Dawn on January 1st in Felbrigg Park – where else!
I cut short my New Year’s Eve celebrations to make it back home for the start of the NENBC New Year’s Day Birding Challenge. I was in the park before dawn, having passed Ken & Carol’s empty car at the entrance – now that’s keen for you! My first bird of 2019 had been a calling Carrion Crow, heard from the kitchen whilst I was getting my stuff together. Despite it not being quite light yet, once inside the park, there were birds calling all around me. A strange lump on the end of a branch over-hanging the path caught my attention. In the half-light I could just make out the profile of a Tawny Owl through my binoculars – a good omen for things to come? Over the course of the next hour or so I’d clocked up 40 species, including Stonechat, Snipe & Shoveler. The next couple of stops at Sustead Common and Gresham sewage works produced Siskin, Bullfinch, Woodcock and Chiffchaff – all good birds. The drive over to Blickling Hall however failed to produce any winter farmland birds like Yellowhammer, Brambling or Grey Partridge. Once in the park the expected Great Crested Grebe was soon under the belt but the hoped for Kingfisher failed to materialise. Next stop was Pigney’s Wood and another dip on Kingfisher but I did secure my ‘bird of the day’ here with a calling Cetti’s Warbler, which showed briefly near the old canal tow-path. Then it was on to the coast where I added a handful of coastal birds but nothing exceptional. By the time I’d got to West Runton, via Cromer church to look for roosting Peregrine, the tide was well in and there were no waders to be seen – at this point the plan began to come apart. A quick trip to Sheringham, not surprisingly, failed to produce Purple Sand, Rock Pipit or the reported Black-throated Diver. On to Selbrigg Pond for Little Grebe and then Bodham church for the mixed finch flock. No Yellowhammer here but I did manage a couple of distant Brambling. With only an hour of daylight left I returned to Felbrigg, in the hope of catching up with the missed species from the morning. It was not to be and, after a futile drive around the lanes looking for Barn Owl, I closed the account on 74. A couple of guys got 75, but this year’s prize goes to the EdgeHoltHam team with a very creditable 79. At least our record of 87 stands for another year! Well done all those who took part – getting the Club’s 2019 bird list off to a cracking start.