11th to 15th March 2013 - Norfolk

Hi all, as it's been a wee while since I last posted I thought I would kick start the blog with a post on mine and Bev's trip to Norfolk last week. 

I'm sure many of the birders out there will be familiar with the appeal of the Norfolk coast...but some of you may not, so why Norfolk?  Norfolk is a great place for birds...the place is  full of them throughout the year.  In winter months huge numbers of wildfowl and waders over winter there drawn to the rich food source of the mudflats and salt marsh of The Wash.  During migration periods it is often first landfall for many a rarity and in the summer it holds it's own breeding specialities.  To be honest there is always something to see at Norfolk and the sheer volume of birds compared to the landlocked Midlands is a joy to behold! 

Anyway, enough of that prattle...on with the post!

Monday 11th March - Old Hunstanton
Having been stuck in traffic on the M6 due to a serious collision near the junction with the A14, followed by driving through 2 blizzards, it was a relief to arrive at where we were stopping at Old Hunstanton and pop down for a walk along the beach below the cliffs.  The wind chill and speed was horrendous but we did see good numbers of waders along the shoreline including Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Ringed Plover and Turnstone.  But after an hour of walking along with the wind blown sand hitting our faces like shards of glass we decided to call it day and retire to the hotel.  The lingering thought was...what on earth are we doing here in this weather!

A wind swept Old Hunstanton

Bar-tailed Godwit - Old Hunstanton

Ringed Plover - Old Hunstanton

Tuesday 12th March - Holkham
Thankfully the weather was much more pleasant on the Tuesday and was sunny for large parts of the day.  The change in weather was particularly highlighted by the increased activity of Barn Owls that were busy hunting and feeding up.  We actually saw our first Barn Owl of the day quartering along the roadside at 9:30 am near Burnham Deepdale.

The walk around Holkham was superb...the beach, with its back drop of pines and dunes, is one of the finest in the UK and has been used as a location for a number of blockbuster movies.  We didn't connect with any of the specialities such as Twite or Snow Bunting at Holkham Gap but it was a pleasant walk all the same...a real spirit lifter after the previous days weather!

The after cutting through the dunes at the edge of the pines we headed over to view and walk the marsh side path.  This proved to be very worthwhile as we were treated to cracking views of 2 Marsh Harriers and 4 Barn Owls.  One of the latter landed on a fence post less than 20ft away and checked us out for 30 seconds or so before continuing to quarter the field...it was that close it was too big for binocular views...superb!

A visit to the slightly off the beaten track Joe Jordan hide also paid dividends with a small group of Eurasian White-fronted Geese still present (they depart for their breeding grounds in March).  We were also treated to views of a Bittern flying over the reed bed and a Muntjac Deer just outside the hide.  Curlews, Gypo's (sorry Egyptian Geese), Grey Partridges and good numbers of Lapwings were also very much in evidence on the marsh

View from the dunes at Holkham


Photo by Bev K

Tuesday 12th March - Titchwell Marsh
Mid-afternoon we decided to drop in at the RSPB's Titchwell Marsh reserve for a couple of hours.  The highlight of this visit was seeing 2 rather showy Spotted Redshanks that were in close to the main footpath.  Other waders of note included Avocets, Common Snipe, Golden Plover and Ruff.  

On the first lagoon there was large numbers of gulls present on the lagoon including 3 rather stunning adult Mediterranean Gulls,  c.1000 Common Gull,  thousands of Black-headed Gulls,  many Herring Gulls and small numbers of Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls

Many Brent Geese were present at Titchwell and plenty of other wildfowl were also well represented with Gadwall, Mallard, Pintail, PochardShelduck, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck and Wigeon all noted.  A ♀ Long-tailed Duck was also present apparently but it was out of view sleeping behind one of the islands...ah well.

A Kingfisher was seen flying over the reed bed and a Cetti's Warbler was heard calling. Before leaving we stopped for a hot drink from the visitor's centre and sat watching the feeding station.  A ♀ Brambling was present amongst the mixed finches that were present. This will most likely be the last one I see until next winter! 

Spotted Redshank - Titchwell

Mediterranean Gulls - Titchwell

Wednesday 13th March - Holme Dunes
Wednesday was a day of sunshine and snow showers and we decided to undertake a walk around Holme Dunes.  The beach at Holme was actually fairly quiet on the wader front but we did manage to see a flock of 6 Sanderling flying along the shoreline.

The dunes were equally quite without a sniff of an incoming migrant such as a Chiffchaff or a Northern Wheatear.  I guess the aforementioned species had been held back a bit by the recent colder spell. Of interest to myself though was noticing a tiny puffball type of fungus that was numerous along the vegetated side of the dunes.  These were Winter Stalkball, a speciality of this habitat and a species I hadn't seen before.

