September 21st Day One – North Norfolk
We kicked off the first day of the tour with a walk out at Burnham Overy Staithe, it was a beautiful morning and the first surprise came early with a juvenile Tree Sparrow in the hedgerow amongst a group of Goldfinches. Also a Kingfisher whizzed along the shoreline calling.
As the high tide dropped waders started top appear, a scan through a good size group of Common Redshank also produced a juvenile Spotted Redshank. As the muddy islands appeared more and more waders with some nice smart summer plumaged Grey Plover, Ringed Plover plus Bar & Black-tailed Godwit, 35 Curlew, Turnstone, Red Knot and 2-3 Avocet.
As we walked further out towards the dunes, a group of 100 Pink-footed Geese flew over, the first significant arrivals of the autumn. Also freshly arrived were a small numbers of Dark-bellied Brent Geese, feeding out in the saltmarsh.
Suddenly the skies were suddenly glittering with a superb flock of c1200 Golden Plover, always a beautiful sight, but best when the sunshine lights them glittering as they dropped down to feed. Along the dunes there was 2 Red Kites, circling and a Marsh Harrier also quartered along the edges, keeping the Golden Plover and other waders on high alert.
A scan through the now gathering flocks of Black-headed Gulls, resulted in an adult winter plumage Mediterranean Gull, as well as Common, Great Black-backed & Herring Gulls.
Out to the East, 2 Great White Egrets appeared alongside their commoner congeners, Little Egrets. Bearded Tits & Cetti’s warblers were vocal but kept themselves hidden.
As we reached the northern end of the track, a juvenile Hobby came in from the East moving West, it was nice flight views but it didn’t hang around. Presumably on the move, as were a few remaining Swallows. Also a very confiding migrant Northern Wheatear!
As we wandered back a Sparrowhawk was soaring and no doubt enjoying the blue skies and light breeze, it had been a lovely morning’s birding and we had already recorded 70 species.
We had lunch at Cley where two of us managed to see an Arctic Skua chasing a Sandwich Tern over the seawall. We then headed out to the hides, lots of Teal, Wigeon, plus 6 Pintail, Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, a juvenile Little Stint, Greenshank and after quite a lot of searching through c250 Teal a roosting Garganey!
We rounded the day off with a quick scan of the sea, it was quiet but several Gannets offshore, a close inshore Guillemot plus a a few Sandwich Terns passed by.
September 22nd Day Two – North Norfolk
We started today with a quick circuit of Burnham Norton, migrants were still thin on the ground, but a flock of Long-tailed Tit, included Chiff-chaff and nearby 2 Blackcap were feeding on Elder berries. A small group of Pink-footed Geese passed overhead. Both male and female plus juvenile Marsh Harrier, 2 Red Kites and a Kestrel were up in the skies. The undoubted highlight was several showy Bearded Tits , feeding along the reed-bed edge.
We then headed to Titchwell, we took a walk along the autumn trail first before lunch, the pools offered up nice educational views of Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Shoveler all mainly in eclipse and we worked through them all looking at the salient features. The far end of the autumn trail was a relatively quiet, as many of the birds were closer to the main path, but a Green Sandpiper was a later passage bird, and a Snipe was showing well nearby and we explored the main trail after lunch.
Back on the main footpath after lunch we took some time in the hide and had nice close views of much of the wildfowl, lots of Wigeon, Teal and smaller numbers of Shoveler and Gadwall. Good numbers of 25+ Ruff, also Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Dunlin, 2 Little Stints and a Great White Egret dropped into the main scrape looking a bit ungainly with it’s long legs standing on the mud!
A short walk on along the main bank, and we were pleased to see the Pectoral Sandpiper still showing well. Nearby amongst the Teal there was a juvenile Garganey, subtle with it’s head in it’s back, but definitely a bit easier than the bird I had spent so long finding at Cley the previous day!
Down on the beach there was a good selection of shorebirds, but the highlight was out on the sea with 2 Red-throated Divers sitting up for some time and one showing off it’s summer plumage. Also Great Crested grebe, but sadly no sign of the Red-necked Grebe from yesterday.
September 23rd Day Two – North Norfolk
We were back early this morning at Snettisham where a 7.2m tide with a slightly onshore wind ensured that many of the Red Knot made it on to the gravel pits. On arrival there was a huge cloud of Red Knot swirling high in the skies, before many smoked down to join the roosting flocks on the islands.
Over the next couple of hours we were treated to a feast of shorebirds, involving the thousands of Red Knot, plus 2000 Oystercatcher, 1500 Bar-tailed Godwit, 100 Grey Plover, 200 Golden Plover, 100 Curlew, 200 Black-tailed Godwit, 400 Dunlin, 400 Redshank, plus smaller numbers of Sanderling & Ringed Plover. At least 4 Spotted Redshank and 1 Little Stint were also located amongst the masses. Further out there was also an incredible 1500 Shelduck, as well as Common Tern, Sandwich Tern & Pintail out on the mud.
We had now reached 22 species of wader for the trip and with little left to look for along the saltmarsh after 3 full days, we headed inland to see if we could add one more via a coffee stop with cake after the early morning start.
We arrived early afternoon and decided that with the bright skies and gusty winds it was definitely worth trying for Goshawks. This proved to be a great decision, after about ten minutes with 1-2 Buzzards an immature Goshawk broke the skyline, after a minute or two of circling it was joined by a second Goshawk. These two were up and down above the treeline for the next 15 minutes, a sustained spell of sunshine, saw then climb higher alongside 4-5 Common Buzzard and amazingly given it was mid September they were joined for a while by a 3rd Goshawk! Just to add to the raptor diversity 2 Sparrowhawks, a Red Kite and a Kestrel added to the spoils!
We headed from here to the final target of the day and tour, our 23rd species of wader, with a group of 25 Stone Curlew. 107 species recorded over the 3 days.