Tour At A Glance

Cost:

30 per person per day

Deposit:

Full payment

Group Size:

8 plus leader

Norfolk - Day Tours

Leaders: Ashley Saunders or Jason Moss
Introduction

 

Want to join us for a guided birdwatching tour in Norfolk, but cant spare the time for a full tour? Or just want to come along and see what Oriole Birding is all about? Our new programme of day tours for 2016/17 is designed as a taster for new customers and an opportunity for old customers to connect with a target species or visit a new area. Everyone is welcome, and with these day tours offered at a special discounted price of only £30 per person and including  fully licensed transport by air conditioned minibus, you could hardly do it yourself for the same cost! Tours will meet at 0800 at a pre arranged meet point stated below for each tour, and typically conclude around 1700. Please bring your own lunch, appropriate clothing and footwear and optics - we'll do the rest! To book, simply drop us an email to check availability and then follow the link below and we will see you on the day! 

 

**Please note that due to a continued high number of last minute cancellations, booking for these tours now requires full payment in advance either by bank transfer [email for details] or by credit/debit card using our online payment system. Simply complete the booking form and choose 'Norfolk Day Tour' from the drop down list, then opt for either bank transfer or card at checkout. Cancellation terms will be as per our stated Terms and Conditions of booking**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norfolk Wader Day  - Friday 3rd August 2018 [SPACES]

Get to grips with waders in both adult and juvenile plumages on this wader watching day along the North Norfolk Coast. Cley Marshes will be the central point of the day but we may visit a variety of smaller sites such as Stiffkey and Kelling.

 

Collection is from the Blue Boar car park in Great Ryburgh, please bring lunch and drinks for the day. Entrance fees to any nature reserves visited are additonal.

 

An example of our 2016 tour:-

 

WEDNESDAY 17TH AUGUST - Fresh Easterly winds and sunshine

 

A decent days weather for our Norfolk Wader Day, but with an east wind blowing and the first sprinkling of autumn passerines dusting the Norfolk coast, it seemed rude to spend the first part of the morning looking at waders! So we decided to give Wells Woods a try, in case something interesting was lurking among the Birches. A Red Kite flapped along beside the van as we neared Wells, where we arrived to find just half a dozen other vehicles in the beach car park - it would be like that in a couple of hours! We took the usual circuitous route around The Dell, noting little until we reached the north-west corner, when a Pied Flycatcher could be heard calling. We dropped down into the depression, and with patience, managed some glimpses of it among the dense foliage - its certainly not easy viewing in here at this early stage of autumn! A little further on, and a second Pied Flycatcher shot across the track and landed briefly in the open in a pine, but despite searching, we didn't see it again. In the more open area, European Reed Warbler, Common Whitethroat and Reed Bunting were noted, while parties of Swallows hawking over the grass fields just inland provided a sobering reminder that many of our summer migrants will not be with us for much longer. The first of three small flocks encountered along the main track here contained several Common Chiffchaffs, with a total count of about twenty, and we added five Blackcap, three Willow Warbler, Common Treecreeper and an assortment of tits but no more flycatchers. Retracing our route back to the car park, it was warming up considerably - Ruddy Darter and Wall Brown being noted along the way.

 

Cley next and back to the plan, as we headed out to the Daukes Hide complex to look at the waterbirds on offer. This inlcuded two Green Sands, around fifty Ruff, and some superb Black-tailed Godwits in both adult and juvenile plumages. We spent time sorting the Ruff in their various sizes, colours and age groups, and also noted a Common Greenshank, two Dunlin [!], and large numbers of Common Teal. It was otherwise pretty quiet though, at least until a female Marsh Harrier swooped across Pat's Pool sending everything skyward. Despite the reshuffle, we sorted through everything again, but couldnt pick out anything of note. After lunch back at the Visitor Centre car park, we relocated to the East Bank and headed down towards Arnold's Marsh. Apart from a solitary sleeping Eurasian Spoonbill though, this part of the reserve was disappointing today in the now pretty strong winds, so we decided to cut our losses here and head along the coast to Titchwell.

