When Drunkbirder John Hague messaged me earlier this week asking whether anyone fancied joining himself and the Llama for a trip out to Norfolk on Wednesday I jumped at the chance: I dont often get out with actual proper birdwatchers so this was an ideal opportunity to sponge some knowledge and besides, I quite fancied a trip out to the seaside!
So off we embarked from the Llamas stable bright and early at 6am, picking up the first bird of the day, a Barn Owl as it flew over the road. After a refuelling stop at the world renowned Kings Lynn Mcdonalds we soon got to the first port of call - the Fakenham Great Grey Shrike. Found the site well enough although admittedly I wasn't very confident about finding the bird itself - my only other experience with GGS was the Harrington bird(s) late last year that gave me the runaround and that fact combined with the total lack of sightings on Tuesday made it all the more surprising when the Shrike flew in and landed above me and Andy about 10 minutes after arrival. It didnt stay on this elected perch for long and quickly relocated to a hedgrow about 50 yards away that ran perpendicular to the path. This wasn't all bad however as there it stayed and allowed closer scrutiny of the features that have been pointing towards the homeyeri race:
As im generally uneducated in such matters im not going to say anything else about this bird except that at this stage it appears to be some form of integrade between homeyeri and excubitor but im just happy enough to call it my 2nd ever GGS!
And so we moved onto the next port of call - Cley. I'd never actually visited Cley before (unless you count standing on the shingle bank with my 6th form Geography class measuring pebbles) so I was keen to visit just for that reason but the main draw was the Western Sandpiper that would have been a lifer for me and Andy. It wasn't to be however. As it turns out we had just missed the bird on one of the scrapes and when we arrived the Dunlin flock was romping around the Cricket marsh and being generally uncooperative and invisible for the most part. We might (and I stress, MIGHT) have had the bird in flight on a couple of occasions when the wader flock was put up by a Marsh Harrier or Peregrine but there was no chance of me ticking it on that basis. After 60 mins or so of freezing our nadgers off (very windy, cold and exposed) we retreated to the visitors centre with only a flyby Water Pipit to show for our efforts. A cup of tea for the oldies and a council of war was in order but I certainly did NOT menace any old persons! They menaced me with questions such as, "what are all those birds flying around?" and, "you're from Leicester!!? Oooooo, Harold did you hear that? This young man is from Leicester! We used to live in Nottingham, what are the chances!!?"
In the end we decided to stuff the Western and head back down the coast in favour of having a decent days worth of birds rather than waiting all day trying to see an uninspiring peep.
And so we headed to Holkham where 4 Shore Larks did the decent thing and sneaked their way onto my life list (very nice), a large flock of 80ish Snow Buntings were sort of worth the walk (or rather the walk back) and a flock of Linnet tried their very best to string themselves into Twite. A couple of Rock Pipit were knocking around too and a quick seawatch (the tide was way out) produced 3 Red Breasted Mergansers on the sea and a Sanderling on the beach.
The final destination of the day was Titchwell and en-route we had a Short eared Owl hunting by the road which fulfilled my owl quota for the day but we didnt bother stopping and looking for the Rough legged Buzzard as the strong winds were keeping most raptors grounded. Arriving at Titchwell I was pleased to immediately see a crowd of observers gathered by the feeding station - a good indication that the Coues Arctic Redpoll was present! Indeed it was (lifer!) and due to the helpful directions from one of the observers I also managed to see my first Mealy Redpoll too!
There wasn't much else to see on the reserve however, the best of it being a few Spotted Redshank on the saltmarsh and single Med Gull and Yellow legged Gull that Andy "Guller" Mackay picked out of the roost. We stayed and froze half to death waiting for a Hen Harrier to come into roost but that wasn't to be.
Still, a cracking day out, topped off with 3 lifers!