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Cattle Egret and Rough-legged Buzzard : more fantastic birds on our birdwatching trip to Norfolk

We were out well before dawn on Day 2 of our long weekend in Norfolk so that we could watch the sun rise over the atmospheric lagoons at RSPB Titchwell reserve.

Titchwell RSPB Reserve at dawn

Dawn at RSPB Titchwell Reserve

Even before it was fully light, we were enjoying great birds. A Bittern rose like a dark ghost from the water channel right beside the path and lumbered over the reeds before disappearing from view in another gully. A Cetti's Warbler announced its invisible presence from a bush beside the path, only to be echoed by another on the other side. Although we were heading for the beach for some seawatching, of course we couldn't ignore the birds on the lagoons as we passed. Just as well, otherwise we'd have missed the Water Rail creeping along in the shallows and a pair of Spoonbills preening and feeding in the deeper water, along with numerous Teal, Wigeon, Golden Plover and Black-tailed Godwit.

We lined up on the beach and scanned hard as the light came up. With Sanderling, Knot and Oystercatcher massed at the shoreline, looking further out to sea we caught sight of two tiny birds flying fast and low over the water: Little Auks on the move, plus a flock of Common Scoter and a single Long-tailed Duck loafing on the water. Walking back along the path towards the visitor centre, we stopped to watch a Water Pipit close by and flocks of Pink-footed Geese lifting off and filling the skies, and we were amazed to have a Pomarine Skua fly right over our heads, following the path back out to sea. What on earth was it doing there? Incredible birding, and it wasn't even breakfast-time yet!

After enjoying Yellowhammers, Corn Buntings and Grey Partridge in the open fields, we headed east following news of a Cattle Egret. We checked the marshes at Cley, where the windmill looked spectacular set against the blue sky over a sea of waving reeds.

Cley-next-the-Sea Windmill

Cley Mill 3

Traditional windmill at Cley-next-the-Sea

We stopped at Blakeney where the National Trust land at Friary Hill gave us a good overview of the freshmarsh, and there, on the edge of a small scrape next to a gang of Wigeon, was a very special bird: Cattle Egret. It seemed perfectly at home and oblivious to the excitement it was causing as it preened itself in the sunshine.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

After soaking up the views, we went back to Cley NWT reserve for a welcome cuppa before heading out towards the North Scrape.

A flock of Brent Geese was grazing on the grass right beside the footpath and seemed happy to be photographed as more and more geese joined them.

Brent Geese 1

Brent Geese 2

With such close views, it was interesting to compare the different plumages between juvenile birds which showed more white on the wing but lacked the neck collar, and the adult birds with their distinctive white collar around the neck.

Brent Geese 3

Then we noticed that two particular birds flying in were a little different: Barnacle Geese!

Barnacle Geese at Cley NWT Reserve

Barnacle Geese join the flocks at Cley NWT

Driving westwards from Cley, we came round the bend to find a gang of birders lined up and intently scoping the Holkham Pines. In seconds we jumped out of the Birdmobile and joined them in time to enjoy good binocular and scope views of a Rough-legged Buzzard cruising over the pines and dunes, looking very pale in contrast to the dark pines. What great timing and what a mega bird!

Our last birding stop was at the Burnham marshes where we stood in the gathering gloom of dusk to watch hundreds of geese and Little Egrets passing overhead to their roosts, while four Marsh Harriers hassled the nervous flocks of Starlings wanting to roost in the reeds.

There were five hungry but extremely happy birders tucking into their pie and pint for supper in a local hostelry that night!

Have we whetted your appetite for some wonderful birdwatching in Norfolk? Why not email us on for more information about our 3-day birdwatching weekend trips to Norfolk. We look forward to sharing great birds with you!


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