A diary of my birding activity covering highlights and photos from my birding adventures. Mainly Norfolk (UK), occasionally beyond. I might mention the odd thing that isn't avian, but for moth and other insect news check out my mothing diary.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Nar Valley birding

I started out at the local patch this morning where I counted 30 White-fronted Geese - a new record for the site I think.  I then headed across to Narford Lake checking a few other sites on the way with nothing of note.  I'd been past Narford Lake before and looked from the road but hadn't at that point worked out how to get close to view it properly.  Various messages from there recently (thanks to a Great White Egret that I didn't see today) mentioned the church and I found a path leading to the church so tried that.  Good result - the back of the churchyard provides a good enough view of the lake to see the hordes of wildfowl there.  Really good - very impressed!  I counted 350 Pochard, 168 Tufted Duck, 100 Teal, 109 Gadwall, 594 Coot and 28 Mute Swans.  Also 2 Goldeneye among them and a bit more unexpectedly, 2 Bewick's Swans.

Bewick's Swan, Narford Lake, 20th January

Pentney was largely frozen over but there was one ice-free patch of water just big enough to hold 168 Teal.  Also 56 Wigeon feeding on the grass here.  Ashwicken was also largely frozen over but plenty of birds in the ice-free sections including 127 Wigeon, 122 Pochard and 15 Great Crested Grebes.

Mistle Thrush, Ashwicken, 20th January

I had a look round Saddlebow and a couple of bridges south of there which were pretty disappointing.  Slightly better at the bridge at Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalene where a redhead Goosander flew over and 4 Goldeneye were on the river.  I moved on to Tottenhill which again was mainly frozen but a section in the NE corner was crammed full of at least 650 Teal.  A single drake Pintail was the only bird of note I could find until a first-winter White-fronted Goose dropped in to join the Greylags.

Teal, Tottenhill, 20th January

A flock of 21 Whooper Swans were in a field north of Wissington Beet Factory and a Red Kite flew over.  At the factory I disturbed 3 Redshanks from the pool above the fishing lakes - they reminded me of the last time I saw Redshank at Wissington Beet Factory - June 1991 when one was accompanied by a Terek Sandpiper.  I took the footpath running through the factory from which I could see good numbers of Shoveler and Teal in one of the lagoons.  A Cetti's Warbler was calling nearby. Just south of the beet factory was another field of swans - this time 110 Whooper Swans and 9 Bewick's Swans.

Finally I stopped to have a look down a footpath along Methwold Lode.  A small muddy path alongside a small insignificant ditch didn't promise much at its start.  I was about to turn round and abandon the idea when I noticed a bit of water through the trees.  It was frozen and I couldn't see any birds on it, but this it looked like a significant amount of water that wasn't showing on the map.  I carried on if only to investigate.  As the path opened out I looked north across the ditch to a great bit of habitat I had no idea existed.  I think it's called High Fen.  The footpath itself reminded me of paths at Lakenheath or Denver Sluice - regular hawthorns along a grassy ridge with a dyke to one side and arable fields to the other - plenty of Fieldfare and Long-tailed Tits at the moment, but I bet its full of Lesser Whitethroat song come the end of April.

Long-tailed Tit, Methwold Lode, 20th January

Looking north across the dyke was a series of wet meadows.  Lots of Lapwing there, a flock of Golden Plover and several raptors hunting including 2 Marsh Harriers, Buzzard, Kestrel and (further off) Red Kite.  Several Snipe were flushing, either from just across the dyke, presumably by me, or by the raptors - there must have been far more present.  A Fox was out there too - interesting to see the reaction of one of the Marsh Harriers when it ran up to it, without realising it was there I think - the harrier lifted off, flew round low over the fox but not really looking like it was going to bother attacking, and then plonked itself down nearby.  Meanwhile the fox carried on as if nothing had happened.  The Marsh Harrier had green wing tags, at least one of which had R7 on - hopefully I'll find out more about it in due course.

Red Fox, High Fen, 20th January

Marsh Harrier "R7", High Fen, 20th January

I bumped into an aged chap who apparently lives in a decrepid boat in the dyke and has his shopping brought to him by the local farmer.  Don't think he gets to talk to many people out there and he tried to make up for it!  I would have liked to have walked on further and spent a bit more time here, but time was pressing on and I needed to be in Norwich for an appointment soon, so I shall have to return here another day.

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