Sunday, 6 January 2013

January 1st Bird Race

As is now tradition Laura and I spent New Years with Gary and Claire before Gary and I rose early for the start of another birding year. Neither Gary or I could be described as fighting fit, Gary with a chest infection and me a stinking cold, none the less we jumped in the car at 5.45am and headed to Titchwell. The day started well and ended well but the middle was a struggle.

We had a total of 5 species before arriving at Titchwell around 6.45am (Feral Pigeon, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Barn Owl). Walking out to the beach, initially by moon light and then the first rays of a new year we added another 13 species before scanning the beach and then the sea, as the sun final rose over the marsh (Wood Pigeon, Blue Tit, Mute Swan, Lapwing, Teal, Brent Goose, Golden Plover, Redshank, Little Grebe, Shelduck, Grey Heron, Shoveler and Turnstone).

The beach held two of the largest flocks of Sanderling I have ever seen and also lots of Oystercatcher, but with the light still poor we started to scan through a large gull roost on the sea. We soon found the common gulls (Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull) but also Great Crested Grebe, Common Scoter, Goldeneye and a Red-necked Grebe, which was easy to ID in close proximity to the Great Crested Grebe, Carrion Crow wher also on the beach. Gary then found the first good bird of the day, an adult Caspian Gull. While scanning the sea, Dunlin, Eider, Wigeon, Fulmer, Red-throated Diver, Kittiwake, Razorbill, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Goldfinch and Curlew, before a flurry of good birds. First o found 3 Long-tailed Duck, then Gary a Red-breasted Merganser and Velvet Scoter before a rather large Great Northern Diver flew through the scopes. A flock of Knot took the running total to 45 as we left the beach.

We wanted to added Red-crested Pochard to the list but had no idea where 'Patsy's Reedbed' was (it's near the Fen Hide) but added Grey Plover, Skylark, Moorhen, Meadow Pipit, Wren, Pinkfoot Goose, Linnet, Mallard, Pintail, Ruff, Gadwall, Avocet, Spotted Redshank, Snipe, Greylag Goose, Little Egret, Pochard, Reed Bunting, Magpie, Cormorant and Marsh Harrier as we walked back along the main path. On the meadow trail we added, Bullfinch, Chaffinch and Dunnock, before locating Patsy's Reedbed, but not before two squabbling Stoat had nearly ran into us, unaware of our presence. We soon found the Red-crested Pochard, also Coot, Tufted Duck and Great Tit. By the Visitor Centre's rear feeders Pheasant, Brambling, Greenfinch and Long-tailed Tit were added. Having the required Bacon Bap and Hot Chocolate a group of people drew us to a Water Rail in the near-by ditch. Flyover Siskin and Lesser Redpoll gave us a total of 80 species as we got back into the car.

The next few stops proved rather disso pointing as some of our regular spots for those awkward birds, failed one after another to turn up their specialities. We did however add Common Buzzard, Grey Partridge, Red-legged Partridge, Jackdaw, Collard Dove, Starling and Kestrel as we criss-crossed North Norfolk. A quick stop at Cley and Salthouse added Pied Wagtail, Canada Goose and Richardson's Canada Goose (also a lifer) if accepted.

Buckenham/Strumpshaw was our next destination, where we could hopefully pick up a few bird quickly and maybe ever a few specialities of the area. However traffic got the better of us so we detoured via Ranworth to ensure we had enough time to get to the roost at Stubb Mill. On route we added Jay, Rook and House Sparrow. At this point 100+ was looking a long way off. By Ranworth Village Hall Gary picked up a surprise Mealy Redpoll within a mixed Redpoll/Siskin flock. We also added Marsh Tit and Treecreeper, before heading off to Hicking. On route we added Mistle Thrush, Stock Dove and Bewick's Swan.

Walking down from the Car park to the Mill 100 species was insight. Bird 99 was possibly the best bird of the day(although we didn't know it at the time), a Chiffchaff. Although later IDed as a Siberian Chiffchaff  by another observer who heard the bird call. Two Egyptian Geese in a field dragged us up to the 100 mark before reaching the roost. The roost finished the day as it had started with a flurry of good birds. Gary soon found a Merlin (I later found a 2nd), a ringtail Hen Harrier and 10 Crane (the first of at least 32) then flew through in quick succession. Not to mention the Marsh Harriers and two Barn Owls hunting close in. We then saw a small group of Fieldfare, Yellowhammer, 3 Whooper Swan and a Sparrowhawk, before in the growing gloom a Woodcock brought the days total to 108.

With a few 'common' birds missed and a host of other less common birds we would have expected the days total was more than respectable, 110 if you include the Tree Sparrow and Goldcrest also heard.

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