The problem with raptors is they hardly ever do come close. The Pallid Harrier at New Holkham was no exception. It did show well but never gave us a fantastic photographic fly by.
Sometimes you can try too hard to find something. For many years now every time I’ve walked the paths across the heaths on the north Norfolk coast my eye is drawn to the horizontal branches and stumps in the hope of seeing a roosting Nightjar. To see one of these enigmatic birds in daylight has always been something that has been a wish during any walk in suitable habitat. Viewing them and attempting to photograph them in failing light when they come out to churr is ok but it’s hard to get a decent image and make out detail.
Let’s make it clear here it would be unethical as well as illegal to wander across the heaths and search for a bird. The risk of disturbing a rare breeding bird would be incalculably damaging. The idea is to find one viewable from a path, sat basking in bright sunshine well away from its nest.
We were watching a singing Woodlark the other day. A late one at that, but maybe it was a bird trying for second brood. It was flying high above us and belting out a song in the early morning light. Unexpectedly the moment was punctuated with the flypast of a Nightjar … in daylight! I thought it was a Kestrel at first. Very raptor like, appearing much bigger than a silhouette raking the gloom at dusk. Marvellous. It was there … and then it was gone.
Still not seen one on the deck … but I’ll keep running my eye over those logs and branches.
Out across the marsh flew a wheeling flock of finches. I could see Goldfinch among them … and Linnet. By far the majority however were Twite. We estimated maybe 90 to 110 of these beautiful uplanders. It looks like Twite at last have had a good year as flocks on the coast are beginning to gain in number and size. I guess they could be from the Pennines (or maybe even Wales). At least one in the flock bore colour rings so we should be able to find out eventually.
Well, it wasn’t a North African dry arid semi-desert but Gorleston promenade was about as close as you can get to it in Norfolk. The Desert Wheatear that visited us mid November chose a mild Southerly wind to travel north and find favour among the grass verges and beaches of our seaside town.
Desert Wheatears are not super rare. They tend to turn up most years, but they always mark the end of migration for me. OK we’ll get the odd very late bird winging it’s way in but the arrival of a Desert Wheatear marks the beginning of the winter drought of migrants. Our only chance now of something pretty good is an unusual weather event. A harsh cold depression over Russia spurring movement from the continent perhaps or something riding on the back of a strong southerly mild wind. Who knows? There may even be something special already lurking in Holkham Pines … waiting to be discovered.
Occasionally there are irruptions of species, particularly birds, out of their normal range.
At the end of last month Two barred Crossbills (a sort of Crossbill with insignias) started to occur in small numbers on the east coast between Shetland and Kent. Norfolk had its fair share. Initially to see birds it was about being in the right place at the right time but as birds moved away from the coast into more Crossbill friendly habitat they became a tad easier to see.
One juvenile bird took up temporary residence with its Crossbill cousins on Kelling Heath. A hastily conjured drinking puddle gave a centre for attention as the bird called occasionally, and I do mean occasionally, for water. It took a couple of visits but we managed to get a record shot in the few seconds it took for bird to quench its thirst.