4 Jun 2007

Trip Report (Part 4): Norfolk and a day out with Gordon Hamlett Author of "Best Birdwatching sites in the Scottish Highlands"

174. Arctic Tern
175. Manx Shearwater

Peregrine's Birding Facts : Why the MANX Shearwater. The prefix Manx, meaning from the Isle of Man, originated owing to the once large colony of Manx Shearwaters found on the Calf of Man an island to the south of the Isle of Man.

Photo: View in North Norfolk

I got up and joined Gordon and Chris for breakfast before she headed off to Norwich to fundraise for the East Anglia Air Ambulance. Donations can be sent Here. Gordon and I then headed off firstly to Abbey Farm Organics at Flitcham where they have a bird hide.The bird hide at Abbey Farm opened in May 1995 and it was funded with money from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust in recognition of the farm's work to conserve wetlands. Well I would never have found or known about this spot if I had decided to look at North Norfolk on my own. We came here with the possibility of seeing Little Owl which breed nearby but sadly none were in evidence nor was the Kingfisher which can be seen regularly in front of the hide. However I did see my first Egyptian Goose.

Photo: Egyptian Goose

Then we left Abbey Farm and made our way to RSPB Titchwell via Choseley Barns where Gordon reckoned we would be in with a good chance of Corn Bunting another bird I have never seen before. We were in luck there were a number sitting on phone lines and some feeding on the ground with some Yellowhammers they were singing their very distinctive call which resembles a bunch of keys being jangled. Listen to it Here

Photo:Corn Bunting

It was not a day for great photography as it was very grey.

Next stop was RSPB Titchwell Marsh. Titchwell Marsh is situated on the North Norfolk coast and is one of the country's best known reserves. Out in front of the centre there are shallow lagoons and reedbeds with hides dotted here and there giving close views of a wide variety of birds. From our first hide we saw a distant Marsh Harrier another year tick. Many of the Warblers had arrived and we heard Sedge, Chiff Chaff, Willow Warbler.

Photo: Sedge Warbler

We made our way towards the sea and I saw my first Avocet which was a bit of a letdown I think mainly because one has seen their photos everywhere for years and years and one knew exactly what you were going to see. Having said that I do think it is a lovely looking bird.

Photo: Avocet

But the bird I saw next was the one that made my day it was a Spotted Redshank in Summer Plumage. I saw my first Spotted Redshank last year at RSPB Belfast Harbour and it is amazing the difference in plumage.

Photo: Spotted Redshank at RSPB Belfast Harbour

Photo: Spotted Redshank at RSPB Titchwell Marsh

Generally in Northern Ireland when you pass or bump into other birders they are very friendly and make the effort to say hi whereas in Norfolk!!! I made every effort to say Hi to birders as I passed them on the paths around the various reserves yet the amount of people who would have their heads down and not even look at you. Gordon and I found it quite amusing.

After looking from a number of the hides we went back to the centre and had our lunch. From here we went to Burnham Norton as there had been reports of a Spoonbill which we believe we saw briefly in flight. I have seen them before down in Dorset a few Christmas ago.Then we went to an area where there were reputed to be some Montague's Harrier. We drove up this road and parked at the entrance of a field. There were a few other people there as well. We were in luck as in the distance flying over some mustard seed rape were four harriers. I could only get two in the photo at once as they were a long way off and this image is heavily cropped.I was fortunate last year to see Northern Ireland's first up at the Belfast Harbour Estate.

Photo: Montague's Harrier

Then we went to the Mecca of CleySpy. CleySpy is situated in a barn on Manor Farm in Glandford. It is one of the best destinations in the UK for buying Binoculars, Telescopes and Digiscoping Paraphernalia and all their related accessories.Tripods etc They also have a gallery of Bird Art adjoining the shop. I wanted to meet one of the guys working there called Peter who last year had a photographic year list on Birdforum and a Bird Photography website www.blueskybirds.co.uk I dipped on him!! But I did have a look through the Nikon ED50 an absolutely wonderful lightweight travelling scope.
It is on my shopping list. I may even sell my scope to get one. it not far off fits in your pocket.I couldnt buy any art but I did get a few postcards by Robert Gillmor

After leaving here we went to our final stop of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust's (NWT) Cley Marshes another premier Birding Hotspot. We drove past the amazing new visitor centre. Gordon had heard there were Yellow Wagtails to be found another bird I have yet to see. I still have yet to see!! We were later told there had been 20+ in the field earlier in the day but that is life and I will get as much enjoyment when I next see it. We then went back to Gordon's house. I would be quite jealous of him as he has a fantastic birding library of over a thousand books. This is a result of him reviewing books for Bird Watching Magazine. Maybe I will have to start reviewing books on my blog and hope that the publishers will send me books to review!!!

The following morning after getting directions for Weeting in South Norfolk I said my goodbyes. Gordon and Chris thank you very much for putting me up and showing me around it was greatly appreciated.

I drove south to Weeting Heath. Weeting Heath NNR, which is 137 ha in size, is owned and managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust. The reserve is situated in Breckland, that is to say, a unique area of grassy heath, forest and arable land in western Norfolk and Suffolk. Heaths in Breckland were formed after Stone Age farmers cleared the original woodland to grow crops. Once the soil became exhausted they cultivated new areas. This intermittently cultivated land became known as ‘breck’. The Breckland heaths have declined dramatically in size since the turn of the century due to changes in agriculture. From mediaeval times, Breckland saw the management of rabbits in large enclosed warrens for fur and meat production. Their continued grazing and burrowing created the short grassland, rich in mosses, lichens and other plants that can be found today. The reason I came here was the reserve is famous for Stone Curlew which breed here, laying their eggs in shallow scrapes in the soil. The Stone Curlew are very sensitive to disturbance and you can only observe them from two hides. I spent an age looking for them and eventually had to be shown one sitting on a nest away in the distance. You can just make out the head in the photo below.I look forward one day to seeing better views.

Photo: Stone Curlew

Weeting is also an excellent place to see Woodlarks and I wasn't to be disappointed a pair dropped down right in front of the hide and I got a grab shot of one before they flew off.

Photo: Woodlark

So having seen a couple of lifers within a matter of minutes I headed onto Suffolk.

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