Friday, 31 January 2014

January 1st Bird Race

All month I've thought I should really do a post about mine and Gary's annual January 1st Bird Race day. Well the month is not quite out but time has gotten the better of me so below is a summary, shamelessly stolen from Gary of the days birding which despite some horrible weather saw us amass 110 species for the day.

We started the day, leaving the house at 5.30 and heading for Titchwell. The forecast was not good so didn't well hold much hope in a large total.

Arriving at Tichwell, the first visitors as normal, we had already seen Feral Pigeon, Blackbird, Pheasant and Woodpigeon 'in the dark'. We walked along side the freshmarsh as the Sun rose, allowing us to see Greylag, Teal, Canada Goose, Shoveler, Moorhen, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Curlew and Gadwall. The Volunteer Marsh was quiet but on the Tidal Marsh we saw Black-headed Gull, Mallard, Little Grebe, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Grey Plover, Water Rail and Bar-tailed Godwit.

Arriving at the beach it was still very dusk, but was getting light very fast. Along the shore line we could see Oystercatcher, Herring Gull, Turnstone and Common Gull. A Wren briefly distracted us before back to the sea we added Sanderling and Great Black-backed Gull as more birds started to become visible. Gary soon found a cracking little Slavonian Grebe close inshore, a Cormorant and then a few Goldeneye started popping up on the sea. I picked out a small group of Common Scoter and a handful of Red-throated Divers as they started to fly through. We then located some Great Crested Grebes before and a pair of Red-breasted Merganser flew in and landed on the sea. Brent Goose and Eider flew through and then Pink-footed Geese flew past in the distance and a Magpie flew over our heads. Gary spotted a distant Auk which eventually landed and was a Razorbill. Three Long-tailed Ducks then flew through. A Goldfinch flew over before we added to the waders, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Knot. At this point we saw our first birder of the day, he found some ducks flying over sea and wanted clarification that they were Scoter. Gary then found that the lead bird was in fact a Velvet Scoter. We were about to leave when the same birder shouted Guillemot which gave us a total of 48 before leaving the beach at around 8.30am.

Scanning the tidal marsh and the salt marsh in better light we soon saw Carrion Crow, Little Egret, Wigeon and Pintail. Gary heard and saw a Meadow Pipit drop into the sueda which I didn't see. We saw Shelduck on the Volunteer Marsh before scanning the Fresh Marsh, here we saw Ruff, Avocet, Pied Wagtail and Snipe before carrying on.

Into the bushes we saw Bullfinch, Robin and a showy Cetti's Warbler. We then walked round to Patsy's Pool seeing Marsh Harrier on the way and Pochard, Tufted Duck and Coot on the pool itself. We walked back towards the visitor centre soon adding Blue Tit, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Long-tailed Tit and Great Tit, with Brambling and Greenfinch in the trees above the feeders. We then went off to get a Bacon Roll and were the first customers of 2014! From the kiosk we added Dunnock, Collared Dove and a Skylark flew over we then left but not before seeing Red-legged Partridge our 76th bird of the day.

Choseley was dead, but not far away a large flock of finches flew across the road, this contained around 50 Linnets, 30 Yellowhammer and a handful of Corn Bunting. Other birds in the flock were around 200 Chaffinch and 30 Brambling. We carried on driving and going through Ringstead we added Jackdaw.

We were heading for Snettisham in the hope of seeing the Black-necked Grebe on the approach road we saw a flock of around 40 Fieldfare and once we arrived at Snettisham car park negative news on the grebe came onto the pager, we checked the first pits anyway adding Egyptian Goose.

On the road we saw a Buzzard near Wolferton before arriving at Flitcham. By this time a persistent light rain was in the air assisted with a terrible wind. At Flitcham we walked from the carpark up the road seeing a handful of Redwing fly over and a Stock Dove on a distant barn. Reed Bunting and Tree Sparrow were in the flock of finches spooked up by a Buzzard along with more Brambling. We then went into the hide seeing Jay in the distance but no Little Owls. A Coal Tit was in the pines as we left the hide to head for Edgefield on 89 species.

On the drive to Edgefield the weather got worst, but we carried on regardless and hoped for the best. During the drive we added Kestrel and Rook near to Sculthorpe.

It was still pouring with rain as we got out of the car at Edgefield. We saw a Song Thrush and were soon watching a 1st Jan lifer a Parrot Crossbill , and a Norfolk Tick for me after missing out on the Bacton Wood birds. Next stop was the tip, we soon added Lesser Black-backed Gull, and continued down the road and found another flock of gulls in which Gary soon picked out the Glaucous Gull.

Still ahead of schedule we decided to add a new destination to the 1st Jan race and set off to Buckenham. A quick call in at the mill at Horstead failed to deliver Grey Wagtail, but we did see a Mute Swan our 96th bird on the river at Coltishall.

Arriving at Buckenham the weather was the worst it had been, standing in the shelter was pointless with the rain being blown straight through it. But it was worth it seeing at first a Starling, then Barnacle Geese, followed by a flock of White-fronted Geese flying over and that landed next to the Taiga Bean Geese. Our 100th bird of the day.

Next stop, Strumpshaw. At the feeders was saw a Marsh Tit and added Grey Heron with a quick to the fen hide. Another quick look at the feeders and a Lesser Redpoll called, followed by very brief views.

The unexpected 104th bird of the day at around 3.15 in near dark miserable conditions right on the peak of the Acle bridge in the middle of the road was a House Sparrow.

A brief stop at Ludham and you could easily pick out the Whooper Swans among the Bewick's. We then carried on to Hickling for the stub mill roost. Upon arrival a Sparrowhawk flew through in front of us. Many Marsh Harriers were flying around and a ringtail Hen Harrier then joined in. I spotted three Cranes in the meadows and we had an additional 11 fly in during the rest of the evening. The last bird of the day and our 110th bird was the same as most years a Woodcock that whizzed past our headed before we wondered back.

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