Tag Archives: Pintail

4th Dec 2016 – Winter Wonders, Day 3

Day 3 of a three day long weekend of Winter Tours in North Norfolk today, our last day. After a frosty start, it was a glorious, sunny winter’s day. Great weather to be out birding.

On our way west, the excitement started already. A Peregrine swept over the road and stooped down at a flock of Woodpigeons in a field. Unfortunately it disappeared behind a hedge so we couldn’t see if it was successful. A few feathers floated past either lost in the panic or in a chase. We also passed several small flocks of Pink-footed Geese in fields where the sugar beet had recently been harvested, looking for food.

Our first destination was Snettisham. It was high tide when we arrived, but not a really big one. Although the tide was already in, there was still lots of mud left uncovered. We could see some huge flocks of Knot out on the mudflats as we arrived at the seawall, tight groups thousands strong glinting white in the morning sunshine. As we made our way along the seawall, they suddenly took flight and started whirling round. It was quite a display, flashing alternately bright white underneath and dark grey as they wheeled and banked.

6o0a13896o0a13956o0a13996o0a1404Knot – swirling over the Wash

It didn’t take long to find out the reason for the Knots’ nervousness. A Peregrine appeared, circling over the mud at the front of the melee. It turned and powered back into the swirling flocks, flying fast and low over the mud, and the next thing we knew we could see two Peregrines circling together further back. After chasing after the waders for a few minutes, seemingly unsuccessfully, they seemed to lose interest and drifted away south.

The Knot gradually returned to the mud and as things settled down again we had a look for other waders out on the Wash. A large flock of Oystercatchers had been relatively unperturbed by the Peregrines, and they had remained standing out on the mud all along. There were also plenty of Dunlin, Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwits. The flocks of Golden Plover commuted back and forth between the fields inland and the mud.

There was a nice selection of ducks too. Lots of Shelduck and Teal, plus a good number of Wigeon, mostly out along the edge of the mud. Scanning through them, we found a little group of Pintail out on the water, the drakes starting to look very smart now. Three Pink-footed Geese flew inland over our heads, calling, but in with the flocks of roosting waders we found a single Pink-footed Goose still out on the mud. For some reason, this one seemed to be strangely reluctant to leave the roost today. Perhaps it thought it was a wader!

We made our way along to Rotary Hide. It was a beautiful morning, but unfortunately from here we were looking straight into the sun. We could see several Goldeneye down on the pit below us, including a couple of very smart drakes. One of the drakes was preening, flapping its wings and showing off the extensive white flashes. There were also a few Tufted Duck and several Little Grebes. The light was better from Shore Hide, looking back up the length of the pit. There was a nice selection of dabbling ducks down this end, Wigeon, Gadwall and Shoveler.

As we were leaving, we could see a pair of Goldeneye on the northern pit. The drake started to display, throwing its head back, kicking with its back legs, and ending up with its head and bill pointing vertically. It did it several times and it was great to watch.

6o0a1495Goldeneye – a displaying drake on the pits today

Leaving Snettisham, we made our way back along the coast road, stopping briefly at Holme to use the facilities, then on to Thornham Harbour. As soon as we got out of the car, we could see some waders in the harbour channel and the first bird we saw was a Greenshank, looking strikingly pale in the winter sunshine. It was with a Redshank,which looked much duller, darker grey by comparison, as well as being a little smaller.

Even more interesting, the Greenshank was carrying a set of colour rings. The arrangement of colours is used to identify the individual bird – only one should be fitted with this combination. Checking subsequently, it would appear that this bird was ringed in NE Scotland, and has also been seen at Titchwell this winter, although we are all still awaiting the details of its movements.

6o0a1531Greenshank – this colour-ringed bird was ringed in NE Scotland

There were some other waders here as well. A little further along, a second Greenshank was feeding in the shallow water with another Redshank. There were also a couple of Black-tailed Godwit and Curlew, and a single Little Egret too.

We made our way up onto the seawall, and walked along to the first corner. There was a nice selection of waders visible in the harbour from here, including a couple of Grey Plover. We looked up to see a small falcon flying towards us. It was a Merlin, flapping hard to gain height before it flew overhead and disappeared off west towards Holme.

