra feeding along the river bank on the Little Ouse, |
Thetford Photo A. Mason
Before heading on to our next stop we had a quick stroll along the Little Ouse in Thetford is search of a resident otter. Initially we were unsuccessful before an animal was spotted feeding along the opposite shore. The otter was feeding directly under the bank and when submerged it could be followed by a line of air bubbles breaking the surface. In recent years the otter population has seen a marked recovery and many individuals, as this one can be very approachable.
|Whooper Swan - Lakenheath Fen|
Content with our views of otter and dipper we headed on to Lakenheath Fen. The birds have not been guaranteed at Lakenheath this year, probably due to a combination of the high water levels and the mixed weather conditions (one day mild, one day freezing). We did manage to see the usual species, such as marsh harriers, bearded tits and a brief view of a flying bittern.
A lone whooper swan, which was associating with the local mutes swans, was a welcome surprise, and a male barn owl gave us prolonged views for a while, but unfortunately it was the other side of the river so the the views were distant. A hunting peregrine provided us with a brief but exciting view, whilst flocks of lapwing and fieldfare moved steadily overhead.
|Barn Owl (Male) - Lakenheath Fen|
Having exhausted the birding opportunities at Lakenheath Fen we headed north to our accommodation at Great Bircham. Our journey was briefly interrupted for a flock of over 100 Bewick's swans, before pressing on to our destination.
So by the end of our first day we had seen 64 species of birds, the highlight for me was undoubtedly the black-bellied dipper, but for others the otter was the star. The most interesting thing was undoubtedly the large movement of lapwings and thrushes, movements such of these are usually associated with cold weather but there is no cold weather in the forecast....where are all these birds going?