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Norfolk Coast Wild Geese & Waders

A birdwatching long weekend on the beautiful North Norfolk Coast

Late autumn is the best time to seek Norfolk’s wild geese and waders, and a November visit to the North Norfolk coast finds our winter visitors arriving in force - with who knows what could be with them! With masses of waterfowl and waders, birds of prey, Barn Owls, Bearded Tits, Shorelarks and Snow Buntings to look for on the coastal mud flats and marshes, our all-inclusive ‘Wild Geese & Waders’ long weekends are filled with birds - and great fun, too! We stay at a comfortable seaside hotel in Old Hunstanton.

Tour Dates

2018

Spaces
6

Leaders
David Fairhurst

Max Group Size: 8
Duration: 4 Days

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Cost: £585

from Old Hunstanton (or Norwich)

Deposit: £150

Single Supp: £65

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KNOT Norfolk SNETTISHAM K ELSBY (2) ckweb011212

Smoke on the water... Wader watching can be impressive in winter, like this swarm of Knot on manoeuvres over roosting Oystercatchers on The Wash © Dr Kevin Elsby, wildlifeontheweb.co.uk

The clamour of Pink-footed Geese on a winter’s eve; crowds of grey-suited waders bustling along the tideline; a ghostly Barn Owl hunting right beside us; harriers floating silently over the lonely marshes; Water Rails squealing like pigs in the reedbeds; Little Egrets dancing across the saltings... It’s easy to see why the Norfolk coast has been such a mecca for generations of British birdwatchers! Now you can experience the magic yourself on an all-inclusive, long weekend break with Limosa - easy-paced, small group tours designed to help you make the most of your birding.

Divers, grebes and seaduck haunt the shore in late autumn, and gatherings of winter wildfowl and waders can be truly spectacular. Numbers of Knot alone can top 100,000 birds, while Norfolk’s ever-increasing population of geese includes tens of thousands of Pink-feet and Brent as well as small flocks of White-fronted, too. Water Rail and Woodcock creep furtively along the marshland fringes and passerines such as Shore Lark, Rock Pipit and Snow and Lapland Buntings are regularly present on the saltings.

Birds of prey are another special feature of our late autumn tours. Marsh and Hen Harriers patrol the coastal marshes, where they may be joined by Sparrowhawk, Merlin and the occasional Short-eared Owl. Sightings of Red Kite, Peregrine and Common Buzzard have increased dramatically in Norfolk over the past decade or so, and the scarce Rough-legged Buzzard is also possible at this exciting time of year.      

Each trip will have its own special moments. Come November, troops of silken Waxwings may be about to enliven Norfolk's hedgerows; scarcities such as Little Auk or Pomarine Skua may be passing offshore; and numbers of wild geese, ducks and waders continue to build. Being Norfolk, one never quite knows what will turn up next and the season often holds one or two surprises!

This late autumn tour is based in comfort at one conveniently located hotel - the Le Strange Arms, beside the sea in Old Hunstanton - right on the bend of the North Norfolk coast and close to many of the region's top birding sites.

Whether you are new to birdwatching or more experienced, one from Limosa's top-rated team of friendly, expert local leaders will be on hand throughout to take you to the best spots and ensure you have as much fun as possible whilst enjoying seeing lots of great birds. All are first-class bird tour guides and naturalists with many years of experience.

Limosa has been operating birdwatching tours in Norfolk for more than 30 years. Why not join us here this autumn for a super long weekend break - and the very best of British birding!

Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Norfolk © Robin Chittenden, www.robinchittenden.co.uk 1106

A party of Dark-bellied Brent Geese passes just offshore at Cley, on the North Norfolk coast © Robin Chittenden, robinchittenden.co.uk

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 BIRDS

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!

