October 14th-18th 2022 Norfolk Birding Autumn Birding Tour

A 5 day Group Tour – Guide for Norfolk Birding Chris Mills

Participants for the 5 days – Richard & Lesley Powell, Adrian Bradley, Adrian Roach, Bob Turner & Peter Follett.

Thanks to Adrian Bradley and Adrian Roach for providing images.

Day One 14th October – Snettisham, Holme Dunes NNR & Choseley

We started the day with a High tide at Snettisham as well as a lovely mixture of shorebirds, there was a nice overhead passage of finches, buntings and larks. Highlights during the High tide were several roosting Spoonbills, several nice skeins of Pink-footed Geese, several nice groups of Pintail, 2 Red Kite, several Marsh harrier and a Sparrowhawk, a nice group of several hundred Golden Plover, lots of Grey plover, 30,000 Red Knot, 2000 Bar-tailed Godwit, 200 Black-tailed Godwit, 7 Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank, plus a late Common Sandpiper. Overhead there was a lovely passage of Chaffinch, which also included some Brambling, Goldfinch & Linnet. Good numbers of Starling, probably around 2000-3000 moved South, as well as good numbers of Meadow Pipit with quite a few Rock Pipit and at least 30+ Reed Bunting.

© Shorebirds being displaced by a hunting PeregrineChris Mills

Holme dunes were fairly quiet, though we added Stonechat, out on the sea we also located Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver, Great crested grebe, Gannet & several groups of Dark-bellied Brents, and had it was a pleasure to watch some birds being ringed. we rounded off the day with a nice pair of Grey Partridge, along with Yellowhammers up around Choseley drying barns.

Day Two 15th October – Cley, Walsey Hills, Holkham & Wells North Point

We started off with nice views of 3 Jack Snipe from Walsey Hills, and also got to watch a Goldcrest and some Redwing being ringed, a female Brambling was also at the feeders. We then headed off down the Wast Bank, plenty of Pink-footed Geese passing overhead, plus lots of Wigeon and Teal.

© Jack Snipe – Walsey Hills

Good numbers still of Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, also 200+ Dunlin on Arnolds alongside, Grey Plover, c150 Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, 300 Lapwing, a single Red Knot, several Common Snipe, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew & Turnstone. A good look through the Dunlin proved worthwhile as I eventually located a juv Curlew Sandpiper. Also nearby on the other pools were several Pintail. Plus a walk along the shingle provided further dividends with a nice confiding group of 9 Snow Buntings.

© Snow Bunting – Chris Mills

A look offshore at the end of the East bank, gave us quite a few Razorbill, 2-3 close Red-throated Diver, Gannet, some small groups of Dark-bellied Brent Geese arriving from the East, plus a few Common Scoter. Plus a late Barn Swallow flew past us moving West.

We had a late lunch at the Centre and then headed West to Holkham, where it was very quiet to say the least! So I quickly moved us on to North Point pools, there was plenty of Marsh harrier activity, some lovely skeins of Pink-footed Geese dropping in, also 4 Spoonbills were nice and two feeding actively. There was no sign of the reported 3 Water Pipits, though there was a steady flow of Scandinavian Rock Pipits & numerous Meadow Pipits.

© Marsh Harriers – Adrian Roach

Day Three 16th October – The Brecks & Welney WWT

With the lack of rare and scarcer birds around, I took the decision to head to South Norfolk & Welney, to pick up some scarcer birds in these areas. We started the day with a really nice flock of post-breeding Stone Curlew, there was 54 Stone Curlew all gathered together in loose groups around the field. There was also a nice covey Grey Partridge, a group of 10 Tree Sparrow played hide and seek in the hedgerow, also several Yellowhammer and a really large flock of c200 Linnet. Green & Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over here as well & we also added our first Lesser Black-backed Gulls of the trip.

© Stone Curlews 54 in total – Adrian Bradley

We then headed to a raptor watchpoint, as the conditions were just brightening up, on arrival the first Buzzards were starting to spiral up and ten minutes later a super imm ♂ Goshawk took to the skies, followed shortly after a second Goshawk, also Red Kite, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk from here.

From here we headed over to Welney WWT, the feeders gave everyone really good views of Tree Sparrow, there was a lovely gathering of around 250 Whooper Swans from the main hide, plus nice views of Common Snipe and Marsh Harrier, we also spied 4 Cattle Egrets, distantly amongst the cattle.

Fortunately the flock of 17 Common Cranes, were much closer and we got really nice views, there was 400 Black-tailed Godwit, plus an amazing flock of c170 Ruff, also well picked out by Adrian a winter plumage Spotted Redshank amongst the Common Redshank.

© Common Cranes – Adrian Bradley

Day Four 17th October – Burnham Norton & Titchwell RSPB.

We started the day with a circular walk around Burnham Norton, the strong wind was encouraging several Marsh harriers to hunt but it was keeping a lot of the other birds quiet, we did glimpse a Cetti’s Warbler on arrival and several others were vocal. The marsh held Curlew, Snipe, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, a small group of Golden Plover flew over and lovely flight views of a Great White Egret as we were heading back. A Kingfisher whizzed down one of the drains but was gone in a flash!

We then headed towards Titchwell, just before we reached the reserve, I noted a ‘large’ corvid flying overhead, big head, strong wing beat, I quickly pulled over, as I was sure it was a Raven! We managed to watch the Raven as it flew steadily SW along the ridge, before disappearing from view.

We had a walk out to Patsy’s pool before lunch, where we knocked off Tufted Duck and Pochard to add to the list! There was a few other duck and Black-tailed Godwits plus 2-3 Ruff and a Grey wagtail flew over and a pair of Bullfinch gave brief views. At Lunch a few Siskin were flying over with a few small groups of other finches.

© Black-tailed Godwits – Adrian Bradley

After lunch we headed straight down to the beach, on arrival there was a good number of Great Crested Grebes, at least 12, I continued scanning picking up some Common Scoter distantly, a few Gannet went past and there were 2-3 small groups of Razorbill. It was whilst trying to get one of the group on to the Razorbills, that a smaller ‘black & white’ grebe appeared, it was diving regularly and not too close inshore. It eventually gave itself up, sitting up for a while a nice Slavonian Grebe in winter plumage.

We then headed back to the freshmarsh, where there was a superb gathering of waders, nothing too out of the ordinary, but 60 Ruff, 200 Black-tailed Godwit, c60 Dunlin, 350 Golden Plover, Snipe, another Spotted Redshank, plus Bearded Tit and Water Rail seen by Peter who chose to stay put in Island hide.

Day Five – Cley & Salthouse

We hadn’t had any Easterly component to the wind throughout the tour or in fact prior to the tour, so with the lack of scarcer passerines, we decided to continue to concentrate on waders, wetland and the sea.

A walk out to the hides at Cley added a new species to the tour, with 3 juvenile Little Stints, along with nice views of lots of other waders and wildfowl. Plus a showy Kingfisher!

© Kingfisher – Adrian Bradley

A new species for the tour was quite a surprise as we lunched at Cley VC, when a late Tree Pipit flew overhead calling.

A walk out to the sea along the Iron road culminated with nice close Red-throated Diver views and a flyby Arctic Skua, plus a very showy group of Bearded Tits.

© Red-throated Diver – Adrian Roach
© Bearded Tit or Reedling – Adrian Bradley

Certainly not a great October tour for scarce/rare birds this autumn! But we still recorded 122 species & still managed to see some Scarcer birds, the plus side was that both Cley, Titchwell and Welney all seem to be still hosting very good numbers of passage waders.

© The group looking out to sea at Titchwell