North-easterly gales and blizzards are forecast from to-morrow - luckily we'd arranged a birding day with Sue for to-day. We haven't seen her since September, our illness and travels caused cancelled dates.
These days do not start early as she has to drive here from Burghapton. Sue's knee is bad at the moment so we didn't feel bad about car birding again. First stop was Felbrigg, as Sue hadn't seen Little Owl this year. Very obliging, one was sat in its hole in the dead tree before flying to a tree protector and back again.
Two walking birders caused the finch flock in the lane leading to Abbey Farm to fly madly around. Sue managed to see a Brambling and Reed Bunting and lovely male Yellowhammers though.
What? FOUR cars in Abbey Farm car park. We still went to the hide which only had three birders, looking for the Little Owl. As soon as Pam sat down in a chair she saw an owl, sat on a small branch viewable by looking through a 'window' above the nest box. The other three were delighted but had to move to see it. Another perched distantly on a tree protecting fence. After calling Mistle Thrush and Long-tailed Tit we left.
The two women had an open bird book in front of them, we guessed they were beginners. Not just the book, we too had a book phase, from their delight at the birds we called. Good when that happens. Wish people would ask, few do.
It was already mid-day and, despite the high tide at Snettisham, I'd decided to give it a miss. However, Pam took the Sandringham road and it was too tempting to forego. It wasn't a high, high tide which meant plenty of mud on view. A good scattering of Dunlin, Redshank and Grey Plover, a swathe of Golden Plover, the biggest flock of Oystercatchers I've ever seen here, thousands of Knot clustered on the tide line Teal and Wigeon. Lovely. Four female and one male Goldeneye on the first pit, the most this winter.
I'd suggested that we lunch at Thornham harbour so as to have longer searching time for the Twite flock. We finished lunch, viewing a remarkably empty marsh, before parking in the top car park for a final look around. I walked to the bridge and did see a flock of small birds too distant to ID. Ah well. No sooner had I sat in the car than the flock of Twite appeared, flying madly about in decreasing circles before landing in the top branches of a bare tree the other side of Thornham Bank. At last.
No way were we going to drive past Brancaster Staithe to-day. I tried to photograph in the low and weak sun with very limited success.
Most of the Dunlin were like this...
or being very active like this one.
As I took this photo of a thieving Turnstone, it took off.
No room to park at Burnham.... we drove on to Stiffkey Marsh. Too early for the main roost, we saw three Marsh Harriers and I scoped a Merlin, which no-one else got on to. I always feel as though I've failed when that happens.
Hoping for a Black Brant, I unsuccessfully scoped the Brent flock in the Eye Field at Cley. Pam spotted a Stonechat using the fence as a drop off and return point. I scoped it and it was a delightful male. Very little light now so we drove home via Waitrose.