Field Trips in 2014

Sunday 6th January: Winter Bird Count

reporter David Knight

 A total of nine teams began the annual Bird Count on a cold but fine day. Three of those  teams  entered informally  and did  not submit their count lists .  Some teams reported that the birds were few and far between but the count by the adjudicators back at Weston Longville Hall for All revealed a winning total count of 68 of species – higher than last year’s winner –  and won this year by David Gibbons,Alan Fordham and Phil Borley. They were duly  were presented with the trophy by Ray Gribble.  From all the returned sheets a collective total species count of 91 was   recorded – again exceeding last year’s total!                                                                                                       

Thanks must go to Chris Gribble and Beryl Norris for their tireless work in the kitchen providing a warm welcome with tea and cake and of course to our event co-ordinator Richard Norris.

Sunday 26th January: Welney and the surrounding area – reporter Steve Chapman

What do you do on a cold, wet and miserable Sunday in January? Go birding of course! Well, that’s what 12 WVBS members did when we visited Denver Sluice and Welney as part of the WVBS programme of Field Trips.

Ten of us arrived at Denver sluice at 9 am before the onslaught of rain, and managed to see 8 Goosanders on the river, as well as Tufted Duck, a pair of Great Crested Grebes and several Cormorants. Around the car park there were a small flock of Fieldfare feeding on apple windfalls and 2 Brambling were spotted in a bush. We were able to hear Whooper swans calling in the distance but none were showing from the sluice.

On the way to Welney we stopped off at Malcolm Rain’s farm, who kindly let us view from his garden. There we had an amazing sight – over 200 corn buntings perched on overhead wires! Also in view were Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings, Meadow Pipits and in the near distance dozens of Whooper Swans on the fields, together with a single distant Little Egret and a flock of soaring Golden Plover.

On to Welney WWT where we caught up with 2 other members who’d had to make a huge detour as the main road from Welney village was closed due to flooding. Flooding had also closed all the small hides at Welney so we could only view the lagoon from the main hide. High water levels meant that many wintering ducks and waders were absent but we were able to see a decent range of birds including Black-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Redshank, Pochard, Shoveller, Whooper swans and a single female Ruddy Duck. At the noon swan feeding time Sam from the WWT gave an excellent talk about the work of the reserve, current conditions and the continuing need for conservation support.

As parts of the reserve were closed due to flooding, the WWT staff kindly arranged a short hare-watching walk on the fen. Despite by now atrocious weather, nine of us brave souls took up their offer, and led by Sam and her colleague Mick we were able to get fantastic close views of at least 5 hares huddled down and then taking off at great speed.

Back to the visitor centre for a warming cuppa and the end of the outing. As I drove home via Littleport, passing hundreds of Whooper swans and a handful of Bewick’s in the surrounding fields, I reflected on how vital  the fen country is to wintering swans, waders and wildfowl, how fragile the ecological balance is and how important the work of the WWT, RSPB and the wildlife trusts are in protecting these areas.

 Sixty four species of birds were recorded on the outing. These were (in no particular order):                        

Fieldfare, Robin, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Redwing, Great Crested Grebe, Chaffinch, Lapwing, Starling, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, Carrion Crow, Moorhen, Grey Heron, Collared Dove, Goosander, Green Woodpecker, Brambling, Magpie, House Sparrow, Kestrel, Black-headed Gull, Tufted, Duck, Whooper Swan, Cormorant, Greylag Goose, Great Tit, Bewick’s Swan, Mute Swan, Mallard, Coot, Rook, Jackdaw, Pheasant, Corn Bunting, Pied Wagtail, Yellowhammer, Golden Plover, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, Herring Gull, Egyptian Goose, Common Gull, Skylark, Little Egret, Stock Dove, Dunnock, Red-legged Partridge, Black-tailed Godwit, Wigeon, Pochard, Shoveler, Shelduck, Gadwall, Ruddy Duck, Great Black-backed Gull, Curlew, Redshank, Teal, Sparrowhawk, Barn Owl, Common Buzzard.

 Many thanks to Ray and Liz for organising and leading, and to Malcolm Rains and Welney WWT for their help and facilitation.

 Saturday 22nd February:  The North Norfolk Coast

reporter David Martin

 A sunny but fresh winter day saw 12 WVBS members gather in Titchwell car park at 9.00am for a day’s birding under the leadership of Phil Borley. No sign of the elusive Woodcock as we made our way to the Visitor Centre. Does he really exist, I wonder? I’m assured he does but I remain to be convinced. The list of birds seen and heard was growing rapidly, the highlight of this first stage being the Siskins that finally made their way down from the trees to join the Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Greenfinches etc on the feeders. We then moved on to Fen Hide and beyond. Birds seen included Pochard, Tufties and Shovellers with the greatest excitement created by a female Scaup. The walk to the beach yielded a long list of waders and wildfowl including several Snipe and a very distant Water Rail. Many a Redshank was seen but, sadly, none were Spotted. From the beach we saw large numbers of Scoter, a Velvet Scoter, Golden Eye, Cormorant, Godwits, Grey Plovers, Sanderling, Turnstones and many more besides. By one o’clock we were making our way back to the car park for much needed refreshments. We had enjoyed a good session at Titchwell. The light was excellent and the weather had stayed fine.

