Thursday, 13 February 2014

Norwegian blue?

Blimey! A day without rain or gale force winds predicted. Not even a "is your journey really necessary" message from big brother. So, with a couple of days leave still to use up by end of the month I set off before dawn for Norfolk. Two targets - Richards pipit and parrot crossbill. I've already dipped on the pipit, which would be a lifer, and it always has the phrase of "elusive" added to sightings which is never good.
I was in Norfolk as dawn was breaking, and when I was near Welney I spotted about a hundred swans in a field. Location and time of year caused a sudden braking and turning off into a field. Even with the bins I could see they had yellow not red bills so the 'scope came out. This means they are not our normal mute swans but the birds who migrate every winter from northern climes. Welney acts as a magnet for them. They were mainly whoopers but I got at least 2 pairs of Bewicks in with them as well.
Carrying on with the good start I saw two barn owls hunting the verges. Their population has really suffered over the last few years and whereas I would normally almost guarantee seeing them, even in Norfolk they are good birds to see. I also picked up a small covey of red-legged partridge in a field near Fakenham.
So, first main stop was Kelling for the Richards pipit. It has been there for a couple of months but ranges widely. Over about 90 minutes I got meadow pipits but nothing else. No other birders on site to help so I gave up. Annoyingly it was seen later on, but about half a mile away from where I was looking anyway!
Next stop was at Holt, or more precisely Edgefield, for the parrot crossbills. This is one of the flocks which, along with their 2-barred cousins, have invaded this winter. Crossbills as a family do what they say on the tin - their bill is crossed allowing them to pick seeds out of pine cones. The parrot crossbills are told mainly by their enormous, thick bills compared to our residents. This was much easier than the pipit. About 8 birders were already on site with 'scopes all pointing at the same tree. The flock numbered about 15 and were mainly at great range (500 yards??). Even at this range you could see the size of their conks!!  Eventually they did fly down to a nearby pond to have drink, which they did on average every hour, allowing me to grab a few digiscoped shots.

 You should be able to see the large beak.On reviewing the photos I also picked out a common crossbill.
Last stop was Holme dunes. A short walk along the beach delivered a nice, if mobile, flock of about 35 or 40 snow buntings.
Other than that, pretty quiet. Usual waders and gulls, brent and pink-footed geese, marsh harriers. Moves me up to 148 for the year  (or 150 if you count ruddy shelduck, which 400club does, and the slightly dodgy cackling goose at maple Lodge!!) and back up to 17th place.