A weekend in North East Norfolk, 28 - 30 January 2022

With the weather forecast being mild and dry (if a bit windy!) we took the motorhome for a winter excursion to NE Norfolk this weekend. 

On Friday night we camped at a small campsite at Knapton just inland of Mundesley. During the day we walked part of the Paston Way from Knapton into North Walsham and then back via the North Walsham and Dilham Canal and Pigney's Wood. Winter Helliotrope was very evident along the old railway line and in North Walsham Cemetery I found a single Two-spot Ladybird amongst a cluster of overwintering Harlequin Ladybirds on a gravestone. Birdwise c300 Pink-footed Geese flew over near Knapton, a Kingfisher flashed along the canal and a group of Siskins and c10 Fieldfares were also seen. A small variety of fungi were also encountered, most of which still need id-ing. 

That night a wake was going in the social club by our campsite and we got invited to join them for a burger and beer. Bizarre and uncomfortable in equal measure!

                                                                                                                      Two-spot Ladybird (bottom)

                                                                                                                                  Candlesnuff Fungus

                                                                                                                              Winter Helliotrope

Fast forward to Saturday and we re-located to the coast at Sea Palling where for the 2nd night in a row were were the only people on the campsite. On the drive over c50 Bewick's Swans were in the usual spot near Ingham. Our walk took us along the coast as far as Cart Gap in one direction and Waxham in the other as we clocked up the miles. It was blowing a gale and the only real highlight were 3 Purple Sandpipers that I found on the rocks at Sea Palling about 200 yards south of the lifeboat station.

                                                                                                                              Purple Sandpipers

A yomp around Covehithe and Benacre, 23 January 2022

A circular walk starting and finishing in Covehithe taking us north as far as Beach Farm and then back via an inland loop.

Conditions were dry, grey and very still with the sea merging into the sky offshore. Sightings were thin on the ground with 4 Red-throated Divers offshore, c400 Brent Geese south and a single Brambling in a finch flock inland which otherwise consisted of 90% Linnets and a few Chaffinches and Goldfinches. Benacre Broad held c1000 Lapwings, 11 Sanderling and a handful of Dunlin but nothing untoward. An interesting plant naturalised along the crumbling clifftop at Covehithe was Garden Parsley which I'd never seen growing in a 'wild' setting before. 

Henstead church on the way had very few Snowdrops up yet but at least I did find some clumps of Stinking Hellebore near Beccles which I stopped and photographed on the way home.

                                                                                                                                 Stinking Hellebore

Winterwatch out east, 22 January 2022

A frosty winter day out with Jus and Andy.

Heading out east to a location that must remain 'undisclosed' we went in search of a reported Lesser Yellowlegs. And after a bit of searching we found said bird. Feeding quite distantly it was also fairly mobile but good scope views were had. Pity about the photo! 

Nearby we had a treat of wintering waders with birds absolutely everywhere. The sheer numbers were amazing and included 300 Snipe, 110 Black-tailed Godwits and 6000 Lapwings plus excellent records of a wintering Little Stint and an inland Turnstone. Also seen were 5 Green Sandpipers, c15 Dunlin, c6 Ruff, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and 2 Water Pipits. One of the latter even posed for a quick digi-scope pic. 2 Great Black-backed Gulls were also noteworthy.

                                                                                                                                     Water Pipit
                                                                                                                                   Lesser Yellowlegs

A while later we found ourselves at the coast and in particular Ness Point, Lowestoft. After a little searching in the area around the turbine yard we found 1, then 2 Black Redstarts. One a 1w male, the other a female. A couple of Mediterannean Gulls flew past and then, a few hundred yards north of the point we found 7 Purple Sandpipers.

Finishing the day at Kessingland shore pools (accessed via Heathlands) we located the lone Shorelark surprisingly easily. It was nice to watch and photograph it in the golden light of late afternoon together with a handful of tame Sanderings that flew in to join us.

