Norfolk Weekend- £450 January    
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Pink-footed Geese

For many years with SK58 Birders, we've been undertaking private midwinter trips to Norfolk. The birding is exceptionally varied, as can the weather, but the birds have been consistently good both in quality & variety.

This three day long weekend takes in the Yare Valley where a regular flock of Taiga Bean Geese winter amongst the White-fronted Geese as well as lots of wildfowl and Marsh Harrier, followed by a visit to a raptor roost. We then hit the North Norfolk coast visiting such famous reserves as Cley & Titchwell where thousands of birds of many species reside during the winter as well as the expansive areas around Holkham. The itinerary is left open so we can be flexible to include birds which turn up while we are down there. On the cards are Rough-legged Buzzard, Snow Bunting and Lapland Bunting as well as huge raptor roosts and the always sought Common Crane. Not to mention the thousands of Pink-footed Geese that feed in the fields here. A spectacular audio-visual experience as they fly to and from a roost to the feeding grounds.

As usual this tour is fully inclusive covering transport, accommodation, entrance fees and a guide. All you'll need is some money for beer or wine (not included- I've seen how much tour participants can drink). Although hot drinks are freely available throughout the tour as is water.

Day 1 Depart Dinnington at around 05:00 for the 3-4 hour drive to the Yare Valley, with comfort breaks as we go. We spend the morning in the valley visiting several sites tracking down Taiga Bean Geese amongst the White-fronted Geese and thousands of Teal & Wigeon with good numbers of Shoveler too. We should also pick up Peregrine & Marsh Harrier, possibly Merlin. Water Pipit is also a regular bird here. From here we head north to Hickling Broad and a well known raptor roost. We'll spend several hours here, so wrap up warmly. Over the course of the afternoon we should witness the arrival of dozens of Marsh Harrier with sightings of Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Barn Owl, Merlin & Peregrine. We usually pick up Cranes either on site or as they fly to roost. At dusk thousands of Pink-footed Geese fly over noisily as they make their way from the feeding grounds along the coast to roost further inland.

From here we drive the 90 mins to Wells and our accommodation for two nights. Here in our comfy b+b's we can relax and unwind with a cuppa and a hot shower before strolling to the nearby pub for some excellent winter food and maybe a pint.

Day 2 Following a hearty breakfast we initially plan to head west towards Holkham and spend a couple of hours here. Parking at Lady Anne's Drive we witness (hopefully) the comings & goings of the wintering flock of Pink-footed Geese numbering in their tens of thousands. Initially exploring the expansive sands and salt marsh looking out for Snow Bunting & Shore Lark amid the many finch & lark flocks feeding. Afterwards we walk through the pine lined path ticking off more wildfowl and hopefully the odd raptor such as Peregrine and Rough-legged Buzzard (depending on the winter).

From here we head east towards the world famous Cley Marshes & Salthouse. We'll have a refreshment break and find out the latest information before exploring the East or West Bank. This should produce lots of wildfowl as well as hunting Marsh Harrier and maybe Bittern, plus over wintering waders. Heading slightly further east we'll call off at Salthouse and see if the wintering flock of Snow Bunting are around and the almost tame Turnstones. We may pick up a Lapland Bunting amongst the Snow Bunting. Depending on time remaining (short days) we'll aim to visit a coastal saltmarsh and witness raptors come into roost. We usually pick up several Hen Harrier as well as Merlin, Peregrine & Barn Owl. We return to our b&b for a hot shower and more excellent hospitality locally.

Day 3 Our final day in Norfolk today, but certainly a bird filled one. After breakfast and checking out of the b&b we'll call quickly in Wells Harbour and see what's lurking there. Black Brant have wintered here previously in recent winters, amongst the Dark -bellied Brent Geese. From here we head west and begin our journey home, subject to anything turning up. We can stop off at Titchwell and spend the rest of the morning and the afternoon here. Exploring the hides, lagoons and seawatching. We should pick up lots of wildfowl such as Pintail & Shoveler. There's usually and early/ over wintering Avocet around too as well raptors overhead. Cetti's Warbler and Water Rail are usually close to the visitor centre where we can also get a bite of lunch and a hot drink. After the hides and lagoons we'll spend some time looking on the sea. There's usually a selection of grebes such as Slavonian Grebe, Red-necked Grebe or maybe Black-necked Grebe among the more usual Great Crested Grebe. A huge raft of Common Scoter are usually present where a keen eye may pick up a Velvet Scoter or Long-tailed Duck. White-winged gulls are also possible so look out for Glaucous Gull or Iceland Gull. There are often divers around. The more common Red-throated Diver and occasionally Black-throated Diver. The marsh can also hold Snow Bunting and Lapland Bunting.

By late afternoon we consider the drive back to Dinnington- arriving back mid evening having hopefully experienced the very best birding Norfolk has to offer in winter.

We've been running this tour with friends and SK58 for over a decade now and it never disappoints. Highlights usually include one or two special birds. Recent trips coincided with Lesser White-fronted Goose, Western Sandpiper, Northern Harrier, White-crowned Sparrow, Lesser Yellowlegs & Pallid Harrier as well as the diversity of species associated with Norfolk.

This short break gives a great introduction to winter Norfolk birding, covering all the top sites, staying in well established accommodation and hostelries which have provided us with comfortable rooms and great sustenance over many years. Overall it's a great long weekend break at a steady pace.


Cost: £450 all inclusive.

£100 deposit required at time of booking.

Duration: 3 days.

Group Size: Min: 4 Max: 8.

No. of Prev. Tours Here: 0.

Average Trip List: n/a.

Included/ Not Included: Included- All ground transport, accommodation, meals, guiding, entrance fees. Not Included- Insurance, transport to pick up point, drinks of a personal nature, laundry.

Depart From: Dinnington.

Accommodation: In comfortable b&b's in and around Wells on the Norfolk coast. Single travellers can share a twin or single room supplement at £60.

Ground Transport: Modern MPV/ Minibus with air conditioning/ separate heating controls with lots of room for birders & kit.

Leader: Andy Hirst.

Target: Geese, wildfowl, raptors & cranes on Friday. Wildfowl, seabirds, raptors, winter visitors on Saturday. And Sunday along the Norfolk coast.

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Special Notice: It can be cold, snowy and wet, so wellies may be required although sturdy boots should suffice. The wind can be biting, so quality wind/waterproof clothing required.