Sunday 16 October 2022

Two days in Norfolk - 14th-15th October 2022

14th October:

After spending the evening at Enid’s new house in Wymondham on Thursday night, it meant I only had an hour run to get to Holkham and Lady Anns Drive for 7.30. The journey up through the first hint of light produced both Tawny and Little Owls across the road and before too long a procession of kamikaze Pheasants.

I was greeted at Holkham by thousands of Pink-feet heading out for the day and thankfully there were plenty left and actually still coming in when my crew for the day arrived.  It was eerily calm and we quickly picked up Goldcrest, Chaffinches and the odd incoming Redwing and Song Thrush while I had also seen a Brambling.  Wood Pigeons and Jays were in the Holm Oaks – the first simply eating the small acorns while the latter were filling crops before heading off for some suitably loamy soil to hide them in.


Wood Pigeons

Pinkies accompanied us on the whole walk down the inside of the pines with the ‘nudge nudge wink wink’ echoing through the trees.  The only passerines were locals with Coal, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits and a few angsty Goldcrests.  The odd Skylark and Meadow Pipit passed over but with 12 days of westerly incoming birds were going to be thin on the ground.

The pond was full of displaying Gadwall and a few other ducks and Little Grebe and we could see Chinese Water Deer, Muntjac, Marsh Harriers, Buzzards and a Great White Egret out on the marshes while up above Red Kites drifted east down the pines, watching us with careful scrutiny.  How the fortunes of this magnificent raptor have changed.

Red Kite

Chinese Water Deer


Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers were noted along with Small White, Red Admiral and a Wall Brown down at the beach where the flat sea of Holkham Bay allowed us to  get good views of Red-throated Divers, Razorbills and Guillemots, Great Crested Grebes, Gannets and a few Common Scoter. 

Wall Brown

Common Darter

Fighters were tearing the air asunder above us in mock dog fights and you could quite literally not make yourself heard let alone hear anything else.   I can only imagine what it sounded like way up there.  

Post planes, a Stonechat called from the dunes but could not be found and Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Siskin and Linnets were all encountered along with an invisible calling Treecreeper before we returned to the main path. A squint over the wall by the Joe Jordan hide added Cattle and Little Egret and anther Great White with four, two and one respectively all feeding in and on the herd of cows.

two Cattle and a Great White Egret

We ambled back with nearly four hours frittered away on a most pleasant walk with a few minutes spare for a cuppa before heading west towards Titchwell.

Lunch in the car park was accompanied by fly over Redpolls, Siskins and skeins of Golden Plover before a walk down the public footpath to the beach. Bearded Tits were heard but they were staying low and out towards Thornham Point a Red Kite was tucking into something substantial on the top of the old concrete building. A second Kite came in to see what it found and a tussle ensued and attracted attention from the Marsh Harriers.  

Squabbling Kites 

The freshmarsh was home to the usual dabbling ducks along with Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff and Avocets while the new bunds designed to split the area into three were covered in a spangly carpet of equidistantly spaced Golden Plover.   The susurration of their conversationalist calls and the breeze through the reeds was the aural backdrop of the visit.

Black-tailed Godwit


Golden Plover

young Shelduck

A couple of Great White Egrets popped up now and then from the main reedbeds and three Brent Geese were the first we had seen although down on the beach there were several small parties along the foreshore amongst the Sanderlings, Grey Plovers, Oystercatchers and Bar-tailed Godwits.

Up at the highest tideline six Turnstone were energetically sorting through the dried seaweed and were completely unphased by our presence and a scan up the beach after the hoped for Snow Bunting flock revealed them quite literally feeding around the legs and tripod of a couple sitting up by the dunes.  We approached closer and the flock of nine came to see us. Several were undoubtedly males with much paler almost grey streaky back and huge amounts of white in the wing. They were often bickering and would flutter up of the ground like little bits of white paper caught in a whirlwind.  It is very easy for Snow Bunts to be the highlight of any day.



Snow Buntings

We had a good catch up with Alan Davies and Ruth Miller and their party before a slow walk back in the cooling air.  It was still clear to the west and we had somehow escaped the wet front that had moved over us and was now drenching Brancaster and beyond to the east.  We stood and watched the reedbed and pools for a while hearing a Kingfisher and Reed Buntings and getting another Great White Egret view.  The Golden Plover flock doubled with another big flock arriving and a Water Rail scurried and half flew across one of the channels.

Great White Egret 

Golden Plover

It was a very calming end to the day.  We went our separate ways and I planned my route back to Wymondham and as I drove past the Burnham Overy Dunes layby a flock of Grey Partridge flew across the road and I had enough time to stop and watch them – nine in all – as they fed in a ploughed field, blending in perfectly with the odd piece of stubble and broken flint. Ten Red-legged Partridges flew the other way and with the golden hour approaching I decided to stay a while and scan the marshes.  

Grey Partridges

A flock of 21 Barnacle Geese were loosely with the Pinkfeet and skeins of the latter were already dropping in from all directions while somewhere off inland I could hear the murmur of a huge number of geese.  Marsh Harriers, Kestrels and Buzzards were seen and the Egrets were still with their cattle – albeit a wee bit further away.  A couple of Yellowhammers called from the hedge line but I had to wait for my journey back through the lanes to eventually see a ghostly Barn Owl quartering a grassy field. 

