Tuesday, 15 July 2014

NORFOLK! Monty's, Dott's and summer migrants

With many of our summer migrants arriving en mass now, and a few scarcer birds appearing, we, that is Mike, Jarad, Neil and me, made plans to head east in the hope of some great birding, and Norfolk, as always, lived up to its usual standards!
Our first port of call was right on the county boundary, as it is renowned for a strange and somewhat range restricted wading bird which finds the short grass of the Norfolk and Suffolk Brecklands to its liking!
We walked through one of the many Pine woodlands in the area to the hide, where we added a few birds to our day list that we may struggle with elsewhere, and a high pitched song from high up a Pine revealed itself to be a male Spotted Flycatcher.
The hide was not much further so I carried on, and it was only a short time scanning before a STONE CURLEW was in the scope. Also since the last time I was at this location, the birds were being far more co-operative, they were very mobile, running around, chasing, displaying to each other and calling. Much more enjoyable than watching a snoozy brown blob in a ditch.

For a few minutes, 3 of the birds, a pair and a single intruder started displaying and posing to each other, which was amusing to watch, but it was all talk (or should that be posturing) and no action, and after a while, the single bird crept off after being kicked off by the other birds.

One of the birds however was doing its usual sitting in a ditch, but it was still giving decent views.
 Having completed a single lap of the Wolferton Triangle, to the usual failure of seeing nothing, we carried on, with our next location being Choelsley Barns as we wanted to catch up with some farmland birds. We stopped next to a likely looking field, and it didn't take long to pick up a Grey Partridge working its way along the set aside margin. Also present were larger numbers of Red-legged Partridge.
A long staying party of DOTTEREL were still also in residence, and we made a stop at the crowd, and we had nice views of the birds as they fed in fields adjacent to the road. Varying numbers have been present during their time of residence, but we managed to count 8, including a few smart looking females. Having life ticked them earlier in the spring, it felt somewhat surreal to be watching my 2nd flock in just over as many weeks, totalling 20 birds.

We failed to find our Dove targets, but a distant singing Corn Bunting perched on overhead wires briefly, and a Yellowhammer was also singing its heart out.
It was next onto the Mecca, and a very short car journey led us to Titchwell RSPB, where we quickly made our way out onto the marshes. We had barely left the woodland before we were treated to views of 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARD as they flew past us across the track. They picked down on the pool to the west of the track where in total 6 of these stunning flame headed ducks were feeding, 4 of which were actually 'flame headed' males.
It was just before making a move to head to the beach, two small ducks flew up off of the reeds, and pitched down on the small reeded pool adjacent to the track, a pair of GARGANEY! They gave excellent views but were almost always obscured, but I managed by far the best views of Garganey I have ever managed, and the drake in particular was a rather stunning example of these delectable chocolate coloured and cream striped migrant dabblers. 

A Little Tern was feeding over the brackish marsh, and a few more were out over the sea, but otherwhys our attempt at a seawatch was quite an uncomfortable affair. Strong winds from the southwest were whipping up the sand making focusing on flying seabirds almost impossible. However, we did pick up a Fulmar and a Gannet among a variety of Tern species. 2 female Common Scoter were showing on the water. We quickly gave up, knowing our luck would be better tried elsewhere. Although I managed to avoid any scratches on the lenses of both my bins and scope, my phone screen is now in quite a state due to the 'sandstorm'.

We moved back to the Parrinder hide, where we picked up a number of decent birds. A sleepy Spoonbill was showing distantly in the SE corner of the marsh and a number of waders and ducks were dotted around. A Greenshank was feeding in the shallows, and a number of Yellow Wagtails were on the move!

We moved off from Titchwell, and parked in an area of extensive arable farmland. A Grey Partridge was calling, 3 Marsh Harriers quartering and 2 Yellow Wagtails were flying.
However, what we were looking for couldn't be found, and we spent some time scanning, but with a seemingly vicious looking thunderstorm heading our way, we were contemplating leaving, and infact, were putting our scopes in the car when we were shouted over, and on the adjacent hillside, an absolutely ridiculously stunning male MONTAGU'S HARRIER was quartering! A friggin MONTYS!!
As many people will know, I have a fondness to Birds of Prey, and for many years I have wanted to catch up with one of these gorgeous elegant Harriers, so to have finally got one in the scope was such an immense buzz!
As the UK's rarest breeding raptor, we really had a stroke of luck to see it, and for the next 10 minutes, we were treated to great views as it hunted low over an area of set aside, showing off its pale grey upperwing, black primarys and secondary bar.

It was really a moment to savour! But, with the arrival of the thunderstorm, which as we had guessed really was fairly violent, the Harrier flew off low over the hedgeline, and with that we decided to head off to hopefully dodge the rain. We had driven only a few hundred meters before our escape was realised and it poured it down!

From the massive high of the harrier, we moved onwards to Cley NWT, where it had again reverted back to bright sunshine!
Our main targets here sadly had been flushed by a Hobby not long before, and were not seen for the remainder of the day, which was unfortunate, and many of the birds were 'repeats' from Titchwell. The main highlight probably goes to decent flight views of 3 Bearded Tits along the boardwalk, which often flew up and 'pinged' across the top of the reed's before dropping back down!

A colour ringed Spoonbill dropped in, but ran off into long grass before I could judge the ring colours.
Other than 2 Greenshank, the pools were quiet so we moved up onto the shingle bank, where large numbers of Sandwich Tern were moving, including a single Little Tern. Further out at sea 5 Gannet we diving and around 30 Common Scoter were moving around, but any further interest was limited.
A Whimbrel flew past calling, which added to the day list, and a Wheatear in the Eye field was also new for the day!
With our day now at an end, and on the homeward journey, we totted up our daylist, and between the 4 of us, we managed 112 species, and I personally managed 107, a couple of birds behind my own personal day list record, but honestly I can say it was an awesome day!
As I opened the post with! Norfolk came up with the goods again!

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