Welcome to my birdwatching blog. This blog will contain stories about my bird watching trips, interesting bird news and other tales that may or may not be bird related. I want to make it useful to the avid birder as well as those who may only have a passing interest in bird watching. I enjoy photographing bird life, common and rare through a spotting scope, not that they always sit still long enough for me. Being on the outskirts of North East London, my reports will not only cover my local patch of Redbridge/Waltham Forest, but also dip into deepest Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Norfolk. A tale of Birds, Beer and a Bracing Wind.

You can’t choose your parents but you can choose a better weekend to go birding on the North Norfolk coast to be frank. However, a weekend that required planning cheap accommodation and at least a month for Ed to tap in all the birding locations I had set him, choice wasn’t an option.

We met at my house (made of brick so any huffing and puffing of the wind made no difference) and we had pig in a roll for breakfast (clearly one that had a house of straw) and then loaded up the Ed’s Qashqai which I was blown away by, by the way and set off toward our first port in a storm, Santon Downham.

I had hoped for Brambling here but as things went, we had little to see at first with only a fleeting glimpse of Siskin and a Nuthatch. We took the path along the Little Ouse towards the small church before playing out a scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Ed holds on.
 The light was poor and the light rain affected our optics and glasses but we soldiered on. The walk back to the car park was better as the rain stopped and a procession of various thrushes showed themselves. Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and the odd Redwing all crossed our path as we headed back but the highlight was a splash in the river caused by a hunting Kingfisher that briefly stayed for us before flying fast up the river.

Kingfisher in flight.
We also saw both Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpeckers but distantly. A Wren sat for me as we watched the Woodpeckers but as per usual, a leaf obstructed my view!

We came across some highland cattle too....

Hairy bollocks...I guess.
We were nearly back at the car when we had a visit from a pair of Marsh Tits. These were quite showy and we clicked away. I felt better for this.

Marsh Tit
Now desperate, I suggested we stop for a short interlude at Lynford Arboretum. My plan was for us to get Hawfinch here but we failed badly. We did see Coal Tit, Marsh Tit and Nuthatch again and this time we could get a shot or two.

A better than nothing Nuthatch.
God the sky was grey and the light was flat but we made it to Holkham and decided to have lunch at The Victoria. This is a magnet for the dog walkers that descend on Holkham for the amazing beach.

Ed giving the sign a sign.

I can recommend the venison burger
As we had parked in the patron’s car park we left the car and walked down Lady Anne’s Drive. To park up her drive if you’ll excuse the phrase, would cost you an arm and a leg. We saw Fieldfare and Wigeon. A distant Common Buzzard (Not the Rough-legged variety this time) and distant skien of Pink-footed Geese. The beach was empty. Empty of people and their annoying dogs but also of birds.

Common Buzzard
Once upon a time this was a dead cert for Shorelark but we only saw Skylarks and a few Cormorant. The sea...once we got there (you almost need to book a flight to get there) was just water and salt of course but no birds.

We headed back against the wind and a fresh spray of rain. Thanks. We went through the pine belt which was full of pine cones and not birds until we stumbled through the the path on the west side.

Holkham beach 

Ed pretending to be a bird just to make me feel better.

Ed photographing his wellies.

Once we were out of the pine belt, we had distant views of a couple of Common Buzzards perched on fencing and a couple of Egyptian Geese.

As we walked back up the drive, I found a couple of Grey Partridges close to the fence. Normally these scarce game birds flee at the sight of my face but these two didn’t really look up from their foraging. Then we watched a Red-legged Partridge doing what Partridges do best, running like Usain Bolt.

50 shades of Grey Partridge
Red-legged Partridge

Two things any eager birder needs to know if they follow our trip. One: Have a phone that works and Two: stay at the Langham Apartment because it’s great value but make sure you have the door code because if you need to call anyone to get it on the coast, phone reception can be unpredictable. With 1% charge left on my phone, I finally got through to get the code. Sailing close to the wind I suppose!

We spent the evening in Langham and walked by torchlight to the referred Blue Bell Inn. This was great. Lorna welcomed us and we had a fine dinner. I had the Ryburgh Pork with a pint of Blue Bell bitter (average) so moved on the wine list.  Ed had the Steak & Ale pie with even more ale. I do recall hearing a Tawny Owl at some point on the way back to our apartment but can’t remember anything else...it had been a long day.

Sunday morning was spent working out how the grill worked for our bacon breakfast and then how to stop the smoke alarm going off every 5 minutes (I pulled it off the ceiling and ripped out the battery) and then we set off for Titchwell.

Shoveler action
The skies were clear and the prospects much better than Saturday. Hundreds of Brent Geese scattered across the sky and a few Greylags got the camera going. No sign of any White-fronts or Pink-footed Geese today which was a pity.

Nice flight shot of Greylag Goose.

Ditto Brent Goose
We took our time and threaded our way to the sea passing the freshwater and salt marshes along the way but little was seen here apart from the odd Common Redshank.

The shoreline was a different matter. Sanderling, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot and Grey Plover grouped together at the edge of the surf.

Bar-tailed Godwits and Knot

Bar-tailed Godwits asleep

Bar-tailed Godwits awake

We had an admirer...

Black-headed Gull
In all my years of birding, I have never had a bird follow me apart from ducks and swans wanting food. This Black-headed Gull stalked Ed and myself for 30 minutes as we walked along the beach. We needed to check the back of the car before we left just in case we had it as a stowaway.

Shelduck and a few Brent Geese

Black-tailed Godwit


Drake Pintail

Random people

Red-crested Pochards

Little Egret

It was a great weekend (81 species) and as with every trip like this, I find myself looking at properties along the North Norfolk coast and dreaming that one day all this will be on my doorstep. Well, you never know!

It was also the first proper test of my Canon 7d and although the Saturday was basically flat and grey in terms of the light, I’m pretty pleased with some of the results.

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