Drake King at Sheringham......
A seawatch at Sheringham, along the North Norfolk coast with Jason Nichols started off November (1st).
A steady ‘trickle’ of Gannets flew east, 2 Red-throated Divers flew west, 10 Teal west and several small flocks of Starlings flew in off the sea.
Eventually, the drake King Eider, which had been present off Sheringham for several days, appeared to the west of our position in the shelters. Although distant, with the overcast misty conditions not helping, some reasonable views were seen of this rare duck, as it dived occasionally, whilst slowly drifting east.
Approximately 1000 Pink-footed Geese were on fields behind the pond at Walsey Hills, where a Water Rail was seen briefly as it ran across the far edge of the pond and 2 Common Buzzards were at Kelling, with one perched on the telegraph wires with soaked feathers and holding its wings out, almost Cormorant-like!
Heading back along the coast road, at Waxham 400+ Pink-feet were on a recently harvested sugar beet field and 2 Cranes were seen in the distance towards Hickling.
Two more Cranes were seen, just down the road at Horsey, this time flying in from the east and overflying the car. Approximately 400 more Pink-feet were here and a single Barnacle Goose was found in their midst. 2 Common Buzzard and a Marsh Harrier were also of note here.
'Butcher' in the Brecks......
Butcher Birds’ have always intrigued me from a very early age, looking at the few species featured in the Observer’s Book of Birds and although Red-backed Shrikes were described as ‘common hedgerow birds’ back then, I never ever thought (at that early age) I would ever get to see one of these creatures, which impaled their prey on thorns!
So, it was not really a surprise to choose the Brecks as part of Jason Nichols and my day out (8th), as a Great Grey had taken up residence at Santon Downham.
A Muntjac was seen on the way to Santon, fortunately deciding not to cross the busy road and instead turning around and returning to the woodland from its position on the roadside verge.
However, for other animals the picture was not so rosy and the stretch of the A11 from Norwich to Thetford (and the return journey) had its usual casualties, which on this occasion included: Fox, Rabbit, Muntjac, 2 Roe Deer (almost side by side), a Mallard and at least 10 Pheasants. When will there be legislation for new roads and indeed existing ones to have safe places for animals to cross these highways of death!
Arriving at St, Helen’s picnic site at Santon Downham, we walked along the path nearest to the Little Ouse in search of the shrike scanning the warren for its presence. As ‘suitable habitat’ came to an end, the return journey began, but just a short way Jason found the shrike perched in a Hawthorn on the opposite side of the river. Here it had an ‘entourage’ keeping an eye on it including Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Goldfinch, Blackbird and Robin (similar to caped crusaders without the hoods!), whilst 3 Mistle Thrushes also were nearby.
The Great Grey Shrike had several sorties after prey and on one occasion the prey, via photographs was seen to be a Wasp species, when it perched in a tree our side of the river. It then changed perching places several times and finally was virtually right above our heads from our position hiding amongst the trees, before flying off again.
A Stonechat, Common Buzzard and calling Little Grebes were also recorded here; a very worthwhile trip.
After visiting Jason’s favourite ‘restaurant’, we ventured back closer to home to look for the reported Rough-legged Buzzard/s. in the area.
After encountering a fairly dark Common Buzzard, being ‘escorted’ by two Kestrels and approximately 800 Pink-footed Geese we found a distant Rough-leg over the dunes from the road just south of Horsey Mill, Two Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk were also seen here, as were Golden Plover, Common Snipe and Little Egret.
Further back along the ‘Horsey straight’ towards Somerton another possible sighting of a Rough-leg was had, flying low over the fields with a crow in attendance and two Chinese Water Deer came running out of cover, one in pursuit of the other. *December-January approximate time frame for territoriality and mating rights in this species.
Great Grey Shrike