Summer Birds In Norfolk With Birdwatching Trips 22 To 27 July 2023

Thornham high tide

Thornham Harbour, one of our favourite places to see wonderful birds.

July is a very exciting time to visit one of our favourite parts of the UK, the North Norfolk Coast. A wonderful mix of resident, summer and passage migrant birds are present under those wonderful big Norfolk skies.

We had wonderful views of seven Black-winged Stilts at RSPB Frampton Marsh - library picture.

On the 22nd Alun came here to Llandudno, we collected Jayne at RSPB Conwy and Noreen near Mold, team all assembled we headed east. The weather was not very summer like, with torrential rain on much of the journey. Our first birdwatching stop was just before we reached Norfolk, at RSPB Frampton Marsh in Lincolnshire. We arrived at lunch time and the rain was still hammering down, so lunch was first on the agenda. Luckily the café at the reserve overlooks shallow lagoons teaming with birds, perfect. We tucked into good food served by lovely friendly staff. It was hard to eat with so many birds in view – Spoonbills, Avocets, Ruff, Little Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwits and more.

RSPB Frampton Marsh on a damp day, July 2023, lots of birds here honest.

Lunch done we headed out and thankfully the rain had eased to a drizzle as we walked towards the seawall. We didn’t get far as we spotted “the” bird we had hoped to see here – Black-winged Stilt. This wonderful leggy wader was in a corner of the lagoon and soon walked out of sight – whew we saw it. A little further along the track a female Black-winged Stilt was on a bank by a channel and showing very well. We then noticed there were two juvenile Stilts feeding in the channel – how wonderful. Walking back we enjoyed another four Black-winged Stilts and two Green Sandpipers in a sheltered bay. Frampton Marsh is a fantastic reserve and a great stop over on route to Norfolk.

On the 23rd we were up and out early, before breakfast, to visit RSPB Titchwell just a few minutes from our hotel. As always, this amazing reserve produced huge numbers of birds, heaven. It was a case of where to look first! Marsh Harriers cruised over the reedbeds, Bearded Tits showed off in the reeds, hundreds of Pied Avocets waded through the shallows on the fresh marsh, waders thronged the beach and Mediterranean Gulls joined the Black-headed Gulls, over fifty species before breakfast.

We had lovely views of Bearded Tits at both Cley and Titchwell - library picture.

We then headed east along the Norfolk coast to Cley NWT Reserve and walked down to Dawukes Hide to look for the very long staying Long-billed Dowitcher – which we had first seen in October 2022! Sadly, this rare American wader was not in the mood to show. Lovely views of Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff, and Little Ringed Plovers with young. A cuppa and scone at the visitor centre went down well and heard the rare wader was being seen from Bishop’s Hide this morning. In the hide we met Eddie, an old friend, and he pointed out the Long-billed Dowitcher roosting with Black-tailed Godwits. We had to wait patiently for the bird to show that long beak, but a lovely looking wader in its orange-red plumage. A Greenshank was on the left of the pool, and we enjoyed super close views of Lapwings and Ruff in the sunshine. Good to see another old friend Steve here too. Two Green Sandpiper were on a pool by the main road just before we left.

Further east to Trimmingham where a pair of European Bee-eaters had nested, sadly the birds had failed to rear young. These gorgeous birds were still being seen in the area, on and off, and we hoped we would be lucky. Sadly, when we arrived the news was negative, no sign of the birds today. We waited, and waited but sadly it looked as though the birds had finally left the site.

We had a very late lunch at Kelling Reading Room café, good job we had snacks with us to keep us going. Then back west, stopping at North Point pool near Wells-Next-The-Sea. Plenty of birds here and in lovely afternoon sunshine.

On the 24th we again headed out before breakfast, in the rain, to nearby Thornham Harbour. It was tricky seeing birds in the windy and wet weather but there were plenty of them out there! Spoonbills were on the saltmarsh along with Whimbrel, both Bar and Black-tailed Godwits and a flock of Golden Plover. Three Arctic Skuas were over the sand bar at the harbour mouth, chasing terns and landing on the sands – wonderful to watch.

We then headed a little way inland, where the rain had stopped, and had a super view of an adult Hobby almost overhead. Good to see Yellowhammers here and a close encounter with a muntjac deer.

After breakfast we headed west to Holme and visited both the NOA and NWT Reserves here. Sadly, the rain retuned so we took shelter in the NOA sea watching hide and scanned the choppy North Sea. Lots of Sandwich Terns were passing the dunes along with a few Common Terns, Gannets, Kittiwakes, and a Grey Plover.

