With 6 days off Laura and I had set aside Monday as 'Bird Watching Day' and after a bit of thinking decided on a trip to Titchwell RSPB rather than Minsmere RSPB, some i later regretted. I started by having a quick look out into the garden, only 6 common species but it was a start. Our first stop was Guist, but before we arrived another 6 common species had the total at 12, but nothing of note. A drake Mandarin was on the river, but was chased out of view by a pair of Egyptian Geese before Laura saw it, 5 Reed Bunting where on the wires nearby and a Buzzard was circling as we left the village. Arriving at Choseley we had totaled 19 and soon added a further 9 species. The mixed flock of Yellowhammer/Corn Bunting was bathed in lovely spring sun shine. c30 Golden Plover also held a lonely Turnstone and 2 Stock Dove feed on spilt grain. Looking down the hill we then got a surprise, below us was a very thick blanket of sea mist, covering the reserve and all the coast. Walking the Fen Trail i picked out a Bullfinch and Cetti's Warbler, as well as more common stuff on the feeders. The pools to the west of the main track and fresh marsh could not be viewed through the mist, with only a few waders visible near the margins. The new hides don't seem to bad if full of 'novice' birders. A female Goldeneye was close in along with c12 Snipe, as for the rest of the birds it was a challenge to ID them. Visibility did improve from time to time and eventually i had most of the common waders. The beach and sea were even thicker in mist, but i picked up a close Spotted Redshank and Rock Pipit on the brackish marsh. Back at the centre with a bacon bap we had a female Brambling and Siskin on the feeders. We left the reserve about 1pm just as the mist started to thin, with a total of 67 species. A brief stop near Holkham Church added a few lingering Pinkfeet, a single White-fronted Goose and a singing Marsh Tit, but also our first Wheatear of the year. A final stop on the way home failed to add the hoped for Woodlark or Dartford Warbler although the former was heard. 3 more common species gave a total of 76 not bad considering the appalling visibility at Titchwell, but to top it off 3 Penduline Tit were found and showed well at Minsmere all day!
After visiting my parents on Friday we decided to drop in at Horstead Mill. There was a few people around so i wasn't expecting the local Grey Wagtail to be around but after initially no sign and a walk across the meadows, Laura located a Grey Wagtail as we returned to the car. I promptly located a further 4 all feeding in or by the sluice. 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker called in the trees and i though i briefly heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker also calling. On Saturday Gary and I headed to The Poachers Pocket in Walcott for a bit of Birthday Beer and Birding. We picked up one new 'pub list bird' with a breeding plumage Fulmer, a group of 5 Dunlin flew through and 2 Med Gulls where in the area. Also worth noting was a small passage of Gannet east with c20 passing through in the 45min or so we watched the see. A brief walk around the Witton area failed to turn up a couple of hoped for birds, but we did find probably our last large group of winter thrushes of the winter, with c50 Fieldfare and c25 Redwing in the meadows by the church. At least 2 Buzzard where in the area but the biggest surprise of the day was a juv. Red Kite over.
Walking home from work Laura and I spotted a large cloud of Starling swirling, calling and trailing across the sky over Sainsbury's in Norwich. The flock of c2000 Starling skitted about for about 10 minutes before all diving into a couple of trees on on Grove Road. This spectacle I've seen over the reed beds of the Broads a couple of times but never before in the city, and it captivated Laura. Yesterday I finally made it down to Whitlingham, despite hoping to visit my local patch atleast fortnightly this year this was my first visit of the year. It was rather quiet, not to mention cold. Most of the wintering wildfowl appears to have moved off and a failed to connect with the Siskin, Redpoll, Finch or Tit flocks, with just odd birds. That said the 80+ Teal in the conservation area are worth noting as were the 2 female type Goosander asleep against the island. The bird of the day though was probably the single Dunlin wandering on the shingle spit of Thorpe Station Marsh, viewed across the river from Whitlingham. The Great Crested Grebes have started to pair up and we watched one pair as the performed there weed dance.
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.