A very happy Penny at Titchwell RSPB!
I was up very early this morning and felt so excited to be going birding along the coast, FINALLY!!! I didn't sleep very well, so didn't quite get out at dawn. It was a beautiful, sunny and very warm day. On route, I drove along Hunstanton clifftop – I often search here for migrants, but I wanted to be on the beach at high tide, which was 8.27am, so I didn't stop. It was simply a joy to see somewhere different. There were very few people about in Hunstanton – too early for most 'normal' people!
Arrived in the car park at Titchwell RSPB by 7.30am. There were only a few cars in the car park. The car parks beyond the toilet block are currently closed, presumably this is to control numbers on the reserve/disturbance to birds. It felt SO good to be here. My spirits soared with happiness. Saw a Blackbird, Robin and heard Chiffchaffs singing in the car park. I can't even begin to explain how I felt, it was as though I had just been let out of solitary confinement, after three months of hell, which to a degree it has been hell! Wearing masks and visors every day at work and being stuck in King's Lynn is not exactly joyous! My mental state was beginning to break, I don't think I could have coped much longer. Within seconds of arriving, I could hear and see Med Gulls soaring above in the clear blue skies, wow!
Main path at Titchwell RSPB
My first view of the beach after lockdown, Titchwell RSPB
Walking west towards Thornham Point
As I walked along the main path to the beach, I felt so appreciative of everything around me, it was like being born again – I felt very emotional and was close to tears to be honest. You may think I'm exaggerating, but that's seriously how I felt! A Cetti's Warbler burst into song and Med Gulls continued to call. 2 Marsh Harriers were over the reedbeds. A Snipe flew over the west side of the path. On the freshmarsh there were lots of Avocets, Mute Swans x 2, Shelducks, Black-headed Gulls, Med Gulls, Black-tailed Godwits, Little Egrets x 2, Shovelers, Curlews, Oystercatchers, Teal, Mallards, Brent Geese, Redshanks and other birds I couldn't ID clearly in the light (wrong time of day for viewing the east side, afternoon is best) and because I didn't have my scope, as didn't want to carry this and my camera gear, all the way to Thornham Point! I was hoping I might see some hirundines today, fingers crossed. In the scrub either side of the path, I saw Reed Buntings (male and female), a Skylark rose up, singing its heart out and there were several Linnets, Meadow Pipits and Hedge Sparrows around.
Ringed Plover on the beach at Titchwell RSPB
Beach at Titchwell RSPB
When I reached the beach, it looked magical – the sea was only a few metres from the dunes and apart from a birder walking in the very far distance, there was not a single person or dog on the beach. It was silent and all I could heard was nature, it felt so special. Its rare to be anywhere in the countryside nowadays and not hear either a barking dog, dog whistles, owners shouting for their dogs or anything else that clouds the wondrous sound of birds singing, of surf crashing on the shore, bees humming and the wind gusting. I felt so incredibly lucky to be here with no one else around. I meandered along the beach to Thornham Point. I watched 2 Ringed Plovers and a Sanderling further along, feeding happily along the shoreline. Even looking at shells made me feel happy. I didn't see any birds of note flying along the sea, but there were a few Cormorants flying through.
Crossing over to Thornham Point
Greenshank at Thornham Point
I crossed over the dunes and walked to Thornham Point. My plan was to find my own Black Redstart, Wheatear or some other newly arrived migrant, but alas this didn't materialise, after much searching around the buckthorn/scrub area. But, I did find a stunning solitary Greenshank sitting on the marsh, immediately south of the scrub, along with 4 Oystercatchers, a few Shelduck and also a Pied Wagtail feeding along the sandy edge by the buckthorn and a Robin. A Wren was singing and a Med Gull flew over calling. A small flock of Linnets were also flitting around the scrub. I sat for a while to rest and then ambled back along the beach. There were a few people around now, one family and a handful of birders scoping out to sea.
