Monday, 26 January 2015

In search of winter birds, Day 3 - Norfolk 2015

Day 3 began with yet another hearty breakfast, which was much needed given that we were going to spend most of the day in the field. Whilst loading the car we recorded another new species for the trip, a Goldcrest, and then we were ready to go.

Choseley Barns
Choseley Barns has been a regular stop for us over a number of years as it has been a guaranteed site for Corn Buntings, Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrows. One by one the species have declined and this year we recorded none. There were other species present, including four Blackbirds, a Chaffinch, a handful of Common Gulls and six Red-legged Partridges. It is so sad to see that despite various government schemes aimed at protecting farmland bird species, they continue to decline. Of course we do not know the reasons for the loss of farmland birds from Choseley Barns, but can make an educated guess.

A149 at Brancaster
We were feeling a little depressed after our visit to Choseley Barns but our spirits were heightened as we approached Brancaster. There was a large flock of around 6,000 Pink-footed Geese feeding in a field close to the road. We quickly took up some well-placed locations along the road and began to work our way through them. There have been some Bean Geese in with the Pink-foots but we did not find them. In fact we didn't have the time to finish our search as a couple of dog walkers flushed them, so we moved on.

Pink-footed Geese - Brancaster
Pink-footed Geese - Brancaster

Wells Harbour
Our next stop was Wells Harbour in search of the long-staying Shag, and also a Red-necked Grebe that has been present on and off this winter. The tide was high when we arrived and there wasn't really much to see. A shout from Paul quickly alerted us to a Red Kite that was drifting east over the harbour, a scan of the sky line produced two more hunting behind the harbour over East Hills.

Red Kite - Wells Harbour

We continued our search for the Shag and eventually picked it up sat on a spit on the opposite side of the harbour. Apparently when it is not feeding it roosts in this spot or on the jetty, so hopefully it will be a regular feature each winter in the future.

Shag - Wells Harbour

Cley Coastguards, East Bank and Arnold's Marsh
Our next stop was Cley Coastguards and a scan for the wintering Black-throated Diver. We picked up on a good candidate immediately and after a short deliberation we concluded it was the bird. A scan over the sea produced a couple of Common Scoter and a couple of Red-throated Divers.

After quick stop at the centre to check for any news and a scan over the marsh we decided to walk up the East Bank in search of a reported Golden Plover. There were very few birds on the marsh, Teal, AvocetDunlin and Grey Plover to name a few. The Golden Plover was all alone on the beach, not the usual place to see one, but it was the only one we had seen on the trip to date, so a welcome sight.

Golden Plover on the beach at Cley

We headed back down the East Bank and picked up a calling Bearded Tit (or Reedling or Parrotbill). At first it was the other side of the ditch, but soon flew across and began grubbing around at the base of a patch of reeds. It was amazing to watch the bird as it fed, it was scraping back the earth with both feet like a miniature chicken. It was occasionally calling but regularly sat up giving excellent views.

Bearded Tit - East Bank, Cley
Bearded Tit - East Bank, Cley
Bearded Tit - East Bank, Cley
Bearded Tit - East Bank, Cley

With time pressing on we headed to Sheringham in search of Purple Sandpipers. This is another site we visit annually, but have only ever seen them here once. We picked up a bird on one of the groynes, but it quickly went out of sight. We began working our way along the promenade to get a better view when we spotted another. This one was on a rock right next to the car park, and stayed there for several minutes giving excellent views.

Purple Sandpiper - Sheringham

Warham Greens
The harrier roost at Warham Greens was our final stop of the day. We arrived at just after 3pm and picked up a flock of 48 Golden Plovers in a nearby field. It was a bright, sunny day and ideal for looking for raptors. A couple of Marsh Harriers were hunting over the marsh and a Peregrine perched up on a distant sandbank. Our first Hen Harrier was brief, but the second, a cracking male performed well. Further sightings brought our total to at least three male and two female Hen Harriers, a Merlin, a Peregrine, a Sparrowhawk and one Barn Owl. It was pretty dark by the time the Barn Owl came past but I managed one record shot.

Barn Owl - Warham Greens

Great Bircham
We arrived back at our accommodation and were greeted by a couple of calling Tawny Owls   from the nearby trees. It was pitch black by now but we were able to make out their distinctive shape.

We finished the day on 88 species with several new species our grand total was now 115, so not bad after three days birding.

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