Tuesday, 21 January 2014

New Years Day Bird Race was a stonker

This update better late than never, thought about a quick summary but felt the day deserved more than that so here goes.

Adam and I started the day the same as always, leaving the house at 5.30 and heading for Titchwell. We new that the forecast was not good so didn't well hold out much hope in seeing many species, I had my concerns that I wouldn't reach the 100 mark which I have done for the last 11 years.

Along the way we clocked up a handful of 'in the dark' birds seeing Feral Pigeon, Blackbird, Pheasant and Woodpigeon.

We got to Titchwell and added Tawny Owl on the walk up the footpath. We walked along side the freshmarsh as the Sun rose, allowing us to see Greylag, Teal, Canada Goose, Shoveler, Moorhen, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Curlew and Gadwall.

The Fresh Marsh

We added nothing new from the Volunteer Marsh but on the Tidal Marsh we saw Black-headed Gull, Mallard, Little Grebe, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Grey Plover, Water Rail and Bar-tailed Godwit.

Volunteer Marsh

We arrived at the beach with 22 species already seen, it was still very dusk like but was getting light very fast. Along the shore line we could see Oystercatcher, Herring Gull, Turnstone and Common Gull. A Wren called behind me so I went and saw that in a nearby bush. Back to the sea we added Sanderling and Great Black-backed Gull before some seabird started to become visible.

The first bird was a cracking little Slavonian Grebe very close inshore, a Cormorant then flew past and a few Goldeneye started popping up on the sea. At one point we had 18 male Goldeneye together with no females which is something I cant remember seeing before. Adam then picked out a small group of Common Scoter and a handful of Red-throated Divers started to fly through. Great Crested Grebes then started to appear on the sea and a pair of Red-breasted Merganser flew in and landed on the sea.

Brent Goose and Eider flew through before we then started to around rather than just at the sea. Pink-footed Geese flew past in the distance and a Magpie flew over our heads.

Sunrise from the beach

Back on the sea I pick up a distant Auk heading our way it flew closer and closer landing just beyond the breaking waves, the was a Razorbill. Three Long-tailed Ducks then flew through (1 drk,  2 fem/juv). A Goldfinch flew over before we then picked out Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Knot. At this point we saw our first birder of the day, a nice chap he was to. He found some ducks flying over sea and wanted clarification that they were indeed Scoter that he was watching. I was glad he asked and glad that I'm helpful as when I got the ducks in the scope I could confirm they were Scoter and that the first bird had massive white wings so we then added Velvet Scoter to the list.

Beach Views including the old viewing platform

We were then about to leave feeling we could add nothing else and just as we stepped onto the dunes the nice man shouted Guillemot which he had just found on the sea giving us a total of 48 before leaving the beach at around 8.30am.

We then left and scanned the tidal marsh and the salt marsh here was saw Carrion Crow, Little Egret, Wigeon and Pintail. I heard and saw a Meadow Pipit drop into the sueda which Adam didn't get to see and amazingly we didn't see another all day.

We saw Shelduck on the Volunteer Marsh before scanning the Fresh Marsh, here we saw Ruff, Avocet, Pied Wagtail and Snipe before carrying on.

Little Egret

Into the bushes we saw Bullfinch, Robin and a relatively showy Cetti's Warbler. We then walked round to Patsy's Pool seeing Marsh Harrier on the way and Pochard, Tufted Duck and Coot on the pool itself. We walked back towards the visitor centre hoping to gain a few garden/woodland birds. It started with Blue Tit then Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit and Brambling and Greenfinch were in the trees above the feeders.

We then went off to get a Bacon Roll and were the first customers of 2014! From the kiosk we added Dunnock, Collared Dove and a Skylark flew over we then left but not before seeing Red-legged Partridge our 76th bird of the day.

Next stop Choseley, we got back in the car as quick as we got out with no birds in sight. But not far around the corner a large flock of finches flew across the road, this contained around 50 Linnets, 30 Yellowhammer and a handful of Corn Bunting. Other birds in the flock were around 200 Chaffinch and 30 Brambling. We carried on driving and going through Ringstead we added Jackdaw.

We were heading for Snettisham in the hope of seeing the Black-necked Grebe on the approach road we saw a flock of around 40 Fieldfare and once we arrived at Snettisham car park negative news on the grebe came onto the pager we thought we would check the first pits anyway adding only Egyptian Goose.

