September 2018 Tour reports
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ANDALUCIA AMAZING MIGRANTS TOUR 3rd - 10th September
- read about an incredible tour with 160 species and 10,000 Honey Buzzards - click here for trip report.
20th September 2018 - NORFOLK
We started the day by stopping off for 2 Corn Bunting sat up on the wires near Choseley. This proved fortuitous, because adjacent to us a corner weedy plot also held a few migrants, with 2 Whinchat popping up and down on the vegetation, plus a Whitethroat flew in and landed in view on the hedgerow. There were a few Linnets and a couple of Yellowhammer also in the hedge. Our attention was suddenly drawn by the distinctive calls of Pink-footed Geese and it was a pleasure to watch around 600 stretched across the horizon, my first big flocks of the autumn. The Corn Buntings were joined by a small group of Meadow Pipits, plus a couple of Pied wagtails. Plus a Common Buzzard sat proudly atop the hedgerow, waiting for the drizzle to stop!
We headed off further down the lane and were soon stopping again as Marsh Harrier swept across the road and hunted the nearby field. We found a pull off and got and scoped the Marsh Harrier, a young female, she gave us lovely views including perching on the ground. A Kestrel flew past and another Common Buzzard, was sat on top of a bush, this one a juvenile sat drying its wings. I also noticed a couple more small birds perched on the same hedge, and on closer inspection these proved to be 2 male Whinchats, nice orange flushed breasts, unlike the earlier birds.
We then headed off to Holme, we hadn’t walked far before we were watching a group of 5 Little Egrets, plus Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew and Redshank.
I suddenly caught a glipse of a distant Barn Owl hunting, fortunately it chose to perch up and then it flew over to the saltmarsh and eventually settled much closer giving the group much better views. We were all just enjoying this, when I looked up and noticed a Short-eared Owl as well!
Out on the shore there was several hundred Red Knot, good numbers of Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, plus a few Grey Plover and Turnstone.
On the sea there was 10+ Great Crested Grebe, a juvenile Gannet, some distant Common Scoter. Suddenly the shoreline birds erupted as a Great Skua went purposefully along the shoreline. They settled, but just a few minutes later they rocketed skywards again, this time a nice freshly plumaged juvenile Arctic Skua was the culprit.
Also keeping us entertained was a light passage of mainly Barn Swallows, but 1-2 Sand Martins amongst them.
It had been a great morning’s birding. We lunched at Titchwell and then set out for the main scrape. From the first hide we had a really nice afternoon’s birding. Thanks to ?Titchwell <https://twitter.com/RSPBintheEast> for allowing us shelter whilst eating our packed lunches! Out on the scrape there was lots and lots of Common Teal, plus Bar & Black-tailed Godwits, 14 Dunlin, 40 Red Knot 3 Greenshank, 7 Ruff, Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper.
Scouring the edge of the reedbed proved fruitful too with initially great views Water Rail, followed a few minutes later by equally good scope views of Bearded Tit. Raptors were up and active, with Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and an all too brief Hobby
The day was neatly rounded off with a surprise redhead Goosander in the corner of the lagoon, an unlikely bird and date. We did have more nice bird, on the drive back a Red Kite was quartering the fields.
A really nice day of birds without anything really rare!
26th September - Scottish Ornithology Club 5 day tour
We collected the eleven members of the Scottish Ornithology Club on Tuesday afternoon and the y all got nicely settled into their accommodation in Hunstanton.
Myself and Gary Elton collected the group and we headed to Holme. It was fine bright, breezy morning. We first visited the saltmarsh on the edge of Old Hunstanton. On arrival as we walked out over the golf course, there was a steady passage of Meadow Pipits, with a few Chaffinch, Swallows and 3 House Martins moving south.
Out towards the sea the high tide was receding but a fine selection of shorebirds were still evident along the shoreline. Several hundred Oystercatcher were packed tightly together. There were nice groups of Curlew, Redshank and Bar-tailed Godwit, plus smaller numbers of Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Grey Plover.
From our vantage point, in a unfavourable South-westerly breeze scanning
managed to result in Gannet, Sandwich Tern a few Common Scoter, 6+Great Crested Grebe and two early returning Dark-bellied Brent Geese. Out over the saltmarsh small parties of Meadow Pipits and Starlings battled low into the wind and a nice flock of 70 Linnets flew up.
