January 2016 Tour reports
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Wednesday 13th January - Day one of two day exclusive tour
This tour was an exclusive tour with a big emphasis on "geese"! We started the tour with a wonderful high tide visit at Snettisham. c12000 Pink-footed Geese left their roost, with the backdrop to a beautiful glowing sunrise, that great Norfolk winter scene! Just to add to the magic, 20,000 Knot & 2000 Bar-tailed Godwit added to the scene. Lots of duck, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall & Goldeneye and 4 Red-breasted Merganser. Also nice views of reptors, several Marsh Harrier, a superb adult male Hen Harrier, plus a ringtail and a Merlin. A Barn Owl was also watched hunting in the distance. We stopped off for a bacon sandwich and coffee after the early start, before heading on to Holkham.
In the afternoon we headed to Holkham where we had good views of 20 White-fronted Geese, but for the clients this was surpassed with an excellent roost of c15000 Pink-footed Geese, with 7000 arriving en-masse late on after all the other birders had left!!
Thursday 14th January - Day two of two day exclusive tour
The clients were so impressed with the previous evening roost, we returned this morning to watch the birds leave their roost!! They were excellent as we watched them head overhead out of the roost for around an hour. We also had much closer views of c80 White-fronted Geese. We also had nice views of Barn Owl, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard and Peregrine. 10 Grey Partridge also showed very well.
We then headed to Holme, this provided great views of 150 Brent Geese, plus more wildfowl. We then headed out to the dunes where we located the 3 Shorelark, we sat down in the grey drizzle and with nobody else around, we had stunning views at 5m!! The c30 Twite showed very well and another Barn Owl was hunting.
Wednesday 20th January - Day One of 5 day winter tour
The day dawned with beautiful clear frosty morning and we started our birding at Thornham. We were soon watching the regular wintering flock of c30 Twite. A pair of Stonechats showed nicely nearby, but the most unlikely bird was an immature Spoonbill that flew over and dropped into Thornham saltmarsh. There was a lot of Pink-footed Geese & Brents moving overhead, and two tame individuals posed icely in the car park area. We also find a Spotted Redshank feeding in the channel.
We then set off along Thornham bank heading out towards Holme and then on to Thornham channel. The fields were full of geese, c1500 Pink-feet and a further 300 Brent Geese. We didn’t find anything amonst them, though we did locate 5 Grey partridge. On the Broadwater was around c60 Gadwall, plus Wigeon and Teal. Once out in to the dunes, we searched for the Shorelark with several other birders, we eventually located them and had stunning views of all 3 Shorelark up really close in fantastic light. Nearby we located a Peregrine, perched out on the saltmarsh. Lots of Curlew, a few Grey Plover, Ringed Plover and a female Red-breasted Merganser.
We then took a quick look for the Rough-legged Buzzard, but couldn’t find this, though we did find a field full of Pink-footed Geese & a couple of Yellowhammers.
We then headed to Titchwell, the feeders hosted a couple of Brambling, plus a Marsh Tit nearby. An early afternoon Barn owl was out hunting and showed very well. But was outdone by an incredibly showy Water Rail that walked along the edge of the main marsh right next to the main path, feeding amongst the freshly cut reeds! The dry pool hosted 10 Rock Pipit and Meadow Pipit. The scrape was full of birds, c50 Avocet, c40 Black-tailed Godwit, c40 Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Wigeon Teal, plus several very smart Pintail. Unseasonal were 2 Greenshank. Out on the sea it was reltaively quiet, but 8 Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye and a big distant flock of Common Scoter. We rounded the day off with 2 more Barn owl & around c15 Marsh Harriers roosted.
Thursday 21st January - Day two of 5 day winter tour
The day started well with a quick stop off at Tottehnill gravel pits, where a Black-necked Grebe was still present and showing very well. We had lovely scope views in a small ice-free area of water, after a hard overnight frost. Fancying our chances at another rare bird we stopped off at Downham Market, where a Serin had been present. I dropped the group close to where the bird had been present and then headed back to find a suitable parking location, suffice to say the group saw the Serin briefly and I missed it, as it had disappeared by the time I got back to them! We did have nice views of a pair of Goosander on the river, plus Goldeneye and a Grey Wagtail flew over.
