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.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Broadland birding

On Monday I headed to the Broads.  I arrived at Martham Broad at dawn as 7 Little Egrets were flying from roost somewhere south of the broad and a Barn Owl was hunting alongside the footpath.  In the field were 2 White-fronted Geese among the Greylags but by the time I walked back these had increased to 9 White-fronted Geese.  The Tawny Owl was in its usual spot - just as difficult to see as before.  I was pleased to see far more duck on the broad compared to my last visit (in fact one duck would have been an improvement).  Among the 95 Pochard and 86 Tufted Ducks were 2 Scaup, both drakes.  There were also 9 Goldeneye there.  Cranes were calling but I didn't see them.

Scaup (and a Pochard), Martham Broad, 30th January

There were another 4 White-fronted Geese in a field next to the road at West Somerton and I stopped at Horsey Mere where 2 Red Deer were in the field opposite.  There were quite a few duck on the mere itself but many of the Teal swam out of view as soon as I arrived.  As I headed back to the car a Green Sandpiper flew up and away - worryingly this is the first one I have seen or heard this winter which, given how much time I've spent birding in suitable places, is a bad sign.  I used to encounter them a few times over the course of a winter in various places with far less effort.

Magpie, Horsey Mere, 30th January

I stopped briefly at Waxham - couldn't see Glaucs or Purple Sands or anything else of note along the beach, though I only looked from the top of the dunes by Shangri La.  There were a few Red-throated Divers moving past - I counted 12 in what can't have been much more than 5 minutes or so.  I then drove down Eastfield Road at Hickling.  I'd only been down here a couple of times, once to see a White-tailed Eagle way back in the early 90s (which I didn't see) and once more recently to see a Lesser Grey Shrike which was on private land off the end of the road (access had been arranged).  I thought the footpath running parallel to the road to the east might be worth an explore, and so it was, just about.  There were 8-10 Lesser Redpolls in the alders and a small flock of Redwing feeding on the ground.  I flushed a Woodcock and a Chinese Water Deer.  I could hear the Cranes again from here.

Next I stopped at the Pleasure Boat Inn at Hickling where looking out across the Broad I picked up a group of 6 Scaup.  Also 4 Goldeneye here.

I now drove round to Potter Heigham church where I parked and walked out to Rushill Scrape.  I didn't notice getting a message about a Great Northern Diver on the Broad viewable from near the scrape - I'm not sure if the message had arrived by that time or not.  I did have a quick look on the Broad from the footpath but might have looked for a bit longer if I'd seen the message.  At Rushill Scrape there were good numbers of Teal feeding and I flushed about 5 pipits from the cut reeds in front of the hide.  Some of the calls sounded like Meadow Pipit but there were at least 2-3 Water Pipits among them.  I walked on, seeing the likes of Marsh Tits and Cetti's Warblers before arriving at the newly created Potter Heigham Marsh.

I first heard about Potter Heigham Marsh when people started to report an assortment of interesting waders last autumn but I'd never been here before.  It's a fairly extensive area of reed-fringed wetland and I gather that the intention is to allow the reedbeds to grow in order to encourage Bitterns.  I guess that will reduce the area of open water which may perhaps make it less attractive for general birding.  Right now though it was great, stacked full of dabbling duck.  I spent quite a bit of time staring at one particular female Wigeon that I thought showed a few American characteristics.  Eventually it flew revealing axillaries as grey as any I've seen, so no luck this time.  It did however prompt a re-read of ID papers covering this topic, something I'd been meaning to do for a while (and which made me realise that my bird hadn't really been so good a contender as I'd thought).

As I arrived at the site 27 White-fronted Geese flew south over the marsh.  Later I found nearly that many in fields across the river south of Martham Ferry (along with 19 Curlew), and imagined they might be the same birds.  There were 2 Stonechats in the reeds and at least 3 pairs of Bearded Tits.

Bearded Tit, Potter Heigham Marsh, 30th January

Stonechat, Potter Heigham Marsh, 30th January

I could hear Cranes over towards Heigham Holmes and made several unsuccessful attempts to see them.  Eventually I did find them - miles away and hidden behind a hedge.  I could only see them because they were dancing, which was great to see albeit with difficulty - when they jumped up flapping their wings they were possible to see above the hedges.

As well as this Kestrel a Sparrowhawk made a dash past me and a Barn Owl was huting over the back.  There were a couple of Water Pipits here too, though I never saw one on the deck.

Kestrel, Potter Heigham Marsh, 30th January

As I reached the far end of the marsh (in fact the mill beyond there) waves of geese began flying over from the direction of Potter Heigham and towards Heigham Holmes.  Some of the flocks were Pink-feet but of more interest were 307 White-fronted Geese.

White-fronted Geese, Potter Heigham Marsh, 30th January

As I headed back towards Rushill Scrape I bumped in to Ryan and Jason - good to see them and have an interesting chat.  While we were talking 3 Cranes dropped in to what I think must be Candle Dyke Marsh.  They flew off towards Rushill Scrape later and when I got round there they were viewable in the field behind the hide - until some more people came along and they flew off.

Cranes, near Rushill Scrape, 30th January

Also Kingfisher heard calling and in the woodland near the tower a herd of at least 20 Red Deer.  The second time I saw Red Deer today which I found interesting - I used to come out this way quite regularly in the 90s and don't remember ever seeing Red Deer in the area then.  I met a couple at Rushill Scrape who had just seen a Great Northern Diver, and it was only then that I realised that I had much earlier received a message about it being there.  Viewing the broad isn't easy from the path but eventually I saw the Great Northern Diver swimming rapidly away.  A minute later I picked it up again, this time in flight flying away over the back of the broad and heading in the direction of the coast. 

It was getting late but I figured there was enough light to look through the Pink-feet at Clippesby.  A lot of birds were flying off from the flock as I arrived and the number of birds remaining was quite low.  Even so I managed to pick out 9 Tundra Bean Geese, although this was a miniscule number compared to the incredible counts Ryan and others were getting over the next few days.  I had a quick look at the broads from Filby Bridge in the last glimmers of daylight - 3 Goldeneye and 3 Whooper Swans on Filby Broad and 3 Goldeneye and a Kingfisher at Ormesby Little Broad. 

Local birding last week was largely unproductive.  A flock of 8 Mandarins near Guist was nice, and a flock of 75 Bramblings near Bintree Mill along with Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail and singing Treecreeper.

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