Tag Archives: Red Kite

12th June 2015 – Afternoon Around Wells

A half day tour today, in the Wells and Holkham area this afternoon. It was gloriously sunny again – cool in the East wind coming in off the sea, but lovely out of it.

We met up in Wells and headed down to the harbour first, to the gull colony. There was lots of activity, as usual, and the Black-headed Gulls were making lots of noise. There were plenty of fluffy brown juveniles already. Those that wandered away from their nest site or down onto the beach were aggressively pecked at by the other neighbouring adults. With the odd Great Black-backed Gull hanging around as well, it is a perilous existence for a young gull away from the nest. A pair of Common Gulls down on the edge of the beach were particularly smart – we admired their pure white, rounded heads, dark eye and yellow bills.

We heard the Mediterranean Gulls first, their calls are very distinctive and could be heard quite clearly even over all the background noise. Then we picked out a pair of adults wheeling in the melee above the colony. We watched them flying back and forth, flashing their white wingtips. Even better, they then landed on the beach below us. We got them in the scope and could see their jet black hoods (unlike the inappropriately named, chocolate-brown headed Black-headed Gulls!). Very smart birds.

P1010981Mediterranean Gull – this pair of adults landed on the beach below us

There were lots of terns to look at too. On the edge of the gull colony, several Common Terns were sitting on the shingle. We got them in the scope and noted their bright orange-red bills with a distinctive black-tip. Eventually. we managed to find a single Arctic Tern as well – its slightly shorter, darker, blood red bill gave it away, as did its longer tail streamers which stuck out noticeably beyond the tips of its wings. The Little Terns were all feeding over the channel, plunge diving. One in particular came very close in front of us and we could see its yellow bill and white forehead patch, which help to distinguish them from the others. Their small size also gives them away, and this was most obvious when a Common Tern joined them fishing.

With the tide on its way in, we could see lots of waders being pushed up the mudflats on the opposite side. There were lots of Oystercatcher, but also a few smaller waders. A flock of 7 Knot was notable, in all grey winter plumage, and a couple of Turnstone. A single Curlew was also probing around in the muddy channels higher up the beach.

Our next stop was at Holkham. Despite the warmth of the afternoon, there were still a few warblers singing. A Blackcap sang from the shade of the trees by the end of Lady Anne’s Drive. There were several Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats still in full voice, and a single Willow Warbler in the edge of the pines. From out in the reeds by Washington Hide, we could hear both Sedge and Reed Warblers, but they were not so easy to see.

The usual tits were also present. We came across a nice family of Long-tailed Tits which dropped out of the pines to feed in a Sycamore, with lots of sooty-faced juevniles. While we were watching them, a Treecreeper appeared in the same tree and worked its way up and out along the branches. We could also hear several Goldcrests singing. The local Jays can be a bit elusive sometimes in the warmth of an afternoon, but we saw several today. Often, the alarm calling of the tits and warblers gave away their presence – there should be lots of nests for them to raid at this time of year.

P1010996Jay – very active today, even in the heat of the afternoon

As soon as we arrived at the Joe Jordan Hide, we could see a collection of white shapes on the bank of the nursery pool – Spoonbills. They were mostly asleep – sleeping is what Spoonbills do best! There were 5 dazzling white juveniles, not fully grown yet and so slightly smaller still than the more dirty-coloured adults. Another juvenile was more obliging, practising its feeding action out in the middle of the pool, and we could see its short, teaspoon-shaped bill. As we sat in the hide, there was plenty of coming and going, with Spoonbills moving backwards and forwards between the trees and the pool. An adult returning from a feeding foray was instantly set upon by its young, pursuing it, bouncing up and down, until it got fed.

Spoonbill juv Holkham 2015-06-06_3Spoonbill – a recent short-billed juvenile at Holkham

There were other birds coming and going as well – Little Egrets and Cormorants back and forth to the colony, bringing food for hungry beaks. There were still several Grey Herons around as well. Down on the pools, there were several Avocets feeding and flocks of Black-tailed Godwit which flushed periodically and whirled round flashing their black and white wings and tails. A Kingfisher was flushed by a Marsh Harrier from out of a ditch, but disappeared too quickly for everyone to get on it – a wise move, given that the Marsh Harrier took a swoop at it as it did so!

There are always lots of geese at Holkham, at this time of year mostly Greylags and Egyptian Geese. However, a scan of the grazing marshes revealed a couple of Pink-footed Geese still as well. There are often tens of thousands here during the winter, but almost all of them leave for Iceland in the late winter or early spring. Only a few remain through the summer, often sick or injured birds. We could see their distinctive dark heads and small, dark bills compared to the Greylags.

Holkham is also a great place to watch Marsh Harriers. We could see a pretty constant stream of birds flying back and forth from the Joe Jordan hide, but we stopped in a Washington Hide on our way back. We were glad we did – a particularly fine male Marsh Harrier passed right in front of the hide, and proceeded to spend several minutes wheeling over the reeds and back and forth over the grazing marsh just to the east. We saw a good selection of other regular raptors as well – a distant Red Kite or two over Holkham Park, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel.

P1010988P1010992Marsh Harrier – this fine male put on a great display today

Also from the hide, we watched a family of young Swallows in the dead trees below. A Cetti’s Warbler sang loudly from the bushes on the edge of the reeds. And a line of five Spoonbills flew out east over the grazing marshes, presumably heading to the saltmarsh to feed. Then it was time to head back.

30th March 2015 – Monday Meanderings

A Private Tour today, up on the North Norfolk coast. A birthday gift, and a relaxed day of general birding.

After a leisurely start, we headed along the coast road towards Titchwell first. As we drove, a Barn Owl flicked over a hedge near Stiffkey. The other side of Overy Staithe, a Red Kite hung in the air by the road. The first of several of both species we were to see today.

We got to Titchwell and walked out onto the reserve. The weather was much better than the last couple of days, bright but still very breezy. We had some trouble looking out over the Thornham grazing marsh pool, it was so windy, but there was relatively little out there today – a Ringed Plover, a single Ruff and a couple of Redshank. So we headed in the direction of Parrinder Hide to get some shelter.

There were lots of birds out on the freshmarsh. The water levels are now receding slowly, though only a month or more later than expected. The islands are starting to reappear, which at least gives the waders somewhere to go now. Consequently, there was a better selection on here today. There were a handful of Dunlin, several Ringed Plovers and a few Turnstones on the islands. A nice little flock of Ruff in the water, and a separate group of Redshank. And a good number of Avocet.

