North Norfolk 22nd to 26th April 2013
Noting that the long range weather forecast was predicting a dry warm week for the south east we decided to take advantage and have a few days away. We obtained 4 days B&B at The Old Forge at Thursford which was situated approximately an equal distance between Wells-next-the-Sea and Fakenham on the A148.
The Old Forge Fish Restaurant is an AA 4 star B&B with three en-suite rooms. The rooms are clean and functional and if you like "fruits of the sea" then this renowned fish restaurant could be for you. The owner "Colin" by his own admission is as daft as a box of frogs.
Breakfast consisted of a small selection of cereals, a glass of orange juice, tea or coffee and toast. The fry up contained a sausage, rasher of bacon, fried egg, mushrooms, tomatoes and baked beans every second day (no choice was offered). As previously stated, the restaurant is situated on the A148 and although the rooms have double glazing which does reduce traffic noise, if you like to sleep with your bedroom window open (as we do), then the traffic is an issue. All evening meals were of a very high standard with crab, lobster and local caught cod and sea bass sampled during our stay. For non-fishy folk, rib-eye steaks or lamb shanks are offered. The lamb comes highly recommended as being the best we have ever had.
DAY 1 Titchwell 22/04/2013
Leaving home mid-morning, we arrived at RSPB Titchwell by early afternoon; the weather was sunny although a strong breeze was evident. Although the car park was fairly full the hides were remarkably quiet, even the beach seemed deserted with only one other birding couple encountered. The birding was also quiet, with a sprinkling of birds spread across the lagoons. A flock of 30> Brent Geese were feeding out on the marsh. They landed on the first lagoon on a couple of occasions but only stayed for a few minutes before returning to the marsh.
Birds seen at Titchwell
Whimbrel, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Little Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Avocet, Sanderling, Ruff, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Brent & Greylag Geese, Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, Shelduck, Red-crested Pochard, Coot, Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Marsh Harrier, Swallow, Robin, Chaffinch, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge, Jackdaw, Blackcap and Pied Wagtail.
DAY 2 Cley 23/04/2013
With the day dawning bright & sunny we decided to spend the day at Cley Marshes. Armed with a full English we arrived at Cley at 09-45am; as the visitor centre didn't open until 10-00am the warden directed us onto the marsh saying we could pay the entrance fee on our arrival back at the visitor centre.
As with Titchwell the previous day, the birds were spread thinly over the reserve, with the biggest numbers on the east track marsh, where a 100> flock of Sandwich Tern helped swell numbers. Our first port of call were the central hides where we watched a male Marsh Harrier bringing in nesting materials; two females were also noted during our visit, both involved in the same exercise. A female Red-breasted Merganser was a notable find on the east bank marsh, and much time was spent tracking down singing Cetti's Warbler and looking for Bearded Tit. The latter again evaded us.
A couple of hours was spent in the company of a birder called Steve from Nottingham, leaning on a gate between two brambles, one containing a very elusive Cetti's Warbler and the other containing a very confiding Sedge Warbler which kept us amused with his frequent display flights. A pair of Red-legged Partridge ambled down the track getting to within a few metres of us before turning tail and running off in that comical way. Steve observed "what other pastime could you have where you are happy to lean on a gate staring at a bush for more than a couple of hours". Incidentally it was during this time that we were unaware just how sunburned we were getting.
Birds seen at Cley
Redshank, Lapwing, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Sandwich Tern, Black-headed Gull, Mallard, Teal, Pochard, Shoveler, Widgeon, Red-breasted Merganser, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Brent, Greylag and Canada Goose, Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge, Blackcap, Cetti's Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch , Dunnock, Skylark, Wheatear, Reed Bunting, Starling and Rook.
DAY 3 Holme Dunes, Titchwell & Cley 24/04/2013
Bereft of any after-sun cream we tried to soothe our very sore faces with hand cream prior to our departure to Holme. A stop at a local garage saw us applying copious amounts of sun block we had just purchased.
On arrival at Holme we were surprised and very pleased to see a couple of Grey Partridge on the access track, a bird we have not seen for many, many years. Again, we were a little disappointed at the number of birds encountered, both in the lagoon hides and the way-marked walk through the dunes and pine plantation. We were a little unfortunate when a couple on the walk told us they were watching a Water Pipit, by the time we got on it, it was disappearing over the dunes, far too brief for a positive i.d.
On returning back to the visitor centre for a coffee, the warden gave us the location of two male and one female Ring Ouzel in Holme village. A quick visit proved successful with good views of a male and female Ouzel. Our second encounter with a pair of Grey Partridge was also made at this point.
Having spent the morning at Holme we decided to spend the afternoon back at Titchwell; a quick look at the sightings board and a brisk walk to the island hide confirmed that no new birds had arrived since our last visit. We decided to cut our losses and return to Cley east bank where Barn Owls have been historically observed during the late afternoon and early evening. Walking back to the car park along the causeway at Titchwell we stumbled on a Water Rail feeding in the adjacent ditch, "great find".
Parking on the small car park at east bank Cley, it became apparent that the reeling of a Grasshopper Warbler was just discernible. The rest of our visit was spent trying to wheedle out this very elusive bird by the pishing method, our success was limited.
Birds seen at Holme, Titchwell & Cley
Lapwing, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Oystercatcher, Whimbrel, Avocet, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Shellduck, Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Widgeon, Moorhen, Coot, Water Rail, Brent, Greylag and Canada Goose, Grey & Red-legged Partridge, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Swallow, Sand Martin, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Wood Pigeon, Collered Dove, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Skylark, Blue Tit, Ring Ouzel and Grasshopper Warbler.
DAY 4 Wheeting Heath 25/04/2013
Having been a little disappointed with our coastal birding we decided to give Wheeting Heath a try, thinking an early arrival onto the reserve may give us the opportunity to photograph the resident Stone Curlew and catch up with a few migratory warblers. Having arrived before the madding throng we were a little crestfallen to find the east hide full of NWT staff on a training day. The murmur from the hide was discernible at least 50 metres away, putting paid to any hopes of close encounters with the Stone Curlew. The staff were very pleasant and pointed out the locations of 3 distant birds, a cursory scan also revealed 1 Lapwing and several rabbits.
Leaving the east hide we embarked on the 4.5 kilometre forest walk, stopping off at the feeding station hide where a 10 minute wait produced a Marsh Tit, Chaffinch, two Blue Tits and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. During the forest walk we encountered a Coal Tit, several Willow Warblers and a displaying Tree Pipit, approximately 1 bird per kilometre. After a cup of tea at the visitor centre we returned to Cley east bank by late afternoon. With no reeling from the Grasshopper Warbler we walked the length of the bank picking up a solitary Greenshank and a Grey Heron, both being new for the trip.
Birds of Wheeting Heath & Cley
Stone Curlew, Lapwing, Greenshank, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Grey Heron, Sandwich Tern, Carrion Crow, Rook, Chaffinch, Marsh Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Blackcap, Tree Pipit, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Although the birding could have been a little more exciting and photographic opportunities could have been more plentiful, the break was just what the doctor ordered after enduring such a long, cold, wet winter.
A total of 76 species of birds were seen during the trip.
Pat & Judy Hayes
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