The spectacular Norfolk

After a successful business event on Saturday it was a gift to spend a whole day with my Hungarian friend, Attila Seprényi, around the northern coastline of Norfolk. He’s also a wader fan, living in Sweden, but been on a training here in the UK for a few weeks. I haven’t met him for about 15 years though we have been keeping in touch for a while now. I wish we had more time together but there is no complaint. Today was magical.

We headed early in the morning to north Norfolk to see waders and possibly find some life birds for Sepi. Departing before 3AM on Sunday was a very good idea. The roads were almost empty so by the first lights we arrived the Titchwell RSPB Nature Reserve. It definitely is one of my favorite sites in England, however I haven’t yet been to most of the other British birding sites.

While it is not visible on the image, the light fog was descended on the waters soon after sunrise. © Gyorgy Szimuly

While it is not visible on the image, the light fog was descended on the waters soon after sunrise. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The waters were still and peaceful. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The waters were still and peaceful. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Norfolk03

Muddy islands were occupied by nesting Pied Avocets. They were not worried by our presence at all despite being about 5 meters away from us. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The morning was simply gorgeous. Birds sang everywhere in the misty willow scrubs and reedbeds. I simply wanted to freeze the moment when the sun tried to shine through the light fog. The pictures (taken by iPhone 4s) don’t really give the atmosphere back but yet gives some idea. Nobody was on the trails what was really good. The whole reserve was ours. As we entered the main footpath, I heard a Cetti’s Warbler singing and it soon jumped up to the top of the scrub. We couldn’t spot the scope on it as it moved fast and flitted from scrub to the willow trees. Eurasian Reed Warblers (birders in the UK have already named it Western Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus for some reason), Common Reed Buntings, Eurasian Wren and Sedge Warblers were singing everywhere. Attila spotted a Turtle Dove and we found a Western Marsh Harrier gracefully flying over the reedbeds. As we approached the tidal zone of the North Sea we had some excellent views on Common Redshanks, Common Linnets and Meadow Pipits. A nice number of Pied Avocets have been nesting on the main pool. I saw many birds incubating.

Sand dunes are a unique and beautiful part of the Norfolk coastline. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Sand dunes are a unique and beautiful part of the Norfolk coastline. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Grassy sand dunes are like natural dams. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Grassy sand dunes are like natural dams. © Gyorgy Szimuly

When we crossed the beautiful sand dune we found ourselves at the beach with starting low tide. The view from the dune towards the sea was exceptional for us. A nice number of Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones and Eurasian Oystercatchers were just in front of us. That was really the moment of the morning birding. As we scanned the sea we found two Northern Fulmars flying away over the sea. Later, over the misty waters, more fulmars were coming but we also saw about 660 Common Scoters flying from east to west. Some were swimming close to us. Distant Northern Gannets were flying over the sea while Little Terns and Sandwich Terns were hunting close to the shoreline. In a small flock of Bar-tailed Godwits a Red Knot, in advanced breeding plumage were seen. While watching feeding Sanderlings, a nice flock Brants Goose landed on the shallow pools.

Wide sandy beach at low tide. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Wide sandy beach at low tide. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Sand dunes from the sea side. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Sand dunes from the sea side. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Bed of Razor Shells were the favourite feeding site for dozens of Ruddy Turnstone and Sanderling. Some birds should be on this image. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Bed of Razor Shells was the favourite feeding site for dozens of Ruddy Turnstone and Sanderling. Some birds should be visible on this image. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Attila is scanning the mixed flock of waders. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Attila is scanning the mixed flock of waders. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The 'subject' of my favourite shorebird from my childhood, the Eurasian Oystercacther. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The ‘subject’ of my favourite shorebird from my childhood, the Eurasian Oystercacther. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Footprint of Eurasian Oystercatcher. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Footprint of a Eurasian Oystercatcher. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Marks by the running water. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Marks in the sand by the running water. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Home of Eurasian Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and other songbirds. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Home of Eurasian Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and other songbirds. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Norfolk15

Informative interior of the main hides of Titchwell. © Gyorgy Szimuly

We could enjoy Meadow Pipit 'wall to wall' through our binoculars. © Gyorgy Szimuly

We could enjoy Meadow Pipit ‘wall to wall’ through our binoculars. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Complete list of birds seen at Titchwell:

