We awoke to heavy and persistent rain on day 3, which we had expected. The forecast suggested that it would clear by 10am, and so undaunted by the weather we still headed out at our usual time, and just hoped that we would be able to find some sheltered spots.
Our aim was to go to the RSPB reserve of Titchwell, and on our way called into Choseley Barns looking for corn buntings. Unfortunatley once again there were none, but the small flock of house sparrows was still there along with a flock of around 40 brambling. We did also add yellowhammer to our trip list as a single bird was feeding on some freshly spilt corn.
The rain was still falling heavily when we arrived at Titchwell, so we staggered our birding, starting first at the covered area overlooking the feeders, then headed out to the first hide. A very large female hen harrier was feeding over the fresh marsh west of the reserve, but not much else was visible. What was visible again was the extent of damage caused by the recent storm surge, which fortunately appeared not to have breached the sea defences protecting the main part of the reserve. The islands were crammed with lapwing and golden plover, and after a bit of scanning we picked out pied avocets, black-tailed godwits, snipe and ruff and of course the usual duck species.
|Pied Avocet and Shoveler - Titchwell|
|Pied Avocets, Lapwing, Black-headed Gulls and Black-tailed Godwits - Titchwell|
After a while the rain appeared to have eased and so we headed up to the beach to scan the sea. The destruction in this part of the reserve was very evident, the dunes by the beach had mostly gone, and the boardwalk leading to the beach was badly damaged and unusable. The last scrape had also been completely flooded and most of the islands had gone, but some waders were still using it, including three spotted redshanks. On the sea there were the usual large flocks of common scoter, red-breasted merganser and goldeneye. Red-throated divers were regularly passing, but the surprise was a great skua, that dropped onto the sea and began bathing. We continued to scan and picked out some velvet scoter in with the commons and then a red-necked grebe appeared. It fed just offshore before flying out to sea. Many species of wader were feeding on the beach, bar-tailed godwit, knot, sanderling and common ringed plover, to name a few.
None of us had been to Stiffkey Fen before, but we had been advised that it was the best place to view Blakeney Harbour, albeit distantly. The fen itself was full of birds, mainly lapwing and black-tailed godwit but also loads of duck. After scanning the fen we headed out to view the harbour and immediately picked up our target birds, great northern and black-throated diver and long-tailed duck. The tide was low and from our viewpoint we could see six long-tailed ducks, in what appeared to be immaculate plumage, but we were just to far away to fully enjoy it. The one black-throated diver soon became five and the one great northern diver became 2 and a guillemot and red-throated diver soon appeared. It seemed ridiculous to see so many birds crammed into such a small area of water feeding, there must be an abundance of food there. Just as we were packing up to leave we spotted our second great skua of the day, and a peregrine flew fast and low over the dunes.
We called in to Wells only briefly to catch up with the regular wintering shag, and as usual it was feeding in the channel at low tide. We have been seeing this bird annually for many years, I wonder how long it will continue to turn up.
Holkham (Pines and Lady Anne’s Drive)
Our final stop of the day was Holkham. We first headed out to the dunes in search of snow buntings, as they are a regular winter visitor here. Initially we could not see them but then a flock of about 40 birds were picked up in the distance. The were flying in from the beach and headed towards us, landing briefly before taking flight again and and heading off. They landed again, but were getting flushed continuously by walkers and dogs.
With the light fading fast we headed back to Lady Anne’s Drive, three barn owls were quartering over the fields. These were the first barn owls of our trip which is very surprising for a winter Norfolk trip, they are usually much commoner.
|Pink-footed Geese leaving at Dusk|
We were hoping to see woodcock as they emerge from the woods at dusk, but as the sun set and thousands of pink-footed geese dropped in, our attention was unsurprisingly diverted. We patiently waited, but it was in vain, no woodcocks appeared, at least not from the area where we were standing. It was not all bad though, as for the second night running we were given excellent views of the planet of Jupiter and treated to an amazing sunset.
|Sunset over Lady Anne's Drive, Holkham|
It was too dark to continue now so we headed back to our cottage, we had recorded 93 species of bird, bringing our total for the trip so far to 122.