So everything was planned down to the last bacon roll. My yearly (this may change) pilgrimage to the birding hotbed of North Norfolk had arrived. With my good friend Ed riding shotgun, nothing could go wrong, could it? On Friday evening I set up a text account with RBA (Rare bird alert) for a free trial. Brilliant, I get 5 free texts for Friday night only. Totally useless and so they’ve now lost me. At least I have a Birdguides App staring at my on my phone, so we wouldn’t miss a thing so long as the 3G works up there...............
With the car loaded with beer, bacon and binoculars, we dashed up the A11 to Thetford. Just north of Thetford lies Lynford Hall, famous for it’s Arboretum. And here was where a Two-barred Crossbill had been seen rubbing wings with a flock of 20 or so Common Crossbills. We found the spot and a few other birders and began staring up at the top of a few larch trees. The first bird we found was a Hawfinch. wasn’t expecting this as they tend to appear in December but who cares? We checked our phones for updates but no internet service.
|Ed looking for Crossbills (use the scope dude)|
|Female Common Crossbill|
|Male Common Crossbill|
Once I had nursed the car over an excessive number of speed humps along the road to the Holme-next-the-sea’s excellent nature reserve and bird observatory, the strength of the wind and a fine spray of wet weather had set in. Areas of the North Norfolk coast are lined with pine belts and Holme is no exception. In the pines, there were Coal Tits, Goldcrests and Chaffinches. We carried on through the pines to check for birds on the sea and used the trees as a natural shelter from the wind. In fact, the wind had blown the rain front away and things were quite pleasant for a late October morning. Visibility was reasonable and we could see a good number of Northern Gannets feeding offshore.
Streams of Common Scoters flew low over the sea in both directions. There were also a few Velvet Scoter to perk things up a bit. On the sea we found a couple of Eider and a pair of Great Northern Divers sat before taking flight west. We then had a Red-necked Grebe in front of us found by a birder from Derbyshire who joined us sea watching and seemed more intent on talking about his mother-in-law. Fascinating stuff. Still no internet service.
|Ed and the Eiders. (Good name for a rock band)|
Oh look at the time. Yes, it was pub time. We left Holme and headed to the Jolly Sailors at Brancaster,just beyond Titchwell which would be our afternoon destination.
|Ed with a pint of Oystercatcher. Just needs a pirate hat now.|
So onwards or in our case, backwards to Titchwell. Titchwell is a small village but is home to one of the key RSPB reserves in East England. We scanned the meadow areas first and found a female Merlin and a female Marsh Harrier both hunting. On the meadows themselves small flocks of Brent Geese grazed and a few Curlew, a single Little Egret and Common Redshank were seen.
|Ed scans the wet meadow area for geese and stuff.|
|Peach of a beach.|
|Better head for the hides!|
|Jack Snipe coming out just as the sun did.|
Day one had been great. and with the sun disappearing, we departed for our swanky apartment to plan our evening pub sortie and stick a few beers in the fridge. On the journey to Langham, we saw a group of birders by the side of the road. In the adjacent field we could see the focus of their attention. A ghostly Barn Owl was quartering the field – a perfect end to the day.
So the pub think didn’t exactly go to plan. Who would have figured that pubs would be fully booked at the end of October? Well not me. I had found a good yet remote pub with recommendations for beer and food aplenty that required infra-red vision goggles to find but once we stumbled upon it, we found it full of bloody people! I mean, a pub, full of people. Why? It’s not fair. We retraced our steps to the car and headed for Stiffkey, requiring a stiff drink. The bored local teenagers or OAPs (don’t know which) had attempted to scratch out the K of Stiffkey from the road sign. Quite amusing but not when it was seen with the word mussels after it. We avoided the Mussels.
|Even the Lion’s pose was a little worrying.|
|This is what happens to you when you’ve been staring through binoculars all day.|
|Note how much slower Ed drinks his pint of Woodfordes Wherry.|
Sunday 27th October 2013
Was awakened by the strong wind and rain lashing against the bedroom window. Not good. With a head a bit fuzzy from a night of Merlot, Bombay Mix and a 4-1 Liverpool win, I pushed myself into the shower (not the outdoor one obviously). It didn’t work. Actually, does anything work in North Norfolk? No shower, no phone signal and no street lighting near pubs. To be accurate, the shower did work and the options were either scalding hot or cryogenically cold. Some choice. I opted for a bath. No photos. Sorry.
Now, it looks like Ed made breakfast but really it was me with help from Ed. He seems surprised that I said I cooked??? Well I do. He clearly didn’t trust me and set about assuming control in the kitchen. I checked my phone....no signal.
|Ed, I can do that....|
|Our gaff in Langham. Most comfortable once you get a proper access code.|
Onwards to the beach and what a beach. This is a £2 an hour beach to me so I was going to enjoy it.
|Worth every penny.|
Ed saw one first. There was a large raptor hugging the dunes and battling the forceful winds. The tail told the tale. It was a Red Kite. Now I thought this was very unusual but it would seem there are breeding kite in Norfolk and there has been a reintroduction programme. We found two birds being mobbed by gulls between the dunes and the pine belt.
|Red Kite...some distance away I might add.|
We trudged up the sand dunes to get a better look. As we watched the kites, I carried on along the dunes and flushed six Snow Buntings that had been sheltering from the winds. They all dropped down to the base of the dune and we slid down to get closer.
the sand was snaking over the surface of the beach and making life difficult through the lens of the scope. I managed some reasonable images but not great considering the closeness of the birds.
Today there was nothing on the sea...not even an Albatross which was a few miles away at this stage anyway. We went back over the dunes to relocate the kites but they had vanished. A few Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, each a potential Shore Lark teased us as we walked back to the pine belt. The pine belt was empty with no signed of any bird life. Thank god I only had 2 hours in the car park. More Pink-footed Geese in the fields beside the Drive and a single Kestrel made the bird list complete.
Because of the weather which was starting to change for the worse, we decided to revisit Titchwell. It was never going to match the previous day but with our stomachs shouting louder than our desire for a longer list, we headed to Titchwell for a couple of hours and then to the pub. Oh, one of us had 2 bars on our phone but I can’t remember who now...sorry.
|Farewell Titchwell, it’s been a breeze.|