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No dipping today

Just noticed this blog about our Norfolk birding didn't make the 'go live' button. So in the interests of 'Waste not, want not', here's one we prepared earlier!

Our day began on foot as we walked east from the house along the seawall. We were out at the crack of dawn and as soon as we stepped out, the sky was full of thousands of Pink-footed Geese pouring east, brilliant. Masses of both Common and Black-headed Gulls were rising from the sheltered waters of the harbour and heading inland; how many individal birds had we seen in just a few minutes?

On the inland side of seawall there were more masses of birds; flocks of Wigeon were grazing on the fields where flocks of Golden Plover lifted and settled time and time again. They were right to be nervous as a Peregrine swept across the area scattering birds in all directions. We did really well for raptors with plenty of Marsh Harriers, a Common Buzzard, a dashing Merlin and a Sparrowhawk that flew low along the tide edge just below us!

The light was stunning as the sun cleared the eastern horizon, and flock after flock of Pink-footed Geese swept across the orange sky, just breathtaking. The sun slanted through the reed heads turning them gold as Skylarks sang overhead. Was this really January? Little Egrets waded through ditches, Grey Partridges loitered in the short grass, Reed Buntings perched in the hawthorns as Rock Pipits flew overhead.

In the harbour dark-bellied Brent Geese rode the tide as Grey Plover, Turnstone and Dunlin found dry places to roost. Thousands of Starlings were swarming over the area and large gangs of Pied Wagtails skimmed over the saltmarsh.It was an amazing walk and all within sight of the house.

After our second breakfast, we headed south for Tottenhill Gravel Pits near Kings Lynn. We almost made it when a call alerted us to some Waxwings nearby so we decided a short detour was in order. At Watlington we could find no sign of the birds at first, but Shirley spotted a bush with plenty of berries, and Waxwings like berries. We parked and walk back towards the bush and hey presto there were two Waxwings on the berries! These gorgeous birds showed off in the sunshine and as always wowed us all. They were delightfully tame and we stood just yards away watching these Scandinavian visitors stuffing the berries down.

So, now it was back to plan "A" and over to the gravel pits. Within seconds of arriving we were watching a Smew; the day was going very well! The young drake Smew was diving against the far bank, but we enjoyed good scope views in the warm sunshine, yes it was warm! A Woodcock flew by so close it looked as though it might collide with us, such a wonderful bird.

There were plenty of other wildfowl here, and in the woodland we added Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Nuthatch to another fast-growing day list.

Off to Thetford next to look for the Black-bellied Dipper wintering here on the river that runs through the town. After a little confusion as to which bridge we should park by (Thetford is well endowed with bridges) we set off by the fast-flowing river. We crossed a metal bridge and luckily Ruth noticed a wooden bridge amongst the trees. This looked hopeful so we stood on this small bridge but no Dipper here and we could see very little of the stream, so what now? Paul then saw some birders off to our left, could it be there? We joined them and yes there was the Dipper! This lovely bird was sitting facing us under some trees and we soon had it in the scope, what a beauty. Luckily the Dipper was no mood to move and posed happily while we all enjoyed the amazing views and snapped away with cameras. After some ten minutes it began to do what Dippers do best, dipping, bobbing up and down and flicking its wings open in time with the bobs. As experienced Dipper-watchers we knew he was ready to feed and sure enough, he soon plunged into the water. Very quickly he was back on his branch with a meal. This was repeated several times before he began to swim about and dive repeatedly, just wonderful views.

Dipper ours 1

Black-bellied Dipper at Thetford

We enjoyed a very late lunch, and again we found excellent food and service at Brown's Kitchen, highly recommended!

We took rather a long time over lunch, the food was great and the staff very friendly and we had seen so many birds already. But of coure there was still more birding to be done. We headed north to Sculthorpe Moor Hawk and Owl Trust near Fakenham. It was rather late so we did not have a huge amount of time but we certainly made good use of it! At the well-stocked feeders we quickly saw Marsh Tits, Brambling, Tree Sparrows and Long-tailed Tits all new for our day. This is a lovely reserve and we will be back when we have more time.

We got back to base just in time to see the mass fly past of the Pink-footed Geese this time heading off to roost, perfect end to another brilliant day!


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