News archive

October 2019

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Group Trip to Norfolk - 27th - 30th October - report by Simon Stacey

Booking a birding trip in Norfolk in October means that a lot of time is spent checking various weather apps on our smartphones to work out when and where the rain is going to fall!! Well, we needn't have bothered. The rain of the day before had cleared away to leave us with almost four full days of sunshine, albeit a little chilly as the northerly winds had set in by this point.
About 16 people met at Morston Quay near Wells on the North Norfolk coast on Sunday afternoon for the first part of our much-anticipated break in north Norfolk. Debbie Williams had organised a boat trip to watch the grey seals. The seals begin pupping around this time of year so there were quite a number in evidence on the 90 minute or so trip, many of whom seemed to be as curious about us as we were of them!! The trip also gave us some good bird-watching, the highlights of the trip, apart from the seals obviously, included 2 Great Northern divers and possible red throated & black throated diver (unfortunately we couldn't get good enough views to be sure but a brief view of one with a hint of an up-tilted bill led us to believe it was a red diver).Large numbers of Brent geese a small flock of about 6 Pintail in flight and various waders including curlew redshank, dunlin & bar-tailed godwit were amongst the waders seen. When we arrived back there was a common seal putting in an appearance very close to where the boat was moored.
The drive back to our hotel at Old Hunstanton was also not without comment as Jane Cooper, Jane Rowse, Molly Morris and I were greeted to a barn owl flying briefly alongside my car!! The seasonal spectacle of the skeins of pink footed geese flying over to roost was witnessed by all. When we arrived at Caley Hall Hotel, we were greeted by a tawny owl calling from trees near the hotel.
On Monday morning four of us, Rebecca, Clare, Debbie & myself met in the car park for an early morning visit to Holme LNR. Before we left, we saw another barn owl quartering over the fields across the road from the hotel. From the raised bank at Holme we observed a large flock of pink footed geese in a neighbouring field and a number of curlew and little egrets on the salt marsh while a marsh harrier was seen in flight.
After a delicious breakfast at the hotel we then went to Choseley Drying Barns in search of farmland species. Despite the farm seemingly having changed hands we had some lovely views of some hares, red-legged partridge, a fleeting glimpse of a corn bunting and the highlight for many being some wonderful views of a yellohammer having a bath in a puddle.
From there we ventured to Cley Norfolk Wildlife Trust for the remainder of the day. This fantastic reserve gave us the chance to indulge in a little seawatching which produced several gannets, a flock of common scoter and several razorbills and guillemots bobbing around in the water. Unfortunately, the reported little auk from earlier in the day could not be located but a nice compensation was a Purple Sandpiper sitting on top of an old wreck in the sea and a flock of golden plover in the partly flooded field with some lapwings. At the main part of the reserve, the inland wader scrapes and reedbeds produced waders including avocet and ruff while many of us had fleeting glimpses of bearded tits while more Brent geese could be seen dotted around the reserve.
On the way back from Cley we dropped in to Stiffkey Marshes which is probably the best site in the area for watching raptors coming in to roost. The first people there were rewarded with distant views of a merlin while all of us got reasonable views of a ringtail and male hen harrier as well as at least 4 marsh harriers and good numbers of little egrets.
On the way back to Hunstanton we stopped at Holkham to watch the spectacle of the pink footed geese coming in to roost in large numbers. Following a lovely dinner at the hotel we had an early night in order to get up bright and early the next morning.
