HOLM SAND DUNE RESERVE - TITCHWELL - CLEY - HOLKHAM FRESHMARSH - LADY ANNE'S DRIVE
WEATHER; light rain until early afternoon, very windy for a change, brighter later. Temp 5C
It is definitely getting colder, there was a serious cold bite to the wind today and it was raining for most of the morning, I am getting fed up of being blasted by the wind, both inside the car and out!
I can't believe that our last full day in Norfolk had arrived, our time here has flown by! We left the hotel with a few target birds in mind, we intended to ‘mop up’ the species we had missed.
At the Holm Dunes Nature Reserve there had been two Firecrest frequenting the car park area for the last few days, so we thought we would start our day there. It was a very short drive away, but as we pulled up into the car park we realised that looking for Firecrests was going to be an impossible task. The howling wind was buffeting the trees all over the place with no shelter, god only knows where the poor crests were sheltering.
Before we left the area Guy thought it might be a good idea to walk out over the dunes for a bout of sea-watching!! We were sand-blasted, soaked in fine rain and wind swept before we arrived at the beach. Yet, we did see a few Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and a flock of Sanderling and a few Bar-tailed Godwits on and around the beach area. Sea-watching was a hopeless task, we saw zilch, Guy admitted he had made a boo boo and so we left.
Bar-tailed Godwit taken at Holm
At Titchwell we hoped to see a small number of species that we had missed during our previous visits including Brambling, Spotted Redshank and perhaps a Velvet Scoter out on the sea. A little way along the main path to the beach we saw a very large mixed flock of finches feeding on the ground ahead of us. Scanning through we found a Brambling, actually, Guy found a Brambling (I had to mention him because he reads this blog sometimes). It was a drab female, but a Brambling, nonetheless.
record shots of the female, Brambling. They are few and far between this year
We searched the main lagoons for the Redshank without luck, but we did see a very good selection of waders and ducks, I always love visiting Titchwell just for that! We then scanned the sea for almost an hour without finding anything new. On the sea we saw Red-throated Divers, Red-breasted Mergansers, Goldeneye, Eider Ducks, Great Crested Grebes, Cormorants and a few Gannets. On the way back to the visitor’s centre Guy spotted a Barn Owl quartering part of Thornham Marsh.
It may sound as though I walk around with my eyes shut and let Guy find all the birds, but that’s not the case, I search very hard for birds that are not there and Guy finds the ones that are there!
After sampling a delicious cup of hot chocolate I re-found the Brambling in the Alder Trees behind the visitor’s centre before we moved on.
We had a 30 minute drive to Holkham where we stopped briefly to search for more birds that were not there, namely Russian White-fronted Geese, we saw thousands of Pink-footed Geese, Lapwings, Curlews, Gulls and some Golden Plovers but not our target bird.
It was Cley Reserve next, we parked in the East Bank car park intending to walk the east bank to search for the Long-billed Dowitcher which had been seen on the Serpentine over on Arnold’s Marsh viewable from the East Bank. We only got 20 meters along the bank when a guy told us that the Dowitcher was showing over on Pat’s Pool viewable from the Baker Hide.
So, we drove back the main car park and set off on foot the appropriate hide and on getting there we realised that a dozen or so people in the hide were not watching the Dowitcher and no-one knew where it was! Ha!
Scanning the pool and islands we found Common Snipe (very Dowitcher-like in shape and size but not colour), we also saw Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets, lots of Lapwings and a good selection of ducks including Pintail. Other birders came into the hide and it was one of those who called out that he thought he may the bird. I confirmed it and bingo we had another year tick on our list. The bird was on the far bank, fast asleep and very hard to pick out, almost invisible even through the scope.
Trust me, there is a Long-billed Dowitcher in this picture.
At last the rain eased off and the sky became brighter, so before we left Cley we decided for another sea-watching session out on the beach road. We used the old café building as shelter from the cold wind. Our scan of the sea produced nothing new, same old RT Divers, a Guillemot, Gannet, Great Crested Grebes, Cormorants and gulls.
Russian White-fronted Geese
It was 3:20pm when we left, we drove back through Blakeney and Wells to visit Holkham Freshmarsh once more, we had more information on the Russian White-fronted Geese. We viewed the marsh from a lay-by on the A149 and that is where I met some friends David and Sallie, they too were looking for the Geese. We found about 35-40 of them, from another lay-by further down the road. They were quite close to the road, nice birds job done.
It was now getting dull and soon it would be dark, so we decided to visit Lady Anne’s Drive once more to view the Woodcocks dispersing from their woodland roost. It was very cold and windy standing there, but we persevered and it paid off. We noted a small covey of Grey Partridges in their usual place and the display by the Pink-footed Geese was phenomenal. Thousands upon thousand of the geese arrived to roost on the Marsh, incredible noise and an incredible sight as they dropped from the sky against an orange sunset. That spectacle was worth all the sightings we had made so far put together.
We saw about 8 Woodcocks, but because of the very windy conditions they were very brief sightings indeed. We said goodbye to David and Sallie and drove back to hotel in time for a nice hot shower before dinner.