Hot chocolates went down well at the NWT café, and we came out into lovely sunshine! We walked out onto the beach, what a difference half an hour makes, it was beautiful. In the pines behind the beach, we watched Coal Tits and Blackcaps and a pair of Stonechats in the adjacent fields where Marsh Harriers hunted.

Easy to see why we love Thornham Deli so much - carrot cake so good!

We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at our favourite lunch venue – Thornham Deli, delicious as always. Next, we headed west for RSPB Snettisham in search of a very special bird indeed, Turtle Dove. Our hoped of seeing one were not high as we only had vague directions on where to look and it’s a huge area. The sun was warm and sky blue and no wind when we arrived good conditions we hoped. As we stepped from the car, we heard a wonderful “purring” sound – unmistakably the song of a Turtle Dove! Amazing! Now, where was it? Alun spotted the dove in a large tree right by the car park, fantastic. Even better, this beautiful bird was posing in the sunshine for everyone to enjoy. The top of the range telescopes allowed super frame filling views of this rare bird. Then the Turtle Dove took off and did his display flight right over us against the blue sky, a real wow moment. The dove soon returned to the same tree, and we again soaked up the views, what a bird.

The back roads of North Norfolk still have some wonderful wildflowers, July 2023.

We drove the back lanes back to the hotel, through Docking, enjoying the beautiful wildflowers along the field margins. A Golden Plover in a bare field was a nice surprise as was a single Grey Partridge – the only one of the trip. Super views of Red Kites, Common Buzzards, Marsh Harriers and Yellowhammers added to the drive.

Dawn at RSPB Titchwell just two minutes from our hotel, ideal for pre-breakfast birding.

On the 25th we visited RSPB Titchwell again before breakfast and enjoyed lots of birds as always. At the beach we saw three Common Scoter fly east and had super views of Sanderling and Bar-tailed Godwits. A Jay over the reedbed was a new bird for the trip and rather unexpected! Bearded Tits were another highlight of a busy pre-breakfast visit.

The RSPB Bee-eater viewpoint - great to so many people enjoying birds!

After breakfast we headed east along the coast to Cley NWT and again enjoyed seeing the Long-billed Dowitcher, Spoonbills, Avocets, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits and more. We had a coffee at the visitor centre and as we enjoyed this news came through the Bee-eaters were back! Off we went further west and after slow traffic through Cromer reached the RSPB Viewpoint. We baled out fast and hurried to the spot overlooking the birds favoured sand quarry. Yes! Three European Bee-eaters in a tree on the bank, whew! To miss them once was disappointing but had we missed them twice that really would have been cruel. Bee-eaters are known as “rainbow birds” and it is easy to see why, they are gorgeous! The rain had stopped and the birds spent a good time preening allowing us fantastic views through the scopes and we shared the views with other visitors to lots of oh’s and ahh’s. Then the birds flew up onto telegraph wires and began to feed on bees. Each time a Bee-eater flew after a bee it caught one, back to the wire and then swallowed it, time after time. What a thrill to watch three Bee-eaters here in the UK. Huge thanks to all the RSPB staff and volunteers for making viewing of these splendid birds possible.

Bee eater Spain 1

Seeing European Bee-eaters is always a thrill, especially second time lucky! Library picture.

Back to Kelling for lunch and then a walk on nearby Kelling Heath in hot sunshine. At first there were very few birds in view, but we found a pair of Stonechats and paid attention to that area. Sure, enough up popped a male Dartford Warbler! So often find the Stonechat find the Dartford Warbler.

We then called in again at Cley NWT on our way back towards Titchwell. This time we parked by the East Bank. The pool here held three Green Sandpipers and two juvenile Water Rails – great to see. The path along the East Bank was lovely in the warm afternoon sunshine and we watched two Little Gulls over the pools along with plenty of waders and brief views of Bearded Tits over the reedbeds.

On the 26th we again visited Thornham Harbour before breakfast on a lovely morning with blue sky and sunshine. Plenty of birds here again and wonderful huge skies. After breakfast we headed over to RSPB Titchwell where we had intended covering the south side of the reserve which we hadn’t yet visited. However, we met our friend Trevor who had just found an adult breeding plumage Curlew Sandpiper on the fresh marsh. We hurried down the main path and luckily this scarce migrant from Siberia was still there, if rather distant. We then went back to our original plan and saw a Lesser Whitethroat along the trail to Patsy’s Pool. On the pool we had lovely views of Pochard and Marsh Harriers.

