10th October 2019 – Day One Norfolk 5 day tour.
We started the day at Cley with a seawatch. As expected in the SW wind, there was no skuas, or shearwaters, but a good variation of birds! Close inshore there were several Red-throated Divers including a smart bird with some retained summer plumage. Also several small parties of Razorbill on the sea. Passing by offshore there were 1-2 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, then groups of 3 & 120 Pink-footed Geese, both clearly arriving from way out at sea, the marvels of migration. There were small numbers of Gannets offshore, and a few Common Scoter passed by, but without a sort after Velvet! Wigeon, 2 Pintail and possibly less expected were 2 Gadwall that also moved through heading west. As well as wildfowl, waders were moving in small numbers, with several Curlew, a Grey Plover with a Golden Plover, then 4 Grey Plover accompanying a Bar-tailed Godwit and several groups of Ringed Plover, one Dunlin also amongst these. Close in along the shoreline 2 feeding Great Crested Grebes appeared, along with a single Guillemot.
Also noteworthy were 3-4’s of passerines also coming in off the sea, mainly Skylark & Meadow Pipit and possibly several Shorelark, but we just didn’t quite get enough on these birds to be sure.
We next headed over to Walsey Hills, where 2 Jack Snipe posed beautifully, one asleep and the other actively feeding and bobbing! Whilst watching these beautiful birds, a Water Rail and a Bearded Tit also appeared briefly. We had a quick look down at the end of the track for the Yellow-browed Warbler, but could neither hear or see it. We did however, come across a pale Chiff-chaff, that looked an excellent candidate for Siberian Chiff-chaff, though we left without hearing it call.
We lunched up at the Visitor centre and a Marsh harrier passed by, whilst we also spied Black-tailed Godwit, Avocets and Ruff out on the scrapes amongst the Teal and Wigeon.
We next headed to Sheringham cemetery, where we started off well nicely with 2 Ring Ouzels, with one eventually perching up in a rowan and allowing good views. This rowan bush also hosted Song Thrush, Redwing and Blackbird. We then headed up to the SW corner and immediately on arrival could hear Yellow-browed Warbler, I managed to get views and 1-2 of the group also got brief views, and as they moved it was clear there were 2 Yellow-browed Warblers.. Over the next 2 hours the Yellow-broweds frustrated us, callingocassionally and giving brief views. Our patience was eventually rewarded as on two occasions The Yellow-browed Warbler appeared and at last everyone got some reasonable views.
We rounded the day off with a quick walk at Salthouse, and another brief look on the sea. There was plenty of Wigeon, a few Teal, Curlew on arrival. Out on the pools toewards the beach there were 3 Ruff, Redshank and 1-2 Reed Buntings. The sea had a good number of Red-throated Diver, plus couple of close Guillemot, Razorbill but failed to yield anything too exciting.
It had been a nice day with good variety and we headed back for tea & cakes.
11th October 2019 – Day Two Norfolk 5 day tour
The day started in earnest with 4 Grey Partridge showing very well from the minibus on the edge of a field. We then arrived at Titchwell and headed out towards the Thornham Point area. We just stopped a couple of times on the walk out as we were intent on seeing the Grey Phalarope, present from yesterday! The first stop was for a superbly marked male Marsh Harrier hunting the saltmarsh. Shortly followed by a dashing and calling Kingfisher and a smart drake Pintail.
We then marched on to Thornham point where we were soon feasting our eyes on a very busy & constantly feeding 1st winter Grey Phalarope. These arctic breeding waders, are exquisite birds that are often very confiding as they have no experience of people when they arrive. This bird was the same and once I had the group low down, it happily swam and fed right in front of us providing wonderful close views. We absorbed the full details for 45 minutes!
We walked back along the shore in blustery conditions and stopped for a Rock Pipit and to scan the shoreline, there was numerous Bar-tailed Godwit, a few Red Knot and Grey Plover including a smart summer plumage Grey Plover. We tried a look at the sea, there was 3 Red-throated Divers, plus 1-2 Gannets, but the gusting wind hampered a full exploration. The skies looked threatening and we stopped off to enjoy more waders, Black & Bar-tailed Godwit, juvenile Grey Plover plus a few Brent Geese, Shelduck, Teal and Wigeon.
We had lunch, and a party of Long-tailed tits, Blue & Great Tits passed by and we also heard a Yellow-browed Warbler call, but chose not to chase this one after yesterday’s efforts! In the afternoon we added Little Grebe, Pochard, Tufted Duck first headed to Patsy’s pool it was fairly quiet but we and there were also several Gadwall and Shoveler. A nice female Marsh harrier was also hunting close by. We then headed to the main Parinder hide and we steadily enjoyed a nice run of birds with 20 Avocet, 90 Black-tailed Godwit, 20 Bar-tailed Godwit, 5 Dunlin, Redshank, a Spotted Redshank flew over calling, a Water Rail showed along the reed edge as did 3-4 Bearded Tit. We also eventually located a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull in amongst the Black-headed Gulls. The rain then closed in and we made a run back to the minibus! En-route a Snipe flew across and a nice skein of 200 Pink-footed Geese passed by.
