Friday, January 06, 2006


Extract from my 'other' blog, The Not Very Big Year...

Hunstanton Cliffs - home to Fulmars and Feral Pigeons

Sometimes, when it's cold, grey and miserable, I wonder why it is I bother to go birdwatching. Wednesday was a good [bad] example. Crap weather and no birds.

I think the setting must make all the difference, because today Norfolk was cold, grey and miserable - the sun never came out - but there were some great birds to be seen and I wasn't quite as grumpy as normal.

We hadn't even reached our first planned stop when long skeins of Pink-footed Geese began crossing the skies above us. Birds going from their night-time roost sites to their daytime beet-field feeding hang-outs. It's a Norfolk birding cliche, but always an awesome sight, not to be sniffed at.

On a cold January Friday morning, it was quiet on Hunstanton seafront and Turnstones scuttled around in the gutter, in the manner of Starlings, while Herring Gulls lurked in gardens and car-parks.

Herring Gull - king of the British seaside resort

But they weren't our 'sunny-Hunny' target birds. No, we wanted Fulmars, and we got them, as they glided stiffly around the cliffs on their mini-albatross wings.

Below, family parties of Brent Geese indulged in a little breakfast-time surfing and pecked at the seaweed which encrusted the boulders below the cliffs. More Turnstones, Oystercatchers and Redshanks there, but sadly no Purple Sandpipers.

Oystercatcher hammers mussel while Redshank can only watch

Time to look out to sea. Well, into The Wash, anyway. With no wind, seawatching conditions weren't exactly ideal, but it made it a lot more comfortable.

It wasn't too long before one Red-throated and one Great Northern Diver came into view. Not close by normal birding standards, but good for seawatching. Much closer was a Guillemot, to Darren's great delight. They don't get many in Bedfordshire so he hadn't seen one before.

Darren's first Guillemot

I think that means he owes me a pint.

RSPB Titchwell meeter-and-greeter

Darren is quite derogatory about 'Titchwell Zoo', as he calls it, but I reckon you can't knock it too much. Wander down the track to the beach and there are Spotted Redshanks feeding, unperturbed, virtually within spitting distance.

Spotted Redshank

On the sea, a slick of Common Scoters was forming. Trails of birds from further offshore made up a flock of around 3,000 birds - another impressive sight which included about eight Velvet Scoters. Slightly closer, a couple of smart, piebald Slavonian Grebes (another lifer for DO-M, and it wasn't even lunchtime) pootled about, and a small group of Red-breasted Mergansers bobbed around on the waves.

The scoter flock off Titchwell beach

A drive up to Choseley found a flock of around 400 Corn Buntings and some very pleasant, canary-yellow Yellowhammers. Titchwell drew us back again, with news of a Bean Goose with a flock of Pinkfeet on fields by the entrance. More than an hour's scrutiny of the flock, in terrible light, failed to nail the bird conclusively... Still, it's not a British breeding species so we don't need it for our list anyway.

Species added today:
Pink-footed Goose
79. Herring Gull
80. Oystercatcher
Brent Goose
81. Fulmar
Bar-tailed Godwit
82. Guillemot
83. Red-throated Diver
Great Northern Diver
84. Shelduck
85. Curlew
86. Little Egret
87. Cetti's Warbler
88. Egyptian Goose
Spotted Redshank
89. Black-tailed Godwit
90. Ringed Plover
91. Dunlin
Grey Plover
92. Common Scoter
Velvet Scoter
93. Slavonian Grebe
94. Red-breasted Merganser
95. Avocet
96. Corn Bunting
97. Grey Partridge
98. Merlin
99. Barn Owl

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 62 with 16x eyepiece

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