It was time for lunch, so we headed round to Titchwell. As we ate in the car park, a flock of Long-tailed Tits worked its way through the trees nearby. After lunch, we walked over to the visitor centre. The feeders there were very busy – as well as a selection of tits, there were lots of finches. We watched several Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Greenfinch feeding before we picked up a Brambling in the bushes behind. It dropped down to the ground below the feeders.

Walking out along the main path, the grazing marsh ‘pool’ looked rather devoid of life at first. A closer look revealed a Jack Snipe in the ditch along one side, bobbing up and down constantly as it fed. We could see its golden straw mantle stripes and shorter bill than a Common Snipe. Then we picked out a Water Pipit at the back, in the far corner. Again, in the bright morning light its white underparts really stood out.

The freshmarsh is completely flooded at the moment. The water levels have been raised to kill off the vegetation on the islands, most of which are now underwater. Consequently, there are fewer birds here now. The ducks still seem to like it, with plenty of Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler out there today. Flocks of Brent Geese kept flying in from the saltmarsh to bathe and preen.

6o0a1563Brent Geese – flying in to bathe and preen on the freshmarsh

With the water levels high on the freshmarsh, many of the waders are now on the other pools. There were plenty of Curlew, Redshank and Grey Plover as well as several Black-tailed Godwit on the Volunteer Marsh. One Black-tailed Godwit was feeding in the channel right below the path, giving us great views.

6o0a1596Black-tailed Godwit – feeding on the Volunteer Marsh

There were a couple of female Teal feeding on the mud, skimming their bills back and forth over the surface, feeding on the algae there. A stunning drake Teal was standing on the mud the other side of the channel, calling. It looked absolutely stunning in the sunshine – they really are very pretty ducks.

6o0a1601Teal – looking stunning in the sunshine

However, it was the Tidal Pools where most of the action was at today. As soon as we came over the bank from the Volunteer Marsh, we could see several Little Grebes out on the water. A couple of Little Grebes were diving just beside the path, giving us great views.

6o0a1638Little Grebe – diving just by the path on the tidal pools

There were more ducks on here today, the usual Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler, together with several Pintail now. One was a smart drake, which we watched in the scope for a while. It was upending constantly, but eventually we got a good look at it. They have not yet quite grown their long pin-shaped central tail feathers, but still sport a rather pointed rear end.

On the muddy spit out in the middle, we could see several waders asleep. Most of the Avocets which spent the summer here have long since departed, but a few hardy individuals try to stay over the winter. There were still ten today, although they were all asleep with their bills tucked in. One of the two Spotted Redshanks was awake and we got a good look at it through the scope, noting its silvery grey upperparts, paler than a Common Redshank, and its long, fine, needle-tipped bill.

img_9156Spotted Redshank – one of two on the tidal pools today

A single Ringed Plover was roosting with a couple of Dunlin at first, but when they all flew round it disappeared. Right at the far end of the tidal pools, we found it again, this time accompanied by a second Ringed Plover. A third tried to join them but one of the others tired to see it off. It appeared to be displaying – flying round with exaggerated wingbeats, then landing on a small island and bowing deeply at the interloper.

6o0a1681Ringed Plover – displaying on the tidal pools

A Kingfisher appeared, on the concrete bunker behind the beach, and it had a fish in its bill. It proceeded to beat it on the bunker’s edge repeatedly, presumably to kill or stun it, before eating it. It then flew round to the bushes on the edge of the water to look for more. We could hear a Water Rail squealing and looked over to see it working its way along the edge of one of the islands, probing in the vegetation.

img_9177Kingfisher – catching fish on the tidal pools

Then we made our way out onto the beach. One glance at the sea and we could see lots of sea ducks flying round. In amongst the dark-winged Common Scoter, we could see several Velvet Scoter with their obvious white wing patch. There were loads of Long-tailed Ducks too. They have been rather scarce in recent years, so it is great to see so many of them here at the moment. There were at least twenty this afternoon, and probably a lot more – they are hard to count in the swell, even though it is not that big!