Greylag Goose 16
Brent Goose (bernicla ssp.) 72
Mute Swan 4
Common Shelduck 21
Gadwall 6
Mallard  20
Northern Shoveler 4
Red-crested Pochard 1
Common Pochard 4
Tufted Duck 18
Common Eider (mollissima ssp.) 2
Common Scoter 660
Red-legged Partridge 2
Little Grebe 1
Great Crested Grebe 4
Northern Fulmar (glacialis ssp.) 6
Northern Gannet 3
Great Cormorant 8
Little Egret 2
Eurasian Spoonbill 1
Eurasian Marsh Harrier 2
Common Moorhen 4
Eurasian Coot 13
Northern Lapwing 3
Grey Plover 26
Common Ringed Plover (hiaticula ssp.) 14, (tundrae ssp.) 3
Eurasian Oystercatcher 155
Pied Avocet 46
Common Sandpiper 1
Common Redshank 12
Eurasian Curlew 5
Black-tailed Godwit 31
Bar-tailed Godwit 66
Ruddy Turnstone 105
Red Knot (canutus ssp.) 11
Sanderling 150
Dunlin 17
Black-legged Kittiwake 1
Black-headed Gull 130
European Herring Gull (argentatus ssp.) 220
Great Black-backed Gull 1
Little Tern 17
Common Tern 10
Sandwich Tern 6
Common Wood Pigeon 38
Common Cuckoo 1
Common Swift 7
Common Magpie 3
Eurasian Jackdaw 4
Eurasian Skylark 6
Barn Swallow 26
Great Tit 3
European Blue Tit 1
Eurasian Wren 9
Cetti’s Warbler 1
Willow Warbler 2
Common Chiffchaff 2
Sedge Warbler X
Eurasian Reed Warbler X
European Blackcap 3
Garden Warbler 2
European Robin 4
Eurasian Blackbird 4
Song Thrush 1
Dunnock 1
Meadow Pipit 9
Common Reed Bunting 9
Common Chaffinch 5
European Goldfinch 5
Common Linnet 8

We have been hesitating whether to stay on the Titchwell bach or try for another famous site, the Snettisham RSPB reserve. We we were not advised to go there as the high tide wasn’t good enough to enjoy the wader spectacle. More about it later…

Higher and wider sand dunes of Holme. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Higher and wider sand dunes of Holme. © Gyorgy Szimuly

We then stopped at another nature reserve, the Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve near Holme-next-the-Sea. That is a beautiful site with a mix of different habitats such as salt marshes, sand dunes, small pools and sandy beach. Is is edged by a golf course where Eurasian Oystercatchers were feeding.

As we approached the beach I found a Eurasian Oystercatcher nest with four eggs. Soon after a large family arrived and started to unpack for a picnic just 10 m away from the nest. I was worried about the nest so asked them kindly to consider moving a bit further on the beach to save that nest. Surprisingly they were cooperative and understood the situation. Within the restricted area we found several territories/nests of Eurasian Oystercatcher and Common Ringed Plover. At the western edge of this area a Common Redshank was guarding, possibly over its nest.

Nice variety of different coastal habitats. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Nice variety of different coastal habitats. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Warning sign for beach nesting birds. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Warning sign for beach nesting birds. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Norfolk17

‘Nest’ of Eurasian Oystercatcher outside the restricted area. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Eurasian Oystercatcher nest. © Gyorgy Szimuly

A bit closer view of the Eurasian Oystercatcher nest. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Black-legged Kittiwake, flying close to the shore, was a nice addition to the daily bird list. We sat on the beach where Sanderlings were feeding. The water pushed them towards us. They were mainly in transition plumages but many of them were in advanced stages of moulting. I loved to watch every feather detail through the scope. While Sepi tried to digiscope the Sandperlings, I spotted a Common Dolphin and a Common Seal.

The checklist of the Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve:

Common Shelduck 6
Mallard 6
Great Crested Grebe 1
Northern Fulmar (glacialis ssp.) 1
Northern Gannet 13
Great Cormorant 3
Little Egret 2
Common Ringed Plover (hiaticula ssp.) 12
Eurasian Oystercatcher 44
Common Redshank 3
Black-tailed Godwit 25
Sanderling 130
Black-legged Kittiwake (tridactyla ssp.)  1
Common Gull 2
European Herring Gull (argentatus ssp.)  11
Sandwich Tern 12
Common Wood Pigeon 2
Common Swift 3
Common Kestrel 1
Eurasian Jackdaw 5
Eurasian Skylark 4
Barn Swallow 13
Lesser Whitethroat 1
Dunnock 2
Meadow Pipit 6
Common Linnet 4

Despite the high tide was just over we made another leg of the already successful trip in north Norfolk. Snettisham is the place for huge wader flocks and what else two wader lovers need than such an experience. I was happy to visit Snettisham even though we had been told the site wasn’t really worth to visit due to the lack of really high tide.

