Norfolk Birders

Norfolk Birdwatching and beyond!

1st July

It's not often that I share my breakfast with a Pine Marten. Our host Marion was very generous when we asked if food could be put out on the bird table once again. So out went the eggs and the jam sandwiches and in came the Pine Martens hopping across the lawn. We giggled, when after stealing the eggs, the Marten stuffed not just one jam sandwich in its mouth but tried to take them all at once. Its antics were not unnoticed by a Herring Gull who dived bombed it as the Pine Marten tried to carry them all away. The Herring Gull was rewarded when the Marten dropped one of the sandwiches but managed to retain the others. We continued to watch them for over an hour but finally had to leave to make our way back to Loch Garten stopping to photograph a few orchids on the way and taking yet more photographs of the stunning scenery.

                                                 Pine Marten

                                       Peep po! Aren't I just a cutie? 

With such beautiful weather we decided to return to Loch Garten to try and see Northern Damselfly as we had failed to find one on our first visit a few days ago. As it was hot and sunny when we arrived we were full of hope and with a bit of help from another naturalist present on site I soon had one of my remaining dragonflies for my UK list not only seen but photographed too! Result!

                                      Northern Damsel

                            Small Pearl-bordered Butterfly

2nd July

With news of two Orcas in the Firth of Forth along with a Sei Whale we decided to spend last night around the Edinburgh area so that we could sea-watch from Musselburgh after breakfast but still be within striking distance of the A1 for our journey south. 

After a delightful Scottish breakfast we drove to the seafront and watched Eider, Guillemots, Razorbills, Gannets, a few Puffins as well as 3 Sandwich Terns but apart from a seal spy hopping we failed to see any whales. It was time to head south back home. What a trip it had been and how lucky we had been with the weather too after hearing how cold and windy it had been in Norfolk whilst we had been away. That's luck for you! I was very pleased with my lifers and crossing off an item on my bucket list. Cape Wrath; you were fantastic!

4th July

Some days just go right in the birding world and some don't. Today was a day that after a false start of driving in totally the wrong direction just got better and better. John and I set out for Hickling but never made it there as somewhere on the A47 I asked John to turn the car around and head back home where we could swap cars and drivers and I could put my foot down and drive towards Bempton Cliffs as fast as I could legally get there!

Tension rose in the car as only birders after a UK tick would understand. Two thirds of the way into the journey the news was not good as the Black-browed Albatross had flown off and could not be seen in the heat haze as it had been distant. Lack of news on the pager and a poor phone signal did not help our cause either. Upon arrival, we played it cool and sat in the RSPB Bempton Cliffs car park and ate our lunch with our hopes dashed. With a poor weather forecast of torrential rain storms on their way we packed up our gear along with umbrellas and coats and set off for the cliff top. We had not gone far when a fellow birder told us that the albatross had just been seen from the far view point. Our pace quickened considerably as we ran along the cliff edge. (I'm too old for this sort of caper now!) It was hot and upon seeing several friends stopped to gather some information. A yell went up and we scurried further along the cliff top. A kind birder let me look through his scope at the Black-browed Albatross sitting on the sea.

The albatross was distant but who cares! I had seen it! Phew...... Meanwhile the kind birder put my scope on it and I could drink in the scene in of watching a Black-browed Albatross in UK waters through my own scope. Amazing....what a bird! Soon the bird started flying and getting a photo was challenging to say the least as I was too short to see over the tall grass on the cliff edge. Grrr...

John and I had several views of the bird before after several hours of watching and chatting to friends that we have not seen for some time, it was time to leave. It was so good to see my old twitching pal Steve along with Paul who took some lovely photos as the albatross flew towards us. I also managed some distant photos later on too but mine are heavily cropped. How wonderful it was to share such an amazing bird amongst friends who appreciated it instead of being on one's own on some lonely island somewhere with no-one to share the joy. It was a real bonus to have such lovely sunny weather all afternoon too as well as enjoying the Gannets, Razorbills, Guillemots, Fulmars and those delightful Puffins.

What a day! Just brilliant!