 For the second half of our day, a somewhat reduced number of us made our way along the coast to NWT Holme Dunes. To the beach once more for another session of sea watching. This time the highlight was a Slavonian Grebe. Our numbers were now dwindling rapidly and, sadly, by the time Phil was ready to go hunting Twite at Thornham, there was no one left for him to lead. I do hope he found his Twite.

 Many thanks to Phil for guiding us though a very enjoyable day’s birding. It was much appreciated by all with a total of 74 species seen during the day.

Sunday 9th March:  The 30th Anniversary Hoe Bird Walk             

reporter Lin Pateman

 Sunday 9th March 2014 dawned a beautiful sunny day and the clear blue skies lasted throughout the morning.  As we left in good time for an early start, I realized I had not printed off the map David Knight had kindly emailed. Fortunately as we turned into the right road, David was just about to pull out of his drive so it was only polite to let him go and then follow on to the parking area that was previously unknown to us. The group of nineteen assembled on time for an 8 o’clock start and observing the hedges and trees along the track we quickly compiled a list of thirty birds including green woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker and song thrush. As we looked towards Beetley Woods, David and Ray reminisced about ringing numerous sand martins at Barkers Pits many years ago and a large flock of redwings flew in and landed just out of sight for closer study.

Hoe Common has three rejuvinated areas of inland heath which is very scarce in Norfolk, one of which was felled of trees twenty years ago,  followed by scraping and planting with seeds from Roydon Common, the other two were lightly scraped and dormant seed allowed to grow. A further  area has just been recently scraped and now the gorse is being tackled.. As David began to explain that the Hawk and Owl Trust had obtained a grant to do necessary maintenance on the heath, the local volunteers working party turned up to start work on the gorse.

In the still warm air and sunshine we stood in the wooded area and listened to three different calls of the nuthatch, skilfully pointed out to us by Glenn. Rooks calling from Manor Farm echoed above the sounds of the woodland birds. Treecreepers in good numbers and a great spotted woodpecker seemed to be playing hide and seek with us and a fleeting glimpse of a calling marsh tit completed the full tit list.

Back at the cars for a quick coffee break and I made the comment we ought to see some raptors when Phil spotted a kestrel in a tree and a common buzzard overhead quickly added to by a sparrowhawk flying over. As we set off down the lane we had wonderful close views of another sparrowhawk overhead being closely mobbed by a carrion crow and then a little egret perched high in a tree, dazzling white and looking out of place in the bright sunshine. The pure spring sound of a mistle thrush calling was a welcome first for some and skylark joined in as we walked besides the calm water in Whitewater Valley down Hoe Road. Whilst Brimstone butterflies began to be seen and a common buzzard circled overhead, some of us lingered over a mixed flock of fieldfares in tall trees as the sun’s glare tried to convince us there were redwing too!

Two Canada geese proved elusive for some as we enjoyed watching the grazing meadow area on private land which produced a flyby yellowhammer, pied wagtail, a single redshank, the only wader of the day and a kingfisher dashing through unseen by many.

As we watched a roe deer quietly grazing unaware of its onlookers, the  excited call went up for red kite, (thanks Steve) at the end of the road and one or two of us ran to catch up with group to gain excellent views of it being mobbed by carrion crows before it soared off out of sight. This was a new record for the Hoe Bird Walk!

As we viewed the area from the start of the railway line on surely, the best day of the year with no wind at all, we had close views of treecreeper and a stoat crossing. Skylark were feeding busily in the fields and some were in full song above us as we scanned every margin for grey partridge, Phil began a list of birds we were missing….the “ings” I announced…lapwing, brambling, reed bunting and starling.  On the hawthorn hedge at Worthing Church we spied a peacock butterfly and David informed the group about the successes in our churchyard nestbox scheme.  From above two common buzzards mewing and circling in the heat and rooks calling from the flat topped cedar (reminiscent of a popular 1990s haircut). As we were all returning down the road, Phil spotted a reed bunting sitting atop an alder, no siskins today, though comma and small tortoiseshell butterflies graced the verges.

Bernie sat a moment in the shade and found feathered remains beside him, as he held the wing aloft, Ray soon identified a freshly devoured sparrowhawk’s breakfast, as a starling….. could we add it to the “ings” I ventured?  Strolling back slowly, in the unexpected late winter heat, we saw a flyover heron, another sparrowhawk circling in the thermals above the treeline and a pair of kestrels sitting in the shade of a tree.

Thanks to Glenn for the total bird list for the day

On behalf of our WVBS group, I would like to extend my most sincere thanks to David for an extraordinary 30th anniversary Hoe Bird Walk, thoroughly enjoyed by all, most of who had never been before and made all the more special by the amusing anecdotes and historical facts gleaned from over eighteen years recording and monitoring at the site.

 Species Total= 57

Editor’s Note  The average count for March on the Hoe Bird Walk is 47. The all-time highest over 30 years for March is 52. Not only have we smashed the record by some margin but we logged two new birds for the Walk  – Redshank  and  Red Kite.

What a result!

Saturday 29th March: A Field Trip to Felbrigg  Park 

reporter Phil Borley. 

