Sponsored Birdwatch 2018


With two good consecutive years behind us in 2016 and 2017, there was a high standard to maintain this year in our efforts with this seasonal fundraiser. Many people again kindly sponsored me per species, so a lot was riding on a good total on the day! We had a team of 5 this year; myself, Gary Elton, Roger Skeen, Irene Boston and Connor Rand.

My day began a little earlier than planned as I woke at 3.30am and decided to have a quick listen out of my bathroom window for a sneaky Tawny Owl. But with a brilliant full moon and a roaring tide, I was actually greeted by the cheerful call of a Wigeon and the mewing of a distressed Lapwing. Not a bad start, but not quite what I was looking for especially given it was still the middle of the night. The moonlight was so bright I nearly went downstairs to make a start in earnest but I knew it wasn’t a good idea. Back to bed.

I couldn’t really sleep but heard the tawnies calling over the top of the 24 hour news channel at 4.30am anyway, so I was able to relax a little until the alarm went off at 6. A few preparations and out in the gathering dawn to see if I could find any early gems. A Barn Owl would be very useful, as mist was forecast for the end of the day and we couldn’t necessarily rely on finding these things in the evening. As I stepped out, a few Robins and many Blackbirds were calling, joined by Pink-feet, Mallards, and I was astounded to hear two Grey Partridges calling just east of Marsh Lane – a species I try to keep regular tabs on and haven’t recorded in weeks. Varmints! But that was great as its a species we can never guarantee, and a real bonus to get at the start of the morning.

I wandered down to the end of the lane but was soon joined by Roger and Irene and we walked along to the hides where we found Mute Swan, Coot, Moorhen, Bullfinch, Cetti’s Warbler, Barn Owl, Marsh Harrier, Linnets, Reed Buntings, Redwings, a Grey Heron and a Song Thrush. We were making progress! We came back to meet Gary and Connor and we added Black-headed Gull and Jackdaw, before we headed through the village to the Golf Course, adding Collared Dove, House Sparrow, Kestrel, Common and Herring Gulls, Stonechat, Little Egret, Shelduck, Fulmar, Red-breasted Merganser, Eider, Gannet, Great Crested Grebe, Guillemot, Red-throated Diver, and various waders but no Ringed Plovers!!

We made good time in carrying on down Broadwater Road, picking up Buzzard on the way and looking out for Canada and Egyptian Goose without success. We walked out to Gore Point and quickly found Shoveler, Snipe, Rock Pipit, Little Grebe, Skylark, and had another look at the sea producing many more divers which we couldn’t turn into anything but Red-throated.

Heading up the track to the car park hide we couldn’t find the Pochard and Tufted Duck which had been seen there on Saturday, so we quickly moved on to the Obs reserve, where Roger and the others called out a Merlin which zipped overhead and I managed to get onto it. Then we found the tit flock but sadly while I struggled for a Coal Tit – a former bogey bird from previous years – I was standing in the wrong place to see two Goosanders which flew north high over the pines and though I ran to get to the right spot they were long gone! That wasn’t a chance I was going to get again. There was a Black-tailed Godwit on the edge of Broadwater as we passed by though.

From the platform we couldn’t find anything else new so we went out to the sea again and picked up a lovely drake Long-tailed Duck. Several interesting reports from Titchwell included Black-necked and Red-necked Grebes as well as Great Northern Diver but these couldn’t be seen from where we were, and we decided to carry on to Thornham. On the way out the others finally got me onto a Coal Tit and we found some Canada Geese lying down on the marsh on our way out.

Our next stop was Drove Orchards as we had all the thrushes except Fieldfare, and could do with adding a few woodland species. We saw the Fieldfares as we got into the shop car park, and walked along to the west side where we flushed Woodcock, and saw a Chiffchaff in the hedge beside us. Pleased with these we moved on to the Harbour, where there were many walkers and their dogs on the sea wall, and no sign of any finches. We walked up to the first corner and Irene found a Peregrine sitting on the beach. As we scanned south in hope of Carrion Crow and Jay, we heard a Greenshank calling and then I noticed finches drop in by the sluice and land briefly on the fence – they were the Twite, or at least 9 of them. This was a great bonus and we could now head inland for farmland birds around Courtyard Farm, an area which Roger had recently done a reccy for. Here we had to wait a little while, having picked up a Red-legged Partridge on our way, but with perseverance from the team we got Yellowhammer, Stock Dove, Carrion Crow, Corn Bunting, and Tree Sparrow before we set off for Ringstead Downs to try and add some woodland birds. We came across Treecreeper just beside the car park but reports of a Jay further along couldn’t be verified and we decided to cut our losses and make for Titchwell.

I hadn’t tallied up the list until we got to the café where I had a much needed bacon butty and a hot chocolate. The day total was something of a surprise – we were already on 95!! We knew that there were many species we might hope to add during the rest of the afternoon. Four lovely Water Rails were showing in the ditch right beside the path as we headed out to see what we could find, we didn’t need them for the day list but the views were so incredible they still need a mention!

We added Pochard as we walked towards the island hide, then Irene and I sailed past two close Bearded Tits which Gary and Roger had fortunately spotted and called us to, and we then found Avocets, Golden Plover, and a Water Pipit – 100!

From then on the species went like this; a couple of Pintail were asleep on the brackish lagoon, and we had another long look at the sea; sadly this involved walking half way to Lincolnshire as the tide was still miles out, and the only species we were able to add, though very welcome, was Goldeneye. We scoured the beach for Ringed Plovers without success and discussed reasons why they might be so plentiful in November and absent in December but it didn’t help our total much.

Having exhausted the shore we walked back to the Parrinder hide to sit and look for other species, and a Pied Wagtail flew over as we went. When we got to the hide a Lesser Black-backed Gull was resting with others on the scrape and a long debate began regarding an interesting immature gull which might be a Caspian. Roger and Gary discussed this for some time and I was happy to believe them when they concluded that’s what it was.

A much sought Egyptian Goose flew in at the back of ‘Colditz’ (the fenced off section at the back), Gary spotted a Ruff right under our noses, and as the light started to change with impending dusk we headed back out onto the main bank to look for harriers. We weren’t disappointed, it took a while for them to build up but in the end we saw a total of 47 Marsh Harriers together over the reedbeds and eventually a ring-tail Hen Harrier joined them, and we enjoyed watching for a long while until the fading light, advancing cold, not to mention the fact that we really couldn’t expect to add any more species for the day, led us to accept a very healthy total of 108, and head home to enjoy our Christmases.

A huge thankyou to everyone who so enthusiastically supports our annual sponsored birdwatch, which helps NOA to fund core maintenance and equipment each year – it also makes for a real holiday; an enjoyable change from counting flocks for the census and it makes a real difference to what we can do on our reserves each year. Gary, Roger, Irene and Connor were great company and very patient with me when I was usually looking the wrong way or not paying enough attention. It is a long day when you start so early but the day did fly by and Irene made sure I had snacks to keep me as alert as the circumstances allowed. We’ve been very lucky again this year, and it’s been a pleasure to spend the day in such a fun and productive way.

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and plenty of good birds in 2019


















































































































Back to top


Norfolk Ornithologists Association, registered charity no. 267670, Broadwater Road, Holme Next The Sea, Hunstanton, Norfolk, PE36 6LQ