Fieldtrip to Leighton Moss and Sizergh Castle – 18th November 2012.

Nuthatch (c) Martyn Jones
It was a cold start to the morning with fields by the side of the motorway being white with frost as we travelled to the grounds of Sizergh Castle for our first stop.  Some of our members were already there when we arrived and soon pointed out a group of trees where they had seen Treecreeper.

As we watched this area we could see a number of small birds flying up and down from the ground where they were feeding and saw Nuthatch, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Coal Tit and other members of the Tit family.

Hawfinch (c) David Shallcross

Someone from the other group shouted they had just seen a Waxwing so we all moved across to join them. We checked the area where they had pointed out where there was a large Holly bush with lots of berries but no signs of the Waxwings.

Not long after this another bird higher up, near the top of a large Hornbeam Tree was spotted and when checked through the telescope was found to be a Hawfinch, the bird we had been hoping for.

Eventually three birds were near each other feeding on the Hornbeam seeds and although once again the light wasn’t at its best and with looking towards the sky you couldn’t clearly see all their colours, I think we had a better view than last year when we saw one bird in this same area.

Waxwing (c) Martyn Jones
On now to Leighton Moss and we had only just stepped out of the cars on the car park when a bird flew into one of the trees. After a closer look we could see this again was a single Waxwing which I think most of us managed to see. To the best of my knowledge I think this bird is an LOS first for our site visits.

As we walked to the public causeway we passed a small group of Long Tailed Tits moving their way through the bushes and from the public hide we could see several species of duck such as Goldeneye, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard and Teal, a few Cormorant were on a small island and while we watched all this a Marsh Harrier flew low across the reed beds until it dropped out of sight which put to flight a number of the ducks. Greylag were seen from “Lillian’s hide” and some of our members that arrived before we did said they had seen Bittern, Kingfisher, Snipe, Buzzard, Bullfinch and Treecreeper.

Pintail (c) David Shallcross
From here we went on to the coastal hides and as we walked towards them from the car park we found a patch of Candlesnuff fungi growing on some moss covered logs.

Once in the hides we saw Heron, Little Egret, Lapwing, Redshank, had heard Curlew, saw Pied Wagtail and to add to our duck list some Pintail and a Red Breasted Merganser that was having a little trouble with a fish it had caught as it tried to turn it the right way round so it could swallow it.
Eventually it managed to do this and one more fish ended up as dinner.

On our way home we made one last stop near Warton Crag and at first there wasn’t much to see. After a while, suddenly dozens of Jackdaws began to fly into the nearby trees, a little after this the birds started flying round and a few at a time headed for the rock face. The air was now filled with the characteristic Jackdaw sounds but over all this we heard the loud “cronk” of a Raven and managed to pick it out and eventually saw it land on a rocky ledge. 

Peregrine Falcon (c) Martyn Jones
Not long after this a Peregrine Falcon appeared over the top of the crag but did not stay long as it was being mobbed by Jackdaws.

More and more of the Jackdaws had now flown to various crevices in the rock and as they settled themselves down for the night it was also now time we headed for home.

Thanks to Al for organising the trip and as always to Joan and Jim for my lift.

Jeff Hurst

Final Indoor Meeting of 2012

Marsh Harrier
Just a quick reminder to say that tomorrow evening's (Friday 14th December) presentation talk in the Derby Room at Leigh Library is 'Sky Dancers' by ornithologist and conservation expert Keith Offord.

The 'Sky Dancers' in question are Harriers and these magnificent birds of prey are perhaps one of the most enigmatic and interesting groups of birds.

Of the eleven species of harrier in the world, Britain is host to three, Hen Harrier, Montagu's Harrier and Marsh Harrier and Keith will explain the present state of health of the populations of these three breeding species.

It's a presentation not to be missed and doors open at 7:15pm with the meeting starting at 7:30pm. This is the last meeting of 2012 and as usual everyone including non-members are welcome.

Indoor meetings will resume in the new year on 4th January 2013 with the first fieldtrip of the year being to Marshside RSPB and Hesketh Out Marsh RSPB on 13th January.  Again, everyone is welcome to bring friends and family.

Full details of these and future events are on the meetings and fieldtrips pages.

