With the weather forecasts predicting rain, rain and more rain over most of the South East of England, we decided to head for Norfolk and take our chances.
The drive up the A10 was rain free, and as luck would have it the first bird seen for the third year running was the ghostly sight of a Barn Owl. Perched in a roadside tree no more than four feet from the ground.
We made a couple of circuits of Wolverton triangle on route to Titchwell, but had no luck or sightings of Golden Pheasants.
Arriving at Titchwell we stopped at the feeders but had no luck with any Brambling. Apparently they have been quite scarce at Titchwell so far this winter.
A Bullfinch was a nice find while heading along the boardwalk of Fen Trail. Dropping in at the Parrinder hides produced a few good species but nothing out of the ordinary.
A hunting Marsh harrier was good to see and good scope views were had when it landed on a dead tree stump. On the walk along the West bank path towards the beach the wind was already beginning to grow in strength.
There was no sign of the two Twite that had been reported from near the boardwalk by the beach earlier.
This was our first visit to Titchwell since the storms had hit. I was shocked at the condition of the boardwalk in fact it wasn't a boardwalk anymore, it had been completely wrecked and lifted from the footings.
It was a similar situation on the beach where the benches and viewing area were nowhere to be seen.
We took shelter from the winds behind a sand bank and a scope of the sea produced Red-throated Diver good sized groups of Common Scoter several Goldeneye and two Guillemots.
A quick stop at Brancaster added several Bar-tailed Godwits to the already seen Black-taileds, but by now the rain had started to fall and it only got heavier as the day progressed.
Stopping and scanning roadside fields in between Docking and Choseley we scanned the large flock of Pink-foots but failed to find the reported Bean or Barnacle geese amongst them. The pager said Bean Goose so probably only the one bird present among the huge Pink-footed flock. In the very strong winds and constant rain it was asking a lot to find a single Bean among them and we didn't. But it wasn't for lack of trying.
From here we headed for somewhere with a chance of some cover, and ended up at Sculthorpe Moor. Having only ever got as far as the reserve centre before, today would be my first experience of the reserve.
Greeted by friendly staff we paid the £3.50 and after some quick pointers headed out along the boardwalks. The rain was getting even heavier now which was a shame as this looks like a great reserve to visit in better weather conditions.
Stopping along the paths to check the feeders we found the much hoped for Bramblings in the trees and on the feeders. Before continuing along the paths an added bonus was the sight of a Marsh Tit coming in to feed at the same feeder.
The target bird at this site was Tawny Owl, but as we approached the viewing spot we were told the bird had just dropped down into the box and out of view.
As luck would have it, it re-appeared again shortly afterwards for another first day year tick. As we opened the viewing flaps at Whitley (fen) Hide we were greeted with the sight of Bramblings feeding on the bird table and among the surrounding trees.
Best count was 29 birds at any one time, added to this a Water rail was feeding right under the feeding area. Although we had already had Water rail in the Ditch at Titchwell earlier in the day it was still great to watch it at close quarters.
It was just a shame we couldn't have enjoyed the reserve more, but the rain was constant and the wind getting stronger. A reserve to re-visit in more favourable conditions.
Before starting the drive for home, we scanned fields near Edgefield Tip trying to locate a juvenile Glaucous Gull that had been reported here earlier. But we had left it a little late and the bird had either gone to roost or re-located onto the tip.
A slow start to 2014 today but there's still nothing like the start of a new birding year.