Scarce & Rare Bird Tour – (minus the rare birds this autumn!)
This year wasn’t the best for Scarce or Rare birds, with weeks of Westerly winds, there was a distinct lack of scarce migrants or rare birds along the East Coast of the Uk and Norfolk! However, we enjoyed some nice birding and managed to record 126 species, finding 2 Yellow-browed warblers, 2 Firecrest, 22 species of wader including very close views of Grey Phalarope, Purple Sandpiper and some scarce annual waders in the form of Curlew Sandpiper & Little Stint.
13th October – Cley Coastguards Seawatch, Gramborough Hill, Salthouse and Cley NWT
14th October – Holme Dunes and shore, Titchwell RSPB reserve
15th October – Cley Coastguards Seawatch, Potter Heigham Marshes, Hickling NWT reserve
16th October – Titchwell RSPB, North Point Wells, Holkham NNR
17th October – Muckleborough Hill & Kelling Quags, Stiffkey Greens, Stiffkey Fen
Day One of Five 13th October – Cley Coastguards Seawatch, Gramborough Hill, Salthouse and Cley NWT
The tour started immediately at Hindolveston, just as I was picking the group up several groups of Redwing totalling around 300 Redwing swept over the accommodation, migration overhead in action! We headed to Cley next for a seawatch, though we were also distracted as several hundred Pink-footed geese left their roost. There was good numbers of Red throated Divers on the sea, including several very close to the shoreline, also many rafts of Guillemots and Razorbills. There was a nice steady procession of wildfowl moving West, mainly Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Teal, Wigeon and 250 Common scoter, other noteworthy birds were six Red breasted Merganser, a Tufted duck and 2 Eider. A Great Skua was the main highlight as it moved East offshore, and a real surprise given the few passerine migrants was a Goldcrest arriving in off the sea.
We then headed to Gramborough Hill, but there was no sign of the Snow Bunting, even though it been seen just 15 minutes before! But a Manx Shearwater just offshore with a raft of feeding Gannets and auks plus nearby a group of showy Bearded Tits was just compensation.
We returned to Cley had lunch and headed out to the main hides in the centre of the reserve. From the main hides there was a good selection of wildfowl and waders, c300 Wigeon, c400 Teal, 20+ Shoveler, 6 Pintail, 30+ Black-tailed Godwit & 3 Snipe, plus a scattering of commoner species.
We decided to head back to Coastguards and rounded the day off with another hour looking a the sea, which was justified with a few Kittiwake, 50+ Little Gulls and a lovely close fly past by a juvenile Arctic skua.
Day Two of Five14th October – Holme Dunes and shore, Titchwell RSPB reserve
The day started very well, just as I as we were heading out across the golf course I was fairly confident I could hear a Yellow-browed Warbler. We walked back quickly to the area and I could still hear the bird calling and we were very fortunate to instantly locate the Yellow-browed Warbler it was showing occasionally in the willows at the end of the Beach Road.
We then walked out across the golf course onto the salt marsh and dunes, the walk out produced perched a male and female Stonechat, plus an obvious overhead Southerly passage of finches and pipits. Amongst the birds passing overhead there was lots of Chaffinches, quite a few Brambling, numerous Meadow pipits and several Rock Pipits, plus Reed Bunting and Skylarks. More surprising was a very late Swallow that passed also heading South. Out on the shore the passage of finches continued with groups of Starlings also passing in reasonable numbers.
Out on the shoreline there was lots of shorebirds, 300 Red Knot, 200 Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Dunlin & Redshank, with group of Dark-bellied Brent Geese also feeding along the shore. On the sea there were 2-3 Red-throated Divers, small groups of Guillemot and Razorbills.
A walk up to Gore Pint and the Observatory also gave us nice views of Marsh harrier, Red Kite, small groups of Pink-footed Geese and a few Redwing.
We then headed to Titchwell where we had a picnic lunch and then headed out on to the Reserve. Recent work on the scrape was now paying dividends, and we were greeted by the fine sight of c1500 Golden Plover. Plus a good selection waders, Dunlin, Ruff, Black-tailed godwit, Snipe, Ringed Plover and Lapwing the lagoons were brimming with Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler and 8 Avocets were still present. Bearded Tits also behaved and gave us fine close views sitting up on the reeds.
