November 16-18th Three Day Norfolk Birding group tour

Day One – 16th November Hunstanton, Holkham & Titchwell

This 3 day/ 3 night Norfolk tour was based from The Burleigh at Hunstanton. We started the day with a quick look at Hunstanton Cliffs, this proved productive, with highlights being 2 Whooper Swans moving South out over the sea, plus a superb ringtail Hen harrier that arrived in off the sea, brilliant to watch amazing migration like this has it happens! There was also over 1000 Starling passing South, 10 Redwing, 20 Fieldfare, 8 Siskin, 40 Chaffinch, 3 Goldfinch & 8 Siskin. Also 1-2 Fulmars were back at the cliffs and cruising up and down. Out on the beach there was Grey Plover, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, 200 Knot, Dunlin, Sanderling & Redshank.

This superb ringtail Hen Harrier © Chris Mills – arrived in off the sea passing almost over our heads!
This superb ringtail Hen Harrier © Chris Mills – arrived in off the sea passing almost over our heads!

At Holkham we were greeted by 2000 Pink-footed Geese in the air, and a nice mix of Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler on the nearby pools. The Grey partridge, a nice covey of 9 were in their usual spot and showing very well. We then headed out on to the shore, the cordon area initially failed to yield any Shorelark, so we had a look on the sea. There was 2 drake Eider flying past, 5 Common Scoter were on the sea, along with 5 Great Crested grebe, several Red-throated diver, but no scarcer Grebes.

We returned to the cordon area, and after a short period of scanning the 5 Shorelark were located and we walked to the other side to get better views. Also nearby 150 Linnet and several Scandinavian Rock Pipits.

5 Shorelark © Chris Mills were in the Cordon area

We had lunch and then stopped off on the way to Titchwell to gaze over the freshmarsh at Holkham, this produced 2 Great White Egret, 3 Marsh Harrier, 4 Red Kite, 3 Buzzard & 2 Kestrel.

Titchwell in the afternoon offered a up a great diversity of wildfowl and waders, the highlights being a super Jack Snipe, brilliantly camouflaged in the cut reeds, but nice views through the scope, 5+ Common Snipe, 60 Dunlin, Bar & Black-tailed Godwits, a lovely carpet of 1500 Golden Plover . A ringtail Hen Harrier and around 12 Marsh Harrier came into roost, as well as over 1000 Starlings.

November 17th – Day Two Choseley, Cley & Stiffkey Greens

We headed over towards Cley today but stopped off en-route at Choseley, where a nice area of bird cover crop was offering up a nice mixture of birds, there was quite a few Chaffinch in the hedgerow and we soon picked out several striking Brambling amongst them, as they dropped from the hedge into the crops. Also here were 25 Goldfinch, several stunning male Yellowhammers, at least 10 Reed Bunting and we also had a single flyover Corn Bunting.

We then stopped off briefly at Holkham at a viewpoint, the best birds from here were several Red Kite, Marsh harrier, lots of Jays and 2 Great White Egret.

At Cley we started with a brief seawatch, highlights were a single Eider offshore, a Great Skua flying West, 4 Little Gulls, a scattering of Razorbill & Guillemots on the sea, a good number of Gannets several close inshore plus several close Red-throated Diver.

We had lunch at the Visitor centre and then headed down the East bank, the pools and reedbed on the way gave us Bearded Tit, 20 Ruff, 20 Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, 150 Lapwing, 30 Curlew, 5 Avocet, 2 Grey Plover and a calling Water Rail. We then headed along the shingle shoreline, and eventually the wintering flock of Snow Buntings appeared, a super flock of 70+ Snow Bunting, they were restless flying up and down, but eventually settled and gave us fine scope views. Some of the group were lucky to spot Woodcock as it shot over our heads, a freshly arrived bird just in off the sea!

Snow Bunting © Chris Mills up to 70 today but as many as 120 in the flock in the last ten days

We rounded the day off with a great raptor roost including 8 Marsh harrier, a ringtail Hen Harrier, a perched Merlin and a Barn Owl.

November 18th – Frampton Marsh

We chose today to head over to Frampton Marsh for a rare foray out of Norfolk and into nearby Lincolnshire. We were greeted by Toby Collett the warden who gave us an overview of the reserve and an avian greeting a Peregrine hunting the nearby Lapwing & Golden Plover, this was before we had left the Visitor Centre!

We had a wonderful day at Frampton, the reserve is testament to the RSPB and the team of workers and volunteers there. We recorded 62 species through the day, but the sheer numbers and the quality of birds and views was fantastic. There was 3000 Golden Plover and 500+ Lapwing these were constantly sent skyward, by hunting raptors, particularly Peregrines. As we walked out from the Visitor centre we also had a super view of a Merlin flashing fast low across the fields. Out on the reserve, there was vast numbers of thousands of Teal and Wigeon, intermingled with Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard and smaller numbers of Pintail.

Waders were well represented as well with 25 Black-tailed Godwit, 10 Ruff, 30 Dunlin, 20 Snipe and new species for the tour a winter plumaged Spotted Redshank. Other highlights on the circuit around the reserve were 1000 Dark-bellied Brents, a Kingfisher, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and nice views of a small flock of Greenfinch and Linnets plus several Reed Bunting.

After a late lunch we headed out to the other side of the reserve, and down towards the saltmarsh, a few Redwing came out of the hedgerow and just as we reached the end a Barn Owl appeared hunting along the edge of the bank and then watched hunting for some time out over the saltmarsh. There were quite a few Marsh harriers hunting, but the next Harrier was a stunning grey male Hen Harrier always a great pleasure to watch. Just as the light faded we were about to leave when Brian spotted a Short-eared Owl hunting, it landed and we had great scope views as it sat on the bank opposite.

Spotted Redshank © Andrew McGarvey

A great 3 day tour with 113 species recorded.