November 2016 Tour reports
Friday 4th November Day One of three day Norfolk tour
The first day of this three day tour started with an amazing movement of Thrushes! We arrived at Snettisham around 9am and the hedgerows were just full of Fieldfare, with around 3000 along the southern hedges, there was also around c500 Redwing and good numbers of Blackbirds. Big flocks occasionally rose up and flew SW, amongst all of this we had 2 Waxwings perched amongst the masses and then later a flock of c60 Waxwing flew overhead also migrating SW. It was a fantastic spectacle, and a wonderful visible migration.
Out on the Wash, there was an excellent mixture of several thousand Knot, 3000+ Bar-tailed Godwit, plus plenty of Grey Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, c250 Shelduck and 40+ Pintail. The pits themselves were full of Wigeon, plenty of Teal amongst them.
We soon located the long staying pair of Black-necked Grebe and had excellent views of these from the southern hide, with good numbers of Little Grebe for comparison. Whilst scanning from the south hide, we also located a nice pair of Goldeneye and much more unusual, but very welcome were 2 smart drake Goosander.
Over the saltmarsh 3 Marsh Harriers were hunting and as they drifted close, a real spectacle was caused as all duck took flight. There was a nice pair of Stonechat, plus Reed Bunting, Skylark and Rock Pipit were all seen as well.
We next headed to Holme, on arrival a local birder told us there was quite a nice Waxwing flock along the Beach road, so we parked up. As soon as we were out the minibus they were evident, first a small group, then noticed many more. Over the next hour we watched a fairly mobile flock of around 100 Waxwings, these stunning birds have been in short supply for the last couple of years so this was wonderful. Interestingly, in the SW wind and warmer conditions they spent a lot of the flycatching.
We lunched and then headed out into the dunes, where we searched but couldn't locate the Shorelarks, but a nice second prize with a lovely group of 6 Snow Bunting.
We finished off the day at Gore point, where we saw several Common Scoter, a wonderful sunset, several Marsh Harrier and a hunting Barn Owl.
5th November Day Two of three day Norfolk tour.
It promised to be a wet, cold blustery day, but we were determined to make the most of the drier spells. We had only driven a few miles when I stopped for another roadside bunch of Waxwings, great start! We then reached Holkham, there was a good selection of Wigeon, Teal and Pink-footed Geese from the car park area. We walked out on to the saltmarsh and after a bit of searching we located the recently arrived Shorelarks. We moved close and eventually had great scope views of the largest group I have ever seen, the largest flock in the last 20 years. There was a minimum of 68 Shorelark! They are such enigmatic birds and to see a flock like this was superb. The North wind was now really starting to gust, we had a quick look on the sea, though viewing was tricky! Lots of Gannets, Guillemot and Razorbills moving plus Common Scoter flock offshore. We decided to head to Burnham Overy, we lunched and then headed out along the seawall to the dunes.
There was a really nice close flock of several hundred Pink-footed & Brent Geese, also amongst these 2 Barnacle Geese. Several Snipe flew overhead, and we eventually reached the dunes. We headed down towards Gun hill, the Isabelline Wheatear was still present, though it frustratingly flew just as we arrived. It was eventually relocated along he shoreline before returning back into the dunes, where finally we got good scope views! The rain had started and the skies were black! We got a bit damp on the return leg, but everyone was really chuffed to have seen the Isabelline Wheatear, so spirits weren't too dampened. We finished the day at Titchwell with c20 Marsh Harriers coming into roost, calling Water Rail & Cetti's warbler.
We rounded the day off with a lovely group evening meal in the King William at Sedgeford.
6th November Day Three of three day Norfolk tour.
The weather started much better than had been forecast, with a brisk NE wind, but sunshine. We headed to the Thornham saltmarsh area. On the tidal area there was a very nice selection of close up waders & wildfowl. Bar & Black-tailed Godwit were just a few metres away, alongside Curlew, Wigeon Teal, Redshank and Turnstone. We were just scoping through the Brent Geese, when a lovely electric blue blur flashed past us, a Kingfisher, caught in the sunlight. Reed Bunting and Rock Pipits were around the harbour and eventually a flock of finches flew up, around a hundred. Most of them were Linnets, but then a small group splintered off and 5 Twite landed on the path in front of us. We got nice scope views, but as we moved further along the path, they joined others and we had a lovely flock of around 22 Twite. We admired them for a while as they hung feeding from the seed heads in the saltmarsh. A walk further along, and we had them drinking briefly, plus quite a few Skylark, the large Linnet flock and a lovely pair of Stonechat. Scoping further afield produced Black-headed, Common, Herring and Great black-backed Gull and a nice mix of shorebirds, Knot, Dunlin, Sanderling and more Bar-tailed Godwit.