We headed then for the beach and were soon watching a confiding Purple Sandpiper, close views feeding amongst a group of Turnstone. Far more frustrating was the Snow Bunting, present up till 5 minutes before we reached the dunes where it had been and likely flushed by a dog-owner with 2 dogs off leads!
Day Three of Five 15th October – Cley Coastguards Seawatch, Potter Heigham Marshes, Hickling NWT reserve
With the wind set to moderate to strong gusting NW coming down from the Arctic, most birders were hopeful of a good seawatch, but seawatches are notorious difficult to predict and this one never really got going. I had arranged an early pick up in expectation but after an hour of a few Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter and one juv Arctic Tern, I decided to change tactics! We headed off to The Broads and East Norfolk and by late morning we had reached Potter Heigham Marshes. Once up on the bank, there was clearly plenty of birds present, with over thousand plus combined Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and Shoveler.
The reedbeds produced a vocal Cetti’s warbler, 2 Bearded Tits shot by us at close range and several Marsh Harriers were soaring over the reedbeds. Plus a nice skein of c300 Pink-footed Geese passed noisily overhead.
I could also hear the distant bugling of Cranes, and the third scan across to the East revealed 3 Cranes circling high in the sky.
In the shallower lagoons there was a selection of waders, a late Green Sandpiper was fairly obvious, looking slightly into the light there was a group of Dunlin, a bit of carefully scrutiny and there was 3 Little Stints, this flock were in and out of view so we kept checking and a little while later I picked up a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper. We then walked around to the South side and eventually we had much better light and the waders were easier to watch, also 20 Snipe, Ruff, 40 Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank. Our attention was next drawn to a group of Egrets, within the next few minutes we had 3 Cattle Egrets and several Little Egrets, that wouldn’t have happened a decade ago!
As we walked back all the wildfowl erupted, inevitably after a minute of scanning a Peregrine came into view and we had super views as it stopped after an unknown prey in amongst the reeds.
We then headed to Hickling where we lunched and then had a circular walk of the reserve, no luck with Bittern which I was hoping for, but a Kingfisher, 2 adult Mediterranean Gulls, a calling Water rail plus Sparrowhawk and 12 Marsh harriers made for an enjoyable wander.
We headed back a bit earlier today as we all went out for a group meal in the evening, a lovely dinner at the Kings Arms, Reepham.
Day Four of Five 15th October – Cley Coastguards Seawatch, Potter Heigham Marshes, Hickling NWT reserve16th October – Titchwell RSPB, North Point Wells, Holkham NNR
It was back to Titchwell this moring, after a Grey Phalarope had arrived the previous afternoon on the main scrape. We were all very pleased tofind ti still present and showing extremely well at 10m range! A super juvenile with a peachy wash, the scapulars partly moulted, it looked like it jumped off the Collins guide plate! There was a nice passage of finches again this morning, with quite a few Brambling passing overhead and also a few small groups of Siskin. A similar selection of waders and wildfowl to the previous visit two days ago, though there was also 2 Red Kite hanging in the air above the trees.
We lunched at Holkham and then headed out along the footpath West from Lady Annes drive. Immediately there was a nice flock of tits, plus a few Goldcrest and we took time to check through them carefully, nothing unusual this time, but a Chiff-chaff was an addition to our tour list and nice views of Treecreeper.
Just before we reached Meals House the pool on the right hosted several Little grebe and I could hear a Kingfisher calling, after several failed scans I located it perched on a post and we all managed nice views. We continued on, and just after Meals House I could hear a “Crest’ calling, it was neither Gold or Fire, but the pitch was enough to arouse suspicion. Eventually one came into view, a Firecrest and nice views as it posed low down in the bushes, a bit more pishing and it was joined by a second Firecrest, both proper little stunners!
We continued on to Jordan Hide and scanning from here there was plenty of Geese, including some Pink-footed Geese, lots of wildfowl and at least 2 Great Egrets.
