May 2016 Tour reports



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May 5th - 12th Extremadura Spring Tour - A fantastic one week tour, highlights were Great & Little Bustard, Black-bellied & Pin-tailed Sandgrouse,  Spanish Imperial Eagle, Roller, Bee-eater, Golden Oriole  and lots more....
read the full trip report here


May 16 - 18th Spring 3 day Group Tour
Monday May 16th. Day one - Snettisham, Holme and Choselely
We started the day at Snettisham on a high tide, a quick inspection of The Wash above the seawall revealed good numbers of birds with firstly a nice flock of c2000 Red Knot. There was a wonderful and unseasonal flock of c700 Grey Plover all sporting wonderful summer plumage! Other late winter visitors were c30 Brent Geese and c30 Bar-tailed Godwit. 
We then headed into the coastal park area. There was a plethora of warblers and lots of song - over the next hour we had good views of most of the regular species - Sedge & Reed Warbler, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiff-chaff & Willow Warbler. A bit more searching also provided good views eventually of Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and brief views of Grasshopper Warbler. As we walked through the scrub a Cuckoo was calling and eventually gave good flight views. The gentle purring of a Turtle Dove was evident, and after a bit of searching we had several views of this attractive and now scarce resident. A Bullfinch showed briefly. As we walked back along the bank, first a Short-eared Owl was seen hunting, then a Barn Owl briefly skirted through the bushes. A great start to the tour.

We then headed towards Choseley, after quite a lot of searching we eventually located 3 Dotterel, a nice bright female providing good views. Nearby we also had close views of Yellowhammer and a single Corn Bunting singing. We then bumped into a couple of birders who told us there was a male Snow Bunting near the barns at Choseley, so we headed straight there. It was a pretty amazing sight!! A full summer plumage Snow Bunting, in full black and white beauty feeding below a telegraph post inland on an arable field!!

We then headed on towards Holme. We stopped off en-route as a Red Kite circled overhead, providing nice close views. We stopped a couple of times along the entrance track, wonderful close views of Turtle Dove, at least 3 males purring. A migrant Wheatear flitted along the dunes. The pools near the track held Gadwall, Pochard and Tufted Duck to a backdrop of several Marsh Harrier.

We lunched at the bird observatory and then walked out towards Thornham. There was another Wheatear, plus 5 superb late Golden Plover in stunning summer plumage. We finished the day off at Titchwell, with a nice selection of waders and waterbirds including 4+ Little Ringed Plover, 4 Little Tern, Dunlin, 60+ Avocet, Redshank and Oystercatcher. More great views of Marsh Harrier. A light passage of Swallow, Swift and a few Sand Martin passed overhead.


Tuesday May 17th. Day Two of three - Brecks South Norfolk & Lakenheath, plus evening session for Owls & Nightjars.
We started the day off with 2 Stone Curlew, these birds were scoped from the safety of the road, and we were able to see that 2 Stone Curlew chicks were with the pair. Nearby we also had good views of Grey Partridge, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Shelduck, 10+ Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. Moving into the forest, we heard at least 5 singing Firecrest, but a singing male Firecrest, eventually provided stunning views to a few feet. A pair of Little Grebe were feeding young, then a Green Woodpecker was heard and flew overhead. Next we searched another patch of woodland -  good views of Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Long-tailed Tit, a displaying Siskin, Blackcap, Willow warbler, Chiff-chaff, Mistle & Song Thrush. More searching and eventually we located a pair of Spotted Flycatcher. As we left the area a beautifully smart Grey Wagtail was feeding on the cut grass, showing very well from the minibus. W

We then headed to a forestry clearing where we had great views of 3 Tree Pipit, 3 Woodlark, 5 Yellowhammer, numerous Whitethroat and a family of Stonechat.

We lunched at cafe then headed to Lakenheath RSPB reserve. Firstly, we looked on Hockwold fen and I soon located a smart male Garganey feeding on the far side, also here were Great Crested Grebe, Shoveler and Common Terns.

We next headed up to the fen viewpoints and were soon watching a male Cuckoo sitting out on the edge of some poplars, showing quite well. A Grasshopper Warbler reeled and then provided point blank views! Many Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and at Reed Warbler were noted singing. A Water Rail was heard calling and several Marsh Harrier flew overhead, with a nice food pass witnessed. We reached the far viewpoint and had an excellent hours birding!! At least 5 Hobby, 3 Bittern were booming, the real highlight was yet to come as first a Bittern flew past nice and close, providing lovely detailed views, followed shortly after by a superb Common Crane sweeping past us.
On the walk back we stopped off for "pinging" Bearded Tits calling from the reedbed eventually after a bit of a wait a male Bearded Tit came into view - such great birds!!

