Norfolk at Easter

Need advice on where to watch wildlife or want to tell others about a great wildlife hotspot?

Norfolk at Easter

Postby Lefty » Sun Mar 03, 2013 3:29 pm

After Jim's post in the Bearded Tits thread, I've arranged to go to Norfolk over the extended Easter weekend. I'd appreciate some advice on where to go, bearing in mind the limited time, and time of year. I'm going with my friend (also a birder) and her husband (a non-birder, but interested in history). At present it just looks like we're going Friday-Monday, but may be able to extend it by an extra day. I've provisionally booked to stay in Kings Lynn as it looks like there's a lot of history to the place, and it seems a reasonable distance from the RSPB reserves - but I can cancel at no charge if it would be better to stay elsewhere.

Obviously I'm planning on going to Titchwell, but are there any strong recommendations for any of the other reserves? Snettisham appears to be en route to Titchwell - would it be feasible to visit both in one day?

How about Lakenheath Fen? I've read that golden orioles breed there, but does anyone know if there's a good chance of actually seeing them, and is Easter a bit too early for them?

How about Pensthorpe? I thought it would be good to visit Sandringham to combine some history with a nice walk.

This is mainly aimed at Jim (sorry Jim!) but anyone's thoughts would be appreciated. :D Thanks.
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Re: Norfolk at Easter

Postby Jim Walker » Sun Mar 03, 2013 5:21 pm

Dude!

Good one. Take some time to look at King's Lynn if your friend likes history, particularly the Walks, it's beautiful.

Wolferton Woods is worth checking out. In the triangle (just check it out on Google Earth and you'll see it) you've a chance to see Golden Pheasant. I've lived here many years and visited Wolferton a lot and can honestly say that I've only seen one and that was going along the A149. This is a good site for Muntjac, Roe Deer, Wood Lark and your usual woodland species. If you can get back at the end of April/mid May then this is the place to be for Nightjar, or if you're there at dusk keep and ear and eye open for Woodcock.

Snettisham is a good half day. The walk from the RSPB car park to the reserve itself is quite long and there are no facilities (toilets! :shock: ). It's important to time this one right though. Go for a time where you'll hit the reserve about an hour before high tide, but make sure it's over 6m or the tide won't cover the mud flats. It really is a special place, but the weather can be fierce-some and there's no protection until you get to the hides. Remember to look over he grassy areas to the south, these will usually give Short-Eared Owl and Marsh Harrier. Expect your usual waders, flocks of Linnets etc.
Once you leave the reserve, or instead of, rather than turn left into the RSPB car park, carry on to the Country Park. Be prepared to be stung by the Parish Council for £4 parking though. There's a big car park immediately behind the sea wall. Good reserve to the inland side. Some surprises have been had there over the years. You'll see some tracks there which were part of the WW2 air gunnery school, rumoured to be where Jimmy Stewart spent some time.

Moving further up the A149 take a trip into Hunstanton. Go for the cliff top and you'll see Fulmar, Rock and Stock Doves. Good views out onto the wash. Also the ruins of St Edmunds Abbey/Church near the lighthouse.

Following the A149 you'll have the option of Holme Dunes and just a few miles further Titchwell. I like them both but Titchwell has the edge for me. Admittedly it will be busy but the fact that the birds are so close sways it. Also if you head up to the beach and walk to the east you'll come across to two tanks chassis that were uncovered a few years back. There is also the remnants of an ancient forest on the beach as well as evidence of ploughed earth, hundreds of years old.
Titchwell also has good facilities Holme is more your hardcore birders site, with some amazing birds recorded there.
I'd agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong.
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Re: Norfolk at Easter

Postby Jim Walker » Sun Mar 03, 2013 6:02 pm

Lakenheath Fen and Pensthorpe are quite a way out from King's Lynn, but would be worth a visit later in the year. June is ringing bells for a good time to hit Lakenheath though I am willing to be corrected. Pensthorpe is about 40mins away, has a captive bird collection and great riverside, woodland walks. I went a couple of years ago and was treated to some stunning Bluebells. Good woodland bird site to.

These sites are good, but you ned to pace yourself!

Other good inland sites include Ringstead Down, not far from the coast, for butterflies. Abbey Farm (producers of awesome organic vegetables) at Flitcham. This has a single hide only but the variety of wildlife seen is staggering. Expect to see Little Owl, Kingfisher, Buzzard, Lapwing well pretty much anything. Summer brought a great view of a Turtle Dove here as well as Whitethroats, Yellowhammers. Just a great little spot. If you see more than three vehicles in the car park, go back later, it's just too small.

King's Lynn's riverside can sometimes produce some sightings, as can the Walks.

ImageImage

I helped with a bird walk in the Walks a few years ago now and was surprised at the variety of bird life seen there. Biggest surprise was the Yellow Wagtail! Just be wary at night there. There is CCTV but there is also lots of cover. No different from any other town really, common sense applies!
I'd agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong.
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Re: Norfolk at Easter

Postby Lefty » Mon Mar 04, 2013 8:26 pm

Wow Jim, that's fantastic - you star! :D :D :D Much appreciated.