We next headed up towards Gore Point, en-route we stopped for nice views of Kestrel, plus a distant Marsh Harrier, 2 Buzzard and 2-3 skeins of Pink-footed Geese. Also a nice flock of 9 Ruff, also complimented by a flock of 30 Ruff over the grazing marsh.
At Gore Point, there were lots more shorebirds, a nice small cloud of Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit wheeled up and we had a few nice breeding plumage birds in the flocks, also nice views of Ringed Plover and several “black & white” Grey Plover.
We stopped off at Thornham but the tide had dropped and it was a little quiet here, so we headed for Titchwell along the lanes. We stopped off for a field full of gulls, mainly Black-headed Gulls, but Gary pulled out a first winter Mediterannean Gull and there was also 3 Stock Dove.
We lunched at Titchwell a hiff-chaff was calling above us, then headed out for the main scrape. First bird of note was a close Water Rail, followed a few minutes later by a Bearded Tit that some managed to catch in flight. I then picked up a Bittern in flight, it was distant and tricky, ten wingbeats and it was back down in the reedbed, 1-2 of the group quick on the draw managed to see it! From the first hide, we had outstanding views of Ruff, many very close. Also from here two more Water Rail, frustratin on/off views of Bearded Tit along the reed edge. There was plenty more waders, including a few Black-tailed Godwit and around c600 Golden Plover. Lots of wildfowl, Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon and a few Pintail.
Out on the beach there was excellent views of Bar and Black-tailed Godwit, feeding side by side, rather an unusual sight on the shoreline. We also noted a “flagged” Bar-tailed Godwit “MM”, it was last seen on 01/09/2016 at Titchwell, and was rung at Snettisham 05/08/2015. If you are interested here’s lots more details about Bar-tailed Godwits
As we headed back to the main scrape, a Spotted Redshank flew over calling, once at the scrape, we soon located 2 Spotted Redshank, and adult and a juvenile. Plus a putative Yellow-legged Gull from earlier gave much better views and was satisfactorily confirmed! Plus we had much better views of Marsh harrier.
Round at Patsy’s pool, we soon located 7 Red-crested Pochard, plus Gadwall, Common Pochard and Little Grebe.
No rares today but lots of nice birds in the sunshine and 84 species recorded.
27th September - Scottish Ornithology Club 5 day tour
We started today at Heacham, where after a bit of searching we soon located one, then two Black Redstarts. One of them was a nice adult male and was singing & gave lovely views.
Leaving here, we headed south into the Brecks. The next stop was for Stone Curlew & we were pleased to find at least 12 Stone Curlew feeding close to where we had stopped, great scope filling views! Also several Egyptian Geese here too.
We then headed to a watchpoint and in the beautiful sunny conditions were soon rewarded with fantastic views of Goshawks. First a juvenile, then an adult male, followed by another adult male Goshawk. At least 10 Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. In the adjacent field a flock of Linnets were feeding, plus Skylark and Greenfinches. We next birder around Lynford, seeing a nice selection of woodland birds including Marsh Tit, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, we heard Green Woodpecker too and watched a nice group of Siskin.
We lunched at Lakenheath and were very soon enjoying point blank views of two Hobby’s though we were entertained all afternoon by these wonderful aerial acrobats! Hockwold wash was low but held lots of Teal, c170 Lapwing and 2 Ringed Plover. Out on the reserve, constant admiration of Hobby’s at least five. Plus Kingfisher, we heard a Cettis. Further up the fen a Red Kite appeared overhead and we had several Marsh Harriers. The birding has gone like clockwork today and incredibly it continued, when we reached Joist fen viewpoint. Within two minutes we watched as a Bittern appeared from the reedbed and flew straight towards us, getting within 200m of us before dropping down. It had been great days birding!
28th September - Scottish Ornithology Club 5 day tour
An earlier start today with a high tide visit to Snettisham. We arrived an hour before the peak of the tide and already tens of thousands of Knot were on the pits, also 1000+ Oystercatchers. We watched a continuing spectacle of Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew and Oystercatcher slowly move from the salt marsh to the safety of the pits. From the hides we were able to watch the amazing homogeneous mass, like flowing lava of birds moving around. Amongst the masses were also large parties of Redshank, Dunlin, Turnstone and Black-tailed Godwit. Overhead small skeins of Pink-footed Geese headed inland.