After a long walk towards the hides, where I have never been to, we saw the a large flock of waders flying over the sea wall. Slow walk turned into a hurried run to get a better view on the mudflat as soon as possible. The majority of the flock were Red Knots. I estimated about 1,500 birds in that flock. Reaching the top of the sea wall was a real WOW factor for both of us. Not only by the view of the vast area of the Wash but the huge number of shorebirds whirling over the fresh mud. That was one spectacular view we wanted to see. Conditions weren’t good indeed, yet it was amazing to see that high number of waders.

The vast mudflat of the Wash at low tide. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The vast mudflat of the Wash at low tide. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The large colonies of Black-headed Gulls are easy to watch from the hides. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The large colonies of Black-headed Gulls are easy to watch from the hides. © Gyorgy Szimuly

A pair of European Herring Gull attacked the Black-headed Gull colony without success. © Gyorgy Szimuly

A pair of European Herring Gull attacked the Black-headed Gull colony without success. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Non incubating Pied Avocets were feeding on the little pools of the mudflat of the Wash. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Non incubating Pied Avocets were feeding on the little pools of the mudflat of the Wash. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The water was running away from the shoreline so fast and birds moved accordingly to feed on the fresh mud. Another challenge was the haze over the area which limited the visibility. Anyway we estimated the numbers and tried to determine species composition. The most abundant species was the Red Knot, with about 4,500 birds, followed by nearly 2,500 Bar-tailed Godwits. Other birds included Eurasian Oystercatcher, Common Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Pied Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin a few Eurasian Curlew and Common Redshank. Interestingly here we saw more Bar-tailed Godwits and Black-tailed Godwits in full colourful breeding plumage than in Titchwell (None was in Titchwell!).

In the pits, behind the sea wall we watched the hundreds of Black-headed Gulls nesting on the islands. I was amazed by the large Pied Avocet colony. In the larger colony 64 birds were sitting on the ground. They were most probably incubating. On the western side of the pit another 10-20 birds were possibly nesting. In front of the first hide Black-headed Gulls were feeding in the ditch of the mudflat with 5 beautiful adult Mediterranean Gulls among them. Along the sea wall I mapped nesting Eurasian Oystercatchers and Common Ringed Plovers.

List of birds seen in the Snettisham RSPB Reserve:

Greylag Goose 8
Brent Goose 25
Canada Goose 2
Mute Swan 1
Common Shelduck 50
Gadwall 2
Mallard 8
Tufted Duck 2
Common Scoter 1
Grey Partridge 1
Great Cormorant 8
Little Egret 3
Eurasian Marsh Harrier 1
Common Moorhen 3
Eurasian Coot 4
Northern Lapwing 3
Grey Plover 65
Common Ringed Plover 25
Eurasian Oystercatcher 420
Pied Avocet 140
Common Redshank 20
Eurasian Curlew 10
Black-tailed Godwit 800
Bar-tailed Godwit 2,400
Red Knot 4,500
Dunlin 300
Black-headed Gull 650
Mediterranean Gull 5
European Herring Gull (argentatus ssp.)  60
Common Tern 8
Sandwich Tern 2
Common Wood Pigeon 12
Eurasian Collared Dove 1
Common Swift 7
Common Magpie 2
Eurasian Jackdaw 9
Barn Swallow 13
European Blue Tit 1
Sedge Warbler 5
Common Whitethroat 3
Song Thrush 1
European Starling 2
Dunnock 2
Pied Wagtail (yarellii ssp.)  2
Reed Bunting 1
Common Chaffinch 2
European Goldfinch 3
Common Linnet 2

What a fantastic day we had. Today, again, verified that I have lived on a wrong part of the country and I have to find a home close, if not next to the Wash. Attila had two and half (non-native Red-legged Partridge) lifers today what he has been happy with (just like with the wader spectacle what amazed both of us).

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “The spectacular Norfolk

  1. Hi:
    I noticed that you just signed onto the Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society
    blog, which I edit, and that you had a website. Nice photos! Not many (any?) of those species around here. Drop me a line if you ever get to Los Angeles and want to see some birds.

    Yours, Chuck Almdale

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s