One of the locals kindly came over to point out that there was a Great Northern Diver close inshore, so we walked down to the water for a closer look. It was diving constantly, but we managed to get a good view of it between dives. The ducks had now settled back onto the sea again, so we managed to get both Velvet Scoter and Long-tailed Duck in the scope. There were waders to look at on the beach too – Bar-tailed Godwits, Knot, Sanderling and lots of noisy Oystercatchers.

The sun was starting to go down and it was cold on the beach, so we started to walk back. We paid a brief visit to Parrinder Hide. There were lots of Wigeon feeding on the bank right outside the windows of the hide – amazingly close! A few more Wigeon were on the water in front, along with a single drake Pintail, again looking very smart but lacking his full length of tail.

6o0a1720Wigeon – a smart drake, feeding on the bank right outside Parrinder Hide

There was a single Common Snipe from the hide too, feeding along the water’s edge at the bottom of the bank. We got it in the scope and had a good look at it, probing its long bill into the soft ground.

6o0a1774Common Snipe – also feeding on the bank outside Parrinder Hide

Making our way back towards the visitor centre, we could see several Marsh Harriers circling over the back of the reedbed. There were at least six, or at least that was the number we had in the air together. Another couple flew in over the saltmarsh from the Thornham direction.

6o0a1800Marsh Harrier – flying in to roost at dusk

There was a glorious sunset away to the west this evening, a beautiful orange sky against which to watch the Marsh Harriers flying in. It was also a lovely way to draw an end to a great weekend.

img_9181Sunset – looking towards Thornham from Titchwell

10th October 2015 – When the East Wind blows

The second day of a long weekend of Autumn tours today. With the wind in the east, we had hopes that there might be some fresh migrants in from the continent. We drove round to Holkham and parked at Lady Anne’s Drive to explore the woods.

The walk west along the inner edge of the pines was quiet at first. There were a few tits in the trees, but it was cool in the east wind this morning. Salts Hole had several Little Grebes as usual – at least 5 today. We could hear them, like slightly maniacal laughter, as we walked along the path. The calls of the Pink-footed Geese also provided a near constant soundtrack.

P1110173Little Grebe – at least 5 on Salts Hole today

At Washington Hide, we climbed up the boardwalk to look in the sycamores. The wind was catching the trees on the far side of the gap, and there was consequently little activity there today. As we turned back towards the hide, we could see a large white shape out on the water below – the Great White Egret. It has been around for about a month and a half now, but it was still nice to see it out in the open on the pool today.

IMG_1829Great White Egret – on the pool in front of Washington Hide again

We could hear Long-tailed Tits calling further along, as we watched the Great White Egret. We thought they might come our way, but the trees along the edge of the path were obviously more sheltered, so we walked back down and along to where they were feeding. We watched them for a while, hoping we might find something different with the flock – but as well as the Long-tailed Tits, it was just the usual Blue, Great and Coal Tits, Goldcrests and Treecreepers.

After the flock had passed through, we continued west, exploring all the most likely areas. In the trees behind Meals House, we came across another tit flock. The sycamores here look ideal feeding grounds for a lost visitor from the east, but it was not to be today. The main recurring theme along the trees was Goldcrest – there seemed to be a lot in here today, with the resident birds presumably joined by migrants from the continent. A few Siskin and Redpoll flew over the pines, calling.

Treecreeper Wells 2015-10-06_1Treecreeper – here’s one from Wells Woods the other day

We were past the crosstracks when we heard a Yellow-browed Warbler calling loudly from the sallows ahead of us. It was on the far side, where it was sunny, at first but eventually made its way through and we could see it flicking around amongst the leaves. Then suddenly it took off and disappeared west. We could hear it calling again, some way further along the path.

We followed it and found the Yellow-browed Warbler feeding in the top of a young oak tree by the path. It was not hard to relocate, because it was calling so often! It took off again and flew high west, dropping down again further along. It did this several times before it landed in a thicker group of sallows where a lone Chiffchaff was calling. We could see the Chiffchaff feeding around some ivy, and the Yellow-browed Warbler appeared next to it. At this point, the latter stopped calling and appeared to settle down to feed in the sallows, at which point we lost sight of it. There had been a Yellow-browed Warbler in the same area earlier in the week, but the way this bird was behaving, it was tempting to think it might be a fresh arrival.

