Monday 11th to Friday 15th Oct 2010 - Norfolk

As readers of this blog, you will probably know that I was away most of last week. I spent it in North Norfolk on a break with my wife and sister-in-law. The primary focus of the holiday was to do a number reserves/walks and not particularly chasing the autumn rarities. I will try not bore you with a breakdown of everything we saw, but I will summarize some of the highlights.

What was interesting, and a main reason I wanted to do Norfolk this time of year, was the overlap between departing summer migrants and arriving Scandinavian migrants. This was perhaps best summed up by our visit to Hunstanton cliffs on the way there where 2 Wheatears were seen only metres away from a Fieldfare and only minutes before we had seen a ♀ Redstart. Other incoming migrants seen in good numbers during the week were Bramblings, Siskins, Redwings, Song Thrushes and Robins. As for outgoing birds, Wheatears were seen at numerous locations throughout the week.

Wheatear - Cley, 14th Oct 2010:

Great views were obtained of North Norfolk specialities - Bearded Tits, Marsh Harriers and Barn Owls and a high point came when a flock of 11 Snow Buntings dropped in only feet away from us near Gore point at Holme Dunes.

Snow Bunting - Holme, 12th October 2010:

Waders were, as you would expect, well represented with highlights being 2 Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank all at Cley. A single Whimbrel was seen along the beach at Titchwell and a single Green Sandpiper was seen on the fresh water marsh there. Other waders seen in good numbers during our stay in Norfolk were Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Curlew, and Redshank. Small numbers of Lapwing and Common Snipe were also seen.

Bar-tailed Godwit - Hunstanton, 11th Oct 2010:

Curlew Sandpiper - Cley, 14th Oct 2010:

Good numbers of Pink Footed Geese had all ready returned for the winter and smaller numbers of Brent Geese were back. Wigeon and Teal were also starting to gather in large numbers but far fewer numbers of Shellduck and Pintail were present.

Brent Geese - Holme, 12th Oct 2010:

Sea watching provided us with a Red-throated Diver, 4 Gannets (1 adult and 3 immature) and 6 Common Scoter at Cley. A raft of c.100 Common Scoter were seen at Holme.

As for rarities/scarce migrants, well lady luck smiled on us on the final day. In the afternoon we walked down to Warham Greens in the hope of seeing the Hen Harrier that has been showing there (it is an area where they often roost in winter months). On getting down to the track looking over the vast expanse of salt marsh we had great views of a nearby Barn Owl. Within a few minutes a birder came up to us and asked if we were there to see the Yellow-browed Warbler. We had no idea that one had been seen here that day but were pointed in the righ direction. The bird had been in a small shrubby hollow known as 'the pit' and when we got there 7 or 8 other birders were waiting for it to show. Within 10 minutes of being there the Yellow-browed Warbler popped out onto a branch and spent a minute or so flitting in and out some Ivy before disappearing. I couldn't believe it, that last Y/B Warbler I had seen at Upton Warren (Worcs) a few years back took about 1 1/2 hours of waiting for a brief glimpse.

After seeing the Yellow-browed Warbler, I chatted to another birder and told him how we came here on spec for Hen Harrier and new nothing of the Y/B Warbler. He then to my surprise said..."So you don't know about the Pallas's Warbler just round the corner?" Quickly we popped 200 metres or so round the corner to find a couple of birders scanning a hedge. Again, talk about lucky, within minutes of being there, the bird showed well flycatching and perching for a minute before disappearing along the hedge with a flock of Long-tailed Tits. I was overjoyed as Pallas's Warbler was a lifer for me and what a stunning little bird it was! I couldn't believe it 2 scarce leaf-warblers in just under an hour. What a way to end the week.

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