Norfolk Mid Summer Birdwatching Trip Delivers Great Birds

Titchwell RSPB Reserve at dawn

RSPB Titchwell a magical location for our pre-breakfast birding.

We have just returned from a five day Birdwatching Trip to Norfolk on the east coast of the UK an area we often visit but rarely in mid-summer. Very glad to report the visit was a great success with over 130 species of birds enjoyed mostly in lovely sunshine and some really wonderful encounters with special birds we don’t often see.

Our birding began at RSPB Lakenheath, which is actually just into Suffolk, here had super views of Bittern and Hobby on a lovely sunny afternoon. Nearby we crossed the border into Norfolk to enjoy marvellous views of two Stone Curlew. We timed our visit perfectly, the birds had been just about hidden in the grass but as we arrived they got up and really showed off. At the same site we watched a pair of Spotted Flycatchers, sadly hard to find these days, a family of Marsh Tits and stunning male Yellowhammer. Then up to the North Norfolk coast to settle into our lovely hotel and enjoy a great dinner.

Day two and we were up early to enjoy wonderful birding at nearby RSPB Titchwell where we enjoyed 80 species in just two hours! What a wonderful way to start any day. Amongst the many highlights were a flock of immature Little Gulls and two lovely breeding plumaged Spotted Redshank, thanks to Roger Skeen for locating the later. Bearded Tits posed on the reeds, both Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits fed side by side, Avocets swished through the shallows and gorgeous Mediterranean Gulls showed off. At the beach Common Scoter and Eider were good birds for June and we watched tiny Little Terns fishing in the shallows. Back for a very welcome breakfast.

Later in the day we visited Cley NWT reserve where we watched a wonderful breeding plumaged male Ruff in full display! Not often we have the chance to see this amazing sight here in the UK. Also nice to compare Little-ringed and Common Ringed Plover literally side by side. We visited a lovely heathland, where one of the local birders gave our small group a guided walk around the site, wonderful to learn so much about this fragile habitat. It was very warm in the afternoon sun so bird activity was rather slow though a singing Dartford Warbler was good even if very elusive.

Garganey 5

Wonderful to find a pair of Garganey at RSPB Titchwell.

Day three and again we started with pre-breakfast birding at RSPB Titchwell and again enjoyed a huge number of species in just a couple of hours, what a brilliant reserve this is. We found a pair of Garganey amongst a small flock of Teal on the freshmarsh where the Little Gulls and Spotted Redshanks were still showing. Blackbirds were making a right racket near the visitor centre and we carefully checked the trees here, we were rewarded with super views of a juvenile Tawny Owl in full daylight! Through the Leica telescopes we could see every detail of this still rather fluffy young bird, just wonderful. Back at the hotel, tucking into wonderful food, Helen spotted a Yellow Wagtail on the lawn just outside the window! Nice bonus bird, we also watched a hunting Barn Owl, numerous Marsh Harriers and several Mediterranean Gulls from the breakfast table.

Heading inland we enjoyed colourful Yellowhammers and Red-legged Partridges before visiting Holme NWT reserve. Here we enjoyed an amazing encounter with a Cuckoo. Brian spotted the bird in a hawthorn bush close to one of the hides and amazingly it just sat there for ages and ages. We soaked up the views through the amazing Leica telescopes, the bird yawned showing the blood red gape inside – a view you don’t often see.

At nearby Hunstanton we watched Fulmars glide past at eye-level along the cliff tops, super birds, and Brian got some wonderful photos. On the way towards the hotel we called in at Thornham Harbour where we watched Redshank chicks feeding in the creeks – what wonderful balls of fluff they were. In the evening we headed out again, after dinner, to enjoy a superb time watching and listening to Nightjars. Luckily it was a still evening and the Nightjars were very active indeed. Birds began calling while it was still reasonable light and began to fly around allowing us good views. Our Leica Noctivid binoculars certainly came into their own here, the amazing light gathering allowing great views in the gathering dusk. Tawny and Barn Owl, roding Woodcocks and a reeling Grasshopper Warbler added to a brilliant evening!

Short eared Owl Dee Jan 1

A real surprise - a Short-eared Owl at Thornham Harbour.

After our evening birding we had a later start on day four and visited Thornham Harbour for a quick look before breakfast. We were very lucky to enjoy a Short-eared Owl hunting over the saltmarsh, not a bird we expected to see here in June!

After a wonderful breakfast, complete with hunting Barn Owl over the garden we headed east. At Holkham Freshmarsh we did very well for white birds with Little Egrets, Spoonbills and two Great white Egrets! More like the Mediterranean than Norfolk. Another breeding plumaged Ruff and lots of Avocets chicks were great to see too.

Back to the heathland and this time we scored very well indeed. A pair of Turtle Doves, were a real surprise and wonderful to see these sadly fast declining birds. Two juvenile Wood Larks really showed off feeding on an area of cleared gorse, don’t think we have ever had such good views before. A male Wood Lark sang overhead, a beautiful sound in the warm sunshine against the blue sky. A Dartford Warbler showed briefly and we enjoyed seeing silver-studded blue butterflies.

In the evening we all met up with our friends Neil and Julie, in Moreston for a lovely meal, great end to a super day.

On day five we woke up to a gale force wind! Not ideal for birding but at least it was dry and warm. We went as far as the first hide at RSPB Titchwell and sheltered there watching Little Gulls, breeding plumaged Ruff, both Little-ringed and Common Ringed Plovers, both Bar and Black-tailed Godwits. With hide tide approaching we had a quick look at Thornham Harbour and that proved a very good move indeed. Waders were pushed up by the rising tide and we added Golden Plover to our already impressive list of waders for the trip. Breeding plumaged Grey Plover and Knot were lovely to watch too as were a gang of Sanderling and Dunlin also in breeding dress. Two summering Brent Geese were nice to see too. Then back for another delicious breakfast, again with Barn Owl, Marsh Harrier and Mediterranean Gull on the side!

Sadly it was time to set off towards home but our birding was not over yet. As we neared Welney WWT reserve on the Ouse Washes we spotted a singing Corn Bunting on roadside wires. We had super views of this chunky farmland bird as he sand away. On the reserve we were soon enjoying Tree Sparrows around the visitor centre and then headed out to the main hide. Avocets had young here and it was super to watch these tiny chicks, already complete with up-turned bills. Wigeon and a drumming Snipe were new for our list as were the summering Whooper Swans here, crazy to see them in June! We enjoyed a lovely lunch before heading back home, a super trip and huge thanks to Ray, Helen and Brian for their company. We all agreed that June really can provide wonderful birding.

Come and join our small group tours, maximum six guests with at least two guides, for the very best experience. We always take plenty of time to really enjoy the birds and only stay in very comfortable places with great food so we know you will love our tours.

Our next Norfolk tour is in October, peak migration time, if you would like details please email us here…

We look forward to enjoying great birds with you soon!

Some of the highlight we enjoyed on this tour included...

Whooper Swan, Egyptian Goose, Garganey, Red-crested Pochard, Common Scoter, Eider, Fulmar, Gannet, Spoonbill, Bittern, Great white Egret, Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Little ringed Plover, Ruff, Knot, Spotted Redshank, Mediterranean Gull, Little Gull, Little Tern, Hobby, Turtle Dove, Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Short-eared Owl, Bearded Tit, Wood Lark, Cetti’s Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, Cuckoo, Marsh Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, Kingfisher, Woodcock, Nightjar, Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow we recorded 133 species on this trip.

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