We carried on west to the end of the pines and walked out onto the edge of the dunes. We had met a couple of other birders along the path, and the news from the dunes was that they had not seen anything of note out there. We had hoped to catch up with the Ring Ouzels which had been around the bushes here, but we learnt later that Holkham staff had been working there yesterday – presumably the birds had moved on. Even when one of the wardens drove through the area, nothing of note came out. We did see a couple of male Blackcaps feeding in the brambles.

News came through that someone had seen a Red-breasted Flycatcher back at Washington Hide, so we decided to make our way back there to try to see it. Unfortunately, it turned out that it had only been seen briefly and had disappeared across the path and out into the bushes on the National Nature Reserve. We had a look round some likely spots, in case it had made its way back to the trees, but it was not seen again. We did hear another Yellow-browed Warbler calling from the trees near Salts Hole.

It was time to head back to the car for lunch, and afterwards we made our way back east. Having spent the morning scouring the tit flocks in the woods, a bit of water with waders and wildfowl seemed like a good way to spend the afternoon. However, as we walked along the path to Stiffkey Fen, we could hear yet more Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests calling!

Stiffkey Fen itself has been very full of water for the last couple of months, despite all the money invested in new sluices. It has proven popular with the vast horde of Greylag Geese and associated white farmyard geese though. There have been the odd few Pintail on here recently and the same was true today. The drakes are now starting to emerge from eclipse plumage and a couple had the beginnings of the chocolate brown head and white neck pattern. There were lots of Pintail on here today – we counted at least 95 hiding amongst the Greylags, a very respectable total. There were also several Wigeon and Teal, with a couple of Gadwall and a Shoveler in with them.

IMG_1839Pintail – the drakes are starting to emerge from eclipse now

With the water levels so high, waders are thin on the ground (not that there is really any ground left to be thin on!). There were still a few Lapwing roosting, standing almost up to their bellies in water. A couple of Redshank dropped in. A single juvenile Ruff was on the tiny remains of one of the islands, where the vegetation was still showing above the flood.

There were more waders out on the other side of the seawall. A couple of Redshank and a Curlew were feeding in the muddy channel, with more Redshank and a couple of winter plumaged Grey Plover on the wider expanse of mud further along. We walked round to the corner to scan the harbour. There were lots of Oystercatcher as usual, but a lot more small waders out here today as well. These included a liberal scattering of dumpy grey Knot, some little groups of smaller, darker Dunlin, and further over on the edge of the water, as least 20 sparkling silvery Sanderling. A few Turnstone were grubbing around among the cockles and other shells.

There were plenty of Brent Geese out in the harbour. When the birds return from Russia, they like to feed out on the saltmarshes on Eel Grass at first, turning increasingly to grazing pasture and winter wheat fields only as the winter progresses. We could see lines of Brent Geese flying in over the sea, out beyond Blakeney Point, presumably more birds returning for the winter. As they got past the Point, several of them turned into the wind, and flew in to the harbour to join the others already out there. While we were enjoying the spectacle out in the harbour, a Kingfisher sped past, changing its mind and turning round on the edge of the mudflats, flying back in along the channel.

P1110185Comma – enjoying the late afternoon sunshine

As we walked back along the path beside the Fen, the sun came out and it was suddenly quite warm out of the fresh east wind. We had not seen so many insects today, but there were more now. A bright orange Comma butterfly was feeding on the overripe blackberries and a couple of Common Darter dragonflies were basking on the wooden post by the stile.

P1110196Common Darter – basking on one of the wooden posts

We had time for one last stop so pulled in at the start of the middle track at Warham Greens and made our way down towards the front. A Common Buzzard looked slightly out of place sat on top of the barn roof on the way down. More in keeping, certainly with the day’s activity, was the flock of Long-tailed Tits which made its way down the path ahead of us and the Goldcrests calling from the hedges. It was nice walking quietly along the track until we found ourselves pursued along the path by a huge convoy of vehicles. It was a disparate birding group – some cars were left scattered in the gateways, others continued gingerly to the end of the rutted track – which them gathered en masse only just beyond the gate at the end.

