Brent Goose, Thornham, Norfolk - Friday 22nd January 2016
To get the most out of the time (three full days, Friday to Sunday), I usually start out early enough on Friday to arrive in the northwest of the county at dawn , and then head east towards Sheringham, birding all the way (check out last year's trip here). With a potential lifer - a Serin - present at Downham Market since the 17th January, I decided this would be the best starting point this year.
I met Chris on site around 08:15, and we made a search of the area along with maybe three other birders. After 15 minutes we'd drawn a blank, but noticed a couple of the other birders leaving the site. We couldn't find out if they'd given up after only 30 minutes (max) searching, or had seen it but didn't let on (to us or the bird info services).
Undeterred, I headed up the bank toward the railing line, and almost immediately saw a small finch-type bird fly into a hawthorn, showing a dark tail and a bright lemon-yellow rump. It was the Serin. I went to get Chris and the bird flew up out of the tree, went high around the houses, and landed in brambles nearby. Soon the bird sat up in the brambles giving us great views of its dull yellowy-green streaked plumage. We were happy just watching it really, rather than worrying about photos, and it soon dropped into cover; but it did show and call a couple of more times before we left. A nice way to start the trip.
After checking the Great River Ouse for Goosander and nearby Tottenhill for Black-necked Grebe, we headed off north to do some coastal sites. By the time we reached Thornham (after dipping the Golden Pheasant at Wolferton) the weather had turned for the worse. Strong winds with rain, and clearly about to get worse. A flock of 20+ Twite was nice, but the weather made photography with my poor skills (and cheap bridge camera) very difficult.
Redshank, Thornham, Norfolk - Friday 22nd January 2016
Twite, Thornham, Norfolk - Friday 22nd January 2016
We checked out Titchwell and then Holkham Freshmarsh in heavy rain and blustery wind. Eventually the weather improved and we headed out on to Holkham beach in a vain search for Shore Lark.
Robin, Titchwell, Norfolk - Friday 22nd January 2016
Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Holkham Freshmarsh, Norfolk - Friday 22nd January 2016
Holkham Freshmarsh, Norfolk - Friday 22nd January 2016
We started out locally, looking for a generally reliable Black Redstart amongst the seafront flats, but to no avail. We heard from a local birder it hadn't been seen for 5 days, which at least made us feel we weren't the only people unable to find it. Of course, it was reported as present again while I was heading home on Sunday.
There was a lone Purple Sandpiper on the rocks at Sheringham, while a groups of 20+ Turnstones pecked over the shingle. I found a couple of dead Guillemots in the tide line too, presumably victims of the random and rapid changes in weather recently.
Guillemot, Sheringham, Norfolk - Saturday 23rd January 2016
Purple Sandpiper, Sheringham, Norfolk - Saturday 23rd January 2016
We popped to West Runton to the east to have a look at an adult Mediterranean Gull (I wonder if it was the same as the one I found on the beach here on my family holiday last year). Next stop was Weybourne, just along to the west, the highlight being a Mealy Redpoll with the finch flock (which also included a fare few Brambling).
We headed for Cley and the new Babcock hide. A Grey Phalarope was showing well on the shallow scrape. A nice addition to what Cley offers. Lots of exposed mud but now sign of any Water Pipits. A lovely redhead Smew was hiding among the Shoveler on Pat's Pool. Skylarks were singing loud and clear (what a change from the previous day) as we walked along the East Bank. A flock of c30 Snow Bunting were where the bank meets the shingle.
Grey Phalarope, Cley, Norfolk - Saturday 23rd January 2016
Egyptian Goose, Cley, Norfolk - Saturday 23rd January 2016
Marsh Harrier, Cley, Norfolk - Saturday 23rd January 2016
The roost at Stubb Mill was impressive as ever, with at least 30 Marsh Harrier in the air at one time, circling in a tight ball. Barn Owl and Short-eared Owl too, with two Common Cranes on the deck, frequently calling.
We made our way along the north Norfolk coast, starting at Cley. A few Ruff, Knot, and Snipe along with the more showy waders. As is normal for Norfolk, a few Common Buzzard and the odd Barn Owl were on fence posts along the A149, as we drove towards Choseley. One Buzzard at Holkham was really pale, but perhaps not as pale as one at the same site the previous year.
Lots of Red-legged Partridge at Choseley, with around eight far less showy Grey Partridge. The Rough-legged Buzzard showed well, but only after we'd relocated further east to Mill Road, Brancaster.
Common Buzzard, Holkham, Norfolk - Sunday 24th January 2016
Red-legged Partridge, Choseley, Norfolk - Sunday 24th January 2016
After a short visit in poor weather on Friday, popped back to Titchwell. A couple of Water Pipits were showing pretty well on the mud with lots of Meadow Pipits to the west of the main path. There was a big wader roost on the freshwater marsh, with hundreds of of mainly Golden Plover and Lapwing. There was a raft of Common Scoter offshore, with a few Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser.
Water Pipit, Titchwell, Norfolk - Sunday 24th January 2016
Black-tailed Godwit, Titchwell, Norfolk - Sunday 24th January 2016
Grey Plover, Titchwell, Norfolk - Sunday 24th January 2016
Freshwater Marsh, Titchwell, Norfolk - Sunday 24th January 2016
Chris had to head back, and not long after he left news came through that a Pallid Harrier s) was showing at Abbey Farm, Flitcham. This would have been a lifer for Chris, and he'd already dipped this bird four times, so I felt a bit guilty heading off on my own! All the more so when the juvenile Pallid Harrier showed really well after a 20 minute wait. Really nice to get a chance to see one so well, after the near miss on Unst last October. That was an education, which I put to good use here, because just before the Pallid appeared we had a ringtail Hen Harrier across the back to the field.
I watched the big flocks of Bramling and Linnet and decided to have one last go for the Golden Pheasant. Ten minutes later I was in position on the north side of the famous Wolferton "triangle", and fifteen minutes later the Golden Pheasant was showing well. It seems to be looking after itself (I'm sure there's been only one for at least five years), though it must be getting on a bit now.
Golden Pheasant, Wolferton, Norfolk - Sunday 24th January 2016