Norfolk Trip Report – Day 1

Black-bellied DipperWe all met up for breakfast at the Little Chef just outside Mildenhall early on a dreary, wet and generally miserable morning. Not the greatest of starts especially with the uncertainty surrounding the hotel.

Traffic had been kind to most of us as we sat and planned the days’ events. We left Mildenhall around 10am and headed for our first destination – Thetford for the Black-bellied Dipper (continental race) – it was still raining as we drove through Thetford forest but left off as we put our gear on to start our search.

We crossed a very swollen river Thet and walked on to a very damp field. In the trees were up to 4 Goldcrests and Siskins. A Mistle Thrush sang from a nearby tall tree. Some other birders were lurking further over so we made our way towards them where there were some ideal Dipper rapids but no Dipper. This at least was it’s favoured spot but there had been no reports of it that day.

Having dispersed around the area a message came in that the bird could be at another bridge a short distance away and another of its favoured hangouts. This was according to a lady pushing her bike through the mud. Some of us didn’t get the information until well after others had begun their march to this new site. Having ascertained where this other bridge was those left went back to the cars and drove ’round the block (following Martin with his SatNav!)

As we arrived at the new spot and parked up the sun started to come out. We walked over to the bridge and there, feeding close to the brickwork, was the Black-bellied Dipper.Black-bellied Dipper

It was now fast approaching lunchtime so we decided to head off to Strumpshaw Fen (RSPB). Not a huge amount to see whilst munching, the highlights were a Marsh Tit and Brambling on the feeders. Over the marsh a Marsh Harrier cruised about and made several attempts to take a duck Gadwall. Water birds included said Gadwall, Coot, Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Teal and of course Mallard.

We left Strumpshaw Fen and continued our journey to Stubbs Mill at Hickling Broad. We got there and walked out to the observation platform. Four Common Cranes put in an appearance at around 3pm. Also on show were Marsh Harriers, Kestrels, a Barn Owl and Sparrowhawk.

Some stayed until almost dusk adding male Hen Harrier, two Merlins and Peregrine Falcon. The final tally for Marsh Harrier was 24, and according to a local birder this is very low. People were still turning up as it is not uncommon for the Cranes to come in very late.

And finally… We all made it safely to our relocated accommodation – the Links Hotel, West Runton. Dinner was booked for 7pm (some of us only just made it in time). The hotel is on several floors and some of it is only really open in the peak seasons. It was a bit like a rabbit warren with many ways of getting between all the different places! It was very warm and welcoming, the rooms were nice and the food was fine (after words were had).

All-in-all an excellent first day! Stay tuned for day two soon…


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