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Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Snowy Owl at Thornham Point

Hearing reports of a Snowy Owl in NW Norfolk somewhere it was finally pinned down on Scolt Head on Friday and hearing it was at Thornham Point (viewable from Titchwell beach or Thornham on Saturday 10th March, I eventually headed up there with Maurice B. Driving to Fakenham then going through Docking we reached a packed Titchwell RSPB with the cars parking down the side of the entrance road, as luck would have, it there was one space and we started the long walk past the reserve, many people were walking back including Lee Evans. A birder informed us that we needed to hurry as the bird was by the tideline and likely to fly if the tide came in and the tide was coming in! We continued walking quickly past the freshwater and saltwater scrapes and walked 3/4 mile right along the crowded beach. We initially scoped along the beach and saw the distant shape of the majestic 1st winter female Snowy Owl perched on a tree which looked like a dead Christmas tree lying on the beach. We power- walked up the beach for 3/4 of mile and joined the hundred strong group of birders strung out in a line looking from the dunes across the beach 400 yards away to where the 1st winter female Snowy Owl sat. Even at this range she was still a really impressive bird. Generally white and slightly smaller size-wise than an Eagle Owl, she sported heavy brown markings on her body. Her head swivelled around always on the alert and marvellous to see those piercing yellow eyes. The most active she got during our period of observation was when she fidgeted around and ruffled her feathers. She was so far away I couldn't autofocus on the bird so I switched to manual and got one record shot. Sobering to think the last Snowy Owls I saw were both with Ricky in at Wainfleet, Lincolnshire in December 1990 (also with Peter N) and Oct 2001 at the Port of Felixstowe, Suffolk. Along the shoreline birds included 14 Bar- tailed Godwits, 3 Grey Plover and 15 Sanderling. (all new birds for the year) Walking back a fine female Snow Bunting was seen routing around the Dune edge. from the Salt water scrape, we immediately saw down a channel, a winter plumaged Spotted redshank and then a Greenshank walked into view. Also there 3 Avocet and a a handful of c8 Black- tailed Godwits including one fine summer plumaged individual half way back and just a few feet away a very confiding winter- plumaged individual. By the bird feeders as we walked back we saw first one very smart winter plumaged individual that was quickly joined by a second bird. Walking back past the woody copse, an extremely well camouflaged Woodcock proved exceptionally elusive until I noticed a movement at the back and kneeling down on the ground I spied a half concealed Woodcock amongst the leaf litter and got everybody onto it, the bird moved once and the head and bill were seen briefly. The Dereham boys picked up 2 additional Brambling in the bushes behind and I saw 1 Brambling here.

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