Gift Aid

A gift aid form will be included the next L.O.S. newsletter. Could members who are able to claim gift aid please return the completed forms to me (my address is on the form).

Thanks, Raymond

Photo of the Week

Here's a stunning Short-eared Owl photo by David Shallcross:

If you like to see some more of this great set of photos, visit David's Flickr site here:
David Shallcross Flickr Album

Message from ERAP

This message was received via our online form this week:

We are an ecological consultancy based in Preston and are looking for competent bird surveyors who can carry out breeding, wintering, and resident bird surveys in the North West region and possibly elsewhere. If you know of any person (s) that would be suitable or interested  I would be most grateful to hear from you.

With thanks and regards

Brenda Gemmell

ERAP  Consultant Ecologists

L.O.S. September Newsletter

The L.O.S. Newsletter for September 2012 (July and August sightings) is now available online here:

The newsletters can also be viewed, printed, downloaded and saved from the Reports Page.

Photo of the Week

I thought I'd start a 'Photo of the Week' section off today so that LOS members can show us what they've been up to in between meetings and fieldtrips.  I'll get the ball rolling with a photo of a Jay taken today in my Tyldesley back garden through closed patio windows:

If you have a photo which you'd like to see published here, just e-mail it to me at and if you have a Flickr site, send me the address and I'll add it to our website.

L.O.S. Members' Evening

Just a quick reminder that this Friday (23rd November) is L.O.S. Members' Night from 7:30pm onwards at the Rugby Club in Leigh.  There will be a buffet at £4 per head payable on the night and a presentation of birding photographs will be given by L.O.S. Chairman David Shallcross.

If you haven't booked a place yet please get in touch with either David or Tony for ticket availability.

Would all those members who are attending please consider bringing a small prize for the raffle which contributes to the Society's funds.  A great night will be had by all.

L.O.S. receives WBHN 2012 Award

The Society has been recognised by Wigan Borough Environmental Heritage Network for its contribution to the promotion of the Borough’s local environment and heritage.

The award was received on behalf of the Society by Chairman David Shallcross and Vice Chairman Tony Bishop. The Society is represented at Network meetings by honorary member Dave Wilson, David and Tony. 

At the event David and Tony gave a slide presentation showing how Pennington Country Park was formed by coal mining subsidence, and how it has developed over time to its present status.

David Shallcross

Ornithology and Conservation in the Leigh District 1938-1956

LOS Conservation Officer Roy Rhodes has provided this link to the LeighLife website on which there is information by Tom Edmondson about the history of birding in the Leigh area from his perspective.

On the same website there is also a collection of photos and cuttings about the chequered history of Pennington Flash and the flooding which used to occur and that seems relevant too.  There is also a section on what was then called 'Astley Flash' east of the tip at Astley Green.

I've only scanned it at present, but I think I'll be printing it out as it looks a really interesting read to find out what the birding and habitat was like in the past. Here's the link again to make sure you don't miss it!

Ornithology and Conservation in the Leigh District 1938-1956

Peat Extraction at Chat Moss Refused!

LOS Treasurer Raymond Meredith, who is a volunteer for the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, has forwarded this e-mail about the peat extraction at Chat Moss:

Hi Everyone,

Fantastic news! We have just heard, after a very long fight, that the appeal to allow more peat extraction on Chat Moss has been refused! A huge well done to everyone involved in such a long and difficult campaign. Although this is just one site, we have high hopes for this to become a test case for the rest of the country and possibly beyond! 

You can read the news story here:


Lindsey Poole
Marketing and Communications Manager
The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside

This is great news for all who signed the e-petition.

Birds of the Wayoh, Turton and Edgworth Reservoirs

Barn Owl with a kill
Tonight's LOS presentation in the Derby Room at Leigh Library was given by John Barlow and was entitled 'Birds of the Wayoh, Turton and Edgworth Reservoirs'.  John had come in at very short notice to replace the original speaker and we are very grateful that he made it as apparently he was nearly struck by lighting earlier in the day.  We're so glad he wasn't for all our sakes!

John has been a birder since he was eight years old and as he is now in his 40's, he has amassed a great wealth of experience in the field.  Indeed in this area alone he and fellow local bird photographer Clifford Heyes have recorded no less than 132 species from 1980 until today.

