Tuesday, 21 January 2014

In Search of Winter Birds, Day 4 - Norfolk 2014

Day four of our winter birding trip started a bit more leisurely as we had to clean the cottage before we left. But as with any keen birders we kept a keen eye out for birds, and by the time we were ready to go the notable species recorded were a flock of 60 golden plover, several curlew and a greylag goose. With the cottage cleaned our first stop was the village of Flitcham.

Abbey Farm at Flitcham has become a regular haunt for us on our winter trips as it has become one of the few guaranteed sites for Tree Sparrows, and occasionally Little Owls. There had been a heavy overnight frost so we approached the site with caution as the roads were very icy. There are bird feeders around the car park but these were empty so we wandered along the road, listening for Tree Sparrows. The hedges were full of finches, Bramblings, Chaffinches, Reed Buntings and a small flock of House Sparrows, but alas no Tree Sparrows. We did however get some tantalising views of a couple of birds that probably were, but they just would not show themselves. Before leaving we had a quick look from the hide for Little Owls, but unfortunately we were not in luck. We did see our first Sparrowhawk of the trip, and some good views of a couple of mad January Hares, but that was about all.

Our next stop was Thornham where there has been a Short-eared Owl wintering. When we arrived it was immediately evident that our plans were going to have to change, as repair works were being carried out on the sea defences (our usual viewing spot). We scanned the salt marsh and creeks and picked up the usual wader species including Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Curlew and Common Redshank. Rock Pipit was a new species for the trip, and we recorded five coming into a small building to bathe and drink water in the guttering. A very tame Little Egret gave some great views, but despite our best efforts there was no sign of a Short-eared Owl.

Little Egret - Thornham, Norfolk

Little Egret - Thornham, Norfolk

Hunstanton was to be our final stop before heading home. We had hoped to go back to Edgehill for a second attempt at the Glaucous Gull and Parrot Crossbills, but we just did not have the time. Hunstanton was worth the stop though as we added Common Eider, Northern Fulmar and Slavonian Grebe to the trip list, and also saw a handful of Gannets and Red-throated Divers and several Grey Seals were loafing just offshore.

So we ended the trip having seen 127 species in three and half days of birding, starting in Suffolk and heading up to the north Norfolk coast. We had seen three species of crossbill, three species of diver and four species of grebe. We had nearly cleaned up on the waders, Purple Sands eluded us, and had seen a good mix of passerines. We had not seen any Bewick's or Whooper Swans, no Short-eared or Little Owls and no Bean Geese, so maybe with a bit more luck, and time we could have got over 130 species, which we have only achieved once before. But for us it was as much about the social as the birding and we are already planning our visit next year.

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