                                                                                                                                 Black Redstart
                                                                                                                      Black Redstart habitat shot!


Some local Jack Snipe, 16 January 2022

It's been a while since I saw a Jack Snipe so acting on a tip-off about some reasonably local to me I headed off with my wellies this morning!

And low and behold I managed to find 3 birds with minimum effort. After a short visit I left them alone to enjoy their winter home.



Corporation Marshes, Walberswick, 15 January 2022

A good solo day out birding on the Suffolk coast was just what the doctor ordered. I left Pulham in the cloud and murk but by the time I reached Walberswick the sun was out. Walking down through Hoist Covert and across the marsh to the beach I'd seen little except Reed Buntings but as I neared the beach 2 Great White Egrets had a good fly around. Making my way north along the beach from there was very productive with 2 Spotted Redshanks in all their silvery winter splendor on the pools plus a single Dunlin, 1 Curlew and a few Common Redshanks. The species I'd hoped to see here followed on quickly with 1 then 2 Short-eared Owls showing beautifully in the sun. One in particular posed on several different fence posts. A lone Red-throated Diver was also on the sea. On the walk back a couple of Little Grebes were in a ditch and stopping by the path not far from the mill I had some nice prolonged views of 4 Bearded Tits. As usual they were frustrating to photograph but I was pleased with the shot I got of a beady-eyed female. A male Stonechat also posed along the path and a Cetti's Warbler gave a brief burst of song. Plantwise both Sea Mayweed and Sticky Groundsel were both unseasonally in flower on the shingle.

                                                                                                                                 Short-eared Owl
                                                                                                                                Spotted Redshank
                                                                                                                                    Bearded Tit
                                                                                                                            Great White Egret
                                                                                                                                    Sea Mayweed
                                                                                                                          Sticky Groundsel

After grabbing some lunch in Darsham I headed to Hen Reedbeds where, despite much searching, I couldn't find the recent Glaucous Gull. All was not lost however as a confiding Rock Pipit was on the seaweed by the edge of Wolsley's Creek. 2 Marsh Harriers were about including a red wing-tagged bird which didn't come close enough to read the tags. Also out on the mud flats were Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Avocet and Lapwing.

                                                                                                                                     Rock Pipit
                                                                                                                            Marsh Harrier

Local bits, mid January 2022

On Monday 10 January we awoke in Pulham to one of the best looking sunrise skies I've ever seen. See below! Later that day while working in Croft Close, Harleston a group of 5 Pink-footed Geese flew over which is a good local record. Apparantly beet fields are being dug up so the geese have to disperse. That may account for these birds.

On Friday 14 January Belinda and I did 2 walks - the first one at Wortham Ling yielded nothing at all but at Redgrave and Lopham Fen a Water Rail squealed and a flock of c70 Fieldfares were in a nearby roadside paddock.


The Whitlingham Shag, 9 January 2022

A very quick pop in to Whitlingham this morning.

The juv Shag of the last few days was found easily loafing on the green pontoon on Great Broad. At one point it took a disliking to a Lesser Black-backed Gull. By the slipway the usual culprits where hanging about - Barnacle Goose and Swan Goose x Greylag hybrid!



A New Year Break in the Peak District, 4 - 7 January 2022

But for covid travel restrictions we should have been in Mallorca over New Year. With that sadly having to be cancelled we were determined to do something with our time off work. A quick Airbnb search revealed a nice cottage on the very edge of Wirksworth for a reasonable price so it was back to our beloved Peak District for some winter walking.

We walked the following routes/areas:

Day 1 - Black Rock, High Peak junction, Cromford Canal, Cromford and Bolehill

Day 2 - Dovedale to Milldale and return

Day 3 - Burbage Rocks, Carl Mark Iron Age Fort and Higger Tor

Day 4 - Harboro Rocks

For 3 of the days we had bright clear blue skies but on day 3 it was extremely wintery with the walk being completed in a blizzard sweeping across the moors! The drive back to Wirksworth after that was very dodgy in rapidly worsening road conditions. 

