Sunday, 17 January 2016

Norfolk kick-off

Last year I went to Norfolk twice, in October. As distinct from going twice in October, if that makes sense. Yes, twice all year to perhaps what is, behind Wanstead, the best place to go birding in the entire country. However with young Master L now resident in the county, I find myself up there much more frequently. This can only be a good thing, and so today famille L got up very early and drove through literally millimetres of snow up to Norfolk, picked up a scruffy urchin en route, and made the coast at Cley-next-the-sea by mid morning.

It was a glorious day, cold and bright, and if anything we were over-dressed. Not quite shirt sleeve weather but very pleasant to be out and about. We pootled slowly down the east bank, me pointing out various birds to children who pretended to be interested. Rather bizarrely there was a Red-necked Grebe bobbing about on the flood which used to be Arnold's Marsh, along with lots of Wigeon and Brents. Gratefully received, though the family had lost interest by this point. A bird I didn't see last year, and according to the spreadsheet that never lies, the first I've seen since 2012! That tells you all need to know either about the status of Red-necked Grebe, or of my commitment to UK birding of late.

Down on the beach the sea was pounding at the shore, frothy, with good sprinklings of Gulls which I ignored until two became Kittiwakes. Better still was Grey Phalarope, yet another bird I didn't see in 2015. What did I say at the back end of last year? That I would see more birds? Why yes I believe I did say that, so it is nice to see that I actually am. The shingle was littered with the byproduct of winter storms, starfish, mermaid's purses, a dead Guillemot, and even more spectacular a long-dead Sperm Whale. Fun for all the family. Seriously not nice, it had clearly died some time ago and was grim, if interesting, with enormous jawbones protruding from the carcass. I checked it very carefully for Ivory Gulls, but possibly even they would have been put off by the best before date on this one. 

Also on the beach was James L, which was odd as we had been talking about him and his recent move to Norfolk on the way up, and he had been wondering when he might next bump into me up here. He too was on a family walk, and it turns out some of the Whale twitchers we had just passed were his wife and daughter. He was some way behind, no doubt waylaid by Phalaropes or more bits of whale that had dropped off. Having left London he is now every inch the country gent, green the dominant colour, and is clearly enjoying his new life very much. And why wouldn't he, the place was fantastic!. Action on the sea, flocks of Lapwing on the marsh, and 21 Snow Buntings on the shingle.

Lunch was taken at the Dun Cow, and was very fine indeed. Despite Wherry being on tap I remained immovable. Mrs L kindly had a pint on my behalf, remarking that it was very tasty and that I would have enjoyed it a lot. I am sure I would have. Still, the end is in sight now, only a couple of weeks to go before alcohol becomes de rigeur again. We took the footpath behind the pub back to Walsey Hills, where I flushed a Woodcock, and after a quick pit stop at the NWT, headed back to return kiddo to school. All in all a very pleasant day, some lovely winter birding, and a good family outing.

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