Monday 25 November 2013

Long Weekend In Norfolk

After the warmth of Lindos, the following weekend's trip to Norfolk was back to earth with a bang. While it wasn't as cold as I have experienced on the east coast, it certainly wasn't t-shirt and shorts weather, as I'd acclimatised to over there! The plan was to meet with Steve and Ann at Titchwell, but I couldn't resist calling into Thornham on the way, and as it turned out, neither could they, as we bumped into them at the car park!

Steve spotted a spoonbill out on the marshes which gave us a fright, when it started to fly towards us. Neither of us had our cameras on us, and after a dash back to grab them, we managed to pick the wrong channel to watch, as it flew past us down the other one, and off into the distance. Swine!

At Titchwell, we were slightly disappointed to see the water level in the freshwater marsh quite high, which favours the wintering ducks, and pushes all the waders into the distance. Near the first hide were teal and wigeon, but just too far off were 100s of golden plover, mostly snoozing with their heads tucked under a wing.

Wandering down to the beach, we tried to see what a few groups of birders were peering at through their scopes on the sea. Even walking down to the mud and rocks, closer to the shore didn't help - maybe I need to invest in a scope? No, that's something else I'd have to carry! We eventually worked out that there was a long-tailed duck out there, but given the views of them I'd had in Scotland, I didn't bother with any photos. Closer to us were the usual waders, including grey plovers, though only in winter plumage.

As usual, both Steve and I kept an eye on reports coming in from Twitter and Bird Guides etc, and several reports of a black redstart down at Cley Spy tempted us away from the beach, though not before we witnessed several dozen huge flocks of winter thrushes coming in over the sea. Quite a remarkable sight.

At Cley Spy (Glandford) we quickly found the black redstart which was perched on a roof of one of the buildings in the yard. Light wasn't great and sadly it soon relocated to another building, too far off to photo.

While Steve and Ann headed back to stock the 'van up, Dad and I tried the owl site. Unlike last year, the barn owl chose only to appear after the light had completely gone (maybe it had assumed Kate was with us again?). It was also joined by a short-eared owl, but even at ISO 3200 I couldn't get anything worth even airing on here. Good to see though.

After a good evening out at the Lifeboat, we sank back into the usual habit of visiting the harbours, with Brancaster being most productive this time. Work is being done on the sea defenses at Thornham, so it was somewhat restricted for wandering around. As well as the usual turnstones at Brancaster, we saw more grey plovers, brent geese, godwits, little egrets, curlew and quite a few skylarks.

With brightening conditions, we headed down the coast to Glandford again to catch up with the black redstart, which was still around.

With slightly windier weather it had taken to sheltering on the sides of the buildings, amongst the tiles.

Its feathers certainly seemed to match the tiles!

Based in Hunstanton, we tried a new pub which has sprung up since last year, only to find a 45 minute wait to be even seated, so diverted to another pub / club on the front, which served Adnams and also some hearty grub, which was very reasonably priced.

Waking to rain the following morning, I dragged Dad out just to see if anything was around. If you don't look, you don't see. As we drove along the coastal road, I caught a fleeting glance of what I thought might have been a harrier perched up, and decided to go have a second look. Not a harrier but a crow, and in order to get safely back on to the road from the field I was in, I had to drive further into it... and spotted something moving at speed on some bales of hay.

A stoat!

What fortune! I only ever seem to see these for a split second and they're gone, but this one seemed to be slightly insane, almost turning itself inside out as it changed direction so radically.

If only it had been brighter (raining at the time) so I could have attempted to get a shot of it leaping.

Sadly, by the time Steve could join us the stoat had vanished, and despite visiting the site several times, we never saw it again. However, it did tempt us to look in the surrounding fields, instead of focusing solely on the harbours. And what a good move that was. We saw red-legged partridges, hares, marsh harriers, yellowhammers and many other birds.

One marsh harrier we saw was sat in the middle of field eating something, which turned out to be a squirrel, from what I can tell.

And in most fields, there appeared to be several hares, mostly distant. Amazing how they blend into the vegetation - whilst photographing one, another suddenly appeared much closer, and legged it off into the hedge before I could grab a shot. I think Steve and Ann revisited the area frequently after we'd left and enjoyed great success with the hares.

Alas we were only there for a few days, and spent the last evening hoping for some barn owl action. None came, but we did see loads of little egrets flying over, to roost elsewhere. Maybe 200+ over the 2 hours we were waiting.

Our final morning was spent initially on Hunstanton esplanade in hope of some waders, but the tide was too high, and then over at Brancaster harbour. A little egret stalked the shallows; maybe one of the flocks seen at dusk.

With the light fading, and it becoming too difficult to photo anything, let alone the turnstones in flight, as I was attempting, we said our goodbyes to Steve and Ann, and headed back home.

Another good trip though and while I had planned to return the following weekend, the weather forecast put me off. Thankfully the weather improved after we'd left and both Steve and Ann bagged some wonderful images during their stay.

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