Parrinder Hide at Titchwell RSPB
Brent Geese at Titchwell RSPB
Walked back along the main path, where I had a nice catch up with Warden, Lizzie Bruce then shortly after this, I passed Keith Tinworth, Ray Kimber and some other birders. I then headed around the Fen Trail and to Patsy's Pool on the East Trail. On route I saw my first Brimstone butterfly of the year! A Sparrowhawk glided overhead, a Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warbler were singing and saw a Blue Tit and a Wren. From the side of the Fen Hide (hide closed as are all hides currently) I could see a pair of Gadwall, a Coot and a Peacock butterfly was seen. The highlight here, was a wonderful male Blackcap singing away in a tree close by – too obscured by branches to photograph though. From Patsy's Pool I saw Marsh Harriers, Tufted Ducks, Mallards, Greylag Geese, Med Gulls, Carrion Crows flying through west, Mute Swans, Curlew, Common Buzzard, a single Bearded Tit in the reedbed, Coots and also a Greenfinch flew from the willows by the path. Chatted briefly with Sue Bryan working in the new reception hut and then returned to my car.
Holme NOA and NWT Reserves
On route to Holme Reserves, I saw a second Brimstone butterfly – in fact I saw many more later on. Driving along the Firs road, wasn't good for the suspension, there were so many pot holes – I was driving in first gear all the way along! There was a digger just past the 5-bar gate (after the sharpish left hand corner) filling in the holes with carrstone and levelling it all and according to the NOA website, attempting to get the road sorted before the Easter weekend. The digger had to stop and move over to allow me to pass. Shortly after this, I was suddenly aware of a very large bird, almost directly above and to my right hand side, over the fence line to the marsh. I soon realised that that this was indeed a VERY large bird! It was only a WHITE-TAILED EAGLE!!! Plus a Red Kite mobbing it! I could not believe my luck, WOW! It was MASSIVE! With no cars in front or behind, I shot out of the car ASAP and even with my bad shoulder (awaiting ultrasound scan) I fired away with the camera and got loads of shots of this magnificent bird, before it sailed off north towards the sea and then lost to view at 1.20pm (ish). I then looked at my phone to ring RBA (the first time I have spoken to 'Wil' for ages), when I could see there was a message on the West Norfolk bird news WhatsApp group (the only one of many in Norfolk, that I have been kindly invited to join) and someone had posted that the eagle was '....now heading west over Holme grazing marsh', yep, I had been watching it! FABULOUS!!! No sign of any Wheatears in the paddocks (seen yesterday via RBA) or any other migrants. Also scanned for any possible Garganey in the pools on the corner were the digger was – none found.
Being mobbed by a Red Kite at Holme Dunes NWT
Feeling very smug and contented with the birding so far on day one of my big escape, I then cruised to the NOA car park for lunch! Now, I shouldn't really complain, but...... it was TOO hot, it was baking hot! Too hot for me! Got out the picnic rug and placed over the seat by the path to the closed hide and settled myself to enjoy my WW weighed out lunch (started diet again, last Thursday) with coffee. There was only one car on this car park and the registration was from London....! There were around 20 cars in the NWT car park, which were more than probably day trippers and not birders, as is usual nowadays. After lunch I walked across the car park, alongside the buckthorn scrub, over the dunes and then east along the back of the pines and to Holme Bird Observatory, where I sat and chatted with Gary Elton (A.W.) for a while – it was nice to catch up. My dear father would have been so happy, as many of you remember, he was the opposite to me and adored the heat, the hotter it was, the happier he was and he would have loved today – it was so hot that Gary had been sitting inside the obs! Obviously, because of Covid, no one else apart from staff can go in the much cooler obs, so I didn't sit outside chatting for very long! Along the main bank, I watched a Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest in the highest branches of the large pine tree in the middle of the path. The NWT Firs house has been revamped with wood cladding and although it looks very smart, it has lost its iconic look of the 'brown and white house amidst the pines' of so many decades, which seemed quite sad I felt. Paid my respects to where my parent's ashes are x x. Returned to my car and had to put the air conditioning on, as I drove back along the Firs Road! Along Beach Road in Holme village, I pulled into a horse paddock area, which can be a particularly good spot for Wheatears and Ring Ouzels and saw some Meadow Pipits, a Robin, Pied Wagtail and a Kestrel perched on a fence post.
