Tuesday 9 March 2010

A couple of days in Norfolk! 2-3 March

With the high tides of the full moon at the start of the month I decided to go to Norfolk for a couple of days. I drove up on Tuesday night after work, getting in at about 21.40 to Dove Cottage B & B at Dersingham where I stayed last year. High tide was at 08.08 so it wasn't too early. I needed to be there an hour before high tide, so I got up at about 06.00! A quick breakfast left for me by Doug and Mo and I set off for the RSPB carpark at Snettisham. It's about 25-30 mins walk to the beach from the car park and I got there at about 07.20. Even so, it appeared that most of the knot had already flown over into the roost as there were almost no large flocks flying over my head. Watching the knot and oystercatchers from the roost hide was nice but not a patch on last year when the birds were constantly up and swarming around because someone had crawled to the bushes just behind them and kept flushing them with the result that I was able to film the huge flocks of knot in the air.

There were about 100 avocet which flew off at one point only to return a few minutes later, perhaps because the water hadn't receded enough for them. A single Mediterranean gull flew in to join a headless one-legged greylag goose on the island!

Mediterranean gull.

Whilst in the roost hide I also saw the world's first four-winged shelduck. Amazing!!

Four-winged shelduck?

After the roost I headed back to the beach chalets where two shorelarks had been reported. I found a couple of birdwatchers looking for them. Soon they were discovered and I managed some pictures before they flew off. They are so well camouflaged in the stones of the beach that they are very difficult to see.


I headed off to Titchwell for a spot of lunch and hoped to see a brambling as they usually have one each year. This year there was none! I did, however, get good views of a water rail in the ditch near the visitors' centre. I met someone who had spent a few hours on the beach seawatching who told me he'd seen very little on the sea so I didn't bother to walk all the way to the beach in the biting wind.

Water rail.

I walked back to the car and on the way scanned the undergrowth with my binoculars to see if there were any woodcock. After a few minutes I was amazed and excited to see some rusty coloured feathers. Closer inspection revealed that it was indeed a woodcock deep in the undergrowth. I positoned my camera to get the best shot possible but the vegetation around it is clearly visible.


I was also approached by a cute wren looking for insects in the bark of a local tree.


I knew there was a snow goose at Holm next the sea and I went to look for it. I met a guy from Norfolk who gave me afew tips for where to see birds and he told me the goose was best seen from Thornham. It didn't take long before I was looking at a domestic goose only through my telescope, but not before I had flushed a couple of grey partridges which flew a short distance away. I was able to take photos as close as I had ever been to these shyest of partridges. Also of note was a merlin hunting low over the marsh.

Grey partridge

Domestic goose - Bahh!

It was getting dark now so I headed for Dove Cottage. 

The following morning, Thursday, I was up fairly early and set off for Titchwell again. I had decided not to stay a third night in Norfolk as I had to go to Bristol for Friday afternoon. The truth is I was caught doing 36 mph in a 30 mph area and I had to attend a speed awareness course on Friday afternoon! It would take four and a half hours to get there from Norfolk so I decided to go to Slimbridge near Bristol on Thursday night and spend Friday morning at the Wetlands Centre.

At Titchwell I got even better views of the water rail than yesterday and also saw the flock of twite which had been reported. The pager that Lynne got me for Christmas was coming into its own! Also that morning I saw three spotted redshank on the marsh.

After lunch I started down to Lynford Arboretum where the local birder had told me there was a good chance of seeing hawfinch. I found the spot with some difficulty but then met up with two others from Kent who had also come looking for hawfinch. We watched for an hour and a half and were rewarded with some crossbills, also a nice find.

Crossbill, female

After an hour and a half the sun had shifted to the other side so I decided to go the other side of the trees. In the time I was away, two hawfinches came but I didn't see them!! Aaagghh! After a quick stop at a certain location to see if the stone curlews had arrived yet (they hadn't) I set off for Slimbridge to stay the night at a B & B only 800m from the gates of the WWT itself.

There were a lot of works going on in reshaping some of the scrapes. I headed for the Zeiss Hide in the furthest corner and after some hard scanning of several hundred teal I finally made out the green-winged teal (the American version of our teal) by its white, vertical flank stripe. Our European teal has a horizontal white stripe.

Can you spot the green-winged teal? This photo is cropped to make it easier.

I had a light lunch at the canteen before heading off for my course. This was very informative and interesting and it really did make me aware of the dangers of speeding. I'm reformed and I have been driving much more carefully since.


  1. Hi Phil , really like the photo of the four winged shelduck lol looks like you had a good trip with top quality photos as usual
    regards Rob

  2. Hi Phil. Some truly BRILLIANT photos there especially the Wren and the Woodcock. That is a funny photo of the Shelducks!

  3. Hi, Rob and Devil Birder,

    Thanks a lot for your kind remarks. It was fun in Norfolk and I could have stayed much longer.

    Best wishes,


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