The marshes proved a little more fruitful with 2 Marsh Harriers seen and a single Shag sat preening on a fence post.

Winter Stalkball (Tulostoma brumale)

Photo by Bev K

Wednesday 13th March - Old Hunstanton
On arriving back at Old Hunstanton we decided to check the shore line/sea to see if anything was about.  Sure enough there was a huge flock of thousands of Knot wheeling about over The Wash in a Starling like murmuration. A truly stunning sight as they turn en-masse with a flash of silvery white!

Thursday 14th March - Cley next the Sea
Our final day was spent undertaking a walk around Cley Marshes NR in the sunshine, but prior to arriving we stopped off at the reed beds near Cley windmill to try and pick up a Bearded TIt.  This place has been a banker for us in the past but not this time.  That said we had really good close views of 2 Marsh Harriers so it was a worthwhile visit.

At Cley we decided to visit the hides first and on the way along the boardwalk we stopped to view the cracking adult Spoonbill that was present on the Cricket Marsh.  From the hides we were treated to decent views of a group of 6 Black-tailed Godwits (one of which was coming into its lovely orange summer plumage).

From the hides we walked the beach road up to the shingle spit and across to view the Eye Pool and Eye field where a Purple Sandpiper was showing well.  Unfortunately though the light and the heat haze was awful and as a result so were my photos!

The walk back provided us with good views of 2 more Marsh Harriers and a flock of Dunlin.   Also of note was a Brown Hare that was lying down in the sun outside of the Cley Spey shop.

Cley Windmill

Spoonbill - Cley
(crappy distant record shot)

Thursday 14th March - Old Hunstanton
On returning to Old Hunstanton, Bev and I decided to spend an hour on the beach checking out what was about.  There was a flock of c.100 Sanderling flying about that landed along the shore line and proceeded to scurry around like small clockwork toys.  Also of note was a flock of c.500 Knot that were swirling around over the ocean.

I decided to spend some time sea watching but had no joy picking up any rafts of Scoter. In fact to start with all my scanning gave me were 4 Wigeon and a Great Crested Grebe out there until I picked up on a cracking drake Red Breasted Merganser that was swimming very close in to the shore line...lovely bird and one I didn't think I would see this week in all honesty.  Slowly, we headed back to the hotel for a couple of pints and a nice meal to round off what had been a great short break!

Red-breasted Merganser - Old Hunstanton
(record shot)


  1. A great read Jason and some great species as well. It's a while since we've been to Norfolk but I think now that it won't be too long before we return. Nice one!

  2. That was an amazing walk, lots going on there. The Godwit, the Med Gull and Redshank, good blog you shown us.

  3. Sound like a nice trip out Jase! Ive still yet to visit Norfolk, as you say, its one of those 'holy grail' areas for birders, and always had some decent birds! Enjoyed reading this, despite the 'gripped off' feeling haha

  4. A great read of your Norfolk trip Jason and splendid photo's to accompany your trip report! You saw some goodies despite the inclement weather! Glad you had an enjoyable trip!

  5. Nice stuff, i was Summer Warden on Blakeney Point for 1980 and 1982 - many happy memories of birds seen and friendships forged, best 2 Summers of my life. Magical area.....

    Laurie -

  6. Phil - Cheers mate...Its worth visiting any time of year in my opinion

    Bob - Thanks...much appreciated mate

    Craig - Cheers...you really should go at some point (doesn't have to be during migration periods as there is always stuff to see). Have a word with your Dad....Norfolk and Pembs this year for holidays perhaps ;-)

    Pam - Thanks, it was a really enjoyable break on all levels. Great birding, great accommodation, beer, food, folks etc...just a shame to be back...still Shenstone is calling!

    Laurie - Cheers Mate. What an experience that must have been at such an amazing area!

  7. Turned out pretty well,hope I can see some of those species soon when I visit. A nice way of filling the hiatus till it all kicks off locally ( if the spring actually arrives that is )

  8. You certainly made the most of your trip despite the conditions Jason. I would love to go but it's out of the question at the moment due to our elderly, frail dog. Definitely birders paradise though and you had some nice sightings.

    The Winter Stalkball was interesting too, I'd never even heard of it.

  9. Mark - Cheers mate...I'm sure there will be something worth seeing at Norfolk when you go...some of the migrants should be dropping off by then too!

    Jan - It was agreat break thanks. I feel for you with you dog, we went through similar a year or so back with our elderly dog Danny....but they are part of the family and have to come first!