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Tuesday 1 January 2013

My New Year's Day Norfolk Bird Race!

Team: Penny

It was a glorious sunny day, which bought the crowds out in their droves and the traffic was worse than an August Bank Holiday, especially mid/late afternoon and this affected my birding later on.

High tide was 8.36am, so I knew to get the maximum numbers of birds, I needed to be seawatching around that time, so I didn't start off at my usual spots of Wolverton for Golden Pheasant, Sandringham Bird Table etc. I am not going to list every bird seen at every stop, as the full list is below, but will mention some of the highlights. Had a few birds seen and heard from my garden before I left and started the day with a robin.

I decided to start at Titchwell RSPB, but diverted quickly to Flitcham Abbey Farm Bird Hide on route to attempt to tick Little Owl. On route I saw two barn owls. At Flitcham I got a dodgy Barnacle goose here, so couldn't count that. Got a good selection of birds here including tree sparrow, yellowhammer, reed bunting etc. A stoat ran across the fields. Another birder joined me in the hide and we both very pleased when the little owl made an appearance – the light was still not good and the light is against you anyway at this time of the morning at Abbey Farm (best viewed pm). One of the little owls favoured spots is to sit in the roots at the base of the oak tree to the left side of the main trunk. So there it was, sitting in a hole in the base and typically motionless. BUT when I looked a few moments later, it moved and hilariously it was in fact a rabbit!!! I could not believe what I was seeing. It just shows how light and shape can fool you! I could not believe that a rabbit had just mimicked a little owl, it was seriously funny!

Next Stop was Choseley which produced nothing at all.

Titchwell RSPB – Arrived just before 9am and the carparks were filling up quickly already. It was nice to see Sue B. briefly, who was working at Titchwell, but she understood that I hadn't got time to chat! Also saw a few familiar faces and some new blog readers – nice to see you all. Anyway, highlights here were redpoll, siskins, a cracking male brambling, a cettis's warbler seen skulking off the main path and a red kite! Unbelievably there were no long-tailed ducks to be seen, no one seemed to find a ringed plover and Ray Kimber (volunteer) told me there hadn't been any for weeks and that he had heard they were 'all at Heacham', so why that is I have no idea! Also didn't get treecreeper which is usually seen on the willow tree at the start of the main path. I didn't see water rail on the way down and I declared to others that I wouldn't be leaving until I had seen it, which luckily I did eventually. Frustratingly I didn't see a snipe either or tawny owl or woodcock later on. I walked into the visitor centre only to view the sightings book in case I had missed anything. Pauline who works in the shop kindly asked how I was doing and I replied with '96 so far I think' as I was speedily walking out of the shop. When I got back to the carpark it was a crazy scene of cars queuing to get out and cars queuing to get in!

Thornham Harbour – stopped here briefly where there were other birders too, looking for greenshank which had been here yesterday, but it wasn't now!

Holme Marsh Reserve NWT– was hoping for bullfinch etc, but no luck.

Redwell Marsh NOA – nothing here but teal and a barn owl.

Old Hunstanton Church and duck pond – this can be good for grey wagtail and nuthatch, but no luck with those, but did see great spotted woodpecker and a small flock of linnets.

Hunstanton Cliffs – Fulmar and Rock Dove ticked here. Scanned the beach for ringed plover etc but there were very few birds to be seen at all, as everything had been flushed by the massive numbers of walkers and bounding dogs on the beach. In fact it was the biggest number of people I have ever seen walking below the cliffs today!

My next stop was going to be Snettisham Coastal park to go and look at some waxwings in the carpark that someone had told me they saw. But as I joined the A149 coast road at Hunstanton I was horrified to see traffic at a standstill and queuing in the King's Lynn direction. My heart sunk, this would waste valuable light and time. After sitting in the queue for a while I had to change my plans and turned left at Heacham lavender, nipped inland via Sedgeford and through Dersingham to go to the Sandringham bird table. At least this got me away from the traffic queue! The bird table was very productive and gave me a beautiful nuthatch who was coming down to feed on the table and at least 8 coal tits. I waited here for a good while, hoping for marsh tit, which I have seen here before, but not today! Very unusually I didn't see treecreeper here either. There were the usual blue, great and long-tailed tits here, but I had seen those already earlier in the day.

Because of the traffic, I had to re-plan and I realised that if I re-joined the queuing traffic on the A149, it wouldn't be too bad, if I nipped straight across it to Wolverton in the vague hope of ticking golden pheasant. This turned out to be a very good move. As I drove slowly along the triangle at Wolverton I couldn't believe my luck – bang in the middle of the road was one of the best views of golden pheasant I have seen, a stunning male bird just ambling along! I decided I needed a picture of this as no one would believe I had seen this and especially at this time of the day. I opened the car door very carefully to go and get the camera from the boot of the car, but obviously not carefully enough. I had been clocked and the golden pheasant's amble turned into a full scale olympic sprint as it dived into the cover of the rhododendrons! Oh well!

