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Norfolk – 5-8 January 2017

Ken and Sarah White organised a trip to the North Norfolk coast from 5-8 January, staying at the Blakeney Manor Hotel. The weather was cold, still and sunny on the Thursday when the party assembled at the RSPB’s Titchwell Marsh reserve. 2 Water Rails were spotted in a ditch next to the path. Many waders and ducks, including Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck and Shoveler, were feeding in the various lagoons of the reserve. Big flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover rose up into the air from time to time while Grey Plovers fed singly on the mud. It was possible to compare the plain grey backs of the Black-tailed Godwits with the scaly-backed Bar-tailed Godwits. Out on the sandy beach were Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Sanderling and a few Knot. Further out were big rafts of Common Scoter. On the return walk through the reserve as the light failed, about 20 Marsh Harriers were seen. First destination on Friday was the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Cley reserve. Handsome Pintails were feeding in the first lagoon. Also taking place that morning was a memorial event for the victims of a US Air Force helicopter crash in January 2014. The fly-past by 2 helicopters disturbed many of the birds on the reserve. Many leaf clumps of Yellow-horned Poppy were seen on the pebbly beach and some of the group had a distant sighting of a Glaucous Gull. After warming up at the reserve Visitor Centre, next stop was a short distance further east along the coast at Salthouse. Food is regularly put out for birds at the base of the shingle bank and this had attracted a flock of about 60 Snow Buntings. The group then drove south to Stubs Mill, to a viewpoint which overlooks a vast reedbed around Hickling Broad. A number of Marsh Harriers were seen, but the hoped for Hen Harriers and Cranes proved elusive.

Thick fog on Saturday led to a change of plan. Instead of visiting the RSPB’s Snettisham reserve, where it would be difficult to see distant birds, the group returned to Titchwell. On the way, 3 different species of goose were spotted in a small flock in a field near Holkham – White-fronted, Pink-footed and Dark-bellied Brent. A Brambling was seen near the feeders at the back of the visitor centre at Titchwell and Lesser Redpolls were feeding in the tops of the Alders nearby. Out on the lagoons, there were close views of a Spotted Redshank, with a common Redshank nearby for comparison. The Spotted Redshank had a prominent eye stripe and a much longer bill. The leg ring on a juvenile Greater Black-backed Gull showed that it was a first-year bird which had fledged in west Norway. Out at the beach, there were enormous numbers of ducks on the sea. Amongst the Common Scoters were about a dozen Velvet Scoters, whose white wing patches were very obvious when they flew. Also seen were Long-tailed Duck, Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser, and a Grey Seal swam close to the shore. The afternoon’s destination was Abbey Farm at Flitcham, where good hedges and strips of seed plants around the field margin attract finches, Tree Sparrows, Grey Partridges and Stock Doves. Within the field was a vast flock of Pink-footed Geese. A Little Owl was heard calling nearby. The farm also has a bird hide which looks out over a pond and a field with the Little Owl’s favourite perch on a low spreading oak. On Sunday morning, most of the group went to Holkham Gap, where they were enchanted by a flock of about 30 Lapland Buntings feeding on the seeds of Glasswort. They were remarkably tolerant of people and dogs, as long as the latter were on leads. Out to sea were Red-breasted Mergansers close in and enormous numbers of Common Scoter further out.

Pictures by Ken White

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