And so, my first trip outside of Yorkshire this year commences. And where better for the year-list than the home of bird-watching itself, Norfolk. So it began. The weather was absolutely smashing, almost clear blue sky for the whole way day, not necessarily great for the drive but it did mean I could see some great stuff on the way down. We set off with me on 109 species for the year, but I would have loved to make it to 110 species before we made it to sea.
I managed better than that. On the way down we saw plenty of game birds in southern Lincolnshire, Pheasants and Red-Legged Partridges, but on only one occasion I identified a pair of Grey Partridges feeding by the side of the road. The view was brief, but it was enough to tell that were definitely Greys, and that was my 110th bird. It was also only the second time I have properly seen this species, the other times usually been flushed, or in hindsight overruled my identification. I was well pleased with them, and even let out a little cheer from the back of the car.
And then, a little further on in Norfolk itself, though still not at the sea, my dad said that there was a Buzzard ahead. But as soon as I set eyes on it I could tell that its wings were too long for buzzard, the bird banked and revealed a forked tail, Red Kite, my 7th raptor from the Easter break. I was very excited having been checking for them all the way down. Earlier I had even wondered if I had found one circling among some gulls, but it was also a gull. It prompted the question of if they even had red kites in this part of the country. Answer: they do indeed.
So we arrived at the sea on a stunning 111 species for the year, with 2 very impressive ticks simply from driving down. We were staying in West Runton, as before though never at this time of year. From our brief tour of the site looking for a pitch we picked up Linnet, Woodpigeon and rabbits, of which there were plenty.
By the time we were set up it was already half 3, but my dad decided that they would go for a walk at Saltholme, so I decided to go since the bus service, I had discovered, was not quite what it was. At Saltholme no sooner did we arrive than did the year-ticks start to flood in. Even as we pulled in to the remains of the car park I watched a Little Egret rise from the neighboring marsh and fly over the road. It was not a great view, but it was clear as day for what it was, 112.
We pulled up on the roadside, and I immediately got out to have a look. I set my eyes on a pool next to us and spotted a number of small waders foraging along its shoreline. I was able to get great views through the scope, and then as they got closer, even without the scope. They were Turnstones, a surprise to say the least, and a very pleasant one. They were very bold, wandering right up to me and allowing me to get some decent photos. I was well happy by this point.
I had lost my family by this point; they had gone on ahead, due to my wanderings. I managed Redshank, Curlew, Oystercatcher and many other goodies through my exploration of the pools. I had almost caught up when a stunning male Wheatear landed right in front of me. I was so close, such a good view.
I then caught up with my parents, and the first question I was asked ‘have you seen the avocets’. No, I had not, but I began the exploration of the pools where my dad said they were and soon found them. There was a pair of them, but the view was poor as they were some way away. Either way, it was another year-tick, and all within about a half and hours walk. Also on the pool was a pair of Shelduck, Wigeon and a small group of Teal
We had not even traveled that far from the car, but we decided to head back. However, we decided to head back via the sea, and on the way I was able to watch my 4th year-tick of the day; Sandwich Terns, which kept drifting past in 2’s and 3’s. They were excellent to watch, as they often drifted quite close to the coast. Besides them there was also decent numbers of gulls, adults and juveniles resting on the water’s surface.
After quite a while watching the sea and the various birds drift past we decided to head to Cley visitor center for a coffee. Since it was quite late I had assumed it would not be open, and that was indeed the case. However, it did give me a chance to look at the sightings board, though there was nothing much outstanding on it. On the way between the visitor center we drove past some areas where birds were grazing, including black swan (not tick-able) and Egyptian goose, another year-tick. Since we were driving I was unable to get a great view. Add that to the fact that the birds were asleep and I may as well have not seen them for what it’s worth.
We decided to go and see if there was some form of café van up on Blakeney point car park, but were swiftly disappointed. However, on the way up we past a nice group of Brent Geese feeding on the marshes. I was pretty pleased to find these, though my view was sadly too short as my family wanted to get off. I was able to take some photos though and enjoy watching them for 2 or 3 mins. Hopefully they will stick around later in the week, because they really are smashing birds.
So that was our brief visit to Blakeney over and done with, though even that had produced something special. Moving on we decided to head back to the caravan site for a cuppa, since nowhere else seemed keen to provide.
After that my flying start to the holiday started to slow down, with no new year-ticks for the day. In the evening we went into Cromer for a walk along the front. Birdwise it provided very little, only a handful of gulls out to sea from the pier. But it has been quite a start and hopefully we will be able to keep up this good form…
Journey: Grey Partridge, Red-Legged Partridge, Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Pheasant, Woodpigeon, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Chaffinch, Common Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Magpie, Jackdaw, Mallard, Grey Heron, Feral Pigeon,
Saltholme: Little Egret, Redshank, Turnstone, Rook, Jackdaw, Black-Headed Gull, Skylark, Mallard, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Swallow, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Lapwing, Shelduck, Woodpigeon, Wheatear, Avocet, Wigeon, Teal, Herring Gull, Sandwich Tern, Cormorant, Coot, Graylag Goose, Egyptian Goose, Starling, Lesser Black-Backed Gull,
Blakeney: Starlings, Shelduck, Graylag Goose, Redshank, Canada Goose, Lapwing, Brent Geese, Common Buzzard