The light was fading fast now. The traffic was still crawling along to King's Lynn, but it was fine in the opposite direction, so I got to Snettisham Coastal Park quite quickly. Obviously there were no waxwings here now that I could see, but I did tick knot and dunlin which was an added bonus. Doing a bird race is fun but equally stressful and as the light starts to fade you have to make very quick decisions about where to go next.

Snettisham RSPB – I have not been here for quite a while and the light was not sufficient enough to be able to walk to the main reserve, but I remembered that there is often a good number of different geese in the first lake by the fishing ponds. I had not yet ticked canada goose today. I parked the car up and I could see that several people were looking at me as if to say what an earth is she doing, walking to the reserve in semi darkness! There were only greylags on the lake and a few other ducks. I was just about to give up, but walked up the steps at the end of the footpath to gain some height. As I scanned the fields on the other side of the lake a single canada goose came into view! It was now 4.25pm!

Hunstanton Cliffs – yes I know it was almost completely dark, but I was determined to see very bird that I could! Parked my car by the cafe/bowling green and ran to the seats/viewing area at the top of the cliffs. I tried to focus my bins on the outline of the end of the cliffs where the shags roost, but however hard I tried, I could not see any shags! There was just enough light to be able to see any that might fly in, but sadly they were now all roosted for the night! Well you can't say I didn't try!

I drove around Chapel Bank at Old Hunstanton as this can be a really good spot for woodcock, but not this evening! I tried several other places for tawny owl, but no luck there either.

Spent the evening with my parents, which was a really nice way to spend the rest of New Year's Day. I didn't leave Holme until 9pm. The earlier heavy traffic had dispersed thank goodness.

On my return home it took ages to sort my list. I thought I had seen 105 species, but I soon discovered I had written a few things down twice, as you do! Also I had missed two birds out. Quite weird and rather nice to find that I had seen exactly 100 birds at the end of my day. Although it was fun to do, I just couldn't do this all year round, its much too stressful! Although as some of you may remember I did year list as a one off in 2009.

100 Species seen
  1. Robin
  2. Blackbird
  3. Song Thrush
  4. Carrion Crow
  5. Hedgesparrow
  6. Goldcrest
  7. Jackdaw
  8. Rook
  9. Barn Owl
  10. Collared Dove
  11. Common Pheasant
  12. Blue Tit
  13. Pink-footed Goose
  14. Grey-lagged Goose
  15. Coot
  16. Moorhen
  17. Mallard
  18. Stock Dove
  19. Woodpigeon
  20. Little Grebe
  21. Teal
  22. Lapwing
  23. Gadwall
  24. Common Gull
  25. Jay
  26. Kestrel
  27. Red-legged Partridge
  28. Starling
  29. Curlew
  30. Kingfisher
  31. Chaffinch
  32. Tree Sparrow
  33. Yellowhammer
  34. Reed Bunting
  35. Egyptian Goose
  36. Great Tit
  37. Mistle Thrush
  38. House Sparrow
  39. Mute Swan
  40. Grey Partridge
  41. Common Buzzard
  42. Goldfinch
  43. Greenfinch
  44. Redwing
  45. Sparrowhawk
  46. Black-headed Gull
  47. Magpie
  48. Cetti's Warbler
  49. Little Egret
  50. Shelduck
  51. Brent Goose
  52. Golden Plover
  53. Shoveler
  54. Pochard
  55. Tufted Duck
  56. Wigeon
  57. Pintail
  58. Avocet
  59. Great Black-backed Gull
  60. Meadow Pipit
  61. Skylark
  62. Pied Wagtail
  63. Spotted Redshank
  64. Black-tailed Godwit
  65. Redshank
  66. Grey Heron
  67. Herring Gull
  68. Sanderling
  69. Oystercatcher
  70. Eider
  71. Turnstone
  72. Dunlin
  73. Knot
  74. Great Crested Grebe
  75. Common Scoter
  76. Red-throated Diver
  77. Cormorant
  78. Guillemot
  79. Golden Eye
  80. Red-breasted Merganser
  81. Grey Plover
  82. Bar-tailed Godwit
  83. Red Kite
  84. Marsh Harrier
  85. Ruff
  86. Long-tailed Tit
  87. Siskin
  88. Red-crested Pochard
  89. Common Redpoll
  90. Brambling
  91. Wren
  92. Water Rail
  93. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  94. Linnet
  95. Rock Dove
  96. Fulmar
  97. Coal Tit
  98. Nuthatch
  99. Golden Pheasant
  100. Canada Goose
  101. Barnacle Goose (dodgy one)


  1. Hi Nigel – I have no idea, I am sure there are others round the country that had many more than 100 species, but it was a fun day!

    Happy New Year to you and your family.

  2. Sounds like you had a great day. I may have to ask about the Golden Pheasants if my mates are up for a Norfolk trip in the Spring

  3. Hi! dawn is generally the best time for the golden pheasants at Wolverton. Feel free to email me when you would like some info.