A trip to the north Norfolk coast with a friend was bound to produce some good birds, even though we didn't intend to travel around much and at most expected to visit a couple of sites during the day. A flock of about 20 Waxwings was seen flying over the road on the way, but as they didn't stop there was no point in us stopping either.
Our first stop was Cley, where we started with some seawatching.Red-throated Divers were moving about in reasonable numbers off shore, with a few much closer in, almost in the surf, and there were also a few small flocks of Common Scoter and a couple of Guillemots. Otherwise, apart from various of the commoner gull species and small flocks of geese moving along the coast, the sea was fairly quiet. A Grey Seal gave very good views close to the shore, almost in the surf, and provided some distraction from the birds though.
Adult Red-throated Divers tend to be very white on the face and the sides of the neck.
Juvenile Red-throated Diver - much greyer on the head and neck.
Grey Seal (a photo with the nostrils closed to prevent water entering can be seen here)
The weedy areas above the beach provide enough seed for small flocks of various small birds to survive the winter along a fairly exposed shingle coast, with Goldfinches, a flock of about 40 Linnets, and a few Skylarks grubbing about at various points. Best of all though was a flock of at least 22 Snow Buntings (once also called 'Snowflakes'). In flight the white patches in their wings really stood out, but once they had landed they could almost disappear, blending well into the shingle and dead plant stems until they moved.
European Stonechats could also be found just in from the beach, although they would have been feeding mainly on insects and other invertebrates rather than seeds, spotting their prey from the taller plants and fences they chose as vantage points. One male had been colour ringed, and from speaking to a local birdwatcher it seems likely that it was one from a breeding population on nearby Kelling Heath.
The pools and grassy areas in the central part of the reserve and to the east of the East Bank, held a good variety of wading birds and waterfowl. Most of the waders were only present in small numbers, but included 13 different species. Lapwings and Golden Plover were present in very large numbers though, with at least a couple of thousand of each. Two Marsh Harriers were hunting over the reserve and repeatedly caused these to flush, after which they would spend some time circling the reserve, sometimes reaching quite a height, before returning. The Golden Plovers were particularly flighty, taking far longer than the Lapwings, gulls, and wildfowl before they would settle again.
The most numerous ducks and geese were WIgeon, EurasianTeal, and Brent Geese, but with small numbers of other species also present, including a handful of Pintail, and several small flocks of Pink-footed Geese passed overhead.
One of the Brent Geese was unusual because it was slightly leucistic - paler and greyer than normal (the centre bird in this photo).
After a late lunch we decided to head to Holkham for the latter part of the afternoon, and the evening, where I thought we had a good chance of seeing some owls, and where we would be unlucky not to find large flocks of geese.
The geese would have been hard to miss, with probably well in excess of 10,000 Pink-footed Geese in the fields, along with a couple of hundred Brent Geese and much smaller numbers of Greylag Geese and Egyptian Geese. Large numbers of Wigeon were grazing in the same fields.
We also managed some good, but distant, views of a Barn Owl hunting along a hedgerow, and over reedy ditches, and also saw several diurnal raptor species; Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, and Sparrowhawk. To finish the day off, at least four Tawny Owls were calling around the village at dusk, and one did a fly past close to the car.