A classic Nuthatch shot
When he was young, John used to draw the birds he saw, and he eventually progressed to taking photographs on a Polaroid camera which was found to be very unsatisfactory, but it was the best he could do at the time.

John only bought his first digital DSLR camera in 2010 and so he is very reluctant to call himself a bird photographer yet. However the sheer quality of his photographs belies this and we think he does himself a great disservice.

Kestrel hunting Sand Martins
The talk was a good mixture of information, humour and stunning photographs and the time passed very quickly indeed.  John showed us photos of the two main types of hide that he uses to get close to his subjects one of which features bullet-proof camouflage material - he's obviously taking no chances!

He also told us a funny story about the time a Whinchat kept perching on his head whilst he was wearing a camouflaged drape and so he couldn't actually get a photograph of it!

John clearly spends a long time setting up his shoots and will often visit a site many times to get a good photograph. He is very lucky to live close the reservoirs in the Wayoh area, and so he's able to get out there fairly often.

One of John's interests is shooting birds with man-made objects (often rubbish or other discarded items) or in human environments.

This is something that many photographers would try their best not to do, but John manages to get some quirky images in doing so and it is rapidly becoming one of his 'hallmark' styles.

Here's a humorous photo of a Little Owl on an electricity pylon - he clearly can't read!

The photographs featured here are all from John's website John Barlow Photography where all the images shown at tonight's presentation can be seen again. In addition, greetings cards and charity calendars featuring his photographs can be previewed and bought.

The presentation was finished off with a traditional sunset image: a fantastic photo of Darwen Tower.

A great presentation by a nice chap with stunning photographs - what more could you want for an evening out?

Martyn Jones

Please feel free to leave a comment about this post by clicking on the word Comment below this line and following the instructions which appear.

Join the BTO for £1

As a special incentive to give the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) membership a try, you can join today for just £1 by direct debit and enjoy six months BTO membership right through until June 2013. For more details click here.

As a BTO member you will receive the full welcome pack, copies of the BTO magazine every other month, 20% discount on Bird ID and survey techniques training courses and contact with your regional BTO representative.

With more members the BTO could do so much more of the survey and science work that is so important for informing conservation.

Seems like a bargain to me - click here to apply.
Martyn Jones

Burton Mere Wetlands Trip – 7th October 2012

It was a cool damp and misty start to the day but as the mist cleared we were left with a lovely sunny day. Unfortunately this is not always the best weather in which to go birding as we shall see ...

Shaggy Inkcap (Joan Disley)
Our first stop was at the RSPB reserve at Burton Mere Wetlands and when we arrived we were met with the wonderful sight of a good sized group of Shaggy Inkcap fungi growing in the car park. The other good thing about this was the way they had their own parking place as they were growing neatly within the markings put down for a vehicle. Another fungus we saw later was Sulphur Tuft although looking more of an orange colour as it was now past its best.

As we were trying to photograph the Inkcaps we could hear a Buzzard not far away and soon saw a Nuthatch. A little later this bird could be seen making regular visits to some feeders which were also attracting various members of the Tit family plus Chaffinch and Goldfinch.

These feeders were also favourites of two Brown Rats that kept coming out to feed on the seed that had spilled to the ground. As we were leaving I noticed some more feeders on the other side of the path and under these were five rats feeding. Around the first hide we saw Tufted Duck and two Little Grebes, one of these being a full sized young bird now as big as the adult bird that was feeding it. Other more common birds were Coot, Moorhen and Canada Geese.

Distant Ruff (Martyn Jones)
While walking to the furthest hide we could still see the last few flowers on the Alkanet and Red Campion but Jim and I stopped for a few minutes to take in the perfect mirror reflections of some reeds and trees in the still water of one of the pools.

As we were looking at this, two Grey Wagtails flew across the far end of the water, shortly to fly back across the reeds the other way. This was repeated several times with the birds sometimes landing out of view, other times one might land on one of the tree branches that were overhanging the water.

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly (Joan Disley)
At the far hide birds such as Reed Bunting were seen as was Shoveler, Gadwall and in waders Ruff, Snipe and Black-tailed Godwit.

