8th-10th November – Three Day group tour

Day One – 8th November

A tricky day dodging showers and dealing with a gusty NE wind! However, we still had a great day! We started at Burnham Overy and were soon watching several nice skeins of Dark-bellied Brents, plus skeins of Pink-footed Geese. Out over the marsh we were soon also enjoying regular Marsh harriers and these pushed some nice flocks of Teal and Wigeon into the air. Further off the seawall, there was also c60 Barnacle Geese – of unknown origin, but possibly from the ever growing Suffolk feral birds.

Brent Geese – lots of young in with the groups this autumn

There was a good selection of waders out on the mud, with 30+ Dunlin, Knot, Redshank, Grey Plover and Turnstone. Along the salt marsh, Rock Pipits and Reed buntings skipped in and out of view and a vocal Cetti’s Warbler was calling but remained unseen.

Out on the grazing marsh a Great White Egret appeared, and very soon after three more, with 4 Great White Egrets in view together. Joining these nearby amongst the cattle, were 4 Cattle Egrets, shortly joined by two more Cattle egrets. Further on a nice flock of 100 Golden Plover and 200 Lapwing made it feel more like Norfolk in November!

Above the Firs a Buzzard and then a Red Kite with a Sparrowhawk in attendance appeared. Small groups of Meadow Pipit and Skylarks were overhead and a close pair of Stonechat moved up along the fence posts.

We next headed to Titchwell, lunched quickly between the showers and then headed out to the hides. There was a good selection of waders, a nice flock of c200 Bar-tailed Godwit, 40 Avocet, and a few Red Knot. Though these were much increased as we walked back later. Out on sea pool there was 2 Spotted Redshank, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, plus a more showy Rock pipit. We retraced our steps and the main scrape was filling up with now 22 Ruff, 100 Golden Plover, 150 Lapwing, 300 Bar-tailed Godwit, 30 Knot & plenty of Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler.

We finished off at the harrier roost – the gusty wind ensured for much activity, with 30 Marsh Harriers roosting and 10+ in the air together regularly. The spectacle was further improved when a Peregrine decided to interact and spent a minute or two cruising around at high speed clashing with the harriers! Overhead around 60+ Little Egrets roosted – a nice end to the day.

Day Two – 9th November

Today was in stark contrast weather-wise to the previous day, a beautiful cold sunny day with light winds. We started the day with a walk out at Holme into the dunes.

As we headed out across the golf course several groups of migrant Starlings passed overhead and a Brambling flew over calling and 4 Grey Partridge gave great views. Out in the dunes, there was plenty of Skylarks, Reed Buntings, Meadow Pipits and a nice flock of Linnets. As we got further out a group of Snow Bunting drew attention with their lovely rippling call, but this group disappeared from view over the shingle ridge. We headed in their direction and as we scanned the area to where they had landed, the silhouette of a small raptor was clearly visible, the scope view was more decisive a lovely Merlin! Though it was soon off heading out over the mudflats looking for prey.

There was no sign of the Snow Bunting, so we started walking another area, fortunately this time the Snow Buntings flew over and we could see where they landed. A swift walk and we were getting lovely scope views, and with patience they came closer, providing everyone with lovely scope views of 20 Snow Bunting. We then searched the rest of the dunes, 7 Snipe flew over and 4 Stonechats perched up nicely, and we enjoyed several Little Egrets, Redshank and Curlew. We also watched several groups of Pink-footed Geese arrive in off the sea, these skeins high in the skies in perfect conditions for crossing The Wash.

We then headed up to the Firs area and had a short while looking at the sea. It was fairly quiet, but we dug out some Gannets, several groups of Common Scoter, 2-3 Red-throated Diver plus 2 Goldeneye on the sea. Lots of waders out on the shoreline, plus groups of Dark-bellied Brent.

We lunched at the NWT Centre and were pleased to watch a nice group of finches coming to the feeders, including several Greenfinch and a cracking male Brambling.

After lunch we headed to Thornham and were very quickly on to the Twite, with a slight increase there was now 10 Twite, and they showed brilliantly up on the vegetation and the harbour mooring posts. Also nearby great views of Curlew, Grey Plover, c120 Linnet and several Rock Pipit.

The day was rounded off very successfully at a raptor roost with initially a nice perched Merlin, followed by 2 ringtail Hen Harriers, then a cracking adult male Hen Harrier, a perched if distant Peregrine and finally a cracking Short-eared Owl hunting fairly close by.

Day Three – 10th November

Another lovely day, with a frosty start and sunshine. We headed up to Cley and started off with a look on the sea as there was an onshore wind. There was a few Red-throated Divers passing and 2 closer inshore on the sea, also Gannets, Guillemots and a few groups of Wigeon and Common Scoter, but relatively quiet. A single Little Auk did pass close along the shoreline, almost so close it was hidden below the shingle, before it banked and headed out on to the sea. We did walk out to where it appeared to have landed but we couldn’t locate it on the sea.

We next walked East, along the shingle ridge and enjoyed a very accommodating Snow Bunting, which was showing well and at close range. Also along the shingle Turnstone, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings. We reached the sea-pool and were pleased to find the Long-tailed Duck still present and showing fairly well. Also on the pool a selection of Shoveler, Wigeon, Shelduck and Teal as well as 2 Little grebes & Little Egret.

A scan of the wildfowl out on North Scrape also produced a fine drake Pintail, as we walked back 2 Marsh harriers were hunting and the Snow Bunting showed again at almost point blank range. Out on the Eyefield a superbly smart and large female Peregrine was perched on a gate post and was admired thoroughly through the scopes.

Snow bunting © Chris Mills Norfolk Birding

We had a coffee in the centre and then headed off to the East bank. Some times you get lucky with birding! We had just walked 100m down the East bank when I got news that an Isabelline Wheatear had just been found about 800m from where we stood! We hurried down and joined 4-5 others on the sea shingle bank, it was a slightly tense few minutes before it reappeared after showing very briefly! But eventually a beautiful pale Isabelline Wheatear popped up on the fence line and we enjoyed great views of a great bird! If only we had continued our walk earlier from sea pool just maybe we might have found it. But great credit to Mark Golley who did find it, he’s certainly worn off some boot rubber this autumn tramping round!

Isabelline Wheatear Cley – thanks to © Steve Gantlett Twitter

We were pretty elated having watched this beauty, although a stop at Arnolds did also add a Purple sandpiper. We headed back for a late lunch at the Centre.

We rounded off the day with a bit more seawatching, which gave us more Red-throated Divers, Common Scoter and better views of Guillemots, but nothing extraordinary.

A great 3 days with 105 species recorded, the Wheatear clearly the icing on the cake!