We made our way past them, and down to the pit. We had hoped their might be some late migrants, but the bushes were largely quiet. There were a few Chaffinches and Goldfinches. However, the highlight was when a single Lesser Redpoll flew in and landed in the trees with them briefly.

There was more activity out on the saltmarsh – lots of Little Egrets, flocks of Golden Plover and Curlew. A couple of Marsh Harriers were tussling out towards East Hills. Then the ringtail Hen Harrier appeared again, flying in low over the saltmarsh from the direction of Wells. We watched it as it worked its way towards us, flashing the white square at the base of its uppertail. It came right across in front of us, swooping a couple of times at something unseen amongst the Suaeda bushes, before dropping down onto the saltmarsh out of view. It seemed like a great way to end the day, so with the light fading we made our way back past the now dwindling crowd and up the path passed their abandoned vehicles.

IMG_1858Hen Harrier – the ringtail was quartering the saltmarsh again at dusk

30th March 2015 – Monday Meanderings

A Private Tour today, up on the North Norfolk coast. A birthday gift, and a relaxed day of general birding.

After a leisurely start, we headed along the coast road towards Titchwell first. As we drove, a Barn Owl flicked over a hedge near Stiffkey. The other side of Overy Staithe, a Red Kite hung in the air by the road. The first of several of both species we were to see today.

We got to Titchwell and walked out onto the reserve. The weather was much better than the last couple of days, bright but still very breezy. We had some trouble looking out over the Thornham grazing marsh pool, it was so windy, but there was relatively little out there today – a Ringed Plover, a single Ruff and a couple of Redshank. So we headed in the direction of Parrinder Hide to get some shelter.

There were lots of birds out on the freshmarsh. The water levels are now receding slowly, though only a month or more later than expected. The islands are starting to reappear, which at least gives the waders somewhere to go now. Consequently, there was a better selection on here today. There were a handful of Dunlin, several Ringed Plovers and a few Turnstones on the islands. A nice little flock of Ruff in the water, and a separate group of Redshank. And a good number of Avocet.

We spent some time admiring the godwits. There was a little huddle of Bar-tailed Godwits, all mostly still in winter plumage, pushed off the beach by the high tide. Their streaked backs were very different from the plain grey backs of the Black-tailed Godwits nearby, and we could also just see the edges of some barred tails. Some of the Black-tailed Godwits were starting to come into summer plumage, getting orangey about the head and neck, and with some brighter rusty mantle feathers showing.

IMG_3665Bar-tailed Godwit – a little huddle asleep on the freshmarsh

We also had a close look at the wildfowl. A small family group of Brent Geese were on the water close by – we could see how the plain slate grey backs of the two adults differed from the stripier wings of their five young from last year, still with them. A single Shelduck was in amongst the ducks on the freshmarsh as well – though more were out on the Volunteer Marsh.

P1010810Gadwall – check out the subtle markings of the drakes

Gadwall is often dismissed as a rather boring duck but we got a couple of drakes in the scopes and admired their intricate patterning. Drake Teal are more obviously pretty things, and there was a little group of two drakes and two ducks in front of the hide, which broke into a little bout of display. A couple of Wigeon fed on the grassy bank beside the hide. There were lots of Shoveler, many of them already paired up. One particular pair was right below the hide window, feeding feverishly in the choppy waters whipped up by the blustery wind, spinning round with their heads pretty much permanently under the water.

P1010815Shoveler – this pair were feeding feverishly

The surprise on the freshmarsh was a single Great Crested Grebe, possibly a refugee from the rough sea. It was diving repeatedly amongst the islands. Later, on our way back, a couple of Little Grebes were by the path as well. The Marsh Harriers were a little subdued today, with no sign of the display much in evidence recently. However, we did see one of the females flying in to the reedbed carrying nest material, so breeding activity has not completely subsided.

The Volunteer Marsh was a little quiet today, perhaps due to the wind whistling across. There were a few Grey Plover, and we watched one feeding out on the mud – standing still, walking a few paces, then bending down to pick at the surface. All this in contrast to the more active feeding of the Redshank next to it, probing into the mud. There were also a couple of Oystercatchers, one with a particularly bright orange bill and the other with its bill covered in sticky black mud. A single Curlew looked rather bright yellowy-brown in the sun. Unusually, there was nothing feeding in the channel by the path today.