We spent some time admiring the godwits. There was a little huddle of Bar-tailed Godwits, all mostly still in winter plumage, pushed off the beach by the high tide. Their streaked backs were very different from the plain grey backs of the Black-tailed Godwits nearby, and we could also just see the edges of some barred tails. Some of the Black-tailed Godwits were starting to come into summer plumage, getting orangey about the head and neck, and with some brighter rusty mantle feathers showing.

IMG_3665Bar-tailed Godwit – a little huddle asleep on the freshmarsh

We also had a close look at the wildfowl. A small family group of Brent Geese were on the water close by – we could see how the plain slate grey backs of the two adults differed from the stripier wings of their five young from last year, still with them. A single Shelduck was in amongst the ducks on the freshmarsh as well – though more were out on the Volunteer Marsh.

P1010810Gadwall – check out the subtle markings of the drakes

Gadwall is often dismissed as a rather boring duck but we got a couple of drakes in the scopes and admired their intricate patterning. Drake Teal are more obviously pretty things, and there was a little group of two drakes and two ducks in front of the hide, which broke into a little bout of display. A couple of Wigeon fed on the grassy bank beside the hide. There were lots of Shoveler, many of them already paired up. One particular pair was right below the hide window, feeding feverishly in the choppy waters whipped up by the blustery wind, spinning round with their heads pretty much permanently under the water.

P1010815Shoveler – this pair were feeding feverishly

The surprise on the freshmarsh was a single Great Crested Grebe, possibly a refugee from the rough sea. It was diving repeatedly amongst the islands. Later, on our way back, a couple of Little Grebes were by the path as well. The Marsh Harriers were a little subdued today, with no sign of the display much in evidence recently. However, we did see one of the females flying in to the reedbed carrying nest material, so breeding activity has not completely subsided.

The Volunteer Marsh was a little quiet today, perhaps due to the wind whistling across. There were a few Grey Plover, and we watched one feeding out on the mud – standing still, walking a few paces, then bending down to pick at the surface. All this in contrast to the more active feeding of the Redshank next to it, probing into the mud. There were also a couple of Oystercatchers, one with a particularly bright orange bill and the other with its bill covered in sticky black mud. A single Curlew looked rather bright yellowy-brown in the sun. Unusually, there was nothing feeding in the channel by the path today.

P1010826Avocet – a pair were feeding on the tidal pools today

There was a bit more activity on the Tidal Pools. A pair of Avocets fed in the deep water – so deep they looked barely able to stand! There were lots of waders roosting on the islands – more Oystercatchers, Grey Plovers and Bar-tailed Godwits and a few Black-tailed as well. We weren’t going to linger, given the cold wind whistling across, but we could see a couple of ducks further up, right next to the path just before the beach. They stayed put until we got there – a very smart pair of Pintail. The elegant but understated female swam out further from the bank but the drake stayed put and swam round in front of us, showing off its long pin-shaped tail. Eventually, having given us plenty of time to admire them, they flew off back towards the freshmarsh. Stunning.

P1010848Pintail – this stunning drake was right by the path today

Given the conditions, we weren’t planning to try the beach today, but having got this far we decided to have a quick look. The tide was in so there were not many waders on the beach – just a handful of silvery grey Sanderling running in and out of the waves. A small group of Red-breasted Merganser was being tossed about on the sea.

We had other things we wanted to do in the afternoon, so we headed back towards the visitor centre. We stopped on the way to look at a rather scraggly Chinese Water Deer which had stopped to drink in one of the channels out on Thornham saltmarsh. Back in the car park at lunchtime, a Bullfinch called from the trees.

P1010866Chinese Water Deer – this rather tatty individual was still on the saltmarsh

After lunch, we drove back along the coast road to Holkham. As we parked on Lady Anne’s Drive, a pair of Mediterranean Gulls flew over calling, and flashing their pure white wingtips. We walked west along the path on the inland side of the pines, stopping to admire a couple of little tit flocks – mixed groups of Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits and Goldcrests. A Chiffchaff called from the undergrowth along a ditch out of the wind and further on another one sang from the bushes. A pair of Common Buzzards, chased each other around low over the grazing marshes and in front of the edge of the pines.

P1010868Goldcrest – the smallest British bird, forever on the move

Up in the Joe Jordan hide, a Little Egret was the only white bird on view when we arrived. But after only a short wait, another couple of white birds flew out from the trees with their necks held outstretched – Spoonbills. They dropped onto a little pool nearby and started feeding together, their heads sweeping from side to side with their bills in the water. One was noticeably larger than the other – presumably a pair. After a few minutes, one of them pulled up a stick from the water and set off with it back towards the trees, with the other following behind immediately after. A little later, a third Spoonbill flew in from the east – presumably it had been feeding on the marshes over that way.

IMG_3682Spoonbill – this pair dropped into a pool for a few minutes

There were lots of other things to look at from the hide as well. We scanned through the geese out on the grazing marshes. Amongst all the Greylag were a few Canada Geese and Egyptian Geese and with them four much smaller Barnacle Geese, presumably also feral birds from the increasing UK population. Still, they looked very smart – black neck sock, white face, pale flanks and black-barred grey back. It took a bit of searching, but eventually we found a small group of five Pink-footed Geese feeding on their own. Most of the thousands which spent the winter here departed last month, but a handful are still lingering – a small number may even stay through the year.

We also saw plenty of raptors. Lots of Marsh Harriers, included one individual sporting green wing tags – unfortunately we couldn’t read them. A couple of Red Kites drifted lazily overhead. A female Kestrel hung in the air in front of the hide for a while – remarkable, given the way the wind was still gusting across.

P1010872Red Kite – two were over the grazing marsh this afternoon

After the hide, we wandered the short distance along to the edge of the dunes. A Barn Owl flew across from behind us and out over the grass. We watched it disappear over towards the Burnham Overy seawall, before a second Barn Owl appeared from the same direction. Unfortunately, we were running short of time by now, so we didn’t really have enough time to look for the Rough-legged Buzzard today and there was no sign of it on a quick scan.

We headed back to towards the car and as we arrived back at Lady Anne’s Drive, another Barn Owl appeared over the fields. We saw it quartering, and it hovered before dropping down into the grass. Then yet another appeared, and we paused a while to watch the two Barn Owls hunting over the fields to finish the day.