I arrived in the car park at 8.15am, time for a cuppa and something to eat and a natter before we set off.  A total of seventeen members present started scanning surrounding countryside from the car park, I had heard several years ago the old parkland trees were good for little owl and having never seen one on numerous visits, assumed this was a myth. Myth exploded on the day, total of five little owls seen! A few species were then added to the list and then we set off round the woodland area with bird numbers increasing all the time. Firecrests were heard and not seen by anyone but our leader, we briefly saw goldcrests disappearing into the tops as he disappeared into the undergrowth! A pair of crossbills were spotted and showed nicely in the tops and we eventually made our way back to the car park for another cuppa, snack and loo stop. We then headed off across parkland towards the lake area, along the way chatted to other members in the usual friendly manner when on these club outings, which I personally think makes a nice day’s birding. A laugh and a joke shared makes it all good fun, whilst enjoying serious birdwatching, nothing is missed. Another mythical bird I had failed to see in previous visits was mandarin duck, yes there really is a pair on the lake. Further round in the wetland area, little grebes were spotted, however I’m sure one member must have thought we were all on something he wasn’t as he couldn’t get on one, although in the end we managed to guide him in the right direction. Also excellent views of five snipe here. Lunch break then ensued and having mulled over a few options for the rest of the day, most of us headed for Cley NWT. The reserve is getting back to normal following the storm surge and now with all areas fully accessible, we added another twenty or so species to the day’s list. A good day out with not just club members but friends, thanks  Glenn.

Comments  from Keith and Helen Jones

We had a wonderful day with the group today, and must thank Glenn for his enthusiastic leadership.

As birders we are relatively new but really appreciated the knowledge and friendly company we had today–saw our first crossbill, so all in all a great day out.

Many thanks

Species List                                          supplied by Glenn Collier


Greenfinch , Jackdaw , Chaffinch, Kestrel , Common  Gull, Great spotted Woodpecker , Red legged  Partridge,  Great tit,  Carrion Crow Pheasant , Gold finch, Egyptian goose, Skylark, Nuthatch, Little Owl, Buzzard, Bue Tit , Herring Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Chiffchaff, Wood pigeon, Robin, Magpie, Stock Dove, Wren, Jay,  Coal Tit,  Siskin, Long Tailed Tit, Green Woodpecker, Crossbill, Bullfinch,  Goldcrest,  Fire crest  (heard ) , Dunock, Backbird,  Mistle Thrush Rook,  Song Thrush Grey Wagtail.


Sparrow hawk, Linnets, Barn Owl,  Mallards, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Grey Heron, Curlew, Peregrine, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Mandarin Duck, Tree  Creeper, Snipe, Lapwing, Greylag Goose, Teal, Oystercatcher, Shoveler, Little Grebe


House Sparrow, Marsh Harrier, Cormorant, Great Black Backed Gull, Eiders, Gannets,  Razorbills, Redshank, Little Gulls, Common Scoters, Velvet Scoter-3,  Shelduck, Avocets, Sandwich Tern,-2, Little Egret, Wigeon, Gadwall, Coot, Black Tailed Godwit, Brent Goose, Starling,  Scandinavian rock pipit.                            

Saturday 26th April:  Wild About the Wensum 

reporter Liz Bridge

The volunteers who gave their time to support the WVBS activities at Wild about Wensum are to be congratulated on a very successful day. The Guides in the Hide (organised by Ray Gribble) were stalwarts, surviving bitterly cold winds driving in through the open windows of the two hides at the scrape. Our stand, ably organised by Wendy Brown, was very popular and the colouring competition resulted in 50 entries, with 3 winners in different age groups. It was good seeing the colourful entries pinned up on the stand.

Sunday 27th April: A Field Trip to the Horsey Area – Co-ordinator Ray Gribble

 reporter –  Philip Howard

Thirteen members met at Horsey Mill carpark at 9am on a cold, dull morning. Ray outlined the plan for the walk and we set off passing the moored boats where people were breakfasting on deck They had quite a shock when they spied a crowd of birders walked towards them. On the broad we noted Mute Swan and Common Tern. In the reeds Sedge and Reed Warbles were in full song and a Blackcap was heard and seen in the wooded area. Walking on we were joined by three more members . Then Glenn heard Common Cranes and soon they came into view. Whimbrel flew over and from the reeds the reeling of Grasshopper Warbler. As usual,heard but not seen. On the fields we spotted a Yellow Wagtail and some late Fieldfares were in the trees. As we walked down the lane pass the houses the gardens were full of spring flowers . One lady in her garden kindly told us of the history of the cottage and showed us a lovely yellow Tree Paeony. It was time for lunch,so back to the cars . While eating lunch a Peregrine flew over. Fully refreshed we walked across the road onto a field with a style. Some of the lady members need help to get over this but finally managed with the help of some gallant gentlemen members! We headed for the beach and along the path saw Wheatear ,Stonechat,Marsh Harrier and more Whimbrels flying. Some unidentified waders also flew over. From the dunes we picked up a large group of seals basking in sun .and on the sea were gulls and two adult Gannets. At this point some of the group walked back to the cafe for ice creams. Those who stayed were treated to good views,at last, of the Cranes in a field . The call of the ice creams was too strong and the group joined the rest at the cafe. I sat on a bench enjoying my ice cream . Immediately below my feet was a dog bowl filled with unhealthy looking water. Eunice jokingly asked me if I had just filled it up. That got everyone laughing and was a great way of finishing the day. Considering the colour of the water in the bowl I had better see my doctor when I get back.!
Thanks to the group for a wonderful day and thanks to Ray for leading it. There was lots to see and our bird list totalled 65 species. 

