Friday, 2 December 2016

Winter Birding

Thursday December 1

Setting off at 7.50,  the dial reading 2C in an - as yet - unheated car it was easy to believe the date. It looked lovely. Blue sky, no wind and an overnight frost silvering the verges and their carpet of brown leaves. The cold stillness was not encouraging the steady, slow- fluttering shedding of leaves, it must have been gravity.
To complete the weather report...... the temperature varied from 2, rising to 6C then dropping again throughout the day, dependant on the thick fog patches we hit and the cloud cover at Snettisham.
We decided to breakfast in Sculthorpe Mill car park, birding whilst our porridge pots cooled. A Sparrowhawk flew through the other side of the mill, no small birds to be seen after that, until a pair of Grey Wagtails flew onto a cottage roof.
If there is no traffic, Pam dives across the double white lines onto an old lane on the right, near the top of the hill before the Doghotel. No Hares to-day but a very worthwhile diversion. A Red Kite made its leisurely way across the top of a field, banking whilst it hunted. Lovely.
The first of the day's Red-legged Partridges walked across the lane.
Valley Farm Lane's Tree Sparrows were already inspecting vtheir nesting boxes on the exposed end wall of the last cottage. At last we can see the Gamekeeper's bird feeding station again, now that the hedge and the walnut tree have shed their leaves. Coal Tit, Chaffinches, Blue and Great Tits and Goldfinches (he calls them King Harry). No Marsh Tit to-day in the short while we were there.
Abbey Farm lane and hide always have possibilities but often disappoint. To-day was disappointing apart from three pairs of glowing Yellowhammers in the same tree. Back onto the entry road, five Grey Partridges posed on top of the estate wall. Didn't like to disappoint them, despite the back lighting.

The others were in the sunlight on the left.

Female - funny colouring - back lighting
A pasture on the back lanes leading from Flitcham to Sandringham, had seven Roe Deer quietly feeding - until we stopped and they became a scattered group of white rears racing into the distance. Always sorry to disturb them but, they are so easily spooked, one's natural instinct is to stop and look. Theirs is flight, survival code.

Snettisham was dull and overcast. It was a Weston Super Mare mud vista, the water's edge not discernible. We added the commoner waders before getting out to scope the last reserve pit, where intermittent shafts of  light cast an eerie glow.

There's a Redhead Smew in there somewhere, towards the Shore Hide on the right. Also, several pairs of Goldeneye, one of my favourite ducks, innumerable Wigeon, Greylags, Cormorants and Lapwings.
No geese on the mud, we'd  seen a flight of Pinks on the way and added Brent later.
Already losing daylight at only mid-day, we added Fulmar at Hunstanton, nothing at Holme, and Choseley, Black-tailed Godwit at Brancaster. Maybe Stiffkey Marsh was worth a look. Only half an hour, during which I had a few inadvertant power naps, at Stiffkey in very poor light. 
At one awakening I said 'I've got a Harrier' . It was a ringtail Hen, juvenile male or female. Great, always a pleasure to see a Hen Harrier. That made five raptors for the day. Kestrel, Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and the Hen. Still no Marsh Harrier, usually a banker, that's why we left after half an hour, hoping for one at Cley. We always see at least one on Mothing mornings. Not to-day, almost dark at 3.50. 
The day's total was a pleasing 74 species.

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