Norfolk Bird Race - 25th May 2015

Published by Brian Bolton (brianjlb AT

Participants: Ron Cousins, David Cousins, Pete Satchell, Ian Marsh, Brian Bolton


We have been doing a May bird race for around seven years now, we don’t actually race anyone else, we just race against time, our ages range from 30 -50+, so we won’t be running anywhere but we certainly take it serious in a casual way. The best count over those years is 131 species in one day. We have heard of many other like-minded birders who have achieved in the region of 150 species but we have accepted that 150 species in one day is going to be very difficult indeed. The day starts with us meeting near Bishops Storford at 2am with father & son, Ron & David Cousins, Pete Satchell, Ian Marsh & myself.

3 am: Cavenham Heath

Our first stop is Cavenham Heath in Suffolk. Within 5 mins we can hear stone curlew calling, then little owl, nightingale, rook, cuckoo and a silhouetted woodcock, all before daylight but no nightjars. As we get closer to dawn the birds wake up, sedge warbler, skylark, crow, robin, and another woodcock, a nice start we think.

Lackford Lake

Lackford Lake is a place we like very much, it has a nice lake, scrub and wooded area, so we start to tick off more birds, whitethroat, garden warbler, cetti’s, reed warbler, sparrowhawk at least two, possibly three turtle doves plus a few more common species, no sign of tree sparrows (this is our ‘banker’ site for these) also no sign of the reported red crested pochards and a disappointing lack of terns.

Livermere Lake

A report the previous day of a red necked grebe at Livermere Lake couldn’t be ignored, so off we go, along the way a beautiful red kite, we stop at a field over looking the lake, sand martin, red necked grebe, barnacle goose (self sustained? who knows? its going on the list though) are all added, Ron (our gull man) picks out a sleeping yellow-legged herring gull amongst the other gulls on the fields, also red-legged partridge but no greys, its going well. 7am - 70 species on the list, not bad at all.

Santon Downham church/Santon Downham

We have seen spotted flycatchers here before, not this time but we manage to pick up, treecreeper, goldcrest and firecrest, we carry on to the bridge and walk along the river, siskin, grey wagtail, marsh tit, spotted flycatcher plus some more common birds, no sign of the mandarins and incredibly no kingfisher! ( we have never failed to see kingfisher at this site) we give it a good search but have to move on. Next stop just across the level crossing at Santon Warren, we pick up coal tit, and woodlark ( where are the tree pipits? ) another stop along the road but still no pipits, we need to get on! 10am – 82 species. (missing a few common species)

Lynford Arboretum

Firecrest ( at least 3) more siskins and a little grebe on the lake ( a past bogey bird)

Lakenheath Fen.

A must on a Suffolk/Norfolk bird race but it can take at least 2-3 hours to walk to the last reedbed and back, (a little bittern had been heard/seen the previous days, so it was a must to do the long walk to get such a rarity on the list). Common tern, little egret, hobby (only 5 this time, we usually pick up 30+) reed warbler/bunting, marsh harrier (many),water rail, bittern, little bittern (call), shoveler, house martin. A bit disappointing really we usually get around 20 species here but only manage 11 in 2+ hours but little bittern is a real plus!! No orioles, they are becoming extremely rare nowadays.

Great Cressingham

Not sure about this site but drive up and down the road looking for tree sparrows and grey partridge we don’t find either. (Any more info on this site would be much appreciated)

Cockley Cley

(the well known ‘secret’ goshawk site). Buzzard, linnet, no gossies (probably a bit late in the year?)

Choseley Barn

Turtle dove, corn bunting, dotterel (5 inc 4x females). We go for the remaining dotterels at choseley barn, a great bird to pick up on a bird race, another lovely turtle dove but no yellow wagtails. We are struggling for common species now. It's now 3.30pm. Off to Titchwell, that's always good for us.


Avocets, black-tailed godwit (many), bar-tailed godwit (1), little tern, sandwich tern, little ringed plover, common scoter, short-eared owl, barn owl, meadow pipit (unbelievably our first!) plus a few more species, another disappointment, a severe lack of waders! We seem to be struggling!


