January has seen not enough birding for me but over the last week I have attempted to catch up with some of the locals. There have been some fantastic sunsets and into one of these sailed my first Buzzard of the year calling right over the centre of the Village. The next day keen to get some more over fliers on the year books I set out with my seven year old assistant to see what we could spot. Early success with the usual black-headed gulls jackdaws and rooks but more unexpectedly a couple of low flying grey herons.
Part of the reason I had set out was in the hope of catching a sighting of one of the rarer winter visitors seen by Dan B recently in the North of the village a brambling but this was not to be. There were plenty of chaffinch and goldfinch and a few greenfinch but nothing rarer however it is obviously a good time to top up the feeders and see what starts to turn up ready for next weekends Big Garden Birdwatch. May be worth catching up with the following video before the weekend.
The rest of our walk was still worthwhile after heading out on the West Hethersett loop we were soon rewarded with a hunting female kestrel and then the alarm call of a black-headed gull drew our attention to a soaring sparrowhawk who was soon attended to by a mass of starlings keen to keep an eye on their predatory friend. After all the big birds it was quite nice to get close views of one of the smaller and less showy village residents a wren feeding in the still frosty recesses of the village hedgerows.
Having added a few locals to the year list my assistant chose seeing seals on the beach as her next thing to do. Short on village beach and seals we struck out for the coast to Horsey and whilst a little late in the year for young seals always worth a visit. Clearly the annual pilgrimage to horsey has got seriously popular whilst I was away and there were hundreds of people there even late in the day. The seals have a website available if you click (HERE) and if you want a quiet visit I would go midweek and perhaps earlier than everyone else. Our first avian encounter was a flock of long-tailed tits followed by local specialities of meadow pipit and stone chat.
Whilst the stars of the show were always going to be the seals the walk there was as ever seriously picturesque so here are the standard highlights:
Shortly after I left Hickling, and after my favourite moment of the visit which was watching a barn owl hunting over the long grass in the deep red sunset behind the towering dunes I received an email from Peter D. He had spent an equally pleasant afternoon at neighbouring Hickling in between bearded tits and marsh harriers was fortunate enough to watch a water rail out on the ice from one of the hides. The water rail is to me like buried treasure whilst you know they are there and may hear them, seeing them is rare enough to add them to the special occasion list and after a good spell of freezing weather whilst requiring some bravery it is the best time to spot them.
I end the post with the promised video from the last one, taken using the trailcam and which I had half expected to include some of nearby Marlingfords Roe deer. The result requires no introduction as the black and white stripes are clear to see. The camera is back out again so check back to see what turns up next.