Norfolk Birdwatching 3 Day Winter Tour – January 27-29th 2023

Day One – Hempstead area, Swanton Novers, Holkham NNR and Warham Greens.

We started the tour rather unusually by heading for farmland and woodland, as it suited the better weather conditions forecast for today. There was a really nice field close to Holt, with dedicated bird crop and here there was 2-300 birds. The majority were Chaffinch and Linnet, but there was also c50 Brambling, plus a few Yellowhammer. 

After enjoying this spectacle we then headed a very short distance to a wooded area and pond, we headed around the pond, Gary pointed some fresh Otter spraint, and there was a smart Grey Wagtail dancing on the iced over pond. There was a flock of Siskin, but flighty, a feed area was attracting Nuthatch, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit and Great Tits. A Firecrest was giving a few calls, and eventually gave superb views feeding down low right in front of us.

© Chris Mills Firecrest

We now drove up to the coast and took a look at the main marsh at Holkham. A scan soon produced around 40 White-fronted Geese, lots of Pink-footed Geese, masses of Wigeon, Teal and some Shoveler with Red Kites, Marsh Harrier and Kestrel overhead. There were Little, Great White Egret and Grey Heron also on the pools.

We next headed further inland to a vantage point overlooking the large wooded area of Swanton. Novers, the first Buzzards soon broke the skyline, then a Sparrowhawk. After about 30 minutes a superb close adult ♂ Goshawk took to the air skirting the tops of the trees, it showed really well and incredibly it chose to perch in the top of a big deciduous tree, allowing us great scope views. It eventually took flight and disappeared into the woods. Also Redwing, Yellowhammer, Chaffinch and Linnets nearby.

© Chris Mills Goshawk adult male

We lunched at Holkham centre before heading out on to the beach. It was a lovely fine day, and there was Grey Partridge nearby, lovely close views of Snipe and Black-tailed Godwit near the centre.

Out on the beach after a bit of searching I eventually located 9 Shorelark, right out to the West of the bay feeding along the strand line, plus a flock of 40 Snow Bunting whizzed past us.

A scan of the sea produced Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser and a close inshore Red-necked Grebe.

We rounded the day off at Warham with Peregrine, a ringtail Hen Harrier and distant views of the juv ♀ Pallid Harrier. Great views of a hunting Barn Owl as we left.

Day Two – Titchwell & Lynford

We headed up to Titchwell this morning. There was a young Whooper Swan in fields adjacent to the car park as we arrived. We were soon watching lots of wildfowl and there was some superb drake Pintail close to the path affording us lovely views. It was a bright breezy morning and Marsh Harriers were up high in the skies and displaying, full inverted twists and turns!

Out on the beach, there was a nice mixed flock of Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Knot, Dunlin, Curlew and Sanderling plus a few Turnstone and Redshank. Out on the sea there was three small rafts of Goldeneye, plus 3 drake Eider, several Red-breasted Merganser and some distant Red-throated Diver.

We walked back and added Rock Pipits, Reed Bunting and Stonechats, but we’re told by a birder I know to head quickly to the first reedbed pools.

Where we were treated to stunning views of a Bittern feeding in amongst the reeds at just a few metres away!!

© Chris Mills Bittern

It was fantastic to watch it’s amazing slow movements as it stalked fish in the shallow pool, the camouflage against the reeds truly astounding. 

We then lunched in the picnic area, before heading South to the Brecks. We stopped to look for Tree Sparrow, but they had disappeared from where I had seen them last week. 

At Lynford there was a nice few Yellowhammer showing very well on the floor feeding on seed, plus Chaffinches and further on several Marsh Tit alongside the commoner Tits. There was a really nice flock of c70 Siskin hanging and feeding in the alders, before we heard to check out the paddocks. It was now a rather still, cloudy mid afternoon and around 2.30 I spotted the first Hawfinch flying into roost, it perched right at the top ofthe trees and was soon joined by two more. Eventually there was 6 Hawfinch all perched within 3m of each other and a single Hawfinch perched alone. So 7 Hawfinch, given the small numbers this winter was very nice way to finish off the day.

This evening we were all picked up by a Taxi and had a nice evening meal and a few drinks.

Day Three – Broads

Today we headed off to the Broads, first stop for a nice bunch of 14 Whooper swans. Then further on to St. Beñet’s Abbey, where I soon managed to locate a group of 16 Bewick Swans, plus some more Whoopers. We stopped near the abbey and after a bit of scanning I picked out 3 Cranes, reasonable scope views but distant, a few minutes later a group of 17 Cranes flew over again distant. After scanning and watching several Marsh harrier we walked back with Skylarks jumping up from the meadow in front of us, plus a close smart pair of Stonechat.

I headed around the tracks and was pleased to find the 3 Cranes from earlier, but now much closer. As we watched them a Fox appeared and the Cranes started flapping and bugling, a wonderful sight!

© Chris Mills Cranes

We next headed for Filby and Ormesby broad, the latter was pretty much devoid of wildfowl as there was lots of sailing boats. Filby Broad had lots of Tufted Duck, Pochard, Goldeneye and we had nice close views but no sign this morning of Scaup, Smew or scarcer ducks.

We headed next to Winterton where we lunched scanning the sea, several Red-throated Diver, a small raft of Common Scoter and several Red-throated Diver.  

We then headed towards Horsey, where along the Straight there was a  lovely flock of c3000 Pink-footed Geese. I parked carefully and set about scanning through them, after about 20 minutes I managed to find a smart Tundra Bean Goose amongst the flock and fortunately it stayed along the edge of the flock allowing everyone to get good views. We rounded the tour off with a look at Horsey Gap where there was hundreds of Grey Seals, plus 3 Purple Sandpipers, Turnstone and Sanderling feeding amongst them and the rocks.

© Chris Mills Tundra Bean Goose

A total of 117 species over the three days.