Thursday 22 January 2009


This is going to be LONG. Perhaps the biggest blog post ever!! Although Steve has posted a superb and detailed account of our trip to Norfolk I can still find a little bit to add, well rather a lot actually, mostly via photos though. There are around thirty of them, you have been warned!


First stop Welney:

The Welney Visitor Centre looked impressive, we opted for the economy option of a lay-by.

After waiting an hour and a half, at last it was light enough to look for Swans leaving the reserve. You can see our luggage in the boot, I wonder who's that 'girly' pink holdall is, coz it's not my sort of thing at all!

It was well worth the wait. Flock after flock of Bewick's and Whoopers flew right over us. Bewick's Swan was my first 'lifer' of the trip.

My next lifer was a single Corn Bunting near to Coveney in Cambridgeshire where we dipped the Rough-legged Buzzard, after doing the same with Golden Pheasants at Wolferton we finally had some better luck seeing nine Tree Sparrows (my third 'lifer' of the day) at Fincham. No photos of these. I managed the usual trick of getting superb snaps of crisply focused branches with blurred brown blobs amongst them!

On the way to the coast road we spotted a field full of Pink -footed Geese ('lifer' number four) with more arriving all the time, definitely the most geese I've ever seen together. Once on the coast road we stopped to look over the marshes near to Burnham Overy and I was quite unprepared for the spectacle of tens of thousands of geese flying overhead as the pinkies were flushed from the fields. Truly Awesome!

Pinkies were trickling over steadily at first.

Some flight shots.

I'd never seen the sky this full of birds before, ever!!

I managed to capture the flock streaming overhead on video. We were all very impressed, Steve and Bun so much so that, I've had to get Martha to add a couple of 'bleeps' to the video.

Things got even better when while driving towards Holkham, Steve and Bun simultaneously spotted a group of WAXWINGS from the car. Panic ensued and as Steve has said he made a rather hasty turn, in a far from car friendly gateway, losing a piece off his car in the process. We left it there until we'd seen the Waxwings, who wouldn't have!? Here it is:

Indirect Waxwing inflicted damage

Worth it though. Just look at this beauty!

Day one also produced a massive TEN Barn Owls, don't think I'll ever see too many though!

This started with a trip to Kelling Beach to see this stunning beast, shame about its damaged wing but it did seem fit and well otherwise.

Glaucous Gull

Then on to Holkham Gap where a flock of circa 80 Snow Buntings were just mesmerizing. I could have watched them all day! One of my highlights for sure!

A few of them on the ground....

...and in the air

I like this back lit flight shot. If you enlarge it you can see a cracking male just right of centre.

And if you can't be bothered to do that here he is anyway, what a little corker!

I didn't get any photos at our next stop, Titchwell. The Bearded Tits pinged but hid, the Goldeneye gave superb views but were diving too frequently for photos, and almost all the drake Pintails were having their siesta. There were lots of nice waders here too but mostly quite distant. The massive highlight came when a Bittern (lifer number five) flew in just minutes after we had sat down in the Fen Hide, very fortunate timing and an awesome bird, much better than I was expecting Bittern to be.

Last stop of the day was Lady Ann's Drive at Holkham and more Geese.

A nice pair of Pink-footed Geese. I was accused of flushing these to get this photo, the 'flushing' consisted of them waddling about ten feet further away!

We looked through a big flock of Brent Geese for a reported Black Brant and soon found the individual concerned.

You're looking the wrong way! It's there just to the left of the tree!

The 'Black Brant'. Steve thinks it's a bit 'dodgy' (possibly a hybrid, but I'm ticking it (lifer number six, yes I know it isn't an actual species though)

The Woodcock flying out of Holkham Pines at dusk were superb and the individual we saw in the headlights was my first ever view of one on the deck and was another memorable highlight of a second great day.


Another fabulous days birding started at Felbrigg Hall with lifer number seven, this:

A Hawfinch. Wow!

Have another look. Definitely a candidate for 'Bird of the Trip'

If that wasn't good enough, at our next stop, Waxham Barns we saw these Cranes (lifer number eight) a bird I would have been very disappointed to have left Norfolk without seeing. If I'd been alone I might have had to do just that. Steve spotted them in the distance from the car and I must admit I'd never have seen them!