                                     Black-browed Albatross

                                          Black-browed Albatross

                           Bempton Cliffs

                            Black-browed Albatross flying over the Gannet colony

                                                    Paul Sue and Steve


5th July

After the euphoria of the last few days it was back to reality today and work. However I am luckier than most as working on a bird reserve means that I get lots of opportunities. My job is a varied one as over the years I have done a huge variety of tasks. After meeting and greeting visitors this morning, this afternoon I was out on the reserve trialling an activity set up for the children this summer. Being in uniform I get stopped by visitors and asked to identify birds for them which I just love as any bird watching is a joy for me. I usually wear binoculars when I am on the reserve but because I had a task and bits and pieces with me I went without any. It is quite a challenge to identify distant birds without any optics but knowing what birds are likely I made some good guesses and hope I got it right!!! A Red Kite circling overhead was a nice easy one to do though!

6th July

It was another enjoyable day at Titchwell as I spent it with Trevor helping our visitors. Our juvenile Marsh Harriers are getting bolder as they fly around over the reed bed and over the visitor centre. Two of them are particularly won't be long before they are reported as Black Kites! (It happens every year!) 

As I drove home a Red Kite was circling above my driveway. It was just a wonderful sight to see it. I was glad to get home as the last few weeks with the wonderful weather that I have enjoyed in Scotland with stunning scenery and its wonderful wildlife have left me exhausted, especially having to make a mad dash back up to Bempton to add Black-browed Albatross to my UK list. I will be glad to have a few days to catch up with my gardening as my raspberries, broadbeans, runner beans, beetroot that have exploded with growth in the last week or so badly need my attention before grandparent duties call me away once again!

8th July

After  a lovely pub lunch a friend and I walked the inner sea-bank at Snettisham. Here we watched 7 Spoonbills in one of the pools as well as a Little Egret. Further along the bank towards Heacham there was a stunning sight of hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits all their beautiful red summer plumage. There were also hundreds of Oystercatchers. Avocets were busy chasing off intruders as a Greenshank prodded the mud in the pool. We watched another Spoonbill in flight as we walked back from Heacham. 

9th July

At our third attempt John and I finally got to see the Black-winged Stilts at Hickling NWT. It was a very hot and humid day as we walked with friends and stood on the embankment to view the marsh. The pair of stilts were wandering around along with several Ruff, Greenshank, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover, Avocet as well as Greylag and Egyptian Geese. Three Bitterns flew over the reedbed as we watched Cranes and Spoonbills flying. Marsh Harriers, Buzzards and Kestrels all added to the scene as I chatted with a lady from my town of my birth. Many Norfolk Hawkers and Ruddy Darters were on the wing and a Swallow-tailed Butterfly flew through the car park.

                                    Black-winged Stilt


10th July

One of the upsetting sides of the pandemic has been the separation of families and the restrictions of being able to see one another trying to keep everyone safe. My 3 children live scattered across the country and all have children of their own and managerial jobs where they have had various restrictions placed upon them. I am full of admiration of how they have coped with working from home with young children running around and then having to isolate as they have returned to work only to find colleagues testing positive with covid. Having to educate their own children who were off school at the same time was also challenging. This has all meant that seeing them has also been a challenge as I also have a working life. However today was an opportunity to catch up with my second son and his twin sons. They have grown so much since I last saw them and it was just a delightful day as one of the twins has a passion for looking at wildlife. He stands or sits and studies any bug, bird or animal. It was therefore such joy as I showed him a slug which we studied for ages and a snail at the same time as it came out of its shell and moved towards him. I have never seen such a young child sit for so long and study it. Banded Demoiselles also fascinated him as they fluttered around the streams and river. A pair of Mute swans proved a winner as we watched them put their heads under the water to pull out water weed. The water was so clear we could watch what they did under the water. A naturalist in the making for sure! It is so nice to know that some of my genes have been passed on to a future generation.

The day was not all quiet and serene though as we enjoyed a lot of high-energy fun as we slid down slides, sat on zip-wires, ran around the wood playing peek-a-boo, played pooh sticks (well some of us did) and took off our shoes and socks and got wet in the stream. I was exhausted by the end of the day but Nanny Sue loved every minute of it! Did I mention the Red Kites? There were at least 5 of them on my journey there!

