A view outside the window reveals a damp start to the year's birding, with a Blackbird being first on the list! We have 26 species written down when the pager alerts us to the Ross's Gull at Cley that has reappeared from Blakeney Point the evening before. An excellent start to the year as this is a Norfolk tick for me. Luckily there is room in the car park at Cley and Paul and I join the many birders who are watching it. We obtain very good views before moving onto Salthouse to look at some Snow Buntings that are regular here in the winter months. At Cromer we soon locate the Waxwings and an over-wintering Chiffchaff. On the way back through Weybourne we stop to watch a Pale-bellied Brent Goose that is unusual amongst our Dark-bellied Brents that arrive in Norfolk for the winter months. By the end of the day our tally is 62 birds.
Today we had trips to Tottenhill and Watlington bringing the tally to 73 species.
Not much birding done today but species count up to 75.
A Trip to Wayland Wood and back in time for the roost at Roydon Common near our home to see the Hen Harriers brings the tally to 78.We never tire of these wonderful birds as they settle in for the night.
A trip to Titchwell and Choseley adds Corn Buntings and lucky sightings for a few of us of Slavonian Grebes and a close inshore Black-necked Grebe. Count goes up to 96 species.
I take my camera down to Kelling Quags for a Bittern that is posing for its photo to be taken.
I end the day on 99 species.
My father has arrived for a short holiday whilst Paul took his mother to South Africa for a birthday treat. With his brother they toured the Kruger Park where Paul and I have visited before. Meanwhile I took my Dad To Cantley. At 81 he did well to walk out to see the Taiga Bean Geese and White-fronted Geese that were playing hide and seek! But seek we did and at last they were located lurking in the grass a fair distance away. Thank goodness I had my scope to show my father what the effort of his unstable footsteps had been for. He has always enjoyed a walk but sadly in now very unsteady on his feet.
Local birding around Sandringham brings the tall up to 104 species.
A walk at Holkham fails to yield Lesser-spotted Woodpecker but after a blustery walk at Thornham the Twite eventually give themselves up and my tally reaches 108.
I only venture as far as Flitcham today where I see the usual Little Owl and a Green Sandpiper. Further along the road by the garage on the main road is a good colony of Tree Sparrows. The farmer has been successful with his nest boxes under the Stewardship Scheme. My tally ends at 112.
Its freezing today but a Ruddy duck is showing at Tottenhill but I am a bit concerned because I keep missing Smew. However at Denver Sluice I see a 6 Goosander and a Kingfisher races by on the River. At Welney Tundra Bean Geese are an added bonus to the usual Bewick and Whooper Swans. Tally 118
A quick trip to Sandringham and Massingham Heath produces the Rough-legged Buzzard. A Common Buzzard with some white tail feathers confuses many visitors here. Common Buzzards are certainly on the increase in Norfolk. Tally 121
Another search for Lesser-spotted Woodpecker at Holkham is fruitless and so I make the trek out to the beach for the Shorelarks. At Morston I eventually see the Little Bunting but fail miserably on the Dartford Warbler. I am very cold when I eventually make it back to the car.Tally12415th Jan
Its the day of the Narvos Bird Race and Fred Cooke, Dan Williams and myself will be competing against several other teams. NarVOS has very little coastline except a small portion at Lynn Point so it makes for an interesting race especially for waders if you do not check the tide times and do not plan ahead for your arrival at Lynn Point. The race may start anywhere within NarVOS but finish at Knight's Hill at dusk for accusations and fraudulent claims to be disputed in the time-honoured fashion! A Mandarin at Tottenhill was missed by several teams and my team managed to miss Smew yet again! A wonderful Mealy Redpoll finch flock at West Newton. We finished as winners but there were claims made days later that teams mis-counted making us joint winners. (Just not cricket in my book!) However a few useful year ticks were obtained making the year's tally 131.
I returned to West Newton for a quick walk and re-located the finch flock seen yesterday and added Lesser Redpoll to my tally.
I made my way again to Holkham in the hope of seeing the Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler. A few had gathered along the fence and recounted how well the bird had shown a day or so ago out on the pathway. After a long wait we could suddenly hear it calling in the back of the trees. It was very frustrating. A couple of birders managed to get a brief glimpse but most of us were unlucky. A decision was made for a few of us to go down the side of the wall and trees where we treated to the bird in full view calling before it once again departed amongst the trees. Luckily one or two others that had waited also saw the bird from the path. I also searched in vain for Lesser-spotted Woodpecker without success before moving on to Choseley to see Lapland Buntings. Tally 134
I decided to do some sea-watching at Holme today and got some fantastic sightings of Long-tailed Duck, Black and Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver as well as 4 Red-necked Grebes. Two Peregrines were also seen swirling above my head. Tally 139.
At Lynford Arboretum I was treated to a squabble between a Firecrest and a Goldcrest frequenting one of the bushes. Two Crossbills also perched at the top of one of the trees. Tally 141
A walk to the pits at Snettisham produced a Scaup amongst all the usual wintering ducks. A Stonechat also clung on to one of the bushes. Tally 142
On a fine morning I met up with some of the Cley birders and we whiled away the time whilst the Hawfinch remained hidden. Eventually it flew down to the hedge giving good views. I then drove to Cley and walked East Bank where a Water Rail surprised me whilst I was making my way to the Seabank. Bearded Tits also gave a good showing before I drove as near as I could to West Bank to watch the Short-eared Owl. Tally 146.
At last I manage to see the Tawny Owl in my garden that has been calling every night from our Cherry Tree. Tally 147.
Nar Valley Fisheries is a good reliable spot for Jack Snipe. Permits are required for watching birds or fishing here, which are very much restricted. This is a shame because it is an excellent Gravel Pit site. Tally 148.29th Jan
Birding locally I re-visit West Newton for more views of the Mealy and Lesser Redpolls. The local Common Buzzards are also flying around. At Flitcham the Little Owl is sitting out and the Tree Sparrows are in their usual spot. I drive on to Heacham where the Black Redstart is flitting around one of its favourite chalets on the seafront. At Titchwell the Marsh Harriers are now over-wintering and a Spotted Redshank is on one of the pools. I add Ruff to my tally before ending the day at Pott Row Water Treatment works for Grey Wagtail. Tally 151.31st Jan
I end the month at Roydon Common for the Hen Harrier roost and have a Merlin nearly take my hat off as it skims over my head from behind me to find its roost on the common. Tally 152.
