Tuesday 28 February 2023

Four Days in East Anglia - Day 4 - 24th February 2023

After a good night’s sleep I said my farewells and wiggled back through to Carlton Marshes as the idea of going home without doing any birding just seemed wrong and anyway, I had a Wagtail score to settle.

It was grey and cold and quite breezy once again and I enjoyed my couple of hours scanning Petos for the pesky vagrant.  I did at least see the Eastern Yellow Wagtail this time but only because it called as it flew over to the marsh behind denying me once again with on the deck views!  There seemed to be fewer duck around from even three days previously but the Black-tailed Godwit flock was very impressive and gave a spectacular display when disturbed by a female Marsh Harrier.

Black-tailed Godwits

The three Ruff and Dunlin were still present but there were fewer Snipe and a handful of Golden Plover.  Two Great White Egrets included the bird with straw coloured legs which was wading around in the middle of the pools and given that over 20 roosted at nearby Fritton the other week I suspect it will not be long before they breed and the reedbeds here look perfect.

Dutch coloured marked Ruff - @PaulGreenWire 

A large flock of Pink-feet appeared in the northern distance before dropping back out view but could be clearly heard even from so far off. A few Pied Wagtails and two smart Water Pipits were found on my many searches and I scanned the big gulls for anything different but had to be content with an array of subspecies!  

Water Pipit

Water Pipit

Great White Egret


Gull action (and a Carrion Crow)

I left Carl Buttle looking for the Wagtail and unsurprisingly he rediscovered it ten minutes after I had left the site and was at the Wrens having a cuppa and some soup before the journey home!

Chinese Water Deer

Monday 27 February 2023

Four Days in East Anglia - Day 3 - 23rd February 2023

 A www.blueeyedbirder.com weekend away...

The Snettisham winter super tide was happening not too long after dawn which required a horribly early start and cross country route from Wymondham in the driving drizzle and rain squalls.  I arrived early at 6.15 to find the car park already almost full with some abysmal parking making it even trickier.  The masses were already donning wet gear and heading off in the rain and gloom but I was quite pleased to have to wait for the rest of the day’s crew to arrive and for the weather to improve somewhat.

Even I put my waterproof trousers on as the breeze was somewhat biting as we headed off through the pits towards the seawall with the sound of Med Gulls above us calling amongst the Black-heads and Commons coming off the Wash while flocks of Pink-feet could be heard heading inland for the day.

The tide was already well on the way in and the next couple of hours were a blur of shape and sound as tens of thousands of Knot, Bar-tailed Godwits and Dunlin cut shapes across the sky and sea with mesmerising murmurations of twisting snakes, lozenges and balls.  At this stage no predators were seen and the birds just seemed to be organising themselves before descending into the roots site on the pits.

The Oystercatchers started off on the beach with a carpet of grey around them but four birders walked straight at them from the other side sending them once again into frenetic motion.  These bird flew in direct lines past us before scooting over our heads with a whooshing of wings.

The light may have been grim but the spectacle was everything I could have hoped for hence the number of images above.

Big screen but volume down as it was a bit windy!

As the tide crept in further the Avocets started to get together too and could not seem to decide whether to stay on the sea in a raft like they do on the Thames or to come onto the pits with the other waders and we were treated to some close overhead whiffling.


Turnstones, Grey Plover, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Ringed Plover and Curlews were present in far smaller numbers.

Bar-tailed Godwits heading towards the pits

The rain returned so we made our way into the closest hide where we could see the massed Knot and Barwits with their Oik buddies all huddled up together. A good catch up with Toby Collett from Frampton and a spectacular display from a male Peregrine chasing Dunlin kept things interesting before we started the slow walk back.

A tapestry of waders

The rain started once again and so the Rotary Hide was our next escape point.  Almost immediately I picked up a large raptor drifting across the farmland beyond the pit.  It was a young female Goshawk and soon attracted the attention of a male Peregrine that repeatedly dive bombed it.  I have never seen any bird take on a Gos before. She cruised into the first copse sending Woodpigeons in all directions.  A brief but exciting encounter.


The rain intensified (‘no rain after 7am’ the weather forecast said!) so we stayed put adding two fly by Spoonbills going south, a pair of Goldeneye and the female Peregrine that spooked all the Oystercatchers and gave us a great fly past.  Even the female Goshawk reappeared preceded by erupting pigeons.  She was enjoying the breeze and cruised about with little effort. Amazingly a female Kestrel decided that it would be a good idea to have a poke at the intruder. Such foolhardy bravery and she was lucky not to get taken out by her adversary.


Oystercatchers in a flap

Goshawk  - back for seconds

The tide was quickly dropping and the first waves of Oiks, Avocets and smaller waders were returning to the all important task of feeding and with our own bellies rumbling we decided to push on back which was perfectly timed with the next wave of bitterly cold icy rain that painfully numbed our faces.  

Blue skies were appearing ahead so we extricated ourselves from the car park and moved north to Titchwell where the car park always makes you think it is calmer that it really is.

