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Biggest Twitch
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Hitting the "G" spots, Garganey, Golden Pheasant, Goldcrest and more

The day began in familiar style with thousands of Pink footed Geese flying east of the house, all calling wildly at dawn, brilliant!

Within ten minutes of leaving our base we had seen, not one, not two but three Barn Owls, the first of which showed very well indeed hunting over a reedbed, the colour of the reeds and upper parts of the owl almost matching, a magical sighting.

Dozens of both Red-legged and Grey Partridges seemed to be on parade by the roadside. Arriving at the drying barns we immediatly saw a small bush full of birds. Yellowhammers glowed in the early morning light, a more careful look produced three Corn Buntings and two Brambling all in the same bush. We enjoyed great views of this amazing gang of birds and as a thank you put down a load of seed below the bush, hope they found it.

At RSPB Titchwell we were soon watching a Water Rail out in the open, feeding in a ditch alongside the main path. In the field beyond a lovely sight of 60 Ruff feeding with Golden Plover and Lapwing, good combination!

Further down the path and a Bittern lumbered out of the reeds and flew slowly towards us, allowing everyone a clear view, before it submerged back into the sea of reeds. A female Red-crested Pochard was asleep on the freshmarsh, where the water level was very high after the all the snow had melted. Bearded Tits were calling but refused to show themselves.

Marsh Harriers were hunting on the west side of the path, where Little Egrets were fishing in the creeks. Flocks of Brent Geese were over the saltmarsh in the distance.

On the Volunteer Marsh Spotted Redshank were feeding in the channel right by the path giving amazing views. Masses of Teal were loafing here and suddenly the birds all took flight in panic. "Garganey!" Alan shouted, everyone looked open-mouthed, Garganey in January? Sadly the out-of-season bird dropped out of sight behind a reedbed before anyone else could pick it up. Very frustrating to see a bird this unusual so briefly.

With the tide high we decided to push on to the beach and look for the rare duck later. It proved to be a good move and we were soon watching two Eider and a fine drake Scaup. More scanning produced Kittiwakes, Red-throated Diver, and masses of waders really close in with the high water.

Back to the Parrinder Hide, that overlooks the Volunteer Marsh, within minutes Ruth was excitedly calling "Got it!", and yes there it was, a fine drake Garganey sitting amongst a flock of Teal. What an amazing record, a Garganey in January, we never thought of that one when we did the checklist! It was great to point out this rare visitor to other birders coming into the hide.

The hide also overlooks the freshmarsh, where five Avocets were asleep amongst loads of wildfowl and other waders. Suddenly a flock of Teal dropped in, and guess what? The Garganey was amongst them, how brilliant to see it out on the water swimming amongst the Teal.

Very, very pleased with our morning of great birds we headed into Hunstanton for lunch, only one place for a great lunch and friendly service, Cafe Blah Blahh. We enjoyed a super lunch and were ready for more birds!

At Holme we walked across the golf course out onto the beach, a flock of Linnets was in the saltmarsh, while out on the shingle ridge we searched for the Snow Buntings. No sign at first but we soon saw them flying west over the sands near the waters edge. Luckily they landed and we watched them through the scope before they were off again further west.

Our luck was in and in some adrenalin fueled moment we decided to try the "triangle of despair" and look for Golden Pheasant! Mid-afternoon is not the time to look for these birds, but we were on a roll. No sooner had we turned off the main road at Wolferton than we saw a gorgeous male Golden Pheasant!! We were all speechless, we never dreamed that we would actually see one of these near mythical birds. Not only did we see it but we soaked up views as it fed on the roadside verge. Just after the pheasant had slipped out of sight into the rhododendrons a 4x4 drew up alongside us and we saw two policemen looking at us, Royal Protection Officers keen to know what we were up to. They told us that the Queen was due along the road in a few minutes' time, we told them about Golden Pheasants!

Out on nearby Dursingham Bog we added a flock of Crossbills and Goldcrests to our now over 100 species day list! What a day! Just time for a last look at Thornham Harbour before the light went, no new birds but huge numbers of gulls were roosting here and flocks of Brent Geese swept in and landed on the marsh.

What an excellent day full of amazing birds, bring on more tomorrow!


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