Friday, 29 January 2016

Sideways in Norfolk

One of my bogey birds at the moment is Pallid Harrier. I've dipped on them three times so far, once by about 10 minutes after it showed as I was driving out of the car park! So, a long stayer in Norfolk was a temptation not to be missed. The only down side was that the big storm which had dumped feet of snow in the USA was heading our way with high winds predicted!
Never mind, I got to Norfolk early doors hoping the forecast might be wrong. It wasn't. The harrier had been seen at Abbey Farm near Flitcham, just north of Kings Lynn. On opening the door you could tell it as a tad breezy. Fortunately though two other birders were just coming back to the car park and confirmed the Pallid harrier was braving the elements and was hunting over the fields.
It was only a very short walk to a few hay bales which seems to be acting as an impromptu shelter for  birders. 
First up I saw there was game strip with feeders on it that was attracting a number of small birds. I thought first of all it was chaffinches but then you started to se there were a number of bramblings, then that it was mostly bramblings!!    

Not only were there brambling, but a healthy colony of tree sparrows was mixed up with them. I guess there were at least 40 possibly 50 bramblings, by far the biggest ever flock I have seen.
The main course though was the harrier or should I say harriers. The first bird to pop up over the stubble field wasn't a palled harrier but its cousin a hen harrier. These are now very rare in the UK with the population down to a very few or perhaps no breeding pairs in England. The blame is put at the door of the shooting industry and the managed game estates. Quit soon another harrier was in the air, and this was my target bird - the pallid harrier.

Yes it is in this picture! It was favouring a hedge line at the back of the field probably as it may have given it a bit of protection from the wind. Going into the wind it hardly made any progress, with it behind it, the field was crossed in seconds!
I watched it for about 30 minutes and gradually it came a bit closer letting you see it's very striking markings.

It had a very noticeable almost golden tinge to its plumage, a slight ringtail when it turned and that amazing head pattern. It often stooped down into the field causing panic amongst the small birds feeding on the grain.

With the wind if anything getting worse I bade it goodbye and trundled off on my usual route along the coast.
No more photos as everything was hunkered down but I did manage to pick up a number of new birds for my year list. Ringed plover, snipe and mergansers at Titchwell were nice if not exactly rare! Better were the white-fronted geese and english or grey partridge in the fields near Holkham. Finally a guillemot was sitting on the sea at Cley. I had hoped to find both snow buntings and shorelarks on the beaches but the sand was coming sideways and taking your skin off so no self-respecting bird was going to hang around much!!!
I gave up about 3.30 and wended my was home. First lifer of the year, up to 120 for the year so far and a nice brill acquired from our favourite fish shack for tea!! What not to like.