Norfolk is one of those great places, and many birders can relate it to a past experience of a mega rareity. I went with The Biggest Twitch a couple of weeks ago to for 3 days with a aim to try and pick up as many birds as possible.
After an early start, we soon found ourselves (5 hours later) charging towards a hide at Cley Marshes for a very rare American species. The bird was a Western Sandpiper, not too dissimilar to our well-known Dunlin. He soon locked onto this very special bird feeding with a flock of Dunlin (just to try and confuse us). It wasn’t too bad; the star bird was noticeably smaller and a lot fresher looking, appearing paler. We also picked up Wigeon, Teal, Golden Plover, Ruff, Brent Geese, Bearded Tit, Pintail and Avocet.
If interested in the Western Sandpiper, images from the trip here: http://birdingnorthwales.blogspot.com/
This took us into the afternoon, where on our way to the next site, Alan spotted a Rough Legged Buzzard sitting proudly on show from the roadside. These birds are generally a lot paler in colour than the more well-known Common Buzzard and appear more Eagle-like than anything. We soaked up the views and moved on to Holken. For anyone who knows this place well, this is a real Goose fest, with thousands upon thousands of mainly Pink footed Geese. We also picked up a handful of White Fronted Geese and a couple of Barnacles there. Grey Partridge, a bird of real decline showed very well, as did the Marsh Harriers floating over the marshes. We then moved on to our last site of the day where we witnessed a raptor show with peregrines, Sparrowhawks, Hen and Marsh harriers flying across over the marshes.
The second day took us to Titchwell, another early start and we were down at the beach seawatching. Bar and Black Tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Knot and Turnstones were all on show. A couple of passing Red-Throated Divers showed well along with 3 lovely Long-Tailed Ducks. Backtracking into the reserve, we caught up with Common Snipe, Tufted Duck, Little Egrets, Spotted Redshank and a young drake Scaup. Alan, with his excellent i.d nailed a Mediterranean Gull in flight and we were also blessed with fantastic views of Water Rail. There was also another special bird at the reserve: an Cours Arctic Redpoll which gave amazing views from the overhead birch trees. These were accompanied by their more familiar Lesser Redpoll which are browner in colour.
Moving on at the speed of light with no time to lose, we took off to Buckenham Marshes whereby another mega rareity was spending its winter. It was a Lesser White Fronted Goose typically from Russia! This one was proving a lot more difficult to track down. The goose was supposed to be ‘hanging around’ with the Taiga Bean Geese which were a lot easier to see. After a good 45 minutes, the hope was fading until a guy who was watching nearby called it… now when I say we saw the bird, we were incredibly jammy as the bird literally came straight up out of one ditch and walked straight down into another… gone, all within a space of 10 seconds. Okay, no time to waste, let’s go! We weren’t going to get any better views.
The next bird to get was a Ring Necked Duck showing well from a lake a few miles from the goose site and this was followed by 6 Common Cranes and a Yellowhammer at Hickling broad NWT to end the day off nicely.
The next day was spent at Wolferton Triangle where a splendid male Golden Pheasant but on a fantastic display. It waltzed across the road without a care in the world, it hardly stirred when a speeding car zoomed past it. Amazing! Soon after, we were rewarding with brilliant views of Barn Owl on the side of the road on the way back to the hotel for breakfast. We were staying at Hunstanton so after breakfast we decided to seawatch from the cliff. Fulmars cruised past while on the sea, Red Breasted Mergansers, Common Scoter, Eider, Razorbill and 4 Velvet Scooters showed off nicely.
After a nice view of a Short Eared Owl, we thought we’d leave Norfolk for some quality time at Stirtloe Sewage Works. What was the attraction? Well, 7 smew and a Ferruginous Duck of course! These birds showed amazingly on a nearby lake. These were also joined by a cracking Yellow Legged Gull, Treecreeper and a Green Woodpecker also on site.
This marked a fantastic end to a mind blowing trip to Norfolk. Our trip total was just short of 130 birds which also made a great start to our yearlists.
Many Thanks to Alan and Ruth (The Biggest Twitch)
Images of Western Sandpiper, Arctic Redpoll, Rough-Legged Buzzard, Golden Pheasant and other specialities from the trip, please visit http://birdingnorthwales.blogspot.com/