Friday, 27 January 2017

Jan 27th Flitcham Abbey Farm, Dersingham Bog and Snettisham

View from the hide at Flitcham Abbey Farm
Today, Dad has taken me to west Norfolk for a whole day of birdwatching at three different sites. Our first stop was at Flitcham Abbey Farm. This farm has a public hide that overlooks a field, a small body of water and a special oak tree that is usually home to a little owl or two. With one look at the tree through my scope, I wasn't surprised at all to see one just sitting on one of the exposed roots as if it was part of this magnificent oak. It did jump to the ground for a second before returning back to the tree, albeit to a different part of it.

Little Owl

Brown Hare
The owl was lovely to look at, but it wasn't the only thing to see here. There were plenty of teal, some greylag, Canada and Egyptian geese, lapwing, a quick swoop of a sparrowhawk and even a couple of hares that were bounding around the field near the little owl's tree. However, the main highlight here was seeing a couple of stoat rushing around an area near a gate, making a few runs back and forth under the gate. Unfortunately, they took me so much by surprise and were so agile that I was unable to get a photo of either of them. I think I will never get a photo of a stoat, or a weasel at that matter. I think they've given me a curse!
Egyptian Goose
Our next stop was to Dersingham Bog, but that wasn't before we had a real surprise while driving there. We were driving along the road leading to the site known as the Wolferton Triangle, a road bordered with rhododendron bushes on either side, when suddenly Dad stopped the car. There crossing in front of us casually was a magnificently colourful bird. It's head was a golden yellow, it's body was bright red and it's tail was long and looked marbled with gold and black streaking. This was a male golden pheasant! This glorious rare and secretive introduced Asian bird lives in this one spot in Norfolk, but is so elusive that you'd be incredibly lucky to come across one. I reached for my camera beneath my feet in the passenger's footwell of the car, but as I turned it on and zoomed in on it, the bird had crossed the road and vanished in the undergrowth on the other side. Just my luck!

Dersingham Bog
At Dersingham Bog, it was a rather quiet walk around the site at first with hardly anything to be seen or heard. Once we exited the woodland section and entered the heathland and walked along the boardwalk leading around the bog, we managed to see 2-3 buzzards, a kestrel, a flock (yes, a flock) of about 5-7 goldcrests, a stonechat and two roe deer bounding across the heath to safety.

Roe Deer

After a lunch stop at a cafĂ©, the final stop was at the RSPB reserve of Snettisham. The tide was out and the famous mudflats of The Wash were exposed to the waders and wildfowl. The mud here is rich in millions of invertebrate life forms buried within it, perfect bird food for those who are adapted in getting it. Usually, a visit to Snettisham rarely disappoints with thousands of waders, especially knot, covering the mud with a mass of feathered bodies and often launch every now and then into the air performing breathtaking murmuration displays. However, today, it didn't seem to be as many birds here than usual. That doesn't mean that there wasn't anything about, as I did see grey plovers, redshanks, curlews, lapwings, shelducks and dunlin dotted across the mudflats with teal and mallards being the most numerous. It wasn't until later when I started seeing a large area covered in a blanket of oystercatchers and a slightly thin line of knot (though still not as many knot as expected). There was even a Glaucous gull seen feeding on something out on the mud, the second time I've seen one.
Great Black-backed Gull
Mallard and Teal
Sunshine and mud
Grey Plover
Glaucous Gull

From the hides overlooking the South Pit (a slightly large body of water with small islands of rocks and concrete), there were several male and female goldeneye ducks as well as a few tufted ducks, a snipe, wigeon, shovelers, a little egret and greylag geese. The male goldeneyes were perhaps the most handsome of the birds here and were busy displaying to rivals and females by throwing their heads backwards onto their backs. We went for a walk around the South Pit, returning back near the first hide. The sun was beginning to set with a patch of gold shining through the cloud cover and the tide was also starting to return, covering the far corner of the vast mudflats with seawater once more. Curlews and waterfowl were making their way from further inland to roost on the mud and nearby pools as we made our way back to the car. It was cold, but has been lovely sunny day full of great wildlife encounters with that golden pheasant being the most unforgettable highlight.

Male Goldeneye
Female Goldeneye
Goldeneye and Tufted Duck
Tufted Duck
Little Egret
A faint sunset

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