16th Jan 2023 – Winter in the Broads

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A Private Tour today, down in the Broads. It was meant to be brighter with a risk of wintry showers around the middle of the day, but it wasn’t. A front was originally meant to clear through overnight, but we drove into it as we made our way down to the Broads and it ended up spitting with rain on and off for much of the day, with wintry showers arriving later afternoon. Thankfully it wasn’t bad enough to stop us getting out and having a great day.

As we arrived at Ludham, we stopped to talk to one of the locals who was going the other way and he told us that the Taiga Bean Geese at St Benet’s had just been spooked but had landed again further back, where they were harder to see. There were some Whooper Swans around the pool on the left of the track as we drove in and some distant swans behind the reeds the other side, but we couldn’t find the geese at first.

We drove down to the car park at the end, then back to the pull in where we got out to scan. We couldn’t see the other swans from here, so we walked further along the road until we found a gap in the trees and there were the Taiga Bean Geese, visible in the next meadow over, behind a thin line of reeds. We got them in the scope and we could see their mostly orange bills. From here, we could also see that the swans this side were Bewick’s Swans too.

Taiga Bean Geese – the four behind the reeds

There has been a good selection of ducks on the Trinity Broads in recent weeks, so we headed over there next. Our first stop was at Rollesby Broad and the hide at The Waterside. A Kingfisher was perched on the edge of the hide but flew off as we walked in, landing in a bush over the far side. A second Kingfisher flew past. A Marsh Harrier flying over spooked the 4 Smew from where they had been hiding around the corner of the reeds. They landed briefly, then flew again, three continuing up and off over the trees but thankfully the fourth Smew landed again and gave us some great views as it swam around in front of the hide, a young (1st winter) drake, yet to get its distinctive black and white plumage. A large flock of Common Pochard and Tufted Ducks flew over too, flushed from one of the broads.

Smew – a 1st winter drake

We couldn’t see any more ducks from here so we went into The Waterside cafe where we bought hot chocolate – and most delicious it was too! A Little Egret was on the edge of the reeds beside the jetty and one of the Kingfishers flew past again. Next stop was on the causeway between Ormesby and Rollesby Broads. There were few ducks on here now, perhaps having flown off earlier. There was no sign of the Scaup which had been here earlier, just some Tufted Ducks. A Great White Egret stalked through the reeds over the far side and a flock of Long-tailed Tits came through the trees above us.

We decided to try Filby Broad instead, and the cloud finally cleared and it brightened up a little. There had been several different ducks on here earlier, but there was now someone reed cutting along the far edge and a fishing boat out in the middle. Those ducks which hadn’t been spooked had apparently retreated into the far corner, out of view. We scanned from the boardwalk, admiring several Goldeneye while looking through the ducks along the edge to see if anything of interest might emerge. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait too long until the reedcutter took a break and that was enough for the raft of Tufted Ducks and Common Pochard to emerge. We quickly located two Scaup, a 1st winter drake and a female, and the smart drake Red-crested Pochard with them. There was no sign of any Ferruginous Ducks now though.

A drive round some likely spots looking for Common Cranes next quickly located at least nineteen – a group of four in a field on the edge of a maize strip, plus another three and a group of twelve together.

Common Cranes – a group of four

There had been a raft of Velvet Scoter on the sea off Winterton in recent weeks, and we went to look for those next. We thought we might have a long walk through the dunes, as they had been some way off to the south in the last couple of days, but as we pulled into the car park we scanned the sea and realised we could see them from here. We got out and set the scopes on them, at which point they took off. Helpfully, they flew straight towards us, flashing the white in their wings, and landed much closer, almost straight off the car park. Thirteen Velvet Scoter in total – much better views and no need for a walk! It was windy here and there were some wintry showers threatening again now, so we retreated to the minibus for lunch. When we looked back, the Velvet Scoters had flown off again and were now even more distant off to the south. Lucky timing! As we packed up to go, a Sanderling was running around in the car park.

Velvet Scoters – off Winterton

We were quite keen to have another go and see if we could find any Ferruginous Ducks on the Trinity Broads, figuring that if disturbance had abated they might have returned. There were large numbers of Tufted Ducks and Common Pochard on Rollesby Broad now, so we stopped to look through them. One of the first birds we set eyes on was a female Ferruginous Duck. It was hard looking into the low afternoon sun, which had come back out at first, but much better when some clouds drifted over again. The drake Red-crested Pochard was out with the flock here too now. Across the road, the Great White Egret was now in the front corner of Ormesby Broad. As we walked back to the minibus, a Kingfisher flew in across the car park and towered up high above the trees before crossing the road.

The plan was to finish the day at Stubb Mill today, as we really wanted to see Hen Harrier. The weather was deteriorating again and we sat out one heavy shower in the minibus. There were lots of Marsh Harriers in already and it didn’t take us long to see a ringtail Hen Harrier over the reeds towards the old mill. A short while later it was joined by a second ringtail and then a smart grey male Hen Harrier appeared over the marshes in front of the viewpoint. We had great views of it through the scopes as it flew in. Mission accomplished, we decided to head for home.

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