P1010880Barn Owl – we saw four out hunting this afternoon

30th January 2015 – Never Trust a Weatherman

All week, Friday was forecast to be the worst day – snow, sleet, high winds. It was going to be a day to be indoors. Except that it wasn’t. Miraculously, yesterday afternoon the forecast began to change and by this morning we were expected to have sunny spells. It was a bit cloudy first thing – ironically, now worse than it was ‘meant’ to be – but before midday the sun was out and the afternoon saw clear blue skies. It was a day to get out – at least once the worst of the chores were out of the way.

A quick stop confirmed the continued presence of one of the Little Owls, though once again it was feeling shy and retiring. It perched up briefly on the roof and then ducked down behind the ridge leaving just the top of its head showing. Rather than spook it, I moved swiftly on.

P1110241Brown Hares – enjoying the sunshine

I checked out a couple of barns where I know there are often Barn Owls but there was no joy today. On the way, a couple of Brown Hares sat in a field next to the road, enjoying the sun – though there was no sign of any ‘boxing’ today, they were probably still warming up. A small number of Redwing were also feeding on the verge. And a large flock of Pink-footed Geese had settled to feed in a large field of recently harvested sugar beet. A Kestrel sat by the road allowed me to get unusually close, albeit from the shelter of the car. Perhaps it was sick or had been in a collision with a car? However, it wouldn’t sit long enough for me to pick it up.

P1110254Kestrel – sat by the roadside

I stopped briefly at Wells Harbour. The resident Shag flew past the quay and out into the channel where it started fishing. There was still no sign of the Red-necked Grebe which has been reported erratically in recent weeks, but there were lots of Little Grebes, including one particularly pale one, which looked rather white-faced in the sunlight – surely not the source of confusion? A Red Kite circled over East Hills. A large flock of Brent Geese was bathing in the harbour, but flew off to the fields before I got a chance to look through it.

P1110244Shag – fishing in the harbour

A quick stop at Holkham revealed a few Pink-footed Geese along Lady Anne’s Drive, those that were not feeding in the fields inland. Round from the road, several White-fronted Geese could be picked out amongst the Greylags out on the wetter parts of the grazing marsh. Four Red Kites circled over the pines.

With the sun shining, I couldn’t resist the walk out at Burnham Overy. There were lots of Brent Geese feeding in the fields and it didn’t take long to find the resident (for winter) hybrid Black Brant x Dark-bellied Brent Goose in amongst them. At first, the way the light was striking it made it look surprisingly dark, almost blackish, and much darker than the other Brents. With its well marked white flank patch and extensive white neck collar, it almost looked like a real Black Brant for a second. But the flock was spooked by a dog walker and flew a short distance. With the angle of the light changed, it suddenly looked much less convincing, the grey tones it its body plumage now showing the Dark-bellied Brent influence.

IMG_2368Rough-legged Buzzard – on one of its usual posts

The Rough-legged Buzzard was sat on one of its usual fence posts. At first, it sat two posts along from a Red Kite, which was a surprising combination. A short flight across and on to another post, just enough to show off its black-banded white tail.

There was not even any wait today for the main event. As soon as I got up onto the seawall, I could see a Short-eared Owl quartering the grazing marsh. For some time, it favoured a small area of rushes and kept flying across it, head down, stopping to hover occasionally. It would periodically fly further off, but kept returning. It landed on one of the posts and sat there, alert, constantly looking around. It didn’t catch anything while I was watching it, but did drop down into the grass on a couple of occasions, as if it was about to. Still stunning, even though I have watched it many times now.

P1110265P1110266P1110297P1110318Short-eared Owl – another great show today

There appears to be only one Short-eared Owl present at the moment. Given how aggressively the territorial bird chased off any others which dared to hunt over the grazing marshes in recent weeks, it has probably succeeded in moving them on. Now it seems to have turned its attention to the local Kestrels. At one point, a Kestrel came overhead and the two chased after each other, circling higher and higher into the air. Eventually, the Kestrel peeled off and headed towards the dunes and I lost sight of which way the Short-eared Owl went. With the afternoon getting on, I walked back, stopping briefly to watch one of the Barn Owls hunting over the set-aside field by the path.

P1110319Short-eared Owl & Kestrel – chasing each other high over the marshes today

25th January 2015 – Owls Revisited

Another Owl Tour today. The weather conditions looked encouraging, with the promise of some sunny intervals during the day, though it was a little cloudy still first thing as we set off.

First stop was one of the regular Little Owl sites. Even before we stopped we could see a Little Owl perched up on the roof in some early rays of morning sunshine. Unfortunately, despite parking out of the way, the commotion of everyone getting out of the car spooked it and it disappeared inside before we could get the scope up and onto it. We eventually found another one perched up, though unfortunately not as close as the first and hunched up on the edge of the roof. Still, not a bad start to the day with two Little Owls.

At some more barns further west, a Red Kite flew lazily over the car and along the road, before perching up in a large oak tree nearby. We managed to get the scope onto it, though it positioned itself carefully and tried to hide amongst the branches, and its orange-red underparts glowed in the morning light. Eventually it took off again, towards us initially before, with one twist of its forked tail, it turned sharply and headed off across the fields.

P1110201Red Kite – perched up in an oak tree…

P1110203…before flying off lazily

A little further on still, we stopped to admire a large flock of Pink-footed Geese in a field. They had flown inland to feed on a recently harvested sugar beet field, but instead of feeding they eyed us warily, heads up and ready to take flight in an instant. We watched them for a while, noting the pink legs, feet and band round the bill, before leaving them to feed.

P1110204Pink-footed Geese – on a recently harvested sugar beet field

It was still a bit too cold and cloudy – the early sun had not lived up to its promise and the bluest skies had stayed to the south of us – and the other Little Owls were not playing ball. We did come across a nice covey of Grey Partridge right next to the road as we explored. However, with the opportunity for morning owls now largely past, we headed up to the coast.

The car park at Titchwell was already very full – even on a midwinter Sunday morning! So we headed out onto the reserve, stopping to admire the assorted finches and tits on the feeders by the visitor centre. The ditch by the path produced a brief Water Rail, but it was hard to see in amongst the sallows. Thankfully, another was at the front of the now drained Thornham grazing meadow pool and gave great scope views as it fed along the edge of the reeds.

