Sunday, January 16, 2011

North Norfolk.....

Titchwell Sunset,looking towards Holme and Thornham.
An early start today for a day out in Norfolk with Chris,Alan and Dave provided us with one of the best day's birding we have all had,this is what we saw.After the long drive down from North Linc's we eventually arrived at Thornham to look for the Northern Harrier and after about 20 minutes i was onto it as it appeared and began to hunt over the saltmarsh.On first views,the bird was much darker overall on the upperparts than Hen,with a larger,gleaming white rump and the underparts being more cinnamon than the Hen Harrier we had also just seen,i unfortunately didn't note the hooded affect seen by some birders.After the bird went to ground after possibly catching some prey we carried on watching,seeing a Common Buzzard and a hunting Barn Owl,as well as 3 Marsh Harrier,which included a nice adult male.After nailing the bird we had come to see,we made our way to a very blustery Cley to look for the reported Drake American Wigeon and Shorelark's.On arrival here,we got the gear together and made our way down the east bank to scan the grazing marsh and pools,with Chris picking the sleeping yank out amongst his European cousins and after a short while we eventually got good views of the bird after a passing Marsh Harrier spooked the flock,with him showing nicely on the water,before disappearing again.After watching this dapper American duck,we carried on down to the shingle ridge,with the Lark's nowhere to be seen,so we had a quick look on the sea seeing a single adult Gannet,Guillemot,Red-throated Diver and 4 Velvet Scoter,but nothing else revealed itself apart from a Grey Seal and a couple of Harbour Porpoise,so we went back to hunting for the Shorelark's and within about 5 minutes Chris and Dave had re-located them and before i could get there,the 11 birds flew past me and landed a short distance away,we then settled down to watch them as they fed along the shingle ridge,at times being quite difficult to keep tabs on as we lost them amongst the vegetation and large pebbles,stunning looking birds with their lemon yellow and black face pattern and little horns.After enjoying the Wigeon and Lark's and seeing the amazing spectacle of about 5000 Pink feet landing on an adjacent field,we quickly re-fuelled and made our way to Wells for the next goodie.On arrival the Brent Geese where present and it wasn't long before 'Sheepie' had the Black Brant in his scope and it gave brilliant views as it fed on the short turf with it's Dark-bellied friends,a very well marked individual with it's striking collar and flank patch,things where going incredibly well!!.Our next port of call was Burnham Overy,so after getting the wellies on again,we proceeded to scan the grazing marshes and woodland to the east looking for the wintering RLB's and after what seemed an eternity,Al picked up a raptor in the distance which i quickly id'd as a Rough-leg.We watched the bird as it battled against the wind,with the white uppertail coverts and underwing pattern being visible even at long range,eventually losing it behind a section of woodland.Other birds seen here included hundreds more Pinkies,Ringtail Hen Harrier and 4 more Marsh Harriers.The final place we visited was the RSPB's flagship reserve at Titchwell,which certainly lived up to it's reputation as being one of the best reserve's in the country.We had planned to come here last,as there was the possibility of the Northern Harrier showing before going to roost and we wern't to be disappointed.As we walked down the main path after seeing a couple of Redhead Smew,we met with a couple of birders who said they had just seen the N.H. and sure enough we got onto it again as it flew by across the saltmarsh towards Holme,with a Hen Harrier for comparison,cracking stuff!!.We then carried on towards the sea,seeing another 9 Shorelark in flight briefly and a flock of about 40 Twite,with the sea revealing 2 smart Red-necked Grebe which showed pretty well,2 'Punky crested' Drake Red-breasted Merg's and an immature Drake Eider.On the return journey,a very smart Spotted Redshank showed brilliantly before we returned to looking for raptors.After scanning the marsh towards Holme and Thornham i picked up the Northern Harrier again and this time it came by at close range allowing us to see the whole range of diagnostic features,the bird looking like it had just eaten a meal,with the crop looking distended.He flew by and across the main path and joined the gathering flock of Hen and Marsh Harrier which were going to roost,with him being seen in the air together with 3 Hen Harrier and 12 Marsh Harrier,an amazing spectacle.What a perfect end to an incredible days birding,with some good planning and excellent company,one to remember for years to come!!