Norfolk House Party 13 – 20 October 2023 A Wonderful Birdwatching Trips Tour

Avocets and reeds

Flocks of Pied Avocets just one of the so many highlights on our Norfolk Birdwatching Trips Tours.

We always look forward to our annual “Norfolk House Party” when we take over a beautiful self-catering house on the North Norfolk Coast for a week in October. This year we moved venues from Burnham Overy Staithe to Titchwell village further west along the coast.

redshank dawn titchwell

RSPB Titchwell was just three minutes from our beautiful house - our base for the trip.

We met up with our six lovely guests, Barry and Wendy, Michael and Elizabeth, and Mike and Rachel at RSPB Titchwell on a rather damp Friday the 13th of October. Despite the poor weather we had a great time at this wonderful nature reserve. Highlights included Little Stint, Spotted Redshank, and a flock of Red-breasted Merganser. We then drove the very short distance to our new base for the week, and what a beautiful place it was. A stunning house with five ensuite bathrooms, huge lounges, an enormous kitchen, plenty of parking and great views across fields to the sea, perfect. After settling in we enjoyed champagne, to welcome everyone to the new house, and then headed out for the first of many delicious meals.

On the 14th of October we were all out early for a pre-breakfast visit to RSPB Titchwell and it was very rewarding indeed. The strong wind resulted in lots of birds passing the beach and we enjoyed Whooper Swans flying right over our heads, a smart drake Velvet Scoter close enough to see his red legs, Red-throated Divers, Common Scoter along with amazing close views of waders right in front of us! As we walked back for breakfast, we saw more Whooper Swans on the flooded saltmarsh.

As we ate breakfast, we saw a Russian White-fronted Goose fly over the field behind the house amongst a flock of Greylag Geese and watched Curlews and Red-legged Partridges feeding in the field.

Next, we drove the short distance to Holkham Pines and parked at Lady Anne’s Drive. We hadn’t walked far when Ruth spotted a White-tailed Eagle low over the fields to the west! Luckily this massive raptor landed insight and we scrambled to get the bird in the telescopes for everyone to enjoy. No panic the White-tailed Eagle was happy on a dead tree and posed for ages allowing lots of passer byes to enjoy the bird too. Both Cattle and Great Egrets showed well from the same spot as flocks of Pink-footed Geese and ten Whooper Swans flew over us.

We walked the edge of pines enjoying super looks at Goldcrests, Coal Tits, Treecreepers and Jays. After lunch we drove a little way east to North Point Pool where a Pectoral Sandpiper had been reported. Ruth and I had previous with this bird having looked for it twice before and failed to see it, would it be third time lucky. We were not surprised when we joined a few other birders looking for the bird to hear it was not in sight. We scanned the edges of the pool but again no luck. More birders arrived so more eyes looking, still no sign. Plenty of birds here to enjoy though with Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits, super views of Common Snipe, a flock of ten Whooper Swans in the sunshine. Then a friend of our Craig spotted the Pectoral Sandpiper creeping through the poolside vegetation! Now to get everyone on to this elusive bird. Scopes were trained on the spot and slowly everyone pieced together bits of the rare sandpiper to identify it as a Pectoral Sandpiper. Then this so often elusive bird gave itself up and actually showed well in the afternoon sun – whew! And what a lovely wader it was.

We then headed back west to Holkham Park where we walked over to the lake to watch Great Crested Grebes with young, Tufted Ducks, Shoveler, Gadwall, a Raven soaring over the park, a rare bird in North Norfolk and several Common Buzzards. Then Elizabeth spotted a Water Rail on the edge of the island in the lake. This beautiful bird was a real poser, unlike many Water Rails, and we all enjoyed frame filling views in the sunshine.

The 15th of October was a day of gale force winds but luckily mostly dry. We headed east to Cley-Next-The-Sea and drove to the beach car park. What a sight met us, birders lined the shingle beach, and the car park was just about full, we had never seen anything like this before. We joined the birders and braved the wind peering out at the huge waves. Birds were passing and close inshore it was fantastic to see so many birds and so many species most moving west just off the beach. Highlights included two Sooty Shearwaters, a Grey Phalarope, Black and Arctic Terns, so many Red-throated Divers, Common Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, masses of ducks mostly Wigeon and Teal. What a wonderful experience.

