After the annual ritural of gastric gluttony over the past two days, it really was time to get out, if only to get the blood recirculating again and to ensure the legs still worked!
We started off at dawn at Cley nature reserve, which had confirmed the local saying that 'eventually everything comes to Cley' by being the latest site to become temporary residence of the Black-eared Kite that we saw in Lincolnshire last month! We watched it as it came off the roost with several Marsh Harriers then promptly ponked itself on a bush in the middle of the marsh and the murk (the latter of which was a constant feature of the day!) It then showed well in flight, almost constantly being harassed by a Marsh Harrier which gave great comparisons and then disappeared over the West Bank (of Cley, not Palestine!).
Black-eared Kite (honest!)
We then headed off down to Salthouse to NOT see the White-rumped Sandpiper as usual, just a few Ruff, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit with plenty of Wigeon, Teal and Brent geese.
Next stop was Stiffkey Saltmarsh where we were hoping for a few raptors but the whole area was extremely quiet birdwise, we did manage a couple of Marsh Harriers, a nice covey of Grey Partridge and a Little egret in every field of view. Most notable for their absence were Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl.
We then moved on to Cockthorpe Airfield where a Black Brant was showing well with some Brent. These are the American/ east Siberian version of our Brent geese and are best identified by their bigger necklace and a smart white blaze down the flanks. The presence of offspring of mixed parentage however has made the ID of pure birds somewhat trickier! We also noted rather distict white eyelids to this bird (all?)
Showing comparison with Dark-bellied Brent Geese
As we were watching the Brant a nice ring tail Hen harrier quartered over the fields, sending all the local birds in to panic as it drifted off west.
We finally moved on to Holkham Gap and fresh marsh hoping for a hatfull of winter birds but failed dismally, we had not forseen the hoards of doggy-walkers (an average of three dogs per family!) and fellow gutbusters trying to do the same as us ! From the Washington hide we did manage Common Buzzard, another Marsh Harrier, a white flecked Sparrowhawk, thousands of dabbling duck, 1 male Goldeneye, and four! Yes four Pink footed Geese. Also here in the fading light, a second Black Brant was seen, this one overall browner with a less distinct flank patch than the first. We returned home colder but I think I heard my arteries sigh a sigh of relief! Oh joy cold Turkey for tea!!!