On Saturday I headed to the Broads early on, starting at Malthouse Broad where I hoped to see the bird that's been reported as a Ferruginous Duck. To me it looked a bit odd in the photos and at least some observers report that it has a dark, even greenish, head, one theory being that it is a hybrid with Baer's Pochard. Having said that, plenty of competent birders who have actually seen the bird apparently think it looks ok for Ferruginous. Anyway, I wanted to see it to make up my own mind, and as it's reported to have been there for years and recently has been sitting around by the staithe I thought I'd be in with a pretty good shot. Sadly not. There were some Tufted Ducks there, and Coots, but no sign of the target duck. This Pink-footed Goose was hanging around the car park with Greylags.
Pink-footed Goose, Malthouse Broad, 14th January
A Redpoll flew over, Nuthatch and Marsh Tit were calling and 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming, but apart from 111 Coots and a handful of Tufties there was precious little on the Broad. I walked round to Ranworth Broad, just about managing to stay uprright on the ice. One section of the boardwalk was flooded but I could get round a different way. Another Marsh Tit was singing and a Water Rail crossed the boardwalk in front of me.
There are often large numbers of ducks off the visitor centre but in the wind today they were taking shelter at the far side of the broad. Distance combined with wind made picking things out difficult and I would have liked a better view of one female Aythya with a Scaup-like face patch but I couldn't do anything with it. At least 6 Goldeneye out here. By the time I walked back to the car a blizzard had started, though that didn't stop a Kingfisher flashing by.
It looked like the snow was stopping and the sun was coming out as I pulled in to Salhouse Broad but by the time I got out of the car a new snow storm had started - finer snow this time, followed by sleet, rain and then big fluffy snow again. No birds though. Wroxham Broad was no better so on to Barton Broad where I was pelted by hail. The highlight here was a good count of 35 Goldeneye.
Having failed to find any Cranes or many geese between Waxham and Horsey I parked at West Somerton with a view to walking out to Martham Broad. Dave H and Christine were just setting off there too so I walked out with them. Dave knew of a day-roosting Tawny Owl so we had a look for that - it took some finding but eventually we saw a very much obscured Tawny Owl. Drenched by more hail I had a look through all the wildfowl on the broad for that rare Aythya. It didn't take long to sift through them all - all there were was a few Mute Swans and a Cormorant. As we walked back a large flock of Greylags had gathered in one of the fields and among them were 17 White-fronted Geese. A Stonechat flicked along beside us as we continued back.
After checking a few likely spots for geese and things with no success I headed to the air strip at Ludham. There was a flock of 44 Bewick's Swans and 51 Egyptian Geese plus another 4 Bewick's Swans at the far end.
Bewick's Swans, Ludham air strip, 14th January
Had a drive down to St Benet's Abbey - lots of birds down there but nothing notable. There weren't any wild swans at Ludham Bridge, at least not that I could see, so I continued on to Wroxham Broad. Gulls were coming in but they were showing no sign of settling at the viewable end of the broad and there was nothing else to look at so I called it a day.
domestic Greylag Goose, Wroxham Broad, 14th January
Sunday was a day off, although I took the scenic route back from Norwich passing the pits at Lyng-Easthaugh where a Geylag Goose x Canada Goose hybrid was seen. A pause at the bridge at Mill Street produced a nice Kingfisher on a post just beneath us. The filter beds at Bylaugh sewage works held 2 Chiffchaffs and Bulffinches were seen at Bylaugh and Swanton Morley. Finally a Sparrowhawk sped past us at Worthing.
On Monday I was tied up until lunch time when I headed down to Thetford where all manner of gulls have been frequenting the Burrell Way industrial estate. From the reports it sounded like they were all pretty easy, so I was a bit surprised to find myself standing around for quite a while without seeing any interesting gulls at all. Fortunately it wasn't too long before the Iceland Gull appeared, though initially only in flight. The first of at least 4 Yellow-legged Gulls also turned up after a while and the Glaucous Gull was seen very briefly in flight. Eventually the Iceland Gull did show on the rooftops allowing decent views.
Iceland Gull, Thetford, 16th January
I'd been there quite a long time before I picked up a candidate for Caspian Gull on a roof. I could only see its head and upper body from my position nd I had to move, and so did it, before I could see the whole thing, at which point a green colour ring was evident. Although I couldn't see the ring letters it looked like the bird carrying ring XDFE, photos of which I had seen in Dawn Balmer's Twitter feed. This bird was ringed in eastern Germany in 2014 and recorded in Fulham by Josh Jones earlier this month. Dawn relocated it here in Thetford a few days ago. It is quite immature so easily confused for a second-winter, but as we know its history we can say for sure that it's in fact a third-winter (fourth calendar-year). After letting one or two people have a quick look through my telescope I didn't actually get a chance to have as good a look as I would have liked myself, and no photos, as it quickly moved off. A Grey Wagtail flew over while we were looking.
Yellow-legged Gulls, Thetford, 16th January
I never managed to make a positive ID on this bird. Saw it a couple of times I think. At first I wondered if it was a Yellow-legged Gull, but I don't think so. Adult Yellow-legged Gulls present had clean white heads and bright yellow legs - this bird's legs were sort of pinky yellow. Not sure it was a full adult mind. The upperparts seemed a shade dark for Herring Gull (not necessarily for argentatus though) and it had quite an obvious bright red orbital ring. I'm not convinced it isn't just a Herring Gull, but wonder if it might be a hybrid (Herring Gull x Lesser Black-backed or x Yellow-legged I suppose)? Please shout if you have any insight.
unidentified gull, Thetford, 16th January
By the time I'd finished it was too late to go and look for Hawfinches and later than I would have wanted to look at gulls around Livermere so instead I headed back via a few spots in the north-east Brecks. Nothing much doing here - just a Brambling at The Arms.
This morning I had a look round Sparham Pools, a site I used to visit regularly but haven't been to for ages. Marsh Tit and Siskin were calling in the car park. The main pool was mostly frozen but there were a few duck around the edges including a single Wigeon and a handful of Teal. A Water Rail called from one of the pits to the east. A Little Egret was by the river and a Kingfisher by the boardwalk to Walsis' Farm (later seen on the river further on). Another Water Rail called round here and a Stock Dove was singing. Returning to the main pool and taking the path round the lakes viewable to the east held unusually high numbers of birds including around 100 Tufted Ducks. A Treecreeper was in the corner and back at the car park a Great Spotted Woodpecker was calling.
Still at least one Chiffchaff at Bylaugh sewage treatment works, and Siskin.