There was a real busy flow of birds and it was hard to know where to look at times. We watched from two hides, different perspectives and species. Back out from the hides a little later Knot, Oystercatcher and Bar-tailed Godwits in their masses flew past and overhead, it’s a sensory overload! Marsh Harriers were hunting in the backdrop and flushing more distant birds, the sky filled with Mexican waves and layers of birds above. We also noted 30+ Pintail, 7 Greenshank, Grey Plover and masses of Wigeon.
Eventually the tide dropped and the birds dispersed, a transition to normality again. We headed off for late morning coffee. We then had to a vantage point overlooking Holkham. Marsh Harriers, Buzzards and Pink-feet but no
We lunched at Stiffkey, a nice low Red Kite drifted by and numerous Curlew were out on the marsh. Next we headed to Stiffkey Fen, as we walked along the river a nice flock of Long-tailed Tits appeared, with a male Blackcap amongst them. Out on the fen, there was a cracking group of 23 Spoonbill. The fen was filled with wildfowl, lots of Teal, Wigeon and some Pintail. A good selection of waders Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Snipe and a Green Sandpiper. Nearby on the salt marsh a closer Grey Plover gave nice scope views. Another Red Kite and 2 Marsh Harriers also drifted by. On the walk back we got some views of several Bullfinch, good views for a few! Also subbing on the bramble were Commas and a Small Copper.
Another excellent day! We finhsed the day off with a nice group evening meal.
29th September - Scottish Ornithology Club 5 day tour
We started the day with a seawatch off Cley,as we arrived there was clearly more Meadow Pipits on the move as we watched a group of 25 Meadow Pipit, near the Eye Field. Despite winds still prevailing WSW, we managed a nice list of seabirds, with the added bonus of Harbour Porpoises.
Gannets and Teal were passing regularly in small groups, also one group of Pintail. A Common Scoter was sat just offshore and a few other small groups passed offshore, we also located a Red-throated Diver sat on the sea, still sporting it’s summer plumaged red throat, and at least 20 Red-throated Divers flew east. Gary located a Guillemot offshore, but was seen better by everyone once it took flight. Two Brent Geese flew west, and there was a steady passage of Black-headed Gulls also clearly arriving across the North Sea, also 4-5 Sandwich Tern also flew offshore. The best birds were 2 drake Scaup, but a real highlight proved to be an unprecedented 5 Harbour Porpoise eventually showing very well offshore.
We then headed to the east bank, where there was a good selection of Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal, plus 1-2 Pintail. There was also a nice flock of c150 Black-tailed Godwit, plus numerous Redshanks. Marsh harriers continued to show regularly, though Bearded Tits proved more difficult, giving brief perched and flight views!
We lunched up at the centre and everyone took some time to admire the wonderful “Bird Photographer of the Year” exhibition, an amazing array of superb images to suit all tastes!
We headed up to Kelling Heath, where it was very quiet, save a few Linnets, 1-2 Buzzards. So we headed along the coastline, finishing the day with incredible views of a Peregrine, dismembering a Snipe!
30th September - Scottish Ornithology Club 5 day tour
We made the decision to head over to Welney today, hoping to catch up with a few birds that had eluded us, and the Paillid harrier that had been present for 10 days. On arrival we were greeted by flocks of Tree Sparrows, a great sight and we enjoyed close up views on the feeders of this much declined farmland species. There was no sign of the Cranes yet, so we headed out to look over the reserve. From the very comfortable main hide, we had a real nice selection of birds, Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal, plus a Pintail, c20 Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe and several Marsh Harriers were parading up and down. A “Ringed Teal” escape was also amongst the wildfowl and the subject of interest, a smart looking duck!
We bumped into a birder I know and he was pleased to tell us that a flock of Cranes were back in front of the reception area. From the raised platform we were able to admire a flock of 34 Cranes, a truly wonderful sight and very much enjoyed by our Scottish group.
There was also now, a recently arrived group of 25 Whooper Swans, another species that was great to see!
After lunch we revisited the hides, hoping for the Pallid Harrier, but it seemed that it had disappeared, having not been seen at all today.
Still we were having a great day and we added Golden Plover, plus a flyover Yellow Wagtail, before heading off.
We finished off the day off at Flitcham, where we located one more new trip species, Grey Partridge, though the views were distant, and the Scottish group offered up a lot more cheer for 2 Jays that gave excellent scope views!
The tour ended with a great total of 123 species and will be most remembered for some cracking wader flocks and good views of Norfolk’s iconic species.