Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Monday, 3 October 2016

Burnham Overy Dunes, Norfolk 0700-1400 (with Richard Farrow)

The day dawned clear and cool with a minimum of 4 degrees, rising to a warm 18 degrees by the afternoon.  The wind was a moderate northerly.
I met my very good friend Richard Farrow at 0700 on the A149 coast road, our plan, to walk north along the track to Burnham Overy Dunes and then walk east through the dunes to as far as Holkham Pines.  A spot check, and food, at one of one of the many deep, habitat-filled depressions in the dunes was followed by a long walk west back to Gun Hill, before making our way back to the path which led back to our starting point. 
There was little evidence of passage seen today, however, migrant species were found, despite one other birder we met stating "Not much about, just Meadow Pipits", there was in fact plenty to see with notable species as follows:

Pink-footed Geese - thousands moving at dawn
Cormorant - hundreds west all morning
Little Egret
2 Marsh Harrier
1 Kestrel
4 Black-tailed Godwits
1 Bar-tailed Godwit
5+ Snipe
34+ Golden Plover
Grey Partridge
10+ Swallows
400+ Starling flock (including an albino bird)
Meadow Pipit - very common
Skylark - including one south
Song Thrush - several migrants present
2 Redwings over south and heading inland
6 Stonechat
Reed Buntings

My arrival on the A149 coast road coincided with a truly fantastic Norfolk spectacular of thousands of Pink-footed Geese flying against the Orange dawn skies.  The sight and sound of this phenomena is one of the main Ornithological events which attracts so many to the North Norfolk Coast in autumn and winter.
Pink-footed Geese at dawn over Holkham, Norfolk 3rd October

Once we reached the north end of the path we entered the dunes where much cover exists for tired migrant birds, today, however, it appeared fairly quiet on the migrant front with the exception of a single Goldcrest, lots of Linnets and Reed Buntings, and up to 3 Stonechats on fencing.
High on one of the taller dunes sat a Kestrel surveying its surrounds, it attracted the attention of several mobbing Meadow Pipits.
Kestrel sitting on one of the taller dunes 3rd October
Dune spot check and food break
Probably one of my highlights of the day was sitting down and overlooking a deep depression with a variety of thick habitat for cover.  It was clearly evident that the number of Song Thrushes present were migrant birds, also, several Robins were seen here.  Late Warblers included small numbers of Blackcap and Chiffchaff.
It was here that 2 Redwings passed overhead calling and continuing their journey inland.
Overviewing a deep depression in the dunes.  Here, a few Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, several Robins, Song Thrushes, and 2 passage Redwings were seen.
Following our spot check, Richard and I then took the long walk west to Gun Hill.  The walk was dominated by Meadow Pipits, although checking the now distant shoreline, some wader and Gull species seen including Knot, Oystercatcher, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, and the huge Great Black-backed Gulls.
Gun Hill was fairly quiet although 3 Stonechats were found wandering around some low-growing cover.
Redshank 3rd October
The walk south along the path back towards our starting point produced 34+ Golden Plovers around a small patch of water.  With mud exposed following the receding tide, a number of Redshanks and about 4 Knot fed.
A large flock of 400+ Starlings wandering the dunes and nearby grazing included a highly conspicuous albino bird.
Finally, back at our cars, a lovely female Marsh Harrier showed well in good light above the marsh.
As always, my thank goes to Richard for his company  on our mornings/early afternoon birding.


  1. "despite one other birder we met stating "Not much about, just Meadow Pipits"......

    What he actually meant was.... he didn't see the birds he was after!!
    I find that attitude so sad.... your bird count shows clearly that there was tons around!! Some people should really learn to take the blinkers off and appreciate nature.

    I love the geese picture... we've a print here by Bruce Pearson entitled "Pinks coming in".... an artist's interpretation of your photo... a wonderful sight!

    The shere quantity of birds you saw proves that there was loads about!!

    Poor albino Starling... hope it survives! We are awaiting the return of the plovers here... a tiny [40+] flock of Lapwings were twinkling about the other day... but it has been so dry, I think that there are probably slim pickings at the moment.

    I also like your picture looking into one of the dune 'slacks'.... always a good spot to search.... out of the wind, for one thing!
    It is in those slacks that the best Pyramid Orchids occur...and the Bee Orchids.... it is also a good place to find Natterjack Toads.

  2. Hi Tim

    Great to get your comments again. I hope you are well.
    Yes I do find it a bit annoying when birders say "Not much about" when clearly there is.

    Meadow Pipits are indeed abundant and seen moving about in flocks, however, taking time out to watch a particular individual reveals a beautiful bird.

    I think the albino Starling was seen recently at Holme, further west of Burnham, I suppose its chances might improve if we have a snowy winter...should be able to hide ok, otherwise, a highly conspicuous target for a passing raptor species.

    I love to find a nice spot to break for food, as with this habitat-filled dune slack...always movement to see which often prevents you from having that next bite of a sandwich.

    Thanks Tim once again.