9th & 10th July 2011 â€“ Norfolk â€“ 2 day trip
Day 1 : Hertfordshire, The Brecks & North Norfolk
After a 6am pick up from South Kensington, my client and I headed up towards East Anglia, getting Ring-necked (Rose-ringed) Parakeet on the drive through London. Our first stop was an arable area near Sandon in Hertfordshire, where there had been reports of Common Quail recently. As we arrived at the site, a pair of Common Buzzard were circling over the fields. Virtually the first bird that we saw was Corn Bunting singing from a post right by where we had parked. A walk around the field margins produced a number of European Goldfinch, Common Whitethroat and a few more Corn Bunting as well as lots of Eurasian Skylark. A Red Kite was quartering over one of the fields and we later saw two circling together. Unfortunately the Quail had either moved on or was being very quiet so we didnâ€™t see or hear it. On returning to the car, the Corn Bunting was again sitting up and we had excellent, if front-lit, views of it and also saw another bird, presumed to be the female with food.
We then headed up to the Brecks and to Weeting Heath in Norfolk. The hides gave us great views of a family of Stone Curlew, Stock Dove and a pair of Mistle Thrush, whilst the woodland area held Chaffinch, lots of European Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker. Coal Tit, Blackcap and, after a short while, our target species at this site,Spotted Flycatcher.
We then moved a few miles west into the fens and to the Lakenheath Fen RSPB Reserve. The wind had picked up by now and so large areas of the reserve were seemingly devoid of birds. However an area of small willows and reed and near the visitor Centre in a sheltered area was productive and we got Willow, Sedge and (Western)Reed Wablers here. A large raptor flew fairly low south being mobbed by a couple of Carrion Crow and it when it banked it showed a very pale underwing. When it got a little nearer we could see the head marking confirming it as Osprey. Apart from a couple of circuits to gain height it went straight though. Our continued passage around the reserve was fairly quiet but we did get Green Woodpecker and Common Kingfisher. The viewing screen at the western end of the reserve proved one of the better places with a family of Marsh Harrier, a singing, but unseen Cettiâ€™s Warbler and good flight views of Great Bittern. The return leg along the river produced a Lesser Whitethroat and more Sedge and (Western)Reed Warblers and Reed Bunting. Common Cuckoo, Bearded Tit (Reedling) and Garden Warbler were heard and a reasonable view of a juvenile Hobby was obtained, whilst a Common Kestrel hunted in the fields on the Norfolk side of the river. The wetland areas held Common Tern, Great Crested and Little Grebes as well as Tufted Duck along with the myriad of Eurasian Coot, and a Grasshopper Warbler was heard â€śreelingâ€ť nearby but as is normal with this species, it remained hidden.
After a quick lunch stop we headed up to Titchwell RSPB Reserve on the north Norfolk coast, stopping briefly at Hunstanton to admire the breeding Northern Fulmar colony and also getting a couple of distant Northern Gannet out in the Wash [the Wash is the name of that area of tidal sea]. Titchwell held the predicted species with a number of shorebirds starting to return to swell the numbers of breeding birds. These included a lot of Ruff, many still in summer plumage, Pied Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit and Little Ringed Plover and Eurasian Curlew, and â€śwaterfowlâ€ť included Little Egret, Common Teal, Northern Shoveler and Common Pochard. The seashore held a large flock of c1000 Red Knot with a couple of Bar-tailed Godwit with them and other birds seen on the reserve included Marsh Harrier, Common Linnet, Reed Bunting, Common Kingfisher, Pied Wagtail and Great Tit.
We then headed towards our hotel stopping briefly in the Chosley area where we found a pair of Yellow Wagtail and Red-legged Partridge, but the apron around the drying barns was devoid of birds.
