I,ve been spending most of my free time at perceiver Saltmarsh just lately and the birding has been superb. I've been hoping for a decent shot of the pallid harrier that has been spending this winter in the vicinity-however it has not been easy!
My first attempt drew a blank and the second one wasn't much better with only brief and very distant views.
However because this is a special bird I thought I would continue. I also thought that it would be best to spend all day on each visit so after 6 attempts I was rewarded finally with some decent shots.
The walk down the lane is usually rewarded with reed buntings, yellow hammers and a mixture of winter thrushes and maybe a perched raptor (sparrowhawk or kestrel usually).
The saltmarsh itself is viewed from the floodbank and whilst the views looking south can be reasonable, you are looking into the light all day so the best place I have found is to walk around to the pumping station and the light here is more or less on your back all day.
The walk around is often rewarded with good views of a showy kingfisher (first thing in the morning is best) and stunning views of flocking waders can also be had especially if you arrive around dawn and it coincides with high water.
The real draw of this place however is the raptors. There is always a kestrel or two to be seen usually hovering over adjacent fields tree branches washed up by big tides are usually good for a perching merlin (i've seen two separate birds in the past few weeks) and the flocks of waders draw in the inevitable peregrine falcon. Sparrowhawks often cruise at low level over the tops of the reeds and there has been the odd buzzard flying through.
Up to 4 short eared owls have been seen hunting (and occasionally fighting) at any one time and prove a nice distraction while waiting for the harriers.
The real draw is the harriers-marsh are usually confined to the outer saltmarsh and have remained distant. The hen harriers are a little more showy and I have had them at first light up until dusk.
The star bird however is a little more unpredictable. It showed well on at least 5 occasions on Monday of this week and only showed once yesterday (albeit the closest views).It is difficult to recommend the best place to view as it covers nearly all of the saltmarsh and the adjacent outstray area at Patrington Haven.
For me the best place has been the bank near the sluice station as the sun is on your back, however you are exposed if you stand on the top of the bank so keep your profile low and out of sight by viewing from half way down the bank.
No doubt I will be spending some more time down there this winter, it is a cracking place to spend the day.