January 2017 Tour reports
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Wednesday 15th January - High tide tour
We started the tour with a wonderful high tide visit to Snettisham. c10000 Pink-footed Geese left their roost,a great Norfolk winter scene! Added to the magic, 50,000 Knot & 2000 Bar-tailed Godwit added to the drama. Lots of duck, Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall & Goldeneye and 4 Red-breasted Merganser. Also nice views of raptors, 2 Peregrine and several Marsh Harrier.
We then headed to Holme, this provided great views of 150 Brent Geese, plus more wildfowl. We then headed out to the slatmarsh where we located c30 Twite, also Rock Pipit, 2 Spotted Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Stonechat and Pink-footed Geese overhead. Plus c200 Golden Plover in amongst the masses.
Offshore we had Red-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser and a large flock of Common Scoter.
We then headed to Titchwell. From the main path I located 2 Water Pipits. Looking out at the sea provided good views of Long-tailed Duck and several close inshore Velvet Scoter. The day was neatly rounded off with Barn Owl and 25 roosting Marsh Harriers.
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.
Norfolk Winter 5 day tour - Day one Wednesday 18th January
We started the birding just east of Sedgeford where several thousand Pink-footed Geese were dropping into harvested beet fields. After a bit of stealth using a hedgerow for cover we were able to scan through a mass of Geese, in fact 10,000 plus Pink-feet. I fairly quickly managed to pick the first of 2 Tundra Bean Geese and everyone got good scope views. The masses took to the air a couple of times and were a sight to behold! Nearby a bonus was a Barn owl hunting the edge of the field.
We then headed to Hunstanton where we had good views of numerous Fulmars on the cliffs, plus Red-breasted Mergansers offshore and Redshank, Turnstone, Sanderling and Dunlin along the shoreline.
We then headed to Holme, before looking on the sea we noted 2-3 Marsh harriers over the grazing marsh, plus Wigeon, Teal & Shoveler on the pools.
The sea proved very productive, with 20+ Red-throated Divers, several sat on the sea, a Great Northern Diver, not too far offshore, 12+ Red-breasted merganser, a large group of Common Scoter, a single distant Long-tailed Duck plus Razorbill and Guillemot. The pools held a single Greenshank, 2-3 Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Knot and Bar-tailed Godwits.
We then headed up to the Observatory, lots of Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler on pools en-route. The Broadwater held the long staying Ferruginous Duck, plus a really smart drake Common Scoter. Also numerous Gadwall, several Little Grebe plus small numbers of Pochard & Tufted Duck.
We lunched then another look offshore produced more of the same, but a walk to Thornham and we bagged the regular flock of Twite around thirty of them. Also Rock Pipit and 2 Spotted Redshank. A Glaucous Gull that had been seen earlier had disappeared.
As we left Holme we had excellent views of Dark-bellied Brents and a very smart Sparrowhawk sat on a fenceline.
We then headed to Titchwell, offshore was excellent with a fine raft of c20 Long-tailed Duck and at least 27 Velvet Scoter in amongst a larger raft of Common Scoter. Also Goldeneye and Great crested Grebe offshore. Lots more shorebirds, we then finished off with Kingfisher, a calling Cettis & Water Rail an excellent roost of around 30 Marsh harriers.
A brilliant day with 92 species recorded.
Norfolk Winter 5 day tour - Day two Thursday 19th January
We headed down to the Brecks today, a brief look for Goshawk provided a displaying Sparrowhawk and a Buzzard, but nothing much more. We next stopped off on the edge of the forest and were treated to a spectacular group of c150 Brambling feeding on beech mast. Also in the same area we had nice views eventually of c20 Siskin, 3-4 Lesser Redpoll and Marsh Tit. A nice surprise was a single Hawfinch, a species we had earmarked to see later in the day, so this bird providing good scope views was welcome.
A Crossbill flew over calling, but was gone quickly. Nearby, we had great views on feeders of Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and several Brambling.
We headed from here towards an area of farmland, near Knettishall where a Little Bunting had been seen. Although, there was no sign of the rarer bunting, we had a great time sifting through a load of farmland birds, feeding in a dedicated strip. We had 50+ Yellowhammer, 2 Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Reed Bunting, Skylark, Snipe & 12 Grey Partridge. We also had another great surprise as a male Goshawk displayed above nearby woodland, great for comparison was a Sparrowhawk also displaying and seemingly competing for space with the Goshawk.
We headed off for a late lunch, in a less likely location - a Thetford industrial estate. A mass of Gulls were feeding around the recycling centre and it wasn’t too long before a 1st winter Iceland Gull flew overhead! I managed to see a Glaucous Gull as well, though this disappeared quickly and the group didn’t catch up with it.