After an early supper, during which there was a huge thunderstorm, we headed out to Roydon Common for the evening. We had good views of Woodlark and Yellowhammer on the edge of the common and then headed out into the middle for our evening vigil. Apart from the millions of midges and mosquitoes, which were extremely irritating, we did get good flight views of Eurasian Woodcock, and heard at last one European Nightjar and several Grey Partridge. There was also a Common Snipe â€świnnowingâ€ť and another one producing its â€śchip-chip chipâ€ť call. On the way back to the hotel, we saw one of the highlights of the trip, a Western European Hedgehog amble across the road in front of us. The day finished on a total of 103 species recorded (+1 hedgehog!).
Day 2: Roydon Common, Cley and the Brecks
An early start saw us back at Roydon Common the following morning to try and get Tree Pipit and Grey Partridge and giving the mozzies and midges a chance to have a second go at us. Despite the calmer conditions than the previous day, our target species remained elusive through we get excellent views of Yellowhammer, and also saw Common Kestrel, Woodlark, Eurasian Skylark, Blackcap,European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Green Woodpecker, a number of Common Linnet, heard a Common Stonechat and saw a group of three Roe Deer including a fawn. A few minutes scrutinising a pair of partridge in a distant field proved them to be Red-legged Partridge, rather than the hoped for Greys.
After returning for breakfast we headed over to the famous Cley NWT Reserve in our quest for more shorebirds and wading birds. The reed-fringed path to the hides were alive with Sedge Warblers, sitting up and showing really well as well as a few more skulking (Western) Reed Warblers, whilst a group of locally breeding House Martin hawked insects overhead. The central scrapes held a similar array of waders as Titchwell had done the previous day; Pied Avocet, (Eurasian) Oystercatcher,Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit and Little Ringed Plover with a distinct dearth of smaller waders. The North Hide proved a lot better; despite the sun bring in our eyes. It held 10 Eurasian Spoonbill, and single Green Sandpiper, both target species, a group of four 1st summer Little Gull,the first Common Gulls of the trip and we also had good flight views of Mediterranean Gull as well as the shorebird species that weâ€™d already seen. The area around the beach car park was alive with Barn Swallow, Sand Martin (Bank Swallow) and Meadow Pipit, an almost dry sea pool held Pied and a single juvenile Yellow Wagtail and the shingle ridges held a colourful display of flowering Yellow-horned Poppy and a Little Tern was seen over the sea along with several Sandwich Tern.
We then headed along the renowned â€śEast Bankâ€ť, to Arnoldâ€™s Marsh, adding a rather smart male Bearded Tit (Reedling) to our tally. The marsh held a good flock of Black-tailed Godwit, several Common Redshank and solitary Greenshank and (Common) Ringed Plover with a mixed flock of Eurasian Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit in the field behind and we heard a Whimbrel. A Wood Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper alighted briefly on the marsh but something spooked everything and we lost them. Sadly, we never did find any of the Spotted Redshank that were supposed to be around that day.
As time was pressing on, I decided to drive back down to the Brecks Area and have one final go for Tree Pipit. I stopped at a suitable clearing between Lynford and Santon Downham where we had a walk around for an hour. The area was very quiet bird-wise save for a number of Yellowhammer and a singing (European) Robin (our first of the trip!), but needless to say, a distinct lack of Tree Pipit. This site was saved, though, by excellent views of Hobby and I also found a local speciality of moth here, Sharp Angled Carpet.
The drive back to London produced two more birds of note â€“ a Little Owl flew across the road in front of us, and in Central London while we were waiting at some lights, we heard a Peregrine calling. The day total was 87 species which brought the trip total to 121 species recorded. This included 12 lifers and 3 sub-species lifers for my client.
The â€śBird of the Tripâ€ť award for my client was shared between Hobby and Eurasian Spoonbill (despite him actually wanting the accolade to go to the Hedgehog, which constituted another â€śliferâ€ť) and for me was a tie between the large, impressive flock of Red Knot and Northern Gannet, the latter which I never tire of seeing.