At Cley a Kingfisher flies beside East Bank as Little Egrets fly from ditch to ditch. Snow Buntings at Salthouse add a moment of delight before I set off to Great Yarmouth for Med Gulls. At Horsey Common Cranes add to the tally before a few of us search the Mere for Green-winged Teal. Just as someone locates the bird amongst hundreds of Common Teal and Pochard the whole flock take off. I cannot believe it! Luckily after some anxious minutes the flock resettles on the Mere again and the search restarts all over again. Fortunately (as some of the flock are behind reeds out of sight) the Green-winged Teal has settled on the front edge of the flock roughly in the middle and good views were had by all. Tally 155.
Out with John Geeson we have a tour of Norfolk catching up with a few ticks that John has missed so far. However I add a Rock Pipit to my list at Thornham as well as watching the Twite again in the wind and rain. Tally 156
At Lynford Arboretum 20 Crossbills alighted in the trees but I manage to miss the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker again by a matter of seconds! It is not helped by birders telling me what fantastic close views they had just above head height!
More hours are spent at Holkham searching for that elusive pesky little pecker. Never have I worked so hard for one. I am sure that as the years roll by (rather too many now) they are becoming increasingly difficult to see. They say perseverance pays off. A chap in the distance beckoned me over. Thank you who ever you were. At last Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is spotted feeding on a branch relatively close by.
I decided to go for a walk at Dersingham Bog today as I often walk here when I don't want to travel too far. It is an old haunt for Goshawk which used to nest on the Sandringham Estate. On Wolferton Cliff there is a grand view over the Wash to Snettisham and beyond. Years ago Sand Martins used the cliff for nesting purposes which sadly became overgrown. More recently English Nature have taken over the management of the area and there are hopes for its future. I was not to be disappointed as a Goshawk flew above Jill and I as we walked through the recently cleared area. The views from the top of the cleared area are excellent for raptor watching. Common Buzzard, Marsh and Hen Harriers and Hobbies can all be seen here at the right time of year as well as Wood Lark and Nightjars. Golden Pheasant were also seen as I drove home by the Wolferton Triangle. Tally 159
A wet day at Buckenham produced a Water Pipit feeding amongst the flooded areas of grass. Paul and I drove towards Cley stopping off at many places along the coast looking on all the groynes in a fruitless search for Purple Sandpiper. Later at Cley a Guillemot was amongst many divers and a Slavonian Grebe on the sea. For the first time off Cley I saw 2 Harbour Porpoises as I gazed at the passing seabirds. Given the amount of time I spend gazing out to sea from the coast I have often wondered why these are not seen very often. I have seen 2 dead Porpoises washed up at Holme. They are diminutive when compared to Dolphins. When walking back along East Bank a Bittern flew from the reeds.
What my diary so far hasn't said is the amount of hours that I have spent searching at Heacham and Hunstanton at just before high tide for Purple Sandpiper. Timing is critical in that High Tide is necessary but not at peak dog walking time! After many fruitless searches a birder told me that one has been seen on Titchwell beach recently. I headed off to Titchwell as I calculate although a little late with a spring in my step I might be in time. It was not an easy task as the bird was not where the birders who had just been watching it said it was. However after patient searching along the tide line and amongst the now exposed rocks, I found the Purple Sandpiper amongst some Dunlin.
Saddlebow in King's Lynn is a local spot that can keep Gull experts happy for evermore. Thousands of gulls feed on the spoil that the local food factories dump on a area at a farm that is not far from the Wash and Blackborough End Tip. The gulls come to loaf around the vast open fields and are viewable from the car. Today I had good views of a Yellow-legged Gull. A Kingfisher flew up the newly created drainage ditch. At Dersingham Bog 2 Wood Lark crawled around the newly cleared area. Tally 164.
An American Wigeon had been reported from Breydon Water. It was a gloomy day again and there were thousands of Wigeon on the water. This was not going to be an easy task, as all the birders that had said they had see the bird, were all making their way back as we arrived. It left just four of us to start the search in the gloom. What a frustrating search it was too. Just as you had got about half way through the flock, the wigeon would all take off, swirl around for a few minutes and we would have to start our search all over again. Several times we looked at 'possibles' but each time we rejected what was on offer. After an hour of searching we were on the point of giving up as many of the wigeon were too distant to be examined properly and because the flock took flight several times, our task was becoming almost impossible. Just as I was considering packing up my scope Paul said he though he had it, just as they took flight again. However none of them flew very far at all and it was simply a matter of re-scanning a few again. It was soon located giving reasonable views on the front edge of the flock by the platform. Tally 165
Back at Saddlebow today was Caspian Gull loafing amongst the Gulls. I attempted to take a photo of the bird but it had other ideas and kept shuffling so that part of it was obscured or it appeared legless! Gulls came and went and after a few futile attempts I gave up.
The pager alerted me to a Red Kite that had been seen at Colkirk near Fakenham. I was soon on the road and got to the grid reference given. I waited a little while in vain and decided to move a little further along the road. However something caught my eye in the distance to the right of me and I turned the car around. Ashley Banwell then phoned me to ask if I had seen the bird. On pulling in , back to where I had been moments earlier the Red Kite appeared giving good views. Tally 167
It was very cold and windy today and I ventured to Titchwell with the intention of some sea-watching. Gannets and a Pomarine Skua were additions to the year list but the views of Long-tailed Ducks were good. Six Velvet Scoters could also be picked out from the huge numbers of Common Scoters that are a frequent sight at Titchwell on the sea at this time of year. Tally 170
A walk on the beach at Holkham with my son Mark who has managed to smash bones in his hand playing hockey. It is a beautiful day although very cold. Long-tailed Ducks, Eider and Red-breasted Merganzers are on the sea, whilst Rock Pipits and a White Wagtail lands on the beach just in front of us. As we leave a Barn Owl hunts over the Marsh.
A bit of a lull in the birding now as I seem to spend most of my time at the hospital either with Paul who has another bout of suspected Malaria or with my son who is in and out of clinics/cancelled stays for an operation on his hand!
Paul calls me to the garden has he has caught a female Blackcap in the mist net. Is it a migrant or an over-wintering bird?
A walk on Massingham Heath produces a Red Kite, Common Buzzard and a Hen Harrier.
Today is a NarVOS outdoor meeting. We are to walk from West Newton to Castle Rising along the Babingly River, a route I have done many times before. The difference being that Fred and Sylvia Cooke provide some excellent nibbles at the end. A walk not to be missed and attended by many! We are treated to sightings of 5 Common Buzzards, Peregrine, Mealy Redpoll, Lesser Redpoll and a Grey Wagtail en-route as well as the first Brimstone sightings of the year. Thanks to Fred and Sylvia for an excellent outing and reception!