 

This proved a good choice - the freshmarsh was thronged with birds and we had a really enjoyable couple of hours birding here. From Island Hide, we had superb close views of Ruff and Dunln and a brace of Common Sandpipers were along the reed edge. While watching these, a Water Rail popped out into view, and then a juvenile Bearded Tit in the same view! Most of the waders and gulls seemed to be nearer to Parrinder Hide as usual though, so we headed round there. Two Yellow Wagtails were seen along the shore, where at least three Common Snipe also put on a fantastic show. More Ruff and Black-tailed Godwits were supplemented by a nice mixed flock of about fifty Bar-tailed Godwit, three Grey Plover, five Red Knot and four Ruddy Turnstone. A single European Golden Plover also dropped in and a Common Greenshank flew by calling. The Common Terns seem to have had a good season, and we watched  a dozen freshly plumaged juveniles dancing around together over the water. A roost of gulls close to the hide were not in the best light, and they were also all asleep, so we waited for them to wake up and move before trying to positively identify one of the suspected Yellow-legged Gulls on offer! First a near adult, and then a full adult, came to and wandered into the water to bathe, giving some good views - including structural comparisons with argenteus Herring and graelsii Lesser Black-backed and some decent wingtip pattern shots. Like at Cley, calidrid waders were in short supply - just a handful of Dunlin on offer here. The highlight then of the afternoon, was the amazing sight of a flight of no fewer than 33 Eurasian Spoonbills in the air together, flushed by people walking on the far bank - we hadnt even been able to see them before as they were hidden behind the vegetation on the main island! A spectacular sight indeed, and a welcome success story in Norfolk amid so many species faring badly. Our day was rounded off nicely on the way back to base, with a young female Peregrine dive-bombing Woodpigeons on the Choseley Road.

 


 

 

 

 

Norfolk Autumn Migration Day Tour - Friday 21st September [SPACES]

Join us for a full days birding during the peak of autumn migration on the North Norfolk Coast. A range of sites will be visited, depending on the weather and what birds are around, so be prepared for a flexible itinerary. The Holkham Meals/Wells area are superb for catching up with species such as Yellow-browed Warbler, while the coastal lagoons and marshes may harbour passage Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and Phalaropes in the right conditions. Seawatching may also be on the cards in strong Northerly winds, when a selection of skuas, shearwaters and even petrels might be sighted.

 

Collection is from the Blue Boar car park in Great Ryburgh, please bring lunch and drinks for the day. Entrance fees to any nature reserves visited are additonal.

 

Sample 2016 tour:-

 

 

Our Norfolk autumn day tour was unfortunately played out in westerly winds but it did not stop us from seeing a decent range of species and one or two scarcities to boot. We started down at Wells, where one or two Yellow-browed Warblers were still lingering following the mid-week arrival and we hoped to catch up with one. We made a steady circuit of the woods, starting nicely with great views of a Pied Flycatcher in the birches south of toilet block, and the first of many Common Chiffchaffs, tailing a small tit flock which gave us the runaround at the edge of The Dell. A few Goldcrests were among them too, but the flock soon headed to the pines and we lost it. Continuing round via the drinking pool to the main track, we searched a short way towards Holkham for the 'west end' flock but couldnt find it, so retruned by way of The Dell again - a Common Swift overhead with House Martins, was an unseasonal surprise. Around The Dell, we heard a Yellow-browed Warbler call a couple of times, and added singles of Blackcap and Willow Warblers, as well as further views of the Pied Flycatcher. We couldnt nail down the Yellow-browed though, and so after a coffee we moved along the coast a short distance to Holkham.

 

