Dave and I decided to see how many species we could on New Year's Day this year, taking in some of the decent birds that have been around over the last few days and weeks. Well not everything went quite to plan!
Dave started ahead of me getting Tawny and Little Owls en route to my place, species which I never did see or hear. We headed out to Wolferton where we hoped to get Golden Pheasant out of the way before dawn. Others had had the same idea and it was probably too busy to make the chances of it emerging as good as would normally be expected. A drive round the surrounding roads got my first bird of the day, a Woodcock at Sandringham.
At first light we got Barn Owl near Wolferton before having another go at the Pheasant. It was even busier now, and people were getting out of their cars, slamming doors and chatting to each other without actually looking! So off to Kings Lynn docks where the Iceland Gull failed to show. A Peregrine was on its tower and a second bird flew off. Another Barn Owl was seen along the track to Lynn Point.
We returned to Wolferton for one last go at the Pheasant (others had been successful while we were away). No luck but we got Nuthatch and Treecreeper (at least I got Treecreeper, Dave didn't hear it).
A Buzzard en route to Flitcham was my species number 50, but the Pallid Harrier was another no-show. There were several Bramblings along the road and nearby at least 3 Tree Sparrows. We headed up the road the other side of Flitcham where I'd seen the Pallid Harrier head over towards last time I was here, and did pick up a Harrier, but this was a ring-tail Hen Harrier. News that the Pallid had been seen again saw us bid a hasty retreat, but that news turned out to be duff (or probably so), so we headed up to the coast.
We saw 2 of the 3 Rough-legged Buzzards in the Choseley area, species number 63. Another Barn Owl was at Thornham where about 21 Twite showed well near the car parking area. The Shore Larks required a long walk out to Holme and back along the top of the beach, but we figured we might be able to see them distantly from where we were. So it proved, and soon we were scoping 3 Shore Larks at great range!
The Fen Trail at Titchwell produced 2 of the 4 Chiffchaffs Mick had seen earlier, and walking out to the main part of the reserve we picked out 2 Water Pipits among the Rock Pipits. A Kingfisher nipped past us and we counted at least 32 Avocets on the fresh marsh - an exceptional number wintering here this year. Further up near the sea 2 Spotted Redshanks tried to hide behind the Black-tailed Godwits but the sea was very quiet - Goldeneye and a passing Red-throated Diver were the best birds here.
Two more Barn Owls showed either side of Burnham Norton as we drove through and a stop at Burnham Overy got us White-fronted Geese (and 2 more Barn Owls). We stopped at Holkham but at first couldn't see our target. Then just as I was about to drive off Dave picked up the Great White Egret in flight, my 100th bird of the day.
We hoped to pick up a couple more at Warham Greens but nothing new there. However seeing 6-7 Hen Harriers was a delight. We saw one male coming in but had already missed the first. A later view of male was probably one of the same two birds, so not sure if we saw one or two males. Multiple views of ring-tails were hard to assess but we got the impression that 5 were different birds arriving. A small possibility that the second and fourth were the same birds, but I think 7 is a pretty robust final total.
The drive home was eventful for all the wrong reasons. Four cars smashed into each other along the B1105 at Egmere, just in front of us. Fortunately (for us) we weren't the car ahead, or else I'd have ended up in one of the ambulances, but it was a scene of carnage as we frantically tried to help people while attempting to talk to the 999 control centre which was far more frustrating than it should have been. The noise of screaming children and more especially one car's horn that stuck on was a significant factor in making communication with the control centre difficult. Even so I didn't appreciate the stroppy "can you turn that noise off" (er, no) or the abject failure to accept "on the B1105 near Egmere between Wells and Fakenham" because it wasn't the name of a town, or the random pointless questions like "what direction are you travelling in?" and "has anyone left the scene?". I couldn't tell her the number of the phone I was dialling from because I'd been handed it by another casualty after failing to get through on my phone - but this wasn't understood as I was asked the same question repeatedly. I don't mind admitting that I wasn't as calm as I could have been, and that probably didn't help, but I was pretty disappointed with the control centre service here - a very different experience from the last time I witnessed a serious accident. Fortunately an off-duty fire officer was on the scene and took over looking after the casualty I'd been unable to get the control centre to advise me about. The first ambulance arrived fairly quickly, followed by 3 fire appliances, though it was a fair while before any more ambulances joined it and getting help for the walking wounded (including a vomitting child) seemed to take for ever. Obviously entirely appropriate that they should prioritise and I have nothing but praise for the first crews on the scene. I didn't get to find out what the prognosis was for the patient I'd tried to help who was air-lifted off to hospital with her passenger - I hope and pray that they, and the young family in one of the other cars where the mother had her legs trapped, make a full and speedy recovery.
Vitty and I had plans for a special dinner that she was intending to cook, and those plans were a bit disrupted given that I couldn't leave the scene until the fire engine had packed up and gone, meaning I got home much later than planned. More to the point we didn't know when we would be back so Vitty couldn't start cooking, and once I did get back I probably wasn't in the perfect frame of mind to fully appreciate such a meal. Even so we enjoyed some great salmon blinis for starter, succulent roast pheasant main (the best pheasant I had all day) and crêpe suzette for desert. It might not have gone quite according to plan but we are thankful that we got back to enjoy it at all. It could have been so different had we been one or two cars in front.