Thursday, October 26, 2023

Nothing to see in Norfolk.

So often our trips to Norfolk involve lining up the star birds and going from one location to another ticking them off, or not, as the case may be. Generally we start at Cley and end up at Titchwell. But with nothing on offer and some interesting winds we were free to build a list from scratch. Mike and I chose to spend all day at Titchwell to give it a proper going over, out talisman and chief raptor-finder David being unfortunately laid up - get well soon David.

Our arrival coincided with low tide, and in distinctly variable conditions with low cloud drifting across we decided to hit the Fen trail. But before we'd even got out of the car park Mike had some Fieldfares over and a few Chaffinches, all going west.

There was a constant trickle of birds overhead as we made our way east; Redwings, Chaffinches, a few tight knots of Starlings, and in amongst we had some Siskins and a handful of Redpolls, which we were able to get eyes on as well as hear. There were frequent loud chattering parties of Pink-Footed Geese going over, often unseen in clouds despite sounding close. Later in the day we had large skeins of tens or low hundreds making their way south-east onto the coast. Just an everyday tick for Norfolk, nevertheless the sight and sound of these birds arriving from Iceland or Greenland is for me one of the best birding spectacles on offer in our corner of England.

There were plenty of Blackbirds around, and as we passed a reed bed lots of pinging and eventually 7 Bearded Reedlings took off and headed west, and a Great White Egret flew over.

Back in the car park for lunch we had a single Brambling call overhead and as it turned I caught its white rump. Not a bad bird to get on my 'whilst having lunch' list.

Heading out to the coast we went past a freshmarsh full of water but few birds; we had a few Pintail flying over but none we could see on the ground, and just twenty or so Golden Plover doing occasional circuits. Otherwise just the standard Black-Tailed godwits and Avocets.

All was quiet when we hit the beach, with not much having been seen, but with some patience the collective watchers assembled a list of Razorbill, Common Scoter, and a couple of Red-throated Divers all on the water. Further out just on the edge of what my scope could identify there seemed to be a line of Little Gulls constantly moving west, and we managed to get a minimum of three adults and one first-winter close enough to be identified comfortably at 60x. Other than that three Red-Breasted Merganser flew past and more thrushes flew in over the water with a few Fieldfare in amongst, and Starling must have hit the low thousands in total for the day as small parties were constantly going west. Three Sandwich Terns flew west as well as a couple of Gannets, and another tern; sea watching is one of the ultimate tests of Birding ID skill and I keep failing it so I can only record this as Commic.

There was a call of Hen Harrier! and Mike managed to get onto a ringtail hunting over the point but I was too slow and couldn't get it on my day list. Disappointment was soon washed away when Mike picked up a Short-Eared Owl over the point and we watched it for about ten minutes as it slowly got higher and higher and drifted out to sea. I'm always amazed at how these birds seemingly built for short-range hunting manage to migrate so far. 

That was pretty much it, apart from a Chiffchaff on a final sweep of the Fen trail. 

So all in this was a really enjoyable day. We may not have had the exotic buntings and warblers of a more northerly coastal point, but everything we saw we came across ourselves. Perhaps a template for future trips.

And there was a bonus from the RSPB. As a member I pay for them to maintain some decent birding habitat for folks like me to birdwatch on, but the folks presenting the overnight moth catch at the centre are very much an added free benefit. Having seen so many social media posts of Merveille-du-jour it was nice to be able to see one close up. My moth knowledge isn't good enough to appreciate the significance of what I was being shown in the other pots but some migratory ones were intriguing. Thank you RSPB. 

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