21st February Day One of three – Norfolk Winter Birding tour

The birding at the moment is still a bit of a battle with the weather conditions. Winds of 25 mph average and gusts of 35-40mph making it pretty tricky at times. Nonetheless, with patience today we did reasonably well.

First of all we walked the Little Ouse at Santon Downham, the river itself fairly well sat in a shallow valley had some protection and we were soon watching our first parties of Siskin, also Greenfinch and 2 Nuthatch showed up early on. Further along the river 3 separate Treecreepers appeared and the final one gave good views. Marsh Tits were calling but elusive, a Grey Wagtail flew over calling and a Sparrowhawk was soaring distantly overhead. There was quite a few people searching for the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, but neither us or anyone I spoke to had seen or heard them. We walked back along the river and also had a small party of Long-tailed Tits.

We next searched a nearby area of heathland and eventually we had good if brief views of Woodlark, it perched for a few seconds, but then rose up in clear view and gave a few snatches of song.

We now headed back North and arrived at the favoured raptor watchpoint. Over the next hour we amassed several Buzzard, Red Kite and Kestrel plus some very close views of Brown Hares. Some of us had managed brief views of a Goshawk, just skimming the tree tops, but pretty unsatisfactory! So we had lunch and gave more time to the cause! I’d set a deadline of ten minutes more, and most of the group were now relaxed and drinking coffee/tea etc when naked eye I saw something above the trees soaring purposely, with binoculars up I could now see the tell tale shape of a male Goshawk! “Male Goshawk”, I yelled! It did the decent thing and then proceeded to soar and display for the next 4-5 minutes, everyone had really nice views especially through the scope.

We next headed to Lynford where we were soon watching Marsh tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Blue tit, Chaffinches and Nuthatches at close quarters. Nearby a Goldcrest showed well, then we headed to the line of conifers now renowned for their roosting Tawny Owls. The wind did us a favour moving branches from side to side, the 2 Tawny Owls revealed sleeping tight up against the trunk!

Birding sometimes is a matter of luck and judgement, this afternoon we were unlucky! If we had left the Tawny Owls 2 minutes earlier we would have seen 2 Hawfinches perched as it was, we just saw a Hawfinch flying off. It appears the Hawfinches have changed their habits, as none came back and none went to roost in the normal favoured area. Maybe it’s the crazy weather! Even Brambling proved difficult today, though Steve got soem nice pics of a female Brambling by the bridge.

On the way back we had 5 Red Kites flying over the road, presumably heading to a roost site.