Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Twitching Norfolk

Western Sandpiper
At 4.30am Mike rocked up at mine and ten minutes later I picked up Jess Stokes in Driffield. Onward to Hull and to meet John.  As we passed Tophill Low a Fox came scurrying out from the undergrowth giving lovely views. Fully loaded we headed in the direction of Norfolk. For about 6 miles and stopped at McDonalds. It was still before 5.30 and we needed crap food fuel. A steady passage south had us at Buckenham Marshes for 8.20 where we bumped into a bunch of wessies! Fancy that. Keith, Pete, Rob and Ken arrived about 10 minutes before us.

Our quarry was located relatively quickly amongst a flock of Taiga Bean Geese (which was a lifer in its own right although I have seen a few Tundra's before). The Lesser White-fronted Goose was pretty distant but prolonged views helped nail it. Some Cat C Barnacle Geese were also evident on the marsh which were a year tick. Further year ticks were plentiful with Barn Owl & Cetti's Warbler amongst them. We quickly moved off to our next destination - Cley.

We made the mistake of heading to the visitor centre rather than the East Bank car park and thus were a few minutes behind the wessie crew. Due to this we got crippling views of Bearded Tit and Stonechat as we made our way up there. The beardie was a particular star as tantalising views 10 metres in to the reeds suddenly stopped and a mini mandarin pitched up on the nearest reed top. We landed at Arnold's marsh as the Yankie peep was missing and this gave us the opportunity to grill the place. I turned up a smart adult male Yellow-legged Gull right in the centre of the marsh and there were a number of Spotted Redshank. Then suddenly Rob asks me to check out this bird in his scope - a small Dunlin-esque peep with a strong super, long bill and crucially one leg. Oh no hang on, I mean rusty rear scapulars. Yay! It did hop about for the next 20 minutes and was at one stage joined by a Dunlin & Ringed Plover illustrating its small size.

Soon after our schedule was catching up with us and a rumour of Snow Bunting flocks at Salthouse led us to a diversion there. These were seen before we had even arrived flying over the car park. Some lovely males were present including a stonking bird with a pinky rump. Seksie! Whilst there we cast an eye over the sea for year ticks turned up a Black-throated Diver and then we all grabbed our scopes and Red-throated Divers and 3 Slavonian Grebes were soon turned up. Sweet!

The only photos I took all day!
We hit the cafe at Cley for coffee and cake as it was now 7 hours since my McCrap breakfast. The wessies bombed on to Holkham and we followed once satiated. Pink-footed Geese everywhere and a Tundra Bean Goose emerged from the flock only to disappear back in as I tried to get the others on it. Turning round we had a Peregrine sat in a field and one of the Rough-legged Buzzards sat in a bush. We were cooking on gas. Walking through the pines we spied our mates on the saltmarsh. We ambled in their direction where they appeared to have espied the Shore Larks. Infact as we arrived they had pinned down the 4 birds pretty close and we got top, top views. It was now 2pm and we had to leg it to catch up with our final target.

Arriving at Titchwell we were soon on the redpoll flock and a number of classic Mealy Redpolls amongst a number of the commoner cousins. A particularly pale individual was picked up by Pete and we talked through the features, chamois wash to the face. Tick. White rump. Tick. Single undertail streak. Tick. We had the bugger! Nice views were had but the sun was low and as the bird moved about we struggled to keep on it and silhouette was replaced by it moving into a distant alder and then disappearing completely. Good times. Another lifer. We moved down to the freshmarsh where a Chinese Water Deer was foraging on the shooting marsh to the west. It showed down to about 10 metres without being bothered by punters moving along the path. A mammal lifer and one with quality tusks that looked like a Llama crossed with a terrier. We moved onto the sea and turned in a few more waders and 7 Red-breasted Mergansers. It was time to go and a failed Golden Pheasant twitch blighted the trip home. More junk food and then home. Knackered but elated.

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