The exposed mud was alive with birds. With the water levels on the freshmarsh still high, the waders had flocked to feed here. The highlight was a Spotted Redshank which flew in calling, dropping down but stopping all too briefly before flying off again out onto the saltmarsh. However, there were also lots of Ruff, Snipe, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Lapwing which gave us more chance to study them closely. A couple of Rock Pipits were out on the mud, looking very dingy with dirty-coloured underparts. Another bird which dropped in nearby was subtly different, with a much paler whitish ground colour to its underparts – a Water Pipit. This was a great chance to see these two closely related species side-by-side.

P1110208Avocets – struggling to find anywhere to feed on the flooded freshmarsh

Out on the freshmarsh were lots of ducks. A little group of Pintail looked particularly stunning, the drakes showing off their long pin-sharp tail feathers. But all the drakes were looking smart at this time of year – lots of Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon. Only a single Gadwall was lurking in amongst them. Large flocks of both Greylag and Brent Geese dropped into the water. A small group of hardy Avocets must have been regretting their decision to stay for the winter. They were huddled on one of the few remaining islands, flying round and round at one point as if looking for the shallow water and muddy islands which are normally their favoured feeding areas but currently underwater.

Walking on along the bank, the biggest surprise of the morning was a group of three streamlined ducks which flew high over the freshmarsh – a drake and two redhead Goosander. Unfortunately, they didn’t stop and carried on high west.

P1110209Black-tailed Godwit – feeding close to the path on Volunteer Marsh

We added to our tally of waders with a look at the volunteer marsh. Out on the mud were several Curlew, a little group of grey Knot, a couple Turnstone running around, a bright spangled Grey Plover and a single Oystercatcher. We were just heading to the beach when a single Bar-tailed Godwit appeared – a good chance to compare with several Black-tailed Godwits nearby. Out on the beach, there were lots of walkers, but we managed to find several more Bar-tailed Godwits as well as a single Sanderling among the Dunlin.

The sea has been very quiet in recent weeks, but we still picked up a small group of Common Scoter and a few Red-breasted Merganser. A young Peregrine circled over towards Brancaster. The day was getting on, so we headed back , stopping to look at a Merlin which flashed across the saltmarsh towards Thornham – it landed and we could see it perched up but very distantly. Then it was back to the car for a late lunch and a warming drink.

P1110215Woodpigeon – very tame and rather too interested in our sandwiches!

From Titchwell, we drove back along the coast to Burnham Overy. The walk out was fairly uneventful, but from up on the seawall we could immediately pick out a Short-eared Owl quartering the grazing marshes. We walked further along to where it was hunting and watched in awe as it flew back and forth in front of us. It disappeared out across the marshes and then shortly afterwards what may have been a second Short-eared Owl appeared over by the dunes. We walked a little further still and it dropped down onto the grass and perched up on a molehill giving us great views through the scope, its yellow irises shining in the afternoon sun, before resuming hunting. We stood and watched it for some time. Stunning.

P1110224P1110222Short-eared Owl – gave stunning views again this afternoon

The Rough-legged Buzzard was also out on the grass, initially sat over towards the dunes. Through the scope, we could see its pale head and contrasting blackish belly patch. Several nearby Common Buzzards gave us the chance to compare it against both normal dark birds and a striking pale individual which has been here for some time now. A Red Kite, several Marsh Harriers and a couple of Kestrels added to the variety of raptors in view – it has been very good for birds of prey here recently.

IMG_2330Rough-legged Buzzard – one of the wintering birds at Burnham Overy

As we turned to head back, the first Barn Owl appeared, flying silently over the marshes. It was a bit distant, but we saw it drop down into the grass and could see it in the scope when it lifted its head. Then a second appeared, even further over towards Holkham.

As we walked back, we stopped to admire a flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese feeding by the path and in amongst them found the regular hybrid Black Brant x Dark-bellied Brent Goose. As we stood there, a third Barn Owl appeared ahead of us along the track. We thought it might continue to hunt over the fields, but it suddenly flew up high and set off across in front of us and purposefully over the reeds and away to the other side of the marshes. Almost back to the car, a fourth Barn Owl was hunting around the set aside field by the path, and kept moving just ahead of us all the way back to the road. Not a bad tally of owls for the afternoon!

We finished the day with a quick stop at some woodland inland. We were a bit later than planned, but could hear several Tawny Owls hooting as soon as we got out of the car. Unfortunately, they were impossible to see with the light now all but gone, but we spent some time listening to them as darkness fell, such an evocative sound

19th January 2015 – A Grand Day Out

After a busy weekend of tours, today was meant to be a day off. But the weather looked too good to stay inside – a hard frost overnight and the patchy freezing fog from first thing slowly burning off. I couldn’t resist the temptation, got the admin done quickly and headed off mid morning.

First stop was to check up on the Little Owls. I could see one perched up in the sun even as I approached and found a second when I pulled up. A great start.

Meandering west, I had been looking for the Brown Hares we had seen the other day, to see if I could get some better photos in the crisp conditions. The Hares weren’t where I wanted them to be by the road, but three big brown blobs in a winter wheat field nearby attracted attention. It was quite a surprise to see three Tundra Bean Geese sat there, their orange legs positively glowing in the light!

IMG_2320IMG_2307Tundra Bean Geese – unexpected in the middle of nowhere this morning

It has been a very good winter for Tundra Bean Geese, but they are normally to be found in amongst the vast throngs of Pink-footed Geese or hanging around on the grazing marshes on the coast.

A brief stop at another deserted complex of barns and a Barn Owl sat up warming itself in the morning sun. Such a stunning sight. It lingered just long enough for me to rattle off a few photos from the safety of the car before gliding off silently into the buildings.

P1110102Barn Owl – trying to warm itself after a cold night

Heading up onto the coast road, I made for Holme-next-the-Sea. I had wanted to spend some more time trying to photograph the Snow Buntings again, after their very accommodating performance over the weekend. They were in much the same place, but the mixed flock of 50+ Snow Buntings and around 30 Linnets was very jumpy today, so I left them to it. Up on the beach, I stopped to chat to another local birder, and we stood and scanned the flat calm sea. We picked out first one Long-tailed Duck, further out, then a second, just off the beach. It was a real stunner, a cracking winter male, and looked amazing in the winter sunshine. It was feeding, diving regularly, but for a minute or so it sat up, long tail cocked in the air, before drifting off west. While we were watching it, we also picked up a drake Eider sat on the sea and a Fulmar slowly working its way west towards the cliffs.