Choosely Barns, Titchwell
Stopped here briefly in hope of a Black Redstart or something exciting, but the concrete area was full of farm machinery and workers wondering what I was looking at, so promptly left! Nothing to see there, but in surrounding fields, I saw several Hares, Red-legged Partridges and a Marsh Harrier. Headed east for a much needed coastal cruise!
Holkham and Wells
From the roadside I could see a Great White Egret distantly in the pools on Holkham Freshmarsh, which was a nice bird to add to the day list. It was now around 4.30pm (ish) and there was oviously more traffic around now. Lady Anne's Drive was packed out to the max with cars, more than I expected to be honest. I bet these visitors were not all from Norfolk – cynical? Me? Never! Sensibly, I should have returned home after Titchwell, but it was SO exciting to be out again! I parked up in the layby opposite Burnham Overy Dunes and scanned the marshes for any White-tailed Eagles – there have been several sightings of them here over the last few days/weeks and then continued my journey east. Yes, I know I was being greedy, looking for a second WTE, but why not? I was on a roll!
I decided to end the day at North Point Pools, Wells. This fabulous spot, can be good for Garganey, so was keeping my fingers crossed! There were only two cars in the small parking area when I arrived, one of which was a couple with SLR cameras, but no binoculars, which seems to be a continuing new trend – each to their own as they say! It was wonderful being here. Got the scope out (which you need here) and set myself up, half way along the fenced track (watch out for dog crap, always some here and was today), looking east. The light was now perfect for viewing. I checked out every single bird on the pools and there was definitely no Garganey on show here today! Birds seen: Black-headed Gulls, Teal (lots), Mallards, Egyptian Geese (pair), Shoveler, Lapwings, Avocets, Snipe x 2, Little Egrets x 2, Oystercatchers, Shelducks, Ruff x 2, Redshanks, Pochard x 4, Black-tailed Godwits, Gadwall x 2 pairs, Pied Wagtails, Brent Geese, Marsh Harriers and lots of Hares lolloping around in the fields. The second best bird of the day then came into view, a stonking male Hen Harrier!!! I desperately tried to photograph this bird, but it was too far away for my SLR to get anything other than a smudge and my phone scoping kit is not working (hasn't been for a few months, long story) and need to take it back to CleySpy for them to sort out. I attempted to hold the phone up against the lens of the scope, but with the iPhone 11 Pro Max, with its three cameras, its not easy and I lost patience! I then saw a stunningly bright male Yellowhammer sitting in a hawthorn and a Reed Bunting was seen. Third best birds of the day were..... 3 Sand Martins skimming across the west pools!!!
Burnham Overy Dunes, Brancaster Staithe and Brancaster
It was getting late now and it was really tempting to carry on east, I miss being on Gramborough Hill and Cley so much, but sensibly it would have to wait until the Easter weekend. I would normally return home by the Fakenham/A148, but I didn't want to leave the coast road, so headed back west. I stopped in the same layby again at Burnham Overy Dunes and watched 2 Spoonbills flying west over Holkham freshmarsh. In the hedgerow close to the road, I watched my second, bright male Yellowhammer of the day with a female both chilling in the late evening sunshine. 2 Roe Deer were standing on the far side of the nearest field, which was lovely.
At Burnham Overy Staithe, I pulled into the harbour car park for some sunset pictures. Too many people here, too many 4x4's, too many dogs, too much noise. Left and then stopped at Brancaster harbour car park, slightly less people etc, but the car park was like a rollercoaster! Bumped into a local person I hadn't seen for a very long time and we chatted for a while, whilst watching a Common Buzzard. Continued back home via Ringstead and Heacham. Arrived back at about 9pm! I was absolutely shattered. I wasn't used to walking at all and felt like I had done Blakeney Point, ok so not quite that bad, but not far off! I was beyond tiredness, as still suffering with long term Covid fatigue. I simply couldn't write the blog post up, so did it on Wednesday evening after work. What a spectacular first day out, with the White-tailed Eagle being the obvious highlight, fabulous weather and a beach to myself! Roll on Good Friday, when I don't return to work until Wednesday 7th April! I'm going to love my new part time working, with four days off every week!
Burnham Overy Staithe
Today would have been my parent's Wedding Anniversary 💔