So, my Norfolk birding adventure has drawn to a close, and it was much better (birding-wise and weather-wise) than I thought it was going to be! Overall we got 101 bird species (including 3 heard-not-seens, 1 feral Barnacle Goose, 1 probable Woodcock and I counted the Guillemots/Razorbills seen whilst sea watching as 1 species). 14 of these were year ticks, and 7 were lifers:
It was an amazing holiday, with the best bird being the Long-eared Owl at Walsey Hills. I learnt some new skills, like sea watching and identifying the birds at such long range, and some new photography skills too. And getting the bird count to over 100 was great!
I'm off to Yorkshire tomorrow to see family, and we usually see a Red Kite there or on the journey, so I will let you know if I do!
Day 7 - Felbrigg Hall, then back home:
Today, as the weather wasn't supposed to be very good, we planned to not really do much. But, after a lie in we found that it was dry and quite bright outside, despite the wall to wall cloud. So we decided to go somewhere local, and Felbrigg Hall is where we went - also, the fact that Firecrests are supposed to be resident there was a very encouraging factor!
So we arrived and found a Treecreeper quite quickly, which was a good trip tick, but unfortunately, that was about it. We heard some very high pitched repetitive calls that could've been Firecrest, but they could've also been Goldcrests or Long-tailed Tits, and as we couldn't actually find the birds amongst the remaining foliage, we had to leave without an identification. We also heard Nuthatch and Wrens, but as I said, that was it.
It was a pleasant outing though, and I got a chance to have a go at some photography where you zoom whilst taking the photo (I don't know if this has a name or not), and out of about 250 photos, 5 were successful! So here are a few of my favourite, the rest are on my Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/126206605@N02/):
Day 6 - Choseley Barns, Holme Dunes & Home Marshes:
Today we went to Holme Dunes NNR, but on the way we stopped in at Choseley Barns, as it was less windy today, to see if we could tick off Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer, and to try and find the Little Owl again that we saw on Saturday. So we travelled up the farm track to find a group of 5 bird watchers walking around the area, we all saw the Little Owl as it flew fast away from us, which was an excellent start to the day! We also had a few Yellowhammers in with a flock of Chaffinches, which was a good year tick.
On arrival at the car park at Holme, a Cetti's Warbler was calling from a bush, but of course we didn't see it! We had nice views of a male Marsh Harrier, various wildfowl (including lots of Wigeon and a few Gadwall which were new for the trip), some nice Brent Geese and Black-tailed Godwits from the 3 hides. We also had a very fast fly-by Kingfisher, which didn't call to help us spot it earlier.
After visiting the 3 hides by the visitors centre, we had lunch and then walked through the pines to the beach, on which there were Redshanks, Oystercatchers, Blackwits and Curlews, as well as a single Sanderling, Turnstone and Grey Plover. I then spotted a flock of Common Scoter way out to sea, of which we had good views as they all lifted out of the water and flew around for a bit - it was amazing how many ducks there were hidden between the rolling waves! I tried desperately hard to find a bird showing white on the wing (or on the nape for that matter!), but even when all few hundred of the birds were in the air I couldn't make out a Velvet or Surf Scoter among them.
Today I wanted to see a Barn Owl, and Holme Marshes is supposed to be the best site in Norfolk for this lovely bird, so I thought we had a good chance, considering that it wasn't raining or too windy. So we set up camp in the first hide at Holme Marshes, to the left of which you can see a Barn Owl box, and we waited for around an hour and a half as dusk drew in. We had Fieldfare and Redwing, some nice Wrens and a Goldcrest, and on the way from the dunes to the marshes I saw a Weasel cross the road in front of us. There was also another Cetti's Warbler calling quite close to the hide, and a female Sparrowhawk landed right next to us for a second before flying off. The best bird of the evening was definitely a Water Rail though, which we heard squealing at first, then I caught a glimpse of it swimming quite close to us, before it disappeared into the reeds. A few minutes later we saw it again, just darting from one side of the water to the other. Then we had a nice view as it swam alongside the reeds for a few seconds, before disappearing again as they usually do!
Overall, the longest day list today, of 54, but no lifers, and no Barn Owl! But the Water Rail was a very nice year tick to get!
No great photos today, but I did get a chance to do some field sketches, which I haven't done for a while. They're not great, but it's good to practice!
