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NORTH NORFOLK: Snowy owl and strandline creatures

10th March 2018

Those readers with Twitter accounts will have probably been unable to escape the knowledge that a Snowy Owl arrived in Norfolk last week on the coat-tails of the beast from the east. The initial sighting near King's Lynn was greeted with scepticism as it was reported in the evening rather than at the time, but confirmation arrived on Thursday when birders showed a photo of the owl taken at Heacham beach to staff at Titchwell.

On to Friday afternoon and the Snowy Owl was found on Scolt Head Island, thankfully visible from Burnham Deepdale so most birders weren't tempted to attempt to wade or swim across to the island. I was busy on Friday, but knowing how much I'd like to see it, Cathy agreed that I could go and have a look on Saturday afternoon.

By Saturday the Snowy Owl had relocated to Thornham Point, giving a choice of viewing between Thornham Harbour and walking along the beach from Titchwell. I chose the latter, but only after finding that several of the minor roads north from Docking were still blocked by snow (this being several days after the EDP had carried a story saying that the last snow-blocked road in Norfolk had been cleared). Fortunately I managed to find a space in the very full Titchwell car park, and set off along the west bank path.

On my way down towards the beach I met Dave White, who provided mixed news. The Snowy Owl was still present but distant, and he estimated it was a 20 minute walk along the beach. It was quite close to the shoreline, so if the tide got any higher it might fly off. With this in mind I power-walked down to the beach and westwards for what seemed like an age, before finding the crowd of birders watching the owl. It was absolutely worth it, the Snowy Owl sat looking around and engaged in a couple of short flights up onto a post and back down again. Even at range it was a characterful and enchanting beastie.

There had been quite a bit reported offshore, but wanting to get back to wife and daughter I contented myself by walking back along the strandline and photographing the various shells to identify later. There were quite a lot of Common Sunstars amongst a few Starfish, several Green Sea Urchins and large numbers of crab remains. There were clearly several species, but most of the soft tissue had been eaten, presumably by gulls. I did notice several orange ones that looked the wrong shape for Edible crabs - spider crabs maybe? If you recognise it then please leave a comment or send me an email. Shells included whelks, oysters, razors, tellins, periwinkles Painted Top Shells and some sort of slipper limpet.

 Crab sp.

 Slipper Limpet
 Common Sunstar
 Painted Top Shell
 Green Sea Urchin
 Sea Potato

On the way back I noticed a Smooth Newt walking across the path. It was in danger of getting squashed, so I scooped it up and moved it to the edge of the path. A group were watching the regular Woodcock near the car park, and somebody kindly showed me it in their telescope as picking it up from scratch usually takes a while ("you see that twig, well another twig comes off at an angle..."). Thanks to the RSPB, whose infrastructure seemed to be holding firm despite the huge visitor numbers, and to the majority of birders that didn't try to get too close and flush the bird. Today (11th March) it is currently at Snettisham RSPB reserve if you want to see it.

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