Saturday, 5 March 2016

Four Days Late - Lucky

Friday March 4

March 1st was not good weather-wise, to-day was lovely. Cold... 2C rising to 3C by 10.a.m. with blue sky and no wind until the afternoon. 
Home late last night, after a splendid talk on British orchids during a Butterfly Conservation meeting at Blakeney Village Hall, morale was not high as we set off. Birds soon changed that, despite the slow journey with numerous temporary traffic light queues. Sculthorpe Mill Race was a raging torrent, the Grey Wagtail was on the thatched roof apex of the Inn. Our first for this site, the only other sighting was at Cley sewage works in January.
Finding Tree Sparrow at our usual site was difficult, Coal Tit and Marsh Tit on some well hidden feeders was not. Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare, fed feistily together in the field behind the barns, spending more time chasing each other away than actually feeding. This alien, but smart, Red-legged Partridge, eyed me warily as I photographed him from the car.

No sign of the Flitcham finch flock , they must have dispersed. The Little Owls had gone missing too. So much for the culling programme, Abbey Farm field had over 50 Greylags back in residence.

Great, the lowest tide of the year ahead at Snettisham. Only two hours until high tide, yet the water was very distant. Not many waders either, spring passage is well on its way. We didn't see any Pink-footed Geese all day. The pits were full of water, no islands visible even in the southernmost pit. Very unusual not to see Cormorants, Lapwings and Wigeon by the score. Goldeneye are already breeding in Scotland, not surprising that there were none here.

The Wash at Hunstanton was milky calm and birdless. Fulmars patrolling their cliff-side nesting ledges are always a pleasure. In James Fisher's opinion, the greatest flyer of them all. Albatrosses would take ascendancy for me - although Fulmar do look like miniature Albatrosses and are a member of the tubenose family. Big is best !!
The drive out to Holme added Shovellers and yet more Curlew, which were very numerous throughout the day. Tufted Duck, Little Grebe and Pochard on the Broadwater, another field full of Curlew beyond. Then, a new and much wanted, although never sought after, experience. Five Marsh Harriers had showed in the air at once before disappearing. I then saw what appeared to be an out of control, dipping, rising and weaving stunt kite. A male harrier displaying, what is known as its sky dance. I'm sure that it was not its full display as it was pretty low over the reeds, its final stonedrop-like dive taking it down to the ground. Spectacular though, once I realised what it was !
Brancaster Staithe was full of water, two female and two male Red-breasted Mergansers the highlight. I tried to capture the colour on the handsome Teal and Wigeon, the golden light of winter late afternoon makes colour untrue on the media. lovely to look at, disappointing to capture.

Filthy-beaked Teal

Pair of Wigeon, mud stomping

The same applied to a Marsh Harrier,  which was close to the car at a convenient place to stop.

Our second and third Barn Owls of the day showed on Cley Marsh, one a warm biscuit colour, the other ghostly pale. Scoping from the Centre picnic site added 70+ Avocet, Ruff, Pintail and a song - practising Cetti's Warbler.
One last call, Felbrigg, where two Little Owls were visible in their raddled, dead, oak tree bringing the day's total to 81. Tired after a hectic week but, happy and relaxed - the usual effect of a good day's birding.

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