Trip Report

Atlantic-Puffin<br/>Flamborough Head, Yorkshire UK Cley Beach Norfolk UK Great Crested Grebe Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk UK Guillemots Flamborough Head,-Yorkshire UK Lunch at Cley, Norfolk UK Mill at Walberswick,-Suffolk UK Outside Shoulder of Mutton Pub Strumpshaw, Norfolk UK Painted-Lady Titchwell, Norfolk UK Pied Avocet and Common Shelduck Cley, Norfolk UK Poppies Ouse Washes, Cambs UK
  • Atlantic-Puffin<br/>Flamborough Head, Yorkshire UK
  • Cley Beach Norfolk UK
  • Great Crested Grebe Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk UK
  • Guillemots Flamborough Head,-Yorkshire UK
  • Lunch at Cley, Norfolk UK
  • Mill at Walberswick,-Suffolk UK
  • Outside Shoulder of Mutton Pub Strumpshaw, Norfolk UK
  • Painted-Lady Titchwell, Norfolk UK
  • Pied Avocet and Common Shelduck Cley, Norfolk UK
  • Poppies Ouse Washes, Cambs UK

 


East Anglia, England trip diary: June 10-22, 2019

 

 

June 10                Arrival in London
While Mother and I took the coach to London in rain and windy conditions, Marcia, Liz and Judy flew in from the US and rested (well aside from birding and playing tourist) before we all met in the early evening. Dinner was at the hotel where we discussed the plans ahead of us and commiserate about the potential rainy weather that was looming.


June 11                Drive north to Yorkshire
After a good breakfast we left London around 9.30 AM and took the M1 (motorway) north towards the Midlands. The traffic was fairly heavy as we drove north with lots of rain. Despite the rotten conditions, we did see our first Common Swift and Red Kite of the trip. Lunch was at a very nice pub in Yorkshire, the White Horse in Ledsden which was very convenient to our first birding stop. After a nice meal in a very cozy and comfortable pub, we braved the weather and went out for a walk in the rain at Fairburn Ings RSPB Reserve. Despite the conditions there were lots of birds around and we had great views of Blackcap, Common Swift, Shelduck and Pied Avocet. We arrived in the coastal town of Bridlington around 7 PM where we quickly found our hotel and met the owners, Phil and Kate, who were very personable and made us very welcome. Of course it was still raining so we had local Fish and Chips for dinner back at the hotel.


June 12                Bempton Cliffs and North Yorkshire Moors National Park
There was no heavy rain today but thick fog at our first stop - Bempton Cliffs RSPB Reserve. Despite the terrible conditions we got pretty good views of most birds, including a flyby of a couple of Puffins. It was almost surreal to watch the Gannets appearing and disappearing into the fog! As the conditions may improve later in the day we decided to drive north to Whitby and explore a part of the beautiful North York Moors National Park. The weather was barely any better but we did get an essence of the very beautiful scenery. With all of the recent rain the rivers were rushing which meant the Dippers were absent and the local fishermen were unemployed! Lunch was excellent and delicious in the small village of Rosedale Abbey. The moorland was atmospheric with stone farms appearing out of the fog, plenty of sheep and the Bell Heather in bloom.  We ran into several families of Willow Ptarmigan (Red Grouse), as well as Eurasian Curlew, Northern Lapwing, and a lovely Eurasian Golden Plover. Then it was back to Bempton Cliffs where the conditions had improved just a little. It was still foggy but we could just about see the sea! We did have a couple of good Puffin views including one at a nest cavity in the cliffs. After our big lunch we were too full for dinner but snacked a little and drank some cider while doing the bird list back at hotel. A great day, but we were all a little tired.


June 13                Drive south to Norfolk
After breakfast at 8 we left the Brockton Hotel and made an early morning stop at Flamborough Head. There was no fog this morning and the rain hadn’t started again so we could enjoy the view. Thousands of birds were resting on the water and streaming by the clifftops. What a change from yesterday. Now we had great views of Razorbills, Guillemots and Puffins on the cliffs immediately below us. It was a rainy drive south over the Humber Bridge and through Lincolnshire. After a roadside pub lunch we continued south to the RSPB’s Frampton Marshes. Yes, it was still raining and the conditions were very soggy so most of our viewing was from inside the visitor center. The birding was quite good and we saw our first Red-crested Pochard, Mediterranean Gull and Great Crested Grebe of the trip. Then it was off to North Norfolk, where we were staying for the next few nights at a holiday home in Wells-next-the-sea. The Pirate’s Lookout was very conveniently located in the town, so we could easily walk to the shops and restaurants. The house had nice bedrooms and a great kitchen and sitting area, so there was plenty of space for us to relax.  Dinner was in Wells at Sands Restaurant which was very good.


