Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Oct 20th Sheringham, Wells Woods and Holkham Pines

My sea watching view at Sheringham
A new day was dawning as my train travelled its way towards Sheringham with the sun rising in the horizon. I have come for a spot of sea watching before my parents arrive to take me to Holkham. Sea watching alone was tricky. Even with a few sea watching outings under my belt over the years, I still find it hard to ID things that are more or less dots in the distance. I was glad that eventually another sea watcher, a young lad, arrived to join me at the shelter overlooking the North Sea. He seemed to know one distant dot from another and with his help, we were able to find a lot of birds flying over the waves.

Gulls flying in the distance
Together, we found; brent geese, cormorants, gannets, auks (guillemots and razorbills we think), terns (either arctic or common), 4 male eiders, common scoters, red-throated divers, great black-backed gulls, herring gulls, black-headed gulls, turnstones, rock pipits, skylarks and redwings. There was also a line of 10 brent geese led by a wigeon. This amused me seeing a small duck lead several larger birds like a short person leading a group of butch men to battle.

Brent Geese (distant shot)
More Cormorants and a Herring Gull
A fishing boat attracting the attention of gulls
Great Black-backed Gull
My parents arrived to pick me up. They are on a short holiday in North Norfolk to celebrate my dad's birthday, which is today. I have heard that several rare birds have been hanging around Holkham Pines and Wells Woods for over a week, which includes a red-flanked bluetail, and I really wanted to see what the fuss was about. As I can't drive, getting to see these rare birds by myself is difficult. Being autistic and unsure of how or where to see these things is also added to the mix to my frustration as a birder. I don't even know if these birds are even there still as I only get data about what is around Norfolk a day later. My parents were very generous in taking me to Holkham and Wells Woods today. But if you are reading this and you know me, I would love to know what is about and who knows, I may want to tag along too!

Goldcrest being camera shy
Anyway, Holkham Pines and Wells Woods are beside each other. The red-flanked bluetail was apparently at the far end of Wells Woods, showing well to an audience of many twitchers. The only thing is, it is quite a walk to get to the other end of Wells Woods from Holkham. So when we started walking down the path through Wells Woods and learned about how far it is to the bird from a passer-by, we turned back. There was no way Mum and I was willing to walk that far. Our plan now was to walk to the first hide at Holkham Pines before heading back to the car park for lunch. There were a lot of goldcrests and long-tailed tits during our walk today and they were very 'tame' as they showed themselves well on the nearest branches. It was still hard to photograph them though.

Goldcrest again
This Long-tailed Tit thought this stick was a great place to hide!
The back view of a Long-tailed Tit
Red Admiral
Little Grebe
Little grebes were yodelling loudly on a large pond. This amuses my mum. We also saw jays, buzzards, a kestrel and a marsh harrier. From the hide, a great white egret was feeding at the back of a larger pond, while a flock of redwings were flittering between the bushes close to the main path. During lunch, we watched a flock of pink-footed geese settling down on the field adjacent to the car park with a chorus of 'pink-wink-wink' calls.

Great White Egret
Pink-footed Geese
The Pallas's Warbler crowd (more beyond this lot)
After lunch, we went to Wells to walk from the other end of Wells Woods for that bluetail. It was still a long walk and Mum couldn't walk any further. So I left my parents to rest on a bench, while I went in search of the crowds of twitchers. I was told by a passer-by that the bluetail, which looks a bit like a robin with a blue tail from Eastern Europe, has not been showing since a couple of hours ago. But I was also told that a Pallas's warbler was showing well by a bench just a little further down the path. When I got there, a large crowd surrounded the bench. Annoyingly, the news was that the warbler was gone again. Just my luck! I waited for a few minutes, but all I managed to see were goldcrests. When you have a scarce European migrant like a Pallas's warbler that is the size of a goldcrest and looks similar to a goldcrest but without the yellow crest, it is kind of frustrating when all you can see are goldcrests.

The Red-flanked Bluetail crowd
Unsuccessful with the Pallas's warbler, I went to the spot where the bluetail was last seen to check if it will appear again. With another crowd of twitchers from across the country keeping their eyes peeled for it, would my luck be in this time? No! All I could see, you guessed it, were goldcrests! This time there were coal tits joining their company. It was a waste of time, I failed to see any rare migrants today. That does not mean it wasn't a waste of experience. This expedition to see rare birds has taken me to somewhere I have never been before, met a lot of friendly people who helped me and I saw some great wildlife which may not be rare, but were still good to see. I arrived by train with a sunrise and went home by train with a sunset. It is just another day in the life of an autistic bird enthusiast!


  1. Hi Sean, me and Denise went to Wells today between about 2-4 pm and had pretty much the same experience as you. Drew blanks on everything! Never mind maybe we'll both have better luck next time.

    1. That was pretty much the same time I was there for. Didn't see you though.