The walk back was slow as we pondered another large tit flock, after several minutes I heard a distant Yellow-browed warbler, we headed quickly in it’s direction and after another ten minutes it eventually appeared, though it was much less conspicuous than the Holme bird we had seen 3 days ago and soon moved on with a very mobile tit flock.
17th October Day Five of five Muckleborough Hill & Kelling Quags, Stiffkey Greens, Stiffkey Fen
With little new in from the previous days and the wind set to SW, we started early with an hour of visible migration from Muckleborough Hill, there was a steady light passage of finches, including some Brambling, Siskin, Meadow Pipit and a single Redpoll, plus 2 Mistle Thurshes.
A walk down through to Weybourne camp gave us a nice family group of Stonechat. Out on the sea there was a nice close flock of 30 Common Scoter, and very good views of close inshore Red-throated Diver on a calm sea.
The Quags gave us several Snipe, but I couldn’t sadly find any Jack Snipe, despite searching several of the best spots.
We stopped off for late morning coffee and cake today after a good early morning walk. We then headed on to Stiffkey Fen. The fen was full of Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Mallard and around c30 Pintail. There was also 25 Ruff, a Greenshank, several Dunlin and Snipe. We wandered around to look across to Blakeney Channel, this was also busy with birds, thousands of shorebirds, 100 Golden Plover, 50 Lapwing, 400 Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Redshank, the highlights were 120 Pintail, 6 Red-breasted Merganser, and a drake Eider.
We rounded the day and the tour off with an hour at Stiffkey Greens which eventually produced several Marsh harriers, Red Kites and a ringtail Hen harrier bringing the tour total to 126 species.
|1||Greylag Goose||100||Holkham NNR|
|2||Pink-footed Goose||1000||Holkham NNR|
|3||Brent Goose (Dark-bellied)||200||Blakeney channel|
|4||Canada Goose||1||Holkham NNR|
|5||Mute Swan||3||Holkham NNR|
|6||Egyptian Goose||8||Holkham NNR|
|7||Common Shelduck||6||Blakeney channel|
|8||Northern Shoveler||30||Blakeney channel|
|10||Eurasian Wigeon||200||Blakeney channel|
|12||Northern Pintail||40||Stiffkey Fen|
|13||Eurasian Teal||300||Blakeney channel|
|14||Common Pochard||10||Potter Heigham Marshes|
|15||Tufted Duck||1||Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards|
|16||Common Eider||4||Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards|
|17||Common Scoter||250||Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards|
|18||Red-breasted Merganser||6||Blakeney channel|
|19||Grey Partridge||6||Holkham NNR|
|20||Common Pheasant||1||Holkham NNR|
|21||Red-legged Partridge||6||Holkham NNR|
|22||Little Grebe||3||Holkham NNR|
|23||Great Crested Grebe||1||Blakeney channel|
|24||Feral Pigeon||1||Holkham NNR|
|25||Stock Dove||1||Holkham NNR|
|26||Common Woodpigeon||1||Holkham NNR|
|27||Collared Dove||3||Holkham NNR|
|28||Tawny Owl||2||Hindolveston Village|
|29||Water Rail||1||Hickling Marshes NWT NR|
|30||Common Moorhen||5||Holkham NNR|
|31||Eurasian Coot||8||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|32||Common Crane||3||Potter Heigham Marshes|
|33||Pied Avocet||10||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|34||Eurasian Oystercatcher||100||Blakeney channel|
|35||Grey Plover||4||Blakeney channel|
|36||European Golden Plover||1500||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|37||Northern Lapwing||50||Blakeney channel|
|38||Common Ringed Plover||1||Blakeney channel|
|39||Eurasian Curlew||10||Blakeney channel|
|40||Bar-tailed Godwit||12||Blakeney channel|
|41||Black-tailed Godwit (Icelandic)||40||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|42||Ruddy Turnstone||2||Blakeney channel|
|43||Purple Sandpiper||1||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|44||Red Knot||40||Blakeney channel|
|46||Curlew Sandpiper||1||Potter Heigham Marshes|
|47||Sanderling||12||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|49||Little Stint||3||Potter Heigham Marshes|