After hot drinks at the nearby visitor centre, we headed out onto the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Reserve at Cley. Our main target bird here was the long-staying Long-billed Dowitcher and luckily this rarity was feeding out in the open close to the Teal Hide. We enjoyed great views of this North American wader along with Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff, Dunlin, Common Snipe and surprisingly a Marsh Harrier killing an adult Avocet!

After lunch back at the visitor centre we walked the East Bank down to the beach, but the wind had dropped, and passage of birds more or less stopped. We called in at Cley Spy optics shop as Michael needed a new tripod head and great to catch up with the staff there. On the way back to Titchwell we stopped at a viewpoint overlooking Holkham Fresh Marsh where we watched Barnacle Geese and several Red Kites.

On the 16th of October we walked from Thornham Harbour along the sea wall to Holme Dunes, a lovely walk with so many birds! Super views of waders and ducks in Thornham Harbour along with three Kingfishers. Three Whooper Swans flew low over the marsh and provided a wonderful experience against the rising sun. A rare Richard’s Pipit flew low west calling and it landed in a rough grass field, and we had two more brief flight views. A Merlin shot across the saltmarsh and landed in a small tree; a Barn Swallow flew over – where to look next! Further along the seawall an amazing sight of 22 Cattle Egrets fed amongst cows on the fields inland of the path.

At Holme we scanned the sea and saw Arctic Skuas, Common Scoter, Red-throated Divers and lots of waders and ducks moving west. At Holme Bird Observatory we were thrilled to watch birds being ringed – Goldcrest, Wren, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipits and two Cetti’s Warblers. We enjoyed our lunch at the café at Holme and then walked back to Thornham. We enjoyed superb views of a flock of Bearded Tits on the way back with these beautiful birds posing on top of reeds a real wow!

We finished the day back at RSPB Titchwell enjoying lots more birds!

On the 17th of October we were out early for another pre-breakfast visit to RSPB Titchwell and this time to walk the fen trail on the south side of the reserve. At dawn we watched six Spoonbills leave their roost and land on the fresh marsh and nine Cattle Egrets flew our west. Fieldfares and Redwings whizzed overhead, and long skeins of Pink-footed Geese were all across the sky. We were very lucky along the trail seeing two Yellow-browed Warblers, all the way from Siberia and very smart little birds. A male Bearded Tit posed right in front of us on top of a reed in the morning sun – beautiful. Two colourful Grey Wagtails and then a Brambling flew over before hunger got the better of us and headed back for a great breakfast.

Not often a male Bearded Tit poses like this - photo by Mike on the trip - superb.

We then drove east to Burnham Overy Staithe and walked east along the seawall, a route we used to take regularly on previous House Parties when we stayed here. Plenty to see as always including two Red-throated Divers allowing us super views in the harbour channel. A big flock of Golden Plover wheeled over the saltmarsh in the sunshine – stunning. A Bittern flapped slowly over a reedbed looking fantastic in the sun. On the walk back we watched three Curlew Sandpipers feeding with Dunlin close to the seawall.

We headed further east to one of our favourite cafes for lunch, the Reading Room at Kelling, a quaint but lovely place with a warm welcome. After lunch we walked down to the beach at Kelling, the walk down was very quiet but at the beach we some great birds. An adult Mediterranean Gull flew slowly past, wonderful views of Red-throated Divers, Razorbills and juvenile Gannets were just off the beach. We kept scanning and added two more species to our impressive trip list – a Great Northern Diver and a late Sandwich Tern.

On the 18th October we were again at RSPB Titchwell, just three minutes from the house, pre-breakfast. Again we enjoyed the Spoonbills and Cattle Egrets leaving their roost and hundreds of gulls, geese and waders on the move. From the beach we spotted a Slavonian Grebe riding the choppy waters and a Shag flew west – a rare bird in North Norfolk.

