Tuesday 3 January 2023

Christmas Present

Vicky gave me a great birthday present this year: a day of birding in North Norfolk, with a night at Thornham Deli. What's more, we were ditching the kids and the dog at the in-laws, allowing whinge-free fun! 

 We managed to get away just after lunch from the in-laws in North Hertfordshire and took advantage of the dry weather to check out the saltmarsh at Warham Greens. First, a Marsh Harrier cruised past, closely followed by a ringtail Hen Harrier and a Merlin. A delight to see this trio, but I was hoping for something a little rarer! Right on cue, the orangy juvenile female Pallid Harrier winged her way across the saltmarsh just after 3.30pm. At one point, she tailed the Hen Harrier closely, allowing a great comparison through the scope. She headed back west, flushing the Merlin which had perched up on a pine tree- see video below. The Pallid Harrier remained distant, though her pale ruff, dark secondaries and plain orange underparts could be made out through the scope, along with her slighter frame and narrower wingtips.


We ate heartily in the Jolly Sailor Pub that evening and enjoyed a few pints. The strong winds abated suddenly during the night and were succeeded by rain and gloomy skies. Not to be defeated, we headed to Brancaster to look for a Hume's Warbler that had been wintering by the pool, just west of the beach road. The weather was poor, but after a while, I could hear the Hume's calling from the large Sallows on the far side of the pool. I hoped it would follow a circuit of the pool and after about 15 minutes it began calling much more closely at the east end of the pool. I headed down there and quickly picked up the bird as it moved through the bushes. A typically pallid, grey-green phyllosc,with dark bareparts and duller buff greater covert wingbar and supercilium. The bird approached quite close and I managed to get a record shot, despite my camera being soaked and the light being dreadful. The little spryte moved off through the bushes and vanished; I headed back to the car to dry off.

We headed over to Titchwell for a coffee and some hide birding, to keep out of the weather, though it was already too late for my soaked trousers! We had an enjoyable couple of hours here, although I couldn't locate the Long-billed Dowitcher from the previous day. In fact, there were few waders on the marsh, apart from a handful of Avocets, Dunlin and Grey Plovers. A Greenshank on the brackish marsh was a bonus and a few Red-breasted Mergansers were on the leaden sea.

Next up was Holkham, where a herd of about 100 Euro White-fronted Geese were grazing in the field by the coast road. We headed down to the beach and checked out the sea - more mergansers, Common Scoters and several Great Crested Grebes (it was too windy to spend too much time looking)- before heading west, where we located the eleven wintering Shore Larks in the roped-off area. They fed very close to the path, completely unbothered by our presence; absolutely stunning birds. A nice end to a most thoughtful Christmas present.

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