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Biggest Twitch
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Biggest Twitch

Gale force winds don't stop the birds

We woke up to the sound of a gale ripping along the north Norfolk coast, a relaxed breakfast was called for. When we did head out we did not get very far before an emergency stop for a Barn Owl! The lovely bird was sitting on a fence post and posed for everyone to soak up the views. Above the owl a Jay sat and also showed nicely.

Just a few hundred yards further on and we slammed on the brakes again for another Barn Owl, this one hunting over a reedbed, just brilliant. Another few miles and yes, another Barn Owl! This third bird was on a post close to the road and our cameras clicked like mad, the owl was content to have all the attention and just sat there.

At Thornham Harbour the tide was high and Brent Geese were bobbing about just yards from the roadside in the sunshine. We counted ten Rock Pipits pushed out of the marsh by the high water. Skylarks sang overhead as Linnets danced over the marsh, hundreds of waders gathered on the shingle spit, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwits, Sanderling and Dunlin. A female Eider was on the sea just of the spit and a drake Red-breasted Merganser rode the waves. Pink-footed Geese swept over calling as hundreds of Curlew dropped onto the saltmarsh to join flocks of feeding Wigeon. With the wind so strong we thought we would try some seawatching.

We arrived at Holme NWT reserve and walked through the pines to a viewpoint overlooking the sea. It was a wild sea with the wind still at galeforce, making use of the scope difficult. An adult Little Gull battled into the wind and was soon followed by a second. How do these lovely delicate birds survive out over these rough seas? Thousands and thousands of Common Scoter were moving west offshore and the flock stretched for miles! It was surprising to see how few adult males were amongst the flock, some 70 percent of the birds were brown female type birds, where were the adult males?

On the fields we watched Pink-footed Geese and masses of Wigeon feeding, but the wind was making seeing anything else very tough indeed. We did catch up with a nice mixed flock of Fieldfare and Redwing near the entrance gate as we left.

We tried another seawatch off Hunstanton, but the wind was even stronger here and it was just about impossible to see anything the scopes and bins were shaking so much. We did see two Fulmars along the cliff tops but that was it, and even standing upright was a struggle.

Lunch was called for and it was good to get out of that wind, and we enjoyed another great meal at Cafe Blah Blahh in Hunstanton. You really should give it a try if you are in the area, great food and friendly people with excellent customer service. The cafe is next to the Sainsbury's store.

Next we called in at the drying barns but people were working here so there was a lot of disturbance but we still saw five bright Yellowhammers and both Red-legged and Grey Partridges.

With the gale still blowing but the sun still shining, we headed down to RSPB Titchwell where we knew the hides would provide shelter from the wind. The feeders around the visitor centre were alive with birds including lovely Long-tailed Tits and a gaudy gang of Brambling looking spectacular in the sun.

Walking down the main path we saw a Bittern flying over the reeds out to the right, luckily staying up for good long flight giving a great view. Marsh Harriers battled in the wind as a mixed flock of Ruff, Golden Plover and Lapwing fed with Brent Geese in a grass field.

From the Parrinder Hide the light was simply stunning, with sun illuminating the flocks of waders and wildfowl, perfect birdwatching. We all enjoyed the wonderful views of a hundreds of birds: Pintail, Teal, Wigeon, Pochard, Gadwall were next to Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Snipe and Avocet, superb stuff. Flocks of Brent Geese dropped in and then flew off agin and we had another flight view of a Bittern. From the north side of the hide we had lovely views of Grey Plover up close in the sun, and in the channel beyond three Spotted Redshanks were swimming amongst gangs of Teal.

Out on the beach we could shelter from the wind in the dunes but it was hard work scanning the rough sea. We did see another Little Gull, a Guillemot and some Goldeneye. The beach was alive with thousands of waders and gulls, always lovely to see and fun to work through.

With the sun sinking and the wind still howling we headed back to the visitor centre for a last minute hot chocolate and a last look at the feeders. Back at the house we scanned the marshes with the dusk falling and watched ten Marsh Harriers over one reedbed!

Another great day in the field and we were very pleasantly surprised to find that we seen over ninety species on a very windy, but sunny, day.


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