    George and Teddy enjoying paddling in the stream

        Sue finding an excuse for riding on the zip wire with Teddy

11th July

Little Owl

After a day at work I called into Flitcham where the Little Owl was sat on its usual spot.

13th July

Avocet (juv)

After work John and I walked the inner seabank  at Snettisham where we saw the Glossy Ibis on a distant pool along with nine Spoonbills. Whilst we were watching it a Pectoral Sandpiper was reported at Titchwell. So I drove back and searched on the Fresh Marsh for it which was covered  in over 600 Avocets, 200+ Black-tailed Godwits, many Ruff, 8 Spotted Redshanks, Little Ringed Plovers, Dunlin and many Shelduck ducklings. Chris rang me as he had located the Pectoral Sandpiper from within the predator fence as it had been flushed by a Short-eared Owl earlier. We walked down the West Bank and joined him on the bench where he kindly let me look through his scope. Luckily it came out from the vegetation once again and ran around in front of the sleeping Avocet.

14th July

Leaving a gloomy sultry Norfolk, I drove to Linconshire where the sun was shining to visit a dear friend in her beautiful garden where we watched a pair of Collared Doves trying to build a nest on an outdoor light. It was funny to watch as each new twig didn't seem to add much to the nest as it made another twig fall onto the ground. I'm not sure that the pair would win any nest-building prizes. As the heat of the afternoon built up and the sun shone Sheila and I enjoyed our Pimms on the terrace and made the most of the afternoon by doing..............................absolutely nothing!  Bliss !

16th July

I have been working through my UK dragonfly list not only trying to see all the dragonflies but trying to photograph them all too. For species that perch easily (such as Four Spotted Chaser) this is not too difficult but some species never seem to perch or if they do it is up in the canopy of a tree somewhere out of sight. One species that I saw last year was Brilliant Emerald which I saw very briefly but I never had a chance of photographing it. With a forecast of a sunny day John and I set off for Hartley Wintney in Hampshire where Ian Lewington had seen Brilliant Emerald on a hidden pond. Following his instructions and a few false starts we found the pond and soon saw a Brilliant Emerald but getting a photo was quite a different matter. Although we had made an early start, the morning was very hot and the dragonflies were very active. We patiently waited and tried and tried to get a photo. They never settled anywhere at all even though there were plenty of perching spots. I certainly needed patience. I tried and tried and hate to think how many out of focus or empty shots of just water I took as I tried to follow them with my lens. Being a character that never gives up I eventually achieved a couple of photos. Result!

                                                     Brilliant Emerald

                                   Sue having her patience tried!

We watched Four Spotted Chaser, Red-eyed Damselfly, Beautiful Demoiselle, Common Blue Damselfly, Black-tailed Skimmer, Downy Emerald Dragonfly and Brilliant Emerald Dragonfly before admiring Silver-washed Fritillary, Meadow Brown and Ringlet Butterflies. It was also nice to see a Valezina, a form of Silver-washed Fritillaries which affect a few females.

                                                           Beautiful Demoiselle

                  Silver-washed Fritillary 'Valezina'

We drove to Noar Hill where Kerry had supplied us with information on a site for Musk Orchid. During the summer whilst we are travelling around we also take in the orchids of the UK and this was a species that I have never seen before. The reserve was just had wild flowers in profusion. What a wonderful site. It was glorious. I enjoyed the Pyramidal Orchids but the Musk Orchid was small and green, not easy to find in all the taller wild flowers. After a bit of a search we found 20+ specimens but sadly I did not cover myself in glory as it was so hot by then I lacked energy and did not concentrate as well as I should have done and took some very out of focus photographs of them as a Golden-ringed Dragonfly caught my eye which I was more concerned taking a photo of it before it flew away!  Grrrrr

