A day of bird watching in North Norfolk

We met for breakfast at 08.00hrs, tucked into a hearty breakfast and soon afterwards made our way south towards the small village of Sedgeford. After parking we took a walk along the track to an area of manure piles, where just a minute or two later we caught a glimpse of the long-staying first winter male EASTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL.
This rare bird, the seventh or eighth sighting in the U.K. and first for Norfolk put on a good show. It foraged around muck heaps often with a WHITE WAGTAIL (PIED) for company. After around 10 minutes it flew off uttering its diagnostic harsh call. With this bird seen so easily we wandered back down to the main road where lo and behold, it was on a heap right next to where we had parked! Over the next ten minutes or so we had excellent views as it wandered about and the long hind claw showed up really well.

With the weather due to change later in the day, we left the bird and drove east to the edge of Wells-next-the-Sea, noting two WESTERN BARN OWLS along the way. We immediately located the juvenile ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD perched on a distant bush and luckily it flew towards us, perching up much closer where we had lovely views in the scope. A couple of GREY PARTRIDGE were present along
the track and over the marsh we noted RED KITE, WESTERN MARSH HARRIER, COMMON KESTREL and COMMON BUZZARD.

It was then onto Holkham and after parking on Lady Anne’s Drive we spent time overlooking the wet fields where
a large flock of DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE. Muddy edges proved attractive to waders and amongst EURASIAN CURLEW, BLACK-TAILED GODWITS and COMMON REDSHANK we found a few RUFF and COMMON SNIPE. At the northern end of the drive a superb GREY PARTRIDGE showed incredibly well whilst a couple more fed along the field edge. We then walked out along the beach and reached the cordoned off area, straight away finding five SHORELARK feeding on the saltmarsh with their yellow and black faces positively glowing in the morning sunshine. Whilst watching these, a small party of SNOW BUNTINGS dropped in at the back of the beach before flying off over the dunes towards the sea.
Our plan was to head round to the sea and on our arrival, a massive flock of COMMON SCOTER were present offshore and with diligence, we picked out at least four VELVET SCOTER but conditions were quite choppy. RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS bobbed around and SANDERLING scurried on the beach. The SNOW BUNTINGS flew over our heads but were chased by a dog and they flew off down the beach which was such a shame.
With our stomachs rumbling we retraced our steps and along the saltmarsh we watched a flock of around 70 COMMON LINNETS feeding and flying about. We picked up a hot drink at ‘the lookout’ before wandering back to the van for lunch which went down a treat.

With the wind starting to pickup, we drove to the RSPB reserve at Titchwell for the remainder of the afternoon. Our first priority (after toilets!) was a visit to the Fen trail where we were keen to see one of the wintering EURASIAN WOODCOCKS that are often seen amongst the tangle of bushes and tree roots. Finding the spot was easy, although finding the bird was slightly trickier. Yet with patience we managed to get good scope views of its head but it refused to come out from behind a branch. We then wandered along the west bank where light was amazing on the flocks of waders and wildfowl on the fresh marsh. EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS, NORTHERN LAPWINGS and PIED AVOCETS positively glowed and we spent time in the Island Hide where a scan of the roosting gulls yielded at least five MEDITERRANEAN GULLS some of which were moulting into summer plumage. A few WESTERN MARSH HARRIERS were seen in flight over the reed-beds and a scan along the sheltered edge saw us locate a feeding WATER RAIL as it furtively crept amongst the cut reeds. With the light starting to drop, we took a walk down to the beach noting good numbers of roosting BAR-TAILED GODWITS, RED KNOT, GREY PLOVER, DUNLIN and a few BLACK-TAILED GODWITS plus a small number of LITTLE GREBE. The tide was right up when we reached the beach and a scan of the sea revealed a few COMMON GOLDENEYE plus drake COMMON EIDER, RED-BREASTED MERGANSER and GREAT CRESTED GREBES. The time and light was now against us and we walked back quickly so we could be in position to look over the reedbeds and as the sun disappeared behind the cloud, good numbers of WESTERN MARSH HARRIERS took to the air and we were treated to quite a sight. Two WESTERN BARN OWLS quartered the marsh behind us and we continued watching the harriers until it was too dark to see.We then retraced our steps back to the carpark and drove towards base, where along the way EURASIAN WOODCOCK was seen flying down the road. After a hot shower and some time to relax, we met for our evening meal which was delicious and filled us to the brim before heading off to bed.