Friday, 8 March 2013

Long time no post - Norfolk (Part 2)

Day 2.

5.30am..... still dark, but overhead the cackling of huge skeins of Pink-footed Geese echo out in the still bitter air. "What the crap am I doing up now?" I thought to myself as we pulled into the layby at Burnham Overy Staithe. The evening before, Ross and I had discussed the game plan and (for some reason) decided it was probably best to try the Barn Owls first thing as we were told that sometimes they show much better at the break of dawn.

Waiting in the dark wasn't fun though.... bloody freezing, and with at least another half an hour before the light would start to break I started to regret the decision.

Thankfully, the heater in the car was welcome relief and as the sun appeared over the fields we were treated to a spectacular sunrise.... the mist drifting over the fields creating a fantastical atmosphere.

Sunrise at Burnham Overy Staithe

Unfortunately, the owls weren't forthcoming, so after a couple of hours, we decided to head onward to Holkham Gap to try and find Shore Lark. We knew that there had been 4 seen there for the previous couple of weeks, so we were hoping that they would show themselves in order to get some decent shots.... alas this wasn't the case... for an hour we wandered round the saltmarsh searching in vain for them, until we happened to be in the right place at the right time as they bobbed their head up from the vegetation. They kept eluding every attempt we tried to get views of them in the open, and we had to settle for distant views as they decided that they wanted to spend their time grubbing around in the thick stuff. After half an hour of fleeting glimpses, that was it... the birds took flight and disappeared over the dunes. Despite an hour of searching we couldn't relocate them so we decided to crack on down toTitchwell to look for the Coue's Arctic Redpoll that had been hanging out there for some time.

On arrival we were told that the Redpoll hadn't been seen all morning, but had been hanging around with a group of Lesser Redpoll near the Fen Trail and in the trees around the picnic area. We decided to give the Fen Trail a go and it was great to wander down a bit of my own handy-work! (When I was doing my GCSE's I chose to spend a couple of weeks at the reserve for my work experience placement where I was involved in building the boardwalk that I was now wandering along.)

There was no sign of the Coue's, but we did see a Water Vole and flushed a Woodcock near the start of the trail next to the little brook.... So we went to check out the picnic area. As soon as we arrived a flock of Redpoll flitted in and after a quick scan the Coue's appeared into view. It wasn't that hard to find... it stuck out like a sore thumb!

We grilled it for a good 45 minutes getting all the salient features: small stubby bill, large unmarked white rump, cold grey colouration and the single shaft on the undertail coverts. The latter was the hardest to see, but the bird showed fantasticly well down to 10 foot above our heads and gave us the crippling views needed to nail the undertail coverts.

Coue's Arctic Redpoll (Carduelis hornemanni exilipes) at Titchwell RSPB

We spent the rest of the afternoon pottering around the reserve including going into the new 'spacestation' hide which was interesting..... I'm not totally sure it fits with it's surroundings, but I guess I'm more of a traditionlist! We ended up with good views of Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff and several other common wader species from the hides and Red-throated and Great Northen Diver in the sea.

As the sun started to go down, we got back into the car and set off on the road back home. A quality couple of days birding in a quality, quality location. I already can't wait to return!

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