Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Curate's Egg

Tuesday February 1
What a good idea, to leave early as high tide was 5ish at Snettisham and we'd need to be there as soon as possible......
Leaving in the dark at 6.15 we first had to clear the car windows of thick overnight frost and then travelled - via the diversions north of North Walsham - in thick mist with heavy grey louring skies - when it got light enough to see.
The Tree Sparrows at Harpley were chirping away, deep in the hedgerows, we'd barely made double figures by Abbey Farm at Flitcham. As we drove onto the concrete parking area, I saw a Little Owl fly from the path to the Hide into a near bush. Two in two days. We've never seen one in that area before. 
As we approached Snettisham at 9.00 it started to rain and did so until 11.00. Miles of mud and a small variety of birds. No Oystercatchers nor Knot (!!) but the distant shoreline was murky.
The most surprising bird at Holme was a Green Woodpecker which lifted off the approach road past the cottages into a garden.  I took one hurried shot before it flew off.

Always a pleasure to see

The NOA Hide overlooking Broadwater is increasingly in need of maintenance. The window flaps were easier to open to-day but the ceiling is mouldy, wet and warped in one corner. Someone had left a flap open too. Some TLC needed.
First bird seen was a Pale-bellied Brent, conveniently standing on its own on the right of the flock of Dark-bellied Brent the other side of the water. We didn't stay long in the cold and damp.
The Harrier viewed distantly from Thornham was too difficult to ID positively.
Choseley Barns were worth a visit. Spilt grain in the yard meant that we added a Yellowhammer and ten Corn Buntings to the list.
Again, on the return journey, we scanned the trees and bushes for the single Waxwing reported to be here. For such a colourful bird it was remarkably camouflaged, flitting the roadside hedge, feeding on the heavy crop of Hips.
Hot chocolate at Brancaster Staithe was cheering - and it had started to clear up, a little blue sky appeared.
Scoping from the layby oberlooking Burnham Marshes where thousands of Pinks were feeding, I found a Ross's Goose and a few White-fronts. There were probably many more of the latter but hedges, reeds and bushes get in the way. A Rough-legged Buzzard rose the other side of the plantation, turning to show us its pale underparts before fast disappearing.
Lady Anne's Drive at Holkham was clear of Pinks but Pam found a handsome Black Brant in the field east of the entrance road and a group of burly Eurasian White-fronts nearer the pines. 

I love their stripy belly
 The parking attendant told us that the main Hall grounds were only open from  April 1st until October 31st. We pointed out that our letter re the parking permit had not stated this. We were not very happy, it costs enough.
It's really nice to be able to park at will at Lady Anne's and then Wells though.
Abrahams Bosom had plenty of ducks but no sign of any Smew, female or otherwise. By now the sun was shining brightly, making viewing difficult but the winter countryside beautiful.
At Cley Coastguards, we saw two Red-throated Divers fly past and then a Ruff ( a white one) and a Reeve amongst the flock of Golden Plovers in the Eye field.
The ditch working digger near Walsey Hills had pushed the wigeon flock to the very back of the field and into the main channel before Arnolds, we gave up looking for the American Wigeon.
The Snow Buntings at Salthouse were as reliable as usual.
We drove home via Gunton again - that diversion - in fading light, tired but happy.
When we did the list to-night we were astonished to find that we'd clocked up 85 species. We'd missed Wren, Pintail, Pochard, Meadow Pipit, Linnet and Skylark to mention but a few of the commoner birds. BUT, we had been lucky with some difficult ones and steadily accumulated the numbers.
I shall have to edit and check this to-morrow, I'm very tired after a short night and a long but most enjoyable day.

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