As we tend to try and fix up every year, myself Gareth & Dan arranged another October 'Magic week' meet-up, for hopefully some good Autumn birding.
Unfortunately, I was completely out of available holiday, following the Japan trip, so it would just be a weekend this year. For that reason, we stuck to Norfolk, driving up Friday (18/10) night and staying in Sheringham at the YHA.
After a very poor night's sleep, we began at first light on Saturday 19/10, for a bit of vis-mig on nearby Beeston Bump. It was pretty clear and certainly rather fresh on one of the highest points in Norfolk. Bird movement was pretty steady with a regular trickle of Chaffinches and Mipits and pretty good numbers of Greenfinches too. As time went on, more Starlings, Skylarks and Siskins went through. An enjoyable start to the day, but nothing spectacular, with the highlights being a group of 7 House Martins through west, a few Rock Pipits and a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers on the move too.
We planned to move on further west to the Salthouse area, but before we did, we popped into Sheringham Cemetery, on the western edge of town. Here three Ring Ouzel had been hanging around in recent days. It didn't take us too long to find them. One in particular showed relatively well, although on the whole, they were typically 'rouzelly', keeping a low profile!
On then to Kelling where we planned to scour the area west of there, all the way to Salthouse. However, just before setting off, another birder appeared from the water meadows direction. He'd just been all the way up to Salthouse himself and had seen next to bugger all. So time for a re-think - we decided to still head up to the water meadows and the beach, before finishing the day at Walsey Hills & Cley.
Kelling Water Meadows were very quiet, bar several Curlew and Stonechat. There was the briefest of views of a phyllosc in flight with an obvious super that Dan and I watched fly across the adjacent field and into the track-side hedgerow. We were fairly certain it was probably a Yellow-Brow, but unfortunately it failed to pop it's head out of the hedge, to confirm the ID.
We moved on to the beach and had a bit of a scan of the sea for a while. Again, not a lot going on other than a couple of Razorbill and a struggling Starling that managed to make it in off. As we turned back to the landward side of the shingle bank, an unexpected Short-Eared Owl flew up and dropped down somewhere on the beach closeby. Judging by how knackered it appeared to be, it must've somehow outflanked us and just arrived in-off the sea.
We soon relocated it, enjoying some fabulous views as it sat and rested on the single. After a while it moved to a fence post before a couple of dog walkers moved it on - but what a great little encounter!
On then to Walsey Hills, adjacent to the Cley reserve. Getting out the car, we soon got onto a well disguised Jack Snipe at the back of the roadside Snipe's Marsh (below). It was pretty hard to pick out but the quirky, diagnostic bobbing gave it away!
Walsey Hills is always tricky to bird, with loads of dense scrub and trees. But we hung around a while and managed to get views and hear regular calling of a couple of Yellow-Browed Warblers, as well as a late Willow Warbler and the briefest of views of what was probably a Tristis Chiffy, but before I could properly grill it, it was gone!
From, Walsey we left the car and marched on up Cley east bank, to the beach. Arnold's Marsh had the usual suite of coastal species as well as 2-3 Greenshank. The sea here produced a few birds - the best being good views of a Slavonian Grebe, as well as both Red-Throated Diver and Guillemot close in and flyby Sanderling, Ringed Plover & Dunlin.
We wandered around until dusk, walking a full circuit of the Cley reserve, before arriving back at the car in darkness. Nothing too much new to add to the weekend other than a handful of Grey Partridge, a flyby Common Scoter out at sea, several Marsh Harriers coming into roost and a squealing Water Rail.
The next day (Sunday 20/10), we had a small lie-in, getting out around 8-ish. We began at the Sheringham seawatching shelter with a decent NW breeze, which in theory would produce a few bits of interest.
As hoped, it was a pretty impressive couple of hours with as many as 700+ Little Gulls heading east - mostly fairly distant, 1 Pomarine Skua, a flyby Long Tailed Duck, 2 Manx Shearwater, c20 Bonxies, c10 Arctic Skua, a 1st-winter Arctic Tern, 1 Sandwich Tern, several Med Gulls, 3 Gadwall (1m, 2f), 4 Mallard, a Teal, several Red-Throated Diver, Wigeon, Common Scoter and Brent Geese. There was also a hugely impressive eastward movement of more commoner species particularly Auks and Gannets, plus a good stream of Kittiwakes too. A Puffin was called, as it zoomed east. I got onto what I think was the bird, but couldn't be sure as it flew away from me so didn't bother counting it.
The Auks and Gannets in particular were still piling through - but we were getting hungry, so we left to find breakfast.
The winds were swinging off Scandanavia and down the east coast, though it appeared they weren't really producing the goods passerine-wise, looking at the bird news. We decided on a walk around Burnham Ovary Dunes and the west of Holkham Pines to finish the day, hoping that the good range of habits there would produce something.
Entertainment on the walk down was provided by a field containing several, rather energetic cattle and one super monster bull - clearly 'The Boss'! Closeby, the regular 8 Cattle Egrets were on show too, giving good views as they flew over the path.
We explored around around the dunes and into the pines, as far as Joe Jordan Hide. It was really, really quiet on the passerine front, with a group of 4 flyover Brambling and a Blackcap the only 'fruits' of our labour. Other notable birds included Green Sandpiper, 3 Great White Egret and of course, loads of Pink-Footed Geese arriving from inland feeding areas. A brief Stoat in the dunes and a docile Hedgehog were pleasant surprises too!
A Kingfisher flashed past and several vocal Bearded Tits were seen on the walk back, before it was time to hit road back to Northants. A more brief October getaway than usual but super enjoyable. 114 species in two days can't be sniffed at!
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