But it was now time to move on and as we walked back to the car park we managed to see the day's only butterfly when we watched a Small Tortoiseshell for a few minutes on a Thistle.

After going back to the visitor centre, some members decided to take the short walk to the viewing screens on the other side of the reserve.

There was not much to be seen here except for a distant bird of prey.  We debated for at least 20 minutes about whether it was a Merlin or an immature Kestrel and I'm not sure what we actually settled on in the end!  It was a very long way off and the heat haze didn't help when looking through a scope.  After giving it very careful consideration, a local photographer however did say he thought it was a Merlin, so we'll go with that.

Pied Wagtail (Martyn Jones)
After a quick drink back at the car park, a short drive brought us round to the Inner Marsh Farm which is the original RSPB site here. As we ate our sandwiches in the small car park, we could see a Pied Wagtail on the roof of the old farm building.

There is usually more to see from the hide here and with better views as you are not looking directly into the sunshine. However, this time most of what we could see in front of the hide was Teal and Lapwings. As we arrived at the hide we were met by a flyover of some of the Greylag Geese and while in the hide we spotted two Redshank near the edge of the water.

Our attention was then drawn to a Kestrel on the ground that looked to be eating something until another Kestrel flew in and they started to fight over whatever was on the menu.  Here I also spotted the last few flowers on a Foxglove plant and a cluster of bright red shiny berries on a Bittersweet plant. 

Female Stonechat (Martyn Jones)
Instead of this site, some of our members went onto Denhall Lane which overlooks Burton Marsh, where they saw a Hen HarrierBuzzard and another Kestrel plus a pair of Stonechat as well as a Green Woodpecker flying up from the marsh and over to the nearly trees.

When the two parties met up again only the Stonechat, Kestrel and a Buzzard were showing, as well as a single Robin.

A Burton Mere Kestrel (Martyn Jones)
We then went onto Parkgate, a little further up the Wirral coast but this is much the same sort of area and unfortunately these days it's so silted up and overgrown with saltmarsh vegetation you can’t even see the water anymore, it's that far away.

Black-headed Gulls for Eric
However, we did manage to see a Little Egret, Heron, a Cormorant flying past and another Kestrel, so these birds seem to be doing very well in this area.

A Skylark was also heard and one last bird especially for Eric was the Black-headed Gull which he is very keen to be notfied about if you see any.

Thanks once again to Al for organising the trip and to Eric for the lift.
Jeff Hurst

Leasowe Lighthouse - built in 1763
Martyn and Sarah actually continued on to Red Rocks at Hoylake and finally Leasowe Lighthouse at the 'top' of the Wirral to see what the high tide had brought in.  Although the tide didn't seem to be very far in at Red Rocks there were decent views of Oystercatchers, Curlew, Sanderling and various Gulls.  At Leasowe the tide was fully in and lapping on the promenade walls, so we were a little late as it's best to get there an hour or so before the high tide.  However, using a scope on some sandbanks which were exposed, there were decent views of all the birds seen at Red Rocks in much greater quantities (such as a few hundred Oystercatchers) as well as Ringed Plovers and the occasional Turnstone.

Martyn Jones

Spurn Point Trip - 2nd September 2012

Location of Spurn point on the Humber Estuary
This was the first trip of the new session and in theory should have been a good trip with some not so common birds to be seen. In actual fact it turned out to be a bit disappointing with not many birds to see, mainly due to a high pressure system over the UK.

However, we did do a lot better with the weather than expected as we had sunshine which had not been promised so it ended up quite warm.

From the car park and in fact all day there were a lot of Swallows flying round and also a number of House Martins. On one nearby building there was a whole line of House Martin nests just under the eaves along its front and we saw a few birds still entering the nests.

We had Pied Wagtail and later Joan saw a Grey Wagtail; House Sparrow and a number of Starlings were seen through the day.

As we walked along a path, heading for a distant pool all we were seeing were birds such as Blue Tit, Great Tit and Blackbird but we did eventually see Linnet and a few members saw a Wheatear perched on a fence when level with a gap in the hedge.