In the afternoon I whiz over to Grimes Graves to see the Great Grey Shrike which has played me a merry dance all over the area. On the journey home I stop off at Weeting to see a Stone Curlew from the hide which has only just opened for the year.
Some early migrants are now just arriving. It has been so cold that I don't blame them for staying in warmer climes! A good place for Early migrants is Snettisham Coastal Park and I spend lots of time walking between Snettisham and Heacham in the coming weeks.
I add Tree Pipit and Northern Wheatear to the tally today. List now on 175.
A Sand Martin battles against the wind as it flies along the coastline at Snettisham.
Paul and I race to Norwich from Nar Valley Fisheries where we have been birding as the pager alerts us to an Alpine Swift that has been reported at Whitlingham Country Park. As the bird is on the move we try to guess where it will be as we speed along the bypass. We guess wrongly and end up in traffic at the wrong end of the park. By the time we have extracted ourselves and manage to get to the right end we wait patiently. Suddenly we are aware that other birders further down are watching 2 high flying birds whizzing around. Once they land a few in our group manage to identify them as Little Ringed Plovers. I didn't see the waders well enough to claim LRP(or Alpine Swift!!!) Hey ho! However I did add Barn Swallow to my year-list.
Paul and I ended up at Titchwell where we did add Little Ringed Plover to the year list. Tall 178.
At Walsey Hills I could hear a Cetti's Warbler calling. Carefully I crept along the trail through the bushes and eventually saw the bird hopping through the bushed at the side of the reed bed.
My family were just about to sit down to our evening meal when the pager springs into action with news of a Killdeer at Blakeney. This has been one of my most wanted British ticks. I have been unable to twitch Killdeer before because of family commitments. I could not believe it when we returned from Brazil last year to be told that there had been one in Norfolk at BreydonWater. Grrrrrr. I am not too sure who was in the car quicker, Paul or myself. (He normally beats me!) At Ayrton Senna pace Paul drives to Blakeney and volunteers to park the car whilst I hot-foot it up the bank to excellent views of this stunning wader. I cannot believe my luck at getting such close views and a Norfolk Tick as well.
Steve West has told me that there is a Whimbrel at Ashwicken Heath, not that I can find it but I did add Willow Warbler to my year-list. I carry on to Nar Valley Fisheries where I see 4 Yellow Wagtails, Common Sandpiper, Green sandpiper and many martins and Swallows. 2 Little Egrets also emerge from the dykes and 6 Pied Wagtails flit around. Tally 184
An Ashy -headed Wagtail has been reported from Pentney Gravel Pits and I manage a few distant shots of it as it lurks around a fence-line.
Another walk at Snettisham Coastal Park adds Grasshopper and Sedge Warbler to the year-list.
I stop at Choseley where 4 Ring Ouzels are making their way along the hedge line. They don't stop long before flying off westwards.
First Cuckoo heard from my garden but I cannot see it.
At last I see the Cuckoo after listening to it for more than an hour or so as I drive to the village shop! Paul and I go onto Snettisham where little is seen after walking the bank. I have heard Whimbrel calling and eventually get good views of one right from where I parked the car! Later at Cley I only add Sandwich Tern to my year-list. Tally 190
When the first migrant Nightingales arrive they often appear at Pentney and can be heard singing along the lanes. I was lucky to get one sat out in the open and managed a quick photo.
Another walk at Snettisham with Paul and we get good views of Common Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat. At Holme we see a Common Redstart and discover 2 more Ring Ouzels in the dunes.
I am at Titchwell today when the pager alerts me to the fact that there is a White Stork making its way around the coastline. Robin Chittenden and I estimate its time of arrival and I end up phoning a friend to say I might be a little late for our swim! A second phone call is necessary as the Stork takes longer than we anticipate. It up very high and we only get poor views of it. However during the wait I add Reed Warbler to my year-list. After my swim in King's Lynn I make my way to the by-pass where the White Stork has now settled on a telegraph post by a new development of housing.
Whilst birding at Nar Valley Fisheries Paul phones me on his way home from work to tell me that there is a Dotterel in a field near Foulden. I leave Straight away and find Paul, Steve West, Ashley and Claudia Banwell already there. I try to take a photo but it is too distant and too windy. It is amongst some wonderfully summer-plumaged Golden Plovers.
I sat in the Redwell Marsh hide at Holme NOA where a Garganey had been reported the day before. This can be a difficult hide to see birds from as they have a habit of disappearing behind vegetation or into dykes and ditches. When I arrived early morning only a few Mallard were visible. It was going to be a matter of patience. There seem to be very little movement of any birds until I noticed 2 Swift struggling in the wind. After a while a few more appeared over Redwell Marsh. Suddenly after an hour or more 2 ducks took flight from somewhere in the vegetation. A pair of Garganey flew in full view down into a ditch over on the left completely out of view again!
I drove on to Salthouse where there was a Greenshank in one of the pools and a Little Gull sitting on a post. It was my 200th Norfolk bird of the year.
On the drive home I stopped off at a site where I had marvellous views of male and female Montagu's Harriers. The male spiralled up into the air chasing off a Marsh Harrier, a sight to behold of these magnificent birds.
A short walk before my swim along the old railway line at Roydon revealed a Garden Warbler singing its lungs out!
A beautiful day at long last, found me at Titchwell ticking Common and Little Tern before travelling to Cley where a Wood Sandpiper was on show. A little further along at Salthouse a Curlew Sandpiper did its best to hide, taking a while to be found by a few birders looking for it.
An eventful afternoon found me in the hides in Holme village where a Turtle Dove was purring away in the trees.
I had managed to miss the Wood Warbler at Titchwell despite spending several hours looking for it and so was fortunate when another turned up at Great Yarmouth in the cemetery. It didn't take long to find it as it could be heard a hundred yards away! More Little Gulls were seen at Salthouse on the way home, as well a a Little Stint at Cley and a Temminck's Stint at Titchwell. A fine Male Garganey was also good to see. Tally 210
Paul and I had been out and about doing a little local birding before Paul dropped me off to prepare a meal whilst he continued. He had only been gone 5 minutes when the pager alerted us to a Laughing Gull at Cromer. Paul reurned to pick me up and drove swiftly to Cromer where we were just in time to see the Gull take flight from its lamp post on Cromer Seafront. We stopped off at site on the way back to see a Dartford Warbler which has forged a relationship with a Stonechat! Our evening meal was a little late!!
