Gary had invited me to join him and James to go and see the Northern Harrier, that had finally been pinned down at Thornham long enough to be positively ID'ed. Rising at 5.45 i wondered was it really worth it. A trudged to the station in the snow where i met James, from North Walsham we slowly made our way to Thornham. From the harbour we didn't have to long to wait, once a snow shower had passed the juv. male Northern Harrier showed well before drifting west over Holme. The bird was much darker than i expected above, and below the orange/chestnut hues showed well as the bird banked and turned in surprisingly good light. A food stop at TitchwellRSPB saw us watching a female Brambling among the commoner birds around the feeders, as well as brief views of an over wintering Chiffchaff. Refuelled we headed onto Wells Woods. 2/3 Goldeneye were on the boating lake as we arrived and a exiting birder informed us that the Northern Bullfinch had been showing along with a probable Siberian Chiffchaff and Northern Treecreeper, all would be new sub-species for me. We soon heard the 'trumpet' call of the Northern Bullfinch, but initially could only locate its commoner cousins. A male Northern Bullfinch eventually flew across the path and after a bit of repositioning we got good views. At least 1 female Bullfinch of a much heavier set was also probably of the Northern race. While viewing the Bullfinch at least 1 Mealy Redpoll was feeding in the birch trees above us. A brief look for the Chiffchaff produced nothing and news of a Baikal Teal in Cambridgeshire got us excited before we opted for a drink in the Dun Cow at Salthouse. Sadly there was not alot to report from the pub-birding hotspot but the 6+ Snipe were a new 'pub tick' and a Barn Owl was seen. A quick half at the Bluebell in North Walsham before our train also failed to added more birds to our list.
Yesterday saw the death of one of the biggest names on the British bird scene, no not Lee Evans but Bernard Matthews, can you think of another Bernard as famous? I tried not to let this news get me down and headed out into the first snow of the winter. Walking around Eaton Park i found a large mixed group of finches and tits, mainly Chaffinch and Blue Tit. Walking through the pitch and putt i added a Great Spotted Woodpecker and scrutinised a very large Long-tailed Tit flock, sadly no northern race birds. UEA Broad was useless with only Black-headed Gull and Mallard, not even or Moorhen or Coot. The feeders in the Rabbit enclosure were much more successful, with Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Robin, Wren, Nuthatch, Jay, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush and Blackbird all flitting about. Standing on the bridge i heard another Nuthatch, a nearby tree actually held 3 Nuthatch, i watched these birds for 15 minutes before walking along the river towards Eaton. 2 Kingfisher whizzed passed together, and 4 Mistle Thrush were sat up in a tree, then snow again stated to fall heavly so i headed home.
Having not been out birding i decided to have a wander around Whitlingham on Sunday, but no sooner had i been dropped off it started to rain, great! Looking across the Little Broad i could see the 2 drake Red-crested Pochard still remained. The drizzle then misted up everything and i saw very little until i reached the conservation area. Most of the wildfowl had concentrated in the bay, with Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Wigeon and Shoveler. a group of 4 Little Grebe hugged the island and a 2 Snipe were in the margins. The highlight was being surrounded by a flock of Siskin while at the viewing screen with birds coming within a few feet. Walking around the east end of the broad i added little else, until i reached the meadow opposite Little Broad carpark, where a Green Woodpecker was on the grass and the 'little hybrid goose' was with a group of Greylag.
Sadly the American Bittern was not at Cley, but Walmsley in Cornwall, so on Friday after watching a firework display in Walcott, Gary, Philip, Laura and myself headed off to Cornwall. We arrived at first light, a Tawny Owl flying past as we made out way to the reserve and hides. We joined the queue for the hide and waited for the light to improve and our turn in the hide. The bird was very elusive, so turn over in the hide was low as people struggled to get good views. Two birders literally were at each other throats arguing over the time one had been in the hide! I managed a fleeting view of the bird as it walked between two ditches, peeping through the slatted screen as i waited to get in the hide. I had to wait a further 2 hours before i again got good views of the bird, i was moving between the two hides queuing and rotating through, often only seeing the reeds move rather than the bird. Laura still hadn't seen the bird until finally the bird settled a bit and another birder allowed us to view the bird resting in the reeds through is scope. We then drove home via Derbyshire hoping to see the Franklins Gull but the bird could not be located among the large gull flock in fading light.
After a lie in to recover from our Cornwall trip Laura and i headed out to Cley. Parking at the Coastguards we headed to the North Hide. One Grey Phalarope was still present but soon flew to Billy's Wash. Large numbers of Wigeon and DB Brent, combine with the strong sunlight meant a i could not locate the Green-wing Teal seen earlier in the day. With news of a few Little Auk passing i had a 30minute sea watch which produced a single Little Auk, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-necked Grebe, lots of duck mainly Wigeon but also Eider and Common Scoter, loads of DB Brent Geese, and distant a Skua sp and auk sp.
Since returning from the Scilly Isles i haven't really been out birding to much. During a brief stop at Walcott on the 25th October i saw a small skein of Brent Geese and a single Great Northern Diver fly through. Walking to work on 1st November a Waxwing flew over Christchurch Road in Norwich and on 5th Nov i finally made it down to Whitlingham to catch up with the Red-crested Pochard James had found while i was away.
On Saturday 30th October Gary and i attended the Norwich Beer Festival. While supping our 1st drink, a spicy ale called 'Hey Pesto' we devised a drinking strategy while looking though the beer guide, if it has a birds name we would aim to quaff if down. As it was the last night we found our task harder than expected and had to use our imagination a little.
Hey Pesto - Tipples, Acle, Norfolk. White Dove - Ole Slewfoot, Hainford, Norfolk. Gannet Mild - Earl Soham, Earl Soham, Suffolk. Swift One - NOT AVAILABLE. Fledgling - Front Street, Binham, Norfolk. Burston Cuckoo - NOT AVAILABLE Norfolk Black - NOT AVAIABLE. Bitter(n) - Elmtree, Snetterton, Norfolk. Phesant Plucker (cider) - NOT AVAILABLE. Kingfisher (cider) - NOT AVAILABLE. Wheat(b)eer - NOT AVAIABLE. An (Teal)lach Suilven - An Teallach, Garve, Ross.
I recently moved back to North Walsham and needing a new local patch, I soon settled on a few of my old favourite sites, but they were spread around town. All are close to the old railways track beds and my new house sits at the apex of all 5 lines that once radiated out from North Walsham, these form the arteries joining everything up. My 'Birding Alone Old Lines' patch was born, revisiting the old birding sites of youth, via the Old Railway Newtworks.