November 2015 Tour reports

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Wednesday 4th November - Autumn 3 day group tour, day one

The tour started in tricky, wet conditions at Holme. But the day's prospects brightened after a call from the bird Observatory! I quickly got everyone back into the minibus and we arrived just in time to watch 2 Water Pipits being processed and ringed. A real treat as these are not a species you see too often really close for long, let alone up close in the hand. In Norfolk there are many Scandinavian Rock Pipit "littoralis" form that spend the winter months here or on passage. It was very interesting to see these autumn Water Pipits, which are were not as bright at this stage, in fact it emphasised the fact that Rock/Water Pipits on saltmarsh should be paid close attention. In the hand the supercilium on these Water Pipits was not white, throat and upper breast was cream rather than white, it was only the undertail coverts that were bright white. Wingbars were evident but agian not biright white as you see on many classic winter, spring birds. The key in the hand is the outer tail feathers, T11 & T12. The white on the very outer tail feather has a clear demarcated line between the white, it fades or smokes in on littoralis. The white on T11 forms an obvious wedge that runs slightly up the tail, this is lacking on littoralis. It was very interesting and educational. Also the group were treated to close-ups of two other nice species, Goldcrest & Cetti's Warbler, certainly the latter rarely shows well in the field in the UK, on this occasion you could even count the diagnostic 10 tail feathers!

After this we visited one of the hides, here were nice views of a plethora of wildfowl Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler & Gadwall. Plus a really nice smart juvenile Grey Wagtail posed nicely in front of the hide. A quick visit to Thornham produced good views of the afforementioned littoralis Rock Pipits, for immediate comparison! Also here a perched Kingfisher, Marsh Harrier and 1000 Brent Geese - noticeable already amongst these flocks that they have had a poor breeding season with few juv's amongst them.

The rain set in again and we move to Titchwell for lunch, then took advantage of the hides! En-route out we located the Rough-legged Buzzard perched on fenceposts, looking a bit bedraggled! Out on the reserve scrapes and pools there was a great selection of birds,
c60 Ruff, 50+ Black-tailed Godwit, c25 Dunlin, c500 Golden Plover, c50 Lapwing, Wigeon Teal, 3 Pintail, 1 Greenshank, a Spotted Redshank and c20 Snipe. At least 4 Water Rail were heard calling. Best bird that arrived late morning on the fresh marsh was a Purple Sandpiper, this showed very well for the rest of the day.

Out on the sea it was fairly quiet, but 10 Red-breasted Merganser and a few gannets were noted, along with a full spectrum of shorebirds, Sanderling, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Turnstone, Dunlin & Ringed Plover,

We with the light fading fast and early we watched as 8+ Marsh Harrier, a Peregrine, Merlin and a ringtail Hen harrier all put in appearances at dusk, with c200 Lapwing also dropping in to roost.
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Water Pipit

Water Pipit

Thursday 5th November - Autumn 3 day group tour, day two
Again we started in wet weather and a search of Thornham harbour didn't reveal the Twite I had seen a few days previously, though there were good prolonged views of a hunting ringtail Hen Harrier, plus 2 Spotted Redshank and Rock Pipit.

We then headed to Burnham Overy with slightly drier conditions, plenty of wildfowl Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler  and 1500 Brent Geese - again with few juv's amongst them. More good views of a range of shorebirds, including c500 Golden Plover, plus an adult Mediterranean Gull flew over then sat with a mix of Herring, Common and Black-headed Gulls.

We made another stop and from a roadside viewing point I located c10 Eurasian White-fronted Geese, there was several hundred Pink-footed Geese, plus Grey Lag, Canada and Egyptian Geese. The grating call of Grey Partridge alerted us a nice covey of ten of these birds in the stubble field behind us.

We finished the day off with a raptor roost - great close views tonight of a grey male Hen Harrier, plus 2 ringtail Hen Harrier, 5 Marsh harrier and Peregrine. As the light faded a Short-eared Owl eventually appeared, a nice finish to the day.

The group below enjoying their birding during the day and  our evening meal out together later!
Friday 6th November - Autumn 3 day group tour, day three

At last a dry start! Unusual in Norfolk to get 2 consecutive days of wet weather. We had already done very well for Hen harriers, but as we arrived at Cley we were treated to superb close ups at around 15m and prolonged views of a hunting ringtail Hen Harrier, that was working the reedbed alongsie the West bank, fantastic! Nearby a pair of Stonechat also posed very well. Up at the Eye field the nearby grassland was coated in superb mass of around c1500 Golden Plover, these were soon glittering in the skies as a marauding
went screaming past, without success though, despite a couple of high speed stoops!

There was also plenty more wildfowl Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler  and  several Pintail, including 2 fine drakes in full regalia! The sea wa quiet but we managed to see a close inshore Red-throated Diver, Gannets and a few Common Scoter flew past. Nearby the weedy banks held a lovely flock of c100 Goldfinch, plus c20 Skylark.
Several Marsh harrier ensured the flocks of wildfowl and waders were kept active, and we enjoyed the spectacle over lunch from the Visitor centre.

The rain had returned again! So we headed inland and enjoyed some woodland birding from hides, we added quite a few species, the highlight a flushed Woodcock, plus Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Siskin and Marsh Tit

A great late autumn/ealry winter tour without major rarities but great views of raptors and 109 species recorded

Sunday 8th November - Titchwell roost
A quick late afternoon visit to Titchwell. Three ringtail hen harrier , 13+ Marsh Harrier  and 40 Little Egrets roosted.

