I've just had another fantastic weekend but this time close to home and out in the field (and just maybe another late night with excellent company).
We had friends over with a small list of target birds which the local Broads area could provide. First stop was Strumpshaw, which we reached after a small altercation with a muddy puddle which left my car looking like we had done several stages in the RAC Rally. Even the ferryman asked where we had been when we drove on to the Reedham Ferry and he obviously didn't believe my reply of "just through Norton Subcourse".
At Strumpshaw the first stop is always Reception hide for permits. Our enquiry about our chances of seeing otter were almost immediately answered when there was a squeal of "Otter!!" from one of my companions as an otter appeared and swam backwards and forwards across the pool doing classic ottery things. A kingfisher appeared at the same time and posed in a classic kingfishery way too. An excellent start! We moved on to Fen hide and rapidly picked up our first 'target' bird, a Water Pipit feeding in an area of cut reed opposite the hide along with a Water Rail.
Next stop was Buckenham where our second target bird Taiga Bean Goose was easily found from the end of the railway platform, accompanied by some Whitefronts. An urgent cry of "What are these 3 big birds flying over the woods?" had us all swivelling around to see 3 Common Cranes heading towards us. They made a magnificent fly past before turning northwards just before Cantley sugar beet factory. Unfortunately my camera was in the car (isn't it always) so you'll just have to make do with the lesser spectacle of hundreds of Wigeon on the marshes at Buckenham.
Our original plan had been to head to Hickling for the raptor roost for the final target bird Hen Harrier but, with news of a Rough-legged Buzzard on Haddiscoe Island, changed our plans as there was a reasonable chance of Hen Harrier here too.
We had superb views of a hunting Barn Owl as it floated above the bank towards us and then after hearing numerous pinging Beardies a pair finally obliged close by and another Kingfisher put in an appearance. Of the raptors there was no sign and there was a hint of discontent within the camp but as I explained that Hen Harriers are just around in the area and it would be a matter of luck if one appeared a lovely male drifted through my scope. Relief all round!
We turned for home and as we did so we heard the distant evocative sound of Pink-footed Geese. A massive flock of geese appeared heading our way. A large flock of Pinkfeet had spent most of the previous week on Haddiscoe/Thorpe marshes but despite repeated scanning from the house, we had been unable to locate the Ross's Goose which usually hung around with the Pinkfeet flock. As the geese flew straight over our heads there was the Ross's at the head of a V-formation with an entourage of 6 Barnacle Geese flanked by many more Pinkfeet. A fine end to an excellent day.
Sunday morning was a time for a gentle amble around our own marshes. A huge distant flock of Lapwing with about 30 Golden Plover, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers and a fine male Bullfinch were the highlights.
In the afternoon, I dropped a daughter off at a Christmas party in Beccles and then went for a stroll around nearby Sotterley Park. No Hawfinches but I saw a nice selection of woodland birds including good views of Nuthatch.
Squirrel update: I was half joking when I referred to fourth, fifth........ We're up to 7 now and there's still at least one more out there.........
Car update: The car is back to shiny black today after a visit to the Hand Car Wash on Beccles Road in Bradwell. They just smiled when I drove up and didn't charge any extra. Highly recommended!