On the road again seeing a Buzzard near Wolferton before arriving at Flitcham.

By this time the weather had started to turn and a persistent light rain was in the air assisted with a terrible wind. But we didn't care about the weather and at Flitcham we walked from the carpark up the road seeing a handful of Redwing fly over and a Stock Dove on a distant barn. A Buzzard then flew across the fields low spooking some finches into the hedgerow. Reed Bunting and Tree Sparrow were in the flock of finches along with more Brambling.

We then went into the hide seeing Jay in the distance but no Little Owls. A Coal Tit was in the pines as we left the hide to head for Edgefield on 89 species.

On the drive to Edgefield the weather took a turn for the worst, very heavy rain in very strong winds made us wonder if we would reach our much wanted 100, but we carried on regardless and hoped for the best. During the drive we added Kestrel and Rook near to Sculthorpe.

We then got to Edgefield the car park (field) was incredibly boggy and slippery. It was still pouring with rain as we headed off. We saw a Song Thrush and were soon watching a 1st Jan lifer a Parrot Crossbill which was my 171 '1st' Jan bird in the 17 years of doing a 1st Jan List.

Parrot Crossbill (Video from 24/11/2013)

With the ease of seeing the Parrot Crossbills we were ahead of my expected time, next stop was the tip up the road. We scanned the immediate fields and the tip seeing Lesser Black-backed Gull. We continued down the road and found another flock of gulls I parked the car and stood under a nearby hedge for shelter from the rain. It took about 60 seconds to pick out the Glaucous Gull amongst the 4000 or so gulls that were around (I know that was incredibly lucky).

Still ahead of schedule we decided to add a new destination to the 1st Jan race and set off to Buckenham. A quick call in at the mill at Horstead allowed us to waste 10 mins looking for Grey Wagtail which is a bird I have NEVER seen on 1st Jan.

We did see a Mute Swan our 96th! bird on the river at Coltishall and after this and a amazing close near miss as some complete prat (probably still drunk from the night before) pulled out right infront of us at the roundabouts in Wroxham we arrived at Buckingham.

The Weather was the worst it had been, standing in the shelter was pointless with the rain being blown straight through it. But it was worth it seeing at first a Starling (can you believe it our first Starling at about 2.30 in the afternoon, crazy but not as crazy as a later bird), then Barnacle Geese (cat C) , followed by a flock of White-fronted Geese flying over and they then landed next to the Taiga Bean Geese which was another 1st Jan Lifer so my 172 '1st Jan' bird (this is Bean Goose as a whole not just Taiga) this was also our 100th bird of the day, yippee.

Next stop, Strumpshaw. At the feeders was saw a Marsh Tit and we then decided to do a quick walk to the fen hide seeing a Grey Heron along the way. We saw nothing from the Fen hide and wondered back. Another quick look at the feeders and a Lesser Redpoll called, flew in, called and the flew off again after being chased by Blue Tits bird number 103.

The next bird is crazy our 104th bird of the day at around 3.15 in near dark miserable conditions right on the peak of the Acle bridge in the middle of the road was a House Sparrow. Weather this is a sign that the House Sparrow really is getting rare or its a bird you take for granted I'm not sure, but nearly a whole day without seeing one seems crazy to me.

A brief stop at Ludham and you could easily pick out the 'towering' Whooper Swans amongst the Bewick's. We then carried on to Hickling for the stub mill roost.

I wasn't expecting anybody there but two other people had braved the conditions, which was lucky for the four of us as the rain had stopped and visibility improved. Upon arrival a Sparrowhawk flew through in front of us. Many Marsh Harriers were flying around and a ringtail Hen Harrier then joined in.

Adam then spotted three Cranes in the meadows and we had an additional 11 fly in during the rest of the night. The last bird of the day and our 110th bird was the same as most years a Woodcock that whizzed past our headed before we wondered back.

But even after such a fantastic day I am left wondering what could of been, we didn't see Barn Owl, Little Owl, Mistle Thrush, Grey Partridge, Siskin, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Grey Wagtail, Any Woodeckers or Kingfisher with them (not unfeasible birds) we could of had 120!

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