Tuesday 10th November - Old Hunstanton
Hen harrier
one juvenile hunting. Purple sandpiper one feeding on salt marsh.

Wednesday 11th of November Holme
100 linnets
and male and female Merlin were hunting in tandem, also a juvenile hen harrier.
Gadwall 110, Teal 800 on the Broadwater, Holme

Monday 16th November - exclusive days guiding
Day started with fantastic group of c3000 Pink footed Geese feeding near Burnham market, plus 80+ greenfinch and a Brambling.
Next stop was it Holkham where there was a great white egret flying over the Marsh and amongst the pink footed geese at least 11 white fronted geese were found. Raptors were obvious with 3 red kites 5 Marsh Harriers and 2 buzzards.

At Cley we had a Great Skua fly past, plus 3 Red-throated Diver, c10 Kittiwake & c50 Gannet.

We finished off the day very successfully with 5 Marsh Harrier, 4 Hen Harrier and quite nice views of the juvenile Pallid Harrier, present for the last few days.

Thursday 19th November - Warham Greens
A quick roost visit no sign of the juvenile Pallid Harrier tonight, but 5 marsh harrier, 4r/t & 1ad male Hen Harrier, plus Merlin and Peregrine

Saturday 21st November - exclusive days guiding
Today I was guiding an American birder exclusively. The day brought extreme strong NW windsd, up to 60 mph!
So for the morning we spent most of the time watching the sea. It was wildly entertaining!
Wigeon c500 west, Teal c170 west, Pintail, c50 west, Goldeneye c60 west, Red-b-merganser c20 west, Goosander 2 west, Red-throated Diver 2 east, Kittiwake c300 west, Great Skua c180 west, Pomarine Skua 7 west, Arctic Skua 3 west, Little Auk 5 west.

We also watched a Woodcock arrive in off the sea and found it later in amongst the pines.

We then located 20 White fronted geese at Holkham plus a lovely male Firecrest. We finished the day off with 4r/t, 2 male Hen harrier and a Merlin at Warham.

Monday 23rd November - Day One of three day tour
We started at Thornham with 17 Twite, Hen harrier, and a beautiful perched Merlin, 4 Barn owls, 4 Whooper Swans south, 2 Goosander south & an amazing flock of 90 Brambling flew overhead south late afternoon. Nice passage of Lapwing & Starling throughout the day & superb skeins of 2000+ Pink -feet at Holme with several thousand more in the distance, made for a great winter days birding. Plus a lovely Cetti's Warbler in the hand courtesy of Sophe at NOA.

Tuesday 24th November - Day Two of three day tour

Started at Holkham eventually located several White-fronted geese, though c8000 Pink -feet up off the fields inland of Barancaster was an awesome sight. A Red Kite was over Brancaster, plus 12 Marsh Harrier & 2 ringtail Hen Harrier roosted at Titchwell. A good passage south of several thousand Starlings, and many Blackbird plus quite a few Redwing and Fieldfare had clearly arrived as well.

A superb flock of c1500 Golden Plover took to the skies, flushed by a Marsh Harrier. Further scanning Iocated a Red Kite high plus on the saltmarsh Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover and Dunlin.

Wednesday 25th November - Day Three of three day tour
A fantastic start to the day with around c30,000 Knot swirling overhead at point blank range! This wonderful sight was accompanied by c7000 Pink-footed geese leaving their roost, an amazing spectacle of sound and vison!!

Also male and ringtail Hen harrier, Marsh harrier, Peregrine , Buzzard and the juvenile Pallid Harrier. Thrushes, Starling and Lapwing still much in evidence moving south.

Lovely views of 4 Barn owl hunting at dusk, plus a flushed Woodcock.

Friday 27th November - Day One of Two day tour
We started at Thornham with 20 Twite, showing very well, plus several Rock Pipit showed very well, then a lovely pair of Stonechat. Lapwing, Starling and Fieldfare were again noted moving overhead, with probably around 2000 Lapwing moving south throughout the day.

We then walked out to Thornham point on the Titchwell side of the channel, plenty of shorebirds, Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Dunlin, Turnstone. But the most exciting find with several others was 2 Bottled-nosed Dolphin feeding just offshore. We also had lovely close views of a single confiding Snow Bunting.

We finished the day with a wonderful roost of around c20,000 Pink-footed Geese, plus 6 White-fronted Geese.

Saturday 28th November - Day two of two day tour
Today was an early start for the high tide roost at Snettisham. It proved well worthwhile, with c35,000 Knot all roosting on the shingle bank, plus c4000 Oystercatcher. When the birds took to the air it was always, a sight to behold. We were given several other spectacles with c3000 Golden Plover also swirling overhead, before forming a lovely “golden” carpet out on the mudflats. Out on the open water c250 Shelduck, plus masses of Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit. Raptors were as usual well represented with 4 Marsh Harrier, male + ringtail Hen harrier, Peregrine and again early in the day the Pallid Harrier swept past us.
After a brilliant morning’s birding, the weather deteriorated!  Headed for the hides at Titchwell and were rewarded with lots of wildfowl, including c80 Pintail, hundreds of Teal and Wigeon. Plus Dunlin, Golden Plover, Snipe, Ruff and Spotted Redshank.
We rounded off with nice views of a close Water Pipit.