Had the chance to have couple of days away in the motorhome and decided to head to Freiston Shore then Frampton Marsh on the Saturday before moving onto the overnight stay in Hunstanton, Norfolk for a few hours walking the cast here on Sunday.
Weather was really windy, cold along with some poor light, the sun did make appearances during the weekend so overall not too bad for the time of the year I guess? Freiston Shore car park was empty apart form one car when I arrived and as soon as I had got ready to walk around a group of Whooper Swans flew into then out of view.
A walk to the hide provided views of the common finches and tits you would expect to see, the water was laden with Wigeon and their calls could be heard in close by fields too. The scrape was full of Wigeon, odd small groups of Teal, a pair of Shoveler and a dozen Mute Swan all were busy feeding. The odd Wigeon came close in from of the hide occasionally.
Small numbers of Common, Herring, Lesser Black Backed and Black Headed Gull were spaced around the scrapes as well as 9 Little Grebe most I have seen in one place at the same time. A Little Egret dropped in close to a not at all bothered preening Redshank for a few minutes.
I left the hide and walked towards the Freiston Low area and saw hundreds and hundreds of Wigeon in the fields, easily 1,000 were about the place. The Wigeon were feeding, fighting and flying all around for a few minutes, could not see what wound them up but things soon settled.
Whilst looking at these birds the call of Whooper Swans rang out as another group dropped in, this time 10 birds, 5 adults and 5 juveniles, nice!
Onto the bank looking back at the scrapes with decent water levels Freiston did look in good health.
I watched the birds as I walked around the scrape backwards the car park to move onto Frampton, I was half hoping they would take off again so I could try to get a few flight shots of the group but they were very happy among the Wigeon and Mute Swans. A couple of passes in the air by two small groups of Shelduck the was only thing in the air at this time.
The Whoopers did take to the air but only to move to another section of the scrape closer to the car park. I made my way back to the van and after another few minutes admiring the Whoopers at closer quarters I then headed onto Frampton Marsh.
Arriving at Frampton what was the first bird of note seen? Yes more fine looking adult Whooper Swan. This time 6 in front of the visitor centre, they gave good views if a little distant.
Walking my usual route towards the 360 hide first 18 or so Canada Goose were feeding in one of the freshwater scrapes on the right of the path to the 360 hide.
I stood looking through my bins at the birds seeing what I thought was a couple of smaller birds at the back of the Canada Geese, the birds then took to the air and here I identified the smaller geese a two Barnacle Geese.
Once in the 360 hide, which was very busy with birders sheltering from the bitter winds I soon got onto 5 Golden Plover while looking over towards the East hide.
In the same area 20 plus Dunlin were racing low and fast in the scrape area between the two popular hides, in with these birds was a lone Ruff too. Skylarks were fighting the wind making their presence known. A lone Ringed Plover was seen when scanning over to the reedbed hide.
Little Stint were seen as well but a long way off from the 360 and after about 45 minutes I decided to head into the wind once again. More Wigeon were sheltering on the banks near the reedbed hide.
The sun did come out for a little while but not for long, you can see how birdless the reserve was really.
Another Whooper Swan, this time a lone bird flew from nowhere over my head towards the 6 birds I had seen earlier.
Once in the reedbed hide once again with a good number of people in it keeping warm I spent sometime watching the few birds in the area, not many at all to be honest, groups of Linnet were busy in the air fighting the winds over the main body of water in front of the visitor centre. Pretty quite here in truth so off to the east hide I went. Another full hide but this time all looking on one direction with the odd birder saying "I can't see it" and other saying "look at that bank then track left from the" I asked one lad what we onto?
"Merlin" was the reply and after a few seconds scanning I was onto the bird of the day! It was on the ground, probably trying to shelter from the harsh winds too!
Great looking bird that stayed put for about 10 minutes while I was there then it flew low and fast into the wind never to be seen again. There had been reports earlier they a juvenile Hobby had been harassing a Merlin, would have been nice to have seen that!
Walking back from the East hide the fields near the bank to the Witham Mouth were busy with Dunlin, possibly the same flighty group from earlier and a few Black Tailed Godwits. The Godwits were scrapping well from time to time.
Spotted Redshank were reported in this area too but i only saw the usual species of Redshank in with the Godwits. I took the long way round back to the visitor centre hoping to spot Bearded Tit but sadly the strong winds put paid to that. A few Goldfinch were enjoying the plentiful teasel along the way back.
Despite the wind an enjoyable time at the two great Southern Lincolnshire reserves, on to Hunstanton for the night then the coastal walk in the morning.
Sunday morning arrived a bit brighter than the day before initially but just as windy if not worse due to being right on the coast! The waves as the tide came in were high and strong. All this meant most of the time the beaches were all to myself, well mostly.
A bit of sea watching started as I hit the beach and several groups of Cormorants and Gannets passed out at sea all heading north.
Common Gull, Turnstone, Sanderling and Redshank were first 'close in' species seen, one Turnstone wore 4 coloured rings.
The birds battled the winds when on the wing, all heading into the heavy gusts like the Oystercatcher and Redshank. I did see in the distance what I thought was a Purple Sandpiper I was not though convinced due to my eyes running badly with the wind playing havoc blowing into your face. I dismissed my thoughts as this species was the one I really wanted to see while on the Hunstanton shoreline.
Small groups of Sanderling barrelled along the coast, surprising how these little birds seem to master the winds when flying. I then had a lone bird flash by low at the waters edge and after a little reviewing on the back of my camera told myself, 'target bird seen' - Purple Sandpiper - yes!
The Purple Sandpiper flew in the general direction of the cliffs and I was walking in the opposite direction, this would be my only sighting I thought. I turned and began to walk again in the direction I was heading and soon came across 120 plus Oystercatcher on the beach sheltering as best they could from the harsh winds. Slowly but surely I got close enough for a photo or two and the sun appeared also!
Near the Oystercatchers were a few groups of Ringed Plover in 3's and 4's.
Turnstones and Sanderlings steadfastly worked the beach as the tide hammered in. The Sanderling below had a metal ring on its leg, info on all rung birds I see / photograph are sent onto the relevant organisation and these seen this weekend will be sent too.
A lovely looking Bar Tailed Godwit then dropped in front of me along with a couple of Knot.
More Ringed Plovers were seen as I walked back towards the town.
Then some 4 hours after I had left my motorhome, around 1.30pm I walked into the Purple Sandpiper again and this time after positioning myself in a place where the bird would not be disturbed I watched it come closer and closer, in the end a couple of times as close as 10 feet enjoying seeing the bird feed / forage at the waters edge in among the foaming tide.
More images of this delightful wader showing different angles I managed in the windy conditions can be seen here .... Purple Sandpiper
Walking from the beach I came across this resting Turnstone on the green in the centre of Hunstanton. It was not bothered at all as I bent down to take this image, perhaps too knackered from the strong winds on the beach!
So, a good couple of days with my top 3 birds seen being Merlin, Purple Sandpiper and Whooper Swan in that order!
More images from the weekend with the same words can be seen here .... Lincsbirders website blog post