Our birdwatching tours to the North Norfolk Coast commence with arrival at the hotel on the evening of Day 1, where we meet for a welcome drink and informal get-together in the bar around 7.00pm prior to enjoying dinner.
The next two days are spent in the field, with packed lunches and flasks of hot tea and coffee available on demand. We return to the hotel again each evening in time for a delicious dinner, followed by the day’s log call over coffee and the chance to relax and chat informally about the day’s events.
After enjoying a full morning of birdwatching and packed lunch in the field on Day 4, the break concludes back at the hotel at around 2.30pm that afternoon to allow good time for farewells and departure for home.
Destinations will be chosen from the following outline programme to ensure your visit is both worthwhile and rewarding. We leave the final choice of places to visit to the discretion of our expert guide, according to the weather, local conditions and what’s about at the time.
The RSPB’s flagship Titchwell reserve lies within a short drive of our hotel and a visit there should get our trip off to a flying start! Marsh Harrier, Water Rail, Avocet, Barn and Short-eared Owls, Woodcock and Bearded Tit are among many exciting species to look for in winter. Persil-white Little Egrets are also well established on the Norfolk scene and easy to spot as they prance energetically along the tidal creeks.
The late autumn and winter months find big flocks of Pink-footed Geese in the coastal marshes and fields, with parties of Redwings, Fieldfares, Chaffinches and Bramblings adorning the hedgerows. Flocks of 'grumbling' Brent Geese graze the marshes and in recent winters have often concealed one or two ‘Black Brants’, a vagrant from Siberia. Parties of waders scurry along the tideline as we check offshore for seaduck such as Eider, Common Scoter and Long-tailed Duck. Red-throated Divers are usually present on the sea, their numbers increasing as the season progresses; and we have good chances of seeing Gannet, Guillemot, Kittiwake and other seabirds passing along the coast.
To the south of our hotel (where a spot of optional pre-breakfast birding can also be rewarding), the immense tidal flats of The Wash support more wintering shorebirds than any other estuary in Britain. Wader-watching - either here or ‘just around the corner’ between Old Hunstanton and Titchwell - is exciting throughout the late autumn and winter months. If you are new to birdwatching our guides will help you learn how to tell the different species apart, while ‘old hands’ will derive enormous pleasure from the sheer spectacle of so many birds.
Tides, season, wind direction and weather on the day will, of course, all have a bearing on the number and location of the birds. But we should find plenty of Oystercatchers, Curlews, Ringed, Grey and Golden Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Knot, Dunlin and Redshank, together with parties of 'clockwork' Sanderling scuttling back and forth along the tideline. From time to time, the big flocks suddenly rise as one to drift across the pale winter sky like ever-changing plumes of smoke - a breath-taking spectacle.
Beyond the cliffs (where Fulmars may already be prospecting for a breeding ledge), we may find more seaduck, possibly including Velvet Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser. Winter offers the chance of Slavonian and other grebes, and although this is not a rocky coast, one or two favoured spots hold Turnstone and even the odd Purple Sandpiper.
Moving inland, we’ll check the fields and hedgerows for Little Owl as well as flocks of wintering Chaffinch, Yellowhammer and the scarce Corn Bunting. Tree Sparrows have declined dramatically in Britain in recent decades, but we may be lucky to find a few around the farmers’ grain stores.
East along the coast from Titchwell, the sweeping saltmarshes at Holkham are a regular haunt of Shore Lark and Snow Bunting in winter. Rock Pipits are often present, and the fields hold thousands of Brent and even more Pink-footed Geese, together with lesser numbers of White-fronted and Greylag Geese. Nearby Holkham Park is home to a range of woodland birds, including Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Marsh and Coal Tits, Nuthatch and Treecreeper.
Further east, we may visit the celebrated coastal marshes of Blakeney, Salthouse and Cley. Early November in particular can be productive for seawatching, bringing chances of a late autumn skua or Little Auk passing offshore. If there are any Waxwings about, this is usually the best time of year to find them - before the invading hordes of Fieldfares and Redwings have stripped the coastal hedgerows of berries!
Wildfowl are numerous with Brent Geese, Teal, Pintail, Gadwall, Wigeon and Shoveler present in good numbers throughout the winter months, and mixed flocks of waders, gulls and other geese gracing the coastal fields.
As dusk descends over the coast, Barn Owls drift silently back and forth over the marshes, and Marsh and Hen Harriers quarter low over the reedbeds before finally dropping into roost. Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and the odd Merlin are usually about in late autumn and winter, and Red Kite, Peregrine and Common Buzzard have been seen with increasing frequency in recent years. The perky Stonechat can also be active late in the day, surveying its territory from a prominent post for one last snack before nightfall.
The North Norfolk coast has a long history of turning up surprises and the chance of coming across something unexpected invariably adds a little extra spice to our birding. Late autumn highlights enjoyed by our groups over the past 32 years have included everything from Snow Goose and Northern Harrier to Pallas's Warbler and Red-breasted Nuthatch!
As with all our Norfolk breaks, we may vary the above itinerary to take best advantage of the weather and other local conditions, as well as what birds happen to be about at the time of your visit. And while we can't promise to find you a rarity on every trip, one thing’s for certain - whenever you come and whatever we choose to do, in Norfolk there will always be plenty to see!