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Old Thursday 5th May 2005, 20:19   #1
markgrubb
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Two beginners go to Norfolk

Both my brother and I have only taken a real interest in birdwatching since last summer/autumn. We have both had garden feeders and enjoyed the common birds for some time before that. My brother has had an interest in photography and through this and from an interest in nature we have started to go out locally and look at birds regularly.

Anyway we booked a 3 day trip to Norfolk and flew down from Edinburgh on the redeye to Stansted on Sat 23rd April. We were armed with the book Best Birdwatching sites in Norfolk recommended by Birdforum member dbradnum. All went smoothly and we found ourselves at Weeting Heath by 11am. We were lucky enough to be able to see 2 stone curlew through our scopes on the hill. The birds have an amazing reptilian look and were very hard to see when lying down on the bare soil being almost perfectly disguised. A long patient wait in the hides produced views of a green woodpecker and then finally 2 woodlark. We spent 2 very pleasant sunny hours there and the warden was a mine of information about the birds and the conservation efforts going on to protect them. We went out to the car park to leave only to find another woodlark perched on the fencepost across the road, perfect for pictures. The reserve was busy and the most striking thing to me was the amount of expensive kit on parade and secondly the short time most people spent seeing the birds-one woman said she had travelled for 3 hours to see the stone curlew-she spent ten minutes looking from the car park and then left!

After lunch we went to Lakenheath which was fairly quiet. Gadwall were a new bird to us and we had good views of shoveler and great crested grebe. The real highlight was seeing a kestrel at short range catching a vole and then sitting on a fence post with his prey. We heard lots of sedge warbler but could not locate any.

As we were staying in Hunstanton we decided to drop in at Choseley barns. On the drive up to there we saw 2 people with scopes peering at a tree. We stopped a distance away, walked up and were rewarded with views of a little owl. Unfortunately the watchers were too close at about 7 or 8 metres and just after we joined them (and not realising what they were viewing) the bird had had enough and flew off. A real highlight seeing the bird but a real lowlight realising that we had inadvertently contributed to disturbing it.

We had a great time at Choseley barns sitting quietly by the hedgerow watching large numbers of corn bunting and yellowhammer. The corn bunting song was a particularly striking jangling sound. So after this it was off to the B & B, out for some food and a couple of strictly medicinal beers.




Day 2

An early breakfast got us chatting to our fellow lodgers who were birders. They told us there might be ring ouzel at Heachem so we set out there. We were rewarded with instant views of 3 males next to the dunes in stunning fresh plumage. Ironically easy after a couple of unsuccessful trips to our local hills earlier in the spring. We next went on to Gypsy Lane across from Titchwell. We had a pleasant half an hour or so looking at common birds in the hedgerows/trees the highlight being a pair of bullfinch. Out in the open we were rewarded with stunning views of 2 marsh harriers close at hand the male dropping his prey for the female to catch.

On to Titchwell-it was incredibly busy but not too bad once we got out into the reserve and the open spaces. The highlight for me was seeing a black tern banking back and forward over the lagoon dipping down from time to time to feed. Other highlights included seeing little gull, sammy the black winged stilt, pintail, ruff, sedge warbler, gadwall, the passage of large numbers of hirundines and unforgettably avocet at close range. It was amazing how close the birds were at a couple of hides-you could almost feel that you could reach out and touch them. At the beach the tide was low so the huge flock of common scoter were a distant speck-even far out the movement of the flock was striking.

We had enjoyed choseley barns so much that we went back and spent a quiet hour just enjoying the corn bunting, yellowhammer and assorted finches. The large difference in colour of the male yellowhammers was striking, some of them almost fluorescent. So it was back to the B & B and out for a curry and a couple of therapeutic beers to revive the weary limbs.

Day 3

We set off for Holkham Hall. There we heard all 3 types of woodpecker. We have seen Greater spotted many times at home & lesser spotted donít exist so were really keen to see the Lesser spotted. We could pick out itís drumming and tried repeatedly to home in and see it. Knowing that Greater spotteds are very flighty we kept a good distance. We spent a frustrating hour and a half until the drumming stopped. Speaking to a birder who came later on we should probably have tried to approach a bit closer. I did not realise that they are the size of a house sparrow and more approachable than the greter spotted. As we left we heard and saw a nuthatch-only just beginning to appear in our part of the world so that was a real pleasure( and arenít they noisy! ). We also got good views of house martin building their nests on houses on the way out and egyptian goose.