Over towards the sea there were a group of Sandwich Terns and an unusual sight of a Heron flying over the sea. As the pool came into view we could see a number of white birds on some small islands and when we asked a couple walking away from this area they told us they had some good views of four species of Tern so it was looking promising. We made our way straight there but when we arrived there wasn’t a Tern in sight, all there was on the pool was 2 Mute Swans and 2 Cormorants. After a wait 2 Redshanks flew in and a small group of Sandwich Terns flew round the pool and one did land but the others flew away again.

Spurn Point from the air
We decided to make our way back to the cars to eat our sandwiches and while we were walking along we were seeing wild flowers such as Rest Harrow, Common Fleabane and Field Bindweed with its pink flowers that have white stripes on them plus some Sea Holly nearer to the sea and the Hawthorn hedges we passed that now had lots of berries beginning to turn red.

After we had eaten we planned to drive along to the far end of the “point” but this didn’t work out as the road was closed because it had been damaged due to bad weather.

We then decided to walk part way along the road to see what was on the estuary side but as the tide was out all the birds were spread out over a large area and a lot of the time we were looking into the sunshine so didn’t have a good view of the ones nearer to us.

What we did pick out were Curlew, a number of Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, the odd Turnstone, a lot of Shelduck, 2 Little Egrets and a single Swift flew past us.

At least the sunshine brought out other things of interest such as some Common Blue butterflies and earlier we had seen Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock. Also earlier Eddie spotted 2 small lizards enjoying the warmth of the sun. From their small size and dark colour I would think they were young ones.

A quick check in another usual spot for birds but this again gave us nothing so we decided to head for home as it was a long journey back.

Thanks to Al for organising the trip and of course to Joan and Jim for a safe journey both ways.

Jeff Hurst

Lancashire Bird Report 2011

Copies of the Lancashire Bird Report for 2011 are now available priced only £6 from Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve and Brockholes Nature Reserve.

Alternatively, please contact Raymond Meredith at any LOS Derby Room Meeting on a Friday night, such as the one next week.

Next week's presentation is 'Northumberland Through the Seasons' by Tim Melling. Doors open at 7:15pm for a 7:30pm start and everyone is welcome.

Please note that a nominal door charge of £2 is applicable to non-members.

Winter Trip Organiser Wanted

Winter Trip to Norfolk
We have a winter trip every February which Phil Tosh has organised over the last few years and who has done an excellent job. He has now decided to hang up his cap, so I wish to thank Phil and his wife Jackie for the splendid times we all have had during their stint.

I am now looking for someone to replace this dynamic duo! So come on, somebody put their hand up please!
David Shallcross



Eddie King has now kindly agreed to organise the LOS Winter trip to Cromer this year.  Full details are available from him at this address:

Birds of Gambia Presentation - 21st September

A fantastic evening's entertainment was brought to us by LOS member Dennis Atherton, with his superb photos and commentary on the Birds of Gambia, a small African country with a wealth of bird life. It has some 660 species which is amazing for the country's size.

This was Dennis's first experience of carrying out a talk and show, but boy didn't he do well - a resounding spontaneous applause erupted from the 50 or so people present. This was followed by an enthusiastic vote of thanks from Vice Chairman, Tony Bishop.

The Chairman and Committee send their grateful thanks to Dennis who gave his time and services free of charge for the benefit of the club.  Click here to see some of his Gambia photos on Flickr.

David Shallcross - Chairman

Birds in Greater Manchester Bird County Report 2010

Copies of the superb Birds in Greater Manchester Bird County Report 2010 are now available from Chairman David Shallcross at a price of £7.  The report has taken a new glossy format with sightings, articles and colour photos from many of our Society members.

A copy of the report can be bought at the Friday night meetings in the Derby Room at Leigh Library or directly from County Bird Recorder Ian McKerchar who may be contacted at 42, Green Avenue, Astley, Greater Manchester M29 7EH and at

L.O.S. July Newsletter

LOS Species Recorder - a rarity !
The July 2012 L.O.S. newsletter (May and June sightings) is now available.

Thanks to editor Joan Disley, Eddie King and all the other contributors for producing this excellent document.

Members who would like to receive their copy by e-mail or in the post should contact Joan or David.

Please note that receiving your newsletter electronically helps reduce paper and postage costs to the Society.

