Peter Watson (who lead the trip) neatly summed up the weekend as ‘Wet, windy and worthwhile’. Despite the almost continual rain for two days out of three, we came away with a very creditable total of around 120 species and some cracking birds. A total of 19 of us went on the trip.
With different start points for some, who had gone down the day before, the majority met up at Frampton RSPB Reserve at 11 am on Friday to start the trip in earnest. Swifts and Swallows over the reserve reminded us it was supposed to be spring, while birds seen from the hides included both Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit coming into breeding plumage, with some of the birds being particularly well marked. Avocets and both Little Ringed Plover and Ringed Plover were also about and a few wild Barnacle Geese. As the rain eased slightly, walking along the bank to overlook the marsh, we were surprised to see a flock of around 1000 Brent Geese still about, along with a couple of Wheatears and Yellow Wagtail, and back on the reserve a Spotted Redshank in breeding plumage was showing well. But that was only a taster of what was to come – Emanuela and Sue having seen a single Dotterel in with a small flock of Golden Plover earlier in the morning, we were keen to catch up with this too after lunch. On the way to where it had last been seen, the hedge by the car park yielded a Lesser Whitethroat and Cetti’s Warbler. By this time Keith and Liz had walked round the Reserve the other way and had located not only a Green-winged Teal (sadly not seen by any of the rest of us), but even more excitingly, a Red-rumped Swallow, which was subsequently seen and much enjoyed by all as it swooped up and down along the reservoir near Marsh Farm. For several of us this was a British tick and for some a lifer. In ever heavier rain we kept on walking and eventually caught up with the Dotterel too, through rain-soaked binoculars and ‘scopes. A Common Sandpiper was only spotted by Neil and Noel, while John saw and heard a Greenshank. Most supposedly waterproof coats had given up by this time, so we set off for the rest of the journey in a rather soggy state. Weather conditions prevented any further birding that day so we settled in to Heacham Manor Hotel and draped wet clothes all over our rooms in an attempt to dry things out for the following day.
On Saturday seven of us headed out before breakfast to try to locate a Golden Pheasant – without success this time – though we did see a couple of Jays and a handful of Muntjac Deer and hear a few common woodland birds. We headed off to Cley straight after breakfast, some of us picking up Red Kite – or was it a Black Kite (one had been in Norfolk earlier in the month)? – the debate goes on, en route. Cley was…wet! Heading first for the hide on East Bank, we picked up various waders and ducks there, including a small flock of Bar-tailed Godwits, one in very orange breeding plumage and a Grey Plover. We also had three Marsh Harriers up together (looking towards Salthouse). Sea-watching yielded a few Gannets, but the cold and wind defeated us pretty quickly and we returned to the centre to pay for entry to the central area and spent quite a while in the three hides there. With the left hand scrape having been dredged there are now an impressive number of Avocets nesting, some very close to the hides. A Glaucous Gull was distant but quite visible and a couple of Wheatears were spotted – one perched up in a bush for a short while – and more Yellow Wagtails. A Bearded Tit was pinging away in the reedbed, but only gave very brief flight views – Sedge and Reed Warblers likewise were vocal, but not showing well. After lunch we headed off to Holkham Woods, hoping to get a little shelter from the conditions. Woodland birds were calling and some were even seen – Long-tailed Tit and Treecreeper spring to mind and a mixed flock of hirundines was swooping low over one of the ponds. Reaching the Tower Hide was well worth it though as we all managed to see the Spoonbills from there in the end. Those who got to the hide a little earlier had five, but most saw two, their brilliant yellow bill markings showing well in the gloomy conditions. We gave up early and returned to Heacham – just as the rain actually stopped! More clothes were draped over radiators etc. to dry out. Sadly the Barn Owl did not materialise later on, but some heard Green Woodpecker in the grounds and the Mallard ducklings kept all amused.
Sunday dawned dry but very cold as four car loads headed off back to Scissors Car Park for a walk out to Dersingham Bog before breakfast – a great start to the day ensued. Treecreeper, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest were all singing in the woods, and a pair of Stonechats was showing well as they went back and forth with beakfuls of food to their nest site. Walking further into the open area, Peter saw a Woodcock flying off, another Wheatear was about and several Linnets, but the best birds were a Wood Warbler heard in the woods at the far side of the bog area and, on the way back, a very showy Woodlark flying about overhead, singing all the while.
We headed to Titchwell straight after breakfast and spent the whole morning there. Sea/beach watching was hard going in the strong winds, but a flock of Common Scoter was seen on the sea and Sanderlings were scurrying along the beach. Curlew, Grey Plover, Turnstone and Dunlin were also about. We then heard that the Red-crested Pochard was showing well in the lagoon – it was, and quite close in. The large hide was busy but we spent a good while in there watching the hundreds of Sandwich Terns (unusual for the reserve to have anything like these numbers) and a rather jaw-dropping 90+ nesting Mediterranean Gulls mixed in with the Black-headed Gull colony. There was also a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits, many in breeding plumage. Marsh Harriers were showing well. Little and Great Crested Grebe were about, along with various ducks. Sedge Warblers were in full cry in the reeds and scrub, but the Cetti’s were not evident this trip. The trees and feeders by the shop were being well visited by common tits and finches – but the highlight was a Hawfinch, spotted (and photographed) by Jane and Rob, however it flew off before anyone else caught up with it.
After lunch and a quick stop at Choseley Drying Barns in the hope of seeing Turtle Dove there (none were) some headed straight back to Frampton, while others went via Abbey Farm Hide – a single Pintail was an addition to the list there – and Thornham Marsh, where a flock of 14 Whimbrel showed well.
Those who got back to Frampton early were rewarded with views of Wood Sandpiper and Curlew Sandpiper, large numbers of Ringed Plover and a flock of varied and well-marked Ruff, and the Spotted Redshank was seen again later on too. A great end to the trip.
Many thanks for Peter for organising and leading it.
The full list of birds seen and heard (counted from 11 am at Frampton on Friday until leaving Frampton on the way back on Sunday) was as follows: (hopefully none missed out!):
Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Greylag Goose, Brent Goose, Pink-footed Goose (1 with damaged wing), Egyptian Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Teal, Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, Wigeon, Pintail, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Common Scoter, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Gannet, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Spoonbill, Little Grebe, Great-crested Grebe, Red Kite/Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Avocet, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Dotterel, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Whimbrel, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Redshank, Woodcock, Snipe, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Glaucous Gull, GBB Gull, Common Gull, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Collared Dove, Swift, Green Woodpecker (H), Kestrel, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Bearded Tit, Woodlark, Skylark, Sand Martin, Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Cetti’s Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Wood Warbler (H), Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Tree Creeper, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Stonechat, Wheatear, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Hawfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting.