Peterborough Bird Club Trip Reports

Sunday, January 09, 2005

A Very Happy New Year

North Norfolk, 9 January 2005
New Year’s birding in Norfolk has become something of a tradition for the club, with a well rehearsed itinerary and a good track record of 100 plus birds on most previous occasions. This year’s event was as popular as ever; and close on thirty club members assembled at the traditional meeting point of the wet weather shelters on Hunstanton Cliffs, with various car loads eagerly exchanging their early morning lists.

Fulmar at Hunstanton Cliffs, Norfolk, 09.01.05. © William Bowell

Despite some eager beavers being in position at the Golden Pheasant site for dawn neither they,
nor other groups were successful in seeing this increasingly elusive species. One group of early birds found time for an excursion into Sandringham Woods to achieve a pre-meet list of 40 species!

Other cars had secured difficult-to-get species including Short-eared Owl and Grey Partridge. Those who had taken the detour to the boat ramp were generally ill-rewarded with no interesting grebes or sea ducks present and no sign of any Purple Sandpipers which you would usually expect to find here, at this supposedly loyal spot. For one individual (the trip leader) this proved to be a bad omen indeed, as his scope blew over in the strong wind and received a fatal ‘injury’!

After a rather slow sea watch (or rather watching the sea!) the party split into two groups. Those taking the more leisurely itinerary, ably led by Gordon Hamlett - the beginner’s friend - went on to Holkham Woods and Lady Anne’s Drive. The razzabouts, less-than-ably led by yours truly went first to the Hawk and Owl Trust reserve at Sculthorpe in search of the much declined, Willow Tit. They failed in this mission, but did make contact with its more common cousin, Marsh Tit, and a variety of other woodland species. Common Buzzard- never an easy bird in Norfolk- brought up 60 for his group. Their four car convey, sped off to Stiffkey Fen where Lesser Yellowlegs, a lifer for a number of the party, was quickly ‘in the bag’.
Lesser Yellowlegs at Stifkey Fen, Norfolk, 09.01.05. © Josh Jones

On to Lady Anne’s Drive where, seconds after parking the cars this group were lucky enough to observe a male Peregrine perform a low level fly past – much to the consternation of the local Lapwing flock.

A brisk yomp across the salt flats at Holkham was rewarding with the spectacle of 29 Shorelarks and close on 200 Snow Buntings seen at close range. A flock of Fieldfare prior to a hurried lunch brought up the 80. A brief encounter with Gordon’s group confirmed that there was little of particular interest in Holkham Woods despite their thorough thrashing- the most exciting species being several Brambling close to the main gate.

With time on our hands- well about 20 minutes! – the razzabouts went to collect the Bramblings. A brief dash into the surrounding parkland to obtain Green Woodpecker yielded the amazing bonus of a male Lesser-spotted Woodpecker- much to the delight of the whole group. This elusive species was seen well and even photographed!

On to Choseley Drying Barns for more farmland species and for most, but not all (Gnash!), a thirty strong Waxwing flock fly over! Titchwell was our last stop and before reaching the shop we had added the three Redpoll species to the day list, taking us over 90. A brisk walk to the sea added more expected species but, on this occasion, no sign of Sammy the Stilt. Activity on the sea had quietened down according to a break away group of PBC birders, but Red-throated Diver at 105 brought the day to a close… but not quite!

A pager message indicated that the previously reported White-tailed Sea Eagle had been relocated ten miles inland. A twilight dash saw members of the group watching the sun go down over a damp wood near Great Bircham- but alas no sign of the ‘flying barn door’ on this occasion. A small set-back in an otherwise perfectly executed New Year birding century.

Peterborough Bird Club's January 2005 Norfolk Trip Report
by Trevor Williams