We then drove around to the Holme area, yet another Waxwing (perhaps I shouldn’t use those words!) was seen with a mixed flock of Redwing & Fieldfare. The Broadwater was full of Gadwall, at least 60! The weather was starting to cloud over, so we took our chance of an hour looking at the sea! A really smart 1st winter Arctic Tern was flying up and down the surf, a real nice surprise. Plenty of Gannets moved past, plus 2 Great Skua and a Red-throated Diver, a small group of Pink-footed Geese arrived in off the sea! The weather had now started to deteriorate and the wind from the North was keeping the temperatures very low! We headed for Titchwell and warmed up in the café, then headed out on to the reserve. There was a real mass of Teal & Wigeon, the highlights were mixed parties of Black & Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Avocet, 10 Ruff, a Pochard (the only one of the tour!), several Snipe and close up views of a Water Rail.
The final bird of the day was a very showy Jay as we entered the car parking area. A great tour, the Waxwings, Isabelline Wheatear will remain in most of the groups mind!
Monday 7th November - Seawatching Sheringham
Should have been in the office this morning but couldn't resist the last chance for seawatching!! It was worth working late, later in the day!
Tuesday 8th November - Holme & Titchwell area
Exclusive guiding with a wonderful bird filled day! We started with an hours visible migration at Hunstanton, where we had a lovely flow of migrant birds moving south. Several thousand Starling, plus flocks of 40, 40 & 3 Waxwings! Also moving overhead were Redwing, Fieldfare, Chaffinch, a few Brambling, Snipe, Skylark & Lapwing. Also raptors,
2 Marsh harrier, Red Kite & out over the sea Eider & 5 Goosander were very notable, all heading south. We then headed off to Choseley, where this morning c40 Waxwing had landed in the hedgerow, we were treated to great views as they fed on the berries, with one bird dropping on to the floor to drink from a puddle just metres from us!! We admired these stunning birds for an hour, they then moved off, flying high to the south. We then headed off to Holme, but we had barely parked the minibus before we were again stopping for more Waxwings!! Another flock of 40-50 Waxwings, also accompanied by a pile of Fieldfare & Redwing. We then headed up to Gore Pt, where we had a nice movement of wildfowl and shorebirds. Highlights were another 3 Goosander, 15+ Eider, small groups of Wigeon Teal, Common Scoter, a Pintail, 2 Goldeneye & Mallard. We took a walk along the dunes, and had nice views of Dunlin, Sanderling, Grey Plover, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit - the highlight was a cruising female Merlin!
We then headed for a late lunch up at the Firs, more Fieldfare, Blackbird & Redwing were evident. We had lunch and chatted with Roger Skeen, who told us he had caught a Norwegian, Stavanger ringed Blackbird, not so surprising! As we lunched we watched around c100 Gadwall out on the Broadwater, and a Peregrine cruised over the top of us, keeping us and the wildfowl on alert. As we set off down the entrance track we stopped yet again for, yes, 4 more Waxwings!
We finished the day with great views of yet more hundreds of Thrushes, a roost of several thousand Starling and great close ups of 2 Jack Snipe.
November 20th - December 5th North India Tour - read the full trip report here
December 28th Exclusive days Guiding
I met up with Annie and her family at Hunstanton & we took in the Fulmars on the cliffs, there was also a good flocks of c250 Dark-bellied Brent Geese along the shoreline.
We then walked out on to the saltings at Holme, Redshank, Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Turnstone were close in on the high tide. The sea was a little quieter than of late, but 1-2 Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter & 3 Red-breasted Merganser passed by close inshore, with a few Great Crested Grebe on the sea. A flock of 80 Linnet on the saltings but no sign of any Snow Bunts.
A nice surprise was c25 Fieldfare in the horse paddocks, the first decent flock of the winter! Also 4 Song Thrush, 6 Mistle thrush & 40 Curlew
Rain then set in & we headed to the village hides, the Kingfisher was faithfully perched & added a great splash of colour to a now rather damp & grey morning!
We lunched in a harbour area, lots of shorebirds here with Bar & Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Curlew & a close Red-breasted Merganser & smart drake Goldeneye.
We moved on to Holkham & in a quick visit were able to watch around c5000 Pink-footed Geese, c100 Eurasian White-fronted Geese, along with Greylags & c20 Egyptian Geese.
We finished the day at a raptor roost with 5-6 Hen Harrier, including 2 grey male, plus Peregrine, Merlin & Marsh Harrier.