Visit your favourite destinations
|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
North Norfolk 9th-15th December 2006 ,
Norfolk has been a destination for birdwatching with me for the last 31 years!. Over this time many things have changed with species and there distribution and status. However the Norfolk habitats remain to this day still the same, although they are more readily disturbed today! The location of North Norfolk and its diversity of habitats lend itself to a wide diversity of bird species. There are essential areas to visit if you want to see some of the “special birds” that are to be found in this wonderful area of the country.
ACCOMODATION AND LOCATION
For the last six years we have stayed in a cottage in Holt. Holt is about three miles from Cley marshes and as such is ideally situated for visits to key places in Norfolk .Many Cottages are available for rent in Norfolk at very reasonable prices, the RSPB membership magazine list many accommodations.
CLEY MARSHES AND SALTHOUSE BEACH.
Cley marsh still remains one of the top reserves in the country, and from my first visits in the mid 1970’s it has always provided a long list of species to be seen what ever month you choose to visit . It’s a good idea to visit Salt house beach first thing if it is a weekend as Dog walkers are out early and can disturb birds that are present on the shingle and immediately back from the shingle banks. This can mean arriving in winter just before sunrise! Our first visit looking out to sea saw Red Throated Diver ,with a count of 21 in view at one time; along side these birds were many Guillemot and Razorbill. Great crested grebe was close to the shore and larger and with conspicuous large bills were 3 Great Northern Diver. Flying east were many gulls including a second year Little Gull. The beach and shingle bank eventually yielded a mobile flock of 13 Snow bunting. Cley Marsh is excellent for Marsh harrier, and indeed the reserve constantly had up to 4 birds hunting over the reserve at any one time. The east bank yielded Bearded Tit and many calling Water Rail. The last half hour of light is a great time to observe birds at Cley marsh, and Golden Plover come in to roost with well over 500+ counted. Also a male Merlin was observed to fly in to roost in the reeds. Two early morning visits to the marsh paid dividends with Barn owl and a female Smew at the North Shore Hide.
Cley Eye is a great sea watching point, and early morning visits on three occasions produced excellent close sightings of sea birds mainly going east. Normally a North easterly strong wind can bring species close to the shore, however with a strong/gale force westerly an unexpectedly variety of species were seen. Auks were passing in large numbers on the 13/12 in the first hour of light. Literally hundreds of Guillemot and Razorbills were passing at a rate of 100+ a minute, and amongst them may Little Auk, well over 100+ in the first hour, also 2 Puffin were seen, many of the birds rested on the sea for a few minutes before flying east. Over 50 Red Throated divers were counted along with 4 great Northern Divers, Light phase and dark phase Arctic Skua and outstandingly a Balearic Shearwater 50 metres from the shore!
HOLKHAM AND HOLKHAM GAP
Holkham is the place to see wild geese! An amazing 100,000 Pink foot Goose were estimated to be on the ground on are first visit, they literally carpeted the grass turning a pale grey. Amongst the Pink foot were two Snow geese, although white there were quite difficult to see in the dense concentrations of pink foots. Small number of White fronted Geese were also present and obligingly were in a separate field to the Pink foots. A close survey of Holkham Gap salt marsh failed to produce any Shore Lark (apparently they had still to arrive), however a tight flock of 20 Snow Bunting gave close up views. On the sea opposite the gap was Red Breasted Merganser, large numbers of Common Scoter, with 2 Velvet Scoter, there white wing lashes showing well!
RSPB Tichwell always produces good close up views of birds. The feeders outside the shop are worth a view, and amongst the finches was a smart male Brambling. From the hides 7-Spotted Redshank, 8 Avocet, and 2 Snipe could be seen feeding close together. In a ditch along side the path a Water Rail was observed briefly, and the Fen Hide produced wonderful views of a perched Barn Owl. We were fortunate to see close views of Bearded Tit near to the main path including a brilliant male! Offshore from Tichwell was a close Slavonian Grebe and nearby a Red necked grebe. It is well to time a visit to Tichwell when the tide is high, allowing close views of birds on the sea.
HORSEY GAP AND STUBB MILL
Horsey Gap is a must to visit at any time of the year. Park at the mill and cross the road walking to the shore. Chiff-Chaff was present near the Nelson Pub, and Stonechat on the wires of the fields, a Kestrel hunting failed to capture a Snipe in one of the water ditches. The Beach at Horsey always has Grey Seal, and at this time of the year they are producing their Pups. It is best not to approach them on the beach, but observe from the sea defences, there were many new born pups on the beach. On the sea was Red Throated Divers and a close Black Throated Diver. After about half an hour watching the seals,3 Tern like small Gulls were noticed flying East close to the shore.Excellant views were had of 2 adult winter Little Gulls and outstandingly a adult winter Sabines Gull !.12 Crane were observed flying near to Waxham Church.
Stubb Mill has to be one of the best spots to view raptors that are coming into roost on a winters afternoon!. The added bonus at this site is that Crane is virtually guaranteed as well!. Make sure however that it is not raining, as apart from being an exposed site, most of the birds coming to roost drop down very quickly. A Peregrine was observed over the reeds, while 12 Cranes were observed coming in to roost, the count of Marsh Harrier exceeded 40 an they were joined by a male Hen Harrier.
Snettisham is a vast reserve,and should be visited when the tide is high, it is a very exposed reserve and waders can be at a very long distance, however the hides are excellent and can provide close views of ducks and waders at all times. Goldeneye and Pintail males were very striking and a male Twite on some shingle was a bonus, however the presence of a Little Auk swimming and diving with the duck attracted a lot of attention!.As the tide rose waders came close to the shore, vast clouds of Knot were evident and also well over 1000 Golden Plover were counted.
Derek and Lynne Lister
NORFOLK SPECIES CHECK LIST 9TH –15TH DECEMBER 2006
Red Throated Diver,max 50+ Cley eye
Black Throated Diver 1 Cley eye and 1 Horsey Gap
Great Northern Diver max 4 Cley
Common Crane max 12 at Waxham
Great Crested Grebe
Slavonian Grebe 1
Red Necked Grebe 1 off Tichwell 11/12
Smew 1 female on pool by North shore hide Cley 15/12 07-30.
Velvet Scoter 2 Tichwell
Red Breasted Merganser
Goosander 1 male on sea close to Cley shore 15/12
Pink footed Goose
White fronted Goose
Snow Goose 2 at Holkham 10/12.
Balearic Shearwater 1 close east Cley eye 11/12.
Artic Skua (light and dark phase)
Black Headed Gull
Lesser Black backed Gull
Great Black Backed Gull
Little Gull 1 Salthouse 10/11.2 Horsey Gap 12/12 (adult)
Sabines Gull 1 at Horsey Gap with Little Gull 12/12(adult winter)
Marsh Harrier(max 40+ Stubb mill)
Hen Harrier 1 male into roost Stubb Mill 12/12.
Merlin 1 male Cley, 1 male Stiffkey.
Black tailed Godwit
Bar Tailed Godwit
Avocet max 8 Cley
Puffin 2 past Cley eye east with auk movement 07-45 13/12
Little Auk at least 100+ east with auk movement 13/12
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Red legged Partridge
Bearded Tit 4 at Tichwell
Brambling 1 male Tichwell,I male Stubb mill
Twite 1 male at Snettisham
Snow Bunting max 20 at Holkham