A glorious curry awaited my return!

15th October:

Antony met me at Enid’s at 7.15 on a murky dank morning with the sound of a few Redwing and a Grey Wagtail to add to her new garden list.  The journey up to Kelling went without incident and we were soon parked under the fig tree in The Street to wait for the rest of the party who all arrived on time.  It was still grey and cool as we walked down the track to the pool and it felt like rain but thankfully it never materialised.  Bullfinches were heard and seen (for a change) and three Fieldfares were the first of my autumn but as expected it was fairly quiet with just a couple of Goldcrests and the odd finch. 

Gangs of Red-legs broke the skyline in every field we looked at and Brown Hares lolloped into view now and then disturbing flocks of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits.

The pool had the usual dabblers and a bonus juvenile Goldeneye which we later gathered was a proper local rarity for the site.  It was very unsure what to do when all the duck got spooked by a helicopter and ended up staying put.


A pair of Stonechat were found and a third bird was quite intriguing with a warm apricot flush, pale throat, feeling of a supercilium, obviously stripy back and quite possibly plain rump.  It was too dark for a Siberian but I did wonder about the other Eastern Stonechat possibilities.  It looked good in the scope but I failed to get any meaningful images and we lost it after a few minutes partly because a perched Kingfisher interrupted proceedings.

The Stonechat that piqued my interest

Down at the sea it was predictably calm and quiet but once again we got good views of the same suite of species as at Holkham yesterday with the addition of a single adult Little Gull and a couple of incoming Starlings and Skylarks.  

The enthusiasm for sea-watching was unbridled

We cheered this Starling when it safely made it over the beach

A short photoshoot with a Merveille de Jour that Antony had brought with him took place on a piece of beach driftwood before we made our way back the way we had come.  The sun was now out and there were many more insects on the Ivy and such like with countless Honey Bees and Wasps, a few Pollenia and Lucilia and the odd Syrphus Hoverfly. Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers were noted along with a very good selection of moth leaf mines that I shall add here once Antony sends them over. It would have been rude not to have tea and cake at the Old Reading Rooms and sit outside with passing Golden Plovers and Buzzards and a couple of extra Beech leaf mines to add to Antony’s list.

Merveille de Jour

Migrant Hawker

Syrphus  sp

 Pied Wagtail - Antony Wren

West now to Gramborough Hill for the off chance that we could find the two Snow Buntings for Gill (her bogey bird). We looped around the hill being distracted by some fine Parasol Mushrooms in various states of magnificence when I realised that Antony had been trying to ring me – he had the Snow Bunts on the cliff face.  A couple of minutes later we were watching eight of these entrancing birds as they fossicked on the actual cliff face of the Hill where they seemed to be finding plenty of seed to nibble on.  Gill was beaming.

Parasol  - fully ten inches across

Snow Buntings - challenging as in full shade AND into the sun above the cliff!
Snow Bunting - Antony Wren

Three Red-throated Divers fed and preened just off shore before we retraced our steps taking in mats of Sea Campion and vibrant red Salicorna and glaucous leaved Yellow-horned Poppies

lobster pot - Antony Wren

Sea Campion

Redshank - it was a bit breezy

Red-throated Diver - Antony Wren

Black-headed Gulls joined us for lunch and Simon rescued my errant lunch wrapper from the ditch that had been whisked from the boot of my car by the ever increasing wind by using some skilful balancing and an umbrella.

Black-headed Gulls

Black-headed Gull and Giant Hula-hoop - Antony Wren

Bravo Simon!

Walsey Hills and the East Bank was our last stop and somehow we all got parked in the layby of the former and were soon watching a most splendid Jack Snipe on, well Snipes Marsh, doing what they do best. It was fully in the open and I suspect it was the best views that most of the party had ever had.  Flocks of Stock Dove, Wood Pigeons and Ruff periodically appeared from the field behind.

Jack Snipe - two different birds

The wind was slightly awkward as we then walked down to the sea but we still managed to collect a very good selection of waders with a single Curlew Sandpiper amongst some very long billed Dunlin, Ringed and Grey Plovers, Avocets and Blackwits, Snipe, Redshanks and lots of different sized Ruffs.  

Something kept causing all the Wigeon and Teal to dread and we picked up a couple of Pintail at the end along with dashing Kingfisher, Rock Pipit, a pair of Stonechats and the odd invisible Bearded Tit.  


Marsh Harriers zig zagged over the silver shining phragmites and Pinkfeet constantly moved between Blakeney and the inland field with odd parties drifting our way too.  We just missed an Otter on the algal filled channel and the six Little Grebes there remained motionless with necks upstretched for twenty minutes afterwards so perhaps they could see where the predator was lurking. The sea added nothing new bar a small party of Brents so we headed back for a last look at the now two Jack Snipe – Bob and Bobette as they bounced out of time with each other.


Once again we had spent a whole day in Norfolk in just a mile and a half of coastline and despite the generally unfavourable autumnal conditions we fared well and everyone went away happy before their journeys home in a variety of directions.

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