P1010826Avocet – a pair were feeding on the tidal pools today

There was a bit more activity on the Tidal Pools. A pair of Avocets fed in the deep water – so deep they looked barely able to stand! There were lots of waders roosting on the islands – more Oystercatchers, Grey Plovers and Bar-tailed Godwits and a few Black-tailed as well. We weren’t going to linger, given the cold wind whistling across, but we could see a couple of ducks further up, right next to the path just before the beach. They stayed put until we got there – a very smart pair of Pintail. The elegant but understated female swam out further from the bank but the drake stayed put and swam round in front of us, showing off its long pin-shaped tail. Eventually, having given us plenty of time to admire them, they flew off back towards the freshmarsh. Stunning.

P1010848Pintail – this stunning drake was right by the path today

Given the conditions, we weren’t planning to try the beach today, but having got this far we decided to have a quick look. The tide was in so there were not many waders on the beach – just a handful of silvery grey Sanderling running in and out of the waves. A small group of Red-breasted Merganser was being tossed about on the sea.

We had other things we wanted to do in the afternoon, so we headed back towards the visitor centre. We stopped on the way to look at a rather scraggly Chinese Water Deer which had stopped to drink in one of the channels out on Thornham saltmarsh. Back in the car park at lunchtime, a Bullfinch called from the trees.

P1010866Chinese Water Deer – this rather tatty individual was still on the saltmarsh

After lunch, we drove back along the coast road to Holkham. As we parked on Lady Anne’s Drive, a pair of Mediterranean Gulls flew over calling, and flashing their pure white wingtips. We walked west along the path on the inland side of the pines, stopping to admire a couple of little tit flocks – mixed groups of Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits and Goldcrests. A Chiffchaff called from the undergrowth along a ditch out of the wind and further on another one sang from the bushes. A pair of Common Buzzards, chased each other around low over the grazing marshes and in front of the edge of the pines.

P1010868Goldcrest – the smallest British bird, forever on the move

Up in the Joe Jordan hide, a Little Egret was the only white bird on view when we arrived. But after only a short wait, another couple of white birds flew out from the trees with their necks held outstretched – Spoonbills. They dropped onto a little pool nearby and started feeding together, their heads sweeping from side to side with their bills in the water. One was noticeably larger than the other – presumably a pair. After a few minutes, one of them pulled up a stick from the water and set off with it back towards the trees, with the other following behind immediately after. A little later, a third Spoonbill flew in from the east – presumably it had been feeding on the marshes over that way.

IMG_3682Spoonbill – this pair dropped into a pool for a few minutes

There were lots of other things to look at from the hide as well. We scanned through the geese out on the grazing marshes. Amongst all the Greylag were a few Canada Geese and Egyptian Geese and with them four much smaller Barnacle Geese, presumably also feral birds from the increasing UK population. Still, they looked very smart – black neck sock, white face, pale flanks and black-barred grey back. It took a bit of searching, but eventually we found a small group of five Pink-footed Geese feeding on their own. Most of the thousands which spent the winter here departed last month, but a handful are still lingering – a small number may even stay through the year.

We also saw plenty of raptors. Lots of Marsh Harriers, included one individual sporting green wing tags – unfortunately we couldn’t read them. A couple of Red Kites drifted lazily overhead. A female Kestrel hung in the air in front of the hide for a while – remarkable, given the way the wind was still gusting across.

P1010872Red Kite – two were over the grazing marsh this afternoon

After the hide, we wandered the short distance along to the edge of the dunes. A Barn Owl flew across from behind us and out over the grass. We watched it disappear over towards the Burnham Overy seawall, before a second Barn Owl appeared from the same direction. Unfortunately, we were running short of time by now, so we didn’t really have enough time to look for the Rough-legged Buzzard today and there was no sign of it on a quick scan.

We headed back to towards the car and as we arrived back at Lady Anne’s Drive, another Barn Owl appeared over the fields. We saw it quartering, and it hovered before dropping down into the grass. Then yet another appeared, and we paused a while to watch the two Barn Owls hunting over the fields to finish the day.

