Saturday, August 19, 2006

North Norfolk - 14th-18th August 2006.

Outrageously this was my first visit to North Norfolk for 11 years! Three nights were spent at the Blakeney Manor hotel and 1 night at the Titchwell Manor hotel. Both highly recommended.

Not all the time was spent birding..... but i managed to do my share!
14th & 17th August 2006.

Titchwell RSPB was visited on both dates. Wader numbers and selection was disappointing on the 14th, but the 17th was a much better visit with 11+ Spotted Redshank (none seen on 14th), one of the highlights of 23 wader species seen, but no Curlew Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper or Little Stints unfortunately.

However, a fantastic bonus occurred just after 12:35 on the 17th; Whilst in the Island Hide, the pager beeped informing me that a Buff-breasted Sandpiper had very recently been seen at Holme, but had flown towards and was thought to have landed in Thornam Creek, midway between Holme and Titchwell. I slipped the pager away and again resumed scoping from the hide, and there amongst a small number of Dunlin & Ringed Plover on a spit in the middle of the Freshwater Marsh was the Buff-Breasted Sandpiper! - Sadly views were brief at c1.5 mins, before the bird disappeared, apparantly moving onto the Brackish Marsh briefly before flying east, spending a total of just c8 minutes on the reserve. I was very fortunate indeed.

I did manage to obtain some appalling video of the bird just before it disappeared from view from the island hide. Those with experience of this species should be able to see the BBS in the admittedly very poor quality videograb, the result of a brief view and the damned wooden floor of the hide, which with kids running amok registered 8 on the Richter scale with regards to digiscoping!

Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Middle, back row! - Click on image to gain a little more detail) - Titchwell RSPB 17th Aug 2006.
Little Egrets - Titchwell RSPB.

Known locally as "the gang of six", these Spoonbills have visited various sites over the past few weeks - Titchwell RSPB, 17th Aug 2006.

Little Egrets were present in numbers with 38 roosting in tree's on the 17th. Bearded Tits were fairly obvious, a Water Rail showed from Island hide and at least 10 Yellow Wagtails were in the area.

Visits to Cley visitor centre on both dates suggested that the reserve was currently poor for wader selection, a Garganey distantly from the visitor centre was the highlight as well as the obligatory Marsh Harriers. My one regret of the break was not trying for the two Caspian Gulls that were (pre?) roosting on the reserve, though i did see a couple of ad Yellow-legged Gulls at Salthouse.
15th August 2006.
A pre-breakfast couple of hours at Salthouse produced a pleasing selection of Birds; Common Scoter, Teal, Common & Sandwich Terns, Gannet, Arctic Skua, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Knot, Sanderling offshore as well as several Whimbrel in-off and an outrageous Grey Heron flying west c2 miles offshore. The Saltmarsh produced 5 Green Sandpiper, obligatory Marsh Harrier & Avocets and 2 ad Yellow-legged Gull.
Later we spent an hour at Swanton Novers, failing to connect with Honey Buzzard (9 Common Buzzard, 4 Marsh Harrier, 3 Hobby seen).
Pam and I then decided to walk "some" of Blakeney Point, which somehow resulted in us undertaking what has been described as 'seven miles of shingle hell' from Cley Coastguards and back.
Setting off at 15:00 we got back to the car at Cley coastguards at almost 21:40hrs! - Both of us certainly felt the full fiercesome reputation that this walk has earned amongst birders over the years and we both woke up with something akin to rigor mortis next morning!.. Still it was well worth the effort as it had been almost 20 years since i last did the trudge to the point.

Pam and I taking a breather at Halfway House, Blakeney Point, 15th August 2006.

For anyone with a passion for drift migrants, the whole of Blakeney Point is legendary... even on days such as our walk when the prospect of any passerine migrants was remote, you can still dream of the days when 'The Plantation' is full of Goldcrests, Thrushes etc. Fortunately for us, there was at least a Barred Warbler at the point (present for its 3rd day apparently), in the Brambles behind the Coastguard Tower, we heard about this one from birders we met returning from the point as we were two-thirds of the way there. Good scope views were had of this bird.

Barred Warbler - Blakeney Point, 15th Aug 2006.

Watching the Barred Warbler

Paying homage to the legendary 'Plantation'.... On this occasion just a single Willow Warbler was present, but unlike my only visit to the actual point nearly 20 years ago I wasn't bothered, it was just good to be there.....must be age related!

Otherwise, passerine migrants consisted of just a couple of Wheatears, a few Willow Warblers and flava Wagtails at the point itself and c60 Meadow Pipits on the trudge up. A few Little Terns were delightful and there were good numbers of Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, a few Arctic Skua, single Razorbill, and a few Common Scoter offshore.
The visit inspired me to purchase the book 'The Birds of Blakeney Point' the day after!

With a steely determination some six hours into the trek, Pam desperately searches for some firm sand upon which to walk on. My knees and hip were so painful at this stage, for the first time ever, i was lagging well behind!


16th August 2006.
Due to continuing discomfort in my legs as a result of yesterdays activities walking Blakeney point, I didn't go out around Cley / Salthouse as I had intended to before breakfast. To my horror, i discovered that a White Pelican had flown west over the two sites and would also have been visible from the Hotel.
During breakfast the pager informed us that it had actually landed in Blakeney Harbour, but by the time i had finished the full english it was airborne and now over Wells Harbour.
Straight in the car and along the A149 we drove, alerted as we went to the continuing progress of the Pelican as it quite reapidly made its way along the North Norfolk coast. We eventually caught up with it at Choseley, where binocular views were had of the bird as it thermalled high and quite rapidly west.
We then tried to relocate it at Hunstanton, but no joy, though the number of Marsh Harriers in the sky at various sites was quite amazing, with 16 seen at Hunstanton alone, also Hobby over the Golf course. I estimated on this day that i saw 35+ Marsh Harriers at various sites throughout the morning.
After a stopoff at a Pub in Brancaster, from which there were 20 Little Egret and 2 Marsh Harrier on view from the terrace, we returned to Swanton Novers Raptor watchpoint for a couple of hours, finally connecting with a Honey Buzzard, the superb dark-morph male, which put on an incredible 'wing-clapping' display overhead. Also, 2 more Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, 3 Hobby, Sparrowhawk & Kestrel seen.
After a meal in the evening, 5 Barn Owls were seen between Sheringham - Salthouse. I had never tried for Nightjar so late in the season,but thought it was worth a go at Salthouse Heath. The decision payed off with one Nightjar churring and displaying.
18th August 2006.

4 Hummingbird Hawk-moth were feeding on lavender outside the room we were staying in at the Titchwell Manor Hotel. I managed to take some pics just after breakfast..... and just before we headed home a few hours prematurely due to the billion-to-one chance that the White Pelican that had toured the Norfolk coast a few days previously had incredibly turned up at my local patch in Lancashire.... Crazy!