February 1st – Raptor raptures & scores of Scoters

I collected an exclusive of group of 6 today at just after lunch and we headed up to Holkham. On arrival we enjoyed several Red Kites and Marsh Harriers, plus a lovely group of c1000 Dark-bellied Brents, plus lots of Pink-footed Geese and thousands of Wigeon taking to the air.

Out on the saltmarsh at the east end we were soon enjoying a lovely busy flock of 29 Snow Bunting. Though we couldn’t locate any Shorelarks this afternoon.

We headed over to the dunes and had a nice 30 minutes looking out over the sea, a lovely flock of Wigeon close inshore, 4-5 Great Crested grebes, a few Red-throated Divers flew past, but centre of attention was a ‘black raft’ of c1000 Common Scoter. After 15 minutes or so, as hoped they took up off the water and with careful scanning 2 Velvet Scoter were picked out, with their strong white wing bars, giving them up. We enjoyed several more nice skeins of Pink-footed Geese, then headed off to Warham.

The raptor roost proved very eventful on arrival, with a male Hen harrier, a Peregrine and a Merlin all appearing quickly! Fortunately the Merlin relocated closer and conveniently sat atop a post till dark, enabling us to see it was a nice adult male, with a lovely steely blue back and rich underparts. The Peregrine was distant but landed up, appearing to have prey! Next barn owl flew past, then returned a few minutes later, and gave lovely views as it quartered close by. The raptor roost was wonderfully rounded off with 5 ringtail Hen Harriers circling up together!

February 2nd – No Bunting, but Cranes, Geese, Swans & Scaup

We started the day off with unsuccessful jaunt up to Weybourne to try and see a Little Bunting, that had been present for several days. Several of the group saw it in flight, briefly, but we didn’t mange to relocate it before we left. We did however, manage to see a few nice things before we left. Along the shore there was a 1st winter Kittiwake, a close inshore Guillemot, and a raft of several hundred Common Scoter. Whilst searching for the Little Bunting, we did flush a Woodcock with gave nice flight views, 2 Chiff-chaff and several Reed Bunting. 

We next headed over to The Broads, our original destination for today. Our first port of call drew a blank as the usual wintering location for ‘wild swans’ held no birds. I headed on to another of their favoured areas. Initially, we couldn’t locate them, though Alexia’s sharp eyes picked up a flash of huge wings amongst a reed fringed dyke, we tumbled out and were soon scoping a family group of 3 Cranes always a delight to find these birds when you aren’t expecting them. We moved around to get better views and eventually this resulted in us locating a nice, if a little distant group of ‘wild swans’, around 70+ Bewicks, with 1-2 Whoopers. As we were watching the Swans we suddenly realised that much closer was a really nice flock of around c65 White-fronted Geese, and as we admired these, a ringtail Hen Harrier flew over the top of them! Also in this area we enjoyed several Marsh Harriers, a very pale Buzzard and a Stonechat.

It was a raw, chilly day with a biting north wind and we stopped off for coffee in Stalham and a thaw out, before heading off to Barton Broad. We headed out on the viewing platform a Marsh Tit calling as we passed through the woodland.

From the viewing platform there was a nice raft off duck, and almost immediately we picked out 5 Scaup, with two really stunning male Scaup the green sheen on their heads gleaming in the afternoon sunshine. There was also a couple of hundred Tufted Duck, c40 Goldeneye, Great Crested Grebe and lots of Coot, several Marsh Harriers overhead.

We headed back and stopped off for the day roosting Tawny Owl, but it seemed that the cold wind was a little too much for it and it must have decided to sit down out of the way. However, first one Barn Owl, then followed by two more Barn Owls were a great way to round off a great day.

In the evening we headed out and had lovely Thai meal together, great conversation & great food!

February 3rd – A brutal Glaucous Gull 

We had the morning before the group needed to head off, so we set off to Cley. As we arrived we noted 5 Barnacle Geese, with the Brent Geese, apparently not there previously so maybe wild!? We started with 45 minutes of sea-watching, there was plenty of Red-throated Divers offshore and we saw a good number flying past as well as a 2-3 sat on the sea, there was also a group of 200 Common Scoter, a Shelduck flew past and several Guillemots including 1-2 close inshore.

We then headed along the shoreline and very nearly walked past the bird we were hoping to see! A beast of an arctic gull, a Glaucous Gull feeding on the remnants of a dead seal! We then spent a bit of time chatting though Gull ID, sticking to the adults to make it a bit easier on the girls learning curve!

Glaucous Gull 1st winter feeding on seal carcass

We stood for a while getting pictures and video, then headed back along the shingle ridge, Skylark, Goldfinch and constant skeins of Brent Geese overhead.

We stopped off in the cafe for a coffee a warm through and a browse at the lovely books and then headed off to Walsey Hills. We had a nice last 45 minutes watching the Buzzards and Marsh Harriers. There was also a nice pair of Bullfinch feeding in the hedge. A nice group of Long-tailed tits came into feed and a few Starling groups also moved West.

Shortly after lunch we said our farewells and everyone headed off home, after a lovely few days of birding.