Final stop of the day putting the “icing on the cake”! First a lovely Hawfinch, feeding on the ground, good views through the scopes. We then had wonderful views of 5 male Crossbills feeding on pine cones, prolonged scope views were fantastic. We then had wonderful views of 50+ Hawfinch arriving at a roost, the best numbers of 20 years!
Norfolk Winter 5 day winter tour - Day three Friday 20th January
Today dawned with a hard frost and beautiful clear skies! We headed up to North Norfolk, a roadside stop for two fields full of Pink-footed Geese feeding on beet tops. They were a wonderful sight in fantastic light, several scans also produced two other sough t after species. At least 9 Tundra Bean Geese and 4 Eurasian White-fronted Geese. Whilst enjoying the sight and sounds of these geese, 20 Dark-bellied Brents flew past, and Marsh harrier moved east. A nice flock of Skylark and Linnets as well.
We then headed to Sheringham, and were soon admiring 2 Glaucous Gulls along the shoreline, an adult and a 1st winter. Offshore there was 40+ Red-throated Diver and a steady passage of these moving east, also Guillemot & Razorbill. Nearby there was c40 Turnstone and after a bit of searching we located a Purple Sandpiper. Just as we were leaving a Shag flew east.
We then walked out at Kelling, there was a nice mixture of Wigeon, teal and Shoveler on the pools. We walked out along the shingle and initially spotted a distant Snow Bunting flock, we steadily walked in their direction and then had amazing views of the Snow Buntings as they flew towards us and landed at our feet!
We lunched at Cley, lots of waders and wildfowl, highlights were c200 Golden Plover, c100 Lapwing, c100 Dunlin, Grey Plover, Black-tailed Godwit & some beautiful Pintail.
We rounded the day off in a beautiful sunset with a great roost of 2 Merlin, Sparrowhawk, 2 ad male Hen Harrier and 4 ringtails.
Norfolk Winter 5 day winter tour - Day four Saturday 21st January
Today we headed east, towards the broads. The first stop produced 18 Bewicks Swan, 3 Marsh harrier, 300+ Lapwing and a small group of Fieldfare, but no Whooper Swans. We then headed to another favoured area for the “wild” swans, this time we located a nice large mixed flock of 149 Bewicks & 25 Whooper Swan.
We then headed to Heigham Holmes area, there was plenty of Marsh Harriers and a nice male flew close by. Unfortunately the White-fronted Geese were distant, though a few flew over, a Bearded Tit called and showed briefly and a Cetti’s called but stayed out of view.
A couple more roadside stops produced flocks of Pink-footed Geese, c500 Golden Plover and c300 Lapwing. Another stop and I located the desired quarry, 4 Common Cranes, a pair with 2 juveniles, we had excellent scope views as both birds walked around on the top of a bank.
We finished at a raptor roost area - 50+ Marsh harriers roosted, 3 hen harrier and late on 20+ Cranes, including 2 birds giving occasional views on the ground. As we walked back in the fading light a Barn owl flew over and a Tawny Owl called nearby.
Norfolk Winter 5 day winter tour - Day Five Sunday 22nd January
We headed up to North Norfolk and we walked out on to the beach at Holkham. We had several Stonechat, 3 Rock Pipits and just as we walked out over one of the dunes up flew a Jack Snipe, typically it flew a short distance and dropped back down. Out on the sea, several Red-throated Diver and 17 Velvet Scoter close inshore. The grazing marsh held a nice flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese, and a Marsh harrier flushed a flock of Lapwing.
We stopped off en-route to Titchwell and had a walk out on to the saltmarsh. We had a nice group of 6 Bullfinch, out on the marsh a superb ringtail Hen Harrier flew past us and then a beautiful pair of Bearded Tit appeared close by showing very well along the edge of the reeds.
We then headed and lunched at Titchwell before heading out to the shoreline, en-route we had great point blank views of 2 Water Rails and then good views of both Black & Bar-tailed Godwits side by side, plus Grey Plover, Avocet plus 2 Greenshank flew over calling. Out on the sea, lots of Red-throated Diver, c50 Long-tailed Duck, c40 Velvet Scoter and c2500 Velvet Scoter, 12 Red-breasted Merganser & c10 Great Crested Grebe.
The tour was finished off brilliantly with a feeding Woodcock, giving wonderful views on the ground! We headed back and over tea and cake we arrived at a fantastic total of 131 species for the 5 days.
