Monday, 8 February 2016

Pallid Harrier at Roydon Common NWT. Finally!

I met up with Brian at 6am and headed towards our first destination of the day which was to be North Warren RSPB reserve in Aldeburgh Suffolk. Several scans of the marsh from Thorpe Road produced a large flock of Barnacle Geese along with good numbers of White-fronted and Greylag Geese. Snipe and lapwing were also present in good numbers and an early morning Marsh Harrier surprised a fox which was patrolling the edges of the reeds. Another scan through the Barnacle Geese flock finally located the two Bean Geese (Tundra) we had been searching for.
Our next target was the Green-winged Teal at Blythburgh, but we made a brief detour to Dunwich cliffs and quickly located several Dartford Warblers.

The Green-winged Teal was only 5 miles from Dunwich and after parking up in the car park just before the causeway bridge we joined a small group of birders on the footpath and enjoyed good if distant views of the bird on the far bank. The flock eventually flew onto the water and the nasal saddle became clearly visible as it turned back and forth on the water. (I'm not a fan of these nasal saddles, I find them to be far too intrusive on the bird.)
Before heading to Norfolk we made a brief stop at Ness Point, Lowestoft and found three Purple Sandpipers feeding among the rocks and surf, with a further four birds giving flyby views.

Purple Sandpiper

Moving into Norfolk, first stop was Winterton Dunes NNR. Having parked up in the car park at the end of Beach Road we made our way towards North Beach. A long walk out finally paid off with a group of thirty or so Snow Bunting feeding among the dunes and on the beach in the company of a couple of Sanderling and Ringed Plovers. While Brian crawled around in the sand photographing them I had a scan of the sea and bagged a few Red-throated Divers moving through for another year tick.

With Brian still needing European Shag for a year tick, Wells was our next destination. This was easily found as we pulled up at the quayside.
We moved onto Holkham Park and with the main park only open to pedestrians it was a longer walk to the lake than expected. A search of the lake from the South end to the North and back again finally produced sightings of two drake Scaup, the Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid and the Ferruginous Duck.
On route to Brancaster, we stopped briefly to watch a Barn Owl perched by the side of the road, but a very short but heavy rain shower soon had the owl heading for the nearby barn.
A quick stop at Brancaster Staithe and we were soon put onto the Red-necked Grebe by the locals. It was favouring the left-hand channel instead of the normal channel we had found it in on previous visits.
The Pallid Harrier had proved a very difficult bird, having failed to connect on a visit to Snettisham and a further six separate visits to Flitcham we were not confident of seeing it this time either.
We arrived around 3.45 to find the dirt track lane filled with parked cars on both sides. Having walked out onto the heath we joined the fifty or so birders already in position and connected with the bird instantly!
Having enjoyed good if distant views of the bird hunting along the far side of the heath, we were then treated to fantastic views as it emerged from behind us and flew directly overhead. Brian grabbed a record shot but the bird was reduced to a silhouette with the sinking sun behind it. It then starting hunting across the heath in the company of 3-4 ringtail Hen Harriers. Finally, it decided to land on a post giving superb scope views to the assembled crowd.

Pallid Harrier

A superb days birding ended with the bogey bird finally seen!

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