IMG_2327Long-tailed Duck – a stunning drake, with long tail raised

Heading back east along the coast road, I couldn’t resist a quick stop at Thornham to check up on the Twite flock which has been resident here this winter. Conveniently, at least 30 were feeding on the saltings right next to the road as I drove up. They were rather jumpy, and kept flying away over the seawall, but waiting patiently they returned repeatedly to the same area. Positioning the car carefully, I got myself next to the area they were frequenting and had some great close views. As the Twite flew round, it was clear there were several smaller groups in the same area and at one point they all perched up in a tree in the distance – at least 60 birds, a very good size flock these days.

P1110132Twite – it has been a very good winter for this species

It was getting on time to head over to Burnham Overy for the afternoon Short-eared Owl performance. Despite the number of times I have seen them over the last few weeks, I can’t resist going back again, and there are normally so many other things to see there as well. As I pulled up, I could see some large birds circling out over the dunes – a couple of Red Kites twisting and turning lazily. By the time I got out of the car, there were more and in total at least 8 Red Kites were in the air together, presumably attracted there by some carrion.

The Rough-legged Buzzard was sat out in its usual place on the marshes. It flew round a couple of times, landing back either on the ground or yet another post, flashing its black-banded white tail. There were also lots of Common Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk to watch, as well as the continued performance from the Red Kites, a real raptor-fest.

Most of the Pink-footed Geese were south of the coast road in a stubble field today, but amongst the few out on the grass were 6 Russian White-fronted Geese. Lots of Dark-bellied Brent Geese were also gathered on the marshes either side of the track. A careful scan revealed a subtly darker bird with more prominent white flank patch and collar – a Black Brant x Dark-bellied Brent hybrid, not dark enough or quite contrasting enough for the real thing. Watching the group it was in closely, it became clear that it was paired with a Dark-bellied Brent Goose and accompanied by 3 juveniles. The latter looked remarkably similar to the nearby pure Dark-bellied juveniles and presumably the influence of Black Brant in these second generation hybrids is sufficiently diluted to be hard to detect amongst the natural variation in the Dark-bellieds.

Out on the seawall, the main event started pretty much on cue. First one Short-eared Owl appeared and started to quarter the marshes. Then a second flew past. As on previous days, the first Short-eared Owl was very aggressive and set off after the second bird. The two shot up into the air and grappled talons. The second bird clearly got the message and circled up and drifted away towards the dunes.

P1110141P1110138Short-eared Owl – put on another good display today

While watching them, a Barn Owl appeared, flying silently across the grass. It didn’t seem to attract the attention of the Short-eared Owls, despite the two of the being in close proximity at one point. It was great to see them together in the same view. The walk back was accompanied by a second Barn Owl, a much paler bird, hunting the fields next to the track. A lovely way to end my day off!

4th January 2014 – More Owls & Lots More

Another Owl Tour today, but very different weather to the previous day. After the skies cleared yesterday evening we were left with a very hard frost overnight and a very cold, clear and crisp morning. We headed off inland first thing to look for owls.

Our first stop immediately produced the goods – two Little Owls sat on the roof of some farm buildings. We managed to get the scope on one of them, attempting to catch the first warming rays of the early morning sun. A great start. We also took the time to admire the flocks of geese flying inland to feed, several Curlews calling overhead, a Common Buzzard and Kestrel both also perched up in the sunshine and a pair of Brown Hares chasing each other around a stubble field.

IMG_2152Grey Partridges – a small covey were trying to hide in a frosty field

As we meandered our way west, we came across a pair of Red Kites perched in the trees by the road, which flew ahead of us as we drove, looking magnificent as their burnt orange body plumage caught the morning light. A Sparrowhawk shot ahead of the car very low, skimming over the verge and across the road before darting into a hedge. A frosty grazing meadow was alive with life – a Grey Heron catching the sun; several Fieldfares and a pair of Mistle Thrushes in the grass; a couple of Meadow Pipits and a Pied Wagtail in amongst them; and a little covey of Grey Partridges doing their best impressions of molehills – only their slow movements gave them away.

The best of the morning’s drive was just around the corner – perched up on the roof of an old barn was another Little Owl. It stayed just long enough for us to get a good look at it from the shelter of the car, before it flew inside and out of view.

P1100770Little Owl – catching the morning sun

With a good showing of Little Owls in the bag, we headed for Titchwell. It was turning out to be a glorious winter’s day and it seemed like a great place to walk out in the sunshine – we were not disappointed. Even the car park was full of life – finches, tits, Robins – but the highlight was the Bullfinches, a male and two females feeding on sallow buds. After a quick hot drink, we headed out onto the reserve.

We stopped to watch a couple of Marsh Harriers out over the reedbed, and could hear the squealing of a Water Rail and a calling Cetti’s Warbler, neither of which felt like showing itself. A Chiffchaff flew out of the reeds into the trees by island hide – a small number stay to winter these days, though most sensibly head further south. Out on the saltmarsh, as well as a couple of Chinese Water Deer, a group of Lapwings caught the morning light and a closer look revealed at least 20 Snipe nearby around one of the pools.

The freshmarsh held a large number of ducks – a massive raft of Pochard with a good number of Tufted Duck, lots of Teal gathered around the edges, a single Pintail on one of the islands, plus assorted Shoveler, Wigeon, Mallard, Gadwall and Shelduck. Hiding on one of the few remaining islands, amongst a mass of Brent Geese, was a little huddle of Avocets. We walked on along the bank and stopped to look at a little group of Black-tailed Godwits – as we did so a Water Pipit flew out and landed on the small island they were crowded on.

At the Volunteer Marsh, we stopped to admire the waders. The Grey Plovers were looking stunning in sunshine. A small group of Knot were feeding right in front of the hide. We had the opportunity to compare Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits both right next to the path. We had some great views of all of them – and the chance to get some pretty good photos too.

P1100798Grey Plover – spangles shining in the winter sun

P1100795Knot – feeding right in front of the hide

P1100808Black-tailed Godwit – and, nearby…

P1100820Bar-tailed Godwit – …to compare

Also out on the Volunteer Marsh we picked up a small group of Bearded Tits feedings on the edge of the reeds. Waiting patiently, we were able to see them as they climbed up into the reeds, before dropping back again. Out on the tidal pools, we stopped to admire a gorgeous pair of Goldeneye and several more stunning Pintail. With lunchtime fast approaching, we headed back to the car.

