April 2016 Tour reports
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Saturday 2nd April - Exclusive family group guiding
A lovely day spent with a family group looking at an array of birds. The family were from a farming background and we enjoyed a mutual shared sense of knowledge starting the day looking at some local farmland habitat and birds, 2 Tree Sparrow, 10+ Yellowhammer, groups of Linnet, numerous singing Skylark and several Lapwing. Moving on to the coast, we had superb close up views of up to 5 male and 3 female Marsh Harriers, with several males "showing off", inverting themselves in flight, a tremendous display. A big arrival of Chiff-chaff were noted with 30+ Chiff-chaff recorded in the Holme area. Nearby we had nice views of a hunting Barn Owl, a pair of Bullfinch showed well, though a vociferous Cetti's was seen more briefly! We then visited the Holme bird observatory, where Sophe the warden gave the family an overview of bird ringing and I explained and discussed migration. In this area we had nice views of Wigeon, Teal, Brent & Pink-footed Goose, Little Grebe, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Redshank, more Lapwing, Snipe and more Marsh Harrier activity.
We then lunched and headed off to Titchwell, where there was a good selection of waders, 30 Dunlin, Knot, Turnstone, Bar & Black-tailed Godwit, Avocet, 2 Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover also 3 Sand Martin flew through and we had nice views of Chiff-chaff, Reed Bunting. At the feeders there was the usual commoner birds, plus 1-2 Siskin and a Brambling.
Tuesday 5th April - 2 Day Exclusive guiding
A nice 2 day tour designed around the interests and species wanted for a visiting couple. We started today in the Brecks, in superb conditions, bright sunny and warm - ideal! The birding started very well too! A pair of Woodlark showed well and then sang overhead, also 2 Yellowhammer, 2 Red Kite and 2 Buzzards from the same spot! We then had 4+ Firecrest, including stunning views of 2 Firecrest very close indeed! In the paddocks area we then also had brief views of a Hawfinch, plus Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit, Siskin, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk.
We then stopped off elsewhere and had nice scope views of 2 Stone Curlew, also Lapwing, Shelduck in this area. A walk along the river at Santon was fantastic as we had Kingfisher, Redpoll, Marsh Tit, Treecreeper, 2 Mandarin, and stunning views for around forty minutes of a female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.
The day was rounded off with a great display of raptors - 3 Goshawk including fairly close views of a female hunting, several Buzzard, Kestrel and a Peregrine.
Here's a link to a video of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - Thanks to John Manger for the Firecrest image who took this whilst we were watching the 2 showy Firecrest.
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Wednesday 6th April - 2 Day Exclusive guiding
We started off with nice close views of 4 Marsh Harrier, the males displaying, also on the pools close in front of us were Teal, Shoveler, Avocet, Shelduck and Little Grebe. The next pools we visited had more variety with Snipe, 12 Pink-footed Geese, 6 Pochard, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe and a stray but lovely close female Common Scoter, a 1000 or more were far out offshore but this one was sitting close on the freshwater pools. Nearby we managed to track down some early Yellow Wagtails, 3 Swallows flew through, also Meadow Pipits and a few Linnets were evident moving overhead. After some searching in the dunes, we managed to locate 3 Ring Ouzel, they showed well perched out on the banks and dunes.
After lunch we headed to Titchwell, visible migration was still evident with 5+ Swallow and a House Martin passing through. The overlap between winter and spring was also noticeable with 70 Brent Geese, 40 Common Scoter - close inshore, 40 Bar-tailed Godwit, 110 Grey Plover, 10 Sanderling and Knot. In contrast several Sandwich Tern and Little Ringed Plover were recently arrived!
Sunday 10th April - Hunstanton Cliffs & Holme
A slow visible migration morning, brightened by a Hooded Crow that moved through south with corvids at 7.30am.
