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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Seawatching Extravaganza & 'Surfin' at Holkham!

Got up in the dark and arrived at Sheringham at 6.35am. I could hear the roar of the sea as soon as I got out of the car. It was high tide at 6.20am, so I knew it wouldn't get any higher. As I walked down the steps to the shelter I hesitated. Was it really safe to be walking down here? Large stones were being hurled up from the beach and smashing onto the promenade, right in front of the shelter! The noise was terrific as they hit the concrete! When I reached the bottom of the steps, I waited before walking round the corner into the shelter, to ensure I missed the next wave of stones!

The first section of the shelter was full and Baz H. had pinched MY seat (only joking.... not!) The second section was almost full and I got the last spot on the right hand side. I sat next to someone I didn't know – a man from Cambridge who later told me he had forgotten his gloves and only had shorts on under his waterproof trousers – he must have been frozen! I had leggings, trousers and waterproof trousers and certainly wasn't hot! Dave Holman, Mick Saunt (I think), Ian P. and Baz H. were in the first shelter amongst others. Pete Dolton, Phil Heath and later James McCallum were in my shelter. The UEA lads who found the recent 'bluetail' at Stiffkey arrived to bag the last shelter – I'd dunno.. .these youngsters getting up late, LOL!

As I waited for daybreak I wished I was still in bed, felt wrecked. The stones continued to smash onto the prom. but fortunately didn't make the shelter! Turnstones ran along the promenade in front of us. It was dry and sunny the entire time I was here. Suddenly birds came into view and I saw my first gannets cruising past in the breakers. It was a fabulous morning and I enjoyed the excitement as always, but it wasn't the same without Justin L. and Andy W. being here – for their general banter and who I can hear very clearly when they call birds out. I've decided we need a speaker system set up, so we can all hear each other!

The main highlights were 3 Short-eared Owls that were picked up by Dave Holman and Phil Heath and unusually 2 Little Egrets flying west at 10.20am close in along the beach! Lots of discussion on ID on some of the distant skuas as always! Someone picked up a Grey Phalarope, but I just couldn't see it.

Several gulls on the beach, a couple of Turnstones, a smart Ringed Plover and even smarter Purple Sandpiper just before I left. Several people walking along the prom staring at us all like we were animals in a zoo and several toddlers in pushchairs merrily waved at us which made me smile!

6.45am to 1.20pm
List in no particular order – birds that I saw were:

Short-eared Owls x 3
Gannets x 128
Great Skuas x 42
Arctic Skuas x 13
Skua sp. x 1
Auk sp. x 6
Pomarine Skuas x 4
Velvet Scoters x 4
Common Scoters x 4
Arctic Tern x 1
Little Gulls x 8
Sooty Shearwater x 1
Goldeneye x 1
Great Crested Grebes x 7
Red-necked Grebe x 1
Cormorants x 25
Red-breasted Merganser x 1
Red-throated Divers x 5
Little Egrets x 2
Brent Geese x 2
Knot x 3
Curlew x 2
Turnstone x 1 

I was burnt out by the afternoon and the birds had tailed off for a while, so decided to leave. Plodded back up the steps to my car. I sat and amalgamated my list and phoned through to RBA. James Mc. had told us all in the shelter, that the sea had breached again at Cley and Beach Road was closed and marshes flooded at Salthouse. I headed west.

The marshes were indeed flooded either side of Beach Road and wildfowl had taken up residence in the newly created pools! I only had to drive through a couple of areas of tidal water and then parked up at the end of the road. Sat and had my lunch and enjoyed some of my home-made cheese scones – I shouldn't have made these, far too moorish! There was a Heron and Little Egret feeding by the side of the road in the flood and loads of gulls were happily socialising in their new home. I was looking forward to my walk to Gramborough Hill, when the pager bleeped up at 2.58pm with "SURF SCOTER Adult Male at Holkham Bay, 2.56pm with Common Scoter". I've seen one of these before in Norfolk and hesitated for a few minutes before deciding that I would go and see this, even though I guessed it would be distant.

Parked up at Lady Ann's Drive and begrudgingly put £3.00 in the ticket machine for a 2 hour slot. News came on the pager that the Surf Scoter had been seen this morning at Holme at 11am... so why put the news out over four and a half hours later? It wasn't any of the Holme regulars or wardens etc, I found out. Seems very odd  indeed, especially as it suddenly came on the pager an hour after the finding at Holkham. So was it being suppressed at Holme and then the person realised he/she would have go public to claim it as their find when the Holkham finding was announced? Who knows! I'll probably get a load of grief for writing this, but who cares! I congratulate whoever found the Surf Scoter at Holkham and for putting it on the pager 2 minutes after finding it.

Anyway, I headed north, straight out to Holkham Bay. As I walked out across the beach, I heard from someone else that the Surf Scoter had been seen from the path the leads out to the beach from Washington Hide. I phoned Sue and Steve G. to alert them, Phil Heath and Sue B. who were standing out by the sea and we all walked further west.

Phil Heath re-found the Surf Scoter for us all! But the views as expected were distant. It took ages to find the Common Scoter flock, never mind the Surf Scoter and even then I only had a couple of brief nano second views in the rolling troughs! Good job this bird had a white nape to pick out! A few bonxies were flying through, but I didn't bother counting them. Felt tired and cold now. Trudged back to walk back along the path from Washington Hide.

Several Blackbirds scattering, a couple of Robins and a few Goldcrests were seen. Pink-footed Geese flying in and gathering on the marshes. Just before the end of the path I watched a little party of birds! 2 Blackbirds, a Robin, 3 Blue Tits, a Great Tit and 1 Goldcrest were having a wash 'n' brush up in a leafy puddle, just yards in front of me – beautiful scene to end my day.  Back at my car I had a nice catch up and chat with Geoff and Pat who I have known for years and we reminisced about the 'good old days', as you do! Feasted on another cheese scone and drove home exhausted.

Fell asleep as soon as I got home. Wrote this blog post up and was just about to publish it when Firefox crashed and I was mortified to find that it wasn't saved. I tried for ages to try and find a way of retrieving it, but no hope! I had to type the whole post again, not happy.... technology!!!



  1. Almost everything on the sea in Norfolk comes out as "late news".

  2. I agree as people havn't got time to text/phone out to every bonxie, etc they see at the time, but a good bird such as a Surf Scoter should be broadcast as soon as I feel.

  3. Penny, for the last few months I have been typing up posts in notepad...
    we are at the "end of the line" here and it isn't just Firefox that crashes...
    the Orange Livebox throws a wobbly regularly...
    so, thoughts are with you.

  4. Hi Tim, thanks for your support. It was just very unfortunate that happened to a post that was massive, with huge bird list etc. It was a real job to remember everything I wrote the first time round! Note to self, write it on 'pages' or email first next time!