Monday, 28 January 2008

Weekend in Norfolk, 26th/27th January.

Yes, it's a bit of a contradiction to the name of my blog. But I thought a weekend's birding in Norfolk would be a good place to start.

In addition of the opportunity to see the White-Crowned Sparrow at Cley, it was good to catch up with friends, Jo and Ian, whom I met at the Chambal Safari Lodge in India.

As well as meeting up with friends again and the Sparrow, I’ve always wanted to visit the raptor and Crane roost at Hickling Broad. In addition to this are the Taiga Bean Geese at the Cantley/Buckenham area. When I were a lad, Bean Geese were Bean Geese! Nowadays there are two separate species. I’ve seen Tundra Bean Geese in the midlands before (at Croxall and Swarkestone to be precise), but never the Taiga’s.

Saturday 26th January.

Salthouse was the first port of call. Just to the west of the beach car park were one Lapland Bunting in amongst a flock of about 40 Snow Buntings. Onto Cley next, and after a while the White-Crowned Sparrow duly appeared. Not on the seeded drive but in the brambles on the opposite side of the road. After a drink at the visitor centre we had a look from the three centre hides of Cley Marshes. A good selection of waders and duck here, plus a Little Egret.

Back to Norwich for some lunch, then Jo and I took off to Hickling Broad to see the raptor roost. What a spectacle it is! I've never seen so many Marsh Harriers. I counted a maximum of 32 in the air at one time, but I'm sure there were more than that. Also there were one Barn Owl, a very large skein of Pink-Footed Geese, four ringtail Hen Harriers and two Merlin. Then just before darkness descended two Cranes flew across to cap off the day.

Sunday 27th January.

We headed off to Cantley Marshes first to see the Taiga Bean Geese. We found a flock of around 45 of them here, along with two White-Fronted Geese and a Marsh Harrier.

We had time for a couple of hours at Strumpshaw Fen before I had to start making a move home. A good selection of birds here included a skein of about 100 White-Fronted Geese, 2 Egyptian Geese, Marsh Harrier, 2 Stonechat, 1 Snipe. To add the feeling of spring, Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming and a Song Thrush singing it's heart out. The main highlight however was a Stoat that scuttled across the path, then stared at us for a while before shooting down a hole.

After taking Jo back to Norwich and said my goodbyes. Just when I though the birding was over, on the A47 just east of West Bilney, a Woodcock flew along the road in front of me. A "driving" Woodcock is a first for me, and very good end to an excellent weekend.