Birding Norfolk

Thee did the Powers by intelligent scrutiny, mark on the map as the place for a prize; sought thee for waders and found in astonishment, warblers fresh in from Siberia's skies.

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Update 2nd March 2016

Been extremely busy of late, as I’m currently writing a couple of papers and one has a deadline of Friday! I also have taken on a lot of teaching which is cutting two midweek days out of my schedule, thus not a lot of birding lately. Though, this has allowed me to become more involved with the garden birds (been writing from home a lot as I find it easier at times).

Outside of this I’ve managed a visit to the Brecks for the first time this year, grabbing LSW, Willow Tit, and a 2CY Goshawk on my first effort – along with all the usual delights it has to offer. I’ve also spent a whole day up on the Heath watching 4 Dartford Warblers, including some song flighting action from the males. Whilst here I spent a lot of time watching at least 6 Buzzards soaring and displaying in the relative warmth of midday. Is anything as free as a soaring bird of prey on a still, clear day…

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Sightings 16th February 2016

Absolutely stunning morning on the Heath – a hard frost over all the gorse, clear skies, gorgeous sun, and tonnes of song. Stood there watching and listening to the gorgeous song-flight of the male Woodlark, whilst its mate sat in the frozen gorse giving a soft disyllabic call back and tilting its head to spy it in the sky. From here I met up with East Norfolk stalwarts Mick F and Tim A. We muddled around a few North Norfolk sites, picking up a few nice birds as we went. It was excellent to have the Lapland Buntings and Twite to ourselves at Blakeney Freshes, unbelievably it’s the first time I’ve seen them whilst they’ve been there as I can’t be dealing with the hordes of people hanging around. We also jammed in on the Whimbrel! From here we headed out looking for BoPs, seeing Red Kites, Buzzards and a displaying Sparrowhawk over Wells. Holkham held the Ferruginous, FerruginousxPochard Hybrid, 1 first-winter drake Scaup, and Tim managed a female red-crested Pochard. There was also a pair of Egyptian Geese with 5 goslings and a Barn Owl hunted around the monument. The East Bank was fairly quite, a few RTDs on the sea. 4 Red Kites were over the reserve and slowly drifted south. I then left my┬ácompadres and checked the scrapes where I was joined by Mark G and we watched 10 Marsh Harriers into roost, the lovely Kingfisher, and a brute of a female Peregrine just smash her way around the reserve. Noticeable increase of Avocet (to me!),at least 26 Ruff, and a Water Pipit over as we headed off. Great day.


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The Point 13th February 2016

I’d like to say I was being optimistic heading up the Point in today’s storming easterlies (who knows what’s out there of course), but most of you reading it will think I’m delusional! The good thing is that it is always worth a walk up, you’ll never have a bad day. Early on there were Kittiwakes heading past on the sea, and throughout the day there were notable numbers of Cormorants also passing by. The Grey Partridge flock has split up into pairs now and there are also pairs of Oycs along the spit. The big tides have deposited a load of debris along the southern edge of the ridge, which meant I saw a lot more Rock Pipits than usual today. 17 Blackbirds today was nice, stalled or new in? The walk back was really hard, into raging easterlies and on shingle made for some serious resistance training.

Highlights: 17 Blackbird, Peregrine, Sanderling, 4 Linnet.


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Sightings 12th February 2016

Short one as I wanna get stuck into the new Forsman raptor guide I picked up from Wildsounds today (cheers D & J). This morning started in Blakeney Harbour – absolutely superb here today, really really good. Soo many birds, I only attempted to count the close-in Bar-tailed Godwits (745), but there were another tonne out on one of the sandbanks! Thousands of Waders, honestly so good. I was watching a group of some 60 Ringed Plover when a Black Brant swam down the channel past me! Excellent. Also a immature Hen Harrier hunted the saltmarsh and a Kingfisher zipped about.

Stiffkey Fen highlights: 2 Chiffchaff, Barn Owl, Water Rail, 4 Bullfinch. A good chat with JMac at Kelling where we both failed to see much (though it was getting late in the day). I then spent the rest of the evening at Cley until dark. I had the Pale-bellied hybrid family near Babcock Hide, a drake Goosander flew west, 22 Snow Buntings at the back of Arnold’s, a Barn Owl, Kingfisher, and a minimum of 7 Marsh Harriers roosted. From about an hour before total darkness small groups of Pinks were pealing off the Freshes and heading east, landing somewhere near Kelling/Weybourne. A stunning beautiful cold winter’s evening.