We stopped off to enjoy our packed lunches before heading off for our evening session. We stopped off first for a Little Owl, one of the adults was sat sunning and we had good scope views. We then stopped off for a Barn Owl that was out hunting just prior to dusk. A very successful day was crowned with good views of 4+ Nightjar churring and some flight views, plus 4+ Woodcock!

Wednesday May 18th Day Three of three - Burnham Overy, Stiffkey & Cley
We started the day by heading first to Burnham Overy - there was a late Wigeon still present. On the Staithe Common Tern plus Little Tern were fishing plus Ringed Plover, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Turnstone and Curlew. Looking out to the freshmarsh revealed several hunting Marsh Harrier, Lapwing with chicks. Then nice views of a Spoonbill as it flew on to a pool and starting feeding. As we scanned we were fortunate to catch a Bittern in flight, followed shortly after by a Cuckoo also flying past us, calling.

We stopped off next at Stiffkey. We visited the fen and there was a selection of commoner waders, plus a nice group of c30 Black-tailed Godwit. Then  2 Mediteranean Gulls flew over, plus 2  Grey Partridge were feeding along a field edge.

We then headed to Cley, where we managed quite a few additions to the tour total - 2 late staying Teal and another single Wigeon,
but 3 Common Sandpiper, 4 Little Ringed Plover and 3 smartly plumaged Turnstone. Plus a pair of Bearded Tit was seen feeding young.

Tour total 130 species


May 20-22nd Spring 3 day Group Tour
Friday May 20th. Day one - Snettisham, Holme and Choselely & evening session
We started the day at Snettisham on the high tide. We walked up to the best vantage point looking out over The Wash. The tide was high enough to push a good roosting flock of 2000 Red Knot, 300 Oystercatcher on to the pits. Out on the saltings c300 Grey Plover along with other late migrants c30 Brent Geese and c30 Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Sanderling and a good flock of c200 Shelduck. At least 5 Mediterranean Gulls were present amongst the Black-headed Gulls.
We then headed into the coastal park area and had good views of most of the warbler species - Sedge & Reed Warbler, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiff-chaff & Willow Warbler. A bit more searching also provided good views eventually of Lesser Whitethroat, As we walked through the scrub a Cuckoo gave good flight views plus a Turtle Dove was heard and seen briefly.

We then headed on towards Holme.  We started off with close views of Turtle Dove. The near pools  held Gadwall, Pochard and Tufted Duck. Several Marsh Harrier plus 2 Buzzard were hunting over the main grazing marsh and there was several Redshank, Lapwing and Avocets with young. A Cuckoo was heard calling, but was distant and not on view!

We then headed to Choseley, after a lot of searching along with several other birders we eventually located the last remaining Dotterel! Nearby we also had good views of several Yellowhammer and a single Corn Bunting was singing and showing very well.

We then headed to Titchwell, there was a few less waders today, but 5 gaudy male Red-crested Pochard, then 2 Little Ringed Plover,  Little Tern, 2 Dunlin, 60+ Avocet, Redshank and Oystercatcher, several hunting Marsh Harrier was a reasonable haul of birds.

We then had a fish and chip supper before heading out for the evening session. A real surprise was a Fulmar whilst watching a Little Owl, several miles inland. We then had nice prolonged views of a hunting Barn Owl that was out hunting just prior to dusk.
We managed good perched and flight views of Nightjar, at least 6 churring, plus 4+ Woodcock, Stonechat and a reeling Grasshopper Warbler.

Saturday May 21st. Day Two of three - Brecks South Norfolk & Lakenheath.
We started the day off with 2 Stone Curlew plus chicks. The fields also held Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Shelduck.
Moving into the forest, we had several Firecrest, but with a male giving excellent views. A pair of Little Grebe were feeding young,  Next we searched another patch of woodland -  good views of Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Long-tailed Tit,Siskin, Blackcap, Willow warbler, Chiff-chaff & Song Thrush. More searching and eventually we located a Spotted Flycatcher.

We then headed to a forestry clearing where we had great views of 3 Tree Pipit, 3 Woodlark, 5 Yellowhammer, numerous Whitethroat and a family of Stonechat. Another Firecrest was heard singing.