Walking west through Holkham Meals, we again sifted a couple of small flocks of tits and Goldcrests, noting Treecreeper among them but nothing more. A Common Kingfisher showed a couple of times by Salt's Hole, and Pink-footed Geese could be seen in a huge skein drifting down onto the grazing marshes at the west end. From Washington Hide, we watched them 'whiffling' down out of the sky, quite a dramatic sight and one which will become familiar again over the coming months. Another more recent sight we have become accustomed to is that of Great White Egrets around the marsh, and our first of the day came floating across the reeds and dropped in to one of the channels out of view. As we continued west, the sun was out and odonata came with it - scores of Common Darters, flying off the path in droves as we walked along, and several Migrant Hawkers too. It was no great surprise then, when we found a juvenile Eurasian Hobby at the west end of the pines. The bird made several low passes over us, stooping after its prey, always zooming over the trees with the wind behind it before turning and tracking slowly back against the wind, right over our heads. We saw it again from Joe Jordan hide, so close we could see the gold tipping to the upperpart plumage and tail. Three Marsh Harriers were also here, and two Great White Egrets came up from a ditch and flew slowly by - almost certainly different from the earlier bird and making three for the morning. The walk back was pretty quiet, and we were certainly ready for lunch by the time we made it back to Lady Anne's Drive.

 

Titchwell would be the destination for the rest of the afternoon, and this is always a sure fire way to boost a list! The first good bird was an eclipse drake Greater Scaup, feeding on the reedbed pool with a female Tufted Duck. A bird normally only seen on lagoons or in harbours after cold snaps in winter, it was certainly a bit unusual to see one in the reedbed here today! From Island Hide, we picked up two juvenile Curlew Sandpipers among a great throng of Dunlin, Ruff, Red Knot, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits. The views of the waders were really excellent, with stunning light from this angle - a couple of Bearded Tits also being noted along the reed edge. A flock of European Golden Plover looked really superb in the afternoon light, scattered in amongst the vegetation on the main island. Common Ringed Plover and Common Snipe were added from the west bank path, where one of the Curlew Sands in particular now gave awesome views right by the path. A Yellow Wagtail called and flew up from the marsh, and a Chinese Water Deer was feeding out on the saltmarsh. We had really hoped to catch up with the juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper present earlier in the day, but which had apparently flown off a couple of hours previously. We were delighted therefore that as we reached Parrider Hide, it had just been relocated and we had fantastic views of it for a few minutes, before it called and flew back out of sight inside the fenced area on the island. A single Brent Goose dropped in, but with the afternoon wearing on we headed back down to have a quick look round the Meadow Trail before calling it a day. It was lovely and warm here, but the hoped for Yellow-browed didnt materialise - several Common Snipe and Ruff on Patsy's Reedbed being the last birds of the day - almost! The journey back to Great Ryburgh produced brilliant views of two Red Kites, which came off a dead tree and flew right past us - excellent!

 

 


 

Norfolk Coast in Winter - 19th December 2018 [SPACES]

 

 

We will spend the day birding at Holkham NNR, Titchwell and surrounds where we may see large flocks of wildfowl, seaduck, grebes, divers and possibly also Shorelark and Snow Bunting. We finish the day at a raptor roost where we may see Marsh and Hen Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine and Barn Owl plus large numbers of Little Egrets, Brent & Pink-footed Geese.

 

Collection is from the Blue Boar car park in Great Ryburgh, please bring lunch and drinks for the day. Entrance fees to any nature reserves visited are additonal.

 

Sample day from 2016:-

 

TUESDAY 6TH DECEMBER - NORTH NORFOLK

A foggy start, turning bright, sunny and cold

 

The first of our series of December day tours looked as though it was going to be hard going when we set off from Great Ryburgh this morning in dense fog! The visibility was still very poor when we reached Holkham, but we thought that perhaps our best chance of seeing something would be out in the bay. In fact we had the saltings completely to ourselves, and even though we could only see a few yards, there were lots of small birds here feeding undisturbed by dogs, horses or birders! Meadow Pipits and Linnets were coming off the deck in numbers as we walked east, and we could also hear Twite calling among them but couldnt pick one out for definite in the murk. Several Rock Pipits were also noted, and then as we reached the east end of the bay, two Shorelarks came up from under our feet. They gave their musical high pitched call as they flew around us, and thankfully they dropped in again ande we were able to get some fantastic views of them, scurrying among the Sea Lavendar and picking off tiny seeds. They were typically confiding, and eventually scurried back to within a few feet of us - superb! Clearly though, we were not going to see much else in these conditions so we made our way back to Lady Anne's Drive and headed off towards Titchwell. 

