BRANCASTER - HOLKHAM FRESHMARSH - LADY ANNE'S DRIVE & HOLKHAM GAP - CLEY SPY - WARHAM GREEN - LADY ANNE'S DRIVE
WEATHER: cloudy with sunny spells, very windy once again. Temp. 11C
Calling someone a dipstick usually implies that they have done something silly, how about a double-dipstick! To deserve that label then you will have had to do something really stupid - well, I was a double dipstick today, not Guy!!
We set off from the hotel just after 8:15 and drove straight to Brancaster Marsh to look for the Hume's Leaf Warbler for a second time. When we arrived the bird had been heard calling but had not shown yet. Several birders gathered, including John and Gill Stacey, friends of mine. The sun shone but it was very windy, the bird called a couple times whilst we were there, then it appeared!. Another birder called out where it was and Guy got onto it immediately, I never! The bird flew nearer to a bush not far from us, Guy got it again and gave erroneous directions and I missed it again, doh! Dipstick Guy for misguiding us and dipstick me for missing it in the first place. Then I realised that I had forgotten my phone, so we had to drive all the way back to the hotel to get it, that's where the double-dipstick comes into play!
Brancaster Marsh - the shrubs around the pool are where the Hume's Leaf Warbler was seen today
Things did improve throughout the day and we eventually got to see some great birds. From Brancaster we drove to Holkham Freshmarsh to look for White-fronted Geese. We saw dozens of other geese but not our target bird. Whilst there we located the now-resident Juvenile White-tailed Eagle, a relased bird from the Isle of Wight Programme. It sat at the top of an ivy-clad dead tree, quite distant but you could see its impressive size.
record shot of the very distant White-tailed Eagle
Next we drove to Lady Anne's Drive, Holkham and parked the car, then, after searching the meadows either side of the drive, we set off for our long walk to Holkham Gap. Near the 'new' visitor's centre we found a small covy of Grey Partrdiges, we were told where to look by John Stacey and David Jones.
a pair of Grey Partridges seen at Holkham today
Our walk out to Holkham Gap was well worth the effort, we had the wind behind us and very soon we found our target species. In a roped off area we found about 9 Shorelarks, they we feeding energetically and would not keep still as they came closer and closer towards us. A Photographer crept close to them and once he had taken his pictures he stood up quickly and flushed the lot!
two of the 9 Shorelarks seen at Holkham Gap, male on the right
Not far away a flock of some 25 Snow Buntings were also feeding in the roped off area, they were far more agile and were on the move constantly, they often flew up and circled round to land about 20 meters further away. We had great views of both of these Norfolk iconic species.
Snow Buntings galore today
We followed the roped area round towards the beach where we spent some time sea-watching. There was quite a lot of movement out there but very few species. We noted RB Merganser, distant Common Scoter, Cormorants and lots of large gull species. Then we found a Slavonian Grebe, a bird that had been reported there for several days now.
As we walked back to the car park we heard a terrific cacophany of bird sounds, hundreds of geese, waders and ducks were calling. We couldn't see a single one because the woodland blocked our view, but we assumed that the Eagle had flown over the marsh and put up the entire population of birds. We then got very distant views of the eagle in flight over the top of the woods which confirmed our suspicions.
the Eagle was about 1/2 mile away
From there we drove back to Holkham Freshmarsh, we had new informations on the White-fronted Geese and very soon we had them in the scope. We then drove to Cley Spy optics shop near Blakeney where a Long-eared Owl had been found in their grounds by a customer trying out a new pair of binoculars!! I bet he bought them after that.
Long-eared Owl at Cley Spy
The Owl was superb, it was sitting right out in the open, a magnificent sighting that went straight to the top of 'Bird of the Day' List. From there we had enough time to get back to the Harrier roost at Warham Green, we chose a different view point this time and it proved to be a good decision. The Pallid Harrier showed very well and for quite along time, the light was much better this evening and we had fantastic views through our scopes. We also saw Merlin, Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier and Red Kite.
Before it finally got dark we had time to drop into Lady Anne's Drive for a second time. Guy knew that it was great place to look for Woodcock at dusk and he wasn't mistaken. Despite 40 mile an hour winds we saw up to 10 Woodcock as they left the woodland and flew out onto the marsh, the bright setting sun helped a lot, we even got a few of them in the bins too!!
sunset over Holkham Freshmarsh this evening
This was an inspired ending to the day, well done Guy for adding that little surprise onto the end of another great day in Norfolk.