We then headed towards the fens and the fields around the Southery area, we located a small group of Bewick’s Swans, but distantly noted a big group of swans. After 20 minutes of navigating the lanes, we finally were sat in the miibus with around 6-700 “wild” swans in front of us. The majority, c500 Whooper Swans and the rest Bewick’s. It was a lovely sight and great to compare them side by side. There was also quite a few Golden plover, Lapwing and a few Fieldfare and Redwing in the fields.
We then headed up to Abbey Farm, Flitcham - on arrival we had just left the minibus when the Pallid Harrier came into view high above us, we headed quickly for a gap in the hedge, but it had disappeared. We kept well entertained over the next couple of hours with flocks of Linnet, Chaffinch, Brambling, some Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer, a beautiful male Bullfinch sat up close by, a Little Owl, 2 Barn owls and 350 Fieldfare but the Pallid Harrier failed to reappear!
We rounded the day off with a superb field full of c8000 Pink-footed Geese, a great sight and sound in the dimming light.
Friday 22nd January - Day three of 5 day winter tour
We started off today in the Holkham area and the first stop produced fine views of c10,000 Pink-footed Geese and c120 White-fronted Geese. We then took a circular walk through Holkham pines and bay, the masses of the Wigeon and geese were a sight to behold. Especially with 5-6 marauding Marsh Harriers, flushing great waves of birds into the skies. We also found a Red Kite amongst the raptors, as well as 6+ Buzzard (including the very pale one often called as a Rough-legged, birders beware!). After another walk dodging the showers we eventually located the Great White Egret, perched and in flight. The sea was quiet, save a few Common Scoter, the dunes held a nice flock of Goldfinch, but the Snow Buntings were elusive. The pools around the parking were full of Redshank and a few Ruff were amongst them. Further out a lovely flock of c70 Black-tailed Godwit were noted whirling around.
We took an extended lunch break at Cley from the heavy rain. We then set out at Cley for the new hide, we were treated to wonderful close up views of the Grey Phalarope, plus 2 Water Pipits appeared, along with a good scattering of other waders, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank. As the rain abated 5+ Marsh Harriers took to the skies, drying off in the freshening breeze.
We finished the day at a raptor roost, with fine perched views of a female Merlin, 6 Hen harriers, including 2 superb males. Also c10 Marsh harrier & a Peregrine. The day ended with lovely views of a Barn Owl dancing in the headlights as we headed back to Hunstanton.
Saturday 23rd January - Day four of 5 day winter tour
A long drive over to the Broads today, but traffic was kind and we were greeted at Buckenham with bird filled skies! There was masses of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Wigeon, plus c600 Pink-footed & c100 White-fronted Geese. All the birds were edgy and up and down. We saw several Marsh harriers, Buzzards and Kestrel, but soon located the real culprit! A fine solid looking Peregrine, perched up at a fence post and providing excellent scope views, before setting off again at high speed. It threw itself at some Wigeon, and the water spray was evident as it dived and hit the surface, but with no prey, it powered back up high and then started cruising at high speed, such perfect birds!!
We next headed over to the Ludham area, but despite searching the usual haunts we couldn’t find the wintering Swans. We headed to Horsey area, where we lunched, again the numbers of birds were impressive, 4000 Lapwing, 2000 Golden Plover, 1500 Pink-footed Geese, 4 White-fronted Geese, several Marsh harrier & eventually lovely views in great light of 2 Cranes displaying!
We headed over to the Hickling roost area, and were treated to more exceptional numbers. As 50+ Marsh Harrier roosted, with 35 in the air together at one point! Also a Short-eared Owl & 2 Barn owls hunted up and down, 2 Cranes flew over and 2 more Cranes bugled from the area in front of us. We topped off a terrific day with a perched male Merlin!!
