11th-13th Oct 2022 – Three Autumn Days

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A 3-day Private Tour in North Norfolk, we had some lovely weather with long spells of sunshine and light winds. We enjoyed some very pleasant relaxed general birding up along the coast – just a few of the highlights are summarised in the blog here.

Tuesday 11th October

We started the day at Cley. A quick walk along the footpath failed to produce any obviously freshly arrived migrants, but did give us a nice selection of commoner finches and tits to start the trip list. We then made our way up the East Bank in the sunshine – there were still a few lingering Avocets on Pope’s Pool, and one or two Marsh Harriers over the reedbed, as well as the regular selection of ducks.

There was lots of Bearded Tit activity again, with several small parties zooming back and forth low over the reeds or circling round higher calling, as they tried to work up the courage to disperse. Once or twice they perched up nicely in the reeds for us. There were a couple of Stonechats flitting around in the reeds too. A Kingfisher zipped over the reeds and across the path just ahead of us in a flash of electric blue.

We stopped by the Serpentine to talk a little about wader identification, with some nice close Black-tailed Godwit and juvenile Dunlin to illustrate the talk. Further on, the Brackish Pools held a pair of Pintail, the drake just starting to emerge from eclipse.

A short walk along the old shingle ridge behind Arnold’s quickly located the five Snow Buntings feeding on the short vegetation. We had them to ourselves and they were suitably obliging. They looked stunning in the sunshine – great to watch. On a couple of occasions we heard more Snow Buntings flying over and at one point a sixth landed on the top of the shingle ridge and all six flew out to the beach.

Snow Bunting – on the old shingle ridge

Afterwards, we had a quick look at the sea. There were several Red-throated Divers in various stages of moult just offshore, some still sporting their summer red throats, and several small groups of Razorbills. A trickle of Gannets passed by and there were a few lines of Brent Geese coming in from the continent for the winter. Migration in action!

Red-throated Diver – close inshore

On the way back, one of the Jack Snipe had appeared on Snipe’s Marsh so we stopped for a look through the scope. It was fast asleep, but the Walsey warden then noticed a second Jack Snipe further back which was busily bobbing up and down, as they do, which we had a look at too.

After lunch, we stopped first at Iron Road. There were lots of gulls on the pool, commuting in and out from one of the fields which was being drilled the other side of the road. But the highlight here were all the Ruff, including one juvenile bearing colour rings which had been tagged in southern Norway in August.

From there, we headed to Kelling for a walk down to the Water Meadow to finish the afternoon. Peering over the fence, we could see a Jack Snipe just a few metres from us. It had pressed itself down in the grass and was assuming we couldn’t see it. To be fair, it was extremely well camouflaged!

Jack Snipe – very well camouflaged

There were a few Stonechats on the Quags too, and a quick look at the sea from Kelling Hard produced more Red-throated Divers and in particular lots more Razorbills. There seem to be a lot of them around at the moment. Then it was time to call it a day and head back. More tomorrow.

Wednesday 12th October

Another glorious sunny morning, we started the day at Holkham. We parked at Lady Anne’s Drive and scanned the grazing marshes – a couple of Grey Partridge were feeding out on the grass and we were serenaded by the sound of skeins of Pink-footed Geese flying overhead.

It was a lovely walk west along the track, but small birds were conspicuous by their absence initially, perhaps because there was a bit more of a breeze in the trees today. There had apparently been a movement of finches along the coast earlier, but it seemed to have dried up now and nothing had decided to stop in the sunshine. There were a few Coal Tits and Goldcrests feeding high in the pines. Salts Hole held some nice Gadwall and several Little Grebes again. There were a few insects still out enjoying the sunshine, Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters representing the dragonflies, and a couple of Wall butterflies.

Migrant Hawker – enjoying the sun

Scanning the sea from the dunes, we had good views of about fifty Common Scoter just offshore. Once again, there were lots of Red-throated Divers and Razorbills on the sea, as well as Great Crested Grebes, but we couldn’t find anything rarer in with them today. A few Brent Geese were coming in over the sea again, as was a single Grey Heron which looked more out of place! The highlight here were four Little Gulls which were dip feeding offshore.

