Monday, 5 January 2009
NORTH NORFOLK 28TH-30TH DECEMBER 2008
I always try to spend a few days in Norfolk at this time of year if I can. It's pure medicine it really is. This time clear, anticyclonic conditions meant Easterly winds, brutal cold and fantastic sunsets. I went in my campervan, it was ****ing cold!
THORNHAM TO GORE POINT AND BACK
No Twite in evidence this year at Thornham Harbour. Good views of all the expected commoner waders on the ebbing tide, 25 Skylarks and a Ruff on the flooded field and brief but close views of a stoat! Holme NWT held 1500+ Pink-feet, 1000 Wigeon and 1 drake Pintail. Nothing unusual on the sea today, but still 1500+ Common Scoter and a few Red-throated Divers.
A cracking male and 3 ringtail Hen Harriers at the roost this evening. I narrowly missed out on a Short-eared Owl apparently!
SALTHOUSE TO CLEY
A nice long walk along the shingle then down the beach road and a bus back to the van in Salthouse was in order this morning. 3 Snow buntings gave crippling views near the car park and the 1st winter Glaucous Gull was still in residence on the beach. At least 20 Red-throated Divers were offshore as well as Gannet and Guillemot. Cley North Scrape held Black-tailed Godwit, over 40 Pintail and 44 Avocets as well as myriad Teal and Wigeon. On the Eye field I was surprised to find a Pale-bellied Brent amongst a small flock of Dark-bellieds. I later found out this bird had been around for a while. I was also surprised to find the beach shelter at Cley (also fondly known as the Beach Hotel, yes i'm that old!) is now almost engulfed by shingle. Won't be long now.........
Finished up here again this evening. Good views of the male Hen Harrier again but only 1 ringtail in evidence. Also had a distant immature Merlin sat on a post out on the marsh and a Barn Owl hunting in the fields behind me.
I decided to go here to check out the dawn flight of the Pink-footed Geese this morning. Also, with high tide just before dawn, there was a good chance of some serious wader action. I arrived before light and what unfolded before me took me by surprise and completely blew me away.
Even from the car park you could hear the noise from the geese, which were more than 2 miles away, it was like the rumble you get from a distant football stadium! On reaching the sea wall I set up my scope. Out of the slowly dissolving murk I could make out a raft of geese out on the Wash about the size of 2 football pitches! ( This roost consists of about 35,000 birds).Incredible! I must add at this point that conditions were flat calm which made the sounds I was hearing all the more clear and intense. Suddenly the birds started to take off; not the whole lot at once, but huge chunks of the flock would take to the air every few minutes. Each time a new wave took off there was an incredible roar, of calls and wings, like a goal being scored at aforesaid football stadium! It has to be one of the most incredible avian spectacles Britain has to offer and one of the most enthralling things I've ever seen. Not only that but right in front of me was a flock of over 10,000 Knot. Every so often they would take to the air, again with a mighty roar of wings that sounded like breaking surf, and do their mesmerising, shape-shifting thing over the mudflats.
So next time you're getting a bit down about the state of your London year list or whatever, do yourself a favour, jump in the car and go to Snettisham,....or Caerleverock, or the Dee Estuary or wherever, and remind yourself why birds are so ****ing amazing!!
Also noted were 30+ Snow Buntings, 1500+ Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Barn Owl, 20 Goldeneye.
After Snettisham I took a drive through Ringstead to Choseley to check out farmland birds. About halfway between the two villages I made a random stop and what I saw was like something out of the old days! A mixed flock of 40 Corn Buntings and many more Yellowhammers buzzed between the hedge and the set-aside. The rolling field was studded with Lapwings and Golden Plover as far as the eye could see, an army of tchacking Fieldfares advanced across the grass and everywhere loose groups of Grey Partridges and Brown Hares were visible. All of England's farmland must have been like this at one time! A beautiful but also slightly poignant moment.
Finshed the day here. A nice roost of Pink-feet on the freshmarsh, plus fantastic views of Barn Owl and a very confiding Treecreeper in the pines.