A visit to Titchwell produced a Purple Heron which kindly showed after half an hours wait. Tally 213.
A walk with a non-birding friend at Holme gave a view of a Spoonbill. She was quite excited to see one. After dropping her off I walked down to Snettisham pits as it was such a lovely evening and too early to return home. A Black Tern was putting in a wonderful display over the water whilst a Hobby almost took my hat off as it flew over the bank from behind me on my return to the car park. Later Paul and I walked up to Roydon Common to see a Nightjar.
It is a beautiful day and I decide to walk to Blakeney Point for some exercise. I add Arctic Tern to my yearlist.
At Sandringham a Spotted Flycatcher sits right above my car as it flycatches in the sunlight. Later at Great Ryburgh 3 Honey Buzzards display moments after my arrival as well as several Hobbies. Common Buzzards also put in an appearance. Tally 220.
I manage to dip an Osprey at Cley after a dog kindly flushes the bird from the sea bank before I arrive. However, all is not lost as there is a passage of Manx Shearwaters taking place.
After work I manage to catch up with an Osprey at Hunstanton cliff top, that has made its way along the coastline.
After an early evening flight from Stansted to Tempere in Finland, Paul, John and Judy Geeson, Ann Lawson and Andrew Duff and I are met by Pekka who drives us north to Hauho Forest. We are met by a forester who at 11pm calls out an Eagle Owl that perches in the nearest tree calling back at us. Meanwhile a Pygmy Owl flies around from tree to tree. Ten minutes after leaving the site the forester calls out an Ural Owl that perches for us all to see. It is now nearly midnight and it is still light! Three of our target species within 2 hours of landing!
After a few hours sleep in a log cabin, and a couple of photos of the Ural Owl, we once again head North to Oulu. En-route we stop to see Black Woodpecker at a nest hole, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Pygmy and Tengmalm's Owl in a nest boxes and watch a female Capercaille on its nest as we creep up one by one behind a fallen tree so that we don't disturb it. We also see a couple of Elk as we motor northwards.
After a night in Oulu, we set out for another days birdingtowards Siikajoki. This is the day I have been waiting for. I have been eager to see a Great Grey Owl for a long time. Unfortunately it is raining but we have been told our chances are good of seeing one. Half an hour after leaving the hotel we are taken down a long trackway into the forest where we see a huge nest with a Great grey Owl sitting it out in the rain. The light is very poor for photography but it is worth a try. All of a sudden the male owl arrives with some food for the female who soon rips it apart to feed to the 3 visible chicks. We are overjoyed at the sight and forget about the rain now lashing down. I am increasingly concerned at the impact of rain on my camera and am very wet from kneeling down trying to take photos. A quick review of the photos already taken reveal that they are all black. Thank goodness for Adobe Photoshop that manages to lighten them!
After we had had our fill we start the search for Hawk Owl. One had been seen that morning and we followed the information. However after scanning many wires we drew a blank. We stopped and listened and our guide thought he heard a youngster calling. Sure enough he found a juvenile Hawk Owl on the ground by a hedge line. It was a ball of fluff! (see Finland 2006 photos). We visited the bay and kept scanning the wires. Upon reaching the spot where we had stopped before there on the wires was an adult Hawk Owl. Stunning!! We managed a few photos before the rain started again. It sat by us for quite sometime giving excellent views. (See Finland photos) We also saw Ortolan Bunting at this site.
Later in the day we stopped and listened for Pine Grosbeak. This took a few tries but eventually we caught one in flight picked up on call as we were walking alongside a road. Unfortunately it did not settle and we had to be satisfied with the flight view. We eventually arrive at Kusamo not too far from the Arctic Circle where we were to encounter 24 hour daylight. Our hotel at Kusamo was ideally placed by the side of a huge lake, where we had excellent views of summer plumaged Black-throated Divers. Goldeneye swam close by whilst there were Velvet Scoters amongst Common Scoters. Judy picked up a party of 15 Red-necked Phalaropes plucking flies off the surface of the water in a small bay of the lake.
We were now very tired and retired to bed in the full light knowing that it was not going to get dark!
We rose early as the local gen informed us that we needed to be in a certain lay-by by 6am if we were to see Siberian Jay. There we all were waiting up near the Arctic Circle in the middle of nowhere when I recognise a friend from Norfolk! This is the second time we have managed this without knowing each other's plans. The last time had been in the middle of Kenya in 1997! Amazing.
Two hours later with no sightings boredom sets in and we climb the bank for good views of a singing male Red-flanked Blue-tail. Feeling pangs of hunger after our climb, we return to the hotel for breakfast. Paul has stuffed his pockets with sausages as he has heard that Siberian Jays are rather partial to them. We set off to the Siberian Tit nest box site where we waited patiently for excellent views of a Siberian Tit who sat right above our heads. We returned to the lay-by once again, where Paul scattered his sausages under the bird feeding station. After a short distraction of a whistling sound we see a Hazel Hen walking slowly amongst the Spruce. A little later we see two Siberian Jays but they dont seem to like sausages!!
Judy is keen to see Calypso Orchid so after a short journey we arrive at Oulanka national Park. The reserve staff have disappointing news for judy and say that it is too early for the Calypso Orchid. However Pekka, our guide, remembered where he saw them in other years and soon located a couple of early spikes, albeit not in full flower. Judy was thrilled! Meanwhile we heard a Dipper and Common Sandpipers. A few minutes later we saw a Black-bellied Dipper sitting on a rock at the side of the fast flowing water.
We were in the minibus for six o'clock to make an attempt to see Willow Grouse. It seemed bizarre to drive around the suburbs of Kuusamo in search of them. However the houses are amongst the Spruce trees and a pair were soon located at the edge of the road. We returned to the hotel for breakfast and to load up for the long journey back to Tampere. No birding holiday would be complete without a trip to a rubbish tip and this holiday was no exception. We discovered that Pekka was a closet gull enthusiast. The finer points of separating Heuglin's Gull from the local fuscus Lesser Black-backed were digested, along with another pair of Red-necked Phalaropes on the pool. After 30 minutes of travelling a stop in a wet birch woodland produced a Little Bunting in response to a mini-disc player. Most of the day was spent on the long drive south, with frequent refreshment and rest stops, especially for the dtiver. Making good time, Pekka managed to squeeze in a brief stop at Lokalahti wetland near Jamsa late in the afternoo; this yielded a selection of common waterbirds, plus Little Ringed Plover and a Thrush Nightingale, this coaxed out as the last bird of the trip. After arriving at Tampere Airport, we thanked Pekka for all of his efforts and checked in for the 2210 Ryanair flight to Stansted I had a trip list of 120 birds but the Owls were superb.
