Monday, 4 February 2013

I think I might like it here!

Local birder Nick Watmough had very kindly offered to take me around a few of his local spots in Norwich and perhaps a little further afield depending on the weather and the birds.
I picked Nick up in nearby Eaton village on Sunday morning at 8.30am and first stop was the University of East Anglia (UEA) campus for a walk around the broad. We searched the playing fields briefly for an adult Caspian Gull that had been reported the previous day but the only large gulls present were Herrings. There was no sign of any Bramblings at the feeding stations but a nice Mealy Redpoll did make a quick appearance.
From there it was on to the Bawburgh area to check for American Wigeon and Great White Egret, here too we lucked out but consoled ourselves with a coffee break at The King's Head.
At this point Nick suggested we head east towards the coast stopping off en route at Ormesby's Little Broad where Smew could be possible. At Ormesby we met a local birder returning to his car who advised us that we were wasting our time, all that was out there was a male Goldeneye, a few Tufties and not much else. However he did give us some directions for a flock of Waxwings in Great Yarmouth. After a brief check of the broad we decided to go for the Waxwings.
The flock had been up to sixty-six strong in recent days but when we arrived it was down to just six. Its been a good Waxwing winter for me but I still haven't tired of them. We spent twenty minutes or so watching the small flock feeding on berries before we headed on to Great Yarmouth sea-front.

Waxwing, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk - 3rd February 2013

At the sea-front we had come to specifically check out a flock of local Med Gulls. It was great having Nick with us as he directed us to precisely the correct car-park along the promenade. We roughly counted between twenty and thirty birds resting on the beach when we arrived.

Med Gulls squabble over the best perch at Great Yarmouth

We watched them for fifteen minutes or so while out at sea I picked up a small group of about twenty Common Scoter winging it across the surf.
The next spot was only a short distance up the coast. At Caister-on-sea a flock of Snow Buntings can regularly be found feeding on the beach. Again, with Nick's local expertise, we found the flock straight away. Approaching them was a little tricky and I preferred to let them be, the flock was flighty, mobile and restless so I took a few pictures at 700mm from a distance and let them go about their way. Nick counted forty-two birds which is twenty-one times more Snow Buntings than I've ever seen (work it out but its not a bird I've seen often).

Snow Bunting flock - Caister-on-sea, Norfolk

Nick and I watch the Snow Buntings at Caister beach

It may not look it in this next photo but P was fading fast so finding a cafe of some sort was becoming a priority.

Feed me now!

In the end, we stopped at McDonalds and while it mightn't have been P's first choice it filled the gap and kept us all going.
We decided to head back in the direction of Norwich and timed our return so we might see some owls hunting in the late afternoon gloom.
Somewhere on the way back out of Great Yarmouth Nick spotted a Barn Owl hunting on the edge of a field. We continued back towards Norwich before turning left off the A147 into Brundall, past the entrance to Strumpshaw fen RSPB and continued on in the direction of Buckenham marshes. I've forgotten the precise name of the place but at some stage we pulled up alongside a raised bank where several other birders had assembled to watch the owls hunt in the fields on the opposite side of the river. The light had gone as far a photos were concerned but we all had nice views of two Barn Owls and one Short-eared Owl hunting in gathering twilight.

Me happily watching some Barn Owls

It was now about five o'clock, we decided it was time to head home. We packed our gear away and headed back.
My sincere thanks to Nick for giving me a wonderful introduction to Norfolk and my immediate surrounds within Norwich. I'm looking forward to having him show me the migrant hot-spots come spring and autumn.

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