Monday, 2 March 2015

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant

Sunday March 1

Heading = St David's Day for the uninitiated !

After a night of very little sleep, we didn't leave until 7 a.m. A lovely looking day, blue sky and sun with a very cold breeze. Not much 'hwyl' for the numbers game, we'll just enjoy the day. As we left, a Song Thrush sang from the Dairy Farm direction and another was perched in the tree near the T junction at the White House.
At last. A Grey Wagtail flipped over Sculthorpe Mill's roof as we walked to view the mill race, which was in full frothing spate after heavy overnight rain. The hedgerows were pretty quiet too. Maybe Valley Farm Lane would offer more. Not in numbers but, our first Norfolk Tree Sparrow of the year showed briefly. Very few game birds around to-day, they can't have shot them all.....frightened them into skulking maybe.
Again there were walking birders in the lane leading to Abbey Farm, Flitcham. Result, empty hedgerows. A few Fieldfare, Greylag, Moorhens and Coot from the hide, the recording book looked mouth-watering again. When do these people watch? An interesting and informative notice re the culling of Greylag here. A visiting ecologist put the blame for sterile, plant less water, eroding  pool edges and a degraded marsh on the presence of large flocks of Greylag. Some egg pricking and shooting has/is being carried out. The shooting more for frightening off than for the numbers killed. Good.
The flock of finches was located in the hedgerow near game feeders viewable over the hay bales protecting a field entrance. Getting out was not an option. Neither was viewing from the car as the lane is narrow and one can barely see over the tops of the bales. The flock is very active too. We managed to ID at least 3 Brambling and a Reed Bunting amongst the Chaffinches before an approaching car enforced a move.
My first Green Woodpecker of the year showed briefly in tall grass roadside in the West Newton area, Coal Tits sang in the Wolferton woods.
A field off the B road approaching Snettisham is always worth a look. To-day it held about a thousand Pink-feet. I managed to see one Tundra Bean Goose, there were probably more, Again, the road is narrow with steady traffic. One would do. Only one pair of Egyptian geese, the others must have dispersed to breed.
The Snettisham pits were remarkably empty, the gusting wind made them look like the sea, white-topped waves racing across the surface. Low tide again too. Miles of mud with scattered Knot, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover donning their summer plumage and Dunlin. No Oystercatchers nor Little Egrets ! Amazing. The Black-necked Grebe has gone too.
The entrance field to the Holme reserves track had a small flock of Fieldfare and Redwing. The Broadwater area  from a hide where the wind made viewing pretty uncomfortable saw our first raptor of the day, a Marsh Harrier, 5 Avocets, at least 5 Little Grebes and distant Brent Geese.
Having bought lunch at Titchwell, we ate it at Brancaster Staithe, 

Black-tailed Godwit

Curlew on  a mission
 A mucky Redshank

sharing much of my roll with the gulls and Turnstones.  It's fun. I love watching the scurrying Turnstones get there before the gulls and the clever Black-heads who catch the food in mid air.  Much too close for me to photograph, the wind swirled the bread back towards the car. The finder of the Slaty-backed Gull in Galway used up 3 loaves of bread enticing it nearer for photography. Must try that.........
Instead I took the easy way out.  
Black-headed Gull in winter plumage

Black-headed Gull changing into summer
Turnstone moulting into summer dress
For the first time this year, there was space for us to park roadside overlooking Brancaster Marshes at the western end of Holkham Pines. Success. In about 40 minutes we saw, 3 Red Kites, 4 Marsh Harriers, 1 Common Buzzard and 1 first winter Rough-legged Buzzard. The latter perched in the hedge at the far end of the field where I was able to scope it. Satisfyingly, it shuffled its wings and spread its tail exposing its black-tipped paleness. We must have seen a dozen Marsh Harriers to-day and only one Kestrel.
The news of Spoonbills at Holkham came through after we'd passed and briefly scanned the area from the road.
It took a bumpy lurching drive down to Stiffkey Fen before we saw our only Little Egrets. 
The Felbrigg Little Owl put in an appearance in its nest-hole to become number 78, a male Yellowhammer on a telegraph pole near home the 79th. A bigger total than our efforts deserved. Maybe I should write an article entitled 'Birding From the Car'.

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