June 14                Cley Reserve
It was about a 20 minute drive to the wonderful Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Cley reserve. Here we spent all morning walking around the reserve’s extensive paths and enjoying the great viewing opportunities from the comfortable hides. The birding was very good and after the rain there seemed to be a little passage of northbound shorebirds; Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Red Knot and a single Curlew Sandpiper. It seems rather late to see these birds moving north but they could be late breeders or simply immature non-breeding birds.  Lunch was at the Cley Visitor Center – the curry was pretty good and we finished it just before the rain started again. A brief stop at the Coastguard cottage at the beach produced an over-summering European Golden-Plover and someone swimming in the sea – Brrrrr. A wind turbine farm had been situated well offshore, and seemed extensive – I wonder what effect this has on migratory seabirds.  A brief late afternoon walk at Holkham Pines area produced Red Kite, Goldcrest and great views of a Treecreeper. Dinner was back in Wells, but this time at the Golden Fleece on the waterfront.


June 15                Titchwell and Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserves
Titchwell RSPB Reserve was our destination this morning, where we had a brief walk in a marshy area before coming back for a snack breakfast. At last we got extended views of a singing Eurasian Reed Warbler as well as several singing male Blackcaps.  The remainder of the morning was spent walking down the path to the beach and stopping at the hides along the way. Aside from breeding Pied Avocets, Shelduck and the obligatory Black-headed Gulls, there was not a lot of bird activity. The beach was littered with razor clam shells and had a small flock of Bar-tailed Godwits feeding along the shore.  Also several European Spoonbills were feeding in the pools near the water and gave us great views. We decided to go inland to escape from the crowds and ate lunch in Burnham Market. It was a very nice village, but I believe everyone else had the same idea! Despite the crowds we managed to find a table at the Hoste Hotel which was very pleasant. After an introduction to some very friendly Italian Spenoni dogs we drove to spend the remainder of the afternoon at the very nice Sculthorpe Reserve.  – This small reserve (about to triple in size) was beautifully laid out with boardwalks snaking through woods and some very nice hides. Again we got no Kingfisher, but did get some great views of Eurasian Bullfinches at the feeders. The reserve closed at 5 pm so we headed back to Wells for dinner. Ate at the Sands again- very good service and food.


June 16                Norfolk south to Suffolk
As some of us wanted to explore Wells, the others walked along a portion of the Norfolk Coastal Path. This 86 mile trail runs from Hunstanton in the west to Hopton in the east and covers a lot of the beautiful coastline. Breakfast was at the very popular at Bang-in-Wells before driving south towards Norwich. Our first stop was at Buckenham Marshes in the Yare Valley, where we just missed a passing rain shower by sheltering in the hide! Lunch was at the very busy Shoulder of Mutton in Strumpshaw village before we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the RSPB’s Strumpshaw Fen Reserve. This reserve is part of an extensive protected area that aims to preserve a good portion of the beautiful wetlands in the Yare Valley. We walked through the woodlands, where we found the now very uncommon Spotted Flycatcher and then along the River Wensum to the hides. A highlight had to be the family of Great Crested Grebes which we watched and photographed for a while – even watched one of the stripy chicks climb on its parents back to rest – wonderful. We had a good long walk that day and most slept the way south to the Angel Pub in small market town of Halesworth, which was to be our base for the next few days. Dinner at the Angel.


June 17                Minsmere RSPB Reserve
Minsmere is the flagship reserve for the RSPB, so after a 7.30 AM breakfast at the Angel we planned to spend the whole day at this extensive reserve. It was a little windy and overcast at times, but pleasant and probably the best weather day this week. The Scrape at Minsmere is always crazy with bird activity.  Hundreds of Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls, Common and Sandwich Terns breed on the artificial islands, along with Pied Avocets, Eurasian Oystercatchers and a host of ducks and geese. We diverted a little to look for the Iberian Chiffchaff which we heard well but only glimpsed. A beautiful male Stonechat was certainly a highlight before we walked back for lunch in the garden at the Eel’s Foot pub. The rest of the day was spent back at the reserve where we walked the remainder of the trails to visit all of the hides.  Eurasian Bittern, Eurasian Marsh-Harrier, Spotted Redshank and Little Gull were among the many highlights at this excellent reserve. Dinner was at Cleone’s at the Angel.