In the afternoon, we drove back to Burnham Overy and walked out across the grazing marsh. There were lots of geese out on the grass, mostly Pink-footed Geese, and when something spooked them, they all flew up and around, several thousand in the air together, calling. At the same time, the large flock of Golden Plover took to the air, probably prompted by the eruption of the geese, and wheeled round and round amongst them. Quite a sight! Further out on the grazing marsh, as well as several large groups of Brent Geese, we found a small family party of 5 White-fronted Geese with the Pinkfeet.

P1100826Pink-footed Geese – several thousand were spooked into flight

We had already picked out the Rough-legged Buzzard sitting on a post, whilt looking distantly from the road as we got out of the car. From up on the seawall, we could see it much better. It dropped down and proceeded to walk around in the grass, occasionally flying a short distance before landing on the ground again. There were also several Common Buzzards (both pale and dark birds), Marsh Harriers and Kestrels.

Then the first Short-eared Owl appeared. It circled over the grazing marsh, hunting back and forth for a short while before heading off over the dunes and out beyond Gun Hill. Suddenly a second flew up from the saltmarsh and made straight for the first, with deep and purposeful wingbeats – they proceeded to chase each other for a couple of minutes, then circled up into the sky and as the first flew off over the dunes, the second returned back to where it had been sitting. We watched it for some time, sat in the grass, and hunting over the saltmarsh.  Turning our attention back to the grazing marsh, a third Short-eared Owl appeared and shortly afterwards possibly even a fourth over towards the dunes (though we couldn’t completely rule out that it might have been the first returning). We watched one of them quartering over the grass and as it landed we got great views of it in the scope – the stunning yellow eyes and even the (short!) ear tufts. Another cracking performance.

IMG_2176Short-eared Owl – 3 or 4 birds performed very well again this afternoon

A Barn Owl appeared next, distantly over the grazing marsh, and we watched it hunting and hovering. With the temperature starting to drop again, we decided to walk back. With the full moon approaching and a clear night, the Pink-footed Geese headed out to feed for the night, the reverse of their normal flight in to roost. We watched skein after skein fly overhead and inland, as the moon started to rise behind the trees. The regular Barn Owls were not hunting in their usual place as we walked back, but no sooner had we got back to the car than they appeared behind us. Typical! A quick stop back round at Holkham did not produce another owl, but we stopped to admire the most stunning sunset. Another great winter day out in North Norfolk.

P1100840Pink-footed Geese at sunset

P1100836Moon rising over Holkham pines

3rd January 2015 – Inaugural Owl Tour

The first tour of the New Year and the first Owl Tour of the winter today. It did not feel like a promising start with rain from the off – never ideal weather for owls. However, the forecast suggested the rain might pass through by late afternoon and, not to be put off, we set off to have a go.

Little Owls tend to like sunny days or warmth in the air, and will often sit out in the sun even in the depths of winter. Cold and rain did not seem like a likely combination to tempt one out. Arriving at the first Little Owl site and a quick scan revealed no sign. Still, we set up the scope and set about looking for other birds. Several flocks of geese were flighting from the coast, heading inland to feed; a large flock of Curlew was feeding in a stubble field; a Fieldfare flew up into the trees and a Great Spotted Woodpecker passed overhead.

P1100721Brent Geese – flying inland to feed this morning

Keeping one eye on the farm buildings in front of us, suddenly a shape appeared within the roof – a Little Owl! Unfortunately it was very brief and only one member of the group managed to see it before it disappeared back inside. However, we now felt a lot more confident and after a short wait (spent watching a Stoat running around among the buildings!), the Little Owl appeared again and this time sat still long enough for everyone to see it. A great start, with one species of owl under our belt already.

From there we meandered through the countryside inland from the coast, trying a number of different sites for owls, with no more success – it was just a bit too cold and wet. However, we did come across a beautiful pair of Red Kites, which flew out from a tree by the road as we passed. We stopped to watch them as they circled over the field and landed in another tree a safe distance away, from where we could get great views of them through the ‘scope. While we were standing there, several lines of Golden Plover flew overhead and inland and a Mistle Thrush perched up the hedge. We also came across a very good number of Kestrels on our travels – a good sign, possibly reflecting a productive breeding season last year.

IMG_2117Red Kite – we got great views of a pair of these majestic birds today

With the rain now redoubling its efforts to put us off, we headed down to Titchwell to seek shelter in the hides (and a hot drink in the cafe!), during the quieter owl time in the middle of the day.The water levels on the freshmarsh have been raised for management purposes, which means that most of the islands are now under water. The Brent Geese were enjoying it, as well as a large number of Pochard and a few Tufted Duck. A few ducks and small group of Avocets were clustered onto the few remaining small islands. A Water Rail and several Bearded Tits called from the reedbed, but did not feel like showing themselves.

Despite the high water levels, we still managed to see a very healthy selection of wildfowl and waders. Ducks included Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler and Shelduck. The Volunteer Marsh was alive with waders, including more Avocets, Grey PloverLapwing, Knot, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Turnstone. Out on the beach we added Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher to that list. The sea was fairly quiet, though a nice raft of Red-breasted Mergansers was out on the water. However the highlight came on the way out, when a commotion at the tidal pools saw ducks and waders scatter in all directions as a young Peregrine appeared and proceeded to stoop repeatedly and distinctly ineffectually into the melee! It also flushed the mixed flock of Twite, Linnet and Goldfinch which had been on the beach and which flew overhead.

P1100731Black-tailed Godwit – there was a good selection of waders at Titchwell today

After lunch, a hot drink and an attempt at drying ourselves out, it appeared that the rain might be easing – as had been forecast earlier on. The aim of the day was to find owls, so we set off in search of them again, in the hope that an end to the wet weather might tempt them out. A short drive back to Burnham Overy and we set off across the grazing marshes.

On the way out, we stopped to look at a couple of male Bullfinches which flew ahead of us along the hedgerow – such stunning birds, and well worthy of a proper look as they eventually perched up and allowed us to get the scope on them. We also disturbed a little covey of four Grey Partridges which stayed long enough for us to get great views, as they moved quietly away from us through the grass.