Saturday 17th May:  A Joint field trip with NARVOS  – Operation STANTA.  

reporter  –  David Gibbons

Seven members of WVBS joined the NarVOS group on the coach in Swaffham on 17th May 2014. First stop was West Tofts Camp where we met Paul, our bird guide, and Trevor an ex serviceman who was our escort for the day. Trevor set out the safety matters we had to be aware of, such as if we came across something military on the ground  – to leave it alone! He followed the coach in his car.

 STANTA –  Stanford Training Area ,set up in 1942 consists of over 28,000 acres in this part of Norfolk. We were there with the kind permission of the Commander along with 2 others groups on this day. Former residents of the villages and their relatives are also allowed on the site .

Already we had seen Pied Wagtail, Oystercatcher, Red-legged Partridge, Lapwing, Song Thrush, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Swift  and  Swallow. Claudia from NarVOS was keeping the list.

First stop was “Froghill” leaving the coach we had fantastic views of sandy heathland and gorse bushes to the pine trees in the distance with a watchtower above them. Our   exploration area was spelt out so off we went Redstarts were high on the agenda and soon were spotted along with Garden Warbler, Mistle Thrush, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Great and Blue Tits, and Jackdaw. Then down to “Smokers Hole” at the bottom of this track was a “Boys Own Fort” concrete filled oil drums, lookout points, camouflaged nets, concrete barriers etc. Stonechat was our quarry and were soon spotted along with Skylarks and Common Buzzards in the sky. Our coach had now caught us up so back on board.

 Roads were mainly tarmac, some tracks were stony, two vehicles could just about pass each other. Spent shells were easily seen on the edges of the tracks along with droppings from the sheep who roamed freely. A few tenant farmers grazed their sheep and a couple of road signs warned troops that woolly creatures lurked around the corner. Portaloos scattered the training area and we also noticed a lot of red posts with lanyards and little red pennants in boxes at the bottom – Big Boy Games no doubt!

The area was scattered with small hamlets neatly fenced and either numbered or named ie: Post Office, Council Houses nos. 3 and 4. We also passed the Afghan Village built at a cost of £14 million.

Eastmere Village, so off the coach  A church , this one was built new, the other 3 in the area were original to the villages, a bar and a couple of houses, all of brick, flint and red tin roofs with wooden shutters and doors and  neat fences around them . A milestone said “Watton 4 miles” but back to birding we spotted House Martin, Great and Green Woodpecker, Wren, Robin, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler  along this stretch. Back on the coach we came across a wrecked helicopter which Paul informed us a good venue for nesting birds, down to Langford Bridge by the River Wissey a good spot for lunch passing a few troops in desert fatigues, blackened faces with desert land rovers already having lunch.

Sitting on the grass by the river bank Greylag Goose, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Mallard, Cuckoo and House Martins flying around the church roof in the next field, Common Buzzards and a Kestrel in the distance. Claudia with the list was being kept busy. Lunch packs back on the coach we walked to the next area, displays by Whitethroat along the way, we came across an airstrip, built for Harriers, the metal type, another bank of portaloos at one end. Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, but we also saw what we wanted from here lovely views of a pair of Wood Larks , beaks full of caterpillars. Keen interest was also shown in the numerous day moths , butterflies and dragonflies we came across. Around the corner , and “off track” was a likely spot for Tree Pipit, which some members had seen earlier but no luck this time. The coach picked us up again at the top of the runway and we soon passed a freshly re-cut cliff face which Sand Martins had colonized again. We arrived close to the watchtower we had seen from Froghill so off the coach across a plank over the river, no just jesting, a stream, to a lake, a lot of Mute Swans, some with cygnets, Crows, Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, a solitary Pochard, Gadwall and Cormorant.

 Another original church on the way back, again in good repair, this one was fenced off and the sign read “Out of Bounds to Troops”.

 The coach took us to our final stop passing the  remains of a Manor House, its stable block and garden wall remained intact, another expanse of water and a metal bridge – this really was a “Big Boy Mecanno Set”. The clean, clear water was covered in lily leaves and pike, we were informed, lurked deep. Two Grey Wagtails greeted us in the tree tops, and a Treecreeper was feeding its young under the bark, a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over. We had passed another coach earlier in the day and now along came a red London double-decker, we lined the bridge as it passed, the destination sign read, “Dads’ Army Tour”  All we need now, I heard someone say, was to meet some train-spotters and we would have the complete set! Walking away from the bridge a Shelduck and Mallard, then a Kestrel being chased by 2 House Martins and then a Hobby. The two raptors gave us a fantastic views in the same binocular sight. 79 species on the list, we heard, so we needed 1 more to round the day off, so on towards a wooded area but only some 20 yards away the distinctive sound of Grasshopper Warbler , one or two? Some were lucky to see one fly off.

 Back on the coach to West Tofts Camp saying goodbye to our guide and escort. We think that all that went in came out, but no one was counting.