June 18                Lackford Lakes and Westleton Heath
Common Kingfisher was still on our target list, so after we found out that mother had seen one on a recent outing at Lackford Lakes, we changed plans and headed inland to this reserve owned and operated by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust. Apparently they had bred in front of the visitor center but had fledged a week or so earlier. They advised for us to check several spots around the reserve and bingo, we ended up having great scope views of this delightful bird. Egyptian Geese were common at Lackford and the population is obviously increasing. Both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were in the woods as were our first Garden Warblers, which sang from the dense vegetation, but were very reluctant to show themselves. Despite the somewhat dire weather predictions we decided to head to the coastal heathland after dinner to try for Eurasian Nightjar. Some very heavy thunderstorms passed through, but luckily they had finished by the time we stopped. Alas we never heard any Nightjars, but a Common Nightingale sang from the dense undergrowth and a couple of Dartford Warblers sang and briefly appeared atop the clumps of heather.

 
June 19                Holton, Walberswick, Westleton Heath and Hen Reedbeds
Another try for Garden Warbler at Holton Pits was not successful, but we did get our first glimpses of the somewhat elusive Lesser Whitethroat. The weather was still rainy when we arrived in Walberswick. This stretch of reedbeds and coastal marsh is now a National Nature Reserve and part of a vast network of protected areas along the Suffolk coast. A walk through the phragmites gave us pretty god views of several Bearded Reedlings, one of which posed for photographs atop a reed. Two Common Eiders on the sea offshore were a nice surprise and looked like immature birds wintering south of their normal range. The rain started again as we walked back to the van so we drove to Dunwich to have fish and chips at the Ship pub. Another try to get better views of Dartford Warblers on the nearby heath was only marginally successful as we could only glimpse a couple of distant birds. A brief visit to the Hen Reedbeds to try for Barn Owl was cut short as we had to be at the Prandium restaurant in Southwold by 7 PM. We didn’t get the Barn Owl but as soon as we got into the restaurant the rain started again! Dinner was very nice and a little different as the restaurant was a one-man show with only a couple of tables, so it was very personalized.


June 20                Lakenheath and Weeting Heath Reserves
Unfortunately we had to leave Halesworth this morning and head west towards Cambridgeshire. It was about an hour to Lakenheath RSPB Reserve, which is a fairly new reserve in their system. I remember hiking in years ago to see the Golden Orioles which used to nest in the Poplar groves, and it’s a shame that the last pair nested here over 20 years ago. Some of our target birds here included Common Crane and European Hobby, but the former were nesting some way away from the last hide, so we would have been lucky to get a fly-by. Alas we never got the Cranes, but did get some views of a Hobby hunting dragonflies over a nearby field. A real surprise was hearing a Common Quail singing its “wet-my-lips” song from the other side of the river.  Unfortunately it was quite distant so not everyone could hear it. After lunch at the Ram Hotel, a very friendly pub in Brandon, our next stop was Weeting Heath. This used to be the “go to” place for Stone Curlew in East Anglia and the reserve has improved and grown considerably. We easily found a Stone Curlew who seemed immobile, although he may have blinked a couple of times, and then found the jackpot of all the local bird feeders. As well as the obligatory Blue and Great Tits, we had wonderful views of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Eurasian Jays and at last a European Nuthatch! A brief trip into Santon Downham forest was noisy with fly-over jets but we did find a couple of Mandarin Ducks before starting our short drive to Ely. It was a windy route through fenland with the highlight being a Barn Owl along the roadside on the way to our hotel.


June 21                Ouse Washes and Ely
Our hotel in Little Downham was quiet and peaceful and immaculately clean. After breakfast this morning we drove back across the wavy and bumpy roads to the RSPB’s Ouse Washes reserve. This refuge is protecting a landscape that was mostly drained in the 17th Century and is a haven for fenland birds. Some of the most obvious breeding birds are Mute Swan, Northern Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwit, with smaller numbers of Common Snipe, Pied Avocet and Common Redshank. We saw good numbers of several of these species, as well as a small flock of Common Cranes, 1 or 2 Common Kingfishers, several Western Yellow Wagtails and a real surprise of 2 Whooper Swans. During the winter there are thousands of wintering Whoopers in the area, but they all head north to breed, so having a couple stay behind is quite unusual. It was then off to Ely for lunch on the Great Ouse and a gentle wander around the city. Ely Cathedral is Anglican with the current building dating back to 1083, although a church has been on the site since 672. In other words, this is an old building!! We got to London around 6.30 PM tired after lots of long walks through the bird reserves. 


