Norfolk Tour

11th to 14th December 2019

With the forecast for strong winds in the early part of the week hopefully giving way to more settled weather as guests arrived in midweek, this trip in Norfolk promised ornithological riches that only this part of the UK can supply.

The base for this trip was to be the central location of Wells next the Sea with most of the sites being easily accessed from there, so giving more birding time and less travel time.

Doing a couple of days reconnaissance both on the birding and future tour accommodation helped find out just what the sea and shoreline looked like with these strong northerly winds, certainly sea watching was out. Over the rest of the reserve birds were keeping their heads down with no sign of the Bittern but a wide selection of waders being seen some very close to as they fed on the mud prior to the tide reaching its maximum. 


Knot, Spotted Redshank, Bar tailed Godwits, Golden Plover, Curlew, and a host of others took the total wader count to 17 species. A mixed flock of Linnet with a few Goldfinches and a smattering of Twite were a welcome addition over the saltmarsh. The highlight were the Harriers coming into roost in the reedbed at dusk with over 40 individuals including one Ringtail.

A prebreakfast walk down to Snettisham gave amazing views of the staggering numbers of Pink Footed Geese as they left their roost on the Wash and ventured to their inland feeding areas on the stubbles. It was all rather bizarre as a long circular walk to see them down on the Wash was nullified when post exiting the roost they then whiffled down into the field at the back of the Snettisham CarPark. A rather surprising sighting on the morning was a Brown Hare which was moving along the Snettisham foreshore across the shingle. 

Closer to base a field at Holkham revealed five species of Geese on one field with 20 plus European White Fronts, 68 Egyptian, 30 plus Pinkies which were part of a much larger flock, 300plus Greylags and a few Canadas for good measure. Amazingly this site was viewed many times throughout the trip but always with lesser results. Whilst in the Holkham area we watched good numbers of Lesser Black backed and Herring Gulls feeding on Starfish which had clearly been wrecked on to the shore as a result of the high onshore winds, nature produces its bounty in the most unexpected ways sometimes. There was also good passage of Common Scoter with a few Velvets mixed in with them, we even managed to see a couple of LongTailed Ducks which is a good record for Holkham Bay.


A pair of Chinese Water Deer were observed at dusk way out onto the saltmarsh in the direction of Thornham.

Over the three days a visit was made to Sculthorpe Moor where we saw our first Brambling of the winter along with all the expected woodland species, with cracking views of Muntjac Deer, sadly we had missed sightings of Otter by just a few minutes.

On a trip to Cley Marshes whilst walking down to the hides we had one of those wildlife moments that you dream about. A group of six Bearded Tits comprising ( three Males / three Females ) feeding on the Phragmites seedheads and also coming down onto the boardwalk just 15 metres in front of us. This lasted about 10 minutes and left everyone in the group spellbound. If I had taken the camera they probably wouldn’t have put in an appearance. Sadly the weather closed in and we had to content ourselves with coffee and cake before having a look at the Art Gallery at Glandford on our way back to Wells.


Another highlight was the wonderful late afternoon light at Titchwell showing off the waders, foreshore and the sea at its very best this was then eclipsed as the Harriers had built up in even bigger numbers with up to 95 being a conservative estimate, truly staggering! A leg ringed Curlew that we noted was found to have been ringed by the Wash Wader Study group. A pair of Chinese Water Deer were observed at dusk way out onto the saltmarsh in the direction of Thornham.

A little local knowledge led us to the observation point local to Wells where a long staying Rough Legged Buzzard had been roosting, there it was just as been promised. There were also a couple of Common Buzzards there as a direct comparison, what we didn’t anticipate were a couple of Red Kites muscling in on the Rough Leg, as this was happening a Marsh Harrier flew away down the Marsh.
To complete the trip we had a final look for the Snow Bunts just as we thought it not going to be we finally found them 80 to 90 of them, this certainly made the trip for a couple of the guests.
So the trip gave us close to 90 species of birds with waders, wildfowl and raptors being the best represented, it was also a great group of people with some lively discussions taking place, but most of all it kept us all out of the Election bubble that was happening elsewhere. Norfolk never ever fails to deliver whatever the time of the year.

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