February 16th-18th Three day Winter Tour

February 16th – Day One Holkham NNR, Cley marshes & Stiffkey Greens

We started off the day at Holkham NNR, a quick roadside stop gave us lovely views of 165 White-fronted Geese showing down to 40m from the minibus. Also several Egyptian Geese, Greylag Geese and 2 Pink-footed Geese in the same area. Also Buzzard, Marsh harrier plus a Great White Egret, but the most exciting bird was a Bittern which Chris Brock picked up brilliantly in flight and we all caught sight of it as it circled and dropped into the reedbed, a great start to the day!

© White-fronted Geese – Julia Burton at least 165 this morning showing very well.

We next pulled up at Lady Annes drive, and the masses of WigeonTeal and Shoveler plus an amazing number of Lapwing c10,000! Plus a scattering of waders including RedshankSnipeCurlewRuff, Black-tailed Godwit and Golden Plover. More highlights before we had even left the car park were, 2 Great EgretsMarsh Harrier, and Grey Partridge. Plus 3 showy Goldcrest in the Holme oaks.

© Grey Partridges Julia Burton
© Lapwing huge numbers today with c10,000 Julia Burton

We next headed out on the beach, on the way out several Rock Pipits were on the saltmarsh, we were in luck when we arrived at the cordon area, as the 5 Shorelark were present. They weren’t too easy to see initially but eventually they appeared from the taller vegetation and out into the open allowing good scope views! Also 2-3 Snow Bunting in the same area.

© Chris Mills 5 Shorebirds eventually appeared from the taller vegetation

We spent a while in the dunes, slightly sheltered from the wind! The sea wasn’t too rough and we managed to locate several Great Crested Grebes, a small raft of Common Scoter and a Great Northern Diver. We enjoyed more views of the masses back on the fresh-marsh before heading to Cley, where we lunched at the Visitor Centre and then headed East towards Salthouse, to hunt down a Red-breasted Goose, that had now been present for several days in amongst the Dark-bellied Brent flock. We were very fortunate, we arrived and the stunning Red-breasted Goose was showing clearly amongst the flock of 600+ Dark-bellied Brent Geese.

© Red-breasted Goose Julia Burton
© A stunning painting of the Red-breasted Goose by local artist James McCallum more of James’s work here

We next headed off to the East Bank where there was lots more wildfowl, including several really smart Pintail, plus some closer Ruff. Out on the shoreline we caught up initially rather distantly with the 2cy/1st winter Iceland Gull which then decided to fly towards and past us at close range!

© Iceland Gull Julia Burton

We rounded the day off with several Marsh harriers coming into roost and a ringtail Hen Harrier.

February 17th – Day Two The Brecks

Today was a tricky day with strong gusty winds, the precursor to storm Eunice, more baout that tomorrow! The first stop didn’t produce any Woodlark, though that was possibly to be expected given the cloudy, cold gusty weather. A stop nearby did produce good views of Brambling, Siskin, Chaffinch, and many Goldfinch. I next tried for Firecrest, but again the weather beat me. We then headed to a raptor watchpoint, on the way there was a nice mixed flock of Redwing and Fieldfare it didn’t take too long for a few Buzzards, then a Red Kite a Kestrel and eventually at least two Goshawks appeared with good scope views, including a male displaying on and off for the next hour!

© Goshawk Julia Burton

We then headed to Lynford area, where we lunched and then did a circular walk, we were all soon watching a stunning male Firecrest, fortunately this bird was in a more sheltered location. We stopped off to admire more Brambling, plus Nuthatch and Marsh tit all appeared. We arrived just in time in the paddocks area, I managed to find a Hawfinch sitting in the middle of a bush, it then dropped to floor and by relocating we managed to get good scope views as it fed on the ground.

© Hawfinch Julia Burton

As we walked back I checked out a usual spot for Tawny Owl, and managed to locate it. Only just visible as it was tucked up tight at the top of the tree, no doubt tighter than usual due to the gusting wind! A circuit of the woods gave us a Treecreeper, another rather showier Marsh Tit.

We had a lovely group evening meal and the running total for the group was up to 101 species! Sadly this was where the list had to stay, as after a discussion about the awful weather forecast and the wind forecast to hit over 70 mph tomorrow on Friday, it was decided that it would be foolish to set out for The Broads. In lieu of the last days birding, I gave two slideshow presentations to the group, one on shorebirds and another on Birdwatching on Islay, both were received very well.