                                          Golden-ringed Dragonfly

                              Pyramidal Orchid

17th July

I was up at the crack of dawn for my Turtle Dove survey around Flitcham and the Hilington estate. It was already warm and was going to be a very hot day. Thirty-five Swifts were screaming over my head as ten Swallows sat on the wire by the church. I finished well in time and made my way to Titchwell where along with several friends we admired all the 810 Avocets on the Freshmarsh...well done Tim for having the patience to count them all! Black-tailed Godwits were also in their hundreds as 3 Knot mingled with them. Tim and I walked down to the tidal pool where a Spotted Redshank lurked with many Redshank all asleep on the mud. Trevor pointed out a Little Gull and Tony called out a Little Tern sat on an island. A Great White Egret flew over the reedbed before I returned to Hillington and back home for a quick shower and change before going over to friends for a delicious barbeque. We watched ten Swifts screaming over the beautiful garden and a Pied Wagtail flitting around the lawn. What a lovely hot summer's day it had been sharing it with many friends with similar interests to mine. Fingers crossed for a few more hot sunny days like today.

19th July

One of the joys of working at Titchwell is that after a day's work on a glorious summer's day is that I can go for a walk after most of our visitors have gone. The reserve is just amazing at this time of year as the Freshmarsh is covered in waders and the light is stunning giving wonderful views of all the waders feeding on the mud. Chris came and joined me and together we watched as a Hobby flew over us, Mediterranean Gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Yellow-legged Gull joined the 800+ Avocets and 400+Black-tailed Godwits all enjoying Titchwell. A Green Sandpiper was on one of the islands as several Little Ringed Plovers scampered around in front of us along with Spotted Redshanks. Swallows added to the summer fun. Two Avocet chicks took refuge underneath their parent as the other parent defended them against all-comers. I watched a Painted Lady butterfly as I walked back up the path several hours later.

                                             4-legged Avocet!

                                                                                              Avocet and chicks


                                                   Painted Lady

21st July

Whilst sitting in the pub garden at Gayton having a lovely prawn and crab salad on a beautiful summer's day with John we watched a Red Kite and a pair of Common Buzzards calling. The cider went down really well!

Back at home later picking raspberries and broad beans the Swifts were screaming over my head. Two pairs nested in the house opposite me instead of the usual three pairs this year but now the youngsters must have fledged as now there are eight birds. Gosh it is hot today!

22nd July

After a year and a half, this evening was the first of the bird clubs that I belong to hold a meeting actually at a venue where we could all meet together albeit outside in the warmth of a summer's day. It was so good to see everyone and catch up with their news. We all took our own plates and cutlery and savory course and sat down, chatted and enjoyed the various quizzes on offer. The laughter and groans at some of the answers made us all smile. Mary had made some wonderful accompaniments for the Pimms on offer and we all enjoyed the sweet courses. How good it was to have a social where we could all 'be normal' once again. It was a lovely evening which we all enjoyed. Thanks to Keith and Mary who made it happen.

23rd July

               Western Sandpiper on the mud next to the Little Tern

                                               Western Sandpiper

After seeing the Western Sandpiper this morning with a few local birders I went back this evening before the high tide tide to get a closer view along with many other birders already gathered waiting for the tide to come in. It was far more difficult to locate this evening as there were many more birds to search through. Thousands of Dunlin, Sanderling and Knot were being pushed by the tide as they fed in front of the water. It was quite a task to search but at least there were hundreds of pairs of eyes looking. It was good to see everyone once again and felt like a proper 'twitch'. The bird was located several times but getting my scope on it was quite a different matter. Thanks to Jim, Justin and John's help I managed a few phone-scope photos. Quite challenging to say the least!

Tonight I watched the space station ISS fly over my house. I was quite amazed how quickly it passed over.

24th July

After a wonderful day at the beach with my eldest son and family we returned home via Ashwicken where the presumed escape White Stork was busily feeding amongst the horses. It bears a metal ring on its left leg starting with the numbers 56.

                                            White Stork

Finlay, Sue, Isla, Mark and Brodie enjoying the walk along the seabank to Holme beach.

25th July

As we all returned from our outing a Red Kite flew over my house.

26th July

Taiwan Barbet

After a day of work and a walk on the reserve after work with friends it was good to listen to a talk at one of my bird clubs about a trip to Taiwan. It brought back some excellent memories of my time there 3 years ago in glorious hot and sunny weather where we saw all the endemics as well as some mouth-watering waders on all the fish ponds. Thanks to Steve for the memories of such a wonderful trip! 