 A superb day and many thanks to Phil Harvey from NarVOS…

 The official count for the day was 79!

Saturday 24th May:  A Field Trip for the Dawn Chorus & Bacon Butties 

reporter David Martin

Saturday morning, 3am. Revellers on Prince of Wales Road are perhaps looking at their watches wondering if it might be time to call it a night. Here am I getting up to go birding.- at 4 o’clock I pull into Sparham Pools convinced I will be the first there. But no, I’m one of the last! I make a mental note that if we don’t already have a collective noun, I propose it be an asylum of birders.

 The best part of two dozen WVBS members gathered for the annual Dawn Chorus and Bacon Butties event at Sparham Pools under the expert leadership of Glenn Collier. Many species were seen. Even more were heard. The highlights for me were the cuckoo calling before we left the carpark. The Garden Warbler that we seemed to follow all round the reserve. The unfortunate baby Great Tit dragging itself out of the water after falling from the nest,and, above all, the family of Bullfinches. What a wonderful sight! Speaking of wonderful sights, the way we tackled that locked gate offered a view to behold. One member was dragged feet first on his back under the wire. Another did a fully fledged gate vault. As for the rest of us, the less said the better.

Rain had been forecast for 6 o’clock and arrived bang on cue. By 8 o’clock we were back in the carpark well dampened in clothing but not in spirit. Bacon butties and hot drinks all round – the perfect ending to a great morning’s birding. Many thanks to Glenn Collier for leading us so well and helping us identify all those songs and calls. And a special vote of thanks goes to Chris Gribble for that beautiful bacon. It really did hit the spot.

Species List :- 48     supplied by Glenn Collier

Wednesday 4th June: Wensum Valley Walk 

reporter Judy Walford

Seventeen members braved what was forecast to be a cloudy and wet evening for a walk between the Rivers Tud and Wensum led by Steve Chapman.

 Although Steve has only been resident in the area for two years, he has gained an in depth knowledge of the varied habitats that we visited.  From the car park in Gunton Lane we saw and heard Song Thrush, Collared Dove, Robin, and many other common species.  We walked to Red Bridge and heard Blackcap and Chiffchaff among others, and a Wren flew across the river straight in front of us.   Steve then led us through to an open grassy “triangle” half way between Red Bridge and the Marriotts Way.  In winter this area hosts Redpoll and Siskin.  We were treated to an “Evening Chorus” and the late sun broke though to lift our spirits.

The River Tud joins the Wensum at Hellesdon Mill, and although we did not go up to the confluence, Steve pointed out a path to it along which Kingfisher and Little Egrets are often seen.  We all observed how clean the River Tud was, and how healthily the wild flowers and greenery were blooming on the banks.

Walking along Marriotts Way, in the direction of Drayton, we spotted numerous Magpies, Swifts, Blue Tits with their young, Long Tailed Tits and Jay. We searched a paddock for Green Woodpecker, with no luck, but soon went off the path to visit an area to the right.  We were treated to the wonderful sight, between the trees, of a Barn Owl quartering the fields.  A Herring Gull was spotted by Glenn, unusual as we are quite far from the sea!

 We walked on further to a site which is private fishing land, so although we could not legally enter, Steve told us that this was a good area for Whitethroat.  After much listening and waiting unfortunately none appeared.  Compensation for this came in the form of Eunice presenting us with a beautiful Moth from the White Ermine family who had just laid a batch of eggs.  We walked further on down the Way and stopped at another field edge and had very close views of a Yellowhammer singing for his supper.  Here we also had good sightings of a Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and various Gulls.  Light was beginning to fade so we walked on down to another track which led to another private field by a wood edge.  It is here that the Grasshopper Warbler can be heard reeling. We were just a little too early on this occasion as Steve had ordered the birds for 9.15pm!

Steve decided to return via the “high road”, a public footpath which leads back to Red Bridge.  We listened and looked for Tawny and Little Owl.  They may well have been around but too far in the distance for us to observe in the fading light.  We had great views of the valley across to Church Farm and Old Costessey House.  There was a beautiful sunset, and we all agreed that the evening has been a wonderful experience.  Proof indeed, that in a busy urban area, beauty and wildlife abound very close at hand.

 41 species in total were found, and our thanks go to Steve for introducing us to what for many is a new and varied birding area.

Wednesday 11th June: A Walk at Bintree Mill             

reporter  Lucy Topsom

We had a large enthusiastic group of birders who were excited at the prospect of exploring part of the Wensum Valley not usually accessible to the general public. Paul Seaman, the owner had kindly allowed us access as he likes to share his passion for conservation with like minded people. It was a lovely warm summers evening as we started walking from the old quarry. Here we saw and heard common birds including swallows, house martins, swifts and a sand martin which Paul had hoped would breed in the sand wall. We walked through the farms meadow heading towards the boat house where we saw 3 mistle thrushes high in the tree tops. As we walked through the marshes, we saw reed buntings and heard reed and willow warblers. Here also a garden warbler was singing. As we approached the boat house, a king fisher was heard, as it flew by. From here we saw marsh harrier, shellduck, cormorants, and red legged partridge were heard together with other common birds. We were also pleased to hear and then see two cuckoos fly past. On the way back to the water mill, we just took in the beautiful scenery and felt privileged to be there looking at teal in the water, and watching a grey wagtail flying over, calling.