The walk started over very nicely with two Spoonbills coming up out of the channels on the salt marsh with one of these adults alighting on a fairly close pool left over from the high tide where it posed for a few minutes before returning to where its now invisible companion had landed. Water and Rock Pipits were seen and a Water Rail squealed from the reeds but there was no repeat of the Bittern performance this time.


A large skein of Brent Geese landed on the closest bit of water and were illuminated by the sun behind us. They are such dinky and yet characterful little geese with subtleties of plumage that that require good light to see.  Even the eyes seem to be deep ruby-chestnut close up and it was great to watch the carefully grooming each feather after a vigorous bathing session.

Dark-bellied Brent Geese

A full adult Med Gull loafed on the island with the Avocets and a handful of Golden Plover and three bobbly headed Ruff fed along the island edge. There were a lot more Pochard on this visit but fewer dabbling ducks although the Pintail were as exquisite as ever.  Marsh Harriers drifted over the reedbed with Red Kites and Buzzard further back over the farmland. The two Spoonbills chose to fly right over us at this point and settled down on an island for a snooze with crests blowing out behind them.

Lapwing, Avocet, Shelduck, Black-headed and Common Gulls


Red Kite

The tide was now well out down at the beach and the breeze was not helping us find much but it was good to be joined by Chris Corrigan (my now retired-ish ex regional RSPB Director and all round good egg).  I left him talking about Burnley Town FC with Roger and kept scanning but could only muster up a Red-throated Diver and a pair of Merganser.

Atmospheric Merlin shot...

Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plovers, Turnstones and Oystercatchers all fed in their own ways along the tideline and were suddenly disrupted by a streaking torpedo that became an adult male Merlin jinking in all directions after a snack.  I could not get anyone else on it as it was moving so quick but soon picked it back up perched on a strandline branch.  It was a long way off but was soon on the wing again before plonking itself down on the beach even further away.  There was quite a bit of ‘honest guv’ from me at this point.

The walk back produced some Linnets (especially for Karen who was suffering from Linnet Blindness that day…) and a male Stonechat and a Curlew gave the most outstanding views as it extricated worms from the mud with a sidewise twist of that outstanding bill.

Curlew - it took it's prey to the channel to wash it

Anyone care to have a go at the worm species?

The Spoonbills had moved on but about 400 Golden Plover were now on their usual long island and more were drifting in while we watched with each new group causing the whole flock to become alert and start calling in unison.  The light was once again making the experience even more memorable.  A Great White Egret dropped into the distant reeds and disturbed a Grey Heron.

Golden Plover


The Brents were chilling as we walked back

There were bathing Goldfinches but no Water Rail in the ditch

Blackthorn flowering in the car park

It was now mid-afternoon and I had a hankering for a return to Burnham Overy and the walk out towards (but not to) the dunes but an emergency stop was required first just beyond the Titchwell entrance for a juvenile Whooper Swan in the opposite field with two Mute Swans!

Whooper & Mute Swans

Whooper Swan

A short while later we were all in the layby and scanning the marshes below before heading out.  I could see Russian White-fronts with the Brent Geese and the Barnacle Geese in a distant field and a Great White Egret was predictably flying around.  The Barn Owl was soon spotted and as we got past the first gate it appeared over the fence at just a few yards range, glanced up and realised how close we were and veered off around the hedge.  Joan had only seen her first Barn Owl the previous day and was especially pleased.

Brown Hares glowed golden across the fields and seemed quite at ease with their goosy companions and both Chinese Water and Muntjac Deer were already out feeding.  There were a few more heavily barred Russian White-fronts amongst the Brents and Pink-feet began moving back inland from the marsh presumably for a last feed.  

Russian White-fronts, Dark-bellied Brents, Canada Geese & Lapwings



Dark-bellied Brents

Dark-bellied Brents

Brown Hare

The White-fronts joined them and from nowhere two additional flocks totalling 93 (making 101 seen) headed in the same direction. I have always liked visiting here at the end of the day if the sun is behind you as everything is delightfully illuminated.

Russian White-fronts

Russian White-fronts

A single Pink-foot was at the side of the closest ditch although I could see nothing wrong with it and flocks of Linnets, Skylarks and Pied Wagtails were feeding on the bare soil around the new rills in the adjacent field.  Two Water Pipits dropped in and disappeared and several Meadow Pipits did likewise.


The Great White Egret reappeared and a second Barn Owl was found hunting further back while phalanxes of Cormorants arrived from the west to their roost in the skeletal trees.  In the distance Kites could be seen circling Holkham Park and behind us thousands of gulls were gathering on the channels as a pre-root before heading out to sea.  Common Gulls were present in huge numbers.  The usual mud loving waders were in the creeks and were creating a wondrous backdrop of sound with the incoming gulls.

Great White Egret 

Curlews heading out to feed

The sun started to dip below a distant cloud bank and so we ambled back to the cars adding Sparrowhawk and two pair of Red-legged but no Grey Partridges and more late evening Hares.  We disbanded the crew and went our separate ways and as I wended my way back to Wymondham I had three magical Barn Owl encounters along with a calling Little Owl, several vergeside Muntjac, and Pheasants flying up to roost in the trees just inside Holkham Park grounds that made me think back to Roald Dahl’s Danny, Champion of the World which I still have on my book shelf at home.