June 22                London and onto new adventures

We finished the trip with 138 species with 4 of these being heard only; we drove around 1070 miles from London to Yorkshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and returning from Cambridgeshire. As for walking, I believe we may have hiked about 52 miles – not bad at all. We saw 3 species of deer, plus a few other small mammals. The weather was dreadful in Yorkshire and stayed with us a little as we drove south with most days in Norfolk and Suffolk having some rain. The wildflowers were gorgeous in many spots and the scenery was bucolic from foggy cliffs and heathland in Yorkshire to green fields and shingle beaches in East Anglia. The beer was good and well-sampled and the food was good throughout the trip. Thanks to all for a great trip.

 

Simon Thompson

 

Birds and Mammals seen on our Venture to East Anglia, England 2019

Birds Total: 138 Species Seen or Heard

 

 

Graylag Goose
Brant (Brent Goose)
Barnacle Goose
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Whooper Swan
Egyptian Goose
Common Shelduck
Mandarin Duck
Northern Shoveler
Gadwall
Mallard
Green-winged (Common) Teal
Red-crested Pochard
Common Pochard
Tufted Duck
Common Eider
Common Quail (Heard)
Red-legged Partridge
Gray Partridge
Ring-necked Pheasant
Willow Ptarmigan (Red Grouse)
Little Grebe
Great-crested Grebe
Rock Pigeon
Stock Dove
Common Wood-Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Common Cuckoo
Common Swift
Water Rail (Heard)
Eurasian Moorhen
Eurasian Coot
Common Crane
Eurasian Thick-knee (Stone Curlew)
Pied Avocet
Eurasian Oystercatcher
European Golden-Plover
Northern Lapwing
Common Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Eurasian Curlew
Bar-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwit
Ruddy Turnstone
Red Knot

 

Curlew Sandpiper
Dunlin
Common Snipe
Spotted Redshank
Common Redshank
Common Murre (Guillemot)
Razorbill
Atlantic Puffin
Black-legged Kittiwake
Black-headed Gull
Little Gull
Mew Gull (Common Gull)
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Little Tern
Common Tern
Sandwich Tern
Northern Fulmar
Northern Gannet
Great Cormorant
European Shag
Great Bittern
Gray Heron
Little Egret
Eurasian Spoonbill
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier
Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Red Kite
Common Buzzard
Barn Owl
Common Kingfisher
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Green Woodpecker
Eurasian Kestrel
Eurasian Hobby
Eurasian Jay
Eurasian Magpie
Eurasian Jackdaw
Rook
Carrion Crow
Bearded Reedling
Eurasian Skylark
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Common House-Martin

 

Marsh Tit
Coal Tit
Marsh Tit
Eurasian Blue Tit
Great Tit
Long-tailed Tit
Eurasian Nuthatch
Eurasian Treecreeper
Eurasian Wren
Goldcrest
Cetti’s Warbler
Willow Warbler (Heard)
Common Chiffchaff
Sedge Warbler
Eurasian Reed Warbler
Eurasian Blackcap
Garden Warbler
Lesser Whitethroat
Greater Whitethroat
Dartford Warbler
Spotted Flycatcher
European Robin
Common Nightingale (Heard)
Common Redstart
Black Redstart
European Stonechat
Mistle Thrush
Song Thrush
Eurasian Blackbird
European Starling
Dunnock
Gray Wagtail
Western Yellow Wagtail
White Wagtail (Pied Wagtail)
Meadow Pipit
Common Chaffinch
Eurasian Bullfinch
European Greenfinch
Eurasian Linnet
Red Crossbill
European Goldfinch
Corn Bunting
Yellowhammer
Reed Bunting
House Sparrow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow

 

 

Mammals, Reptiles &Amphibians:

 

European Rabbit
Brown Hare
Gray Squirrel
Water Vole
Gray Seal
Chinese Water Deer
Muntjac
Roe Deer
Grass Snake
Common Toad

Butterflies, Moths and other insects:

 

Small White
Small Tortoiseshell
Red Admiral
Painted Lady
Speckled Wood
Meadow Brown
Cinnabar Moth
Garden Tiger
European Hornet