 

The sea off the North Norfolk coast has been exceptionally good this winter so far, harking back to the 'good old days' of masses of seaduck, grebes and divers in the shallow waters off Holkham, Titchwell and Holme. Todays light winds meant that the sea would be nice and calm, creating ideal viewing conditions - we just needed to be able to see it! As we arrived at Titchwell, the sky was already clearing, and we had to resist the temptation to spend too much time birding along the West Bank path in order to reach the beach in time for high tide at 1045. However, a Water Rail showed itself in the ditch behind the feeders, where a superb male Brambling was also noted, and it was impossible to walk past a bobbing Jack Snipe, out on the drained pool! Two of the volunteers had this super bird in the scope, and we were grateful for them for spotting it for us! From here we did make haste down to the shore, and what a spectacle awaited us. The sea was literally peppered in seaducks, all really close in shore, and more like a scene from the Moray Firth than Norfolk! Common Scoter were the most numerous duck of an incredible eleven species, which also included Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Eider and Greater Scaup. The stars of the show were the Velvet Scoters, dotted in amongst their commoner cousins, and the dapper Long-tailed Ducks, which numbered an amazing 65 birds. It was great to be able to compare the two scoters side by side at such close range, and to see their white wing flashes clearly each time  a small group decided to have a fly round. We were missing out on the recetly reported divers though, until eventually two drifted into view from the mist further out - one each of Great Northern and Black-throated Divers! A rare sight indeed, and the sun decided to peep out just at the right moment. The Black-throat was a smart bird, sporting black upperparts and white flank flash, and to cap off the session a Red-throated Diver appeared in the same scope view, and we briefly had all three together! Two Common Greenshank flew along the shore calling, rounding off a brilliant hour of classic winter birding. Back along the path, we scoped throngs of dabbling ducks on the pools, compared Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, saw another Water Rail and enjoyed close views of Grey Plover and Red Knot. The highlight though, was a ringtail Hen Harrier hunting over Thornham Marsh. We spent some time watching the bird through the scope, quartering back and forth along the dunes - eventually we had it fly right past us near the drained pool, and we werent quite sure where to look for a moment as a Water Pipit dropped in and two wild swans flew over calling, probably Bewick's Swans. Titchwell was at its best today!

 

A Rough-legged Buzzard has been seen recently up at Choseley, so we headed up there for a look. However, we could only find a lookalike pale Common Buzzard, in the same field as the 'rough leg' had been reported from - not good! Two Grey Partridges showed nicely here, before we dropped back down to the coast at Thornham to have lunch by the harbour. We hoped to find the small wintering Twite flock, and after a while they flew in and landed in the lone tree west of the sea wall. We wandered up for a better look, but only saw them briefly before they flew strongly out to the saltmarsh and didnt return. A Common Kingfisher flew by us and another Common Greenshank was in the channel - a Spotted Redshank, calling loudly, was not sighted. Next up was Holme beach, where we decided to have a quick wander out to check for buntings on the strandline. It was very atmospheric out here in the gathering mist, and again we had the beach to ourselves, but we couldnt see much of note. That was until a small flock of birds flew along the beach and dropped behind a small dune - on closer inspection, they turned out to be Snow Buntings. 22 birds in total, and they gave some lovely views before flying back out onto the beach.

 

With the short days now, we knew we wouldnt get a lot of change out of the day beyond 3pm, especially in the murky weather. So after a quick loop around Choseley again [where we saw the same Common Buzzard in the same field as earlier!] we ended the day at Holkham. The west end of the grazing marshes are not easy to view, which is a shame since they tend to hold the majority of the birds at this time of year. We squeezed off the road and had a quick look through a gap in the hedge with a scope and were rewarded with a Great White Egret feeding out among the wet grassland, about thirty Eurasian White-fronted Geese, and a hunting Barn Owl! A top end to a day on which we had recorded an impressive 97 species - not bad for a foggy day in December!

 


 

Winter in the Norfolk Broads - 20th December 2018 [SPACES]

 

 

Today we visit the fabulous Norfolk Broads, starting in the Yare Valley to look for a host of wintering wildfowl which may include the rare Taiga Bean Goose. Herds of wild swans are occasionally present and we may also see Great Bittern and Bearded Tit. The day wil culminate in a visit to Stubbs Mill roost at Hickling, where we hope to see Common Cranes as well as up to one hundred Marsh Harriers, Merlin, Barn Owl and Hen Harrier. 

