The bi-annual bird race happened again yesterday just Adam and I set of from Norwich at 4am and headed for Santon Downham for the starting point of our Norfolk only big list day.
Before getting Adam I had a Barn Owl (1) at Worstead. Whilst travelling along the A11 an evasive manoeuvre had do be done whilst travelling at 70mph to avoid a Tawny Owl (2) that had obviously just killed prey, I missed the bird but fear the worst as a lorry was not to far behind us.
We got to Santon Downham and straight away thought that we may have a few problems, the river was busting and flooding all the normally grass meadows.
Before getting out of the car we saw a Blackbird (3). We parked up and could hear a wonderful dawn chorus our ears were ringing at the sound of birds. We then headed for the trail that goes along the river seeing Moorhen (4) and Carrion Crow (5), I could then hear a Treecreeper calling but had trouble in locating where the call was from due to so much noise from the other birds. We walked on but only a little further as there was too much water coming over the bank to contend with. On the newly flooded field a pair of Gadwall (6) swam around and a Whitethroat (7) sang from the top of a nearby bush. Some Shelduck (8) appeared on the field and I then heard an odd duck call that I didn’t recognise, this was a pair of Mandarin (9).
Walking back along the minimal amount of track that we had covered we added Greylag (10), Wren (11), Mallard (12), Pheasant (13), Wood Pigeon (14) and Chaffinch (15). We then walked along the road and up to the turn off to the picnic area along here we saw Blackcap (16), Robin (17), Starling (18), Stock Dove (19), Blue Tit (20), Treecreeper (21), Nuthatch (22) and Great Tit (23).
At the turn off for the picnic area a Garden Warbler (24) sang its heart out. From here we could hear a Cuckoo over the railway line so we wondered up for a look. Along the way we saw Long-tailed Tit (25), Willow Warbler (26), a Lesser Black-backed Gull (27) flew over and a Great Spotted Woodpecker (28) was tapping in a tree.
The Cuckoo still seemed far away so we continued up the road a Lesser Redpoll (29) flew overhead shortly followed by a large flock of Crossbill (30) a Coal Tit (31) was in nearby pines when out of nowhere two Cuckoo (32) flew over our headed making a Kestrel like call in-between the ‘cuc’ ‘koos’ which was something that I had never heard before.
We could then hear some Jay (34) in some distant trees but before seeing them we had a Sparrowhawk (33) fly over. After this we headed back to the car a small flock of Siskin (35) flew over and a pair of Mistle Thrush (36) we now in the field. We then heard but failed to see a Marsh Tit but a Magpie (37) was on the road next to the car. Before moving on a flock or Lesser Redpoll sat in so nearby trees and a single Crossbill was also perched.
We then headed for the picnic area and just before the entrance to the car park a Tree Pipit (38) sat calling from a telephone post. We parked the car and could see a small flock of Goldfinch (39). We then walked down to the river, the river itself held nothing but whilst Adam was peeing in a nearby bush he missed out on the FIVE!! Brambling (40) that were sat in a nearby tree and flew off. We walked back to car adding Pied Wagtail (41) and Linnet (42). We then drove down to the Church and along the way a pair of Bullfinch (43) flew along the road.
At the Church we added Greenfinch (44), Jackdaw (45) and Goldcrest (46), another large flock of around 30 Crossbill flew over also. We head off and had a quick stop at the flooded meadow adding Chiffchaff (47), Swallow (48), House Martin (49), Cormorant (50) and Rook (51), we then left and headed for Weeting.
Driving through Weeting Village we saw House Sparrow (52), Collard Dove (53) and Swift (54), just out of the village two Red-legged Partridges (55) were in the fields. At Weeting Heath NWT we had a twenty or so minute wait seeing Lapwing (56) and eventually Stone Curlew (57). We left here and headed for Hockwold and driving though Hockwold village a Green Woodpecker (58) flew over the car with a beak full of food.
At Hockwold (on the flash only) we saw Mute Swan (59), Tufted Duck (60), Great Crested Grebe (61) , Common Tern (62), Shoveler (63), Coot (64), Reed Bunting (65), Grey Heron (66), Kestrel (67) and Black-headed Gull (68).
We then went to Welney and on the way we saw a Song Thrush (69) and Yellowhammer (70) near Feltwell, we then arrived at Welney and as it was 9.15am and the reserve opened at 9.30am we stopped just up the road and viewed a flooded field. From here we saw Redshank (71), Black-tailed Godwit (72), Skylark (73), Meadow Pipit (74), Corn Bunting (75), Avocet (76), Teal (77) and a distant Buzzard (78).
We then got to the car park and before entering the reserve we saw Reed Warbler (79), Tree Sparrow (80), Common Gull (81) and Oystercatcher (82). Once in the reserve we saw a Whooper Swan (83) from the visitor centre and from the main hide we had Canada Goose (84), Barnacle Goose (85), Wigeon (86), Little Egret (87), Pintail (88) and Little Grebe (89) there was little else on the reserve due to the severe flooding.
