Sunday 6th was our second 'Bird Race' day of the year, with the aim of seeing as many species in Norfolk in a single day. For the last few years we have improved on previous totals but last years 124 was probably going to be a stiff target considering the cold weather, and the fact we only having 2 pairs of eyes, James giving this bird race a miss.
Gary picked me up in Norwich at 4am, having seen Barn Owl on the way he was already one ahead. First bird of the day was a Tawny Owl in the road near Thetford which took some evasive driving to avoid. First stop was Santon Downham, on arriving it was obvious we may have problems as the recent drought had burst the river banks flooding nearby meadows and blocking the riverside path. However we scanned the flooded meadows and hedgerow and still found a good number of birds. A pair of Manderin were probably pick of the birds on the meadows but i also saw my first Whitethroat and Garden Warbler of the year. Close to the car we also picked p Nuthatch and Treecreeper, tricky birds in previous years, before walking up the road to find a calling Cuckoo. Lesser Redpoll and Crossbill flew over before two Cuckoo flew directly over us. Walking back to the car we added Sparrowhawk and Siskin giving us a total of 37 species so far. We also hear a Marsh Tit we could locate it though. Driving the short distance to St Helen's picnic area a Tree Pipit was calling from a telegraph post, before adding 7 mores species at the picnic area, including Bullfinch and Goldcrest, Gary also saw 5 Brambling while i had a pee! We stopped briefly by the meadows again we added Chiffchaff, Swallow, House Martin, Cormorant and Rook, leaving Santon Downham on a total of 49.
Driving to Weeting Heath we added House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Swift and Red-legged Partridge. And after a 20minute wait added a distant Stone Curlew to the list along with Lapwing. A Green Woodpecker flew over near Hockwold, and scanning Hockwold Flash we added a further 10 common species to bring my total to 66.
As it was still only 9.15am we had to wait for Welney WWT to open we scanned nearby fields picking up Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Corn Bunting, Avocet, Teal and a distant Buzzard. In the car park we soon added Reed Warbler, Tree Sparrow, Common Gull and Oystercatcher. An injured Whooper Swan was also viewable from the visitor centre. I've never seen the reserve so flooded even in winter, so things did not look hopeful from the main hide, however we did add 6 more species including Wigeon, Litte Grebe and Little Egret. Back in the car park we had a Sedge Warbler, before Gary found 3 Yellow Wagtails and i a pair of Gargany. A quick stop at Denver Sluice finally added Dunnock to the list along with Arctic Tern and a pair of Kingfishers.
Missing Little Ringed Plover at Welney, i suggested stopping at Pentney GP, which turn out to be a worth while stop. We added Egyptian Goose, Sand Martin, Little Ringed Plover, a surprising Goosander, Herring Gull, Wheatear and Common Sandpiper. Over the 100 mark for the day we headed next to Roydon Common. Despite a drizzly shower, a Curlew was near the car park, we watched a family of Stonechat getting fed and a single Woodlark was in the area. A quick stop at Flitcham added the hoped for Gray Partridge and Little Owl. We hopped to scan the sea from Old Hunstanton but with the tide out we made do with the foreshore adding, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Turnstone, along with flyby Fulmer and Great Black-backed Gull.
Titchwell means a food stop, but while eating my bacon butty a Brambling dropped in on the feeders, before we walked up to the main road to locate a calling Lesser Whitethroat. back on the reserve a Short-eared Owl was found over Thornham Marsh. Gary then reclaimed his 2 bird lead seeing a Cetti's Wabler i only heard before we entered the Island Hide. A little Gull was flying about, a male Pochard and female Red-crested Pochard were on view and a small flock of Brent Geese then dropped in. A Spotted Redshank was seen from the bank before we walked up to the beach. We failed to find a single sea duck which was disopointing, but we did see Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin and a few distant Sandwich Tern. Walking back the Short-eared Owl flew over our heads, we also heard a Water Rail and saw briefly Bearded Tit.
Before stopping at the Gun Hill Track at Holkham we saw a Red Kite, and from Gun Hill a large mixed flock of Whimbrel and Curlew. Scanning the marsh by the Joe Jordon hide we found single Pinkfoot, White-fronted and Barnacle Geese. Driving through Wells town we also added Feral Pigeon to bring my total to 130.
The total was still steadily growing but at Cley parking at Old Women's Lane we were told that the main hides had little to show so instead moved to the Coastguard Car park. 2 Little Tern flew east and a Golden Plover was in the Eye Field. 2 Spoonbill then flew in before we returned to the car. Moving onto Salthouse we scanned the marshes from Gamborough Hill locating the long staying Hooded Crow and a distant Whinchat. Briefly stopping in on Bishop's Hide at Cley looking for Snipe we stumbled upon the Timminck's Stint that had not been seen for a few hours and also our second Little Gull and Common Sandpiper of the day. Any more species would now be a struggle so news of 2 Common Crane had us rushing to Friary Hills to add my 137th bird of the day and Gary's 139th. Driving back through Cley Village a Barn Owl turned out to be my last bird of the day. As subsequent stops for Nightingale, Grey Wagtail, Woodcock and optimistically Nightjar (it's prob to early and was raining) failed to deliver, although a Nightingale was added to the 'heard' list.
So a grand total of 138 species seen by me and 4 more heard, and 139 + 3 for Gary. Our largest total by a long way and on a day hampered by flooding, cool weather and drizzle, what total could you get in Norfolk on a Perfect Day?
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