 

Collection is from the Blue Boar car park in Great Ryburgh, please bring lunch and drinks for the day. Entrance fees to any nature reserves visited are additonal.

 

Sample day from 2016:-

 

THURSDAY 8TH DECEMBER - EAST NORFOLK

A dull and cloudy day in westerly winds, 10C

 

We spent the day birding in East Norfolk today, taking in a whistle stop tour of some of the key winter sites along the way. Buckenham Marshes was our starting point, and with frequent recent reports of small numbers of Taiga Bean Geese at the site already this winter, we were determined not to leave empty handed. Buckenham was bustling with birds, a flock of Eurasian Siskins greeted us, wheeling into the treetops by the level crossing, and a large flock of Pink-footed Geese were close to the track allowing lovely close views. We went through the saline features of grey goose ID, so everyone knew what to look for when searching for the infinitely more elusive Beans. They seldom mix with Pink-feet, and certainly never sit out in the open, so we knew they wouldnt be among these flocks! A row of dark necks with orange bills, protuding from a dense area of dark green sedges, would be a more typical view. We scanned carefully, but other than six Eurasian White-fronted Geese picked out of the throng of Pink-feet, we saw no Beans. Along the track, several Reed Buntings and a Common Stonechat were feeding among the seeding Willow Herbs, and out on the marsh an adult male Peregrine was sitting right out in the open. While it sat there looking around, Lapwing and Wigeon were pottering around it as if it were a cardboard cut-out - it would be a different story when this supreme predator took to the air though! Wigeon scattered all ways and the Lapwing and Starlings all spiralled away when he powered off and landed in a nearby tree. Great views of such a stunning bird. A Grey Wagtail was a nice addition by the cattle pens at the hide, and two or three Marsh Harriers were seen across the marsh. With no Bean Geese to show for our efforts though, we decided to move on and check nearby Cantley Marshes. Sadly, it was a similar story here - lots of Pink-feet, and two Peregrines this time, plus a brace of Chinese Water Deer, but no Beans. Of course, they came on the pager about half hour after we had left the site!

 

Next we ventured inland to Ludham Airfield, and sought out the regular wintering herd of wild swans in the fields there. Staying in the van, and using it as a mobile hide, we parked as close as we could without disturbing the birds an spent some time watching them - 35 Bewick's Swans and 11 Whooper Swans, resting in a cereal field. We were able to compare their different structure and size, as well as bill patterns - a classic mid-winter sight in the Norfolk Broads. Nearby at Scratby, we had an unplanned diversion to a place called Scratby Hall, certainly somewhere we had never visited before. It took a while to find the footpath running out along the southern edge of the hall [which is private] and here we found a handful of observers looking into a clump of willows in an old pit hole in a field. Our quarry, a Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler expertly found and identified by local birders over recent days, and with the bird in such a small clump, we felt like we were in with a chance of seeing it. Almost right away the bird began calling, a lovely 'chu-it' note quite different to Yellow-browed and more like a Greenish Warbler, or even a Spotted Redshank! The bird was very vocal in spells, when it would give ten or more calls in succession, before falling silent for ten minutes in between. Sadly though, we didnt even get so much of a sniff of a sighting. It was great to hear it calling though at least.

 

We were all ready for lunch by now, so headed north along the coast road and found a suitable spot near Horsey where we could scan the adjacent fields. A large number of Golden Plovers were here and almost right away, three Common Cranes flew up from the dunes and drifted right along the horizon. There were lots of Pink-feet here too, all dropping down just out of view beyond the reeds. Along at Waxham, the sun came out for the first time today and we took the opportunity to have a quick stop and look offshore from Shangri-la chalet. A Red-throated Diver was feeding very close inshore, almost on the beach, and gave some excellent views. Other than a few Grey Seals from the nearby colony, we didnt see much else and with the afternoon wearing on, we needed to head around to Hickling. Another group of Pink-feet were feeding just outside Sea Palling, and we stopped for a quick look in case we could pick out any rossicus Beans. We failed on that score, but had eight more Common Cranes instead, flying up from the field beyond and heading off towards Brograve Farm. 

