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309 Black-throated Diver (Gavia arctica) Norfolk January 2024 cp crs 130dpi.jpg
223 Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus) Cley Norfolk March 2024 cp crs 130dpi.

Upper photo: Black-throated Diver (Gavia arctica) NWT Holme Dunes Norfolk January 2024

Lower photo: Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus) NWT Cley Marsh Norfolk March 2024 *

'Wildlife roundup published in the Summer issue of 'Tern' magazine by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust covering period January-March 2024 by Robin Chittenden


Yet another new bird for Norfolk was found this winter. This time it was a drake Black Scoter, which originate from North America and was spotted among the huge flock of Common Scoter feeding in Holkham Bay. Black and Common Scoters look very similar. The drakes are both black. The females and young birds look even more similar and are brown. The drake Black Scoter has a more swollen bill, the swollen part of which is yellow and orange. The ducks, that is, the females have, and I quote from the Collins Bird Guide ‘a trifle more pronounced hook on bill tip’. This may be fine for telling them apart if they were on your local duck pond, but in the UK they are more usually way out to sea, where they dive for food, mostly molluscs and particularly mussels. In the case of the Holkham bird it was picked out from a flock of several thousand Common Scoter, which were most of the time dots in the distance. Factor in the fact that they can ‘disappear’ behind choppy waves and regularly actually vanish for a minute or more when diving, meant it was one hell of a tricky bird to spot.


Although most seabirds feed most of the time offshore in winter, small numbers, occasionally, end up on inland lakes and waterways. This winter there seemed to be more than normal. West Norfolk did particularly well with a Long-tailed Duck on the pits at RSPB Snettisham and at NWT Holme Dunes on the Gore Point channel. And another spent a month or so on the River Great Ouse Relief Channel between Downham Market & Stowbridge. A Black-throated Diver was also on the pits at RSPB Snettisham and at NWT Holme Dunes on the Gore Point channel and another was on the Hardwick flood lagoon at King’s Lynn, but was sadly later found dead. In East Norfolk it was all about Great Northern Divers with birds seen at Barton Broad, Rollesby Broad, Ormesby Broad and Whitlingham CP on the Great Broad.


Birders at NWT Cley Marshes were delighted when a Red-breasted Goose chose to overwinter there in 2021/22. There is something about the ruddy mahogany colour of the breast that is pleasing to the eye. It was a bit of a surprise that the species also chose to spend this winter again in Norfolk. Not only that, there were two or three birds and perhaps more. In the UK there were several sighted including three at one site in Essex. This was an unprecedented arrival. What could be driving more to winter here than ever before. In severe winters they are normally pushed south along the Black Sea coast as far as northern Greece. Could it be that disturbance in their normal wintering range in Ukraine could have encouraged a westwards dispersal?


An old friend to the NWT Cley Marshes, the Long-billed Dowitcher returned. This American wader reappeared in October 2023 having spent the winter of 2022/23 at NWT Cley Marshes. But it then chose to stay away from Norfolk, and perhaps even left the UK altogether. It did return to NWT Cley Marshes in March though, and what was presumably the same bird that popped in at Breydon Water for three days in February having spent most of that month at SWT Carlton Marshes. It is still hanging around with Black-tailed Godwits, perhaps because it thinks it is one? Last winter this Long-billed Dowitcher stayed until April, by which time it moulted from its grey winter plumage to the warm orangey glow of summer. Let’s hope it does the same this year.

* In the photo above the Long-billed Dowitcher is flying with Black-tailed Godwits & five Avocets towards the bottom left

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