After breakfast, with the weather pretty grim we headed inland to Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve where it was dry, mild and bright. We walked the woodland trails here enjoying great views of Marsh Tits, Nuthatches and a beautiful Brambling on one of the feeders. We enjoyed a lovely lunch at nearby Sculthorpe Mill where a Grey Wagtail fed by the stream. Over lunch we heard a Ring Ouzel had been seen at Holme so decided to swing past there on the way back. We were lucky to see the Ring Ouzel fly out of some hawthorn bushes with a Redwing. We also enjoyed watching Cattle Egrets very close to the track and a Great Egret here.

On the 19th October we again did our adopted local patch of RSPB Titchwell after a leisurely as the rain came down, and again enjoyed super views of Yellow-browed Warblers along with Blackcaps, a Chiffchaff and a Bullfinch in the same area. Wonderful views of multiple Marsh Harriers over the reedbed here always great to watch. A Little Stint was on the fresh marsh and gangs of Bearded Tits zoomed low over the reeds.

These Knot showed very well at Thornham Harbour - a wonderful location.

We then moved a few miles west to Thornham Harbour where the rain had thankfully all but stopped. Lots of birds here and it was great to have such close views of many of them. Black and Bar-tailed Godwits fed just below us in a muddy creek along with very confiding Knot, Dunlin, Grey Plover and Curlew. An Arctic Skua cruised by along the shoreline and Red-throated Divers and Red-breasted Mergansers were in the channel a little further out. Lots of Linnets danced over the saltmarsh where Reed Buntings flited about. Lots of Dark-bellied Brent Geese were feeding here too along with hundreds of Wigeon and Teal as Pink-footed Geese flew over – a wonderful place.

A superb lunch was enjoyed in the nearby Thornham Deli, always a favourite on Norfolk tours. As we enjoyed lunch we heard news of Shore Larks at Holme only a few miles away! Such wonderful birds, we had to go and look for them. Luckily it was now dry and sunny though a strong wind had picked up. The directions for the larks were a little vague – east of Gore Point. We parked just inside the NWT Reserve at Holme and walked east parallel to the beach. We were just about to drop down to the beach when we noticed a small group of birders off to the west, looking at something. We changed direction and walked west to see what they were looking at, Shore Larks! Three of these beautiful yellow and black faced larks were feeding on the beach and we enjoyed superb views in the sunshine. The top of the range telescopes allowed everyone to enjoy every detail of these wonderful and rare visitors. After soaking up the views of the Shore Larks we walked out onto the open beach and realised there were birds arriving. Fieldfares, Redwings, Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, and Starlings were struggling to make it in off the North Sea, we willed them ashore as these exhausted birds skimmed over the beach and dived into cover. Some poor birds had to land on the open sand to recover a little before pressing on, migration happening all around us! Thankfully all the birds we saw made it.

Wonderful to catch up with beautiful Shore Larks at Holme Dunes - photos by Mike taken on the tour.

On the 19th of October our last morning, we awoke to Storm Babet and high winds and torrential rain. Luckily, we had a plan in place, head inland to WWT Welney reserve on the Ouse Washes. Barry and Wendy opted to head straight home the rest of us made it to Welney through awful weather. Hot drinks and great views of Tree Sparrows, species number 146 for the tour, were enjoyed at the visitor centre. We then headed out to the main observatory where we could watch birds while keeping warm and dry – perfect. Plenty to see here with Whooper Swans, masses of ducks including Pintail and Pochard, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits, Common Snipe, Dunlin, Lapwing, Curlew, a Cattle Egret and two late Barn Swallows. Back to the centre for lunch and then we all set off for home.

What a wonderful Norfolk House Party! Huge thanks to Barry and Wendy, Michael and Elizabeth, and Mike and Rachel for their lovely company and so many laughs. Looking forward to October 2024 already!

We run our Birdwatching Trips throughout the year a mix of set departure tours and custom-made trips perfect for you! To book your custom tour or any of our set departure trips please email us here….

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