We left the hide and from the car park we saw Sedge Warbler (90), Yellow Wagtail (91) and Garganey (92). We left here and headed for Denver along the way we saw a Marsh Harrier (93). At Denver sluice we saw an Arctic Tern (94), Dunnock (95) and a pair of Kingfishers (96).
Next stop was Pentney GP this was a great stop suggest by Adam and here we saw Egyptian Goose (97), Sand Martin (98), Little Ringed Plover (99) and the surprise bird of the day a Goosander (100). We also saw Herring Gull (101), Wheatear (102) and Common Sandpiper (103).
Our next site to visit was Roydon Common and from the car park a Curlew (104) was in the field, on the heath we found a pair of Stonechat (105) with newly fledged young which is a real credit to the parents considering the weather recently. We also got to see Woodlark (106). From Roydon we nipped down the A148 to Flitcham and on the approach road to the hide we saw Grey Partridge (107). From the hide we got to see the Little Owl (108) seeking shelter from the rain in the old oak. We also got to to see a Kingfisher visiting its nest in the sand bank opposite the hide.
We then went to Old Hunstanton for a quick seawatch this was harder then it look as we couldn’t hardly see the sea. Never the less we had a quick scan and saw A Great Black-backed Gull (109) on the sea and some Fulmar (110) flying past. Along the shoreline there was summer plumage Grey Plover (111), Bar-tailed Godwit (112) and Turnstone (113).
We got back in the car and went to Titchwell, we were in need of some food so got a bacon roll whilst eating we saw a Brambling and I could hear a distant Lesser Whitethroat so after we finished we went looking. It was actually out on the main road it took a few minutes but we did finally get to see the Lesser Whitethroat (114) in the hedge. Back on to the reserve and as we walk out of the last tree someone spots a Short-eared Owl (115) towards Thornham. In the reeds a Cetti’s Warbler (116) is heard by both of us but only seen by me. We went in the Island Hide where a Little Gull (117) was flying around a male Pochard (118) was up the back of the Freshmarsh. A small flock of Brent Geese (119) then flew in and the female Red-Crested Pochard (120) also came into view.
We left the hide and from the bank we saw a Spotted Redshank (121) that had a black front but nothing else. We then got to the sea and straight away found the waders, Knot (122), Dunlin (123), Sanderling (124) and Ringed Plover (125) on the sea was nothing other the two Great Crested Grebes and a few Sandwich Terns (126).
The walk back we got to see Bearded Tit (127) and the Short-eared Owl flying over the reed bed and over our heads before heading off. We also got to hear but could not see a Waterail.
After Titchwell we headed for Holkham, and before getting to the Gun Hill path we saw a Red Kite (128). We pulled in at the Gun Hill track and saw a mixed flock of Whimbrel (129) and Curlew in the fields.
Our next stop was to scan the marsh behind the dead trees that lie in front of the Joe Jordon hide. This was a useful stop as mixed amongst the wildfowl here was a single Pink Footed Goose (130), a White-fronted Goose (131) as well as a Barnacle Goose.
We moved on and drove though Wells town centre and saw a Feral Pigeon (132). Next stop was Cley and after parking at Old Woman’s Lane and being told that the Stint had gone on nothing much else was about we headed for the beach car park and the North Scrape.
Walking from the car park two Little Terns (133) flew along the sea and a Golden Plover (134) sat on the field. We scanned the North Scrape but had no joy and as we were walking back two Spoonbill (135) flew in.
Next stop was Salthouse and from Gamborough Hill we found the Hooded Crow (136) and a distant Whinchat (137) sat on a fence post towards Kelling. We then went back to Cley and had a look at Pat’s Pool from Bishop’s hide. As we opened the hide window a Little Gull was flying past right infront of the hide after some scanning we located the Temmincks Stint (138) next to a Common Sandpiper.
News then came on the pager of two Common Cranes at Blakeney so we shot off and went down to Friary Hills, as we got out of the car a Spoonbill flew past we then walked up the first hill and scanned and got onto the Common Cranes (139).
After this we went to Salthouse Heath where we only got to hear a very quiet and brief Nightingale. After this we failed at a site for Grey Wagtail and failed to see any Nightjar in the rain (not sure if they are here yet or even if they would of showed as it was raining anyway).
So that was it a new personal record of 139 with 3 heards only. I cant believe we got so high on such a cold spring day and I know we missed some birds that we should/could of got including Grey Wagtail, Peregrine, Hobby, Greenshank, Ruff, Snipe, any sea duck, any auk and probably others I cant think of.
On a perfect day I reckon a Norfolk 150 would be possible if it hasn’t been done already….maybe next year.