Sunday, January 20, 2008

Norfolk - the bird club trip that wasn't... day 2

Our Sunday started with a relatively early alarm and a quick breakfast then down to RSPB Cantley Marshes. We wandered around and hung around from when we got there (0740) until finally we decided to walk to the other entrance to the reserve around 0900. We met up with one other member of the Northants Bird Club, so it looks like most people had chosen the Dumfries and Galloway trip of the previous weekend.

At Cantley Marsh we did get distant views of Taiga Bean Goose (a tick), but too far and with too little light to even attempt a photograph. We decided to head our separate ways and set a provisional meeting at Hickling Broad in the afternoon. It had just started to rain and we were tired, so we changed plans and decided to head back home via a number of stop-offs. The first stop we decided should be Barnham Cross Common. As the (Where to watch birds in Britain) book suggests, we did catch a very brief glimpse of a Hawfinch (another tick) in the trees by the Anglian Water pumping station, so despite the substantial change in plans the morning was proving to be successful. From Barnham Cross Common we decided to head to the Welney WWT reserve.

Two junctions short of the reserve itself, we spotted this Barn Owl, quartering a field:

Not a tick, but a fantastic sight at 11:30 on a Sunday!

We watched it hunting for about five minutes before it landed, grabbed something and headed back into its barn, no doubt for a meal and the some sleep. We've been wanting to see an owl, any owl for some weeks now, so this was a real treat.

Lunch at Welney was as good as ever, we recommend it to anyone. The reserve itself was flooded, even more so than our previous visit in July of 2007. So much so that from the main hide the reserve looked more like an inland sea, with none of the islands visible at all.

In front of the main hide on the fringe of the Pochards and Whooper Swans was this hybrid duck. It looks to me like a Scaup x Tufted Duck?

Amongst the large numbers of male Pochards were a few females:

From Welney, we headed next to Paxton Pits in Cambridgeshire (, which having visited for the first time I would definitely recommend. Parking and entry is free and if you join as a 'friend' all the hot drinks are half-price. The volunteer staff are very friendly and it looks like a 'hot spot' for bird life too.

From the first hide on the 'Heron Walk' we saw this Great Cormorant. it is showing the white flank patch of a courting bird, the white head plumage is apparently a pre-cursor to pairing and breeding and can often ne replaced shortly after a pair is matched. It is also characteristic of the silensis race, the inland Great Cormorant (thank you Neil).

Also from this hide we spotted a large group of Stock Doves in some trees, too distant to photograph but our final tick of the weekend as we haven't really looked for these birds before and we're certain we've written large numbers off as Woodpigeon.

From Paxton it was time to head home and get ready for the working week, sigh. A great weekend though even if not as planned, with new birds!

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