 

Hickling Stubbs Mill is the only way to end a days birding in East Norfolk and despite the dreary light conditions this evening we managed to see a nice selection of birds at the roost. Around 45 Marsh Harriers roosted, with 27 in the air together proving quite the spectacle. Three Hen Harriers included two males, and two Merlins were seen in the gathering gloom including one chasing a small passerine over the bushes. Five Bewick's Swans drifted in from Horsey Mill, and a Barn Owl rounded off our day nicely as dusk fell over the marsh. There were no Cranes in to roost this evening, though we could hear them bugling not far away - it was a good job we had seen them earlier! A good day, despite some 'dips', and we arrived back in Ryburgh about 1730.

 

 


Breckland in Winter - 21st December 2018 [SPACES]

 

 

Thetford Forest is a fabulous winter birding destination and today we will spend time searching for some of its more elusive residents. Lynford Arboretum will be our main site and we will hope to find Hawfinch here, as well as commoner Marsh Tit, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, winter thrushes and woodeckers, with Goosander and Great Bittern possible on the gravel pits. Santon Downham is a good place to look for a whole variety of woodland birds, and we may also check an area for Stone Curlew if any are still around. 

 

Collection is from the Blue Boar car park in Great Ryburgh or Swaffham Theatre Street Car Park, please bring lunch and drinks for the day. Entrance fees to any nature reserves visited are additonal.

 

Sample day from 2016:-

 

FRIDAY 9TH DECEMBER - BRECKLAND

An overcast but very mild dry day in light winds, 15C

 

Our main target today was to try and get good views of Hawfinch, and we headed south from Swaffham with optimism fo a good day after several recent good sightings of the birds around Santon Downham and Lynford. We took a circuitous route south, in order to check some of the arable farmland for bits and bobs, but we didnt note anything more than a Red Kite and a few Fieldfares. Reaching Santon Downham, we started at Field Barn where the Hawfinches have often been appearing during the day, visiting the water tank to drink or just loafing around in the treetops. There were hundreds of birds here again today, inlcuding a single flock of well over 100 Brambling. They were pretty mobile and vocal, which in itself was impressive, but the best views were had as the birds dropped down onto the road to feed on the squished Beech mast. We had some cracking views by standing quietly on the verge with a scope and looking along the road - great stuff! Keeping watch over the trees around the house, we soon heard our first Hawfinch and saw two flying north towards the treetops at the edge of the meadow. Here they perched briefly - revealing themselves as two males - before dropping down out of sight. This cycle was repeated several times, involving singe birds or two at a time, and in the end we figured there were probably five individuals involved. This was confirmed when all five came out of the trees together, calling, and flew south. We only managed the briefest of views of them perched, so it still hadnt really been a satisfactory result. A Common Crossbill buzzed over a couple of times calling too - we needed something on the deck!

 

The riverbank path at Santon Downham has recently undergone works but is now reopen again, and so we decided to break from looking for the Hawfinches by taking a walk here to look for other woodland birds. Three Lesser Redpolls showed beautifully in the willows by the path a short way down, and again there were many Brambling and Siskin about, as well as a pair of European Nuthatch. A sharp call from the Poplars ahead pricked our ears though - it was a Hawfinch! WE had the bird perched long enough for a couple of people to see it in the scope, before it flew to a stand of Alders in the adjacent field on the south side of the river. A second then appeared, and followed suit, then three more, the latter coming out of the bushes by the path right in front of us! Thankfully this time the birds perched up for us and everyone had a long look in the scope - success! We watched with interest as they dropped down to feed on the ground beneath the Alders - were they the same five as earlier, or different birds? There were many birds in the same area of trees, including more Redpolls and Bramblings, but four larger 'blobs' caught our eye - Common Crossbills! These birds have been particularly scarce in the forest this year, and in fact this was the first 'flock' we had seen. There were in fact six, and they were very obliging, allowing us to watch them feeding on the cones on the top of the Alders for several minutes. We decided to walk a bit further along the river, to see what else was in store, but this proved to be the highlight and so we retraced our route back towards the bridge. As we approached, a female Hawfinch was perched above us calling in the last big poplar on the south side of the river, and she dropped down into one of the gardens there out of view. We saw here again during lunch, looking back from the car park, where a male Hawfinch also appeared and landed in the treetops right next to us! More good scope views! We had certainly achieved our aim of seeing this species well today.

