13th Jan 2023 – North Norfolk Day

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A Private Tour today in North Norfolk for some guests from India. We wanted to see a mixture of common birds and some of our wintering specialities, plus owls and raptors, and try to get some photos of as many as possible. It was grey and rather windy, but at least remained largely dry.

We were a little later getting down to the coast this morning than planned, and a quick look for Barn Owls first thing drew a blank – they had clearly gone in to roost already. So we headed inland and set off to look for a Tawny Owl instead. Skeins of Pink-footed Geese flew overhead as we walked down the track and several Redwings and Meadow Pipits came up from the neighbouring field. The Tawny Owl was in its usual tree hole and gave great views through the scope.

Tawny Owl – in its usual tree

A mixed tit flock moved quickly through the trees as we turned to head back and we stopped to watch the Long-tailed Tits. Further on, a smart male Chaffinch was sub-singing from a branch above the track – perhaps a sign that spring is on its way, despite the current weather.

There has been a Long-eared Owl in the garden at the CleySpy shop in Glandford on and off for the last couple of weeks, but its appearances are erratic and it is only there occasionally. We received a message to say that it was still present this morning, so we diverted round to see that next. A short stop on the way to look at a flock of Rooks feeding in a field revealed a pair of Grey Partridges on the near edge, a nice bonus. The Long-eared Owl was dozing on its usual perch – again, great views through the scope. We also took advantage of our visit here to try out some binoculars and admire the tits and Dunnocks around the feeders.

Long-eared Owl – in the CleySpy garden

After our shopping expedition, we made our way to Holkham. As we stopped to photographed the Wigeon by the fence they were all flushed by a couple of Red Kites drifting over the edge of the pines. There were a few Pink-footed Geese in with the Greylags not too far out too. After a break for a hot drink and snack in The Lookout cafe, we headed out towards the beach. It was rather breezier out here than we had hoped, with more west in the wind meaning little shelter from the pines today, but the Shorelarks were in the cordon when we arrived and proceeded to come closer and closer, giving a good photo opportunity.

Shorelark – showing well

We hadn’t seen the Snow Buntings as we walked out, but standing here now we spotted them flying over the dunes beyond the far end of the cordon. We walked out to the beach for a closer look – they were very jumpy today, a flock of about 30, but we positioned ourselves ahead of them and eventually they worked their way right past us along the shingle. It was very windy out here, so we headed for the pines and walked back through the trees, which were rather quiet.

Snow Bunting – on the beach

When we got back to Lady Anne’s Drive, we had another stop to warm up in The Lookout for a hot drink and another bite to eat. One of the wardens driving out over Quarles Marsh behind flushed thousands upon thousands of Pink-footed Geese which flew over the cafe calling, a very impressive sight! On our way back to the minibus, we stopped again to photograph the ducks and geese by Lady Anne’s Drive, lots of Wigeon, a few Teal and some Shoveler on the pool half way up.

The light was already starting to go, but we stopped next to admire the White-fronted Geese which were in the field by the road today. Further along, a scan of the grazing marshes produced several Red Kites and Marsh Harriers but no sign of the White-tailed Eagle today. There were three Great White Egrets out on the marshes too.

White-fronted Geese – by the road

Our final stop of the day was at Brancaster Staithe, to try to photograph some waders from the warmth of the minibus. There were several close Redshanks and a couple of Black-tailed Godwits near the car park, but no Turnstones today. We could see a few Ringed Plover on the wet sand the other side of the channel and a flock of Brent Geese came up off the saltmarsh and flew off up the channel.

As we made our way back, a Barn Owl appeared ahead of us over the road. We pulled into a gateway and watched it hunting up and down the rough verge of the field, before it cut back across the road behind us. As we headed for home, we could still see it out over the grass. A lovely way to end.

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