12th October 2019 – Day Three Norfolk 5 day tour
We started the day heading down into the Brecks, and were soon enjoying a superb post breeding flock of 29 Stone Curlew, possibly more as some appeared from vegetation and folds in the field. There was also several hundred gulls, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull & a clear 2nd Cy Caspian Gull, there was also a good candidate for a 4th cy Yellow-legged Gull but we couldn’t quite get everything we needed to confirm this bird. Nearby a Tree Sparrow was calling and also several Egyptian Geese.
We then headed up to Burnham Overy, stopping off for a soaring Red Kite on the way. We then walked out along the seawall, there was a good selection of waders, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Curlew, Turnstone, Knot, Ringed Plover plus a nice flock of 70 Golden Plover flew over and a Greenshank was heard calling.
The nearby cattle held a group of 7 Cattle Egret, once a rarity but now a familiar species in the Holkham NNR, as were the 3 Great White Egrets more distantly out on the marsh. There was lots of Pink-footed Geese, including several skeins appearing distantly out and in off the sea, migration in action and small groups of Dark-bellied Brents were also present.
A walk of around the dunes produced a lovely mixed flock of Linnet and Goldfinch, also groups of Meadow Pipits and a Stonechat whilst there was a nice close Red-throated Diver in the channel. The walk also produced 2 migrant Wheatears, flashing white rumps as they flitted along the dunes.
We had a slightly late lunch then headed to Titchwell, where news had broke of a Hooded Merganser. We had great views, of the drake Hooded Merganser, it was clearly fully winged and appeared to have no rings on either leg. It took flight with the other ducks after disturbance. So we will have to see what happens, the jury is out, but it looks as good as anything else that has been accepted!
13th October 2019 – Day Four Norfolk 5 day tour
A tricky day with quite a lot of wet weather and then a blustery wind! We started the day at Sheringham, there was plenty of Gannets passing, plus Razorbills were again well represented. A group of 25 Common Scoter went West, then the weather cleared a little and we had a nice adult Little Gull and a little later a 1cy Kittiwake, both additions to the tour list. We checked out the local Turnstones, but couldn’t find a Purple Sandpiper amongst them. 1-2 Rock Pipits flew overhead and a small party of 25 Siskin flew West, little did I know that a huge count of Siskin was recorded passing through Sheringham Bird Observatory 5000+!
We now headed on to the Brecks and and Potter Heigham marshes, where a cracking male Peregrine greeted us on arrival. There was absolutely masses duck with around 1500 Eurasian Teal, 100 Wigeon, and smaller numbers of Shoveler and Little Grebe. Nearby we could hear the pinging of a Bearded Tit and eventually it came into view and gave fantastic close views right out in the open. A Kingfisher sped by along the river and above it a couple of Marsh Harriers danced along the skyline. A few Black-tailed Godwits flew over and 2-3 Ruff were also amongst the wildfowl.
We then headed round to Somerton and firstly stopped off for around 1200 Pink-footed Geese en-route, but couldn’t find anything different amongst them. After a couple of stops, we were fortunate as 2 Common Cranes were feeding close and we had lovely views as they flew across the road and alighted in fields on the other side.
We next headed to Sea Palling and had another hour looking at the sea, Gannets and passing, Razorbills again . A few Common Scoter went West, and several Red-throated Divers, but nothing too exciting! The drizzle had started again and we explored on f the tracks along the East edge of Hickling, there was a nice Great White Egret, plus Stonechat and Marsh Harrier.
14th October 2019 – Day Five Norfolk 5 day tour
An early start today with pick up at 630am! We arrived at Snettisham at 7.15am, just in time to see the masses of Red Knot gathering in the corner of The Wash, a swarming mass of 80,000 Red Knot, amongst them several thousand Bar-tailed Godwit & Dunlin, 2000 Oystercatcher plus hundreds of Curlew, Redshank, Grey Plover and smaller numbers of Turnstone, Sanderling and Ringed Plover. A Peregrine suddenly appeared and the masses erupted, it made for 15 minutes of amazing activity. Overhead there was also a light but steady passage of Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit and this included a couple of Brambling.
Keith did really well and picked out 2 Whooper Swans at the far Southern end of the mud, these eventually heading off South. A couple of Marsh harrier and a Buzzard were over the saltmarsh, then Chuck pulled out a cracking male Hen harrier, which after disappearing for a while reappeared and gave lovely views as it hunted and then perched, it was a 2cy male Hen Harrier. More scanning of the Dunlin after the tide dropped eventually produced a juvenile Little Stint.
We then stopped off for a late morning coffee before heading to Holme. There was a nice flock of Long-tailed tits, with Great, Blue and Coal but nothing amongst them and a small flock of c25 Redwing arrived in off the sea. We sea-watched from The Firs, there was again small numbers of Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver, Razorbill, Gannets but a female Eider was an addition to the trip list. After lunch we had a walk around and the Observatory, Stonechat, Mistle Thrush, Rock Pipit were noted and a lovely Merveille du Jour a stunning autumnal moth was very welcome sat on the ringing hut.
The final addition of the trip was sort out by Chris Brock who spotted 3 Ring Ouzels, with 2 Ring Ouzels perched out on top of the bramble.
So whilst this year we were a bit short on rare birds we had still recorded –Hooded Merganser, 2 Yellow-browed warbler, 5 Ring Ouzel, Great White Egret, 2 Whooper Swan Cattle Egret, juv Little Stint, 2 Jack Snipe, Grey Phalarope, male Hen Harrier, 4 Peregrines, 2 Cranes, 29 Stone Curlew & 3 Woodlark and 120 species!