So we kicked off a new year and a new decade with the traditional ‘First Day of the Year Birding‘ with mixed emotions and a little bit of confusion. What this new decade will bring, we will only know in 10 years time? Anyway, birding never disappoints in distracting my disturbed mind and giving it a little peace. It always works for me, although I don’t get enough of it.
Today I visited the closest coastal birding destination to my home, Norfolk, for multiple reasons. Several good birds have been reported from Norfolk in the past few weeks, but without any speciality, I always enjoy watching shorebirds at the beach or the wintering geese in the adjacent fields or just sitting at the dunes for sea-watching.
The Titchwell RSPB Reserve is always an exciting place to start the birding day in Norfolk. My first bird of the year, however, was at the entrance of the Snettisham reserve in complete darkness. A Western Barn Owl was flying towards the reserve for Kea’s pleasure although no detailed observation was possible.
At Titchwell, we saw a larger flock of Pink-footed Goose coming out of the roosting site and Western Marsh Harriers and Eurasian Curlews called loudly over the marsh. The resident Water Rail showed well at the creek next to the visitor centre, offering lovely views for Kea.
The main pond was full of water and supported a large number of Eurasian Teals and Eurasian Wigeons and also Common Gadwalls, Mallards, Northern Shovelers, and a few Common Pochards, Tufted Ducks. The highlight certainly was a small group Northern Pintail.
The salt marsh was more exciting for a shorebird fanatic with multiple Common Redshanks, Eurasian Curlews, roosting Grey Plovers, a few Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits and my favourite Eurasian Oystercatchers.
Kea was looking forward to paddling at the Tichwell Beach and by the time I crossed the dunes, she was already in the shallow water in her new wellies. While she was playing, I did some sea-watching. A Black-throated Loon was reported earlier but only managed to see Red-throated Loons and a dozen of Long-tailed Ducks with smart-looking drakes. Ruddy Turnstones and beautiful Sanderlings started feeding on the wrack zone just before we left for our next location.
My other target area was the Holkham Beach to find the Horned Larks. This area was incredibly crowded with no parking lot left by midday. After a long queuing, we managed to get in.
Within the fenced area at the Holkham Gap, I found about a 100 Snow Buntings with some amazing males and shortly after 5 Horned Larks flying around separately from the buntings. Offshore, a few Red-breasted Mergansers, more than 400 Common Scoters were of note. The extreme crowd and noise stole the magic of Holkham Beach but at least these birds and Kea’s playful time at the beach compensated my frustration.
Despite it was rather late, I decided to visit the Eastern Yellow Wagtail location near Sedgeford. This species would have been a Western Palearctic new to me as I already have seen this species in Thailand and Halmahera as well.
At my arrival, the bird was just flushed by a noisy excavator but about 10 minutes later, it returned to the main feeding area, allowing excellent close views. One of the birders offered me a scope view when the bird flew very close to us. It is an amazing record of this complicated and somehow controversial species complex. Based on the characteristics, birders named it as ‘Alaskan‘ Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis tschutschensis.
I ended the day with 86 species from 7 eBird checklists, which is not a bad start for me.
Thanks to Mike Watson for offering these superb wagtail photos for my blog post.