February 22nd -24th 2019 Three Day Norfolk Birding Winter Group Tour

Day One – 22nd February Shorebird Sensation! A great day with tens of thousands of Knot, Godwits and Golden Plover. Three Barn Owls, 2 Short-eared Owls and raptors displaying in the Spring-like skies .

The day started slightly misty, as we arrived early at but eventually cleared away to clear blue skies and sunshine with hardly a breath of wind. We were soon enjoying masses of birds as the high tide pushed all the shorebirds into the corner of The Wash at Snettisham. Tens of thousands of Red Knot headed on to the pits, plus c7000 Bar-tailed Godwit and c6000 Golden Plover were out on the mud flats. There was also good numbers of Redshank, Dunlin and c2000 Oystercatcher. Also a few smaller skeins of Pink-footed Geese. Whilst watching all the activity a Great White Egret flew over, several Marsh Harriers and Buzzards were over the saltmarsh, and a Peregrine was perched on one of the posts.

The waders were restless and we enjoyed lots of aerial shapes and activity, before the lovely rushing noise of wave after wave of Knot passing right over our heads, a delight and always a truly uplifting experience! A nice discovery and beautiful in the bright light were c300 Avocet, gleaming in a tight group out on The Wash

Once the tide had receded, we took a wander along the reserve, and after a bit of searching I managed to locate two of the regular roosting Short-eared Owls, a pleasure watching these perched.

One of the two roosting Short-eared Owls.

We next headed to Hunstanton, stopped off for coffee, and enjoyed the local Fulmars gliding along the cliff tops. We then headed to Holme, enjoyed a lovely kettle of raptors, 4 Marsh Harrier, 2 Buzzard and 2 Red Kite plus a nice group of Shoveler and 4 Stonechats on the way up the track.

Out on the sea just before lunch there was plenty of Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye, flock of Wigeon and a single Great Northern Diver. It was now an a beautiful, warm, spring like day and over lunch we enjoyed more raptor activity, with a male Marsh Harrier displaying , 2 Barn Owls out hunting rather unexpectedly but very popular, plus a nice mixed flock of several hundred Pink-footed & Dark-bellied Brent Geese.

We next headed to Thornham, on arrival there was a nice smart Spotted Redshank, plus Rock Pipit, Reed Bunting and eventually a nice group of 12 Twite all around the harbour and sea wall.

We rounded off the day with a quick visit to Titchwell, where the Water Rail was again showing brilliantly, plus nice views of Snipe, more great views of Marsh Harriers, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Teal and Wigeon plus flyover Siskin and Brambling.

Day Two – 23rd February Grebes, Divers and Seaduck bonanza A great day started with a Hen Harrier, Corn Bunting and Yellowhammers and continued with an  amazing array of seabirds at Holme, rounded off with more raptors.

The day started off a little tricky, with misty conditions, so we headed to a farmland area. On arrival as we headed out, a smart and very close ringtail Hen Harrier, swept past us, a great start to the day. The hedgerow nearby had a nice group of Yellowhammer, plus Reed Bunting, a pair of Bullfinch and lots of overhead Skylarks singing. After a bit of searching we eventually located a Corn Bunting, which was soon joined by 4 more Corn Bunting. There was quite a number of Black-headed Gulls circling and amongst them 2 Mediterranean Gulls announced their presence with their “wow” calls!

The mist was lifting and we decided to head off to the coast. We arrived at Holme, knowing there had been a good selection of birds on the sea there, though we couldn’t really have expected to have been as successful as we were, as a truly amazing hour unfolded!

Almost the first birds were a two Black-necked Grebes, soon to be joined by a third Black-necked Grebe! Followed by two, then three Great Northern Divers, plus a Black-throated Diver, also 2 Red-throated Diver, 15 Long-tailed Ducks, 20+ Red-breasted Merganser & 50 Common Scoter, quite a haul!

Two of the three Black-necked Grebes just offshore.

Out on the Broadwater there was a good number of Pochard, a few Tufted Duck, Little Grebe and Gadwall. We had a nice break with a coffee and enjoyed the raptors overhead, Marsh Harriers, Red Kites and Buzzards all active in the fine warm sunshine.

Great views of raptors at Holme including this fine Red Kite.

We next headed to Holkham, but the bright sunshine combined with Half term meant the beach area was more busy with people than birds! Out on the grazing marsh we were able to watch a nice group of c40 White-fronted Geese, though today the newly arrived Spoonbills were missing.

We rounded today off at Warham greens with nice scope views of Hen Harriers, Marsh Harriers. a distant perched Merlin, plus Barn & Short-eared Owl.

Day Three – 24th February. A day in the Brecks, with Goshawks, Brambling, Hawfinch, Marsh and Willow Tits

We started the day at Lynford and started with a lovely flock of c30 Brambling. Nearby there was Marsh Tit, Treecreeper and Nuthatch. The Hawfinch were present but less obliging than recent visits with 2 present for a minute before flying off and then another single flying over.

Lots of Brambling around at Lynford in the last few weeks, this male was showing very well.

We then headed up to another area and joined quite a crowd, watching the skies for raptors, particularly Goshawks. We didn’t have to wait too long and after an hour and half we had probably seen 5 Goshawks, plus 2 Red Kite, and 10+ Buzzards.

An amazingly pale Common Buzzard!

One of the 5 Goshawks we saw today

It was an incredibly warm day for late February, with little breeze, so I decided to head us off into the forest and look for Willow Tit. We came across Marsh Tit, Blue, Great & Coal Tit. Then wandered further afield, lots of Siskin singing, a few Brambling and Chaffinch, plus incredibly Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies on the wing, several!

We had walked 20 minutes when I heard the song of Willow Tit, it was singing well and eventually we managed to get glimpses of the Willow Tit in the tops of the trees. It disappeared fairly quickly into the forest, but could still be heard singing.

We rounded the day off wandering around another forestry clearing, more Siskin, the forest seems full of them right now! Several Buzzard, Yellowhammers and another Goshawk!

A great 3 day tour with 117 species recorded.