A glorious weekend with clear blue skies, warm sunshine and, at times, hardly a breath of wind. Saturday morning was spent at Snettisham to catch the early morning departure of Pink footed Geese leaving The Wash, with the additional bonus of an adult Ross's Goose leaving the roost; the first one that I've seen at Snett that could vaguely be considered a genuine bird. A flock of 37 White fronted Geese were in the fields opposite the pumping station behind the inner bank, along with 19 Barnacle Geese, (not the regular feral flock) whilst two Purple Sandpipers on the pits bought up 180 for the Snettisham year list. Back in July I though that I stood a reasonable chance of reaching 190, but after only three patch year ticks throughout September and October (Wood Sandpiper, Whinchat and Merlin) I will need a fair bit of luck to reach my original target of 185.
Scaup Snettisham RSPB
Three Female Scaup showed well on the pits, between the southern end of the challets and the first hide, and a drake Goosander flew south past the sailing club spit, with 55 Snow Buntings feeding on the beach. A count of 13 Little Gulls feeding offshore from the Coastal Park was perhaps not too unexpected, with birds seen on a daily basis feeding just around the coast off of Holme, but was still an excellent figure, roughly doubling the number that I had previously recorded. Two Short eared Owl were hunting Ken Hill Marsh (also seen Friday afternoon) and at least 10 Woodcock were counted coming out to feed on the grazing marshes.
Barnacle Geese Snettisham RSPB
The highlight of the weekend occured Sunday afternoon, with a walk down to thornham Harbour revealing a Short eared Owl sat in the set aside fields beside the bank. Showing the bird to some passers by we watched a 2nd bird fly in and chase it off of the ground, followed in quick succession by the appearance of a 3rd, 4th and the 5th bird! With the sun still shining the birds put on an excellent display, spending a lot of time flying high over the fields, indulging in regular aerial scraps, both with Marsh Harriers and one another, where they were surprisingly vocal (somewhat like a muffled Grey Heron) With the exeption of the group of five that flew west offshore earlier on in the autumn, this was the highest number of birds that I have seen together at Holme (Five birds eventually became Six) in what has been one of the best Autumns/winters for Short eared Owls that I can remember. Lets hope the numbers continue to build!