Back in Norfolk the pager springs into action. Just for once a year tick is available just a couple of miles away. A Hoopoe has been seen at Dersingham Bog. I text a couple of birders that I know that don't have a pager as I know they would like to see it. Arriving on site the bird has been lost having been flushed by a large noisy bird group. After about an hour of searching the Hoopoe flies across the bog giving good views to those of us that have waited.
A search for Golden Oriole at a Norfolk site proves fruitless and I found myself walking around Brancaster Gardens in the afternoon as I had promised my daughter that I would take her. On the way home the pager alerts us to a Woodchat Shrike at Metton. I have a dreadful headache but this will be my only chance of seeing it. The narrow lane was besieged with birders' cars. The Shrike was showing well on the wires but I was eager to get home as my head was now pounding. Tally 224
After leaving work I made my way to Titchwell where a Red-backed Shrike has been seen from Fen hide. Sure enough I soon locate it . It is an adult male, which is good to see in the Spring. Tally 225
After leaving work my daughter, Kathryn and I made our way to Thrupp in Oxfordshire where there was a report of a European Scops Owl that had been singing near a canal. We spoke to the owner of the house in whose garden it had been seen and he told us that it had been there for 4 weeks and its routine of singing at about 8.30pm onwards until the early hours the following morning. He told us its favoured trees that it flew between. When we arrived there were only about 6 people present. We dutifully searched all the trees without result. More birders began to arrive until there were soon over 300! After a false start of seeing a Little Owl fly that had been also calling, flight and perched views of the Scops Owl were seen by most birders present (but not all). I managed to see it perched and in flight luckily and Kathryn saw it fly. This is my first British Year tick outside Norfolk. Tally 226 (Norfolk = 225)
A trip to a Norfolk site to try and see a Golden Oriole proved to be a hot failure! The Banded Damoiselles were the best sighting as they hovered around the dykes. I then walked along Narborough Railway line and took a few pictures of Pyramidal Orchids, Brimstone and Painted Lady Butterflies.On the pool at Roydon Common, Azure Damselflies flitted about.
A trip to Cley proved fruitless for Paul and I and so after a walk at Holt Country Park we returned to Holkham where 7 Spoonbills were visible from the road. At Choseley, Common Quail was added to the tally. Tally 227 (Norfolk = 226)
A quick trip to Snettisham Pits after work. A Marsh Harrier was being mobbed by an Oystercatcher.
My 50th Birthday! I was treated to a balloon ride over Norwich by Paul and my father on a glorious summer's evening. I could see Mute Swans on a lake from 2000 feet up!
An afternoon trip to Kelling Heath to photograph some of the Silver-studded Blue Butterflies that are by the railway embankment. I almost step on an Adder on the footpath after taking photos of a Grayling. I then drove to Holt Lowes where there are Keeled Skimmers and Four-spotted Chasers on the wing. (See dragonfly and butterfly pages)
A walk on Roydon Common revealed a few butterflies and Dragonflies but very few birds!
Arriving at Breydon Water, Great Yarmouth at 8.45am I was disappointed not to find a Roseate Tern amongst the Common and Sandwich Terns. However all was not lost as there were many terns in flight. At 9.10 am after numerous scans through the terns I located a Roseate Tern. I was joined by a second birder and we found a 2nd Roseate Tern that flew in close to the first Roseate Tern that was now busy preening. There were over 150 Avocets on the mud and even greater numbers of Black-tailed Godwits feeding in the rising tide. Four Knot and a few Dunlin were also seen.
Paul and I visited Horsey and Hickling to see the large numbers of Dark Green Fritilliaries that were in the dunes before we strolled over to Hickling to see Norfolk Hawker that was enjoying the hot weather as we were.
An early evening stroll along Narborough Railway line added Purple Hairstreak Butterfly to my butterfly list, before returning home to take photos of a Hummingbird Hawkmoth that was on the Buddleia in the garden.
The first Southern Hawker of the year emerges from our garden pond. Meanwhile on Roydon Common I watch 4 Black Darters whilst a Cockatiel calls overhead.
It's the end of term.........hooray!! I need a walk, so a stroll around Titchwell makes everything alright. It is a beautiful evening and I add Red-necked Phalarope to my Norfolk year-list (229) as well as good views of Wood and Common Sandpiper. However the best view of the day was that of an escaped speedboat on the sea doing endless circles whilst its owners waited in a rubber dinghy for the fuel to run out!
A walk with John and Judy Geeson in the evening to Roydon Common to be bitten to death by midges! John and I see a perched churring male Nightjar followed by a flight view of a female Nightjar.
Up at 4.30am to see what moths we have trapped in the garden. It takes us to 10.30 am to identify and satisfy our photography needs before moving on to the common.
Along the old railway line on Roydon Common John, Judy and myself see 2 White Admiral Butterflies and our first Migrant Hawkers of the year. Moving on to Narborough Railway Line we see 4 White-letter Hairstreaks and 3 Purple Hairstreaks. Bidding farewell to John and Judy I return to Roydon Common to see another Purple Hairstreak Butterfly.
Purple Hairstreak White-letter Hairstreak White Admiral
A morning walk along the Roydon Railway Line and I see a Blackcap, and family parties of Great Tits, Blue Tits and Long-tailed Tits. This is a wonderful morning for butterflies. Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns are everywhere as well as a few Brimstones and Large Whites. Two more White Admirals are seen, one favouring the entrance gate area near the road. I return home to pick up my daughter Kathryn and we make our way to Holme. It is so hot that a swim is in order. Sandwich Terns fly overhead along with a few Ringed Plovers. It is too hot for birding and so I just enjoy the swim. I have never known the water so warm!
My friend Jill and I walked around the Meadow Trail at Strumpshaw RSPB reserve to look at Dragonflies. We saw several Yellow-winged Darters as well as Ruddy Darter, Norfolk Hawker, Brown Hawker, Emerald and Common Blue Damsels
Mating pair of Yellow-winged Darters.