Glaucous Gull 1st wint
Tundra Bean Geese
Norfolk Winter 3 day winter tour - Day One Friday 27th January
We headed up to North Norfolk, and back to the roadside stop at Weybourne where for several weeks there has been fields full of Pink-footed Geese feeding on beet tops. We weren’t disappointed and this tour got off to a great start! There was c5000 Pink-footed geese in fantastic light, several scans also produced two other sought after species 2 Tundra Bean Geese were showing very well in the foreground and we were able to see all the detail of each bird. Very close to them were also 4 Eurasian White-fronted Geese.
Also nice flocks of c200 Golden Plover, Skylark and Linnets in the fields as well.
We then headed to Sheringham, the Glaucous Gull had flown off east unfortunately. But we had good views of 40+ Red-throated Diver and a steady passage of these moving west, also Guillemot & Kittiwake. Nearby there was c40 Turnstone, plus Redshank and Ringed Plover
We then took a walk at Cley and as we walked out we found another 1st winter Glaucous Gull, a brilliant winter for this species. There were plenty of waders and wildfowl, the highlights were c200 Golden Plover, c50 Lapwing, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Wigeon, Teal and Pintail.
We rounded the day off in a beautiful sunset with a great roost of 2 Merlin, Sparrowhawk, 2 ad male Hen Harrier and 4 ringtails.
Norfolk Winter 3 day winter tour - Day two Saturday 28th January
Today we headed east, towards the broads.
The first stop was Buckenahm marshes, plenty of Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler plus smaller numbers of Gadwall and Mallard. A young Bewicks Swan flew over head and was a nice surprise. We then scanned the marshes, few geese, but Snipe, Golden Plover and Lapwing were present in good numbers. Marsh harriers and 2-3 Buzzard soared overhead. Then we picked out a smart adult male Peregrine we admired it as it sat preening.
We then headed to Cantley, from here many more geese were present, in fact there were several thousand out in front of us! A tight flock of around c1000 Pink-feet, an excellent count of 340 White-fronted Geese. After further searching it was great to locate a small group of Taiga Bean Geese just six of them but showing well through the scope in amongst the deeper vegetation as usual.
We headed towards the Stalham area, but despite searching, the main big flock of wild swans I had seen a few days earlier, they could not be found.
We located a few Whoopers Swans but no Bewicks.
A couple more roadside stops produced flocks of Pink-footed Geese, c500 Golden Plover and c300 Lapwing, c10 Snipe. I located 4 Common Cranes, a pair with 2 juveniles, these were the same family group I had seen a few days previous though about a ile away from the previous trip! We had excellent scope views as both birds walked around on the top of a bank.
We finished at a raptor roost area. Nice views of 4 Lesser Redpoll in the car park area anda real nice evening and great birding at the roost. Highlights were 54 Marsh harriers, 2 male and 1 ringtail Hen harrier a Merlin, 22 Cranes. Nearby we had 30+ Fieldfare, Redwing, Yellowhammer and Brambling
Norfolk Winter 3 day winter tour - Day three Sunday 29th January
We started today with a wonderful high tide visit to Snettisham. c10000 Pink-footed Geese left their roost in a beautiful orange sunrise.
Following on from this, we had a couple of hours of wonderful birding -
50,000 Knot & 3000 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1000 Curlew, Grey Plover, c1000 Oystercatcher, 50+ Sanderling, 100 Dunlin and c1500 Golden Plover. Also lots of duck, Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal & Gadwall. A Peregrine was cruising around and caused a couple of spectacular “Mexican waves” of the waders, before sitting up on a post. Also several Marsh Harrier and a Buzzard.
Scanning the gulls, produced another Glaucous Gull! A first winter sat amongst other roosting gulls. Several Rock Pipits flew overhead and a group of Skylarks were singing in the sunshine.
We then headed to the hide and out on the pits there was a Kingfisher plus c20 Goldeneye and a surprise with around c60 White-fronted Goose.
We then headed to Titchwell. From the main path there was a singing Cetti’s warbler. The sea was our main destination. Looking out at the sea provided great views of inshore c40 Velvet Scoter. After a further search we walked up
the beach and found a cracking group of c35 Long-tailed Duck and several great males. We then located a lovely group of 18 Snow Bunting and had great close views through the scope.
We walked back to the centre and watched a Water Rail feeding along the channel, great close views. Over lunch a couple of Brambling were coming to the feeders. We rounded off the trip with a walk at Thornham but the weather had suddenly closed in and the Twite were not to be found! However, a Merlin flashed past and a high Lapland Bunting flew over calling.
A great 3 day tour with 130 species recorded. The Tundra Bean Geese showing very well -below!