 

Lynford next and after our Hawfinch success, we decided to concentrate on the gravel pits side rather than the arboretum.  A superb flock of Siskins were feeding in the conifers by the track down from the car park, and at least three Lesser Redpolls were with them including a lovely male. The usual selection of common ducks were noted on the east pit, and a Green Woodpecker was on the open ground. At the east end of the pits, a marshy area by the edge held a Common Snipe, and also a single Jack Snipe which flew up from the sedges there. The west pit held a Great White Egret, once a rare bird in the county but now an expected winter visitor in small numers - it was nevertheless good to see it so well as it drifted past us and back towards the eastern pit. Not a bad selection for a quick visit, but with the afternoon wearing on we wanted to head down to Lakenheath for last knockings. A decent gull roost is often a feature here in winter, but for some reason tonight they did not want to settle - group after group drifted in, had a look, and carried on west leaving not a single bird on the washland! We did have good views of two Water Rails in the open though, and a Water Pipit which flew past us calling. All in all, it had been an excellent day.

 

 


Norfolk Brecks Tour - RETURNING IN 2019

 

 

A full day exploring the area around Thetford Forest. We will be looking for Common Crossbill, Woodlark, Firecrest, Great Grey Shrike, Stone Curlew, Northern Goshawk and Hawfinch with an outside chance of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker as we spend time around Lynford and Santon Downham in the heart of the forest. 

 

Collection is from the Blue Boar car park in Great Ryburgh or Swaffham Theatre Street car park, please bring lunch and drinks for the day. Entrance fees to any nature reserves visited are additonal. This trip will be guided by Jason Moss.

 

A sample of our 2016 tour:-

 

WEDNESDAY 30TH MARCH NORFOLK BRECKS DAY TOUR:  We were certainly lucky with the weather for the third of our Norfolk Brecks day tours this March, with beautiful blue skies and plenty of warm sunshine throughout the day. We started off along the River Little Ouse at Santon Downham, where we hoped to connect with the female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which has been rather reliable of late, calling and drumming during the early mornings. As we walked down the riverside path, a pair of Mandarin flew by us twice giving their creaky call, and we saw Great-spotted Woodpecker, European Nuthatch and Eurasian Siskin along the way. As we neared the last stand of Poplars, in a repeat performamce from our visit a few days ago, we could hear the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming, interspersed with its squeaky call. It was right above the path! We scanned hard but couldnt see it, and suddenly, the call was coming from across the other side of the river - how do they do it?! It had been right under our noses, and not one of us saw it move! It drummed several times, and another birder picked it up but depsite frantically calling out directions, none of us got on it at all before it flew again and could then be heard calling further downstream. We followed, and once again could hear it calling clearly, and eventually saw it only in flight, heading off strongly towards Brandon - it didnt return. A frustrating showing, highlighting just how difficult this species can be to observe. Several fly bys from a Common Kingfisher, and a singing Common Chiffchaff, were other species of note along the walk back.

 

Things were starting to warm up now in the sunshine so it was time to head further into the forest to look for Northern Goshawk. We took one of our favourite tracks, and had only just opened out into the clearing when we picked up a Goshawk distantly over the conifers. Everyone got a decent look through the scope before it dropped back down into the trees, and we carried on towards our usual viewing spot a little further on. A second Goshawk then appeared, and circled right over the track above us, an immature bird with brownish upperparts, and several missing feathers on its right wing. It circled for us a couple of times, before drifting away - we still hadnt reached the watchpoint yet! We had not been set up long when a third Goshawk was seen, soaring up above the forest and this time on view for many minutes, giving everyone a great chance to tick off all the features inlcuding its fluffed white undertail coverts. Eventuall, after about ten minutes of viewing, it gained height and we lost it to view in te clouds. Several Common Buzzards were up and about now, and soon we heard the familiar fluted call of a Woodlark just behind us. It flew low past us singing, and dropped down onto a grassy knoll just long enough to get a scope on it and see its creamy supercilium before it flew again and headed back towards the clearing. As we walked back that way ourselves, we found it again in song flight, and watched and listened to this delightful songster for several minutes - it was great to see and hear Skylark at the same time too for comparison. Like so many of the clear fell areas in the forest, Common Stonechat and Yellowhammer were easy to see too - it wont be long before they are joined by Common Whitethroats and Redstarts from Africa too.

