As I started to walk down towards the dunes there was a brisk NE wind blowing and it felt freezing. I'd barely left the car park when I flushed a young seal from just below the sea wall. It headed for the water but its path was obstructed by a boat which it seemed to try to get inside. The cloud was thick so the light was poor and I didn't get my camera on to a suitable setting quick enough, but you get the idea...
Seal sp., Burnham Overy, 14th March
It soon realised that wasn't a good idea and bounded on down to the water. It showed a peculiar dark stripe along its side, prompting me to try and recall whether any of the rare species show such a marking. I don't think they do, but it wasn't obvious to me that it was a Common Seal. I expect that's what it was, but would appreciate confirmation if you can give it.
Seal sp., Burnham Overy, 14th March
There were about 14 Pochard and 9 Tufted Ducks in the channel - a good number for here, especially as I've not been seeing any here during the winter. I thought one of the Pochards looked dark and plain-headed but before I could resolve it they all flew. One bird was clearly smaller than the accompanying Pochards and showed a whiter wing-bar than the Pochards. They settled in a nearby pool and here I was able to pick out a female Aythya hybrid. The Pochard influence was obvious but I didn't immediately get the other half. It looked darker brown almost more Tufted Duck like and my first thought was Pochard x Tufted Duck. Females of these usually show pale feathering at the base of the bill, though whether that's always the case or not is not yet established I don't think. It was reminding me a lot of a bird I saw in Cornwall a couple of years ago which I identified as Pochard x Tufted Duck at the time but subsequently wondered if it could have been Pochard x Ferruginous Duck (and this was suggested by others). Unlike that bird, this one showed clear white under the tail, and dark in front of that. Although ferruginous tones were not obvious it did show some reddish tones on the head, especially around the lores. And at times I could see Ferruginous Duck in the head shape too, so in the end I became pretty confident that this bird was a Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid. An excellent record for a site that doesn't get big numbers of Aythya, although I suspect a few more people would have shown an interest if it had just been a Ferruginous Duck.
Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid, Burnham Overy, 14th March
The rest of the walk to the dunes was cold but uneventful, save for 15 Avocets in the channel. When I reached the dunes two raptors got up just beyond the boardwalk. One was a Marsh Harrier but the other was the Rough-legged Buzzard and that provided me with some great views.
A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were between Scolt Head and Gun Hill and a Peregrine flew along the beach. As I walked back towards the boardwalk from Gun Hill I was pleased to see a stunning male Wheatear - my first 'proper' migrant this year. The scoter flock off the east end of the dunes contained at least 1 Velvet Scoter, and a couple of Eider there too. I heard a Stonechat calling a couple of times but never saw it. As I headed back to the car a fine adult Mediterranean Gull in full breeding plumage was resting with Black-headed Gulls on the sandbar before they all took to flight.
Mediterranean Gull, Burnham Overy, 14th March
Near the car park another seal was beached - this one a more obvious Common Seal.
Common Seal, Burnham Overy, 14th March
I headed over to Stiffkey next starting at the flood south of the A149. Not much there apart from 13 Avocets.
Avocet, Stiffkey Flood, 14th March
Marsh Harrier, Stiffkey Flood, 14th March
Stiffkey Fen was the driest I've seen it - looks like it's been drained. Another 22 Avocets there and a Kingfisher heard along the stream. Does anyone know if there is or is expected to be any public access to the new hide on the fen's south side?
Grey Partridges, south of Wells, 14th March
Also processed photos from last week's lunch breaks this evening. Best was this Black-tailed Godwit...
Black-tailed Godwit, Brancaster Staithe, 11th March