Thursday 30th December.
As I thought. So far this christmas, this has been the only day I've had available for birding. And what better way to finish the year off than to have a day's birding in Norfolk. In particular for the (presumed?, putative?) juvenile male Northern Harrier that has taken up residence in the saltmarshes between Thornham and Brancaster Staithe.
So off we went in Mad Malc's mystery machine. Thankfully the fog, that had been driven through all the way, cleared around King's Lynn. As afternoons had seemed to be a good time of day to see the Northern Harrier, the first port of call in the morning was at Burnham Overy Staithe, as there had been reports of Rough-legged Buzzard in the area.
As good and popular as Cley and Titchwell are, and rightly so, I have to admit that my favourite spot on the North Norfolk coast is around Burnham Overy Staithe. Probably because there's more of a wilderness feel to the area. Certainly the thousands of Geese here, Pink-Feet and Brents, add to the atmosphere. We also saw a ringtail Hen Harrier, but perhaps it was a little misty for any Buzzard action.
So onto Titchwell next. Complete with it's recently opened, new Parrinder Hide!
Oh hang on, that's not right. But you've got to admit it looks pretty spaced-aged:
There was a really pleasing selection of stuff around, despite all areas of fresh water still all frozen over. Highlights included a female Bearded Tit, a Bittern:
Three Twite in amongst a flock of Skylarks:
A Snow Bunting on the beach, and offshore a large raft of Common Scoter and a few Goldeneye.
With Titchwell done and dusted, and with the Northern Harrier seen at Thornham Harbour earlier in the day, it was onto Thornham next, the village next door to Titchwell.
We only had to wait a few minutes when the Harrier appeared. The bird showed wonderfully close in the harbour at first, before hunting around the saltmarsh, catching and feeding on prey a couple of times, in addition to having a couple of goes at a Sparrowhawk.
Whether it really is a Northern Harrier, or just a funny looking Hen Harrier, I don't know but it's certainly unlike any Hen Harrier I've seen before. Definitely an education whatever the outcome. I can only compare with my own experiences of a ringtail Hen Harrier. What does a juvenile male Hen Harrier look like? I don't know, just like an adult female?
What I thought was noticeable was the bird being noticeably darker on the head and upperparts, orange underparts, a large white rump (or perhaps the darker brown makes this look larger?) and a rather odd dangling right leg. And with that dangling leg, who would've thought a raptor could look camp?