We lunched at cafe then headed to Lakenheath RSPB reserve. Firstly, we looked on Hockwold fen and there was plenty of activity with Great Crested Grebe, Shoveler and Common Terns. We next headed up to the fen viewpoints and were soon watching stunning views of a Hobby perched. Then a perched Cuckoo showing  well, whilst watching a Kingfisher fishing. Many Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat several Marsh Harrier flew overhead, with a food passes witnessed. At least 3 Bittern were booming, but no fly-bys today! Several Bearded Tit were seen in flight only in the windy conditions.

Sunday May 22nd. Day three of three - Burnhams & Montagu's Harrier
The weather had much improved today, so we started off at Burnham Overy -  a very pleasant walk in the sunshine and lighter winds. The tide was just dropping and there was a reasonable selection of migrant shorebirds, Sanderling several in summer plumage, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Grey Plover and Black-tailed Godwit. A late migrant Wheatear flicked up on the path in front of us. The freshmarsh reeds hosted good numbers of Sedge and Reed Warbler. Both Little Grebe and Pochard were seen with young. The good weather had encouraged raptors into the skies and several Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and 4 Red Kite were up on the thermals. Again I was fortunate as we caught a Bittern in flight, pleasing after missing them yesterday at Lakenheath!

We then headed off to look for Montagu's Harriers, taking our packed lunches prepared for a vigil! However, we arrived in good weather and fairly shortly afterwards a superb adult male Montagu's Harrier was watched hunting up and down. Also Marsh Harrier, Hobby, Buzzard and Kestrel.

Another good 3 day tour with 125 species.

Wednesday May 25th. 3 Day Exclusive tour.
This was a 3 day exclusive tour for a private group. We started the first day at Snettisham on the high tide.
We walked up to the best vantage point from here we had good views of c2000 Red Knot, 300 Oystercatcher on to the pits. Out on the saltings c300 Grey Plover along with a few Brent Geese, c100 Bar-tailed Godwit, c200Dunlin, c20 Sanderling. As the shore birds moved closer, we sorted through them and I located a single Little Stint. On the freshwater pits there was lots of gull and tern activity, with 25+ Common Tern nests, and many Black-headed Gull nests and Norfolk's only breeding Great black-backed Gulls. Several Mediterranean Gulls were in and out the area. A late Greenshank dropped in to feed, plus 5 Turnstone.
We finished the day with several Yellowhammer and a singing Corn Bunting.

Thursday May 26th. Day 2 of 3 Day Exclusive tour.
We started the day off with 2 Stone Curlew complete with their chicks.Also Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Shelduck, also Buzzard and Kestrel. We then headed into the forest,   good views of Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit,  Blackcap, Willow warbler, Chiff-chaff, Mistle & Song Thrush, plus a single Spotted Flycatcher. The Little Grebe were still feeding young, though they are getting much bigger now! Firecrest were mainly quieter but at least one unpaired male Firecrest, was still showing well.

We then headed to a forestry clearing where several Tree Pipit were still vocal, though Woodlark were much trickier today and we just heard one singing briefly. However, whilst searching we heard 2 male Redstart singing. There was several Yellowhammer, numerous Whitethroat and a family of Stonechat. Plus 3 Crossbill flew over.

We headed for lunch and whilst sitting by the river were treated to a pair of beautiful Grey Wagtail feeding just below us.

Friday May 27th. Day 3 of 3 Day Exclusive tour.
We stopped off in the forest and had much better views of a Spotted Flycatcher compared with yesterday. We then searched another forestry clearing, as we walked up the track a Goshawk was heard calling. As we arrived at the clearing a Turtle Dove was purring and we located it perched on top of nearby bushes. Several Tree Pipit and Yellowhammer were singing and then we could hear a Woodlark singing, this bird eventually dropped down and we were able to watch the bird feeding on the ground.

We then headed off to Lakenheath and looked at the fen first, there were several Great Crested Grebe and fishing Common Terns. From the path to the fen viewpoints we were soon watching stunning views of a Hobby, eventually seeing 18 in the air together. A Cuckoo showed  well, then 2 Kingfisher were watched fishing. Marsh Harrier were busy and  we enjoyed views of several food passes.. At least 3 Bittern were booming, but no fly-bys today! Several Bearded Tit were seen well. We were also very lucky to watch 2 Common Cranes feeding on the ground, their nearby chicks just out of view in the long vegetation.