It's that kind of practical, insider advice you don't get on 'official' websites - really helpful. Great photos by the way.

I shall bear all that in mind and have a chat with my friend and decide which sites we should prioritise. I'm already thinking I'm going to have to go back later in the year! A long weekend definitely isn't enough.

Nightjars are on my wishlist. Perhaps June is the best time for golden orioles at Lakenheath? Haven't seen a yellowhammer since I was a kid so would be nice to see one again.

I'll keep you posted about my sightings. :D
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Re: Norfolk at Easter

Postby Jim Walker » Tue Mar 05, 2013 7:24 pm

If you're returning from a reserve or day out around dusk, try to come back using the 'B' roads. By doing this there is a high chance that you'll see a Barn Owl.

Sandringham, by the way, is a good half day out. From a wildlife watching point of view though it's not so great, not unless you get there at the crack of sparrows fart. After 8/9am it fills up with dog walkers and day trippers. The house is lovely and the gardens are nice. The surrounding walks are predominantly pine and relatively wildlife free.
A really big plus is that it has a cafe and a restaurant and the meals are surprisingly good value for money.

In King's Lynn there is the Hanseatic League warehouse (http://www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/view/NCC095940), the Customs House (which is also the tourist information office), loads of historical stuff, especially around the Tuesday Market Place (look for a small heart carved into the wall of one the buildings 8-) ). King's Lynn is one of my favourite towns, enough of shopping centre for most of your needs, enough history to keep it interesting, and ,I think, the people are friendly.
I'd agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong.
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Re: Norfolk at Easter

Postby Lefty » Wed Mar 06, 2013 8:37 pm

Thanks again, Jim.

Crack of a sparrow's fart! :lol:
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Re: Norfolk at Easter

Postby Jim Walker » Sat Mar 09, 2013 10:06 am

No worries Lefty.

Hope you have a good trip. 8-)
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Re: Norfolk at Easter

Postby Lefty » Sat Apr 06, 2013 8:44 pm

Hi Jim,

Just thought I’d let you know we had a successful few days of wildlife hunting in Norfolk, so thanks for all your tips – they definitely helped us make the most of it. Sadly we didn’t see bearded tits, but otherwise it was very productive, with lots of firsts for me (despite the unseasonal weather).

We saw a vast array of bird species at Titchwell, including avocets and a marsh harrier. I couldn’t believe how many razor shells had washed up on the beach – there were literally heaps of them! Lots of sea stars too. Is this typical with the tides around here?

We had an early start at Snettisham but it was well worth it - spectacular flocks of knot flying, then gathering on the bank in front of the Roost hide. They were so densely packed, I thought they were pebbles till I looked through my binoculars!

At Abbey Farm we saw a pair of little owls, lots of fieldfares and redwings, and a roosting barn owl (in a tree hollow), amongst others. Then we carried on to the Wolferton triangle and saw a male golden pheasant crossing the road just in front of us! I’m not generally a fan of introduced species but they are stunning birds and I was really pleased to see one. I can appreciate how lucky we were, as we visited again several times but didn’t see anything.

We also went to Lynford Arboretum in Thetford Forest and got great views of plenty of species, including nuthatches and marsh tits feeding (good for any photographers out there). Then we carried on to Lakenheath Fen and spent a long while watching a pair of marsh harriers circling over the reedbeds and saw several cranes flying. And after spending a long time fruitlessly peering into the reeds a couple of bitterns flew right past us!

On the Sunday we went to Hunstanton Cliffs (lots of fulmars) and Holme Dunes. We discovered both places are great areas to find skate/ray egg cases and collected loads to take away and identify. I think this was mentioned in BBC Wildlife Magazine a few issues back, but a reminder for anyone reading this: the Shark Trust are asking for people to send in reports of any egg cases they have found on the beach and provide information on their website to help with identification: http://www.sharktrust.org/en/GEH_the_project I think it’s interesting and fun and worthwhile doing :) .

We also spotted numerous hares, muntjac and roe deer, and a hunting barn owl, en route to our destinations. Sandringham was nice too.

I think we were particularly lucky, but Norfolk’s definitely a great place to see wildlife. :D
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Re: Norfolk at Easter

Postby Thylacine » Fri Apr 12, 2013 7:07 pm

Sounds great H! You also want to try East Anglia in the summer with golden orioles, stone curlew, Cetti's warblers and all the summer migrants. I never realised you had birding interests. :D You did well to get the cranes - I've only twitched the odd one back in Yorkshire long long time ago.
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Re: Norfolk at Easter

Postby Lefty » Sun Apr 14, 2013 5:56 pm

Hi Thylacine,

Yes, I think I was very lucky with that trip! :D I'll probably visit Norfolk/Suffolk again next summer - I'd especially like to see golden orioles. (Will probably visit north Wales this summer to coincide with graduation - assuming I've passed! Any recommendations?)

I suppose I've been a closet birder until recently, probably because most people see it as analogous to trainspotting! :D
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