When we arrived back to the water mill, we then started the second leg of the walk through the wild flower meadow towards the hill where Paul had planted two woods. One called the Falklands Wood and the other the Centenary Wood. Paul said that the most unselfish thing you could do was to plant a tree. He certainlyhad made his mark here. As we stood at the top of the hill, looking at the view over the farm, you could see the panorama over to North Elmham, and also over to Guist in the other direction, and also the tower in Sennowe Park. From here we saw a buzzard, stock dove, kestrel, yellow hammers, linnets and sky larks added to the atmosphere. We also saw three barn owls quartering over the meadows.

At the end of the walk Paul opened up the water mill which gave us a chance to explore inside, and we thought this was a fitting end to a very special evening. Paul explained to us that he was the custodian of the farm and that it had only had 2 families own the property in 800 years, and the conservation efforts he put in were reciprocated by what the farm had given out; a beautiful unspoilt part of the Wensum Valley. Well done Paul, and we thank you very much for the evening. Our thanks, also to Alwyn who co-ordinated the event.

We saw a total of 48 birds.

Thursday 26th June: Nightjar Evening  

reporter Liz Bridge

Twenty-five members and friends gathered to hopefully see this wonderful bird who had flown many miles to come and entertain us. It was a really beautiful evening and the sky painted many pictures with the red from the setting sun. It was not until about 9.30pm that we heard the first churring quite close to the entrance to the heath. Then, seemingly all around us we were hearing them, to my mind rather like a motor bike sound. The Nightjars were determined not to be seen. Three members stayed with the first bird to churr and the rest of us gradually walked along the track to where we hoped most of the birds would be. Then a female flew this way, and a male the other, bright white flashes on the wings and tail. But that was the lot for the majority of us. But well worth going out for. As the rain started we called it a day and made our way back to the cars.
Before the main party met at 9pm two members bird watched the heath and were thrilled to see a handsome Stonechat, several Yellowhammers, Linnets flying and calling, and then a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying over and a Green Woodpecker yaffling elsewhere on the heath.

28th June: Field Trip to RSPB Sutton Fen

Morning Walk reporter Alwyn Jackson

We were met by the Site Manager Richard Mason who was to lead us around the reserve. The internationally important fen habitat is within the Ant valley and supports many rare plants and invertebrates once common in the Broads area. There are also large areas of nationally scarce saw sedge beds, a plant that is used to make the ridges of thatched roofs as it is so pliable.
Richard led us along the mown paths through the fen and grassland all the time very patiently showing us some of the rare plants and invertebrates he was able to find. He explained how the water quality is maintained by routing the water from the nitrate rich River Ant through a series of reedbeds so that the nitrate levels in the middle of the fen is a thousand times lower than that in the river. We saw where some practical management had saved the globally rare fen mason wasp from extinction locally. Three special banks of a mix of clay and sandy soil had been constructed so they were sheltered from the north with the result that a total of 100 wasps were now breeding. It was explained that the cutting regime varies around the site to encourage plant diversity or to create the right conditions for specific plants. We were shown one of these plants, the fen orchid an unassuming but very rare specimen. Richard explained that at the moment they are cutting the area where the orchid thrives between one to eight years to discover what sort of habitat the plant prefers. He also showed us how shallow the peat is covering the fen in some areas by inviting us to bounce up and down on it. We believed him as the earth shook and swayed below our feet!
Apart from the flora we were fortunate to encounter several Swallowtail butterflies on the wing and watch a Grasshopper Warbler as it “reeled” perched on a prominent plant stem.
Walking around the fen we could hardly contain our excitement as it must be one of the few places in southern Britain where you can get a feel of wilderness. Sinking our feet in the peat bog, smelling the aromatic bog myrtle and observing the rare flora and insect life – it was a real privilege to be able to visit such a unique and beautiful place.
Many thanks to Liz Bridge for coordinating this visit.

Afternoon walk reporter David Knight

Most of the afternoon group were parked up before the morning group had returned but when they appeared with broad smiles on their faces we knew they had had a special morning. With darkening skies it looked like a wet afternoon in store but after some initial rain the weather cleared and remained dry . We saw much of what Richard had shown the morning group. What a magical place. You knew you were somewhere very special. Beautiful Fen Orchids and many other unique plants – the names of which elude me – and lots of Marsh Harriers floating everywhere. Along one of the paths Richard pointed ahead to what he described as one of the best place to see Swallowtails and as we approached up rose several of these Norfolk specialities just to prove him right. As we neared the end of our trip Richard showed us the areas designed to encourage the Fen Mason Wasps but we failed to pick one out. However, a short distance away on the path side one of our group did see one and the iphones and cameras went into overdrive.
At the very end of our walk there is an Information Board announcing Sutton Fen nature reserve with the headline “No access beyond this point – unless you’re a bird,bug or badger” . We returned to the cars – also with broad smiles on our faces – feeling very privileged to have been allowed to visit such a pristine place. Long may it remain so.

A total of 54 species was recorded for the day.

