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Finding Great Birds in Norfolk

We took our two American visitors, Helen and Gary, over to the North Norfolk coast this weekend. Mid-October is a perfect time to visit this birding hotspot and to make things even better we were blessed with blue sky and sunshine throughout our trip!

Our long weekend began in fine style at Welney Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve. We were soon watching a rare visitor: Common Crane, not at all common of course!

Common Crane

Common Crane at Welney WWT

We also enjoyed recently arrived Whooper and Bewick Swans; raptors included close up views of Marsh Harrier and Peregrine; a very showy Curlew Sandpiper strutted its stuff in front of the main hide.

Calling in at Titchwell RSPB we found two Lapland Buntings before moving on to Burnham Norton where we found this wonderful Great Grey Shrike posing on a dead snag out on the marsh.

Great Grey Shrike

Great Grey Shrike posing on a snag at Burnham Norton

We watched this rare visitor from Scandinavia until the sun went down and we headed for a wonderful meal at the local pub!

Burnham Norton sunset

Sunset at Burnham Norton

We were out before dawn the next day and were in place at Titchwell RSPB to see the sun rise over the lagoons.

Dawn over Titchwell

Sunrise over Titchwell RSPB reserve

A male Hen Harrier arose from the reeds and was joined by eight Marsh Harriers as clouds of Starlings swirled up into the sky and headed off to feed. As the light came up, thousands of Pink-footed Geese were on the move, calling loudly overhead. Brilliant!

Skeins of Pink-footed Geese

Skeins of Pink-footed Geese over Titchwell RSPB

Breaking news of a Red-flanked Bluetail had us dashing to Holme NWT where we joined a growing crowd looking for this diminutive rare migrant.

Red-flanked Bluetail Twitchers

Twitchers looking for the Red-flanked Bluetail at Holme NWT

Luckily we were in the right place in the right time as the Bluetail popped up into view.

Red-flanked Bluetail

Red-flanked Bluetail

With Helen and Gary we looked down on the reedbed at Holme where we enjoyed great views of a flock of seven Bearded Tits!

Alan Helen and Gary

Alan, Helen and Gary enjoy the Bearded Tits at Holme NWT in the sunshine

Heading east we visited the wonderful NWT reserve at Cley-next-the-sea. As always it was packed with birds.

Brent Geese at Cley

Brent Geese at Cley NWT reserve

As we walked to the North Hide, we were amazed to see two Ruddy Shelduck flying over. Luckily the birds turned and dropped down onto the lagoon and we enjoyed great views from the hide as the birds strutted about.

Ruddy Shelduck

Two Ruddy Shelduck fly in to Cley NWT reserve

We stayed at the reserve until dusk, enjoying amazing close up views of two Short-eared Owls and of course a host of other birds.

Reeds at sunset

Ruth enjoys an arty moment amongst the reeds at Cley!

Another early start saw us at Thornham Harbour as the sun peeked over the eastern horizon. We enjoyed two Hen Harriers, at least four Marsh Harriers and huge numbers of waders and wildfowl on the incoming tide.

Thornham Harbour at dawn

Early birders catching more than a worm at Thornham Harbour!

We visited a little secret spot we know outside Holme village and were rewarded not only with Redwings and more Marsh Harriers but we discovered a stunning and extremely confiding rare Yellow-browed Warbler, all the way from Siberia. That set us up for a huge breakfast!

Yellow-browed Warbler

Stunning Yellow-browed Warbler showing very well in a close bush

We drove over to Holkham and walked along beside the pines in the beautiful warm sunshine. A large dragonfly took up residence on Gary's hat to sun itself in the warmth.


If you want to get ahead, get a hat - as they say!

Pink-footed Geese were everywhere and their calls filled the air as skein after skein either flew over or dropped onto the fields. What a way to end our bird-packed weekend!

Pink-footed Geese arrive

Pink-footed Geese fill the skies at Holkham..

Pink-footed Geese land at Holkham

...before coming in to land on the grassy fields

Highlight species for the weekend were:

  • Red-throated Diver
  • Black-throated Diver
  • Spoonbill
  • Bewick's Swan
  • Whooper Swan
  • Pink-footed Goose
  • Brent Goose
  • Egyptian Goose
  • Ruddy Shelduck
  • Marsh Harrier
  • Hen Harrier
  • Peregrine
  • Red-legged Partridge
  • Grey Partridge
  • Common Crane
  • Avocet
  • Golden Plover
  • Little Stint
  • Curlew Sandpiper
  • Spotted Redshank
  • Green Sandpiper
  • Stock Dove
  • Barn Owl
  • Tawny Owl
  • Short-eared Owl
  • Red-flanked Bluetail
  • Ring Ouzel
  • Fieldfare
  • Redwing
  • Yellow-browed Warbler
  • Bearded Tit
  • Great Grey Shrike
  • Brambling
  • Crossbill
  • Lapland Bunting
  • Snow Bunting
  • Yellowhammer

Quite a list, we think you'll agree!

We are running lots more birding weekends to Norfolk so if you'd like to join us for some wonderful birding in this beautiful part of the world, why not email us on

We look forward to sharing great birds with you!


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