Norfolk 3 Day Winter Birding Tour 15-17th February 2023

Day One 15th February North Norfolk

We started the day with a walk out at Blakeney harbour and were greeted by a nice flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese, also on the walk out plenty of Wigeon, Teal, 2-3 Marsh Harriers quartered the marsh. Out by the pools where the Twite have becoming to drink, our vigil of around 45 minutes was unfortunately a no show! But plenty else to keep as occupied as scanning the harbour produced lots of shorebirds including, Black & Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Redshank, Turnstone and nice groups of Curlew. There were also quite a few Meadow and Rock pipits plus Skylarks, Linnets and Goldfinches.

We walked back and headed off inland, with fine blue skies, now was our chance at 10.00 to optimise our chances of seeing Goshawks! We arrived around 10.20 at my chosen, it was almost too calm on arrival and we had a little wait before a breeze and warmth in the sun got up and coaxed the first Buzzard into the air, a few minutes later a Goshawk broke the tree line, skimming and circling left to right over the trees. From then onwards for the next hour we were treated to on off views including an adult male Goshawk and a imm male circling up together, wonderful  to watch some display too. Also here some nice Yellowhammers, mixed Chaffinch, Goldfinch flock with a few Greenfinches, also Mistle Thrush and Redwings.

We next headed to Cley, and  as I had news that the Long-billed Dowitcher was showing well, we decided on a quick walk out before lunch. So we literally walked straight on to the Long-billed Dowitcher which was showing brilliantly at close quarters  in its now favourite spot along the Serpentine.

We headed back to the Visitor Centre for lunch, during lunch we also scanned the pools, and picked up a nice group of Avocet, plus a lovely drake Pintail, also nice views of the Marsh Harriers over the reserve.

We then headed back down the East bank for a ‘proper’ look and birding. There was plenty more to see with nice group of Black-tailed Godwits, plus at least a dozen Ruff, including a striking white headed individual. Little Egrets & 2 Grey Herons, were also added.

Bearded Tits were heard and gave occasional glimpses but the slightly now  gusty wind stopped them from appearing in clear view!

Down along the shingle shore we were very fortunate as we wandered looking for the Snow Buntings, around forty arrived literally at our feet and then gave stunning close views over the next 20 minutes!

We then had a scan of the sea, most notable was around 250 Red-throated Divers, feeding well offshore in a concentrated area also several Great crested Grebes.

We rounded the day off at a raptor roost, where the clear highlights were a Barn Owl and 2 perched Merlins, an adult ♂ and a brown young Merlin plus 6 Marsh harriers and around 1000 Dark-bellied Brents and c6000 Pink-footed Geese roosted.

Day Two 16th February North Norfolk & Lynford

A rather different day weather wise, with a damp grey drizzle! We started the day with a roadside stop to scan the grazing marsh. There was Marsh Harriers , Red Kites and Buzzards over the area. There was a scattering of wildfowl, Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler, plus Egyptian Geese but only small numbers of other geese.

We then headed to Lady Anne’s drive, from here we were soon watching a nice pair of Grey Partridge & vast flocks of Lapwing plus some nice groups of Golden Plover, and 2-3 Snipe also flew over.

We headed out on to the beach and to the cordon area, initially we found a single Shorelark and we got everyone quick good views before it disappeared into the vegetation! We couldn’t find any others at this point so headed to look at the sea, where there was a nice close group of 250 Common Scoter, 20 Red-breasted Merganser, Great Crested Grebes and a 2cy ♂ Eider, but no sign of any scarcer grebes today. As we headed back to the cordon area, a group of Meadow & Rock Pipits lifted off the saltmarsh along with a group of Larks. Fortunately they all settled just West of the cordon and we found the Shorelarks, nine in total, eventually they walked towards us feeding and gave great views close up at 10m away.

With the Hawfinches being most reliable at pre-roost time, today was our best chance to see them, so after lunch at Holkham we headed that way. 

On the walk out at Lynford we had great views of several Yellowhammer plus Marsh Tits were showing well.

Almost immediately once in the paddocks I spotted 2 Hawfinches sat in the tops of the conifers and over the next hour we had 7 Hawfinches, including 4 sat together. 

We all got collected by a Taxi this evening and headed out for a group evening meal and a few drinks.

Day Three 17th February The Broads

We set off out towards the Broads today, first stop was at St. Benets Abbey. The 12 Taiga Bean Geese present since Saturday were still present so I was hopeful we would get to see these now scarce wintering Geese. A short walk along the riverbank and the 12 Taiga Bean Geese grazing and showing quite well with the scope. Great to get good views and best views I’ve had of this species for many years. Also here a nice group of 28 Bewick Swans. Once back at the minibus I drove around checking my usual spots for Cranes but without any success. A quick scan across the Southern end did produce a nice grey male Hen Harrier though it disappeared as fast as it had appeared. 

© Taiga Bean, St Benet’s, Norfolk, February 2023 (Steve Gantlett).

We next headed to Filby Broad and took the footpaths to view the East end of the broad. We had to wait a few minutes but two other birders both the Ring-necked Duck and the Ferruginous Ducks were there. They eventually appeared and were treated to the best views I’ve had all winter, there was a drake Ferruginous Duck with two females, plus the female Ring-necked Duck mixed in with the Pochard and Tufted Ducks, just lovely!

We headed round towards Horsey, stopping off for two nice groups of Pink-footed Geese, the last flocks of the winter as the numbers reduce daily. 

We had lunch and I then continued checking spots for Cranes, I was starting to think they were going to elude us, but near Warham I spied a group feeding along the edge of field! We managed to park and 12 Cranes were feeding in the distance, a great to round off the final day and a great three day tour with 114 species recorded.