It's been a quiet end to the year, with only one local birding session during the past week, which has been rather wet. On the whole, 2022 has been enjoyable – both from a local perspective (which takes up 90% of my birding these days) and further afield. Here's to 2023.
|Pink-footed Geese in Norfolk.|
A couple of quick scans of the sea in Felpham produced two Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver and decent numbers of Gannets, Brent Geese and Mediterranean Gulls early afternoon. A Rock Pipit flew over the garden as well.
A sunny walk around Chiddingfold Forest was fairly quiet on the bird front, though a male Hawfinch was a pleasing – albeit typically brief – sight at The Triangle. It's safe to say 2022 has been my best year for this species locally since the 2017-18 influx. Five Marsh Tits included a couple in song, but very few finches were about – not a single Siskin or redpoll were seen.
I managed one of my better 'from the car' records en route to a family thing today: a ringtail Hen Harrier over the M4 near Reading!
Dave, Matt, Sam and I headed to north Norfolk for a big day in the field. I hadn't visited the county for three years and it was good to be back, even if it wasn't a classic winter trip. After logging no fewer than three Barn Owls en route, we started at Titchwell, where we scored 65 species. This included typical fare for this cracking site, such as Pink-footed Geese, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Bearded Tits and Water Pipits.
Next up was Brancaster Marsh, where we managed an underwhelming encounter with the wintering Hume's Leaf Warbler in the increasingly windy conditions. It was then on to Holkham, which was extraordinarily busy – it was like a London park on a weekend, with masses of dogs. The birding began along Lady Anne's Drive, where Barnacle Geese, Great Egrets, Grey Partridges, Peregrine and a released White-tailed Eagle highlighted.
|Great Egret, Wigeon, Grey Partridge and White-tailed Eagle.|
Rather depressingly the classic winter passerines require a roped off area these days at Holkham Gap and it was here that we located the wintering flock of 11 Shore Larks. This species is always a real treat to see. The sea was choppy, but we were able to prize out a couple of Long-tailed Duck, a Slavonian Grebe and an Eider among the more typical fare, which included plenty of Red-breasted Merganser.
We then diverted inland to Glandford, to CleySpy, where a day-roosting Long-eared Owl has just been found in their outdoor viewing area – apparently only the second twitchable one in Norfolk this year!
At this point we decided to sack off Stubb's Mill and the Crane roost, opting for Warham Greens instead. Here, we immediately scored our target – the juvenile female Pallid Harrier. Despite being my fourth in Britain (and second in Norfolk), these were easily my best British views of the species. It won't be long until Surrey scores another of these beauties – hopefully at Thursley! A ringtail Hen Harrier was also present here.
|Pallid Harrier and Brent Geese.|
We ended the day back at Titchwell, where Whooper Swan was the only notable addition to a decent day list total of 106. In all, a fun outing, but there was an element of sad reflection when comparing it to winter Norfolk trips from years gone by – masses of people, no Snow Buntings, no Twite, no other grey geese species and a tiny wintering flock of Shore Larks only persisting due to a cordoned off section of saltmarsh …