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Norfolk is one of the top birding destinations in the UK. Autumn is a particularly good time to see rare vagrants blown off course as well as more normal migrants, resident species and the first winter visitors. Late September was particularly good this year (as was Sept 2007) due to ideal fall conditions. On Tuesday 23rd we had a high pressure sitting over scandanavia resulting in North Easterly winds along with a weather front bringing showers.
On the day this produced a good sea watch with record numbers of Great Skuas, I counted 228 others counted well over 300. Other birds seen included 3 Leach’s Petrels, Balearic, Sooty & Manx Shearwaters, Pomarine and Arctic Skuas and a few Puffins.
In the following days we had constant wind coming from the east resulting in the fall of land birds.
26th Sept 08
The tour began at Holkham which is situated centrally on the north coast. In the morning we walked east towards wells. The first bird we saw was an interesting acro creeping through a hawthorn bush, though as expected it turned out to be a Reed Warbler. Moving on we located a bright male Redstart followed by a duller first winter bird also a Pied Flycatcher. The highlight of the morning was the prolonged view of a YELLOW BROWED WARBLER which sat preening for several minutes. Other birds seen included 20 Siskins overhead, 200 or so Pink Footed Geese, the first of the winter to arrive, a fall of Song Thrushes, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and a Peregrine. After lunch we headed west towards Burnham Overy seeing another Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Marsh Harrier, Lesser Whitethroat, 10 Crossbills, the first Redwing of the autumn and frustratingly a red throated pipit seen only in flight but heard call by others. The Radde’s Warbler reported in the dunes was also frustratingly elusive.
27th Sept 08
Today we started at Weybourne further east along the north coast. We had excellent views of the LESSER GREY SHRIKE along with 5 Wheatears, Stonechats and a flock of 8 Bearded Tits back at the marsh next to the car park. Moving on to West Runton we only managed a brief flight view of the Blyth's Reed Warbler along with a well marked Whinchat and another Wheatear. Finally further west at Cley nature reserve we saw 2 YELLOW BROWED WARBLERS at walsey hills one showing well just above our heads in the Ivy.
28th Sept 08
We started at Burnham Overy today, walking out towards the dunes. En route we enjoyed very good views of a GREAT GREY SHRIKE in the morning sunshine followed closely by a RED BACKED SHRIKE. Other birds seen included 10 Bearded Tits buzzing around over the reed bed, 2 yellowhammers and a Marsh Harrier. Numerous waders were seen in the creeks from the sea wall including Redshanks, Knot, Dunlin, Grey Plover and a nice comparison of Bar tailed and Black tailed Godwits side by side. A surprise juvenile DOTTEREL was seen just into the dunes but soon flew inland calling as it flew over our heads. The Pink Feet are increasing day by day and now number well into the thousands, new groups were often seen arriving throughout the day. In the west end of Holkham pines we saw our 4th YELLOW BROWED WARBLER along with Pied & Spotted Flycatchers. After several frustrating attempts we finally got 2 good but brief views of the RADDE'S WARBLER the third to be seen in the area over the last week. The most striking plumage details were the very bold and long supercilium and the almost apricot buff vent.
30th Sept 08
For a change of scene we headed to the Norfolk Broads and adjacent coast today. The highlights were the 7 COMMON CRANES (4 adults and 3 young) seen close by in a field along with 2,000+ Pink Footed Geese. Other birds seen included 5 wheatears, summer meeting winter with a Hobby followed closely by 5 Redwings, also 9 Little Stints, 2 Curlew Sandpipers and a Spotted Redshank. Finally, a short sea watch produced a Great Skua, 7 Shags, not a common bird in Norfolk and at least 50 Gannets.
1st Oct 08
A change in the weather to very strong westerly wind and heavy showers made the going a bit tougher today. The best bird was the very confiding YELOW BROWED WARBLER in the sheltered gardens at Natural Surroundings, this is a gem of a nature reserve near Glandford, south of Cley in the Glaven Valley. I managed to whistle the bird in very close to ensure everyone had excellent views. Other birds seen in the Cley area included a Juvenile Merlin chasing linnets, the first of the autumn, also Great Skua, 2 Arctic Skuas, 100+ Gannets, Marsh Tit, 2 Bearded Tits, Marsh Harrier, 4 Greenshanks, 2 Spotted Redshanks, 30+ Pink Footed Geese and a Wheatear.
2nd Oct 08
Back at Holkham in Better weather we found a few interesting birds. The best was probably the Red Necked Grebe in the bay along with 4 Great Skuas, Arctic Skuas, 3 Red Breasted Mergansers and 4 Redwings. Raptors were well represented with a juvenile Hobby, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard and Kestrel. Late on the main interest was the 10,000+ Pink Footed Geese and trying to pick out 4 Barnacle Geese in amongst them!
3rd Oct 08
All eyes were on the sea today, due to the strong North-Westerly wind. We headed to Titchwell RSPB and made our way straight to the beach. An excellent passage of 19 Pomarine Skuas was noted, including adults with full tail spoons. Also 74 Great Skuas, 8 Arctic Skuas, the first 3 Little Auks of the autumn, 2 Manx Shearwaters and a Slavonian Grebe. Other birds included Water Rail, Marsh Harrier and 2 Little Stints. At the end of the day I had a late hour at Cley which was very productive with a LEACH'S PETREL battling its way west into the wind, and a juvenile SABINE'S GULL also heading west. Other birds included 10 Bonxies, a Pomarine Skua, several Arctic Skuas and a Kittiwake.
All in all a very successful week with 3 species of Shrike (a woodchat was also found late on the 3rd so it could easily have been 4), Radde’s Warbler, 5 Yellow Browed Warblers, Dotterel, 7 Cranes, tantalising views of 2 more eastern vagrants and an excellent selection of seabirds. This was backed up with a supporting cast of raptors, waders, grebes and some of the local specialities. The accommodation was based at the Cobblers in Wells, a very comfortable Bed & Breakfast within walking distance of all the facilities and several different pubs.