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For previous years (2012-2019) see the links on the Whitlingham Bird List page.

NORTH NORFOLK: Sculthorpe finches & Water Shrew

15th February 2015

On Sunday we decided to go on our annual winter visit to Sculthorpe Moor, probably Norfolk's best nature reserve for seeing Bullfinches. On the way we briefly stopped at Three Score so I could scan for the Great White Egret (no sign of it at the time, it did turn up later). Due to some navigational failings on my part we explored rather too much of Bowthorpe and Ringland before eventually getting back to the Fakenham Road and carrying on to Sculthorpe, where we struggled to find space in a packed car park. Handily many of the birders had almost finished their mornings birding, so the reserve itself wasn't too busy.

On the first set of feeders we saw pretty much everything we had come to see; a pair of Bullfinches, a Brambling, two Nuthatches, Coal Tits and Marsh Tits, two of the latter being colour ringed. Unfortunately as they were flying in and out I couldn't get the exact codes, but there was definitely a red-and-white and a yellow-and-white in there.

Further around we saw a small flock of Siskins in the Alders. Presumably due to the mild winter I still haven't seen (or indeed heard from anyone else about) any at Whitlingham so far in 2015. We didn't stop at the woodland hide, so carried on along the path, stopping only to look at some Scarlet Elf Cups and scan along the dyke. Further along we saw some more fungi and a very skulking Wren before arriving at the fen hide. The view was much different to our last visit, as some vegetation has been cleared to give an area of open water stretching into the distance.

As usual the bird tables at either side of the hide provided most of the entertainment, and there was a constant stream of birds, particularly Chaffinches, onto them. A flock of Long-tailed Tits were also a pleasure to see. For once we didn't see any Bullfinches here (although I did hear one from the path up to the hide), but three more Brambling, a Nuthatch and some Reed Buntings were all good to see close up.

It turned out that the best sighting of the day came near the end. As we crossed the recently cleared out dyke that runs through the woodland we stopped to scan along the muddy edges. Some ripples were coming from a small section of bank, and after that some bubbles. It looked as though something had swam out from an underwater hole in the bank. For a while we could only see ripples or a bubble trail, but then suddenly a Water Shrew launched itself out of the water and onto the mud at the edge, where it disappeared into presumably another hole. A brief view, but a new mammal for me and an excellent end to our visit.

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