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Bird Race 2010

30th May 2010

Its the second bank holiday weekend in May, and that means Bird Race time! We had learnt a few things from last year, when we racked up 113 species over Norfolk and North Suffolk. This year we planned to leave earlier, start in a woodland and avoid King's Lynn at all costs. We left Norwich at 04:00 and headed for the brecks...

Breckland Leg

In order to maximise the dawn chorus, we headed to a woodland on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. We started well, seeing Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker, and hearing many other species. Unfortunately it was then that the rain started to fall. Other than the obvious problem (you and your optics get wet!), the rain reduced visibility and the activity of birds in the area. We did get a Kingfisher, and in brief spells between showers also got Bullfinch and Green Woodpecker. Tantalisingly Siskin and Crossbills flew over calling, but remained unseen.

A brief stop at Weeting Heath was all we needed to add Stone Curlew, one out in the open from the west hide. At Lakenheath we waited in vain for a Bittern or Crane, but were quickly accumulating commoner birds, including Cetti's Warbler, Barn Owl, Common Tern and Marsh Harrier. After a 20 minute wait a Golden Oriole emerged in a poplar right in front of me, I got a quick picture whilst birders converged on us to get a glimpse. A Hobby over the trees and a Cuckoo playing hide-and-seek peering around a tree were also good birds here. Whilst in the brecks we also visited last year's Tree Pipit site, which came good for us this year too.

The Fens and West Norfolk ("don't become a victim of car crime"*)

Having lost time and potentially a number of birds, we decided to bite the bullet and go to Welney. The guy at the entrance told us honestly that we were unlikely to see the Bluethroat because of the strong winds, but we figured it was still worth it. From the main hide we were straight onto male Garganey, Little Ringed Plover & Whooper Swan**, whilst a Yellow Wagtail flew in not long after. As predicted the Bluethroat wasn't showing, but a 1st summer Red Kite flew over. Someone reported it to the staff as a Black Kite, but the tail fork was clearly too divided to entertain that (see photo).

A couple of stops on our way north saw us add Woodlark, Buzzard and Little Owl, before arriving at Titchwell. Whilst admiring a male Ruddy Duck, a Bittern flew along the edge of the freshwater pool to the west of the path, landing at the top of the reeds and edging its way down. Excellent stuff. We sheltered in the hide whilst a violent storm passed overhead, before continuing to the beach. Here we picked up more waders and a flypast Gannet, though sadly no seaducks.

North Norfolk & the finale

Driving along a back road we stopped and scanned, and came up with the useful triumvirate of Lesser Whitethroat, Tree Sparrow and male Montagu's Harrier. Cley was not yet ready for any Trumpeter action, we only managed flyby Sandwich Tern and four Dunlin. The Dunlin were my 112th bird, one short of last years total. Beating my record should have been a formality, but with ever increasing rain, could we find anything else? We tried in vain for Little Grebe, Nightingale (heard only), Garden Warbler and Dartford Warbler, but dipped all. Finally a Stonechat popped up, enough to equal last year. After dipping Grey Wagtail and Turtle Dove, we called Phil, who supplied us with news of a Spotted Flycatcher near his house. Bird number 114! We finished the day at a heath in mid-Norfolk, where two churring Nightjars were out early, giving good views. Final total - 17 hours, 115 birds (+ 3 heard only).

* If you don't understand this, go to the loo at Titchwell.
** In the original Bill Oddie Bird Race days of the early 1980s, injured birds didn't count. I'm not that strict.


  1. **Lets face it some of them Whooper's were still young, and in today's current climate and the resession youngsters just dont want to leave a free home.

    You also forgot to mention 17 hours (asleep for many) and actually missed Sparrowhawk whilst sleeping.

  2. 17 hours is in the total. I didn't keep track of how much time I was asleep for, because, well, I was asleep. Realistically I probably saw 115 species in about 5 hours of birding. The Sparrowhawk was regrettable, but I have an easier target to beat next year.