Tuesday 26 May 2020

Norfolk - An unforgettable day of British Birding... 15th December 2019

    Whilst I've got many friends who are lucky enough to go birding most weekends, for me going birdwatching to a site such as Oare Marshes, Rainham, Pagham Harbour etc. is normally a bit of a rare treat. Even if it does mean that I get to spend more time locally, especially at my awesome patch Morden Hall Park, very little excites me more than the thought of getting out for some 'proper' birding once in a while... even if it means that I have to annoy other birders for that to happen (which I do feel guilty about sometimes!) So when Ed Stubbs asked me if I wanted to join him and Surrey birders Matt, Sam and Abel on a dawn till dusk birding outing to Norfolk, there was no way I was missing out, especially as it would be my first trip to one of England's best winter wildlife locations. 
    So after a short sleep, I was up and ready at 4am, and by 04:30am I was kindly dropped off at a service station by my mum (I probably still owe her for that!) After several hours we reached Cambridge where we picked up Sam, before heading up to our first site of the day, Titchwell RSPB. Unfortunately, we got there a little after dawn had broken, meaning we didn't get to see the full Marsh Harrier roost spectacle of c.90 birds. There was nothing to complain about though, as we still saw over 30 birds circling the reedbeds. Already we were seeing some great species - on our walk to the sea from the car park, we were joined by a hunting Barn Owl, Kingfisher, Bullfinch, Chiffchaff, the first Pink-footed Geese of the day and a fleeting glimpse of a Merlin, in addition to numerous waders, with Bar-tailed Godwits, Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Grey Plover all noted. Seeing as I'd barely seen any seabirds in my life anyway, we knew it wouldn't be too hard to get at least a few lifers; from the moment we got to see the sea, where we met David Stubbs (former Surrey birder,) I was helped onto my first Long-tailed Ducks - two stonking males - and multiple flyby Red-throated Divers. My 3rd lifer of the day was then a female Eider that was sat contentedly on the water. As we looked outwards, waders whistled past mere metres away, whilst 'Pinkfeet' honked overhead. Strange to think that 24hrs before I'd been writing a history essay at school, and now here I was having the time of my life on the Norfolk coast...

Barn Owl

Pink-footed Goose

Pink-footed Goose

    Fortunately, as we continued to watch the many Red-breasted Mergansers, they were briefly joined by 2 1st-winter Velvet Scoters, with their white wing bars clearly showing as they flew further out to sea. Although we hadn't seen any Common Scoter by this point, it was still a learning experience and now, hopefully, I'd be more comfortable trying to find my own Velvet Scoters in the future. 4 lifers inside the first hour was a pretty epic start to the day, and the stunning sunrise behind us made my first visit to Titchwell a memorable one. By 09:15am, where we began to trudge back to the car so we could move on to the next site, we had already logged 70 species, with 2 handy Water Pipits being a welcome addition to the list.