Saturday 27th July: RSPB Lakenheath

reporters Lucy Topsom and Glenn Collier

The weather seemed promising for the day ahead as we met at Weeting at 8.30am. A good number of us arrived and within minutes we had a few birds on the list. Green woodpecker, marsh tit, robin, coal tit, goldcrest, blue tit, woodppigeon and treecreeper. We also heard a blackcap. We soon moved off into the hides. As it was quite late in the year, we were unlucky with wood lark and spotted fly. We were informed by the “Major” that the spotted fly had bred and had moved half a mile down the road. We had marvellous views of stone curlew, stock doves and a few active stoats. One of the group spotted a cuckoo. After coming out from the hides some of the group saw a hobby perched on a nearby fir tree. We were able to get the scope on it to see it’s plumage in close-up. Just before we left, a red -legged partridge was spotted on a hay bale and we also saw buzzard and kestrel over the fields opposite the reserve.

Off to Lakenheath for the second part of the trip. We started by having a quick drink, got snacks in pockets and we were ready for the long walk round the reserve, spotting hirundines on the way. We walked anti-clock wise round the reserve so we started by looking over the “flashes” for ducks, geese and the Great White Egret which was around. Great crested grebe was soon called together with little grebe, widgeon, shoveler, pintail, and Ray spotted some garganey. Snipe was called by Sue and a few of us saw a kingfisher. Moving up a gear, red kite was seen soaring together with a probable juv. Honey Buzzard, but it was difficult to fully ID with the light. The sun was gaining strength as we made our way to the hide at the furthest point on the reserve for our lunch. Bittern was called, and some of us dropped our sandwiches in the rush to get a view, making everyone laugh. On the way back we went into the new hide, and saw an adult and juv. water rail close up which was good for the time of year. On closer inspection of a water lily, David also spotted a red eyed Damselfly. We also saw bearded tits on a grit table and got good, close views. On to the home straight, and ice creams were enticing us back to the visitor centre.
We had a terrific day and many thanks to Sue for organising and leading the walk.

A total of 72 species were recorded on the day.

The Bioblitz at Dinosaur Park

reporter Sue Gale

Five WVBS members volunteered to take part in the Bioblitz, and duly assembled at the back entrance to the park at 6.00 am, well before it became over – run by members of the public. We were escorted around the site by the helpful and friendly Martin Hocking (Animal 4!), and very useful it was as it would be easy to get lost. We had access to the whole park except the golf course, and were impressed with how well kept it all is, and how much there is for the young clients to do.
Many thanks to Glenn and Lucy, without whose sharp ears we would have recorded far fewer birds. Our total number of species was 49 for the four hours we spent there, with the vote for most outstanding find going to the spotted flycatcher that entertained us at the end. Not bad for a single site in early August. We were blessed with perfect weather and all enjoyed the morning very much. Perhaps it should become a two-yearly event?

Saturday 30th August: Summer Walk at Holme Dunes

reporter – Lin Pateman

As twenty members gathered for the late summer walk at Holme Dunes NR, we scanned the marshes and the sea beyond, needless to say we quickly had a list of nearly twenty bird species before leaving the car park! There was a cool breeze and everyone sensibly layered up to coast watch from Gore Point. It was a great spot to call the birds across the wide vista, giving plenty of time to try and get everyone on the gannets, common scoter, mergansers, fulmar and whimbrel as they passed by. Sandwich, little and common terns, they just kept coming and there was much discussion about how to “put someone on the bird”, using the clock face for direction being the most easy to understand. There was of course, extra time needed when standing at a different angle to the caller. We enjoyed a great opportunity to sea watch with as many ‘scopes as possible in use, no rarities turned up, however much excitement was generated with talk of whinchats and wrynecks sighted the day before. The species list increased as we strolled the dunes and wandered into the NWT reserve, with new facilities some lingered over refreshments longer than others. A standoff with bins at the ready ensued across the “okay corral” (car park) and our trusted chairman was quickest on the draw, forcing our leader’s group to speedily recap flasks and surrender! Up in the NOA (Norfolk Ornithologists Association) reserve we had excellent close views of speckled wood, red admiral, migrant hawkers and a stunning hummingbird hawkmoth on buddleia. On handing over our sea watch records to the warden, we were delighted to hear reports of a new plant species for the reserve and viewed a magnificent moth mullein (verbascum blattaria) along the woodland track, just where the winter tidal surge had halted. In the same area, only now hot sunshine prevailed, some members delighted in a rare viewing of a natterjack toad, well hidden beneath a log pile. We were fascinated watching strange looking insects egg-laying into wood wasp holes and later identified these as Ichneumonoidea sp. Our final bird list was 80 species and once again, a brilliant club day out, our thanks to Phil and all.