At Holme 4 Wheatear, 5 Yellow Wagtail, a Firecrest, a Red Kite north, 10 Swallow south, 10 Sand Martin south, a Ruff on NWT Pools, 6+ Buzzard, 1400 Oystercatcher out on the shingle bars on the high tide roost.
Monday 11th April Day One of 3 day group tour
We headed down to Snettisham and started off with lovely views of 2 Ring Ouzel. We then headed to Snettisham RSPB and the wash, where we had a real spectacle as 10,000 Knot came in just overhead and pitched in on the freshwater pools and shingle banks. There was a good selection of waders, 20 Turnstone, c200 Dunlin, Bar & Black-tailed Godwit in breeding plumage, Sanderling, 60+ Avocet, 100's Oystercatcher plus a good selection of Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler. Overhead at least 4 Mediteranean Gulls announced their prsence with there loveley "wow" calls!! The light was superb and 2 hours soon disappeared watching the "mexican waves" of shorebirds creating cloudy shapes out over The Wash!
En-route to Holme we stopped off for real close views of a Red Kite, hunting low by the roadside. At Holme more raptors with 6+ Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Peregrine. Still a good spread of wildfowl too - c50 Brent Geese, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Pochard, Tufted Duck. A new migrant for the year came in the form of a Whimbrel flying over calling. Plus new migrant passerines were also in evidence, with both a superb male Pied Flycatcher and male Redstart providing close and excellent views!
We finished off at Titchwell with a lovely male Brambling, a superb singing Firecrest both also showing very well.
Out on one of the pools, 8 Red-crested Pochard, plus 2 singing Willow Warbler
Tuesday 12th April Day two of 3 day group tour
A slightly more difficult day with weather much wetter than the forecast! We still had a very successful day with target species.
We started off with nice scope views of 2 Stone Curlew, looking a bit miserable and wet, but were able to watch them safely at a distance without them needing to move.
We next dodged the showers and had 5 singing Firecrest, including stunning views of 2 Firecrest very close again. In the paddocks area I saw 4 Hawfinch, but they flew quickly before I had chance to get the others on to them. The rain was persistent, we enjoyed Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit and Siskin a nice singing Blackcap. But Hawfinchs were looking less likely, though we continued scanning. Suddenly Sean located a Hawfinch at the to of a tree and fortunately it sat there for a few minutes everyone was able to get good scope views. As we left another Hawfinch was close and calling, sat perched, but this one moved off pretty quickly! We also enjoyed watching the Little Grebe building it's nest along the pond edge.
Next we lunched waited for the rain to ease and at last some brightness appeared in the grey skies, for the first time of the day! We took the walk along the river at Santon. Again it was pretty good with a new singing Firecrest, a Kingfisher, Redpoll, Marsh Tit, 3 Brambling, Treecreeper, 2 Mandarin and after a lot of searching and scanning a calling Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was located, with a second Lesser Spotted Woodpecker also located 30 minutes later. A real treat was a splash in the river and then Simon spotted the cause an Otter!! It eventually reappeared briefly on the bank further downstream.
The day was rounded off with a great display of raptors - 2 Goshawk, c12 Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk.
Wednesday 13th April Day three of 3 day group tour
We started the day looking for a Hoopoe at Holme, that had been found the previous day - but sadly no sign this morning. But fresh in were 2 Whitethroat - new birds for the year!. A pair of Grey Partridge were seen well whilst searching for the Hoopoe, plus a trickle of Swallow, Sand Martin and Meadow Pipits passed overhead. One of the fields held a nice group of 11 Wheatear, and a pair of Mediterranean Gulls passed overhead. The pools held 3 Black-tailed Godwit in breeding plumage, plus smart looking Avocets flashed by, looking smart in sharp sunlight.
We then headed over the North Norfolk and wandered around a beautiful heathland area, bathed in spring sunshine!
A Whitethroat and a Willow Warbler greeted us, but we were soon watching a singing Woodlark, delivering it's song right above us. A further search and we found a pair of Stonechat, and then the main species we were looking for appeared a stunning Dartford Warbler perched atop a flowering gorse bush.