Day 5 - Horsey & Sheringham Sea Front:
Today it was a toss up between going to Minsmere, Lakenheath Fen, or Horsey. We wanted to see Cranes this holiday, since we are in Norfolk, so we decided to go to Horsey, as there is also a good spot for sea watching at Horsey Gap. So we set off, and on the approach to the village, we spotted some birders with their scopes up looking into a field. We stopped, and it didn't take long to realise that they were watching 3 Common Cranes at the back of the field. It was really nice to see these birds again, as I saw them a few years ago on a trip to Norfolk at Stubb Mill near Hickling Broad, but we only got distant flight views, so it was great today to see 2 adults and a juvenile feeding on the ground, and to hear them calling. Later on we stopped in a layby to scan the filds for Cranes and raptors, where we saw 3 Marsh Harriers, 2 Kestrels and a Buzzard. We also heard the Cranes again, and then we saw a pair rise over the trees and land behind a hedge down the road, so we went done the road and had nice views again. I also managed to get a flight shot of them before they disappeared!
We then went to Horsey Mere, where we had Wrens and some nice late Dragonflies that were quite photogenic, but that's all we saw. So we went over to Horsey Gap for some sea watching, which wasn't nearly as good as yesterday! Just some Greater Black-backed Gulls to add to our day list. We did get nice close views of some curious Grey Seals that bobbed up and down in the water, and I got some shots.
As it was only 2pm at this stage, we thought we should go back to Sheringham, as Horsey Gap sea watching wasn't proving very fruitful, to add to our list of sea birds from yesterday. Unfortunately, the winds weren't as strong, and all we saw were lots of Gannets (with the variable plumage of the juveniles we had a couple of occasions where we thought we had a shearwater, but it was in fact a second year Gannet!), Brent Geese (a flock of 8 had a pale grey/brown bird in the middle the same size and shape of the Brents - very odd...), and at the start I got on 3 birds heading east which looked like Bonxies, but that's only going on 1 day's sea watching experience!
And that was it for today. Here are some photos:
Day 4 - Sheringham Sea Front:
Today, we decided to go sea watching - the first proper sea watch for me - as ex-hurricane Gonzalo would hopefully bring in some good pelagic birds. So after a lie in (of only half an hour!) we set off for Sheringham - "arguably the best sea watching spot in the county". As there were good strong winds blowing onshore, we thought that there might be little space left in the shelters on the promenade, but as it happens we were the first there. We set up the scopes and had nice views of a single Sanderling with a Ringed Plover and some Turnstones on the sand below us. I went down onto the shingle to see if they would come closer for some good photographs, but the birds were quite shy, so I gave up.
Unfortunately, our seabird identification isn't great, so some dark birds that flew east way off in the distance got by unidentified, but we could make out some Gannets, a single Brent Goose, and of course the Greater Black-backed Gulls that sauntered past. However, soon more people showed up, with much better seabird knowledge, and soon we were getting Guillemots/Razorbills, Red-throated Divers, Kittiwakes and my 5th lifer of the trip; Pomarine Skuas! A guy in the shelter had a Sooty/Manx Shearwater, I'm not sure what his decision was as to the species, but as I didn't see it, I'm not really bothered! Shortly after, we got Great Skuas quite frequently, and an Arctic Skua - this was amazing considering that I had never seen a Skua before today! Two Knots flew west, and my granddad told us afterwards that he had a Manx Shearwater quite close in.
All of these species were way too distant for photography, but I did notice a Turnstone land on the promenade near to the shelter, so I grabbed the camera and headed slowly towards it. It was very unconcerned by my presence, and after a few minutes it allowed me within a couple of metres of it! I was so annoyed though because the camera battery was dying, so I couldn't concentrate fully on getting a great shot, but here's what I did manage to get:
Day 3 - Titchwell Marsh RSPB via Burnham Overy Freshmarsh:
Today we decided to go to Titchwell again, as we did quite a bit of driving yesterday and we wanted to stay a bit more local, rather than trekking to Minsmere and back. So, it was hopeful, considering that there was no rain forecast, and a Penduline Tit had been seen at our favourite RSPB reserve for 2 days now.
On the way, we noticed cars parked at Burnham Overy Freshmarsh again, the site for the Great White Egret. So we stopped and I jumped out and was told that the bird was there, but a little distant. Nevertheless we set up the scopes and we saw it, a more definite tick than the one on Saturday - on a high mag you could see the yellow bill which confirmed it for me. Not a lifer though, but a first for Britain for me, as we did see one in Namibia. There were also many Pink-footed Geese in the field, which are nice neat geese to see.
Then we carried on to Titchwell (which I think should be called 'Twitchwell'!) to find a very busy car park. We set off round the Meadow Trail for starters, where many birders we still looking for the Yellow-browed Warblers reported in the area, but we carried on to the first hide. On the way I had a fleeting view of a pair of Bearded Tits which dived down into the reeds, but I will count them!
