Norfolk with Burbagebirders - August 2012 (A light-hearted tale)

Published by Ken Reeves (kenreeves AT

Participants: Ken Reeves, Maureen Reeves, Fred & Linda burton, Heather Zotov, Malc Almey, Phyllis & Ian Cooper, Sherry Long.


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Montagu's Harrier
Montagu's Harrier

I decided to give myself a break and take off to Hunstanton on the best week of the year so far. Just how lucky can you be or then again the “Sun Only Shines On The Righteous” so perhaps I’m not so surprised. This time of the year is really hard work for birds with most of them keeping pretty quiet and well out of sight. Roll on migration!

My first day was spent as a group of 5 along the coast to Thornham and Titchwell plus a couple of sites along to Gedney Drove End and the RAF firing range.

The first stop at Thornham was a surprise with 7 Arctic Skua’s attacking the Sandwich Terns forcing them into dropping their hard won Sand eels intended for the hungry chick’s.

It’s not often you get the chance of seeing these predators of the oceans at such close range so I did spent a couple of hours being suitably fascinated.

Other sightings here were Curlew, Little Tern, Bar-tailed Godwit and Common Sandpiper.

My second stop at Titchwell was brief giving me just enough time to pick up a recently reported Roseate Tern plus some nice Yellow Wagtails from the main path. On the journey back to Hunstanton I called in at two sites near Ringstead and Thornham searching for the illusive Montague’s Harrier finding only one Hobby and two Marsh Harriers. I say only but Montague’s are so scarce this year that once I had set my sights on one I felt a bit deflated when it didn’t happen.

Still onwards and upwards to Hunstanton collecting my 5 birders and the all-important food for our full day along the butt end of the Wash and the firing range at Gedney. On route I decided to call and see Malcolm Almey at his work in Long Sutton for any: though usually useless information he might have. I wasn’t disappointed , it was useless although he did redeem it with a well-received free bottle of wine.

Gedney itself was in use by the US air force and their awesome Blackhawk helicopter, better than Montagu’s ? I think NOT! However we did manage Plenty of Meadow Pipits, 2 Barn Owls, 6 Marsh Harriers, 1 Green Sandpiper ( flying over calling ) and a good sized flock on Linnet. We ended our day at Dersingham triangle almost running down a very quick Golden Pheasant before retiring to the West Norfolk for our evening meal.

For my second day I teamed up with Charlie Dobbs and his stunning ability to identify all the calls at long range “ bugger “. We started the day at Thornham only to find the Skua’s had departed for better pickings and the high tide was about to cover the road. We scanned the harbour and marsh collecting Spoonbill, our first Whimbrel and made our way to Cley for the day.

Walking the East bank gave us Bearded Tit, Sedge and Reed Warbler, More Marsh Harriers, loads of Black Wit, 11 Spoonbill’s, Dunlin some northern’s ( the bigger one ) plus Common, Little and Sandwich Tern’s. The day ended with Charlie and myself meeting up with Malcolm and Heather Zotov in the bog or I should say Dersingham for the annual look and listen at Nightjar and Woodcock. Both were seen and ticked off the list before parting company for a very warm nights rest.

Day three and the annual trip to the Sandringham Flower Show meeting up with Charlie ( not Dobbs this time ) and Camilla. Busy day, hot day, plenty to see and buy, bin there, seen it, done it.

Later in the day the streets were lined with flags and many people eagerly awaiting the arrival of Fred and Linda Burton only to find out they were not coming until very late . You would have thought they could have let them know, wouldn’t you!

Day four and my first meeting with a very eager Fred accompanied by Charlie who decided they would like to go to Lakenheath for Golden O, Woodlark and Stone Curlew. It was pretty obvious when we started out it was going to be a very hot day indeed. Our first call was to a site for Stone Curlew on the Elveden estate however during the main breeding season birders are discouraged from stopping and straying near the main fence. We were given a nice warning from the warden who also gave us the best time go, where to stand and view and the big numbers it’s possible to see at that time. He told us there were up to 133 last year!Needless to say I will be taking a trip there later and by the way we did see one on the nest.

We arrived at Lakenheath during the heat of the day and then proceeded to walk the 3 miles to the far hide. Silly really especially as we didn’t see the Golden Os, Hobby or Crane’s but Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Bearded Tit, Reed Warbler, Goldfinch, Lesser Black Back, Kingfisher and some interesting Dragonfly’s including- Common Darter, Ruddy Darter, Black Tailed Skimmer, Brown Hawker, Emperor plus Banded Demo, Black-tailed and common blue damselfly’s.

Day five loomed full of great expectations with Myself, Charlie, Fred, Malcolm and Heather Z. With such a talented team assembled we just couldn’t fail or could we? Only the day would tell, and it did. We started at Thornham with Arctic Skua standing on the beach, Whimbrel, Spoonbill, Bar Wit, Black Wit, Greenshank, Redshank, Knot a plenty, Marsh Harrier, Sanderling, Dunlin, Curlew, Sandwich, Common and Little Terns, Bullfinch and Mipit’s. Not a bad start so we decided not to travel far but spend the day on the coast in that cooling breeze. Our next stop was Titchwell spending time in the new hide and on the sea. All that talent and the best was Avocet, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Eider, a probable Manx Shearwater, Common Snipe, Yellow Wagtail, Yellowhammer, Turnstone, Reed Bunting, Bittern, Little Egret and Corn Bunting. We couldn’t even find the reported Curlew Sandpiper although it did turn up later that evening. Perhaps a little disappointed we headed inland calling in at Flitcham collecting Little Owl found by Fred and we still haven’t heard the last of it yet, Also seen here were Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Egyptian Geese, Red-legged Partridge and Stock Dove.

I reckon about now you are asking yourselves why am I disappointed but I suppose when we get that talent gathered expectations can be high. But then again when you look at the list above I suppose it’s not that bad is it?

Last Day and I suggested we made our way to meet up with Malcolm in Lincolnshire for 4 hrs birding at Frampton Marsh. Fred, Charlie and myself headed for what’s going to be one of best reserves along the Wash. Malc had already arrived a couple of hours earlier and spent the next 10 mins trying to grip us off with some Jackanory tales of birds he saw before we arrived.

We then decided to walk from the centre to the salt marsh, turn left along the sea wall and enter back into the reserve spending the final hour in the hides. Our target birds were Wood Sandpiper, SEO and Black-necked Grebe but we managed more Whimbrel, Sedge Warbler, Tree Sparrow, Yellow Wagtails, Peregrine, Curlew Sandpipers an elusive Black-necked Grebe and 2 Brent Geese (!) at opposite ends of the reserve. The story from Malc is, they were both together for months had a blazing argument and suddenly parted company. Unfortunately the Wood Sandpiper played a game of hide and seek and won.

What a great week for all involved in possibly the best birding county in the UK, enjoyed by some real talented birders and Fred!