First stop was Lynford Arboretum. It was now first light and this is as good-a-place as any to rack up a few woodland species. At this point it was a lovely winters morning with the sunrise casting an eerie glow over the frosted landscape. On a couple of rare occasions we've managed Hawfinch here but fail more often than not. However one of the first birds of the year was indeed a flyover Hawfinch and we managed to find a second one perched in a distant treetop. A great start to the year.
|Distant but a great start|
Sadly no Crossbills on offer today but Marsh Tit and all the usual woodland fare got the list up and running on our way to the north coast.
The big prize we were hoping for was Pallid Harrier so Flitcham was next in the sat nav. I got a sense of deja vu here as for the second time in less than a week I was subjected to a no-show from this rare and regal raptor. But we were viewing from further up Abbey Road today and the huge mixed flock of passerines in the hedgerow in front of us, although mostly Chaffinch, also contained in it's midst Brambling ,Tree Sparrow, Yellow Hammer and Reed Bunting. A Grey Partridge occasionaly revealed itself at the end of the track.
|Brambling at Flitcham|
A team decision was made that we needed to move on and cash in on Norfolk's bounty of species. Fresh news revealed that the 2 Rough Legged Buzzards were showing nicely at Cholsey Drying Barns, so that made the decision easier. Unfortunately they weren't by the time we got there. A couple of Buzzards were up and about but after close scrutiny we couldn't turn them into anything other than commons.
If you're in North Norfolk and you want to get species on your list then Titchwell is a must. Obviously a whole lot of other people had the same strategy as we completed several circuits of both car parks before managing to squeeze into a slightly improvised space. Myself and Ian then queued for a lifetime to order some much needed hot food and then waited through what must have been a reincarnation for it to be served. Finally, suitably sated, we made it onto the reserve. Good old Titchwell served up a further 23 species to add to my list, including Water Pipit, Rock Pipit, Spotted Redshank Marsh Harrier and a huge raft of Scoter on the sea.
The early morning sun had long since vanished behind a solid blanket of cloud and it was now a race against the fading light to squeeze a couple more new years ticks in. Thornham was just down the road and there were reports of a flock of Twite near the car park and the lingering 3 Shorelarks towards Holme Dunes. On our arrival, 20+ Twite obligingly got up from an island in the creek and gave us a nice display. It's barely a stone's throw to the beach on the other side of the harbour where the shorelarks hang out but it's a right old stroll round the houses (although there's no houses) to get to it. In the now dying light they weren't easy to find and we began to think they'd gone to roost but we eventually stumbled across them quietly poking around in the shingle.
So dark was now winning the battle against light and that was surely that for the day. Barring a jammy Barn Owl on the lengthy, indirect walk back to the car, our listing was done for the day. That was until we got half way back and Ian called "Barn Owl" and there was an enigmatic little ghost quartering the back of the field beside us. Perfect end to the day.
So no 'rare raptor rapture' but Norfolk had provided me with a very respectable 86 species on the first day of 2016. What else will the year have in store? Rare birds I hope. Stonkingly beautiful birds I hope. Enthralling natural spectacles of any kind please.
But most of all in 2016 I hope for significant strides forward in the campaign to salvage the last of our breeding Hen Harriers from the brink of extinction, by banning the despicably destructive so called 'sport' of Driven Grouse Shooting. Please help if you can. There's a few weeks left to sign this......
If you're in any doubt at all that this needs doing then you just need to read this.......
2016 could be a pivotal year for our magnificent, yet relentlessly persecuted raptors. Please consider getting involved if you can. It's so easy in these days of social media to just help raise awareness. That's all we need to do.
Happy New Year.