Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Sunday 2nd January - East Norfolk

We always plan a new year trip to Norfolk, and this year, having seen the NORTHERN HARRIER before Christmas, we decided to head to see the TAIGA BEAN GEESE instead. I last saw one of these back in 2003 and had never seen any in Norfolk, having dipped them once in 2006. To add some excitement to the day, the LESSER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE was still present. We had a few other sites in mind too, but we would see how the day panned out. It was a full Clayhead Crew with GAS, PJ and CJW joining us again after his month long girl flu session. After a mammoth 3hr 45 mins journey (this ain't as close as North Norfolk!) we parked up in School Lane to view Cantley Marshes. As we were walking down, a birder asked us if we knew where we were going. In true Clayhead fashion we replied with a no, and he gave us directions to a field just up the lane. We joined a group of about 15 birders but the viewing through the trees was limited, seeing only a small flock of Taiga's. We already had been told that there was no sign of the LWFG here. Moments later it came on PJ's pager that it was down the road at Buckenham Marshes, so in true wacky races style, we all sped off. We parked up at Buckenham, walked just a few metres down the lane to join the crowd, only to be then told that it was an erroneous message. The goose was a feral/hybrid LWFG that lived with thelocal Greylags/Farmyard Geese. Things were not going to plan, so we wandered down the track to see what was on offer here, and hoped the LWFG would be found soon. We had good views of Peregrine, endless numbers of Wigeon plus a few waders. There was also a Chinese Water Deer. The visit was only spoilt by a heavy sleet shower, but we found some shelter and sat and pondered, watching the birders taking the long walk following the River Yare to view the Taiga's, and discussing whether we should follow them or not.

Above - Peregrine, CWD and Wigeon at Buckenham Marshes

Then PJ's pager (again Dag!) came up trumps. The LWFG was at Cantley, viewable from the bottom of School Lane - the very place we were heading for in the first place before being directed away to the field. We managed to jam into a parking space and walked down to view from the gate at the bottom. It was quite crowded and premium spaces were limited. After a short wait, the adult Lesser White-fronted Goose came into view as it fed in a flock of c50 Taiga's. It then walked behind a bush and out of view, and apart from a brief glimpse I had of it through the bush, that was the last we saw of it.

Above - Taiga Bean Geese at Cantley

Above - PJ's excellent Lesser White-fronted Goose drawing

It had taken us slightly longer to see the LWFG than we had originally planned, but we still stuck to our plan and heading to Stubbs Mill and for the Cranes/Harrier roost. We had a quick scan on arrival, and then we walked up the river to view the fields, but apart from several Marsh Harriers, there were no sign of any CRANES. We could have driven round to Horsey, but we decided to stay put at the watchpoint. The were several large flocks of Pink-feet flying over, and PJ , whilst pouring a coffee, pointed out a low flying group. One quick scan of my bins revealed they were not geese and I shouted out to everyone to take a look at these! It was a truly marvellous sight to see nine Cranes slowly fly past right in front of you. We saw two Bitterns fly over the reeds, one being chased by at least five Marsh Harriers, a Woodcock flew around us twice, a Peregrine, five Whopper Swans and a Hen Harrier was reported as being seen but unfortunately this happened while I was taking the car to the proper parking space 4 miles down the lane.

Above - The Crane fly past at Stubbs Mill

Later, another three Cranes flew in, but these were more distant.

Below - Some of the Pink-feet going over