Friday, February 26, 2016

Norfolk coast in Feb

A beautiful crisp sunny day on the Norfolk coast. First up Blakeney Freshmarsh; my first visit, and I had concerns about finding it, but the invariable Norfolk rule of following the pack worked well. I joined the crowd by the NW corner. A male Hen Harrier flew high over the marsh, a stunning sight against the clear blue sky. The Lapland Buntings were on show by the pools. Taking a slow wander round some churned up mud, or sitting on the wires of the fence. They are just coming into summer plumage, and I got a cracking view of a female in full summer plumage. A couple of males were developing the full black band across the chest. The bunts were joined by seven Twite briefly - on a wire, then hidden in the undergrowth.

On to Burnham Overy Staithes, but a quick stop for an intriguing buzzard. A pale bird came over the road on flat wings. It looked long-winged, and seemed to have a longer head than usual. Just the plumage details to check and I was in with Rough-Legged Buzzard,  and that's when it all went wrong. No clear black belly patch, no clear black terminal band, and the upper side was all brown - no white on the tail. A salutary lesson in buzzard variability.

A walk down to the western edge of Holkham Marsh, then on to the beach and round Gun Hill. Male Bullfinch in the hedge, Egyptian Geese and a few Pink-Footed Geese on the marsh, a Red Kite over the marsh itself, then some common waders on the beach and that was it. The searched-for Shore Larks had flown off after being chased by a dog and were nowhere to be seen. The most interesting sight was a Typhoon looping the loop overhead. Oh well ... 

Finally Titchwell. There were Siskins close enough to touch in the Alders, a few Water Pipits on a cleared area of the marsh, some Frisky Marsh Harriers, Avocets in number, then from the beach a Shoveler on the sea, some Wigeon, RB Merganser, Goldeneye, and a large raft of Common Scoter. Walking back a Water Rail was out in the open by the path, and 4 Bearded Reedlings showed well but distantly. I had joined up with a birder on a daylist quest, and as we approached the exit he expressed surprise we had not seen a Cetti's warbler; two chased each other through the reeds. He wondered where he could get Barn Owl; one flew across the adjacent field. We called out various other birds but to no avail. Not bad for a reserve with "nothing special".

Finally, I note that in a previous post I said I hadn't been to Titchwell since the mid 1980's. Flipping through my notes I see I went in Jan 1991 and saw Bewick's Swans and Long-Tailed Duck. I have no recollection of this visit and absolutely none of seeing those birds. Memory is an incomplete and selective thing!

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