About Two Owls

Saturday 12 March 2022

Norfolk plus

February allowed us to take a short holiday alway after it was cancelled by covid last year.  Though the week before we went we had time to do a little birding around the harbour to add a few species to the 10km list before we left.  On the 2nd a trip out to Middlebere was very quiet except we had a male Goshawk fly past at a fair rate of knots and headed towards Arne Moors direction. When we had arrived back to the van at the parking area a visiting birder asked if we had seen the Merlin we answered "No" and he replied well there is one in that pine tree in the bog, we thanked him and scanned the tree finding a male Merlin sat resting on a branch close to the truck making it very hard to see from some angles a great start to the month.

On the 5th we headed off to Norfolk where were staying in Wells-Next-the-Sea giving us the option to travel to Cley in one direction or Holkham in the other.  The first day was very wet weather but it improved as the week progressed other than the wind stayed pretty blowy. 

Our first target species was to try and catch up with the Red-breasted Goose which seemed to be commuting between Blakeney and Cley.  We had no joy at Blakeney so continued on to Cley where were were told it had just been found at Blakeney but had just taken flight with the Brent.  So we decided to go out to the beach to do a little sea watching but on arriving we were told the Red-breasted Goose had just flown in to the middle of the reserve.  So we decided to walk along the beach to get a view but when we were about half way to where the bird was the brent lifted off and landed in the Eye Field behind the car park so we had to retrace our steps against the cold wind but fortunately I had parked the van facing the right way as it began to rain.  We jumped into the van to warm up whilst we looked for the goose and quickly found it around 30m away along the fence line and had good views. 

Red-breasted Goose - Cley Norfolk © Nick Hull

For the late afternoon we headed for Holkham popping into Lady Ann's Drive which was almost empty of birds so on to the "triangle" to look over the marsh between the end of Holkham and Burnham Overy Staithe.  Scoping the marshes there were lots of birds present with large flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover the latter couldn't be seen until a Marsh Harrier quartered across the marsh and put them all up giving us a great display.  We also found no less than five Great White Egret out on the marsh and had a small flocks of Brent and Greylags, Curlew, Redshank and various duck species.  After some time we had a small skein of Pink-footed Geese fly in and I set up my recorder and parabolic microphone ready for the next flock to come in to roost on the marsh.  It wasn't long before Jackie said "here they come" and I switched on the recorder and waited for them to pass over. It was a real spectacle as it must have been all the Pink-feet that was wintering in Norfolk that was flying over filling the whole sky above us. I checked the recorder and found the sound of all these geese was bouncing the recording level into the red but I hoped it wasn't distorting the recording to much. 

The forecast for the 7th looked good so we decided to take a chance and go somewhere new so we headed of to Deeping St. James in Lincolnshire a LWT reserve.  As we approached the reserve we had a quick stop to photograph a family party of Whooper Swan on the roadside dyke.

Whooper Swan family near Deeping St James © Nick Hull

We arrived at the reserve and parked up with more Whoopers viewable on the nearby lake and headed off towards the first hide.  As we arrived at the hide to birders were exiting and we asked if they had seen our quarry they answered no not a sign.  We checked our instructions and found our target bird wasn't seen      from the hide but an opening in the hedge line before the hide.  We backtracked and found the opening and started scanning the trees and bushes across the water about 40m away.  It took me a few minutes to picked up a pale streaked breast in a tree covered in ivy opposite and directed the others onto it, whilst I set up the scope.  Once the scope was set up you could get a pretty good view of a single Long-eared Owl my favourite bird.

Long-eared Owl - Deeping St James © Nick Hull

After a good look around we headed off looking for Bewick's Swan and Crane.  We were told to explore Thorney Dyke area for both species though we only found one which was a tad interesting. We found three Bewick's Swan on one of the fields one of which had a neck collar, so we took time to get the code and moved on. (Hopefully I will be able to update you later on the swans history)

Bewick's Swan (with gps collar) Thorney Dyke © Nick Hull

We worked our way around the fen area to the Nene Washes RSPB reserve unfortunately there wasn't any access for Jackie's mobility scooter the gates were too small so we looked over the reserve from the parking area.  I have to say it was waisted and we had more Whooper and a handful of Bewick's, Red Kite and a scattering of waders and then Jackie spotted two Cranes which passed over the reserve and disappeared behind a wood never to be seen again.

On the 8th we headed off to Sculthorpe Moor I have to say this is one of the best reserves when it comes to scooter access there was nowhere that Jackie couldn't get to even the raised hides.  We had a great visit though we didn't add much to our year list but added several to the trip list with Brambling, Siskin, Egyptian Geese and lots of Bullfinch were all very nice to see. In the afternoon we went back to the Holkham triangle for the geese to fly in which strangely they didn't at least if they did it was dark when they did.

Male Brambling & Bullfinch - Sculthorpe Moor © Nick Hull

Well you can't come to Norfolk without at least trying for Shorelark so we woke early and got to Holkham before too many visitors had arrived and we met Tony and Jo from the Flamborough Obs who we had run into a few time over the week and they said the larks were out on the beach from the halfway path behind the Washington Hide so off we went. When we arrived we were told they had been flushed and were in the dunes a couple of hundred metres or so further up the beach.  So on we went but after a short while Jackie was finding it hard so I said to her to stop where she was whilst Tony Jo and I searched for them. Well we were searching around when Jackie called me "I've got them" I whistled to Tony and Jo and we made our way back to Jackie who had four Shorelark a few metres in front of her giving great views.

Two of four Shorelark - Holkham © Nick Hull

On the 11th we headed out after a Short-toed Lark but unfortunately it was too far away for Jackie to walk and not suitable for her scooter and no parking close by so we had a look around Kelling Heath, which didn't provide much but it refreshed our memory of the reserve as we hadn't visited there for some years.  

We had lunch at the Kelling Tearoom (reconmended) sitting outside on a bench in the warm sun which made a nice change.  For the afternoon we went back to Cley to see if we could get the Iceland Gull on our trip list and parked up at the beach car park.  It was fairly calm though there was a bit of a cool breeze, anyway we walked up the beach and did a little sea watch which produced little other than a couple of Red-throated Diver, a handful of Common Scoter, a Great Crested Grebe and the usual common species of gulls.  A birder told us that the Iceland Gull was off the east bank which was some way off too far for Jackie to walk.  I decided that I might be able to see it scoping the gull flock from where we were to, so scanned away.  Jackie started feel the cold and went back and sat in the van as I continued looking after about 15 minutes I picked up a creamy looking gull flying towards me along the beach edge I quickly realise it was the Iceland Gull and called Jackie and pointed and it flew almost to me then turned around between me and the van and headed back to the east bank, perfect you couldn't have arranged it better.

We ended the day back at Holkham triangle where the geese didn't arrive again but we had good views of to Chinese Water Deer feeding and running around in one of the fields which I managed to get a dew digi-scoped shots of.

Chinese Water Deer - Holkham © Nick Hull

It was time to leave Norfolk and on our way home we called into Welney WWT where we saw the usual species and managed to add Tree Sparrow to the year and trip list and as we left for home a mile or two down the road we saw a Cattle Egret which finished our trip very nicely.

We ended the month with adding Redwing, Stonechart to the 10km and Yellowhammer to the year list. 117 species seen for the month roll on March when Sand Martin and Wheatear and possible an Osprey.