Big Finches Steal The Show On The Last Day Of Custom Norfolk Tour 27 October 2020

Hawfinch Roy de Hass

Certainly one of those want to see birds as you look thrugh a field guide - Hawfinch.

Katie, our lovely American guest, had been looking through the field guide and one of the birds she particularly liked the look of was the Hawfinch, easy to see why. These huge billed finches reminded her of Evening Grosbeaks back home in the USA and Katie told us an “invasion” of these northern finches was under way in North America. With just two records ever of Evening Grosbeak in the UK, both from Scotland and both seen by a tiny number of people, we wondered if a third record for the UK might be possible soon?

Having picked Katie up from her hotel we headed straight for Holkham Park, only a few minutes away, as there had been reports of Hawfinches there recently. We parked just before the gates to the park and scanned the trees for the big finches. Another birder arrived and he wandered into the park to check that area, he was soon back and with good news. A group of Hawfinches were in the trees just through the gates, we all hurried over there and sure enough there were the Hawfinches! Fantastic to see nine of these beautiful impressive finches feeding in a pretty bare tree allowing frame filling views in the Leica telescopes just a perfect start to the day. Luckily the Hawfinches were settled and allowed us prolonged views and several other birders joined us, huge thanks to the chap that found them and popped back to fetch us.

Pochard drake Welney

Drake Pochard are such great looking ducks - that eye! Libary photo.

We drove into the park and walked down to the lake where we had close up views of Pochard and Tufted Duck – great birds for an American birder- but no sign of the recent Ring-necked Duck which of course was the least important! It started to spit with rain, again, so headed off to the hall as Katie was keen to see the “big house” of the Holkham Estate and of course being a custom tour we can take in anything our guests would like to see. We did also enjoy great looks at Meadow Pipits and Mistle Thrush again great birds for an overseas visitor to enjoy. It then began to rain properly so once again back to the car.

Next stop was North Point, a wetland near Wells-Next-The-Sea, but the conditions were pretty grim with a stiff wind and heavy drizzle. We set up the scopes and did find a fine adult Mediterranean Gull amongst the other gulls, lots of wildfowl but the only wader was a lone Common Redshank. We were getting cold and wet so moved on.

Cley-next-the-Sea Windmill

Cley-Next-The-Sea the village where modern birding began and a beautiful place.

At Cley Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve it was raining pretty hard so the sensible thing was coffee and cake! These went down very well and luckily the rain had passed over so we headed out on to the reserve. From Bishop’s Hide we enjoyed close views of Black-tailed Godwits and Lapwing but not a lot else so moved on to walk down the famous East Bank to the beach. Bearded Tits called from the reeds but only fleeting flight views were had it was too windy for them to sit up. Lots of Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler were on the marsh east of the bank and two Marsh Harriers hunted the area giving some great close views. As neared the beach we saw a female Scaup on a small pool and had good scope views of this scarce bird along with point blank views of Little Egret and Curlew right next to the path. Out on the shingle beach Katie loved walking on the stones – a habitat she doesn’t have at home! Very few birds on or over the sea with the strong offshore wind and we were just about to head back when Ruth shouted “Snow Buntings!” Amazingly two Snow Buntings were flying low over the shingle towards us, just brilliant. Even more amazing these gorgeous little birds landed on the beach just beyond us allowing some good views before they were off again, wow!

Snow Buntings are always a joy to see - this one enjoyed on a previous visit to Cley.

As we walked back to the visitor centre the rain came down again, this has to be the wettest ever time in Norfolk we have experienced! We decided it was time for lunch, actually way past lunch time, so good job we had that coffee and cake to keep us going! Always the same when birding time just speeds by. The Reading Room Café at Kelling is always a lovely place to take our guests and we thought Katie would love it so we headed east. As we passed the duck pond at Salthouse village Alan spotted an “interesting gull but no sooner seen the gull flew off east, frustrating. We knew gulls often gathered on the fields east of the road to the beach at Salthouse so shot down there and luckily there was the interesting gull amongst a small flock of Herring, Common and Black-headed Gulls. A first-winter Caspian Gull! What a great bird to find and a real classic bird with pale head, heavily streaked hind neck and jet black bill looking great even in the heavy rain! Not quite a Hawfinch in Katie’s eyes but for us a super bird. Late lunch at The Reading Room Café tasted good and Katie did indeed love the choice of venue and we spent a good time browsing the amazing array of items for sale here. With the rain now very heavy and Katie having work commitments we called it a day and took Katie back to her hotel after a very enjoyable day with lots of laughs. And those Hawfinches.

Come and join us for a “Tour for Two” – very small group just two guests with two guides, tailor made itinerary, low risk in these COVID-19 times and of course lots of birds and an excellent chance of enjoying them all. Do drop us a line and we can make all the arrangements be it a day trip, two days, three day or as long a tour as you wish. Our recent Tours for Two have visited the Highlands of Scotland, North Wales, Norfolk and the Yorkshire coast and we are planning many more! Let us know where you would like to go and we can put together a proposal perfect for you.

We are so lucky to have so many species and habitats within easy reach here in North Wales we would love you to join us for one of our Best of North Wales Birdwatching Trips days out. We expect to enjoy a lot of birds during these relaxed pace tours and we can tailor make the day to suit you.

We would love you to join us on our Birdwatching Trips in the future just drop us a line to arrange a custom tour and please see our tours pages for set departure trips. If you have any questions at all please fire away here….

We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds in beautiful places with you soon!

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