A full day's birding and a spectacular day!!!
I have been meaning to go and see the very obliging and photogenic Black-bellied Dipper at Thetford for ages. Unbelievably, I didn't get round to going until today! It's actually less mileage than going to Cley from King's Lynn. 33.9 miles I clocked up on arrival. We were supposed to have snow here this morning, but no snow when I woke up. Chatted to Eddie this morning on route, who reported snow and hail in Cley!
Anyway, I arrived at the Riverside Carpark by the Three Nun's Bridges by the River Thet at Thetford at around 10am. It was easier to find than I thought it would be. After parking the car I walked across the metal bridge, turned left for a few yards and then right and across a second, smaller bridge. I then turned left, following the trees which line the river and walked in thick, squelchy mud to where two streams meet. There were a few birders and photographers here. I could see three big lens photographers in a good spot, so I walked round to join them. One of the three photographers was 'Kit Day' who is one of my favourite photographers, he really does take some awesome shots. I am sure he will have far superior shots to mine – we shall see! (I jest). The Black-bellied Dipper was a seriously, cracking bird – a real poser. I was ashamed I had left it so late to go and see this bird. I would have been kicking myself if I hadn't of seen it. It dipped, flicked, dived, flew, stretched wings, caught food and sat looking pretty on stones and logs and just to top it all, it sang!!! I actually got a picture of it singing too, but not a particularly good pose or sharp enough really. What more could I ask for! I took tons of photographs and kneeled on one knee in squelchy mud for over two hours – dedication/madness! I was most intrigued by the food the Dipper was catching and I'll be honest, I'm not sure what some of the delicacies were. It was fascinating to watch. I managed to capture some wing stretch photos and well every possible pose really! I didn't turn round very much, but when I did look round, I could see Richard 'The Hat' (as he is affectionately known). I eventually tore myself away and plodded back in the mud. I was frezing cold now after being in one place for so long, so I decided to stretch my legs a bit. Just before the metal bridge, I walked left along the river footpath, which is part of the BTO's Nunnery Lake Reserve and up as far at the next bridge and then back to my car. This walk certainly warmed me up a bit, but didn't see any birds along here, although I did hear a great spotted woodpecker. Sat in my car enjoying my homemade lentil soup and bread and then planned the rest of the day.
I have not been here for a good while and noticed a few developments since my last visit. There are now a good number of bird feeders and tables situated along the path not far from the carpark. There were good numbers of birds at these feeders including blue, great, coal, long-tailed and marsh tit, chaffinches, blackbird, robin, siskin. I heard from another birder that the 'new owner' is 'very interested in birds' which is brilliant news for all of us!
I walked around the 'Folly' area just in case I was lucky enough to see a Firecrest, which of course I didn't, but did see a party of long-tailed tits and a robin. Walked across the bridge to view the trees in the 'paddock' to look for hawfinch, but none were seen. Bumped into Richard and other birders again here, who talking about the pager message that had come through about 6 Cranes west of Lynford Aboretum! There was no time stated on the message, so don't know what time they were seen flying over. The cranes were later/earlier seen at (if the same ones) at Costessey, flying north west at 12.15pm. Anyway, I continued to walk around the 'paddocks' and was in luck when some birders had a single Hawfinch in their scope! (thank you very much). I turned right at the bridge (with the fast flowing stream) and then walked along the river path. I had fabulous views of a Marsh Tit feeding on some seed by a bench/seat and also of a Treecreeper. Further along the path I had a massive flock of Siskins and Redpolls feeding on an Alder Tree – there were at least 50+ in the flock!!! When I reached the next bridge (by the paddocks) I had wonderful views of a few Siskins and a cracking Lesser Redpoll feeding along a path, that is until a man walked through them! I waited and waited for them to return, but of course they didn't! Only managed to get an out of focus shot of the very bright Redpoll – oh well! A blackbird and a few chaffinches were turning over leaves in search of food by the bridge. Didn't see much else on the walk back to the car, apart from a couple of carrion crows overhead.
UPDATE: Jane Ferguson emailed me on the 3rd February to say that she saw the 6 Cranes fly over Lynford Aboretum at 1.30pm which she then 'tweeted' and thinks RBA (who follow her tweets) then put the message out on the pager.
Treecreeper at Lynford Aboretum.
Mute Swan at Lynford Aboretum.
Lesser Redpoll with Siskins at Lynford Aboretum.
Siskin – one of several at Lynford Aboretum.
Tottenhill Gravel Pits
The light was fading fast now, but I still managed to scope a 'Red Head' Smew through the trees distantly and also a great-crested grebe, 2 tufted ducks and a few coots at 4.35pm.
Parked the car up and made a cup of coffee and lazily watched the 'roost' from my car. A cracking male Hen Harrier and ring-tail Hen Harrier were seen together along with two Barn Owls at around 5.15pm. The evenings are slowly getting lighter thank goodness.
As I drove away from Roydon a Woodcock flew over the road, which was a nice end to the day.
A cracking day all round. Only wish I could do the same again tomorrow – work all day again.
Have just transferred photos onto computer and I took 1,275 pictures of the Dipper!!!