P1100741White-fronted Goose – three were by the track at Burnham Overy

The fields either side of the track held an excellent selection of geese. As well as the large flocks of Pink-footed Geese out on the grazing marsh, a small flock of Greylag right by the path contained an additional small number of Pinkfeet which gave us a chance to see their pink legs and bill detail up close. In the same field, slightly further out, were three European White-fronted Geese, the white forehead blaze of the two adults being much more obvious than that on their accompanying youngster. A small group of Brent Geese and a few Canada Geese made up the numbers. There were also lots of waders – several hundred Golden Plover, plus a good selection of Lapwing, Curlew, Dunlin and Snipe.

With the rain stopping and the sky brightening to the west, we hurried on to the seawall. No sooner had we got there than the Short-eared Owls were up. Out across the grazing marshes, first two birds circled up into the sky, chasing each other round and round. Then a third bird appeared below them – it seemed to be swooping down repeatedly and a closer look revealed it was actually mobbing a Common Buzzard sat on a gate. The first two Short-eared Owls circled up ever higher, until one eventually peeled off and  flew over the seawall ahead of us and out onto the saltmarsh. It turned and flew back towards us and landed in the grass giving us stunning views in the scope, even of its striking yellow eyes (irides!). It sat for some time, preening, looking round, flying a short distance before landing back again.

IMG_2125Short-eared Owl – we saw three today but this one sat out for some time

We also stopped to look at the Rough-legged Buzzard, sat on one of its usual posts, and a very pale Common Buzzard which does a good impression of a Rough-legged for the unwary. However, they were slightly overshadowed by the performance from the owls.

Next it was time for the Barn Owls to start appearing. First a glimpse of one in the distance by the pines, then a second way off over the marshes, until finally one appeared closer to us. We watched it for some time, hunting over the grass and perched up on a post. With the afternoon getting on and the light starting to go we walked back towards the car. The Barn Owl was still hunting over one of its favoured fields and we stopped to watch it flying back and forth and pausing to hover, much closer now. It eventually flew off over the hedge at the back just as yet another Barn Owl appeared over the track right in front of us, almost overhead, and headed out around the field which the other bird had only just vacated, flying along the field margin close to where we were standing. Such amazing birds. We thought that was probably the best of it – four Barn Owls at Burnham Overy alone!

P1100748Pink-footed Goose – several thousand came in overhead to roost at dusk

As we walked back to the car,we could hear them first, yelping and cackling, before the skeins of Pinkfeet started to appear from the west. Several thousand came in overhead, circling down to land on the grazing marshes or flying on further to Holkham. This is truly one of the great sights of an evening on the marshes and of a winter’s day in Norfolk.

However, the day was still not done and we drove on round to Holkham to have a last look over the marshes there. A short walk down the track and yet another Barn Owl appeared, quartering the field in front of us. It flew round and round before turning and heading straight towards us, landing on a post just into the edge of the field. It sat there for several minutes with the moon up in the sky behind it, as if it was showing off just for us. Wow!

P1100755Barn Owl – this one gave us stunning views at dusk

We walked round to Salts Hole, with the sound of the Pinkfeet out on the grazing marshes, and watched the last of the sunset to end the day. Despite the rain and cold – what a great first Owl Tour of the season.

P1100765Sunset at Salts Hole


23rd November 2014 – Rain Doesn’t Stop Play

Day 3 of the 3 day tour. We planned to visit the Titchwell area today – the weather forecast pointed to rain and it seemed like a good idea to be near some hides, where we might be able to find some shelter. Certainly, rain wasn’t going to stop us getting out.

We drove out to Thornham Harbour first. This winter has, so far, been a very good one for Twite. The number of birds over the last couple of years has been slightly disappointing, but several good flocks have been along the coast in recent weeks, one of which has been around Thornham. It was raining quite hard when we arrived but, no sooner had we got out of the car than a flock of 15-20 promising looking finches flew across the saltmarsh and over Thornham Bank. We walked up the bank and followed it along towards Holme, but could not relocate them. Battered by the rain, we were almost back to the car when they flew past again. This time we got a better look at them – Twite. But they circled round and disappeared back over the bank again.

P1090942Titchwell – Freshmarsh & Parrinder Hide

We drove on to Titchwell. There were lots of birds around the feeders by the visitor centre as we passed – mixed flocks of both finches and tits. Thankfully, the rain had eased a little as we headed out onto the reserve. The Thornham Marsh pool was relatively quiet, but the reedbed pool held some ducks. A quick look revealed a little group of Red-crested Pochards, a single drake with bright orange crown and red bill and three pale-cheeked females. We stopped for a minute to watch them through the scope, and also picked up Tufted Duck and Common Pochard. A Marsh Harrier circled over the reedbed.

P1090941Teal – large numbers were on the freshmarsh

We visited Island Hide first. Disappointingly, the heavy rain overnight appeared to have had a significant impact on water levels on the freshmarsh – most of the mud was now flooded and the exposed reed edge was gone. Wader numbers had dropped correspondingly, compared to recent weeks. Still, the wildfowl were enjoying it – lots of Teal and Wigeon, together with smaller numbers of Shoveler and Gadwall, a few Shelduck, a group of Brent Geese and a single Greylag.

IMG_1878Wigeon – seemed to be enjoying the recently cut vegetation on the islands

Having dried out a little, we decided to brave the next leg on to Parrinder Hide. The vegetation on the islands has recently been cut and, combined with the raised water level, this seemed to have created some ideal feeding conditions. Scanning through the throng of ducks on the edge of the nearest island to the hide, we picked up first a Ruff and then a couple of Snipe. A smaller bird was also feeding along the water’s edge, a Water Pipit.  As we found at Cley yesterday, these can sometimes be hard to see but this particular bird was obviously finding lots of small worms on the flooded island and had nowhere to hide. We got fantastic views of it.

IMG_1866Water Pipit – this bird showed very well outside the hide

From the shelter of the Parrinder Hide, we also picked up several other species out on the Freshmarsh islands which we had not seen from the other side. Other waders included 3 Avocet, 2 Black-tailed Godwit and 5 Dunlin, plus a couple more Ruff. Later on, the Dunlin were also joined briefly by 3 Ringed Plovers. A drake Pintail was also hiding amongst the other ducks.

