NGB Winter Wonderland: part 2

The first destination was Breydon Water to search for the Richard’s Pipit. (Well, technically it was McDonald’s where we added pied wagtail to the weekend’s total while some of the team topped up on coffee).

Anyway, we followed Jake’s instructions which led us from the car park, along the Angle Way towards the field it usually hangs around. Looking out at Breydon Water, there were large numbers of waders, particularly golden plover in their thousands. That said, I’m told golden plover numbers are much lower than usual but it was still an impressive sight. The redshank and dunlin were much closer to the path so often flew off calling as we approached although a few stayed put. The tide was coming in so the mud was disappearing as we wandered towards the pipit.

Searching for the pipit, Breydon Water, 8th February 2015

Searching for the pipit, Breydon Water, 8th February 2015

Where was it? Not in the exact location that was described. Someone spotted a pipit in mid-air and most of us managed to get on to it. The pipit was too far away to ID but it did seem large so very likely to be a Richard’s pipit – alas the views are what you’d call “untickable”. We watched it drop down into a field behind a reed bed and then thought about how to try to refined it. All attempts proved unsuccessful so it was time to move on. Walking back along the path, we looked out to Breydon Water again and this time spotted over 100 avocets and a spotted redshank. The latter had eluded us yesterday so it was great to find one today. A brief tip to Asda provided us with a chance to buy more food and check out the gulls in another stretch of Breydon Water. All five common species were present (herring, great-black backed, lesser black-backed, black-headed and common), as well as a turnstone.

Halvergate Marsh was next for a wintering rough-legged buzzard which was found within seconds of setting up scopes. We got fantastic views but it didn’t put on a display like the one I saw in Sussex a few weeks ago. One brief flight was all we got, despite a seemingly grumpy herring gull going for it several times. The buzzard just didn’t seem to care less and was content on the fence post. Close by, on the other side of the road were a group of Bewick’s swan and a flock of fieldfare. Grey heron was another new bird for the trip, lurking in the stream by the buzzard.

Rough-legged buzzard, Halvergate Marsh, 8th February 2015

Rough-legged buzzard, Halvergate Marsh, 8th February 2015

Thorpe Green was very different compared to all the other sites we visited. As the name suggests it was a park in Norwich, next to the river. Because of this (and the fact that they know they can get fed!) there were plenty of gulls. These mostly consisted of black-headed gulls but joining in with the feed (or squabble) were common, herring and a 1st winter Mediterranean gull. I don’t usually get so close to Med gulls so I can see why Jake insisted we visited! The photographers amongst us enjoyed photographing the close up subjects til their hearts were content. And I joined in…

Back to “proper” birding after that with a trip to Santon Down and another search for a great grey shrike. There was some debate as to where the instructions we had were directing us, but the confusion stopped when Sean shouted “Shrike!”. At first, the shrike was difficult to view as there were many branches in the way but it them flew down in front of the reed bed and landed in a much better position. It must’ve known we were watching.

Great grey shrike, Santon Down, 8th February 2015

Great grey shrike, Santon Down, 8th February 2015

Hawfinches were the next target so we arrived at Lynford hoping to see some and weren’t disappointed. They were close to the bird feeders with the other typical woodland birds – nuthatch, marsh tit, bullfinch, brambling, siskin…. and so on. While a few NGBs went off in search of firecrests, the rest of us stayed to admire the birds taking advantage of the feeders. It was also a good opportunity to eat lunch. Before leaving, there was a suggestion of visiting the local goosanders as we’d not seen any yet. 4 keen birders ran off and returned 10 minutes later, successful in their quest. No pochard or tufted duck… still. Also close by was a good place (apparently) for goshawks but our searching was unsuccessful. It was probably too late in the day to see any displaying! We did see a red kite and a grey partridge instead though.

We move on to Suffolk as a waxwing has been reported earlier in the day. When we arrived we recognised some other birders who had been at Lynford also after the waxwing. It hadn’t been seen for a while, but it didn’t take long for us to refind it. The bird was sitting in a tree on a park next to a children’s play area. Good views were had, especially when it landed on some berries even closer to us. Although it was on its own, I was still very pleased to spend a while watching the bird. I missed out the last time they came to Hampshire unfortunately, so seeing one today made my day. Michael added a new dimension to birding by watching it from the children’s zip wire!

Our final destination for the trip was Lakenheath fen, an RSPB reserve on the border between Suffolk and Norfolk. It seemed like a huge reserve and some of the ponds were still frozen – must’ve been cold! We were hoping that, among other species, we’d finally find some pochards and tufted ducks, but despite checking every bit of water we failed. On the plus side, 3 barn owls were flying around the river and the great white egret also flew past multiple times. We heard a water rail that must’ve been hiding in the reed bed. Whooper swans were also on the reserve. From where I was, I couldn’t see any but we heard them whooping. The sun set was particularly impressive in my opinion, don’t you think?

The day ended with thousands of jackdaws congregating to roost in the woodland by the path. It was an impressive sight and sound, though we could only just see as we made our way back to the cars in the dark!

I must say, I intend to do more of these NGB trips as I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It was lovely to meet other young birders, catch up with the ones I’d met before and spend time birding an area of the country I’m not familiar with. By the sounds of it, a northern trip is on the cards as well as at least one more trip to Norfolk so I’d better get saving!

By the end of Sunday, Liam reckoned we’d seen 132 species as a group. Not bad for 20 hours of daylight over 2 days eh? Though I’m amazed we didn’t see any pochard or tufted ducks. Counting up my personal total, I think I saw 117 of these which is still impressive. I’ll admit I didn’t pay as much attention during the sea watching as it’s something I need more practise at… and there were waders on the beach close by! We also split up at one point which added on extra species. I had been looking forward to a trip to the Midlands to see gulls but unfortunately Craig decided to cancel as the target species (white-winged gulls and Caspian gulls) have disappeared or dispersed since we planned the trip.

2 thoughts on “NGB Winter Wonderland: part 2

  1. Amy you should come over to Selsey Bill with me in the spring, easy learning/practice spot for seawatching. There are a group of really friendly local birders who spend all day sea watching and counting. they are always happy to put you onto birds and assist with ID!

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