Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Norfolk, November 2009 - Day 1 of 3

This trip report will be delivered in 3 parts. The first (this one) and the third will contain all the things that will likely be of interest to the birdwatching community who are the mainstay of this blog. The second will contain little except sickeningly cute photos of sickeningly cute Seal pups.

The birdwatching portion of this trip is a tale of both mirth and woe, full of false IDs and birding ineptitude. This is because the Missus and I were going it alone on this visit and lacked the knowledgable second opinions of our previous trip last May.

Note: This was not a 'birdwatching holiday' as such, just a relaxing weekend away where we incidentally did some birdwatching. This trip was nowhere near as big or as manic as the May one.

We started the Saturday at Cley, where I just about managed to hand over the £4 entry fee without wincing. Checked the board quickly - nothing in the book for the day thus far - and ventured onto the reserve. I've lost my map, but we headed out to what I believe are the middle hides and spent some time looking out across the scrape. If you like Wigeon, Teal and Shelduck this is the place to be.

They covered the lake and surroundings, and are just generally very photogenic.

However, man cannot live on wildfowl alone, and before long we had another visitor turn up.

And wonder of wonders, it actually sat down in front of us long enough for a decent scoping and some poor quality video.

Also out on the marshes were a small selection of Waders - 8 or 9 Bar-Tailed Godwits and a few Redshank dotted about - one which we're fairly certain was a Spotted Redshank. The boardwalk on the way back produced the first of the woeful IDs. We went for Whinchat, based on the pictures in the poor quality excuses-for-field-guides that are my main source of information (I want my Collins goddammit). After consultation with Parus (i.e. him saying 'no it's not'), I've revised my opinion and now consider it to be very much a Stonechat. A quick search on Google images confirms this -the supercilium is nowhere near as prominent as you see in the Whinchat pictures scattered about. I'll know for next time. Still, we showed the picture to the lady in the visitor's centre and told her it was a Whinchat and she didn't hesitate to write it on the board as one. That'll annoy the locals. See what you think anyway:

Regular Redshank

Not a Whinchat

We ate some soup in the visitor's centre and I picked up a Bird Song CD, which I've been meaning to do for ages. In the meantime someone had written "60 Snow Bunting (Shore)" in the visitor's book, so we made a dash to the front to see what we could see. No Snow Buntings, but a Flock of about 1500 Golden Plover made the effort worthwhile, and scoping back over the marshes bagged us about 400 Lapwing and a Pintail on the scrapes.

Looking the other way, out onto the sea, was about as fruitless as seawatching gets. We saw a single Greater Black Backed gull, a couple of Cormorants and a Common Seal. No Gannets, no Fulmar, nada. We did chase a pipit type thing into some long grass, but I'm not hot enough on those particular kind of LBJs to ID them from the brief glimpses we got. To be honest, long glimpses would give me almost as much trouble. It will be forever unknown.

In the afternoon we headed over to Holkham bay to try and find some of those Shore Larks, and possibly a Snow Bunting or two. We were disappointed on both counts, though some friendly Seawatchers put us onto 4 Gannet doing their plummeting thing, along with a flock of c60 Common Scoter fishing in the same area. Walking down the beach to the area where the Shore Larks were reported to be, we happened across a few LBJs among the sea of tiny Heather stalks which, with the help of the esteemed Parus, have been narrowed down to Twite. I've checked the call since our conversation and it matches what we heard on the day. Here's an appalling picture. Notice how I got lost among the sea of brown and focused on a piece of string, instead of the actual bird in the bottom left.

And so ended day with a couple of pints and some food in the Robin Hood, Sheringham (highly recommended, lovely pub and Old Speckled Hen as a regular ale).

That's enough for now I think - tune in tomorrow (maybe) for part 2 on Blakeney point, in which there may be some seals.


  1. I thought we'd narrowed that down to a linnet? Though, in all fairness, from that picture it could probably be either.

  2. Either way, I'm not ticking it based on what I remember of the call, and the above appalling picture so it can remain a mystery for now.

  3. Personally, I am particularly looking forward to the cute seal pics. Maybe we'll see 'em next year...