29th January to 2nd February 2024.

It always feels like I am going home when taking a tour group around West Norfolk, I suppose as it was my home for four years with many happy memories it always will be. It does add to the tour, as over the years an intimate knowledge of the area has added another dimension. Our base for the five days was the Le Strange Arms hotel at Old Hunstanton an imposing spot on the North-West corner of the Norfolk coast.
Taking one of the guests with me from Lincoln we stopped for a spot of lunch before making our way to RSPB Titchwell, arriving via the interior and stopping at Choseley several Red Kites were seen along with Linnets and a couple of Yellowhammers with a couple of the locally abundant Chinese Water Deer hunkered down in the middle of a field. Rather bizarrely it was here that we met up with another member of our group who joined us as we all went to Titchwell.

A wide and varied selection of species were seen here with waders being most prominent, Black and Bar Tailed Godwits, Sanderling and Dunlin, a few Grey Plover but all of the these were upstaged by a flock of about 600 Golden Plover with their plaintive piping call. It would appear the local Marsh Harriers were putting them on edge. Evening meal followed and the schedule of our tour was set out, sadly our planned trip to the Welney marshes was aborted due to the extensive flooding in the area.

For the first full day it would be an early morning walk before first light at RSPB Snettisham, timing it just right, there were still thousands of overnight roosting Pink Footed Geese out on the wash, some eventually came over our head’s others just a little further along the coast. It was to be a special morning as a close by Sparrowhawk sped past us, whilst a flock of 20 + Snow Bunting dropped in at our feet working their way through the strand line.

Again, a wide mix of waders and a couple of special ducks in the form of a drake Long Tailed Duck along with a small flock of Goldeneye of both sexes.
As we returned to our base for breakfast a small herd of Fallow Deer contained a ‘White Hart’ which delicately disappeared into the edge of the local woodland whilst a Barn Owl flew across the road straight in front of us. This good start to the day was even better after a hearty breakfast. 


Pink Footed, Greylag, Egyptian, Canadian and rather local speciality Russian White Fronted Geese 132 of them to be precise.

It was great to have Pinks, Greys and White Fronts all in the scope together as it helped guests with their ID skills

Setting off to Sculthorpe moor we had to go across country due to a local road closure, we saw a preponderance of Brown Hares and Red Kites. This site never ever disappoints with their various feeding stations drawing in a wide and varied selection of birds, having said that I would not want their annual bird food bill which stands at £3,600. With Redpolls, Siskins, Bullfinches, Reed Buntings, Bramblings and a mix of Tits finding the seed mix to their liking, other woodland species such as Nuthatch and Tree creeper were also seen. Sadly, the on-site Tawny Owls had disappeared out of sight whilst there was clear evidence of Beaver activity in the trees within their huge compound. A perch hunting Barn Owl completed this visit as we made our way back to base. Crossing the interior of Northwest Norfolk, we saw a couple more Barn Owls whilst many Brown Hares were seen in the vicinity of some substantial sugar beet clamps where evidence of their feeding activity was seen.


A later start than the ungodly hour of the previous day saw us head off to RSPB Titchwell, coinciding our visit with the high tide. Going straight to the beach the sea watching did prove to be somewhat disappointing with Red Breasted Merganser, Great Crested Grebe and Goldeneye on the sea. Some large flocks of Common Scoter and a smattering of Eiders also flew by. Whilst down on the beach I realised we were in the company of a group of fellow Lincs birding club members, nodding heads and having a chat we donated some of our cake to them so they could celebrate one of their numbers birthdays, after all Mr Kipling does make exceedingly good cakes. The Golden Plover were still there but again somewhat troubled by the resident Marsh Harriers. Good numbers of Skylark, Reed Buntings and Meadow Pipits were also seen feeding in seed rich vegetation throughout the reserve.

Moving on to Holkham a small pull in at the edge of the estate overlooking some well grazed sward gave us a selection of geese with Pink Footed, Greylag, Egyptian, Canadian and rather local speciality Russian White Fronted Geese 132 of them to be precise. It was great to have Pinks, Greys and White Fronts all in the scope together as it helped guests with their ID skills, a bean goose might have been a goose too far though.

Time was of the essence as Warham Greens was our next destination, parking up imbibing ourselves with tea it was to be a couple of late afternoon hours looking for raptors over the salt marsh. Bumping into the Lincolnshire birders once again many eyes made for some good sightings. The site did not disappoint. With Marsh Harriers, a couple of Ring-tailed Hen Harriers and great sightings of the resident second year Pallid Harrier which most had come to see. With Curlews, Shelduck and a selection of Gulls providing the supporting cast, we left with several thousand Brent Geese transitioning along the coast.

Working our way eastwards along the coast we dropped into Thornham marsh in the hope of seeing some Twite, sadly none were in evidence but over 100 Curlew on wet grassland proved to be a great substitute. A large flock of what proved to be exclusively Skylarks fed in amongst the shrubby seablite and saltmarsh grasses. Our next destination was back to Holkham where we were in search of Shorelarks, after a walk of two miles each way we did see them at close quarters, they proved to be life ticks for some of the group, but it was not the end as the Green Winged Teal was located out on the wet pasture, again a life tick for us including myself.  


As we headed further eastwards the Glossy Ibis that had been at Stiffkey pools had disappeared about an hour before our arrival. Eventually we got to Cley the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve where a lunchtime session of sea watching yielded both Black and Red Throated Divers. We then proceeded to examine all the Brent Goose flocks in the area until we found what we had been looking for a Red Breasted Goose in a flock of Dark Bellied Brents but a couple of Pale Bellied were also seen.

Refreshments and a little retail therapy were taken at Cley before the last couple of hours were enjoyed on the reserve as huge numbers of Pink Foots came into roost as Marsh harriers wheeled around, whilst a Water Rail went about its business just outside the hide. After a day like this it was noted just how many smiles were on guests faces.


A pre breakfast walk along the beach gave us close sightings of that most aerodynamic of birds the Fulmar that nest in small numbers on Hunstanton cliffs. Several hundred Brent Geese were feeding on the gutweed on the rocks before being scattered by a couple with 11 dogs somewhat out of control, the final twist to this story came when one of the dogs went ‘missing’ whereupon we reported it was last seen gorging itself on a washed-up seal carcass.

It was a shame that we were denied the chance of a visit to Welney but I seriously do think we ended up in bird credit limiting our travels to North Norfolk. A fun nature picture quiz on the laptop completed proceedings on the final night before a final tally of 110 species were listed for the trip. As always there were some bonus species seen that were not on the target list whilst expected others were conspicuous by their absence. The final tally for the five days was 110 species, a total not to be sniffed at.

Footnote – a walk in mid-morning along the sea wall at Burnham Overy Staithe on Friday did finally produce a Twite but not the predicted Barnacle Geese, whilst very interesting conversations with a local boat owner and a man gathering sea beet added a different dimension to proceedings.

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