All pics (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
The forecast was so bad for Thursday that we relocated to Tophill Low. Although the rain didn't materialise (yet again), it was a another grey day and we saw many more species than we would have done at the original location.
Smew [Redhead] & Drake Goldeneye
At the Visitor Centre there was plenty of birdsong, but just common birds: Song Thrush, Great Tit, Blue Tit & Chaffinch. We headed south and near South Lagoon we saw a single Lesser Redpoll, which posed long enough for everyone to get good views. The next bird seen was a male Great Spotted Woodpecker, which proved elusive at first, but once its mate joined it, they both got rather over excited and everyone was able to view them. We went up to 'O' reservoir where there were plenty of Wigeon with fewer Tufted Ducks and even less Goldeneye.
Great Spotted Woodpecker [male]
After admiring the skeleton of a Mute Swan, and in the afternoon's case the remains of a Cormorant we made our way to the back-to-back hides. South Marsh East had really perked up with several Oystercatchers on the islands (am only), plus Shoveler, Teal, Shelduck and 6 drake Gadwalls harassing a single female. In the other hide overlooking South Marsh East there was just a female Pochard near the hide, which was later joined by a drake, which flew in. Otherwise, apart from a few scattered scummy Coots there was much less action going on here. From the L-shaped hide we discovered that there were also some Tufted Ducks on South Marsh East, but because of the low level of water in the reservoir hardly any birds on the 'O' could be spotted from here.
Drake Tufted Duck
In the afternoon 2 long-necked ducks were circling above South Scrub, and sure enough on investigation they proved to be drake Pintail. They eventually flew off in a South-easterly direction. As usual at this time of year the best selection of viewable species was to be found at Watton Borrow Pits. The star bird, spotted by Jan, was a Smew (Redhead). All the previously mentioned duck species were also here, but also a pair of Great Crested Grebe, who nearly, but not quite went into their courtship display - instead they seemed to be synchronising their preening movements. I mentioned the presence of the Barn Owl, which no one had pointed out, and it wasn't long before Richard saw it, without me having to point it out. In the afternoon I had to give directions as to its location, but it was slightly harder to see, as the visibility had decreased slightly. The evocative calls of some Curlew were another highlight at this location.
Long-tailed Tit [with ring]
In the morning we returned on the gravel path, but this was really open to the icy northerly wind, so we went on the grass in the afternoon. The morning group had stopped to watch some Long-tailed Tits just to the north of East Pond, when suddenly they gave out their 'Sparrowhawk alarm call'. One of the party felt the wind rush past his ear as a fast flying brown bird approached from behind us after having flown over 'O' reservoir. It seemed to change its trajectory away from us slightly before it landed in the woodland behind the Tits, but still only a few feet in front of us. As it landed its rich brown broad wings could be seen before they folded back into their non-flying position. I identified the bird, only to be met with incredulous looks and unbelieving gasps. However, we waited for a few minutes and it must have gathered its strength because fairly soon it took to the air again, and as it flew away from us at speed more than one participant was able to see its almost overlong beak - yes, it was a Woodcock. One of the Long-tailed Tits we discovered on receipt of Richard's photos was ringed - a local bird?
Both groups were able to view from D Reservoir which appeared to be still in the thrall of winter. Again all the usual suspects were present, but in the afternoon the Common Gull roost had started and Eric was able to spot 3 distant Goosanders through his telescope. An excellent end to the afternoon.