Day One 22nd March – Brilliant Brecks!
Today started steadily, we arrived at Santon Downham and there was immediately lots of birds! Siskin, Brambling, Redpolls, Grey Wagtail all appeared very quickly within minutes of arrival. We then headed down the river. The Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers had been showing up till 9am, but we arrived a little late and there was no further sign or sound. However, we weren’t too disappointed as Treecreepers, Nuthatches, Marsh Tits, Redwing, Reed Buntings and more Bramblings kept us busy.
But the real stars along the river were the now, regular mother & cub Otter, giving really close views down to 5m, they were feeding and then out on the dead trees, just a delight to watch. Whilst watching the Otters, a pair of Grey Wagtails also showed beautifully feeding on the floating vegetation.
We then had a quick look for Firecrest at nearby site, but no song or sign there today, but plenty more Brambling and Redpoll, plus a singing Marsh Tit.
We left and headed north, we stopped to have an early lunch and scan for raptors. We had soon seen numerous Buzzard, plus 2 Red Kites. Next in the air was a Sparrowhawk, which was suddenly being chased by a Goshawk, the size difference very much in evidence in the encounter.
It was then a little quieter and we enjoyed lunch, a distant passerine in flight looked bulky and interesting, fortunately it landed in the tops of the conifers and through the scope it proved to be a Hawfinch, it was joined briefly by a second bird before they both took flight. Shortly after all the Woodpigeons were in the air, and the culprit was soon located a fine immature Goshawk, it gave nice views as it skimmed along the tops of the trees. This bird disappeared, but just a few minutes later, possibly in response to the immature male, an adult male Goshawk got up and gave full display, firstly heavy languid flapping, followed by a rise and then a steep fall, finished with a vertical ascent, awesome stuff!
We next decided to head to Weeting where the Rough-legged Buzzard was showing well, perched and then in flight it was a really smart pale bird, with a really nice pale head. At the reserve, we were able to enjoy a couple of scarce moths Barred Tooth Stripe & Dotted Chestnut, before heading to the hides where 2 Stone Curlews were cryptically sitting, just enough to pick them out with the scope.
We rounded the day off at Lynford, where we had a great couple of hours. The first of four Firecrest, heard or seen showed really well, the others choosing to stay higher in the canopy. There was around c50 Brambling, plus several Yellowhammer on the stroll down. As we approached the paddocks a Hawfinch flew in and we located 3 Hawfinches in the hornbeams, eventually 5 Hawfinches were on show. One of the male Hawfinch, calling and giving great scope views, a stunning male. Whilst watching the Hawfinch, a Crossbill flew over calling and landed near the bridge. We headed over and just in time as it came down to drink, eventually at least 5 Crossbills were giving stunning views as they perched over the water or cane own to drink.
A brilliant day in the Brecks!
Day Two 23rd March – Snettisham High tide & Titchwell
We started earlier today with collection at 6.45am, to enable us to arrive in time at the High tide spectacular at Snettisham at 8.20am. Just as we reached Snettisham I stopped off at a regular Barn Owl spot. Fortunately, the Barn Owl was again sat right out in the open and very close to the road, so we had great close views.
We headed up to the main reserve. The onshore wind was pushing the tide really high and the whole of the saltmarsh was very flooded, so a lot of the shorebirds were flying around airborne, high in the skies, make spectacular smoky shapes. There was also still c1000 Pink-footed Geese heading out from their roost. Out on the lagoons there was several thousand Knot, hundreds of Redshank and Avocet, plus a mixture of wildfowl.
When we headed back out to look at The Wash, the tide was dropping and the shorebirds were starting to land. Lots of Red Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Plover were out on the mud flats. There was also good numbers of Redshank, Dunlin, Avocet, and Oystercatcher. Several Marsh Harriers and Buzzards were over the saltmarsh. Out on the Wash we also had a distant Spoonbill feeding. Next a Peregrine caused complete panic as it screamed in and over the roosting birds on the pits, causing an explosion and flight of waders over our heads!! We rounded the morning off with lovely views in bright sunlight of a roosting Short-eared Owl.
We stopped off for Fulmars and coffee at Hunstanton, then headed on to Titchwell, where we headed fairly directly to the beach. Stopping off to take in great views of a point blank Water Rail, followed by 3 Water Pipits and a Little Ringed Plover, plus great views of 2 Bearded Tits. We also located 2 Sandwich terns out on the main lagoon.
The sea was again productive, as it has been most of this year so far! We firstly located 3 Long-tailed Ducks, then 2 Slavonian Grebes, soon followed by a Great Northern Diver and finally a Black-throated Diver! The pick of the best birds, with Goldeneye, Eider, Great Crested Grebes and Red-breasted mergansers also present on the sea.
We headed back for a late lunch and enjoyed a picnic in the sunshine. We headed out for the rest of the afternoon towards Patsy’s pool. There was a nice mixture of ducks, with Tufted, Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Teal and Wigeon all showing very well. We enjoyed the Marsh Harriers – which were showing off with aerial acrobatics.
A Common Snipe was located, then Mandy’s scanning paid off when she located another ‘Snipe’ after training the scopes on to this bird, it started bobbing and then revealed it’s head pattern – it proved to be a Jack Snipe!
A great couple of days with 121 species already recorded!
Day Three 24th March – Kelling & Cley-next-the-sea
We started the day in bright and breezy weather. We had a couple of Chiff-chaffs singing, and after a bit of searching we located a pair of Stonechats, though no sign or sound of Dartford Warblers. We continued searching….we located a different pair of Stonechats, I suddenly noticed another bird moving around at the base of the bush, it eventually came out – a nice male Dartford warbler. We watched as it appeared and disappeared, but eventually it gave good views, sitting up singing several times from top of the bush. Surprisingly, we couldn’t locate or hear any Woodlarks, but maybe the chilly breeze was keeping them low.
We next headed up to Cley, we stopped at Salthouse where there were several Ruff on the pools, plus a Spoonbill flew over. we headed to the beach and started looking out on the sea. The Scoter flock was immediately obvious, a long black line, c700 Common Scoter at least. We scanned through several times but couldn’t locate any Velvets, despite several groups flying. Suddenly a lone bird came the scope complete with two big white wing bars, a female Velvet Scoter. Fortunately it landed, and I managed to get everyone on to it, and for a short period it was isolated before drifting in amongst the main Scoter flock. Several Red-throated Divers flew east, but otherwise the sea was quiet.
We next headed along the shingle bank checking out the fenceline, we soon located 3 male and 1 female Wheatears, always great migrants to see. Out on North scrape along the edge, the 11 White-fronted Geese were still present and we had good scope views.
We headed up to the centre and has a nice lunch in sunshine and out of the wind. The Marsh Harriers kept us entertained, with a male giving a full display.
We rounded off the day by heading down the east Bank, there was plenty of birds to enjoy, Curlew, Redshank, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler and several nice Ruff. We scanned the sea at the end of the bank, right on the shoreline was a close Red-throated Diver, a nice close fly-by Red-breasted Merganser and we also managed to add Gannet to the list with 3-4 flying East distantly.
A really nice 3 days with 128 species recorded, an excellent total for mid-late March.