Posts Tagged ‘Norfolk Birding


One Day

It doesn’t often happen that a customer cancels a tour but occasionally everyone gets ill. So it was last Friday. The day was mine to do with as I wished.

I thought I’d have a go at the Red breasted Flycatcher that had been around Trimingham churchyard the previous day. Busmans holiday and all that. As soon as I arrived a Pied Flycatcher flipped into an eye level branch of a beautiful open Cherry tree. It stayed just long enough for me to un-clip the camera bag and get the camera out. It had vanished by the time I’d raised the camera to my eye. I waited another hour before I saw it again. It perched just above an old girl kneeling at a gravestone, whispering to herself or maybe her interned loved one. Rather than disturb her I went for a walk to the sea. The scene was grey. The wind was whipping in from the North off the water. There was a smell of rare bird in the air. It was palpable.

By the time I returned to the churchyard I had it to myself again. I heard the Pied call and followed the sound to a spreading oak, before seeing it in the canopy and firing off a few record shots. As I was watching the bird something caught my eye. It was a bat circling the church. A Natter’s Bat. I tried to take a few pictures but as soon as I’d altered the settings on the camera it disappeared under the church eves. Presumably it was late in from a night shift. I never did see the Red breasted despite assistance from Paul and Rose that popped in for a quick look, so I presume it had moved on. Curiously a good number of Speckled Wood butterflies were alighting on gravestones. Not sure why; absorbing salts maybe?

I used to visit this area a lot when I lived at Falcon Cottage. It’s grown up a little and the trees in the churchyard are now ideal habitat for migrant birds. The area suffers from an absence of parking. Something to consider if anything truly amazing turns up there. In fact when I returned to the vehicle I had a polite but lengthy note on my windscreen asking me to consider where I parked as they couldn’t reverse into their drive opposite when approaching from the main road. Well my lovie, if you couldn’t reverse into your drive given the space I’d left …. I think it’s about time to give up your licence. It did occur to me they could have rung me in the time it took to write the note, the mobile number is on the side of the car. I was only yards away. I’d have gladly come and moved the damn thing. I did think I’d leave a ‘counter-note’ where they could read it but thought better of it. Some of my friends still watch this area. I didn’t want to escalate anything that would reflect upon them when they visit. I resolved not to park there again.

Home for lunch and then I though I’d take a drive West to Cley. As I pulled away from Sheringham a beautiful green locomotive was steaming its way towards Holt. I got ahead of it and took some photos of the stately beast as it crossed the road. Steam engines still hold a thrill. I guess it comes from having a father who gave most of his life to British Rail.

A message on my phone regarding a Sykes’s Warbler was going to change my afternoon. This is a bird from the Middle East that winters in the Indian subcontinent. It’s occurrence here is accidental with less than twenty previous UK records. I missed the first one in Norfolk in August 2002. It would have felt churlish to ignore the second.

The bird acquired its name from William Henry Sykes, a naturalist serving with the British Army in India. He discovered fifty six species of bird new to science and several species, including the warbler, bear his name.

The bad news is this individual was on Blakeney Point; well half way up Blakeney Point to be exact. Another avian progeny of James McCallum and Kayn Forbes. I hate Blakeney Point. Three steps forward and two back. All that calf burning shingle. I took my time walking out there; a bit like a reluctant kid going to the barbers. Walking along the suaeda edge was no fun at all. The only passerine I saw in the two mile walk was a single Reed Bunting.

When I arrived at Halfway House the bird was still being watched at the end of ‘the runway’; a short turfed area amid the shingle and suaeda bushes where I’ve seen several rarities over the years. It was periodically being glimpsed by a line of optic toting admirers as it flew over the sea of fruticosa. I joined them and managed to watch from a high point and get one or two distant photos but I wanted to get a good look at the bird rather than photograph it. Over the years I’ve found in these instances it’s better to give the bird room and wait for it to show. Some in the crowd even voiced this … but it fell on deaf ears. Bush bashing, drive type twitching in my eyes is impatient bird watching and no longer appeals to me. I would rather the birds welfare came first. The bird needs to rest and should be left to show on its own terms. However, this sort of habitat, deep bootlace ripping growth, doesn’t promote the bird being seen without some intervention. I left slightly disappointed, with mixed feelings and perhaps earlier than I would have normally.