We try the fields along the beach car park for wheatear and yellow wagtail but nothing and the sea is very calm, we don’t even pick up a gannet. It's now 7pm, the reserve is closed but we see a group of birdwatchers along salthouse bank scoping something on the pools, so we make our way over to them and are told they are watching a white-rumped sandpiper, bloody hell! We get the bird in the distant, wow! an American wader on our bird race, we also pick up curlew sandpiper, dunlin, common sandpiper, golden plover and bearded tit.

9-10pm Kelling Heath


121 species in total (3am – 10pm). We worked very hard all day for birds, in fact we don’t know what else we could have done, we stopped at all our usual sites, we just struggled for some of the commoner species but we did get some quality birds instead. Here are 11 of some we missed, still can’t think how ? If we had got these we would have beaten our best total. We always have a great day doing a bird race, hopefully we can beat our best or get that elusive 150 next year? Any additional information on any of these sites we would be very grateful.

If you try this yourself, good luck!

11 ‘easy’ birds we missed:

mistle thrush, wheatear, yellow wagtail, grey partridge, kingfisher, tawny owl, tree pipit, gropper, grey plover, gannet, kittiwake

total list of birds seen on the day

1 Mute Swan
2 Greylag Goose
3 Canada Goose
4 Barnacle Goose
5 Egyptian Goose
6 Shelduck
7 Gadwall
8 Mallard
9 Pintail
10 Shoveler
11 Pochard
12 Tufted Duck
13 Common Scoter
14 Red-legged Partridge
15 Pheasant
16 Cormorant
17 Bittern
18 Little Bittern
19 Little Egret
20 Grey Heron
21 Little Grebe
22 Great-crested Grebe
23 Red-necked Grebe
24 Red Kite
25 Marsh Harrier
26 Sparrowhawk
27 Buzzard
28 Water Rail
29 Moorhen
30 Coot
31 Stone Curlew
32 Avocet
33 Oystercatcher
34 Golden Plover
35 Lapwing
36 Little Ringed Plover
37 Ringed Plover
38 Dotterel
39 Curlew
40 Black-tailed Godwit
41 Bar-tailed Godwit
42 Turnstone
43 Ruff
44 Dunlin
45 White-rumped Sandpiper
46 Curlew Sandpiper
47 Common Sandpiper
48 Redshank
49 Woodcock
50 Little Tern
51 Sandwich Tern
52 Common Tern
53 Black-headed Gull
54 Common Gull
55 LBB Gull
56 GBB Gull
57 Herring Gull
58 Yellow-legged Gull
59 Feral Pigeon
60 Stock Dove
61 Woodpigeon
62 Collared Dove
63 Turtle Dove
64 Cuckoo
65 Barn Owl
66 Little Owl
67 Short-eared Owl
68 Nightjar
69 Swift
70 Green Woodpecker
71 Great Spotted Woodpecker
72 Kestrel
73 Hobby
74 Magpie
75 Jay
76 Jackdaw
77 Rook
78 Crow
79 Goldcrest
80 Firecrest
81 Blue Tit
82 Great Tit
83 Coal Tit
84 Marsh Tit
85 Bearded Tit
86 Woodlark
87 Skylark
88 Swallow
89 House Martin
90 Sand Martin
91 Cetti's Warbler
92 Long-tailed Tit
93 Chiffchaff
94 Willow Warbler
95 Blackcap
96 Garden Warbler
97 Whitethroat
98 Sedge Warbler
99 Reed Warbler
100 Nuthatch
101 Treecreeper
102 Wren
103 Starling
104 Blackbird
105 Song Thrush
106 Spotted Flycatcher
107 Robin
108 Nightingale
109 Dunnock
110 House Sparrow
111 Grey Wagtail
112 Pied Wagtail
113 Meadow Pipit
114 Chaffinch
115 Greenfinch
116 Linnet
117 Goldfinch
118 Siskin
119 Yellowhammer
120 Corn Bunting
121 Reed Bunting