Tuesday morning brought what was for many, the highlight of the trip, the Snettisham Spectacular. The vast majority of us woke up at about 5am to get to RSPB Snettisham for high tide. When we finally got in to position after the 1 mile walk from the car park, there were large numbers of waders on the estuary including large numbers of curlew, bar-tailed godwit, grey plover, dunlin & redshank. A peregrine flying past put large numbers of these into the air as did a marsh harrier a little later. However, this was only the beginning of the action. A look from the hide saw thousands and thousands of knot and oystercatchers huddled together on the banks of the lagoon. At first glance, it appeared that there was a "beach" around the lagoon but what we were watching were about 20,000 knot and 3,000 oystercatchers taking relief from the high tide. Meanwhile, out on the estuary, there were about 1,500 or so pink footed geese that, as the tide turned, took off in dramatic skeins as they flew towards the arable fields where they feed during the day. As if this wasn't dramatic enough, the main event was about to start as first the oystercatchers and then the knot flew in waves about 15-20 feet above our heads out on to the estuary as the mud was gradually exposed. The sight and sound of the birds flying over our heads was something that all who were there will never forget!! Within about 45 minutes, as the tide had retreated, about 30,000 waders were out on the estuary. All agreed that the very early start was definitely worth it. A special mention to Debbie for driving those who felt they couldn't make the long walk to the disabled parking area and for arranging such a spectacular morning. I for one will definitely do that again, it was amazing!! Just when we all thought that it couldn't get any better it did when a very pale finch appeared about 10-15 feet away from us to feed on the tideline, a very handsome snow bunting. We spent about 20 minutes watching this very confiding bird, everyone getting fabulous views, even with scopes!! After we had walked back to the car park a small flock of fieldfare put in an appearance for us. What a morning!!
After we got back to the hotel in time for breakfast, we then made the short journey along the coast to Titchwell Marsh RSPB. This fantastic reserve with a fantastic mix of habitats must be one of the real gems amongst RSPB reserves. A quick look in the trees around the picnic area gave a nice view of a tree creeper before we headed out along the main path to the main lakes and then on to the beach. The main lakes gave good views of avocets and golden plover all of which took flight at one point when a SKU was seen by a few of us which after consulting with guide books turned out to be a pomarine skua. Some of the group got good views of water, rock & meadow pippit on one of the islands on the main lake so they were able to compare all three species together. A Chinese water deer was an interesting addition to the list of sightings as was a good view of a water rail. The beach proved quite productive with turnstone & sanderling adding to the trip's wader count. A scan out to sea with telescopes gave a few of us goldeneye, a drake rider and aShort-eared owl flying in off the sea. As the light dimmed, we all made our way towards Patsy's Reedbed for the spectacle of little egrets and marsh harriers coming in to roost. The extremely helpful and enthusiastic young volunteer, Matt Lonsdale, told us that the previous evening there were 135 little egrets and 25 marsh harriers!!! We got to a count of 97 Egrets and about 12-15 Marsh Harriers although they had chosen to roost some way away from the area of reedbeds that they used the evening before. All in all, quite a memorable day!!
The final morning saw a small group of us heading to Thornham Harbour to see if we could catch up with the small flocks of twite that had been seen in the area but despite scrutinising a flock of linnets we failed to find any. A look out to see gave us grey plover, curlew and ringed plover as well as excellent views of at least 8 red- breasted merganser and several more goldeneye.
After breakfast we all made our way home with some stopping off at WWT Welney on the way. Huge thanks to Debbie for organising such a memorable trip and to the very helpful staff at the Caley Hall hotel in Old Hunstanton who were very helpful thoughout. Where shall we go next!!?

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Male chaffinch singing on branch

Birdsong Radio!

The recent Let Nature Sing song stormed the music charts and helped raise awareness of the plight of nature. As a thank you, we've created Birdsong Radio, so you can enjoy the sound of nature's master musicians, anytime, anywhere. You can listen live on the RSPB website - see link below - or via the RSPB app.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Talk by David Lindo

Talk by David Lindo

Want to know how to have the most fun with your clothes on? David Lindo, aka the Urban Birder, explains the intricacies of looking good whilst watching birds in urban areas. David is a broadcaster, write, naturalist, photographer and tour leader. He regularly contributes to Nature's Home magazine and has written many books. This is one of a series of special events for our 40th anniversary and will be in the larger Clarendon Room at York House and there will be a small additional charge to cover the cost.