 

Lunch nearby overlooking another clearing gave non-stop views of many soaring ad displaying Common Buzzards, but a short walk to check a spot for Great Grey Shrike was unsuccessful - we were right on the cusp now of the bird leaving for its northern breeding grounds, so perhaps we would not see it again now. We decided to try the Grime's Graves entrance road, just in case it was visible from there, and sure enough, we found it perched atop a Hawthorn looking splendid in the early afternoon sunshine. A quick look with the scope gave everyone a great view, and then we decided to move on in order to squeeze a bit more into the day over at Lakenheath, only fifteen minutes drive away. It was really pleasant here, and we were greeted with news that a pair of Garganey were on the Washland too - spring really has arrived! We hurried up to the viewpoint, and despite the throng of waterfowl got sraight onto the Garganey drake, at the edge of the reeds. He soon swam out into the open water amongst Common Teal, and we were able to pick the female out too. The washland really is excellent for dabbling ducks just now - Gadwall, Northern Shoveler and Eurasian Wigeon too, all very vocal and clearly getting ready to head to breeding grounds further north. Little Egret, Great Crested Grebe and a stunning male Marsh Harrier were also seen, while many splendid Reed Buntings were around the Visitor Centre Feeders. A Swallow flew by, our first of the year - it really was turning out to be a super day!

 

Lynford Arboretum was our next stop, and we had several requests to try and catch up with Hawfinch today. They have been reliable all winter in their pre-roost, but not in the paddocks or arboretum, where mild weather and plentiful natural food has rendered them almost impossible to find by day. 1530 has been their rendezvous time, in the conifers beyond the paddocks, but of course we were now on BST meaning they should appear a 1630! We made our way down towards the paddock, picking up a singing Firecrest along the way - it generally kept pretty high in a big Larch tree, but gave some nice views as it hovered and perched in the sunshine at the ends of the branches. Siskins, Marsh Tit and Nuthatch were seen, as we wandered down to a suitable viewpoint to look for our quarry. On cue, at 1627 [three minutes early!] seven Hawfinches flew in and landed in the treetops, just long enough for everyone to get scope views before they dropped in out of sight. This has been their typical behaviour for weeks now - you have to be quick! Thankfully today, by repositioning, we were able to pick up a female again perched, a little closer and in perfect light, before three took flight again and went off over our heads. It was a good job we were here on time! Wandering back through to the car park, we heard another Firecrest singing by the road, but ths one was low down in Ivy and Box at eye level and what spectacular views! It was dancing around in the sunshine at close quarters, a real treat indeed - the warm afternoon sunshine had brought lots of tiny midges out and it was sallying out from the bare branches to catch them in between bouts of song - a super little bird to end the day - or so we thought!

 

Stone Curlew had seemed a little slow returning to some of their favoured haunts in the North Brecks this spring but we took a short drive around some spots on the way back to check. A few Fieldfare were seen, and a couple of really super views of Grey Partridges, as well as some lovely Brown Hares looking a wonderful colour in the evening light. Our final stop produced a pair of Stone Curlew, preening in a roadside field, and we were able to get pretty good views of them from the vehicle - that really was the icing on the cake and meant we had seen all the Breckland specialities in ten hours in the field today.

 


Keep an eye on this page for newly added day tours for the 2018/19 season. We are also able to offer a fully customised guiding service throughout the year to suit your personal needs and requirements, and a number of our regular clients use this service. Depending on the exact itinerary, the ball park charge is £120 per day for one or two people, and again includes transport. Contact Ashley by email for dates and availability and we'll be happy to sort something out for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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