P1010880Barn Owl – we saw four out hunting this afternoon

2nd November 2014 – Titchwell & Stiffkey

The final day of three days of tours and what a difference a day makes. After the heatwave of the last few days, today was cool, cloudy and with rain forecast. Still, that wasn’t going to stop us getting out.

We started the day at Titchwell. A quick walk around the back of the car park on arrival revealed a small group of Bullfinch calling, though they proved difficult to pin down with other cars arriving. Walking out onto the reserve, a Cetti’s Warbler was singing from the scrub but proved similarly hard to see, one of many we heard through the morning. A Kingfisher flashed quickly over the reedbed.

P1090642Shoveler – a very smart drake

With the cloud building behind us, we made for the Island Hide. One of the first birds we found was a real surprise – a Water Pipit landed on the edge of the reeds close to the hide and stayed just long enough for us to get a good look at it through the scope, before it disappeared into cover. Later in the morning, we got to see several Rock Pipits as well, giving us a great opportunity to look at the differences between these closely related species.

P1090582Little Egret – Titchwell regularly yields great views of this species

The freshmarsh was filled with wildfowl and waders and we set about looking through them. The highlight of the ducks was five Pintail, one of the drakes starting to look very smart although still without its distinctive long tail. There were also lots of Teal, Shoveler and Wigeon, as well as Gadwall and Tufted Duck on the reedbed pool. A group of Brent Geese dropped in – we saw lots during the day, with several small flocks out on the saltmarsh. Pink-footed Geese were a feature of the weekend, and yet again today skeins were seen coming in over the reserve during the morning; with a larger flock feeding in the fields inland, we were rarely out of earshot of their yelping calls.

P1090578Pink-footed Geese – another skein arriving in from the sea

There was a good selection of waders on view. A single Spotted Redshank was hiding amongst a bigger group of Bar-tailed Godwits. Several Black-tailed Godwits were not far away. There were also still a few lingering Avocets and a couple of Dunlin. Heading for the Parrinder Hide, we were distracted by some waders on the Volunteer Marsh. In particular, a single Bar-tailed Godwit and a single Black-tailed Godwit were feeding in the water alongside the main footpath, so we carried on a bit further. The two Godwits came right past us, giving a fantastic opportunity to get to grips with the identification of these two tricky species at close range. Also a great photo opportunity! On the Volunteer Marsh and the saltwater pools beyond, we also saw several Curlew, Grey Plover and Knot.

P1090573Black-tailed Godwit – a great opportunity to compare with…

P1090561Bar-tailed Godwit

We decided to continue out to the sea, but the cloud was now building again. By the time we got to the beach, the rain was starting to sweep in. A quick scan revealed a couple of late juvenile Common Terns offshore, but we didn’t stay for a closer look and made a hasty retreat. We got back to the Parrinder Hide just in time, as the heavens opened and the rain poured down. We were also just in time for the Water Rail. No sooner had we sat down than one scurried across into the bullrushes right in front of us. A Common Snipe also flew from the freshmarsh to seek shelter from the rain right directly below the hide. As the rain eased, it edged its way into view and proceeding to give us stunning views at close range.

P1090628Common Snipe – sought shelter from the rain in front of the hide

We headed back to the car for a late lunch, stopping to get a warming cup of coffee at the visitor centre. Afterwards, we took a short detour inland to look for a Great Grey Shrike which had been reported the day before, but unfortunately there was no sign of it. We did find a large flock of Chaffinches and Yellowhammers. We left as the clouds started to build again and the rain started to pour down once more as we drove back along the coast. It looked like the last part of the afternoon might be a washout, but shortly after we arrived at Stiffkey the sky started to brighten out to the west. The rain gradually eased and stopped and we were even greeted by a spectacular double rainbow.

P1090647Rainbow over Stiffkey

Looking out over the saltmarsh, first a female Marsh Harrier appeared, followed by a male and then a young bird. Then out to the west of us a ‘ringtail’ Harrier appeared – a juvenile Hen Harrier. Then the icing on the cake – we picked up a stunning male Hen Harrier flying past. A fantastic way to end the day, and the weekend.