I dragged my feet walking back as I contemplated the day. Would it be better to make a ‘second plantation’ at Half Way House duplicating the area at the point to make observation a little easier for bird and birdwatcher alike? I don’t know.

I decided to make the return journey on the seaward side, along the beach; still shingle but maybe a little firmer and a bit of sea to look at too. It was good to have Ian’s company for part of the walk East. When Ian strode out ahead I was joined by a Grey Seal curious enough to follow me for a while; although she wasn’t up for much conversation

All in all … a mixed day.


High Overhead

It was a notification from friend Andrew that had us looking skyward.

He had been stood on the hill at Northrepps when he’d picked up a Marsh Harrier flying West high-up. When we eventually picked it up as it flew towards us at West Runton it was really high … I mean REALLY HIGH! It was trying it’s best to migrate North and go out to sea but was having a really problem with the strong Northerly wind.

Would we have noticed it at upwards of a 1000 feet above? I doubt it. Andrew can still hear crickets … which gave him the nickname of ‘Dog-ears’. I reckon we should christen him ‘Hawk-eye’


Attention seekers

We don’t get many Purple Sandpipers during winter this far south. No big flocks anyway. Just a few birds maybe, scattered around rocky parts of the coast. This one was one of three we saw at Sheringham the other day when on tour. They are one of those birds like Gadwall or Chiffchaff that improve the longer you look at them. The intricacies of plumage on a Purple Sandpiper; the feather edges and the subtle tones of colour, are quite attention seeking.



It seems to be a regular occurrence at this time of the year that we get a smattering of Phalaropes along the north Norfolk coast. This Grey Phalarope (or Red Phalarope if you are at the other side of the Atlantic) was at Salthouse when we were on tour a week or so ago. This individual seemed to be suffering a little, perhaps from being wind blown in the Autumn storms; it just wasn’t as active as it should be. However, it was feeding and wasn’t there the following day. So it either succumbed or left!


On Fire

On tour the other week this was one of two male Firecrests competing against one another singing their heads off. On another tour in the same week we even had them coming to drink. Stunning birds.


Never Close

The problem with raptors is they hardly ever do come close. The Pallid Harrier at New Holkham was no exception. It did show well but never gave us a fantastic photographic fly by.




This year has been a great year for Long tailed Ducks off Norfolk. This small group were just a splinter from a larger flock off Titchwell last week.



Shouting Loudly

It was hard to ignore this Cetti’s Warbler it was very shouty! Despite that it was also very stealthy as it popped up here, and then there, without even showing us how it got between the two!

Cettis Warbler


Splash of Colour

I heard a Kingfishers shriek shrill the other day. As far as I could make out it came from a bush. The bush was over a small pool of water so I searched the complexity of branches and eventually found a female sat tight in among ‘a cage’ of branches. Trying to get a photo was one of those occasions when you have to almost bend light to get a clear view. Always lovely to see and what a splash of colour on a dull day.



A Warbler and a raptor

There are two things when watching wildlife that always run true.

Firstly, the longer you stay in one place the more you will see and secondly, when searching for one thing you almost invariably find something else of interest; and so it was the other week.

We walked up a nettle covered track aside the River Nar to listen to a rendition erupting from a patch of phragmites. Nightingale, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Curlew were just some of the compendium voiced by the songster we went to see. Marsh Warblers are excellent mimics and this bird was no exception. Always tantalisingly just hidden from view we had to wait quite some time for it to show well; which it eventually did. However it was something else that stole the show.

Swinging in high above us was an avian delight. Here was a bird you don’t see all that often in Norfolk … for the time being anyway. The pale raptor hovering over the adjacent lake was an Osprey. Bearing a dark necklace it was a female. Again and again she returned to try her hand at fishing and on her third visit she managed to catch a fish. Her subsequent absence was our cue to move on.

Marsh Warbler



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Mar 2023


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