10 Rare Men

Radio 4 program about the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC). If you missed this earlier this year, have a listen to it here:

Or you can download it here: 10 Rare Men (please forgive the advertising)

LOS Calendar Update

I've just updated the new LOS online calendar to include some local trips run by the RSPB at Marshside and Burton Mere Wetlands as well as our own fieldtrips and meetings.  I've only included trips that don't clash with ours and most of them are either free or quite cheap (e.g. £1.50).  You can see the LOS calendar by clicking on the icon to the right of this post.

If you'd like to get regular automatic updates and reminders about events on the LOS calendar, just send me an e-mail ( and I'll tell you how you can receive them on your phone or computer.  You can even browse the whole calendar.

Also, if you'd like to contribute to the LOS Twitter page, send me an e-mail and I'll explain how it works - I hope this will be of use for reporting and receiving bird sightings on your phone when you're out in the field without needing to know any text numbers.  Of course 'tweets' can also be sent to and from your computer when you are at home.

Any questions, please ask.

2012-13 LOS Membership Subscriptions

Greenshank at Pennington Flash
(Photo: Martyn Jones - 07/09/12)
It's that time of year again!

Joan has asked me to inform everyone that subscriptions are now due and payable to Raymond Meredith (our new treasurer) at the first meeting of the new year on Friday 7 September in the Derby Room at Leigh Library.

The cost of different types of membership can be found here:
LOS Membership Fees.

If paying by a cheque in the post, please e-mail Raymond ( to obtain his postal address and make the cheque payable to Leigh Ornithological Society.

Thanks, Martyn.


Leigh Ornithological Society's 2012-13 fieldtrip and meetings programmes have now been published !

Just click either of the links below to see the relevant schedules:
Please note that some fieldtrips may incur a small charge and there is a nominal entrance fee for non-members to meetings.

Kent Winter Trip -  February 2012

The Making of Pennington Flash

If you missed this when it first appeared on TV in the 80's here's a version to catch up on it:

Turn your speakers on if you want sound and then click the button in the centre of the video to play.
You can also double-click on the video to make it play fullscreen.

Twitter Feed

The Society's First Meeting

How about this photo from 1971 showing some of the first members of Leigh Ornithological Society:

Hands up if you're on this photo!

LOS and Local Birding Calendar

This is a calendar of both LOS and other local birding events. Please click on any of the event titles for more detailed information. Either version of the calendar can be printed out by clicking the 'Print' icon.

Norfolk Trip - February 2010

Thursday 18th February:
The locations of the Society’s winter trips are never difficult to decide, the problem being to arrange suitable accommodation at a reasonable cost to all.  This year our trip took us to Norfolk where we have been many times in the past 30 years, usually staying near Wells-next-the-sea; this time we ventured further along the coast to Cromer.  This enabled us to include in our itinery bird sites further south, including Hickling and Burton Broads.

After a reasonable journey, although misty for much of the way, our first meeting point was Hunstanton to view the coastal birds.  Fulmars are present here all year as they nest on the cliffs below the viewing points, gulls, auks and divers are often present either at sea or passing by. Some of the group had called in at The Wolferton Triangle before-hand and saw Golden Pheasant; this is England’s premier site for seeing these birds.

Next stop was Tichwell RSPB reserve, not to be missed by any discerning birder who makes the journey to Norfolk; from the car park to the sea is a revelation on every visit whatever the season.  Although a major reconstruction of the sea defences for the reserve are in operation at this time, we still noted over 50 species of ducks, waders, raptors, and passerines while we were there.  Marsh Harrier, Barn Owl, Avocet, and Spotted Redshank are virtually guaranteed.  On the sea and shore at the end of the reserve we had good views of Oystercatcher, Grey and Ringed Plovers, Turnstone, and Sanderling, then the added bonus of what at first glance appeared to be an oil slick out at sea - it was in fact a flock of at least 5000 Common Scoter.

Arriving at the Hotel by 5pm, settling in, a drink at the bar, the daily call-over of birds seen, followed by a most enjoyable evening meal made a great beginning to what developed into a wonderful long weekend away.  