A wonderful walk in clear blue sunny skies along the pits and sea-bank at Snettisham. Butterflies are feeding on the brambles and a Wall Brown is amongst them. On the Ragwort on the beach a Painted Lady adds to the enjoyment. I scan the mud for Arctic Skuas and am soon rewarded with commotion in the air as 2 Arctic Skuas and a female Marsh Harrier create havoc amongst the waders, gulls and terns. The scene reminds me of a phrase that my lessons are supposed to be 'Awe and Wonder'. If only I could create my own National Curriculum for the children in my class!!
Family commitments meant I had to wait until the afternoon to go to Titchwell. My poor unsuspecting Dad whom I had only just picked up on the train from Somerset, had a longer journey than he anticipated! However he now has Pectoral Sandpiper on his list! I also managed to show him a couple of young Spoonbills.
My daughter's 18th celebrations at Congham Hall with all the family. We sit and watch a Barn Owl hunting over the fields as the sun is setting, magical !
Paul and I fly to Amsterdam for the start of our holiday. We see 8 species either from the plane or from the train into the city.
After leaving Amsterdam we land in Bonaire, a small Lesser Antillian island off the Venezualan coast, we are frustrated by the lack of a field guide for our one hour stopover!
Up early we start at the local marshes by the coast. By the end of the day we have recorded 60 species.
Today we fly to Cusco. On arrival I am immediately struck with altitude sickness. At well over 3000metres I am left panting for air and the headache starts. Still the hummingbirds and tanagers are great to see once again.
Today is going to be fantastic! Birding at Machu Picchu!
I am determined to be well enough to cope with the thin air. Whatever the books say Machu Picchu is AWESOME! The journey adds lots of Torrent Duck sightings and Inca Wren at Machu Picchu itself!
Machu Picchu Torrent Duck
What a hotel! The hotel at Machu Picchu has wonderful gardens and the birds just keep coming. You can sit for hours and build up your list from sitting at one spot!
Birded the Hucarpay Lake near Cusco with the Andes as a backdrop. Fabulous scenery.
The famous Manu Road beckons today. We drive over a pass at over 4000 metres on our way from Cusco to Cock of the Rock Lodge on the Manu Road. I am going to run out of superlatives as the scenery leaves me breathless, literally!
A day I have been waiting for since childhood! Who remembers the tea cards that Brooke Bond issued? I was fascinated by the series on the World's Birds and promised myself I would see Cock of the Rock one day. Well here I am sitting in the hide at Cock of the Rock Lodge before first light and listening to the weird noises coming from the gloomy forest. As light dawns more than 10 male Cock of the Rocks lek displaying their wing flapping abilities to some nonchalant females. What a sight!
Hummingbirds and multi-coloured tanagers keep the trip tally ever upward to over 200 species.
My day's birding was curtailed by the debilitating effects of altitude sickness.
We leave for Amazonia Lodge further down the Manu Road. At least we will lose altitude and I should get better. After a tortuous journey we meet the river and transfer to the boat. I feel human again and the river provides a different habitat. Barbets, toucans, parrots, egrets and herons all add to the pleasure of ticking from the boat without any effort at all! (after being so ill, I need a chance to recuperate some energy)
Amazonia Lodge can only be reached by river. It has a wonderful observation tower up in the canopy over-looking the Madre de Dios River. We are amongst honey-creepers, flycatchers and trogans whilst watching raptors swirl above our heads.
A seven hour boat ride sees us arrive at Manu Wildlife Centre. This world-famous lodge is a truly remote Amazonia lodge offering bird watchers a memorable experience.
In the boat before first light, a trip down the Amazon tributary in the dark is not for the feint hearted. We reach our destination in time to see many hundreds of parrots on a clay lick. Several hours later we watch over 200 Red-and green Macaws drop lower and lower from the trees until they too are on the lick. Stunningly beautiful. How anyone could put these wonderful birds in a cage is totally beyond me!
Up the observation tower at Manu we add a Great Potoo to our list who sits branch-like just above our heads as we amass more birds to our lists. We finish the morning off by a raft ride on an ox-bow lake, sunning ourselves in wonderment at the surroundings.
After a couple of hours on the river we arrive at a grass airstrip to catch a chartered plane back to Cusco. We bird one of the Andean valleys in search for some specialities. Paul is pleased with his Puna snipe which I had seen before.
Paul and I fly back to Lima and hire a car to drive to Paracas on the coast 100 miles south of Lima. We add a few wader ticks before checking in at our hotel. Paracas is the gateway to the Ballesteros islands, reknowned for its sea-bird colonies. However we had not clocked that, before we left England, the fact that Paracas is also in the Atacama Desert. Vegetation for birds?...............forget it!
A wonderful visit to the Ballesteros islands. I have never seen so many sea-birds on such a small area. Peruvian Boobies and Guanay Cormorants in their thousands. Pelicans and Inca Terns provide a great supporting cast.
After another trip to the Ballesteros Islands and many Bottlenose Dolphin sightings we bird an irrigated farming area in the afternoon
Paul and I enter the Paracas National Park for an 'off road' experience in the Atacama Desert. Where the trackway once was is anyone's guess! However we manage a sight of a good few Chilean flamingoes and we stumble upon some water in a salt pan where Wilson's Phalaropes leave me feeling dizzy as they spin around in the search for insects on the water's surface.
Driving back to the manic Lima we bird the San Pedro fields on the coast and have good views of waders.
Heading 100km north of Lima we enter the Lachay Reserve where Least Seed-snipe are singing from little mounds by the entrance trackway. Paul is now a happy man as this was a tick he was desperate for. All too soon we head back to Lima for our long flight home. We have a trip tally of around 450 ticks.
Now back at work with hours available for birding much reduced, a quick walk along the railway line at Roydon Common produced a few Migrant Hawkers and a few Common Darters.
I left work as soon as possible to race to Sheringham as a North West wind had been blowing all day and I am still a few sea-bird year ticks short. A couple of sea-watchers were already present and I cursed as I had just missed a juv. Long-tailed Skua going by. Still I soon had several Sooty Shearwaters as well as a small passage of Manx Shearwaters doing what shearwaters do best. Arctic Skuas were coming really close and I was delighted as a pale-phase one passed just in-front of the shelter. Bonxies seemed to be going in all directions as well as giving the Sandwich Terns some hassle. A Pomarine Skua passed by us just before a Razorbill disappeared in the troughs of the ever increasing height of the waves. The tide came in and a lone male swimmer gave up as the waves crashed on the beach. The wind swung round and by the end of my sea-watch had gone far more westerly. I feel a little envious of those Norfolk Year-listers claiming Storm Petrel sightings. In 15 years of Sea-watching in Norfolk, including taking part in sea-bird survey work, I have never seen a Storm Petrel off the Norfolk Coastline. Do new comers to Norfolk realise how rare a Storm Petrel is for Norfolk?
