Bird watching in Norfolk again

(Entry copied from my WAB blog)

I have just had a very enjoyable weekend bird watching in North Norfolk. I drove up on Friday morning, arriving at the RSPB reserve at Titchwell Marsh about 1pm. It had been a lovely bright morning as I drove up, but unfortunately it was now incredibly windy, not very good conditions for seeing birds at all. I didn’t bother to go down to the beach, but spent most of the afternoon in the main hide at the reserve, overlooking a large expanse of water. There were a lot of Pintail about, and a few Ruff, as well as the more common types of duck and a few small waders. A snipe emerged briefly from the reeds a couple of times. There were a few Golden Plover later on and a flock of Brent Geese arrived.

As planned, my friend Elaine arrived from London late Friday evening (we meet up a couple of times a year to go birding, usually in Norfolk or else at Minsmere in Suffolk). In the morning we went back to Titchwell Marsh – it was a cold but sunny morning, and thankfully there was now very little wind. We got off to a great start – we saw a Woodcock between the car park and the visitor centre! I knew one had been seen there yesterday, so when we saw someone staring fixedly into the undergrowth, I guessed what he’d found. The gentleman kindly pointed out where the woodcock was – fortunately it was right against a mossy branch, otherwise it would be impossible to locate such a well-camouflaged bird.

Ruff, with Dunlin behind it

Sadly for Elaine the Brambling I’d seen on the feeders by the vistor centre yesterday was no longer about. We made our traditional vist to the Fen Hide and, keeping with tradition, saw nothing. We then followed the path along the bank through the reserve, heading towards the beech. We saw Tufted Duck, Pochard, Little Egret and Reed Buntingon the marsh to the left, and Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Redshank and various ducks on the lagoon to the right.

We went in the main hide again -no Ruff or Snipe this time, but the Pintail were still there. There were Avocet, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Dunlin, Sanderling, Shelduck, Shoveller, Teal, Starling and Ringed Plover.

As we then made our way to the beach, we stopped to look at some Goldeneye. Suddenly a Water Rail popped up about 20 feet in front of us and then paddled across some water to some vegetation at the foot of the bank we were on. I managed to take a photo, but it was very blurred (disappointing, as this was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity to get such a close shot of this elusive bird).

Little Egret

On the beach we saw a fair mixture of waders, including Turnstone, Sanderling, Oystercatcher and Redshank. On the sea, we got a good view of a Red-breasted Merganser, close inshore. As we made our way back to the visitor centre we saw a Snipe and a Curlew out on the marsh.

After lunch, we went to Holkham and walked round Holkham Park. We once saw all three woodpeckers here, but didn’t see any at all today though someone told us that a Lesser-Spotted woodpecker had been reported there earlier. We did get a distant view of a flock of Brambling, and saw some Egyptian Geese, a Jay, a Coal Tit and a Wren.

We then went to the beach and pine belt at Holkham. We went through the gate from the car park towards the beach, and went to set up our scopes for a quick scan over the fields to our right, as we’d seen owls there on previous visits – before we even set up our scopes a Barn Owl flew across a short distance in front of us and went into the pines. When we did look through the scopes, we saw another Barn Owl way off in the distance across the fields. We didn’t see too much else as we followed the path left along the edge of the pine belt on the dunes. The first hide was full, so we went on to the second (Joe Jordan) hide. It was now quite windy. We saw some Marsh Harriers, the grey markings of a male showing up really well in the fading light. The highlight here was seeing 60 Litle Egrets come in to roost. As it got dark, we eventually saw some geese come in, but maybe only a thouasand or so, nowhere near the spectacular sight and sound we had experienced here on previous visits at this time of year.

Reed Bunting

On Sunday morning, we came back to Holkham. We started off going right along the edge of the beach – we saw some Redshank and then a small group of other birders. Another couple of Birders thought thety were Rock Pipits and Skylarks, but I wasn’t really sure of either identification (they’re all LBJ’s to me, I’m afraid!). We went on to the beach, hoping to see Snow Bunting which we’ve seen here on our last two winter vists – just as we’d almost given up, we saw six of them on the edge of the dunes.

We then walked across the wide expanse of Holkham beach, and entered the pine belt near the first hide. We followed a narrow path west through the pines – as so often happens, we went ages without seeing anything (except a solitary goldfinch), then just as we were getting to the end of the pine belt there was a whole burst of activity. First we spotted a Tree Creeper, then just yards away a mixed group of Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits.

We emerged from the pine trees and went a little further through the dunes, before turning back towards the Joe Jordan hide. We saw a pair of Stonechat on the way, and as we entered the trees near the hide we saw a Robin, Blackbirds and a Wren.


We then had a very interesting afternoon watching the birds from the hide. We saw Barnacle Geese, Egyptian Geese, Pink-footed Geese, White-fronted Geese, Greylag Geese, Marsh Harriers and another Barn Owl. The most exciting sighting though (and I know it doesn’t count!) was a Sacred Ibis! This came as a complete shock, but we quickly realised it must have escaped from somewhere – I’ve since seen on the web that it’s been reported at Holkham and along the coast at Stiffkey for several months now.

We left about 3.30pm to make our separate ways home, each having about a three hour drive. We’d seen 65-70 different birds, and had had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.

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