Sunday, 19 December 2010

Saturday 18th December 2010 - The Northern Harrier in Norfolk

The NORTHERN HARRIER had been showing most days again this week after disappearing for a short time during the cold spell. We had tried to make the trip before, but we had all been busy and of course the weather hadn't helped. It was looking a bit touch and go weather wise during the week, but by Friday, the forecast was predicting no snow for East Anglia, just freezing temperatures. However, at 05-30hrs when PJ, GAS and myself left Stoke with heavy snow falling and the roads getting covered, we started to wonder if we'd made the right decision or not. By the time we were on the A50 bypass, it had stopped. Despite getting reports all morning from home of 4cm's of snow, we never saw another flake all day. It was strange to listen to the radio and hearing about drivers getting stuck on the M5 (5 miles in 3hrs!) and we just sailed to Norfolk and back. We arrived at Thornham Marsh at 09-00hrs to a crowd of about ten birders. We soon found out we had only just missed the first showing by a matters of minutes. But it wasn't long before we had our first views of the Northern Harrier distantly on the other side of the marsh. We had several views of it before it caught something and dropped down onto the deck. We had enjoyed our spell here, seeing probably up to five Marsh Harriers , a Peregrine, Merlin, PJ saw a Barn Owl, Pink-feet going over, but we decided to head over to Titchwell for better views. PJ and GAS manage to get a good position to see above the crowds Titchwell was something of a disappointment. It was mostly frozen over, and for some reason we only saw one Marsh Harrier from this side. PJ did get better views of his mammal tick for the day - a Chinese Water Deer was showing quite well.
We did make a visit to the very recently opened new Parinder Hide. I think today was its first day open. I didn't really know what to make of it, but we did have good views of possibly as many as five Water Pipits feeding with a large Skylark flock. One of the Water Pipits and below the new Parinder hide Black turn table things with a handle on - you don't get these at Blithfield! Fully movable seats but the windows were opened by bits of string on a pulley system. We headed off for Holkham next, happy that we had seen our target bird for the day, but we wished we'd had slightly better views. Holkham was frozen and quite quiet, but we did eventually find a few Eurasian White-fronts and a single Barnacle Goose. It was here that we received a message saying the NORTHERN HARRIER was showing again. We had already decided to end the day at Thornham, and when we arrived we were given directions where the NORTHERN HARRIER had dropped down. Almost immediately, it flew right in front of us, giving us the excellent views we had wanted. It was the closest that any harrier had shown all day. Three times it flew past us, before it continued hunting further away. Below are some videograbs I managed to take. In between views, there was a good selection of waders showing well in the creeks, almost oblivious to the birders standing around and just getting on with feeding.