Sunday, 23 February 2014

Rough Legged Buzzard

The weather on Saturday was pretty good, dry though with a bit of a breeze, so Colin and I decided to go to the Norfolk coast.We have not been there for many months and since then of course the storm surge late last year caused extensive damage, so we did not know what impact it would have on our trip.
We did the usual thing and detoured off the A10 to drive round the Ouse Washes at Pyemore and Welney. Several large herds of swans were encountered, predominantly Whooper with a smaller number of Mutes. We never found any Bewicks, and there were no raptors or owls either. As on our last visit, the washes were largely empty with relatively few numbers of wildfowl-mainly Tufted Duck, Pochard and Wigeon. Apart from the swans, the fields were pretty empty too, with one or two small flocks of Lapwing and some Fieldfares seen.
Our only real target for the day was west of Kings Lynn at Ongar Hill. I had forgotten that we had been here before to see a wintering Richards Pipit, but today it was a Rough Legged Buzzard. As it had been seen here and from Lynn Point I expected it to be rather distant and wide ranging so I was surprised when walking north from the car park to the sea wall to see it pass low down in front of us not more than 200 yards away. It carried on east and spent a good hour hovering over the bank, occasionally drifting back over the field behind us. Out in the wash, Brent Geese were abundant, along with Shelduck and a few Oystercatcher and Redshank. Unfortunately most of the birds were too far distant to be seen clearly. One or two Egrets were around-only Little, and we did not see the Great White that was reported later at Admiralty Point.

Heading towards Titchwell we took the usual road through Ringstead and stopped at Chosely for a while. The spilt seed by the barns attracted a big flock of Yellowhammers, and around 20 Brambling were seen in the hedge along the green lane.

We arrived at Titchwell around high tide, despite that, Thornham Marsh was dry-apparenty being drained for some work. The Fresh Marsh was full of water of course, with large numbers of gulls and duck such as Pintail. Avocets were the most obvious wader, with some Godwits, Ruff, Redshanks and Golden Plover. The breezy walk to the sea did not produce much, and it was a bit of a surprise to see the sea so early. Most of the dunes east of the boardwalk had gone, as had the boardwalk, and the beach was much higher than usual. Beyond the pill box remains there seemed to be a fairly deep channel where the fossil forest bed should have been. As this was covered with water it was not clear how badly damaged this area was, the fact that some of the wooden posts were still present suggested it may not be too bad.
The big attraction was the large Scoter flocks-far higher numbers than in recent winters so it seemed. Among the thousands of Common were a small number of Velvets, we saw maybe six, though there was a report of 39 that morning which is an incredible number for this area. Apart from a couple of Mergansers, a flyby Red Throated Diver and a few Goldeneye there was nothing else visible so we made our way back.
A nice bonus was a flyover Water Pipit and we spent a few minutes watching a Long Tailed Tit nest building right by the path. Part of the Fen Trail was closed but we could get to Patty's pool where after a bit of a search the female Scaup was located.
We ended up parked by the road at Burnham Overy scanning the west end of Holkham Pines and Gun Hill. Lots of Pink Feet and Brent Geese as expected and the usual assortment of distant waders and duck. Several Buzzards were found, along with five or six Marsh Harriers, Kestrels and a Red Kite. Two boxing Hares were nice to see as was a very distant Short Eared Owl, but we could not locate the Rough Legged Buzzard and we had hoped to see Hen Harrier too. Still it was a nice end to a good day.

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