We lunched near Cley at Walsey Hills, another Whitethroat and the first Lesser Whitethroat was also noted by one of the group. Out along the East bank, there was a good selection of waders, including a few additions - 2 Little Ringed Plover, 2 Ruff, a Greenshank. These were amongst c20 Black-tailed Godwit, plus breeding Redshank and Lapwing. A nice surprise was a mid afternoon hunting Barn Owl, lovely with the suns rays shining through the wings. We rounded a wonderful 3 days with chocolate cake, coffees and a field full of c30 Wheatear, 2 stunning Yellow Wagtail, and a Red-throated Diver offshore.
121 Species a nice total this early in the spring!
Friday 15th April single exclusive day tour
A single exclusive day guiding in the Cley area, in tricky rather wet conditions! We still managed to see a good selection of birds. We started the day at coastguards and there were at least 5 smart Wheatear close by if looking a little be-draggled! Offshore at least 10 Sandwich Tern flew past, as did a few Common Scoter and 1 Red-throated Diver. We had a nice flight of c50 Dark-bellied Brents drop in front of us, and 2 Lesser black-backed Gull moved west. We then walked out along the East bank, there was a good selection of wildfowl and waders, 3 Little Ringed Plover were very active and provided great display flights, also
c20 Dunlin, 2 Grey Plover, 1 Ruff, 10 Black-tailed & 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, c30 Curlew, 5 Turnstone, 10 Teal & 6 Wigeon were still present. Overhead a Greenshank and a Whimbrel, both flew over calling and the Greenshank, dropped on to the pools affording nice scope views. A Spoonbill was also feeding off the East bank later on.
We headed for lunch as the rain abated for a while, and from Walsey Hills we watched c20 Swallow, 2 Sand Martin, 3 Chiff-chaff and a newly arrived Whitethroat. The break in the weather allowed Marsh Harrier and Buzzard to briefly grace the air.
At Salthouse there was a nice little fall of c12 Wheatear, plenty of Meadow Pipit also on the groud, plus more shorebirds and waders.
Sunday 17th April - local birding walk
A walk around the local villages of the Rudhams and farmland produced a few birds of note - 3+ Tree Sparrow, 2 Redpoll, c25 Curlew (an unusual number inland - spring migrants), 6 Bullfinch, 2+ Willow warbler, 1 Whitethroat, 10+ Buzzard.
Monday 18th April Day One of 3 Day exclusive group tour
A rather cool overcast, day with a biting westerly wind! We started the day at Cley - it was immediately evident there was a considerable overhead visible migration of pipits, finches and a few wagtails - at least 500 Meadow Pipit, c20 Yellow Wagtails, 50 Linnet and a few Siskin moved west over the next couple of hours. There were still a few Wigeon, Teal plus c30 Shoveler, Gadwall, Shelduck & c50 Brent Geese, but more interesting were 5+ Ruff, 25 Black-tailed Godwit, pr of Mediterranean Guls, Snipe, 4 Little Ringed Plover again displaying and calling, 4 Ringed Plover and c20 Dunlin. There was again good numbers of Wheatear 12+. Whilst overhead we watched in awe at a male Marsh Harrier in full display. We walked further north towards the Eye field and eventually located at least 6 Yellow Wagtail feeding on the short grass, along with 2 White Wagtail and several more Wheatear. A smart adult male Peregrine came zipping through twice scattering many of the birds into the air! Offshore it was fairly quiet save a few Sandwich Terns and 5 Common Scoter moving east. We then headed to local heathland, gwhere we had nice and very close up views of 2 Woodlark, plus 3 more Woodlark singing. We found a nice pair of Stonechat, but Dartfords were lying low in the cold, overcast and breezy conditions. A nice selection of other birds though, 2 Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, 4 Chiff-chaff, 2 Bullfinch, plus close views of 3 Lesser Redpoll.
