October 13th -17th Norfolk Autumn tour

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.

© Bearded Tit Andrew Hutchinson

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.

 Species recordedCountLocation
1Greylag Goose100Holkham NNR
2Pink-footed Goose1000Holkham NNR
3Brent Goose (Dark-bellied)200Blakeney channel
4Canada Goose1Holkham NNR
5Mute Swan3Holkham NNR
6Egyptian Goose8Holkham NNR
7Common Shelduck6Blakeney channel
8Northern Shoveler30Blakeney channel
9Gadwall1Holkham NNR
10Eurasian Wigeon200Blakeney channel
11Mallard3Blakeney channel
12Northern Pintail40Stiffkey Fen
13Eurasian Teal300Blakeney channel
14Common Pochard10Potter Heigham Marshes
15Tufted Duck1Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards
16Common Eider4Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards
17Common Scoter250Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards
18Red-breasted Merganser6Blakeney channel
19Grey Partridge6Holkham NNR
20Common Pheasant1Holkham NNR
21Red-legged Partridge6Holkham NNR
22Little Grebe3Holkham NNR
23Great Crested Grebe1Blakeney channel
24Feral Pigeon1Holkham NNR
25Stock Dove1Holkham NNR
26Common Woodpigeon1Holkham NNR
27Collared Dove3Holkham NNR
28Tawny Owl2Hindolveston Village
29Water Rail1Hickling Marshes NWT NR
30Common Moorhen5Holkham NNR
31Eurasian Coot8Titchwell RSPB Reserve
32Common Crane3Potter Heigham Marshes
33Pied Avocet10Titchwell RSPB Reserve
34Eurasian Oystercatcher100Blakeney channel
35Grey Plover4Blakeney channel
36European Golden Plover1500Titchwell RSPB Reserve
37Northern Lapwing50Blakeney channel
38Common Ringed Plover1Blakeney channel
39Eurasian Curlew10Blakeney channel
40Bar-tailed Godwit12Blakeney channel
41Black-tailed Godwit (Icelandic)40Titchwell RSPB Reserve
42Ruddy Turnstone2Blakeney channel
43Purple Sandpiper1Titchwell RSPB Reserve
44Red Knot40Blakeney channel
45Ruff25Stiffkey Fen
46Curlew Sandpiper1Potter Heigham Marshes
47Sanderling12Titchwell RSPB Reserve
48Dunlin20Blakeney channel
49Little Stint3Potter Heigham Marshes
50Common Snipe5Muckleburgh Hill
51Grey Phalarope1Titchwell RSPB Reserve
52Green Sandpiper1Potter Heigham Marshes
53Common Greenshank1Stiffkey Fen
54Common Redshank10Blakeney channel
55Great Skua1Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards
56Arctic Skua1Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards
57Common Guillemot10Titchwell RSPB Reserve
58Razorbill10Titchwell RSPB Reserve
59Black-legged Kittiwake2Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards
60Black-headed Gull10Potter Heigham Marshes
61Little Gull50Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards
62Mediterranean Gull2Hickling Marshes NWT NR
63Common Gull6Potter Heigham Marshes
64Herring Gull5Titchwell RSPB Reserve
65Lesser Black-backed Gull1Titchwell RSPB Reserve
66Great Black-backed Gull4Titchwell RSPB Reserve
67Arctic Tern1Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards
68Red-throated Diver4Blakeney channel
69Manx Shearwater1Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards
70Northern Gannet4Titchwell RSPB Reserve
71Great Cormorant40Potter Heigham Marshes
72Grey Heron2Holkham NNR
73Great White Egret3Holkham NNR
74Little Egret2Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards
75Cattle Egret3Potter Heigham Marshes
76Western Marsh Harrier2Stiffkey Marshes
77Hen Harrier1Stiffkey Marshes
78Eurasian Sparrowhawk1Hickling Marshes NWT NR
79Red Kite2Stiffkey Marshes
80Common Buzzard1Titchwell RSPB Reserve
81Common Kingfisher1Holkham NNR
82Great Spotted Woodpecker1Holkham NNR
83Eurasian Green Woodpecker1Holkham NNR
84Common Kestrel1Titchwell RSPB Reserve
85Peregrine Falcon1Stiffkey Marshes
86Eurasian Jay5Holkham NNR
87Common Magpie1Holkham NNR
88Eurasian Jackdaw1Holkham NNR
89Rook5Potter Heigham Marshes
90Carrion Crow1Holkham NNR
91Coal Tit1Titchwell RSPB Reserve
92Eurasian Blue Tit1Titchwell RSPB Reserve
93Great Tit1Titchwell RSPB Reserve
94Eurasian Skylark6Holkham NNR
95Bearded Tit7Titchwell RSPB Reserve
96Barn Swallow1Holme Dunes
97Yellow-browed Warbler1Holkham NNR
98Common Chiffchaff1Titchwell RSPB Reserve
99Cetti’s Warbler2Holkham NNR
100Long-tailed Tit10Titchwell RSPB Reserve
101Goldcrest1Titchwell RSPB Reserve
102Firecrest2Holkham NNR
103Eurasian Treecreeper2Holkham NNR
104Eurasian Wren1Titchwell RSPB Reserve
105Common Starling1Holkham NNR
106Mistle Thrush2Muckleburgh Hill
107Song Thrush1Stiffkey Marshes
108Redwing1Holkham NNR
109Eurasian Blackbird1Holkham NNR
110European Robin1Holkham NNR
111European Stonechat4Muckleburgh Hill
112Dunnock1Holkham NNR
113House Sparrow4Cley NWT NR & Cley Coastguards
114Grey Wagtail1Holme Dunes
115Pied Wagtail1Holkham NNR
116Meadow Pipit20Muckleburgh Hill
117Rock Pipit (Scandinavian)10Holme Dunes
118Common Chaffinch60Muckleburgh Hill
119Brambling5Muckleburgh Hill
120European Greenfinch5Holme Dunes
121Common Linnet20Titchwell RSPB Reserve
122Common Bullfinch2Titchwell RSPB Reserve
123European Goldfinch20Holkham NNR
124Eurasian Siskin35Muckleburgh Hill
125Yellowhammer 3Choseley Barns area
126Common Reed Bunting5Potter Heigham Marshes