January 06, 2006


Hunstanton Cliffs - home to Fulmars and Feral Pigeons

Sometimes, when it's cold, grey and miserable, I wonder why it is I bother to go birdwatching. Wednesday was a good [bad] example. Crap weather and no birds.

I think the setting must make all the difference, because today Norfolk was cold, grey and miserable - the sun never came out - but there were some great birds to be seen and I wasn't quite as grumpy as normal.

We hadn't even reached our first planned stop when long skeins of Pink-footed Geese began crossing the skies above us. Birds going from their night-time roost sites to their daytime beet-field feeding hang-outs. It's a Norfolk birding cliche, but always an awesome sight, not to be sniffed at.

On a cold January Friday morning, it was quiet on Hunstanton seafront and Turnstones scuttled around in the gutter, in the manner of Starlings, while Herring Gulls lurked in gardens and car-parks.

But they weren't our 'sunny-Hunny' target birds. No, we wanted Fulmars, and we got them, as they glided stiffly around the cliffs on their mini-albatross wings.

Below, family parties of Brent Geese indulged in a little breakfast-time surfing and pecked at the seaweed which encrusted the boulders below the cliffs. More Turnstones, Oystercatchers and Redshanks there, but sadly no Purple Sandpipers.

Time to look out to sea. Well, into The Wash, anyway. With no wind, seawatching conditions weren't exactly ideal, but it made it a lot more comfortable.

It wasn't too long before one Red-throated and one Great Northern Diver came into view. Not close by normal birding standards, but good for seawatching. Much closer was a Guillemot, to Darren's great delight. They don't get many in Bedfordshire so he hadn't seen one before.

Darren's first Guillemot

I think that means he owes me a pint.

Darren is quite derogatory about 'Titchwell Zoo', as he calls it, but I reckon you can't knock it too much. Wander down the track to the beach and there are Spotted Redshanks feeding, unperturbed, virtually within spitting distance.

Spotted Redshank

On the sea, a slick of Common Scoters was forming. Trails of birds from further offshore made up a flock of around 3,000 birds - another impressive sight which included about eight Velvet Scoters. Slightly closer, a couple of smart, piebald Slavonian Grebes (another lifer for DO-M, and it wasn't even lunchtime) pootled about, and a small group of Red-breasted Mergansers bobbed around on the waves.

The scoter flock off Titchwell beach

A drive up to Choseley found a flock of around 400 Corn Buntings and some very pleasant, canary-yellow Yellowhammers. Titchwell drew us back again, with news of a Bean Goose with a flock of Pinkfeet on fields by the entrance. More than an hour's scrutiny of the flock, in terrible light, failed to nail the bird conclusively... Still, it's not a British breeding species so we don't need it for our list anyway.

Species added today:
Pink-footed Goose
78. Herring Gull
79. Oystercatcher
Brent Goose
80. Fulmar
Bar-tailed Godwit
81. Guillemot
82. Red-throated Diver
Great Northern Diver
83. Shelduck
84. Curlew
85. Little Egret
86. Cetti's Warbler
87. Egyptian Goose
Spotted Redshank
88. Black-tailed Godwit
89. Ringed Plover
90. Dunlin
Grey Plover
91. Common Scoter
Velvet Scoter
92. Slavonian Grebe
93. Red-breasted Merganser
94. Avocet
95. Corn Bunting
96. Grey Partridge
97. Merlin
98. Barn Owl

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