Tres magnifique, non?

A fly over Lapland Bunting was lifer number nine and almost caused Steve to pass out in excitement! It was a shame we couldn't pick it out in the field where it landed, amongst thick stubble, but a great bird non the less and I now know what they sound like.

Next stop was Cantley Marshes and yet more Geese, this time we were hoping for Taiga Bean Geese and we did manage to see some (lifer number ten) along with hundreds more Pink-footed Geese, eighty or so White-fronted Geese, and some Canadas and Greylags.

Bun and Steve scan Cantley Marshes, there are Geese out there somewhere.

These are mainly Pinkies but there are a few Bean Geese here. You do need to look closely, they're in the air, the different tail colouring/pattern and more orangey legs are visible. I think there are definitely three.

Last stop of the day was the Stubb's Mill raptor roost, we got there nice and early but the viewing platform was already choc-a-bloc.

Different to Steve's photo coz he's in in and I'm not!

Stubb's Mill in evening light with FIFTEEN Marsh Harriers up, they're just what I could get in the photo, 68 came into roost along with 19 Cranes, two Hen Harriers and two Merlins. Three Barn Owls were also hunting over the reeds. Great stuff!

Dusk at Stubb's Mill


We started with a look in the fields around Holkham again, this time at a nice big flock of White Fronts, more were coming in as we watched and before we departed there was a maximum count of 169. Here are some of them:

I tried to get some video with a hand held camera from in the car, it's really shaky but I'm putting it on because Steve and Bun's commentary is so good. I think by now they were feeling a bit high on a surfeit of stupendous birds, I know I was! (another bleep was required, kindly put in by Martha, I wouldn't have a clue how to do this myself)

Then off to Holme Next The Sea where we met up with the other team of birders from Seaton to look for the Long-tailed Ducks and do a little seawatching.

Seaton Birders on Tour
Again like Steve's photo but without me and also from the other end of the row, so, totally different then!?

Steve feels the need to get up close to the action. That's Bun in the foreground, Steve's the teeny speck in the distance. We did actually join him and had superb views of FIVE stonking drake Long-tailed Ducks and one female, they were really close in too. No photos again, due to the swell it would have been a thankless task methinks.

After Holme we went back to Coveney and the elusive Rough-legged Buzzard. It wasn't showing when we arrived so we would just have to sit and wait.

The fields around Coveney looked like this most of the time, Buzzardless!

Bun glimpsed what he thought was the Rough-legged Buzzard fly low over a nearby field but it quickly dropped out of sight before I could get on it. A while later both he and Steve decided to wander off towards where it appeared to land and left me in a layby with the car and a small group of birders.

There they go making a big mistake.

After they'd been gone ten minutes or so one of the assembled birders spotted the Rough-legged Buzzard some distance away, fairly high and showing well. I managed to get on it quickly and enjoyed a reasonable view until I lost it when I phoned Steve. It was too late though the bird had landed again, distantly and out of sight. Rough-legged Buzzard was lifer number eleven!

Finally we returned to Pymoor to look for the Great White Egret which we'd dipped on day one, this time we didn't have to look for long. It was so obvious, a huge white blob on the opposite side of the flashes (lifer number twelve).

The water was heaving with wildfowl.The GWE is visible in this photo on the far bank as a Great White Blob.

Another quality close up

We stayed at Pymoor until after sunset. Swans were still flying to and fro and Backwater Birders reluctantly took a last look before heading home

Nicely lit Swans

One last scan


Gavin Haig said...

Great read, Karen. :-)

Karen Woolley said...

Thanks Gav :-)

I could have said so much more but it took me over 4 hours to post what I did!!

Graham James said...

Fabulous stuff, Karen. Norfolk always seems stuffed with brilliant birds no matter what time of year you visit.

Karen Woolley said...

Thanks Graham, I did feel rather like 'a child in a sweet shop' to say the least!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this, I used to live in Pymoor and visit the Welney Wildlife Center all the time. There are always so many birds~ It brings back great memories.