In pitch black the sweet song of a Robin at 06.40 heralded the start of my sponsored Birdrace, to raise funds for the school conservation area. The aim - one hundred species within forty miles of Narborough, in a day. Usual garden birds were added quickly while flasks were being filled. My driver, Sam, was readying the car, and our recorder, Emma from next door arrived with a freshly sharpened pencil. Amid the common birds in the garden a lyrical "yuk yuk yuk yuk" cried out and the first tricky customer fell to the list, Green Woodpecker, it was January and barely light !
FlitchamFirst stop was Flitcham and the next species to fall was actually human as Sam took a tumble on the ice in her haste to see Tree Sparrow through the scope. Zillions of Pink-footed Geese in the field and a clump of Grey Partridges got some game birds out of the way. Driving on up to the coast and the first of several Barn Owls seen during the day was busy grovelling around in a ditch presumably after some unfortunate mammal. We headed for Gore Point at Thornham for a bit of a sea watch and were rewarded with the usual ducks and waders plus half a dozen Long tailed Ducks, Fulmar and somewhat of a Norfolk rarity, Shag. looking back over the fields and Sam had a large flappy bird which turned out to be a Red Kite and this was shortly followed by Buzzard and Stonechat.
Gore Point Thornham
Leaving Thornham a Sparrowhawk joined us low along the road and we clocked it at 25mph. A visit to Thornham Harbour added us another valuable species thanks to Sam's keen eyes in the form of Water Rail creeping around in the salt marsh. No sign of any Snow Buntings but a Jack Snipe was ample compensation. A Spotted Redshank joined other waders in the creek and our list as species number 73 - it was only 10.20
Things were looking good. So on to Titchwell where most of the usual suspects fell, and a few more unusual ones including a flock of Twite on the freshmarsh, four overwintering Avocets, three Smew, two Water Pipits, Bearded Tit, Cetti's Warbler while out at sea three Red-breasted Mergansers and some Eider. We decided to try the Fen hide just in case Marsh harrier was showing, which it was, but more dramatically so was a Bittern right in front of the hide!
Bittern - taken through scope and glass of hide
A zip up to Choseley for the Corn Buntings and Yellowhammer also provided us with a Barnacle Goose among the Pink-foot flock, but sadly no sign of the Greater Snow Goose. A quick check with Emma revealed we were on ninety nine species, but more alarmingly revealed that we hadn't seen Song Thrush all day. This was rectified as we drove towards Holkham with one such bird trying to kill itself by flying into the car, it didn't and we had a hundred species on the list ! With the pressure off, but daylight fading it was Holkham Hall next, the girls expecting a cream tea, but me expecting Treecreeper and Nuthatch. Emma quickly located the latter and a Treecreeper thankfully gave itself up as well.
Final destination was Warham Greens for the dusk time roost. Four Hen Harriers came in, a Merlin and our seventh Barn Owl. The biting east wind, total of a hundred and seven species and weariness had us heading back to home. Job done as they say.