Saturday, 10 January 2015

Rivers of sand

Although the weather was promising almost gale force winds and a "band of heavy rain" crossing the country, we decided to use Saturday to visit Norfolk for the first time this year. This was going to be a combination of two different trips: birding to get the winter geese and a nice lunch in Burnham Market.
As we are only just past the shortest day there was no point setting off at silly o'clock so we got to Norfolk about 8.30. After a brief stop to not see the Golden pheasants at Wolferton (I really do wonder if I will ever actually see one of these mythical beasts again) we headed for Holme. The idea was to walk across the golf course to the dunes where two flocks of about 30 each of snow buntings and twite were reported. As we arrived though, so did the weather front. The rain was coming sideways and the wind was blowing a right hoolie. Never mind, we are British, so we put on our foul-weather car in the car (try putting on over-trousers in the drivers seat, not easy!!) and set out anyway. With much grumbling about the stinging nature of the rain we did reach the beach and almost immediately spotted a nice little mixed flock of twite and buntings feeding on the path. We didn't stop though and retreated back to the car. The weather front was moving fast though and whilst we were spotting the tree-sparrows in the hedge by the toilet block the rain was drying up. By the time we got to Titchwell it had stopped altogether.
The wind though was punishing. We walked down to the beach but watching anything was almost impossible as the scope was rocking and even binoculars were hard to keep still. The beach was spectacular though with a river of sand moving along it in the wind and a single sanderling plying its trade in the surf. I should say, pretty much all the photos on this post are from Judith who had control of the camera whilst I was trying to identify birds!!

  We stopped in the nice new hides on the way back to the car park, which got us out of the wind. Most of the common waders were present, including both godwits, ruff, grey plover, knot, turnstone and redshank. Brent geese, shelduck and pintail were also firsts for the year. There was also a nice water pipit pottering about on the islands. Elsewhere on the reserve we also saw bullfinches but no sign of bitterns or marsh harriers. Most birds were keeping low out of the wind.

We then drove down the coast to Burnham for lunch. Everywhere you could see small numbers of geese flying around but no large flocks, so they had to be feeding in the fields somewhere. We stopped at the Hoste Arms which was ok. The shops there are very good though, especially the fishmongers. Wish I had one of those near me.
After lunch we headed back to the coast road. We stopped first off on the north side of Holkham. The fields all along here are magnets for the large flocks of geese and there were thousands of pink-footed geese. This one pull-off though is always good for white-fronted geese. It took me about 5 minutes but finally I found a bird with a distinctive white-band above its beak and striped sides. Another year-tick! As we drove along towards Lady Anne's drive the flock got larger and larger. We eventually pulled down the road leading to Holkham pines and the field on the left was full of pink feet.

   Like all flocks, there was a constant noise and bustle but they seemed pretty settled even with cars going past. I would estimate this field alone was over a thousand birds and the couple of miles stretch along the coast here must have held upwards of 10,000 birds. Almost all were pink-footed geese. I'm sure if you worked hard a few bean geese were in there but needles and hay-stacks comes immediately to mind.
After this we set out for home. A good day all round. With a few other bits and pieces I got 27 new birds for the year taking me to 100 and a nice potter around. Even the weather brightened up after a dismal start. I'm sure it wont be long before I'm back!!