A short visit to Holme where I dipped on a Barred Warbler. Still I had a pleasant walk and met up with lots of friends that I hadn't seen for a while.
Spent most of the day at 'Wild about Norfolk' where it never ceases to amaze me just how many Natural History Societies there are. By 5 o'clock Paul and I are walking along towards Halfway House on Blakeney Point to see a Grey Phalarope that is close inshore. What a beautiful evening!
Another beautiful evening and I decided to zip up to Holme for a walk after being bottled up inside all day. A Whinchat was sitting on some Sea-buckthorn in the Forestry area. Family parties of Swallows were gathering catching insects above the dunes. A lovely sight to see them all.
With my son in hospital it was going to be difficult to squeeze in some time for birding so my only hope was an early start. Being one of the first out to Burnham Overy Dunes I chanced upon a Red-breasted Flycatcher in the bushes just before the boardwalk, long before I reached Gun Hill. This was quite clearly a second bird to that which had been reported yesterday. Luckily for me it was accompanied by a Pied Flycatcher and 2 Common Redstarts. As time was tight I reluctantly turned around and headed back, not the best plan for a September misty day, when there had quite clearly been a fall of birds overnight. Still my son comes first and his need is far greater. On the return journey a juvenile Hobby flew over my head and sat on a nearby fence post. Aren't birds fantastic?
After my son's release from hospital, I am glad to have a little time for myself. An afternoon's jaunt to Winterton produced a stunning Pallid Harrier, my second in Norfolk and third in Britain. I then returned to the dunes and was mystified by the lack of birders around the dunes near the houses. There was supposed to be a Rose-coloured Starling present. Another 2 birders appeared and told me that they had been informed that it had died as earlier it appeared unwell. After waiting a while and seeing only common starlings it almost seemed pointless persevering. However another birder walked around the road and sent a radio message to say that it had been located in a garden down an alleyway. After a quick walk, several of us crammed in a narrow passage way to see a juvenile Rose-coloured starling pottering up the garden path. It certainly didn't seem very alert at all.
An early start so that Paul could do an early sea-watch at Sheringham. This turned out to be fruitless and so we had a return visit to Winterton so that Paul could see the Pallid Harrier and Rose-coloured Starling that was now looking decidedly groggy on the rooftop of a row of houses. The ticks in its head are obviously sapping it of its life-blood. We continued to Salthouse in the hope that there might be some migrants on view but it was decidedly quiet.
My daughter and I walked the length of Holkham in the hope of a few migrants. We had a good-sized tit flock and Kathryn was amazed at how small Goldcrests were as they fed above her head in the trees. I took a few photos of a Migrant Hawker that settled in a tree by the side of us before heading back to Lady Ann's Drive. We continued to Cley and Sheringham where the sea was very quiet and then returned to walk down the track-way to Kelling Quags. 30 Black-tailed Godwits were feeding on the pool along side numerous Common Teal.
With an afternoon off work, I headed to Holkham where a blue morph Snow Goose had been reported on Holkhan Freshmarsh. A couple of birders were at the side of the A149 with scopes but could not locate it. After fetching my scope I was joined by Lee Evans and Mick Frosdick. Mick quickly found the Snow Goose as it stood out like a sore thumb amongst the thousands of Pinkfeet.
After a while I left to go to Titchwell but I was only a mile along the road, when the pager alerted me to a Yellow-browed Warbler that had been located at the end of Lady Ann's Drive. I quickly turned the car around and went in search of it. However I did not see it as a Mark Golley had located a Greenland White-fronted Goose from the hide. Unfortunately it was not on show by the time I arrived and I returned back to the drive where Lee had relocated it. I watched it in Lee's scope before returning for a fruitless search for the Yellow-browed.
A quick journey to West Runton where I search for the Yellow-browed Warbler in vain.
Paul and I started the day with my BTO survey of winter plovers at Massingham. Sadly we did not find any but we had a lovely flock of 40+ Tree Sparrows near a pig field. We also saw 3 Common Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk and 5 remaining Swallows. There were 20+ Pied Wagtails in one field.
We journeyed over to West Runton and Paul soon located the Yellow-browed Warbler in the sallows as it was calling. We both had good views of it.
With the car on the starting blocks after work, I raced acreoss to Salthouse to see a very smart juvenile White-rumped Sandpiper. After watching it for only a few minutes along with a couple of Little Stint and a few Dunlins all the waders took to the air for no apparent reason. I had only managed a few very poor photos of it as it fed on the pool by the beach carpark at Salthouse. I returned to my car and drove to Blakeney where a Cattle Egret posed amongst the Cattle. I decided to return to Cley and scanned the sea and pool by Cley coastguards where Pied wagtails were in abundance.
A quick scan at Pentney Gravel pits on the way back from a course in Norwich, that luckily had no jet skis on! Canada Geese were in abundance with a few returning Wigeon.
I raced home to pick up Kathryn who had text me that she wanted a walk on the coastline after work. That's lucky as I was going to go to Titchwell where a Whiskered Tern had be reported. We raced down the path where birders had assembled to see the Whiskered Tern roosting on the Brackish Marsh. We then walked on the beach in the wonderful sunlight that was transforming the day into a beautiful evening.
After a day slaving away at domestic chores I headed up the coastline to Salthouse where a Puffin had been reported drifting just off the beach. By the time it had arrived I was told that it had drifted towards Kelling. Despite walking along the seabank to Kelling I failed to see it. A Shorelark kept me company part of the way, as did several Razorbills. I drove to Weybourne but still failed to connect with the Puffin.
A day out on the coast to Salthouse and Titchwell failed to add any more yearticks but Paul and I had excellent views of the Whiskered Tern that was still present at Titchwell. We also saw the Petoral Sandpiper before dashing off to Welney in the gloom to try to find the American Golden Plover that had been reported. When we arrived their were no Plovers or any birders!
I left work early enough to pick up Kathryn and take her to Welney. This time the fields were covered in Golden Plovers, Lapwing and several Ruff. After a long search with other birders and several frustrating attempts whilst the plovers took to the skies, the American Golden Plover was located amongst the Golden Plovers.
After leaving work I picked up Kathryn and headed to Salthouse. It was a lovely sunny afternoon. As I climbed to the top of Gramborough Hill, birders were strung out along all the bushes at the bottom. The Pallas's Warbler was very mobile as it flitted from bush to bush. It was a very showy little bird and called frequently in the sun. The photographers should have some wonderful photos!