We finished off with a walk around Kelling Quags where the highlights were a smart male Stonechat, 3 Wheatear, 7 Yellow Wags and 2 White Wagails. Back at Cley there was a nice gathering of c30 Sand Martin, 12 Swallow and 2 House martin over Snipes marsh.
Tuesday 19th April Day Two of 3 Day exclusive group tour
A very different day, with high pressure clear blue skies and unbroken sunshine! We made our first stop just off the A149 and viewed out to the freshmarshes, a good decision. We had 2 Grey Partridge close by the road. Out on the marsh 3 Spoonbill were located, plus a nice smart Great White Egret. In the air 6+ Buzzard & 6+ Marsh Harrier patrolled, plus 2 Kestrel. The pools held Avocet, Lapwing, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Shelduck. The distinctive call of 2 Mediterranean Gulls drew our attention as 2 white ghosts flew overhead. We then headed towards the Choseley area and after a bit of searching we located a Ring Ouzel, showing nicely along a field edge, accompanied by 12+ Wheatear, in fact inspection of many of the fields produced several Wheatear - a nice fall of them. Also a nice group of c25 Yellowhammer were found feeding in a newly seeded margin, also Linnet, 2 Grey Partridge, Whitethroat and over 20 Brown Hares. Driving with the windows down has it's advantage! We stopped off for a particularly vocal Lesser Whitethroat, that showed very well.
We then headed to Holme, and were soon listening to a Grasshopper Warbler reeling intermittently, the bird showing a few times albeit briefly. A nice selection of warblers in the scrun, Whitethroat, 2+ Sedge Warbler, 3+ Willow warbler, Cetti's warbler & Chiff-chaff. We then headed up to the Observatory and after lunch walked out along the East Bank, more Wheatear 3+, but also a nice flock of c25 Yellow Wagtails feeding under the cattles feet, with one female Blue-headed type. We also had good views of 3 Snipe feeding, plus many Lapwing, Redshank & Curlew. Also 2 Whimbrel flew overhead, to a backdrop of 8+ Marsh Harrier and 6+ Buzzard.
We finished the day unsuccessfully looking for Bearded Tit, but did have more great skydancing Marsh Harrier, plus 4 Bullfinch, and more Lapwing, Redshank and wildfowl plus 2 more Wheatear!!
Wednesday 20th April Day Three of 3 Day exclusive group tour
This was another successful day down in the Brecks! We started off with 2 Stone Curlew, these birds were scoped from the safety of the road, and a further 2 Stone Curlew were also watched from another roadside stop. These areas also provided good views of Grey Partridge, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Shelduck, 10+ Buzzard, 2 Red Kite, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. Moving into the forest, we had reasonable views of 2 Firecrest, but this was surpassed by a new singing male Firecrest, that provided stunning views to a few feet, also at one point fighting with a nearby singing Goldcrest. Also good views of Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Long-tailed Tit, displaying Siskin, Blackcap, Willow warbler, Chiff-chaff, Mistle & Song Thrush. We also heard Green & Great Spotted Woodpecker.
We lunched at Lakenheath then had a lovely walk in the stunning spring sunshine. We were soon watching a male Cuckoo sitting out on the edge of some poplars, showing quite well. A Grasshopper Warbler reeled briefly, plus 10+ Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and at least 1 Reed Warbler was singing. At least 3 Bittern boomed, though none graced us with a fly-by. The real highlight came mid afternoon, as the sunshine caught a "large white bird" soaring high in the sky - it was a migrant Spoonbill! It soared and flapped, we thought it might drop down, but sadly it continued it's migration heading high to the north. The reedbed eventually revealed 1-2 Bearded Tits calling, and after a bit of a wait a male Bearded Tit came into view - such great birds!!
The far viewpoint was alive with Marsh Harrier activity as birds came and went, we watched several arrive and drop of prey, plus interaction between pairs in the air. The Bitterns continued to boom intermittently and a Yellow Wagtail passed overhead.
A great 3 days with Spring migration truly sprung!