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Sunday, 22 April 2018

Hot Birding Coastal Tour!

Gramborough Hill, Salthouse

Arrived at my mother's house very early morning to deliver some bread and then arrived at Titchwell RSPB at 7.15am. A glorious day, but far too hot – thunderstorms broke up the heat in the afternoon!

Titchwell RSPB
A Bullfinch was calling in the car park, but unusually nothing else seen in this area, aside from Robins. Two Lesser Redpolls were feeding on the alders in the picnic area, which was nice to see. Along the Fen Trail I had wonderful views of both male and female Blackcaps and a few Chiffchaffs. My first House Martin of the Spring flew overhead and also Med. Gulls were calling overhead. Along the East Trail I had a party of Long-tailed Tits, but surprisingly no other small birds seen here. Four Marsh Harriers were over the reed beds. On the way back around the Fen Trail I had my first Whitethroats x 2 of the Spring and also had a fleeting view of a pair of Bullfinches in a bramble bush.
Blackbird singing early morning at Titchwell RSPB

Along the main path to Island Hide, I heard Sedge Warblers, saw lots of Sandwich Terns flying (disturbed by something), and several Swallows flying through. I returned to the car park as it was boiling hot and needed to change into my cooler linen trousers (misjudged the temperatures!) Wrote some of my sightings in the book at the visitor centre and had a brief catch up with Sue B. Back at my car, I had coffee and breakfast.

Choseley Drying Barns
I was hoping for a Turtle Dove on the concrete pad or the telegraph wires, but no luck and the concrete area was devoid of any life whatsoever! I walked along the hedge-lined public footpath that runs west, in search of migrants. It was a beautiful walk with a nice wind and not too hot here. Stunning views of the yellow rape fields with the sea beyond and cloudless blue skies – a beautiful day. The best bird here was a Whitethroat gobbling a bright green caterpillar in a hawthorn bush! Saw and heard Blackcaps, a Blackbird shot along the hedge (should have been a Ring Ouzel), a few Chaffinches were seen and a Common Buzzard was perched in a dead tree. Also saw my first Speckled Wood, Tortoiseshell and Common Blue and Orange Tip butterflies. I also searched the surrounding fields for Dotterel before I left, but no luck.

Brancaster Staithe Harbour
Stopped here briefly to see how high the tide was. Very busy here, with people and boats and sightseers. Good numbers of Brent Geese on the marsh.

Burnham Overy Staithe
Stopped here briefly for a break and got very excited when I saw on the RBA website (via my phone) that there was a Wood Warbler at Wells Woods! Left promptly!

Wells Woods
The car park was so stressful, so many people, children, barking dogs – shorts, flip-flops, ice bags, buckets and spades, picnic hampers, ice-creams etc – it looked like a bank holiday weekend! I luckily managed to find a car parking space – £3.50 to park for two hours!!!

Long story short, I ended up searching in the wrong copse of birch trees initially, but after finding out via Twitter that Ashley Saunders had found the Wood Warbler – with his kind help and assistance, it wasn't too long before I saw his spectacular bird at approximately 1.40pm! A stunning bird, but I only saw it once and sadly no photographs obtained, not even a smudge on the camera! There was also a male Redstart that others had found, but I didn't see this. The Wood Warbler favours the belt of birch trees that runs alongside the right side of the wet meadow (when standing on the main path) and is with a Willow Warbler and Chiffchaffs – it did not call once, so can't be found by its melodious tune sadly and feeds high up, so if you look tomorrow – look up! I trudged back in the intense heat to the car park.

Garden Drove, Warham
Nobody else was here, I had the place to myself (or so I thought), what a contrast from Wells! I only found a couple of Chiffchaffs along the entire track down to the copse, which was disappointing. There were a couple of men playing around with drones by the copse – they were so engrossed, they had no idea I was standing close to them! I don't like drones at all – invading people's personal space and just look completely out of place. The two drones were whizzing about over the fields and later on were in front of me which I was not happy about – if I had a gun I would have had great fun shooting it down! I returned to the concrete pad where my car was parked.

The grassy field opposite the concrete pad is no more – its ploughed up and looks potentially brilliant for birds. I stood by the fence and farm gate and scanned along the hedge line and got very excited when I found a stonking male Redstart perched on the barbed wire fence at 3.35pm! However, two Robins were not happy at all and constantly moved the Redstart off his perch every time he settled. The Redstart was too far away for my 300mm SLR, so got the tripod out of the car and got some video footage with the iphone. This proved a huge challenge, as every time I was about to start the video, the Redstart would disappear out of the shot, having been kicked off the fence by the Robins! I eventually got some fairly pleasing footage though.

I texted this through to RBA, but it didn't appear on the website, so presume they don't report Redstarts, so I tweeted the news out in case anyone else wanted to see this bird. The skies darkened, thunder rolled and lightening cracked and it felt considerably cooler. Sat in my car to take shelter. Made my way east to Salthouse.

Gramborough Hill, Salthouse
Parked the car up along Beach Road and bumped into John F. who was wet from the downpour earlier. At Gramborough Hill, I had both an amazing time and a terrible time. Amazing, because I watched and photographed a stonking Firecrest (found earlier on) flitting around in the sunshine feeding on zillions of midges, an equally stonking Whinchat on the fence line, two Chiffchaffs, a Stonechat, 2 Reed Buntings, Meadow Pipits and a Wheatear in the field. Terrible, because the second the sun came out, there was a midge festival from hell – the worst experience of midges I have ever endured and no I'm not exaggerating! A whole cloud of them filled my face and were attacking me like there was no tomorrow. Steve G. joined me to photograph the Firecrest and after 5 minutes of standing with me said "I see what you mean". I had to put my hood up and drawstring it tight and even then, they continued to attack my forehead, face and hands – I found out later that they were Tiger midges – an appropriate name! I only stuck it out, in an attempt to get a good shot of the Firecrest. Left and walked back to my car. I could feel the bites on my forehead, it was awful.

Went to Babcock Hide to see the Black-necked Grebe, but no sign of.

Daukes' Hide, Cley NWT
Sat with Eddie M. and Andy J. who had both had close views of the Great White Egret just before I arrived – it had been flushed out by a Chinese Water Deer. However, when I arrived, it had flown over in the direction of North Scrape and was not seen again. 17 Yellow Wagtails flew over south east. Lots of Dunlins on the pools along with the usual Avocets, Redshanks, Shelducks, Little Ringed Plover etc.


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