Species for the day 87

Friday 19th February:
First of all the full English / Norfolk to set us up for the day, then a briefing from Phil on the suggested places to visit.  All agreed, having seen a report of Snow Buntings at Salthouse, that site was to be the priority.  Delight on arrival - over a hundred were feeding around the car park.  Turnstones mixed in with the feeding frenzy and didn’t seem to notice about 20 excited birders, photographing and watching at very close quarters.  Onward to Cley nature reserve which, on arrival, looked disappointing from the species board so we went on to Stiffkey to look for sea birds.  The sea itself was very rough so we didn’t stay long there either, but long enough to watch a Purple Sandpiper picking up a worm from the path.

The wind was lazy and it cut through us so having seen the forecast for brighter weather after 11am we went inland to Holkham Park and its sheltered woodland.  This is a deer park, with woods covering about twenty acres.  It supports the usual common birds and all three woodpecker species, but only Green and Great Spotted were encountered, along with Nuthatch, Tree Creeper, Jay, and most of the titmice.  Flocks of Fieldfare & Redwing were about, and down on the lake we saw Great Crested Grebe, Dabchick, Egyptian, and Greylag geese, Pochard and Tufted Ducks.  A Tawny Owl was heard calling but not seen.

As predicted the day became brighter with a lighter wind for our visit to Holkam Gap.  Lady Anne’s Walk is usually an excellent area to see large flocks of geese but, strangely, not today.  The pine wood at the end of the walk is right on the edge of the beach which attracts birds for shelter.  Goldcrest and Coal Tit were seen in passing but the quarry here was Shorelark; daily sightings had been reported over the last few weeks so the chance of spotting them was good.  After some time and effort not one showed, but a lesson was learned - regardless of the weather get out there and look before the locals with their dogs have chance to flush every thing.  However rewards from here were flocks of Redshank, some Meadow Pipits and Skylarks, and a distant Marsh Harrier.  Returning through the pine wood two Woodcock were flushed and on the edge a Barn Owl quartered the fields.

Species for the day 85 combined total 105

Saturday 20th February:
Today was our trip to the Broads and the reason for staying as far east as Cromer.  The broads are large bodies of open water surrounded by deep fringes of dense reeds.First stop was Burton Broad, the associated car park with facilities, then a half mile walk to the well-constructed boardwalk that takes you through the reed bed and willow scrub and out in the open to a viewing platform. 

Greylags were close by, rafts of Tufted and Pochard were here, male and female Golden Eye were already pairing up, a Cetti’s warbler attracted everyone’s attention with its typical but surprising shout, then a distant Bittern flew low over the water only to disappear into the reed cover.  Marsh Harrier again was noted and Marsh Tits were calling as we returned to our cars for the next venue, Hickling Broad and Stubb Mill.

Again, a car park and facilities but a little further to walk this time (about a mile), but it is a rewarding walk with lots to take in as you travel the country lane to the specially set up viewing point for the Harrier and Crane roost.  Patience is the virtue here but there is always interest around; Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Merlin, and Barn Owl put in an appearance before the star guests arrived.
As dusk approaches Marsh Harriers come in every few minutes and Cranes, usually parties of four to six, fly in to lesser degrees.  Before you know it darkness falls and fifty or so satisfied birders trudge homeward.

Species for the day 77 combined total (Norfolk) 117

Sunday 21st February:
After another super breakfast, it was planned to visit the N.W.T reserve at Holme and RSPB Snettisham but unfortunately snow began to fall, and most people decided that it would be best to head home in case it got worse.  A wise decision as it did, and progress was slow from Cromer to King’s Lynn as the snow came thick and fast.  The remainder of the journey was clear and fortunately all arrived home safely.

Still birding on the way home, four of the group saw c100 Golden Plover fly over, two intrepid members ventured to Rutland Water and added Smew and Tree Sparrow to the list, while another pair saw Red Kite.  We felt a grand total of 120 species wasn’t bad for a long weekend away, admittedly 3 species were out of the county of Norfolk, but well worth a mention don’t you think?

High on our list of enjoyment was the excellent menu, the quality and presentation of food, and cheerful service we received from the hotel staff; the group can highly recommend The Virginia Court Hotel, Cliff Avenue, Cromer.

On behalf of the group, Anne and myself we send our thanks to Phil and Jacquie Tosh for the work that went into organising yet another memorable trip.
David Shallcross