On our way back, we finally connected with a couple of tit flocks, and got better views of Goldcrest and Treecreeper in particular. After lunch at The Lookout, we had intended to have a look for the Cattle Egrets but there was nowhere to park. We did see a single Great White Egret out on the grazing marsh as we passed.

We made our way to Wells instead and had a look out in the harbour first. Once again, there was a very nice selection of waders – including lots of Oystercatchers, a nice flock of Knot, close views of Bar-tailed Godwit and Turnstone. The highlight was a couple of Greenshank feeding in the edge of the channel. There were more Brent Geese here today too.

Afterwards, we headed into the woods to finish the day. There were some finches moving now, with several small flocks of Chaffinches passing over. We heard a single Brambling overhead at one point too. There was a nice tit flock in the birches which we stopped to look through, but we couldn’t find anything more unusual with it today.

Our main target in here was to try to catch up with some redpolls (which we had seen here recently) and they gave us the run around for a while in the Dell – we had them fly over calling several times, but whenever we tried to follow them they flew back the other way. We eventually caught up with some in a bare poplar by the back of the boating lake, where two Lesser Redpolls flew in and perched up nicely. Shortly after, a flock of Goldfinches flew in with three Lesser Redpolls now and a single male Siskin with them. A nice way to round off the day.

Thursday 13th October

On our way up to the coast this morning, we stopped first to admire several Yellowhammers in one of the hedges by the road. Several skeins of Pink-footed Geese flew over, coming from the direction of the Wash where they had presumably spent the night. At Choseley, there were flocks of Linnets put up by a Sparrowhawk, along with a few Chaffinches and a couple of Greenfinches.

At Titchwell, there were already quite a few cars in the overflow car park and consequently fewer birds, although a Blackcap did disappear into the apple trees. It felt like a perfect morning for Bearded Tits, sunny and still, but we only heard one or two as we walked out pact the reedbed. Two Great White Egrets circled round and landed down on the reedbed pool.

A lingering Spoonbill was on the Freshmarsh briefly when we arrived, but the real highlight here were the Golden Plover. They were typically very jumpy and kept landing on the new bunds then erupting into the air again, but we counted well over a thousand in the air at one point. They looked stunning the sunshine when they did land. There was a nice selection of other ducks and waders here too, as usual.

Golden Plover – on the new bund

On the way out to the beach, we stopped to look at the Tidal Pools. A Greenshank was asleep at the back and looking carefully through the scope we located the Spotted Redshank roosting with a small group of Common Redshank nearby.

There were eight Snow Buntings out on the beach today, feeding along the tideline to the west. Offshore, it was the recurring theme of lots of smart Red-throated Divers and small rafts of Razorbills, although we did also manage to find a smart drake Eider a little further out.

On the way back, we stopped again to watch the Golden Plovers – stunning! Then as we got to the reedbed we heard Bearded Tits calling and found a small group of about half a dozen feeding in the reeds close to the path. We followed two which flew further down and they ended up coming very close and giving us some fantastic views. It was a very good day for Bearded Tits after all.

Bearded Tit – perfect conditions today
Bearded Tit – showing well

After lunch in the picnic area, we had a quick walk out along Fen Trail. Patsy’s had just a single Common Pochard today and a pair of Pintail. A Grey Wagtail flew west calling, the only migrant we saw on the move here this afternoon. We continued on to the end of Autumn Trail, but apart from the usual Ruff, Avocets, etc, there was nothing more unusual here.

We had a slightly earlier finish planned for this afternoon, so everyone could get away, but we had time for one quick stop on the way back at Holkham and there was no one else there today. The Belted Galloways were hiding in the taller vegetation, but we eventually found the four Cattle Egrets with a different herd of cows further back when they flew round. We could see one through a gap in the reeds in the scope. A Great White Egret flew past.

When a couple of Marsh Harriers circled over the scrape, we noticed a small wader fly up and land again with the Teal. Through the scope, we could just about see it was a Little Stint – a nice bonus late addition to the trip list.

It was lovely here in the sunshine, but unfortunately we had to get back. As we turned to go, a Red Kite circled low overhead, looking particularly stunning in the afternoon light. A nice way to end.

Red Kite – circled overhead

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