Sunday 24th January - Day five of 5 day winter tour
Another excellent visit to Holme. We started with close views of 3 Barn Owl. Next a wonderful spectacle as 2000 Pink-footed Geese & c800 Brent Geese. There was contact flocks of Lapwing in the skies, with c800 in the area. Plus c200 Golden Plover in amongst the masses. Then great views of Marsh Harrier in full display. Out on the sea, we located 2 Long-tailed Duck, 4 Red-throated Diver, distant but c1000 Common Scoter and 8 Red-breasted Merganser. A lovely view of a fishing Kingfisher, plus Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard and Tufted Duck, several Snipe in flight.
We then revisited Flitcham and today after an hours wait had excellent close views of the Pallid Harrier, plus another Barn owl and the masses of the passerines again. Plus a really nice flock of c150 Stock Dove.
In the afternoon we enjoyed a lovely mixed flock of farmland birds at Ringstead, with c60 Yellowhammer, 5 Corn Bunting, Linnet, Goldfinch and Tree Sparrow. Yet another hunting Barn Owl!
Monday 25th January - Exclusive Day tour
This tour was an exclusive tour for the day.
We started the tour with a wonderful mass of c2000 Pink-footed Geese arriving in the skies above us! Also c200 Brent Geese were also out on the grazing marsh. The group of Twite again showed very well and nearby 2 Stonechats perched beautifully up for us, with several Rock Pipits also in the area. On the Broadwater there was a mass of duck, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall plus Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Pochard. As we scoped through them, suddenly everything took to the air in panic, as a superb hunting Peregrine crashed through them, sending a splash of water up! It failed in to catch prey, but hung around for the next hour with another attempt, lost to view in hot pursuit on the second occasion. We then caught up with the 3 Shorelark and there was a nice mix of birds along the shoreline and sea, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Redshank, Dunlin and Sanderling.
Out on the sea we managed to locate 2 Long-tailed Duck close inshore, plus 4 Red-throated Diver, 8 Red-breasted Merganser and c20 Shelduck.
The walk back was also rewarding with several Marsh Harrier a superb Merlin that we watched in flight and then scoped perched.
A Barn Owl was also watched hunting in the distance.
We warmed through over a hot lunch at Titchwell visitor centre and then headed out. There was a nice spread of waders, c200 Black-tailed Godwit, c30 Avocet, c25 Dunlin, 100 Lapwing and good numbers of Teal and Wigeon, amongst these was several smart drake Pintail. We finished off with a look at the sea that proved worthwhile, with a smart Slavonian Grebe close inshore, 2f & 1m Velvet Scoter, 5 Goldeneye, 6 Red-breasted Merganser and a good flock of Common Scoter, but far out offshore.
Thursday 28th January - Burnham Overy & Holkham
Decided to grab a quick couple of hours birding before admin duties! I eventually located 23 Snow Bunting at Holkham bay, also 2 Gannets offshore were new for the year! The Staithe area hosted 8 Red-breasted Merganser and the largest group of Ringed Plover (46 of them!) I have seen this year. I succumbed to another hour looking at the sea off Holme en-route back to the paperwork! This also secured the largest group of Long-tailed Duck this year, with 6+ though very long way out! There was also a very large flock of c2500 Common Scoter sadly also a long way out. Closer inshore 6 Red-throated Diver and 6 Red-breasted Merganser both flew west.
Sunday 31st January - Exclusive day tour
An exclusive day tour for a group of three birders. The day started very successfully with 4 Barn Owl en-route to the coast and then great views of 2 Rough-legged Buzzard both in flight and perched. Nearby we had good views of 3 Grey Partridge and Common Buzzard. A flock of c200 Golden Plover flew over. We then headed to Thornham, good views of the Twite, 3 Marsh Harrier and another Barn Owl. A steady walk out and then stunning views of the Shorelark down to just a few feet.
We lunched and then headed to Flitcham, yet again there was wonderful flocks of Linnet, Chaffinch, Brambling, some Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer, 2 more Barn owls!! Nice groups of Fieldfare and Redwing, a ringtail Hen Harrier, though the Pallid Harrier failed to appear.
The day finished perfectly with 4 ringtail Hen Harrier, accompanied by the Pallid Harrier - a great days birding with 9 Barn Owls!