On leaving the first hide, I heard, on an RSPB volunteer's walky-talky, that there was a Shore Lark on the beach, "about two thirds of the way to Thornham". So I hastily made my way to the beach, where many people were lined up. Some said they had seen a Skua a few minutes before, and others said that there was a large flock of Scoter out to sea, but after many scans of the ocean, I found nothing but a few gulls. And I would've looked more, had it not been for a man telling me that a line of people stood way down the beach to the west were looking at a Shore Lark. So I gathered my limbs and trundled along the sand - which was easier to walk on than the pebbles at Cley! - to where these people were, and they showed me my 4th lifer of the trip - my first Shore Lark! The views were very distant at first, but after about half an hour the bird came quite close, but unfortunately by this time it had started to rain. So we got good views, and here are my best photos of this lovely lark - perhaps not much more than good record shots, but shots all the same!
And that was it for today, we got a Cromer crab on the way home and had a very fishy tea!
Day 2 - Cley Marshes and Roydon Common:
We set off for Cley-Next-The-Sea this morning, and just before the visitor centre we saw loads of birders lining the road all looking in the direction of some trees, so we parked up and I hurried over to ask what they were looking at. There was supposed to be a Pallas's Warbler in the trees with a flock of titmice, but it hadn't been seen since 20 minutes previous to our arrival, and it turned out that that was the last time it was spotted all day - so no lifer there!
However, when talking to the birders I soon found out that there was a Long-eared Owl in a bush just down the road at Walsey Hills, so I quickly trundled down the path following a trail of other birders, and came to a gathering of scopes and cameras, and I soon found my first Long-eared Owl perched in a bush offering stupidly good views and amazing photography opportunities! And I thought that I didn't have much luck with owls - 2 owl lifers in 2 days! What a start to my Norfolk holiday!
After this morning's excitement, we headed to the Cley Marshes visitor centre to find out where the Grey Phalarope was that has been on the reserve for a few days now. We set off to the phalarope site and was told that it shows every few minutes or so. It was so windy it was hard to stand up - I don't know how a little dainty bird like a phalarope could manage! But we did see it, not great views, but my first Grey Phalarope nonetheless! It kept coming in and out of the reeds briefly, then it would conveniently go behind a little bank! But, we saw it quite a few times, and I got some (bad) record shots.
As the weather was nice, I wanted to do a raptor roost this evening, so we went to Roydon Common in the hope of some harriers and maybe another owl! However, it is a little too early in the year yet for a raptor roost, so unfortunately in the hour we waited at dusk, all we got was a possible Woodcock that shot past, oh, and a Stonechat which is new for the trip.
Day 2 - Nottinghamshire to Cromer, via Titchwell Marsh RSPB and Choseley Barns:
Yesterday I broke up for my two-week October half-term holiday. My grandparents and I set off for Norfolk this morning, and as I haven't properly been birding since our holiday to Namibia, I have been very excited this last week - especially reading about all of the rarities and megas around Norfolk at the moment!
We couldn't check into our accommodation in Cromer until 4pm, so I thought we better do some birding on they way, so we took the coastal detour up to Titchwell Marsh RSPB for a bacon butty. When we arrived I looked on the sightings board to find that 3 Yellow-browed warblers had been heard and seen today on the meadow trail, so after our lunch we joined the parade of whispering birders trying to find one of these little birds - and unfortunately had no luck. We did get nice views of a couple of Goldcrests though which is always nice.
After Titchwell we drove up the road to Choseley Barns - the best site in Norfolk to see Corn Bunting according to the Norfolk Best Birdwatching Sites guide - in the hope of Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer, and it was hopeful as there were two cars parked at the site. Unfortunately, no buntings of any description, and in the past we've had Grey Partridge there too, but again, no such luck today.
However, as soon as we got out of the car, a lady standing by a scope came over and said that they had an owl in the tree right by us, so she showed a digiscoped photo and it was a Little Owl - I've been dying to see one for a while now, so naturally, I was very excited! We went over to her scope, and there it was, my first Little Owl! We had great views in a tree about 20m away, and it just sat there, dozing off every now and then. It was a bit distant for the 300mm lens, or atleast to get much more than a record shot, but digiscoping it through the lady's Swarovski worked really well. So here it is, my first Little Owl:
Day 12 - Windhoek to Jo'burg to Heathrow (boo hoo!):
We only had a morning left on the trip of a lifetime, so after an initial pack, we went to another sewage works. It was a pleasant morning, and I got 2 more lifers, bringing the bird lifer total to 197 (almost 100% of my previous life list!), and the bird trip list to 227, and our mammal list finished at 34 species.
Day 11 - Waterberg Plateau to Windhoek:
The penultimate day of the trip brought 78 birds, 5 mammals and 10 bird lifers.
On leaving the Waterberg Plateau, we saw no less than 10 raptors from the vehicle - most of which were over a single rocky hill! They were:
On another visit to a sewage works we saw a Yellow Mongoose, Hottentot Teals, African Darter, Sacred Ibis, Red Bishop and African Reed Warbler.
I'm Sorrel, a young birder and wildlife artist based in the East Midlands - this is my blog all about my birding and wildlife adventures.