Birdwatching Weekend in Norfolk

Friday 11th to 13th December 2015.

With the vehicle on the drive , it was just a case of loading up the luggage and the passengers ( 7 in total ) for what was going to be the inaugural tour for stevelovellgreenscapes. The weather forecast was not very favourable with a front hanging over the southern half of Britain for the next few days . We were going to have to be flexible regarding the weather .Setting off, birdwatching from the mobile Hyundai i40 hide gave views of Grey Partridge , Rooks , Jackdaws, Carrion Crows , Pheasant , Starlings, Common, Lesser black backed ,Black headed gulls, Magpies, a Buzzard and Wood Pigeons . Several Kestrels , a Sparrowhawk and a flash of a Green woodpecker in some roadside trees soon followed .

The journey to Norwich is never a particularly quick one but tractors , low loaders and coaches combined to slow the progress even more. With the weather forecast for Friday being dry the itinerary was changed . The first port of call was a comfort and lunch break at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen where the feeding station was alive with birds , with Blue, Coal ,Great and Marsh Tits plus Chaffinches , a Wren ,Nuthatch, a Goldfinch, Blackbirds, Robins, Jay a great spotted woodpecker was heard but not seen . Out on the mere it was well populated with Gadwall , Shoveler , Mallard , Teal , Coot and Moorhen. Over the reedbed were three distant Marsh Harriers constantly working over the area in search of prey.Leaving this site and working across to Hickling various points were observed with Lapwing , Mute Swan and Egyptian Goose being seen . Some very large flights of Pink Footed Geese and Greylags on the fields continued the Goose chase theme . Hedgerows were scanned but there were very few passerines and other farmland birds to be seen with a small covey of Red Legged Partridge being the exception .

A stroke of good fortune took us cross country towards Hickling this resulted in a ‘Twitch ‘ of a recently reported Cattle Egret which was feeding in the vicinity of some splendid White Park cattle .A party of Long Tailed Tits passed through the trees at the same time .Upon arrival at Hickling the group were alighted close to the site at Stubbs Mill , by the time I had parked the vehicle the group had already observed many Fieldfares , Redwings with three Common Cranes flying overhead searching through the many Marsh harriers a single Hen Harrier ( ringtail – female or juvenile ) was found with its distinctive white rump . Staying until last light it was a surprise not to see any Barn Owls , Short eared Owls , Merlins or Peregrines .It was a steady but short drive back to the hotel in Norwich followed by a splendid meal at the aptly named Marsh Harrier gastro pub . Saturday 12th DecemberAn early breakfast was followed by a trip to the rather unusual location of the Asda car park at Great Yarmouth to view the high tide roost on Breydon water , here the Yare and Waveney rivers flow in and out to sea .

The numbers of Wigeon were simply mind blowing with the odd Pintail amongst them. The wader numbers were also colossal with Redshank , Black and Bar tailed Godwits,Avocet , Golden and Grey Plover ,Knot the odd Curlew and I am sure that there were Dunlin and Ruff in there if the light and the weather had been more favourable . A Cormorant and a little Egret added to our list . A cup of hot chocolate in Asda soon warmed our spirits once again .Further to the list of unusual birding locations we then ventured to the Gas works at Ness Point ,Lowestoft just over the border in Suffolk . Here Herring and Great Black backed Gulls were seen but sadly a fleeting view of our target birds Purple sandpiper and Ruddy Turnstone .

The weather here was absolutely wild so the only course of action was to break out the complimentary mince pies and festive bakewells .We then returned to Strumpshaw to see more of the same that we had previously encountered here with the highlight being nine Marsh Harriers all over the reedbed together which were continually getting mobbed by crows in turn .One of the harriers did have green wing tags on which indicated it had been tagged in north west Norfolk .A short drive to the Corvid roost at Buckenham astounded those who had never seen this before with 30 to 40 thousand going through their movements and murmurations prior to settling into their evening roost . Sunday 13th December 2015.After the excitement of a fire alarm and evacuation the previous night , the journey took us down to Lynford Arboretum near Thetford sadly the weather was up against us once again .

Sadly Hawfinch evaded us but we saw many tits and nuthatches , new birds to the list were Stock dove , Mistle and Song Thrush , Tree Creeper , Great spotted Woodpecker , on the lake were Gooseander , Tufted Duck , Canada Goose and Goldeneye .After another comfort break our travels took us to RSPB Nene Washes sadly after seeing some Whooper swans in a field en route this site had very little to offer due to the awful weather .Collared Doves were seen at some stage of the trip to give a grand total of 71 species . We chose not to include various items of mammalian road kill but did see grey squirrels and Chinese water deer . The company , the events , the birds, the food but certainly not the weather made the trip very enjoyable . I would certainly like to repeat the format but to a different location and with one or two tweaks to the itinerary.