Sunday 30th September: Field trip to  Cley NWT

reporter Lynda Vincent

On a misty morning 10 members met at the Cley beach car park. By the time most of us arrived at the appointed time , four keen members had already had their scopes up and were busy sea watching.. Despite the mist, which gradually cleared, there was a good variety of birds. Small groups, up to 10 Gannets, of various ages seemed to be undecided as to where their next stop was, as some were flying east to west and the rest in the other direction. A red throated diver was viewed close by and another further out. A razorbill was another good sighting, and a few geese flew by, and a grey wagtail flew over. After an hour, coffee called and there were several discussions as to where we should organise the rest of the day. Nobody was keen to walk all the way round the reserve, so we drove to the Visitor centre for coffee and use the new temporary toilets. An advantage as we didn’t have to wait for the centre to open.
Refreshed we next visited Bishops hide to see what was on Pat’s Pool. We were rewarded by a reasonable selection of waders and ducks , including black tailed godwits, common snipe and several ruff of different sizes. The walk to Wallesly Hills gave us distant fleeing views of a whinchat. Listening and watching carefully in the bushes we had hoped to see a firecrest, but were successful in good views of a chiffchaff and also a quick view of a great spotted woodpecker and a female blackcap. The weather had now warmed up, the sky was brightening and windproof clothes discarded and we returned to the centre for a pleasant picnic lunch at the tables outside .
Walking to Daukes hide we had excellent views of three Bearded tits who even stayed still long enough for photos to be taken!. They really were performing, my best view ever. From the hide we saw golden plover, two little stints in the distance and some pintails almost out of eclipse plumage, and several other waders and ducks. Close to the hide a water rail gave tantalising part views as it wandered in and out of the reeds. After another break for tea, and enough walking we drove to the East Bank car park and walked toward the sea. At least 10 curlew were spotted and in the far distance a greenshank and some knot. During the day there we had occasional views of raptors including a hobby and the usual marsh harrier.
As a newish birder, it was a great day, very much enhanced by the willingness of the experienced members to share their knowledge and ensuring that I saw all the birds. Thanks to all and especially Steve Chapman for leading an excellent day.

A total for the day of 79 species was recorded.

Sunday 26th October – The North Norfolk Coast – Co-ordinated by Phil Borley

Twenty one folk turned out to go to Holkham due to the exciting list of bird sightings there recently. Highlight of the day being the drake surf scoter, not close views but clearly seen by all in Holkham Bay. The winds all day made smaller species a bit elusive and a collective decision was made to move on to Titchwell for the rest of day where most got on a flypast bittern. A most enjoyable day, nice to meet some new members and thanks to all those that attended.

A total of 80 species was recorded for the day


Sunday 30th November – Strumpshaw and Buckenham – co-ordinated by Mary Walker

reporters Lucy Topsom & Glenn Collier

On a damp still morning 15 members met at Strumpshaw carpark. Almost immediately a gold crest and a great spotted woodpecker were noted amonst some common birds and we hoped this was a good omen. We crossed the railway line onto the reserve and took a moment to look over Reception Hide. Various ducks were noted here, a small burst from a cetti’s warbler, a reed bunting in the side bushes and a few assorted gulls and a heron added to our list. Onwards, through the woods, we had a nuthatch, and good views of marsh tit and a treecreeper. From here we headed off on the path leading to Fen Hide, where we encountered a chinese water deer, a water rail was calling, bearded tit were pinging and lapwings flew overhead. Then down to the the river, where we saw marsh harrier and in the bushes and trees adjacent to the river, spectacular views of bullfinches. We saw a few redwings across the river on the far bank and on the water a great crested grebe. Here we turned left along the river bank towards the waterpump. Nearby, snipes flew over as did meadow pipits, and a small group of egyptian geese overhead with one shelduck and a distant buzzard. Heading near the woods we had a jay and magpie and also heard and then saw a red legged partridge.
Back to the car park and onwards to Cantley but no sign of the
bean geese but quite a few pink feet. Also spotted here was a distant peregrine in a tree. A pied wagtail went over and then a skylark was singing and a wonderful group of golden plover flew over and eventually landed for us to scope. At last, the sun came out.

Back to cars and on to Buckenham for a spot of lunch. Here a linnet was seen flying over, house sparrows were cheeping, and a field fare was heard. Off to Buckenham marshes across the level crossing and here we spotted another peregrine along with groups of widgeon and a few ruff were spotted and scoped. Among the pink foot and canada geese, we were pleased to see a few white fronted geese.

Evening was approaching and off we went for the corvid roost. As the corvids were coming in to the fields ready to pre-roost, we watched an albonistic corvid being attacked by the others. The fields and pylon wires became crammed with corvids, the sound was overwelming, then they took off in a black swarm towards the woods to roost. We walked back to our cars by torchlight, knowing that we had a great, satisfying winters day. Better than sitting indoors! Our thanks go to Mary for leading this walk.

Birds seen included: Great spotted woodpecker, robin, goldcrest, blackbird, wood pigeon, mallard, jackdaw, moorhen, coot, wren, marsh harrier, cormorant, reed bunting, chaffinch, redwing, fieldfare, blue tit,marsh tit, pheasant, treecreeper, goldfinch, great tit, dunnock, carrion crow, rook, black-headed, herring, great black- backed, lesser black -backed and common gull. Long- tailed tit, coal tit, cetti warbler, gadwall, bullfinch, tufted duck, teal, widgeon, heron, snipe, collared dove, stock dove, greylag geese, magpie, jay, kestrel, water rail, bearded tit, lapwing, shoveler, great crested grebe, ruff, white- fronted geese, shelduck, egyptian geese, meadow pipits, swan, feral pigeon, greenfinch, pied wagtail, red-legged partridge, house sparrows, peregrine, pink -footed geese, skylark, golden plover, linnet, canada geese, nuthatch, buzzard.
A total of 70 species were seen during the day

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