Birding at the Obs

Over 300 species have been recorded in the Observatory recording area since its inception in 1962. Thanks to the wide range of habitats, there is always something of interest to see throughout the year. In winter, large flocks of Pink-footed Geese (see across), Brent Geese and Wigeon can be found on the grazing marshes, together with less common wildfowl, and there are often good numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover. Marsh Harriers are seen throughout the year, and Avocets are seen daily in summer. A wide range of commoner wader species can be found on the beaches, and high tides often produce large numbers of Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot. Flocks of Snow Bunting (see near right) and Twite (see far right) have been features of recent winters, and both Peregrine and Merlin hunt throughout the area.











The spring and autumn migration periods provide the most diverse and exciting birding at Holme, with Common Redstart, Wheatear, Pied Flycatcher and Spotted Flycatcher recorded regularly. Unexpected species also occur; for instance, both Subalpine Warbler and Alpine Accentor (see across) were recorded in spring 2014.







October is the most consistently productive month in terms of visible migration, with the middle two weeks usually producing the most birds, depending on the weather patterns. During October Robins, Goldcrests and Blackbirds are usually the most common passage birds but all kinds of species will pass through on their way south to their wintering grounds. Winter thrushes move at this time, and in some years Ring Ouzels have been seen among movements of Blackbirds in October. Finches passing through include Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Bramblings, Siskins, Lesser and Mealy Redpolls, and Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings also move in their hundreds.





Barred Warblers are recorded in most autumns, and Yellow-browed Warblers now seem to be annual at Holme in late September and October. Firecrests often pass through, usually in the latter part of the October, and Pallas’ Warbler is recorded in many years. Other possible phylloscopus warblers such as Radde’s and Dusky can also be recorded during this month.

In 2013 a male Bluethroat (left) was the highlight of the autumn migration, but a Red-breasted Flycatcher, Great Grey Shrike (below) and Leach’s Petrel were also features.

Sea-watching from either the dunes or the sea-watching hide is interesting throughout the year, with Common Scoter and Gannet recorded in most months. Divers, grebes, Common Eiders and Red-breasted Mergansers can be seen in winter, and the summer is often dominated by large numbers of terns. Sea-watching can be especially exciting during autumn, with many migrants of all kinds arriving if winds are in the northern quarter. Tern numbers are decreasing by this time, but there is often a great deal of skua activity stimulated by strong northerly or westerly winds, and shearwaters are regularly observed. Duck passage is considerable, with Wigeon and Teal moving consistently throughout October, often with less abundant species such as Pintail. Auk activity also becomes more visible; Little Auks and even Puffins can be seen with the right weather conditions.

The NOA has been involved in a systematic sea-watching project since 2005, undertaken in conjunction with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). Members and other visitors to the Observatory are encouraged to participate in this project.

Both Long and Short-eared Owls can arrive in off the sea during October, with over 50 famously recorded at neighbouring Titchwell RSPB in one afternoon, on the 13th October 2011. Other October specialities can include Hawfinch, Woodcock, Olive-backed Pipit, Richard’s Pipit and Little Bunting.

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Norfolk Ornithologists Association, registered charity no. 267670, Broadwater Road, Holme Next The Sea, Hunstanton, Norfolk, PE36 6LQ