27th July

My Avocet photo used for Norfolk day

Today I received a letter from the RSPB headquarters congratulating and thanking me in recognition of my ten years service of working for the RSPB. I cannot believe that it has been ten years since I was asked to come and work for this amazing organisation. My current role sees me fundraising as much money as I can so that the RSPB save as much nature as it can for future generations to enjoy as much as I have over my lifetime. I was especially pleased to see that my Avocet photo was used to celebrate Norfolk day today. How lucky have I been to work on such a wonderful reserve where I can go birding to my hearts delight!

29th July

                                            Dunlin and Knot

                                         Common Sandpiper

White Stork

John and I joined many other birders down at Snettisham where once again I was lucky to spot the Western Sandpiper as it flew from the shingle and flew around with the Dunlin present. Thousands of Dunlin, Knot and Sanderling were out on The Wash along with Redshank and Curlew. Two Roseate Terns were amongst the Common Terns, Sandwich Terns and Little Terns. We admired a Little Stint amongst the Dunlin.

From Shore Hide we watched as the waders flew from the hide and settled in the pits. Many Dunlin and Knot crowded on the islands as a Common Sandpiper was chased around by a few Avocets.

It was nice to see Gary Howard that I went to Antarctica with as well as Trevor Ellery that I went to Colombia with. Birding has such memories and friendships to share as we all love our hobby. After a drenching from a torrential rain storm we headed for home before setting off once again for a walk at Burnham Norton in the sun where we watched Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits, Spoonbills and Grey Plovers.

Back at Ashwicken John wanted to see the White Stork that was still present in the same field as Saturday. It had been an exhausting day and we were glad to get back home to some rest!

29th July

After a sleepless night my little granddaughter was born safe and well this morning. Welcome to the world Lucy Elizabeth. Lucy is my seventh grandchild, so I now have my hands full but what fun they all are and I am really hopeful that I shall make naturalists out of some of them!

30th July

After the excitement of yesterday, I realised that I could spare some time before my tasks that I had been set to achieve today. The weather forecast suggested that there would be some sun by 10am until early afternoon and so I set off for Snettisham. Here I met up with Roger, Tim and Pat and together we searched through the flocks of Dunlin and Sanderling. It wasn't long before we watched a Little Stint but try as we might we could not find the Western Sandpiper on the mud. No-one else was having any luck either. The size of the flocks were impressive as thousands of Dunlin, Knot and Sanderling had to be searched through. The Dunlin were spectacular in their summer plumage as were the Knot. Our searching turned to the terns as we knew that there was a Roseate Tern was present. Tim and I took some time to find the bird that I had viewed through another scope much further along the line of birders. It had gone to sleep which didn't help matters amongst many Common Terns (several with black bills) Little Terns and Sandwich Terns although its paler back was quite apparent. Andy Stoddart joined us but none of us could find the Western Sandpiper today. Approaching rain then meant that most of the birders left the site to hurry back to the car park.

31st July


                                             Pacific Golden Plover

                    Pacific Golden Plover

With the lure of a Vagrant Emperor that was seen at Frampton Marsh RSPB yesterday, John and I headed that way this morning. With advice from Lizzie we walked along the seabank passing the Pacific Golden Plover that was lurking out on the marsh. It brought back memories of thirty years ago when I used to teach in a nearby school and used to walk this bank long before it was an RSPB reserve. What an amazing job the RSPB has done turning arable fields into a reserve that bristles with birdlife. Avocets and Ruff were feeding in the water as two Little Ringed Plovers ran around the mud. A lone Greenshank and a lone Common Snipe were also prodding the mud for food. We walked to the spot that LIzzie had sent me but after an hour and a half of searching the Vagrant Emperor was not to be seen.

We returned to the visitor centre to talk to one of my colleagues to see how Frampton was faring and to enquire about a few birds. Eight Spoonbills were sweeping the water, with a few juveniles amongst them, probably from Norfolk. There were many Black-tailed Godwits present too.