|50||Common Snipe||5||Muckleburgh Hill|
|51||Grey Phalarope||1||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|52||Green Sandpiper||1||Potter Heigham Marshes|
|53||Common Greenshank||1||Stiffkey Fen|
|54||Common Redshank||10||Blakeney channel|
|55||Great Skua||1||Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards|
|56||Arctic Skua||1||Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards|
|57||Common Guillemot||10||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|58||Razorbill||10||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|59||Black-legged Kittiwake||2||Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards|
|60||Black-headed Gull||10||Potter Heigham Marshes|
|61||Little Gull||50||Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards|
|62||Mediterranean Gull||2||Hickling Marshes NWT NR|
|63||Common Gull||6||Potter Heigham Marshes|
|64||Herring Gull||5||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|65||Lesser Black-backed Gull||1||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|66||Great Black-backed Gull||4||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|67||Arctic Tern||1||Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards|
|68||Red-throated Diver||4||Blakeney channel|
|69||Manx Shearwater||1||Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards|
|70||Northern Gannet||4||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|71||Great Cormorant||40||Potter Heigham Marshes|
|72||Grey Heron||2||Holkham NNR|
|73||Great White Egret||3||Holkham NNR|
|74||Little Egret||2||Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards|
|75||Cattle Egret||3||Potter Heigham Marshes|
|76||Western Marsh Harrier||2||Stiffkey Marshes|
|77||Hen Harrier||1||Stiffkey Marshes|
|78||Eurasian Sparrowhawk||1||Hickling Marshes NWT NR|
|79||Red Kite||2||Stiffkey Marshes|
|80||Common Buzzard||1||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|81||Common Kingfisher||1||Holkham NNR|
|82||Great Spotted Woodpecker||1||Holkham NNR|
|83||Eurasian Green Woodpecker||1||Holkham NNR|
|84||Common Kestrel||1||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|85||Peregrine Falcon||1||Stiffkey Marshes|
|86||Eurasian Jay||5||Holkham NNR|
|87||Common Magpie||1||Holkham NNR|
|88||Eurasian Jackdaw||1||Holkham NNR|
|89||Rook||5||Potter Heigham Marshes|
|90||Carrion Crow||1||Holkham NNR|
|91||Coal Tit||1||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|92||Eurasian Blue Tit||1||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|93||Great Tit||1||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|94||Eurasian Skylark||6||Holkham NNR|
|95||Bearded Tit||7||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|96||Barn Swallow||1||Holme Dunes|
|97||Yellow-browed Warbler||1||Holkham NNR|
|98||Common Chiffchaff||1||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|99||Cetti’s Warbler||2||Holkham NNR|
|100||Long-tailed Tit||10||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|101||Goldcrest||1||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|103||Eurasian Treecreeper||2||Holkham NNR|
|104||Eurasian Wren||1||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|105||Common Starling||1||Holkham NNR|
|106||Mistle Thrush||2||Muckleburgh Hill|
|107||Song Thrush||1||Stiffkey Marshes|
|109||Eurasian Blackbird||1||Holkham NNR|
|110||European Robin||1||Holkham NNR|
|111||European Stonechat||4||Muckleburgh Hill|
|113||House Sparrow||4||Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards|
|114||Grey Wagtail||1||Holme Dunes|
|115||Pied Wagtail||1||Holkham NNR|
|116||Meadow Pipit||20||Muckleburgh Hill|
|117||Rock Pipit (Scandinavian)||10||Holme Dunes|
|118||Common Chaffinch||60||Muckleburgh Hill|
|120||European Greenfinch||5||Holme Dunes|
|121||Common Linnet||20||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|122||Common Bullfinch||2||Titchwell RSPB Reserve|
|123||European Goldfinch||20||Holkham NNR|
|124||Eurasian Siskin||35||Muckleburgh Hill|
|125||Yellowhammer||3||Choseley Barns area|
|126||Common Reed Bunting||5||Potter Heigham Marshes|