Kathryn and I wander around Mures, half an hour north of Granada in Spain to do a bird survey for Jill Good who has just set up some fabulous holiday cottages set in a village surrounded by olive groves. Crested Larks are singing everywhere. Later we head for a resevoir where Black Terns are diving in the water.
As we leave Mures for the coast a Hoopoe flits infront of us. Arriving at the coast Crag Martins fly over our heads. We head up through a fabulous gorge at Otivar that Jill has recommended and see Sardinian Warblers in the bushes and a Rock Bunting that has landed at the side of the road. Azure-winged Magpies fed in the Olive groves as we returned to Mures in the evening.
A pretty gorge at Colomera is a back route into Granada where we saw Rock Sparrows and a big flock of more Azure-winged Magpies. We eventually reached the Sierra Mountains where Choughs and Alpine Accentors were on view. We had a chilly walk as the clouds swirled around but in the gaps the scenery was stunning.
Although designed as a shopping day in Granada for Kathryn we added Ortolan Bunting and Short-toed Lark to our list as we travelled to Granada.
As we headed to Horachuelos near Cordoba we saw several White Storks and Ravens in the air wheeling around on the thermals. When we arrived a dozen Griffon Vultures flew over the resevoir as we took in the scenery. Back near the main road junction we has a Booted Eagle investigate us as we played 'Pooh Sticks' on the river bridge.
In Mures several Spotless Starlings sat on the wires as I took an early morning walk. Another trip to Colomera found Blue Rock Thrush and Black Wheatear amongst the rocks. All too soon we said goodbye to Spain and Jill and headed home.
An early morning trip to Titchwell saw a Surf Scoter being added to my Norfolk Yearlist as well as seeing several Velvet Scoters flying amongst the Common Scoters.
A quick trip down to the river in King's Lynn after work where Steve had found a Little Auk after a strong northerly blow. All day thousands of Little Auks had bee streaming by the East coast and I was stuck at work!
A quick trip to Flitcham where a Lesser Snow Goose was feeding amongst thousands of Pinkfeet.
An early start for a trip to Devon where a Long-billed Murrelet had been identified from photos of a supposed Little Auk on the Dawlish Warren Web Site. This will be a first for Britain. A stunning little bird that gave really close views.
Another early morning trip to my old local patch in Lincolnshire where a Black Kite had been roosting overnight. I was in time to have good views as it flew from its roost over to a small copse. After returning to Norfolk we walked the length of Holme beach. Many waders were on the sea edge.
After looking at photos the Black Kite at Holbeach Marsh various experts had decided that the Black Kite was of the race known as Black-eared Kite. With John and Judy Geeson I decided to go and have another look. On a cold but wonderfully clear day we had excellent views of the kite and could see many of the features in the photos.
Early afternoon found me doing my BTO Golden Plover survey which didn't take long as there weren't any! After this I went up to Wells harbour where the tide was coming in. A Shag was swimming in the harbour. This will be my 250 Norfolk tick this year.
A beautiful day found me at Titchwell and then on to Wells again where the Red-throated diver was very photogenic in the harbour.
Red-throated Diver Wells Harbour 19/11/06
A report of a Long-eared Owl at Kelling Quags yesterday necessitated a walk down the Quags today. A couple of Goldcrests flitted alongside me as I walked down the track. With a few other birders and a visit from Dave who had seen the bird yesterday we soon established that the Owl had gone. A tail-less Fieldfare kept a Blackbird and Wren company in the copse. I decided to walk on down to the sea. When nearly there a report of a Balearic Shearwater was reported as being at Salthouse flying east. I ran up the shingle bank and after a few minutes of scanning was just in time to locate it along with a good passage of Red-throated Divers and Guillemots.
A very cold and blustery walk down the Titchwell path with Jill, yielded some good views of a group of Avocets trying to utilise the shelter of one of the islands whilst taking full advantage of the food being stirred up by the rough winds on the water.
Down at the beach the incoming tide brought many Common Scoters close to shore whilst small groups of Goldeneye flew by.
A short visit at lunch time to see the released Black-throated Diver at Pentney Gravel pits before returning to school for my little lovelies Christmas performance on stage !
On a blustery but beautiful winter's day the Black-eared Kite that has been frequenting Lincolnshire has made it into Norfolk at long last. I am up early and walk the length of Snettisham beach along the pits. Upon reaching level with the last pit the Kite sails over my head and veers off towards Dersingham Bog. With friends I have have stunning views in excellent light. On the way back to the car we watch thousands of waders wheeling around and inspect a dead Shag on the tide-line. Six Shorelarks settle in front of us on the path as we near the car.
Another walk along the bank at Snettisham with my son Mark. We battle against the wind on this cold grey winter's day and are kept amused by the kite sailors on a receding tide. We fail to see the Black-eared Kite and soon head for home to warm up!
A later start as I have to take my daughter to work, but by mid morning I stand on Salthouse beach marvelling at all the Red-throated Divers, Razorbills and Guillemots passing by in wonderful light. After a couple of hours I shift to Cley beach where Trevor Davies and I have stunning views of the Balearic Shearwater coming close in shore. It inspects the scoter flock just off shore before making its way up to Blakeney point.
A short visit to Tottenhill gravel pits where there is still no Smew! My son Mark and I then walked around Nar Valley Fisheries where we had good views of Goldeneye and at least 20 Long-tailed Tits in one flock. On the pylon sat 19 Cormorants.
I spent most of the day doing a winter visit to East Walton for the Norfolk Bird Atlas. Some of the game cover strips had some marvellous mixed passerine flocks in. It was lovely to watch Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings sit on the bushes whilst I scanned through the flock to find 2 Bramblings. In one barn as I was examining owl pellets as Barn Owl flew out, I shall always be in awe of these wonderful owls.
All of a sudden BINGO the pager goes off with information of a Smew at Snettisham. This bird has eluded me all year. With Ayrton Senna speed I make my way to the Snettisham pits and puff my way down to the second hide. After much searching a beautiful drake is there in all his glory. A fitting end to the year. What a stunner!
This puts my Norfolk Yearlist on 253 (UK400 club rules) or 248 BOU. Many scarcer birds are missing this year and some I missed due to so much hospital visiting but I would like to thank all those who have kept me company and kept me smiling through what has been a very difficult year for me on a personal front. Thank you all and a big thank you to all our marvellous wildlife! Sue