P1090967Snipe – trying to hide on a small island of cut vegetation

We also spent some time looking at the Volunteer Marsh, where there was a good selection of saltmarsh waders to add to our list for the day. Most of the smaller waders were hiding in the vegetation – a surprising number of Dunlin appeared from nowhere when the birds were spooked by a passing Marsh Harrier. Amongst them were several grey winter-plumaged Knot. A single Bar-tailed Godwit and some more Black-tailed Godwits allowed us to get a good look at the differences between the two. There were also several Curlew and lots of Redshank. However, the star performers were the Grey Plover. We could hear their haunting ‘pee-oo-wee’ calls and see their black armpits as they flew round. One bird in particular came down to the front of the marsh, providing a great photo opportunity. The most surprising appearance on the volunteer marsh was a Chinese Water Deer which wandered across the mud looking particularly forlorn.

P1100005Grey Plover – there were lots out on the Volunteer Marsh today

After Titchwell, we made a brief visit back to Thornham to see if the Twite would be more co-operative. However, despite the rain having eased and us walking most of the way along Thornham Bank towards Holme, we could not locate them again. The light had been rather poor all day, but started to fade early in the afternoon, so we set off for one last stop.

We headed back along the coast before turning inland and heading for the Red Kite roost. It wasn’t clear how well they might perform, given the conditions, but as soon as we got out of the car we could see 6 circling overhead. Rather than coming in to the trees to pre-roost, the birds just continued to soar above the trees, with more coming in to join them. Scanning the skyline, we picked up a second group further away, circling similarly. After a while, the first group drifted over to join them and we had a total of 18 Red Kites in the sky together above the trees in front of us.

P1100012Red Kite – some of the flock of 18 which went in to roost this evening

It was a great way to end the tour, after a very successful three days out in the field, and just goes to show that it is worth going out whatever the weather.

15th November 2014 – Holkham Highlights

A private tour today, and with all the good birds around the area recently we decided to explore Holkham. Meeting at Lady Anne’s Drive, we were greeted by the high-pitched honking of Pink-footed Geese all around, with several flocks flying up and heading off inland to feed. A pair of Egyptian Geese were feeding in the fields and a we stopped to admire a Curlew. Walking west on the southern edge of the pines, a passing Marsh Harrier flushed several large clouds of Wigeon, which whirled round before landing back on the grazing marshes.

Misty Morning HolkhamHolkham – a misty autumnal morning at the grazing marshes

At Salt’s Hole, we paused to admire the local Little Grebes – so full of character – and to listen to them calling like mad laughter. A pair of Wigeon on the water gave us the opportunity to get a good look at them through the scope. A flock of Golden Plover flew past and a couple of Bramblings, Blackbirds and Redwings passed overhead calling, probably fresh in from Scandinavia.

Little GrebesLittle Grebes – up to 6 are still on Salt’s Hole

Along the path, we encountered several mixed tit flocks – Long-tailed Tits, Great Tits, Blue Tits and Coal Tits, together with lots of Goldcrests, several Treecreepers, a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a single Chiffchaff. A pair of Bullfinch called from the bushes – the female flew up briefly, before disappearing back into cover.

We made our way to the west end of the pines and stopped by the gate which overlooks the grazing marshes. It didn’t take long to locate the main target here – the now resident Rough-legged Buzzard. Looking slightly damp and bedraggled in the misty conditions, it sat on a fence post not far from us. The very pale head and dark blackish belly patch stood out. It dropped down into the field a couple of times, before returning to its perch. From behind, it was possible to see the distinctive white tail with a thick black terminal tail band. As well as the Rough-legged Buzzard, we also saw Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk scanning across the marshes.

Rough-legged Buzzard HolkhamRough-legged Buzzard – this bird has taken up residence for the winter

We climbed up into the edge of the dunes, from where there is a great panoramic view across the grazing marshes. From here we could get an even better view of the Rough-legged Buzzard. However, a large white bird was out on one of the pools – a quick look revealed a very big white heron with a strikingly long white neck and dagger-like bright orange-yellow bill, a Great White Egret. It fed for some time on this pool, wading with neck outstretched and occasionally plunging it into the water, allowing us all to get a really good look at it through the scope before it was flushed into cover by a dog-walker out on the marshes.

Great White Egret HolkhamGreat White Egret – feeding on one of the grazing marsh pools

We headed back to Lady Anne’s Drive for lunch, stopping to have a quick look out over the marshes from the raised vantage point of the Joe Jordan hide. We could see the heronry, with several Cormorants loafing around in the trees. There were more Greylag than Pinkfeet at this end of the marshes, with several noisy flocks flying around. A small group of Teal and Shoveler were out on the pools. However, most interest was drawn by the rather smart herd of Belted Galloway cattle out on the marsh!

In the afternoon, we walked out onto the beach. Despite it being a misty November day, there were lots of dogwalkers, horseriders and general sightseers. One of the Holkham Estate vehicles drove past us out on to the sand and we followed it out to the edge of the sea. The reason for the concern was immediately apparent – a Great Northern Diver had become entangled in a fishing net set just offshore. Despite the best efforts of the estate staff, they had not been able to persuade anyone to come and rescue the bird, a very sad situation. There was nothing we could do to help, so we wished them well with their efforts and moved on.

GN Diver HolkhamGreat Northern Diver – this bird was sadly entangled in a fishing net just off the beach

While we were out on the beach, news had come through that the Surf Scoter had been relocated offshore at the western end of the beach. This bird has been present for several weeks now and has attracted quite a deal of interest. We walked along the shoreline until we found a small group of people watching it. Despite what appeared to be a mostly calm sea, there was enough of a swell to mean the Scoters were constantly disappearing from view – combined with the misty conditions, it meant that some of the group did struggle a little to get onto the right bird. However, it was along with at least 9 Velvet Scoters and there were a large number of Common Scoters in the bay, meaning that we could compare three different species of Scoter together.

Red KitesRed Kites – at least 20 came in to roost this evening

Returning to the car, we set off for the drive inland to an otherwise rather unprepossessing area of farmland. A scan of the treetops quickly revealed first one, then two, then more Red Kites perched in the trees, along with a number of Common Buzzards. As the sun started to go down, more birds appeared, flying in from all different directions. Several of them flew out and landed in the trees in the field in front of us, preening and loafing before going in to roost. At one point many of the birds took off and circled round – we counted at least 20 Red Kites either in flight or perched in the trees.

With a beautiful sunset in the west, we headed back to Holkham to finish the day, with the mist gathering again over the marshes.