Snow Bunting, winter, Norfolk © Robin Chittenden, www.robinchittenden.co.uk

Snow Bunting, winter male at Salthouse, Norfolk © Robin Chittenden, robinchittenden.co.uk

What To Expect

Late autumn is the best time to see Norfolk’s wild geese and waders, a time when our winter visitors are arriving in force - and who knows what could be with them! With birds of prey, Barn Owls, Bearded Tits, Shorelarks and Snow Buntings to look for on the coastal marshes, our ‘Wild Geese & Waders’ long weekend breaks are great fun, all-inclusive and limited to just 8 participants. Based at the comfortable Le Strange Arms Hotel, beside the sea in Old Hunstanton.

Led by Limosa’s friendly expert guides, these holidays are ideal for birdwatchers of all levels of ability, interest and experience. Our guide will be on hand to help you with your bird identification skills, too. Just bring your bins and enthusiasm for birds - we’ll do the rest!

The UK's climate is famous for its unpredictability, but extremes are rare. Expect a mix of sunshine and showers during the late autumn months, with daytime temperatures typically in the range of 0-14C (32-57F). It can sometimes feel cold, especially if there’s an onshore wind blowing at the coast - for migration, we hope for an easterly wind!

Norfolk is one of the driest parts of the UK, but some rainfall is of course possible at any season so come prepared with rainwear and lightweight layers of clothing, just in case - and join us for some of the very best birding in Britain!

Birds

90-120 species

Accommodation

3 nights accommodation at the comfortable Le Strange Arms Hotel, overlooking the sea in Old Hunstanton - and perfectly situated for easy exploration of the North Norfolk coast. All rooms are en suite.

Meals

All main meals are included in the price, commencing with dinner on arrival at the hotel on the evening of Day 1 and concluding with a packed lunch on Day 4. Breakfasts and dinners will be taken at the hotel. Participants regularly tell us that meals at the hotel are excellent. Lunches will be picnics taken in the field.

Walking

Easy. Short walks (approx. 1-3 miles) at a gentle pace over good trails and mostly flat terrain. Sturdy waterproof walking shoes or boots recommended. Wellies will be useful in wet weather and can be handy first thing, when the grass can be damp with overnight dew.

Travel

Ground transport on the tour is by minibus.

Participants arriving in Norfolk by car will be sent a map and joining instructions for the hotel. We meet for an informal get-together in the hotel bar at 7.00pm on the first evening.

For those without their own transport, we pick up at Norwich railway station at approx. 4.45-5.00pm on the first afternoon (most routes arrive into Norwich just ahead of this time). We are able to drop off there again by about 4.45pm on the last afternoon. There is no extra cost for pick-up and drop-off as outlined above.

Please note: if you intend to travel by rail and wish to spend an extra night or two at the hotel before or after the tour, we are unable to offer return transport to/from the station. Instead, it will be necessary for you to arrange a taxi from Norwich to Old Hunstanton or vice versa (a distance of approx. 45 miles) or to the nearest station at Kings Lynn (approx. 17 miles).

 

Grey Plover, adult winter, Florida © Arnoud van den Berg, 1109

Its stop-start action, beady black eye and stout black bill help identify the Grey Plover in winter © Arnoud van den Berg, Limosa

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1 TP, Norfolk Coast Tour ... Gary was the most helpful guide I have ever travelled with... [empty string]
2 GC, Norfolk Coast Tour The sight and sound of hundreds of geese flying in, across an orange sky, to roost around Holkham was unforgettable - and Gary timed it perfectly! [empty string]
3 JC, Norfolk Coast tour Gary was an excellent leader: helpful, cheerful, very knowledgeable and got on well with everybody. [empty string]
4 KB, Norfolk Coast Tour Thrilling to see a Short-eared Owl coming in over the sea. Great break. Leader and all the group amazingly patient with an absolute novice. Daunting amount to learn, wish I had begun at 9 like Tony! [empty string]
5 JA, Norfolk Coast Tour Gary was great. Enjoyed three days in Norfolk. Good company, good birds. Our second trip with you. [empty string]
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