Five Bird Filled Days In Norfolk On Our Latest Birdwatching Trips Tour

Titchwell RSPB Reserve at dawn

Norfolk has always been a real favourite destination for us, lots of birds, big skies, lovely accommodation and great food. This time we ran a five day tour, based at the lovely Briarfields Hotel, which is right next to RSPB Titchwell Nature Reserve. We all met at the hotel, Jayne, Sue and Ray traveling over with us, Lyn, John and Mike made their own way to Norfolk. We are always very happy to pick folks up, at pre-arranged points for our tours, just drop us a line for details.

Spotted Redshank Sept Titchwell 1

Spotted Redshank photographed at RSPB Titchwell on a previous tour.

Of course first port of call was RSPB Titchwell where we enjoyed a lot of birds! Taking the path on the south side of the reserve we watched a late Whinchat feeding with two Stonechats in the reed bed, a great bird to start with. At the south-east corner of the fresh-marsh we had wonderful views of a Water Pipit feeding out in the open on a muddy area, some of the best views we have ever had of this often elusive species. A Spotted Redshank showed too along with plenty of Avocets and Ruff. Marsh Harriers quartered the reeds and we actually saw a Cetti’s Warbler so often a “heard only” species. An adult Yellow-legged Gull was amongst a small group of Lesser black backed Gulls and Herring Gulls making for nice comparison between the three species. We enjoyed a great dinner, and lots of laughs back at the hotel.

Black Redstart Gt Orme Oct 2016 1

We enjoyed super views of a Black Redstart, this one taken on a previous tour.

Next morning we were all back at Titchwell for some pre-breakfast birding and were on the trails at first light, so early in fact a Tawny Owl was one of the first birds we saw! This was soon followed by brief views of a Yellow-browed Warbler all the way from Siberia. We tucked into a great breakfast back at the hotel, always tastes so much better after some good birds. We then drove east a short distance to Brancaster Staithe where we immediately found the hoped for Black Redstart on the rooftops at the harbour. This lovely Robin sized bird really showed off and posed for photos in the lovely Autumn sunshine.

Yellow browed Warbler Norfolk Oct 2017 1

To see a tiny Yellow-browed Warbler all the way from Siberia - amazing!

At Holkham we walked west along the path on the south side of pines and tracked down a stunning Yellow-browed Warbler which showed off at eye-level in the sunshine, a real wow moment. Lots of Pink-footed Geese here and it was lovely to hear their “wink-wink” calls as they came in to land on the marsh. A pair of Grey Partridges also allowed us super views from near the visitor centre. A Velvet Scoter was picked out on the sea amongst a flock of Common Scoter. The warm sunshine encouraged raptors up to soar and we had lovely views of Red Kites, Common Buzzards, Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk.

We then visited a new scrape east of Wells-Next-The-Sea, plenty of birds here including Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits, Wigeon and somehow Ruth picked out a tiny Jack Snipe at the water’s edge, it took a while for everyone to see it, so well camouflaged was this miniature snipe. Then more excitement as a beautiful male Hen Harrier came into view! Always a real thrill to see this amazing bird of prey, sad to say so persecuted that we have way fewer than we should in the UK these days.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a viewpoint overlooking Holkham fresh-marsh and we enjoyed lots more birds. A gang of Cattle Egrets were feeding amongst a herd of cows, hard to see just how many as they kept hiding behind the cattle, but eight had been seen earlier. A Great White Egret was also feeding on the marsh here.

Early next morning we visited Thornham Harbour, just west of Titchwell and walked along the seawall. Lots of waders and wildfowl here on the incoming tide, the birds were being pushed closer and closer. We were very lucky to see a Richard’s Pipit fly west over us, another migrant from Siberia, luckily this bird has a loud distinctive call which alerted us to it flying over. We also watched a Merlin come in off the sea, skipping over the waves easily despite its long flight from Scandinavia.

After another great breakfast we headed east again this time to Kelling where we walked down a lovely lane to the beach. Migrants here included a great look at a Brambling and a lovely Whinchat that posed for us in a rough field. At the beach we had amazing views of Red-throated Divers just offshore, so close good photographs were taken of these lovely birds. A real surprise was the appearance of a juvenile Arctic Tern diving for fish just off the beach. We enjoyed a lovely lunch at Kelling tearoom and admired an armoured car parked next to our minibus, normal for Norfolk!

We then headed over to Cley Norfolk Wildlife Trust Reserve where a Shore Lark had been seen. As we arrived at the beach car park the sky turned black and we moved under the shelter of the building here, just in time as the heavens opened and it threw it down. Birders joined us to escape the down pour and told us that the Shore Lark had flown west and five Snow Buntings had also been seen along the beach to the west but they had failed to find any of them. Luckily the rain soon pasted over and we thought it was worth a walk west towards Blakeney Point and we set off more in hope than anticipation. Luck was with us and we first found the Shore Lark, a beautiful bird with yellow and black face markings. As we soaked up the views of this scarce bird we saw the Snow Buntings in flight further along the beach and luckily they flew right over us! As we walked back to the car park we watched the five Snow Buntings on the shingle such lovely birds.

Next morning we were back at RSPB Titchwell for our pre-breakfast birding where we enjoyed over sixty species! Not many places you can see that many birds in less than two hours! Breakfast went down very well indeed. Then we drove a few miles west to Holme Bird Observatory where we were privileged to see some bird ringing, huge thanks to all at the obs for making us so welcome. A sea-watch was really good, we enjoyed more great views of Red-throated Divers, a Slavonian Grebe showed briefly, four Scaup flew in and landed on the water, an Arctic Skua flew into The Wash and flocks of Pink-footed Geese came in off the sea, magical.

We then moved inland and enjoyed lovely views of Yellowhammers and very luckily found two Corn Buntings – hard to find these farmland birds in North Norfolk these days, once much more common. Then down to Brancaster but no sign of the Black Redstart sadly but very close views of Black-tailed Godwits and ice-cream! One hundred species of birds enjoyed on this one day alone.

On the last day of the trip we were up and out early in the hope of seeing a Barn Owl, a species still missing from our impressive list. We didn’t have to wait long a Barn Owl was hunting the garden of the hotel just fantastic! At nearby Thornham Harbour almost the first bird we saw was a Barn Owl which allowed great views in good light. Back at the hotel we tucked into another lovely breakfast after a chilly start to our day.

We then set off to Welney Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Reserve on the Ouse Washes. Even before we reached the entrance door we added two new species for the trip! Tree Sparrows were on the visitor centre roof and a flock of nine Whooper Swans flew in. We then went over to the main hide overlooking the Ouse Washes, marshlands used as a flood defence area; the marsh was teaming with birds! Hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits were roosting in front of the hide along with Ruff and Golden Plover. Whooper Swans were feeding further out and other white birds included a Great Egret and two Cattle Egrets. Hundreds of Wigeon and Teal fed in the shallow waters along with smaller numbers of Shoveler, Pintail and Gadwall, Mike picked out a fine drake Mandarin. But all this was topped by the sight of three wonderful Common Cranes flying in and landing on the marsh, two adults and a juvenile what a wonderful finish to an amazing five days full of birds!

Huge thanks to Lyn, Sue, Jayne, Ray, John and Mike for making this Norfolk tour so much fun, we look forward to more great birds with you in the future. We enjoyed an impressive 134 species of birds in just five days at a relaxed pace, staying in a lovely hotel and enjoyed great food.

We would love you to join us on our Birdwatching Trips, please see our tours pages and 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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