Naturewise it was just the usual suspects with 9+ Dippers and 2 Ravens along Dovedale, 5 Red Grouse on Burbage Moor and a mix of Nuthatches, Grey Wagtails and Mistle Thrushes. There were plenty of Little Grebes along the Cromford Canal and a visit to Carsington Water very late in the day on day 2 yielded the Red-necked Grebe after a little while searching from the main visitor centre area. Several Fieldfares were in the gardens around our cottage in the harsh weather on day 3.

On the way home 5 Red Kites were seen along the A14 near Corby. 


New year, new bird! Belted Kingfisher in Lancashire, 2 January 2022

We had been debating going for the male Belted Kingfisher near Preston for a while now but availability and the somewhat erratic nature of the bird had prevented us taking the plunge. Yesterday the stars aligned though and we (me, Jus and Andy) decided to go. 

Despite the delayed departure due to a certain person's alarm not going off (!) we got to the carpark near Roach Bridge and walked in the half light to the site overlooking the River Darwen. The farmer is charging a tenner a head to enter his field so we duly forked out! To say the field is muddy is an understatement - it was like a scene from the Battle of the Somme! Cue lots of a staggering about, getting stuck and an accident or two! Within about 10 minutes of arrival the bird was found sitting in full view in a riverside tree about 200 yards away and gave some nice views as people scrambled for scopes. At least 5 people looked through mine! After about 3 minutes it dropped down out of view and disappeared for some while. Eventually it was picked up again at long distance perched high in trees beside Knights Bottoms fishing lake and showed surprisingly well (considering it was c800 yards away) sometimes flying down to fish before popping back up. We left the site at about 10.00 having had our fill and with other items on our agenda for the day.

                                                                                                                          Mud glorious mud!

Not on our agenda was a stop off near the village of Whitmore west of Stoke in Staffordshire where we quickly found the single Greenland White-fronted Goose, my first for many a long year. A Canada x Greylag Goose hybrid was also there. 

                                                                               Greenland White-fronted Goose (and dodgy hybrid!)

Then it was a stop that we had planned as we gradually wound our way in a homeward direction. This was Albert Village Lake just outside Swadlincote. Here we located the female Ruddy Duck after a short search and it showed really nicely. Sad to say it may be the last of it's kind in the country and is attracting many a 'johnny come lately' birder who won't have witnessed the species in numbers back in the day. A pair of Goosander were another bonus. 

                                                                                                                                      Ruddy Duck

Last stop was at Eyebrook Reservoir where there was a list of things we wanted to try and see. Despite only having about 45 minutes to dash round we managed to score with everything thanks to very helpful local birder Andy Shaw. 12 Smew (including 6 drakes), 5 Scaup, female Ring-necked Duck, a hybrid Tuftie x Pochard, 2 Whooper Swans, Great White Egret and 2 wintering Avocets. Also seen were 3 Dunlin, Pintails, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Pochard, Tufted Duck loads of Goldeneye and a Little Egret. The place was full of birds! 

The day also yielded a total of 4 Barn Owls

We made or way home via a Burger King stop at Brampton. Our 2nd BK of the day but the only one that showed phtographically well!


Winding the year down at Weybread, 31 December 2021

We spent a very pleasant and unseasonally mild New Years Eve in our motorhome at Weybread. 

Finishing the year in the last hour of light I went on a wander around Bottle Pit and found 2 Chiffchaffs (colybita birds) flycatching from a hedge in the last rays of sun. These were my first local wintering birds. Also about were a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush, Common Buzzard, c150 Tufted Duck and c20 Great Crested Grebes on Ocean Pit. A Kingfisher whizzed past the sailing club calling at dusk and after dark the last bird of the year was a calling Tawny Owl