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Sightings 11th February 2016

Cold, clear and calm winter days (a rare thing so far this season) are ideal for almost any type of birding. Today’s choice would be gulling with Mark G down at Aldeby Tip. There weren’t too many gulls loafing in the fields, and the side of the tip where we parked looked Larid-less. Hmm, a few weeks back if was heaving. As we walked down to the front gates to view the main part of the tip, we passed the sheltering trees and were greeted with a swirling horde of gulls that make their living from festering crap – is it weird that they put a smile on your face?! After a solid few hours scanning in the rather warm sunshine we weren’t getting a lot of variety, and the strong sun made reading rings difficult – all rather frustrating.

We then decided to have a drive around the site, as quite a few gulls were heading off in various directions. Round the back we noticed many gulls heading over to a large body of water near some houses. We headed down the small road which eventually turned into a muddy track and it became evident we wouldn’t really see very many gulls this way. On our way back out we could see that the gulls were using a part of the tip opposite us to lounge on and roost/sunbath. There were surprisingly quite a few gulls here, and it wasn’t long before the first Casp was picked up – finally! This was followed by two others and a brute of a Glaucous gull! With things having now picked up, MAG suggested attempting to view the body of water down the small track again and so we began to stroll down there. We couldn’t see the gulls as there were a line of trees in the way, but that wasn’t the end of the world as there was a flipping Cattle Egret sat in the field in front of us! Remarkable. We sat and watched this smart little bird grabbing insects and worms in the gorgeous late afternoon sun. It was quite nervy, but we managed to get nice and close – great views. It flew to a few different fields and was a real treat. A quick look at the BGs/RBA Galleries suggest this to be a different bird to the one(s) that have been seen earlier in the year/last year in NFK/SFK. After the first few birders had arrived we left it in peace to go back and look at gulls. We weren’t successful in picking out anything out of the ordinary, but it was a great end to the day picking up numerous darvic rings, as the light had softened allowing them to be read pretty easily. Cracking day.



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Sightings 9th February 2016

Slept through my alarm this morning, so no Brecks today! A bit unsure what to do, I thought I’d check the grazing marshes at Burnham Overy and Holkham for Geese. Lady Anne’s was pretty quiet, except from the Wigeon – spent a good while watching these stunners.

From here I spent the morning at Overy Marshes. Stunning number of species utilising these grazing meadows, a total of 41 species in fact (12 of which were waders). It was great to sit and watch Brents & Pinkfeets share the grass fields with large flocks of Dunlin, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits, Golden Plovers, etc. On the way down I also had 4 Bullfinch, which are always nice. Viewing isn’t particularly easy here unless they’re in the nearest fields, but I managed 3 Whitefront (2Ad. 1 Juv.), GWE over across at Holkham, and one of the local Black Brant Hybrids. I’ve attached a picture below of the hybrid, superficially they always look good for Brants, but after thorough observation they soon reveal themselves to not be pure.

I then headed to Holkham Lake to see the Ferruginous Duck and Scaups. Came across Lord Furse here, and we sat and watched a rather boring Ferruginous sat sleeping across on the other bank. Scaup were nice, even if they were asleep, too. Quite enjoyed the PochardxFerruginous, though. On the way back to the car park we had an adult Med Gull that had moulted a lot of its head, smart thing.

Final stop of the day was at Warham, where we had 7 Hen Harrier (2 males, 5 Ringtails (at least 2 immature and 1 Ad. Female), Merlin (fem.), Barn Owl, 3 Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk. Very pleasant.


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Recent Sightings

Just a quick update on recent sightings. A pleasant day with MAG on Thursday resulted in a first-winter Caspian Gull at Blackborough End Tip. We also scoured over the Docking Pinkfeet again but nothing in here other than the same neck-collared birds, TVT and UNK, I had earlier in the week – but nice to have another pair of eyes and myself to go through them once again, just to be sure. An adult Med Gull was a nice treat here, loafing above the Pinkfeet.

Friday I had a pleasant walk around Blakeney Freshes with George, no time to stop and look for, or through, anything – though there is a significantly sized flock of Brents here, and at low tide a small section of the Harbour held 125 Shelduck.

Sunday I went goosing. My first port of call was at Docking but the field the big flock had been using has now been ploughed in and held 11 Golden Plover. I found a nice flock (3k+) at Ringstead, these birds roost at Holme. I then went around searching for other Pinks but I couldn’t find any at all. Later in the season they move from the sugar beet fields and can usually be found at grazing marshes – but both Holkham and Burnham appeared empty, too. Hmm. There’s definitely been a depature as is typical of late January, but have they all gone? Perhaps they are still going south of south creake, but I haven’t managed to find any out there. Really sad to think I might not get anymore good sessions in until next winter now.

Headed home early afternoon, can’t be dealing with birding in this county at the weekends. Can’t be bothered to bang on about it, but if you’re birding in this extraordinary county then please at least do so with a smile on your face.