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Barn Owl Bonanza in North Norfolk

First things first, paper shop for the Sunday papers so Barry could gloat about the mighty Luton Town's victory over Premier League Norwich!

Our diversion via the paper shop gave us a covey of Red-legged Partridge close to the road. Stopping at a viewpoint over the marshes west of Holkham we quickly added Grey Partridge, and a lot of them. Three Marsh Harriers hunted over the wet grasslands and reedbeds. Suddenly Barry was calling excitedly about a "buzzard" on a post, scopes were quickly on the bird and it was clearly a Rough-legged Buzzard! Great spot from Barry! Luckily this Arctic rarity was very content on its post and we all had plenty of time to soak up the views. Luckily the wind was catching its tail and blowing it to show the pattern, dark belly patch and pale head all seen well, great stuff!

While we were still watching the Rough-leg,a stunning grey male Hen Harrier floated across the field in front of us, another wow moment. Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Golden Plover, Fieldfare, and Stock Dove all added to the scene.

Almost 9am and we felt as though we had seen a day full of birds! Emergency stop! Barn Owl right by the road! As we watched this gorgeous bird landed on a gatepost and posed for us for ages! A wonderfully-marked dark buff and white bird, we could not believe our luck.

Next stop was Holkham and Lady Anne's Drive where we were thrilled with scope-filling views of European White-fronted Geese. We also enjoyed good views of Martin Garner, Birding Frontiers, Tristan Reed, Inked Naturalist and Tormod Amundsen of Biotope always good to see these great friends and ace birders. A Peregrine tore across the fields scattering flocks of Wigeon and Fieldfares before it. Three times we enjoyed this aerial master, always a thrill to see in action. Thousands of Pink-footed Geese fed beyound the White-fronts and then a large flock of Brent Geese swept in calling as they fell from the blue sky.

Further west to Cley NWT reserve and we enjoyed close up views of wildfowl from the hides in sunshine. Drake Pintail in particularly were drew lots of oohs and ahhs. Marsh Harriers floated over the reedbeds as Brent Geese fed on the grasslands. The visitor centre gave amazing views of bacon sandwiches and hot chocolate. A Bittern flew over the reedbed but dropped out of sight far to quickly.

A short seawatch, it was very windy out on the beach, added Red-throated Divers and a single Guillemot. We then picked up a small raptor out at sea, a Merlin was zooming low over the waves, a strange sight.

Salthouse gave us wonderful views of Turnstones almost at our feet, lots of Fieldfare, Redwing, Wigeon and two Little Egrets. Another cafe, this time at Holkham Park, gave close ups of wonderful cakes and more hot chocolate.

Burnham Norton next and more great raptor action, Marsh Harriers were all over the place and a ring tail Hen Harrier quarteerd the marsh. A stunning Barn Owl made two close passes right in front of us, thrilling stuff. Plenty of geese here, Brents were feeding with Canadas and Greylags in the fields, and thousands of Pink feet were seen in flight.

With the light fading we made the short trip back to base, stopping for more fantastic Barn Owl views, and stood on the balcony watching more birds until the light went and had to stop. A flock of Ringed Plover in the creek below us were our first of the trip and we enjoyed Grey Plovers, Little Grebes, hundreds of Brent Geese, Marsh Harriers and Little Egrets all with a cuppa and some of Wendy's super cakes, not a bad day!

Barn Owl was easily voted bird of the day, and what views we had enjoyed, what will the next day bring?


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