The day started early, we left the Midlands at 0520 and arrived at our first stop, Hunstanton, in the dawn light of a beautiful sunrise. Hunstanton clifftop gave us a good start with some Curlew, Common Scoter and Fulmar on the sea, and a surprise 13 Snow Bunting which twittered past us in the car park before briefly settling.
Our next stop was, of course, Titchwell RSPB reserve, a positive gold mine of birds....usually. A flock of Pink-feet flew over us as soon as we stepped out of the car and I was amazed that Gareth pointed to the two Ross's Geese that were with them (I was fumbling around in the car trying to set my scope up!) A quick check for the Redpoll revealed a few birds but no definite Arctic, so we decided to carry on and check again on the return. The freshmarsh had a flock of at least 1000 Golden Plover which was a magnificent sight, and together with lots of waterfowl, waders, and the usual common-ish birds the number of species kept rising. My highest single day total so far has been 84, last year on the 10th January, so things were looking hopeful to beat that!
On the sea we found Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye and at least four Long-tailed Duck but no divers or rarer grebes. The return to the Arctic Redpoll found us in a gaggle of people looking at the flock and a few people saying "oh yes that was lovely wasn't it", they then all wandered off and left me staring hard trying to figure out which one was the Arctic! After about 15 mins it came to the front and I even managed this video (above). What a belter! My first Arctic Redpoll, and my newest bird for 2012! This video is of a very showy Water Rail in the ditch along the main path near the birdfeeders!
We'd been at Titchwell for most of the morning and there was a good list of rarities that I wanted to pull in (Western Sandpiper, Rough-legged Buzzard, Shore Lark etc). I'd planned to do Holkham and then Cley but the short time limit left before heading over to Stubb Mill meant that in essence we spread ourselves too thin and didn't see anything! We half-heartedly attempted the Shore Larks, but with no birders to ask directions we ended up walking down to the beach and back again, in the meantime missing out on the enormous flock of Pink-feet being scared off the marshes (probably by the Rough-legged Buzzard) and missing the chance to scan through them for the Ross's Goose! By the time we got back to the marshes the Pink-feet had settled with heads-down. Damn it!
On to Cley...but with only 45mins left before our departure to Stubb Mill the chances of seeing the Western Sand were slim. We got the hide at Pat's Pool to find it positively overflowing with birders and scopes. It was packed, and nobody seemed brave enough to talk!?! What's that all about? No Western (in fact not much else apart from Ruff, Dunlin and more Golden Plover) and a very disappointed race back to the car, for our trip to the roost at Stubb Mill.
This bit didn't disappoint! A Barn Owl was perched on a road sign on the way into the village which took off and quartered around the fields whilst we drooled over it. 3 Cranes on our arrival at Stubb Mill viewpoint were on the deck, the second set I've ever seen and the first on the ground! Brilliant scope views. 7 or 8 Marsh Harriers were on show as were lots more geese and a couple of new birds for the day. As darkness fell the last bird had to be Woodcock, we waited and waited, and eventually one shot through at 100mph! Brief but Woodcock all the same.
The return journey up the lane in torchlight lit up lots of Winter Moths, with a temperature of 9 degrees I'm not surprised!
A brilliant end to a brilliant day!
1 new lifer, 38 other new species for the year = 98 so far. Oh and the total for the day? 77