Next stop was Stiffkey Fen. We were told about a long resident vagrant, a lesser yellowlegs but saw no site of it. It was windy and views were distant but we saw ruddy duck, greenshank and a possible spotted redshank.

Our final stop was Cley marshes. Unfortunately we did not have a great deal of time and the area is vast so we walked round the perimeter and stopped at most of the hides. At the first hide we saw a summer plumage blackwit at about only 5 metres and a pair of ruddy duck at about the same range with their extraordinary blue bills. We were entertained by an avocet giving a shelduck serious grief-maybe only about a quarter of the size but quite prepared to stand up to the bigger bird. We heard a bittern booming and heard the ping of bearded tits but only caught a silhouette of them against the sun for a couple of seconds. There were distant views of marsh harriers and many varied ducks & common waders but the highlight was a spotted redshank in itís summer finery.

All too soon it was time to get in the car and head for Stansted . So what were our overall thoughts. Norfolk is a great place with a spectacular range of birds and the scenery is more varied the flat landscape we imagined. The importance of learning about birds and developing good fieldcraft was made really clear. I also learnt not to be afraid to chat to other birders and picked up lots of tips-even if not everyone was loquacious. And finally whilst there was a great temptation to race about and see lots of different species the greatest pleasure was gained by simply staying in one place, relaxing and enjoying the birds!!

PS pics mostly courtesy of neil grubb
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Old Thursday 5th May 2005, 20:57   #2
Alan G
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Thanks for this report - it's whetted my appetite for my visit in a few weeks time.

We're staying for a week (more if the money doesn't run out !) in Wighton nr Wells-Next-The Sea and we can't wait.

All new territory for me too and, frankly, I'm not sure where to start or where to visit first.

That reminds me - I'd best knuckle down to some serious planning..............always enjoy the excitement of planning any trip !



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Old Friday 6th May 2005, 06:37   #3
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nice report - roll on Saturday week!!
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Old Friday 6th May 2005, 07:57   #4
pauliev69
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Very nice report Mark and excellent pics, been to all the places you visited and it brought back good memories, pleased you had a good time
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Old Friday 6th May 2005, 09:00   #5
dbradnum
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Glad you had a good time - Norfolk's just fantastic birding all year round!
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Old Friday 6th May 2005, 13:21   #6
Andrew
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Thanks for whetting my appetite, can't wait to get going!
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Old Monday 9th May 2005, 21:56   #7
yorkshire83
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Question

Yeah, got me going. Will be making the pilgrimage on cup final weekend. Havent been for afew years so really looking forward to it now.
Where is the best place for Golden Oriole? Succeded at Lakenheath afew years ago but formally were present at Fordham but hadnt been seen that year we last went (5/6 years ago now)
Any help on that much appreciated.

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Old Monday 9th May 2005, 22:03   #8
Edward woodwood
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Hi Rob

i think Fordham is reportedly not the place now.....

might still be worth a look though...

any area of poplars around there are worth 5 mins early one mid May morning?

Tim
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Old Tuesday 10th May 2005, 07:23   #9
Geoff Brown
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One to add to the sites to visit is the very small private Abbey Farm reserve in the village of Flitcham in West Norfolk which is just east of Lynn. You can however go into the small hide the farmer has provided for the public next to his public two car space car park.Kingfishers are usually seen and also often a little owl. At least they were regularly there last year, haven't had a chance to get there this year yet.
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Old Tuesday 10th May 2005, 07:52   #10
dbradnum
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff Brown
One to add to the sites to visit is the very small private Abbey Farm reserve in the village of Flitcham in West Norfolk which is just east of Lynn. You can however go into the small hide the farmer has provided for the public next to his public two car space car park.Kingfishers are usually seen and also often a little owl. At least they were regularly there last year, haven't had a chance to get there this year yet.
My parents were there last weekend, and had fantastic prolonged views of a pair of Kingfishers from the hide. The site is strongly recommended!
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Old Tuesday 10th May 2005, 13:07   #11
brianfm
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Nice report Mark. Brought back memories of sighting of Bearded Tits at Cley. I was very impressed with the North Norfolk coastline.
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Old Monday 16th May 2005, 21:29   #12
yorkshire83
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff Brown
One to add to the sites to visit is the very small private Abbey Farm reserve in the village of Flitcham in West Norfolk which is just east of Lynn. You can however go into the small hide the farmer has provided for the public next to his public two car space car park.Kingfishers are usually seen and also often a little owl. At least they were regularly there last year, haven't had a chance to get there this year yet.

Thanks, whats Lakenheath like these days?
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