We then popped back to nearby Thornham Marsh for the high tide, the area looked very different with the sea coming in fast. Lots of waders were pushed up by the rising tide including big flocks of Bar-tailed Godwits including breeding plumaged birds looking very smart. Whimbrel were amongst the Curlew, Spoonbills flew over and landed on the saltmarsh, Common Sandpipers fed in the muddy creeks where we had wonderful looks at a Grey Plover. Then a fantastic lunch at the Thornham Deli.

Not just wonderful cake at Thornham Deli something for everyone on amazing their menu.

After our lovely lunch we headed east to Holkham and spotted overlooking the fresh marsh where we saw our first Egyptian Geese of the trip. Big flocks of Lapwings here and amongst them Ruff and Black-tailed Godwits. A Spoonbill roosted in a tree and Marsh Harrier cruised over the wet fields. Then we went into Holkham Park where it was very busy with people. We walked down to the lake and watched a pair of Great Crested Grebes with young, Mediterranean Gulls, more Egyptian Geese and a flock of feral Barnacle Geese.

As the Holkham area was so busy with people we headed back for another quick look at RSPB Titchwell before dinner. This proved a good idea as we found a juvenile Garganey! This scarce duck was initially feeding close to the path on the fresh marsh but then moved onto into the open water. We were able to share this exciting bird with other birders, always nice to do.

Our last morning, the 27th, dawned very wet but we donned our waterproofs, again, and headed down to RSPB Titchwell for some pre-breakfast birding. The Garganey was seen again, and a Kingfisher flashed past, new for the trip. We then walked out to the Parrinder Hide to seek shelter but still have good views over the marsh. We watched Bearded Tits feeding at the base of the reeds, Little Ringed Plover, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits, hundreds of Avocets, a Green Sandpiper flew over and a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull dropped in. Two friends of ours then popped their heads into the hide to say that they had just found a near adult Caspian Gull! The gull was hidden to view from inside the hide, but we were able to see it from the raised area outside. While watching this bird a Hobby whizzed across the reserve and then the Curlew Sandpiper dropped in close to our vantage point. We enjoyed wonderful views of the Curlew Sandpiper before heading back for breakfast.

We checked out of the hotel and headed west to Welney WWT Reserve on the Ouse Washes for our last birding before the drive home. Tree Sparrows, new for the trip, were seen in the carpark even before we reached the visitor centre. From the centre we picked out another juvenile Garganey on Lady Fen along with Ruff, Avocet, and Black-tailed Godwits. Walking across the bridge to the main hide we saw four huge birds flying over – Common Cranes! Amazing timing. We hurried to the hide and luckily the Cranes had landed in view on the washlands. They were soon in the scope, and we had good views of these majestic birds. Two Great Egrets were on the marsh along with two Pintail, both new species for the trip bringing us to a very satisfactory 128 for the trip. As we walked back to the centre a Red-legged Partridge was spotted on a fence bird number 129 for the trip!

Jayne, Alun and Noreen at the Bee-eater viewpoint - very happy people indeed!

We enjoyed lunch at Welney before driving home back to Wales. A really great fun trip with so many great birds and lots of laughs. Huge thanks to Noreen, Jayne, and Alun for their great company throughout.

We have some wonderful North Wales Birdwatching Trips Coming Up In 2024 We Would Love You To Join Us.

February - Best of North Wales Birdwatching Trip, Saturday 17th - Wednesday 21st February 2024 - four places available.

March - Iolo Williams North Wales Wildife Tour, Monday 4th - Friday 8th March 2024 - one place available.

Also in April - Extremadura, Spain with Iolo Williams, Sunday 28th April - Friday 3rd May 2024 - one place available.

June - Best of North Wales Birdwatching Trip, Saturday 15th - Wednesday 19th June 2024 - four places available.

September - Best of North Wales Birdwatching Trip, Saturday 7th - Wednesday 11th September 2024, four places available.

October - Norfolk Migration Birdwatching Trip, Saturday 12th - Wednesday 16th October 2024, three places available.

November - Iolo Williams North Wales Wildife Tour, Monday 25th - Friday 29th November 2024, three places available.

December - Winter Wildlife of North Wales with Iolo Williams, Monday 9th - Friday 13th December 2024, four places available.

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….

We can then make all the arrangements for your perfect Birdwatching Trips tour.

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