I normally try and visit Norfolk at least once a year, though this year it was rather last minute, so was only up there for 3 days. I was with fellow young photographer Josie Hewitt and I think we both came away with some respectable shots! As usual I had a great time and saw some really superb species - what is it about Norfolk that birds love so much above just about everywhere else?!
Anyway below is a quick trip report!
Day 1 ~ Sculthorpe and Burnham
Setting off at the crack of dawn we first payed a visit to West Stow country park in the hope of photographing some crossbills, though unfortunately in the 3 hours we were there, not one showed well enough to photograph.
We decided to head off to Sculthorpe Moor, a small, characterful nature reserve on the edge of Fakenham. We arrived to find a fairly busy car park (nice to see for a reserve that relies heavily on donations) though surprisingly we saw virtually no-one on our walk around! We headed straight for the Whitley hide which has always been the most productive in my past experience and were treated to a superb display by a wide variety of species. There was an almost constant presence of Bullfinch and Brambling (two species I hadn't ever really photographed previously) but the star of the show really was the Water Rail, who had obviously forgot he was meant to be shy and skulking!!
The light was beginning to fade so we headed off towards our hotel in Old Hunstanton. Along the road at Burnham, we encountered a small group of birders, all with scopes pointing towards the distant dunes. We decided to pull-in and see what all the fuss was about and we were quickly shown a very distant Rough-Legged Buzzard. This was only the second time I had seen this species, the first 2 years previously from the very same lay-by!
Day 2 ~ Hunstanton, Titchwell and Holme
Our original plan was to head to Titchwell Marsh RSPB however we decided to start off on the beach in front of the hotel. We picked up a few distant flocks of scoter flying offshore but the highlight was a colony of Fulmar along the nearby cliffs. A species I have seen several times before, but never as close as this; birds were flying just metres above our head!
These delayed our trip to Titchwell rather considerably, it is definitely a site I will be revisiting on my next visit, hopefully in a year's time.
The marshes at Titchwell held little of interest bar a sleeping female Scaup so we headed fairly quickly over to the beach. It was immediately apparent that the recent storm surge on this part of the coastline had had some fairly serious consequences. The dunes had been retreated by a good view metres leaving a very thin defence for the marshes behind. The boardwalk leading to the beach had been completely destroyed but thankfully the RSPB have since constructed a new pathway. Once on the beach, one of the first things we noticed were thin black 'lines' on the sea: scanning with the binoculars it soon became clear that these were in fact several large flocks of Scoter, some of which contained 3000+ individuals! They were very distant offshore but we still managed to pick out a number of Velvet scoter.
It was also interesting that the majority of scoters offshore (both common and velvet) were either females or 1st winter drakes - if anyone knows why it would be good to find out.
There were nowhere near as many waders as I have seen previously on the beach,though I was still able to photograph Grey Plover for the first time. Although they are not the most spectacular of waders, I think they are subtly rather beautiful!
Final stop of the day was Holme NWT - here we saw our first Pink-Footed Geese of the trip. Interestingly this time last year I saw just 1 Pink-Footed Goose over the course of a week, however this year over 3 days I saw several thousand! Here we also watched 11 Marsh Harriers fly into roost (some continued onto Titchwell) and a distant Barn Owl.
(More photos of the fulmars will be posted on a future blogpost dedicated entirely to this species!)
|Lots of Scoter on a wonky horizon! (foreground and background!)|
|Distant Velvet Scoter|
After much deliberation we decided to travel quite a way (about 45 mins) over to Edgefield Woods near Holt, in an attempt to see Parrot Crossbills. This is the first time in over 20 years these species have 'erupted' into the UK outside of Scotland, so were definitely worth trying to catch up with. I had heard some rather unfortunate stories of people taking 3-4 visits to see these birds, so I was not all that optimistic!
I needn't have worried however; as soon as we stepped out the car a surprisingly large number of birders had already located the flock of 16 Parrot Crossbill atop a large dead tree. Views were extremely distant and so we decided to try and get a little closer...until the forestry man arrived! He explained to us that they were going to be doing forestry work, and so all birders would have to leave the site. After some expletives had been exchanged we went back to the car and considered our rather limited options. As we dithered, I noticed a man waving frantically in the heather across the road. We walked over to him, and quickly picked up all 16 Parrot Crossbills sat at the top of a bare tree no more than 20m away. Here, we enjoyed fantastic views (including singing!) for nearly 10 minutes in what was unfortunately fairly appalling light, before the birds departed to feed.
After this high it was inevitable the next stop was to be something of a disappointment and so it was hardly surprising that Blakeney yielded pretty much nothing!
We then headed to Holkham where we saw the first White-Fronted Geese of the trip along with a rather confiding Grey Partridge.
Our final stop of the entire trip was to Burnham in an attempt to gain a better view of the Rough Legged Buzzard. We waited, and waited.....and waited some more, until we eventually gave into the reality that it wasn't going to show! It was still worthwhile though as we picked up a distant Short Eared Owl and thousands of Brent and Pink-Footed Geese!
|Male Parrot Crossbill|
|Female Parrot Crossbill|
|Female Parrot Crossbill|
|Male Parrot Crossbill|
So that's it, trip report over. Hopefully it has been worth the read, I am going to try and do smaller blog posts after every photographic venture from now on, so please keep checking back. You can of course subscribe to my blog my filling in your email address in the tab on the right-hand side so you never miss a blogpost!