Winter 2003/04 in Norfolk


This systematic list has been compiled mainly from sightings reported on BirdGuides between November 2003 and February 2004 inclusive. However, additional records made in the county during the same period have also been included. It is not meant to be a definitive list of all the winter reports in Norfolk, and the inclusion of any record does not necessarily mean that it will be accepted by the national or county rarities committees.

A fly-by White-billed Diver was noted at three points along the north Norfolk coast in mid-November, but seawatching was otherwise unspectacular. Record counts of well over a hundred Little Egrets were made during the winter at the Holkham roost, while Pink-footed Geese also achieved record counts for Norfolk with in excess of 100,000 wintering in the county. A second White-tailed Eagle was reported flying in off the sea at Stiffkey in January, following one at Hunstanton in the autumn. Eastern warblers continued to be reported in November with a scattering of Pallas's Warblers, Yellow-browed Warblers, Hume's Warbler and Dusky Warblers. However, the best bird of the winter period was found at the very end of February, when a male Pine Bunting was identified at Choseley drying barns. It was only the second Norfolk record and proved to be a great attraction to birders from all over the county and much further afield.

Red-throated Diver

Maximum counts were 318 east at Blakeney Point and 258 past Sea Palling in January.

Black-throated Diver

Only 3 were reported during the winter – singles at Titchwell on Nov 6th, Holme on Jan 24th-31st and past Sheringham on Feb 22nd.

Great Northern Diver

Apart from 2 at Holme in February, singles were present at Titchwell, Holkham, Blakeney Point, Cley, Sheringham and Great Yarmouth in Nov/Dec.

White-billed Diver

One was reported flying east at Cley, Salthouse and Weybourne on Nov 16th. The ninth county record.

Red-necked Grebe

Very few sightings this winter with just singles at Titchwell, Burnham Overy and Holkham in Nov/Dec, and inland on the R Bure at Lamas on Jan 3rd and at Pentney GP on 24th.

Slavonian Grebe

Reported from just five north Norfolk coastal localities with maximum counts all in November – Titchwell (12), Burnham Overy, Holkham (3), Blakeney Point (3) and Cley.

Black-necked Grebe

One flew past Mundesley on Jan 2nd and one at Tottenhill GP on Feb 19th.


Three reports of ‘blue’ phase birds in January: 2 flew past Mundesley on 2nd, one off Blakeney Point and 5 dead on tide-line and one south at Great Yarmouth, all on 29th.

Sooty Shearwater

One past Sheringham on Nov 1st.

Manx Shearwater

Only reported past Sheringham, where 2on Nov 1st and one on Dec 21st.

Leach’s Petrel

One flew east at Holkham on Nov 24th.


Highest counts past Mundesley with 81 on Jan 1st and 105 on 2nd.


One at Cley on Dec 9th, with a small influx at the turn of the year with one at Lynford GP on Dec 28th, and one past Mundesley and 3 south at Gorleston on Jan 1st.


During the winter singles reported in north Norfolk at Holme, Titchwell and Cley, and in Broadland at Hickling, Martham, and Breydon Water, with up to 3 at Strumpshaw in February.

Night Heron

An adult flying over Whitlingham Lane CP on Dec 30th was presumably from the feral colony at Great Witchingham.

Little Egret

A new county record was set in November when 117 roosted at Holkham, thereafter the monthly maxima were December 50, January 66 and February 58. Birds feeding at Warham and Stiffkey, or flying west to the roost, peaked at 51 in November. In northwest Norfolk, maximum counts were Snettisham 2, Thornham 7 and Titchwell 6. In the east up to 15 were present at Breydon Water in January and one at Buckenham.

Great White Egret

One in November, probably the same bird, was reported flying east at Burnham Overy on 10th, west at dusk at Warham on15th (presumably joining the Holkham roost on both occasions) and at Wells on 24th.

Purple Heron

One was reported at Little Fransham on Dec 4th.

White Stork

A presumed escape at Filby Broad on Nov 15th.

Bewick’s Swan

Herds of up to 66 were noted arriving in off the sea at several north and east coast localities in Nov/Dec. Up to 3500 at Welney during the winter, elsewhere the only three-figure counts were up to 400 roosting at Hickling Broad and a peak of 277 at Catfield in January. A herd of 80 flying east over Norwich on Feb 18th may have been early birds returning to the Continent, or birds from Welney joining those in Broadland.

Whooper Swan

Welney hosted a maximum of 2300 in November, while in Broadland the highest winter counts were at Catfield 50 and Horsey 25.

Tundra Bean Goose

Welney held its usual small flock peaking at 9 in January, while in northwest Norfolk up to 8 accompanied the flocks of Pinkfeet and in east Norfolk up to 8 were present at Breydon Water and 17 near Reedham in January.

Taiga Bean Goose

The regular wintering flock at Cantley and Buckenham peaked at 111 in January, with the first arriving on Nov 7th. One was also reported at Horsey in November.

Pink-footed Goose

Over 100,000 overwintered in Norfolk (a county record) with maximum site-counts at Brancaster 30,000, Burnham Market 35,000, Wells 30,000 and Warham 25,000 in the north and at Cart Gap 3000, Martham 8000, Eccles and Rollesby 2000 each, Breydon Water 17,100 (a site record) and Halvergate 8000 in the east.

White-fronted Goose

The only sites to hold three-figure flocks were Holkham 350, Heigham Holmes 330, Breydon Water 400, Reedham 500 and Cantley/Buckenham 200. 1-2 birds of the Greenland race were noted at various sites in northwest Norfolk.

Lesser White-fronted Goose

An adult was at Holkham on Jan 2nd.

Ross’s Goose

Two adults, one of which was ringed, joined the roving flocks of Pinkfeet in north Norfolk, one of them also appeared in the east of the county in January, at Martham, Breydon Water and near Reedham, and in February at Halvergate. In addition a Ross’s x Pink-footed Goose hybrid was present, while a pair of ringed, escaped Ross’s Geese were at Stiffkey during the winter.

Canada Goose

A Todd’s Canada Goose was present with the Pinkfeet in northwest Norfolk from Dec 20th to Jan 24th. A Cackling Canada Goose was with the feral Barnacle Geese at Buckenham from early December.

Barnacle Goose

Apart from a presumed feral flock at Buckenham that peaked at 74 in December, very few were seen this winter. Sites that recorded more than 1-2 were limited to Stanhoe 12, Holkham 3, Stiffkey Fen 7, Cockthorpe 5, Hickling Broad 30, Breydon Water 4 and near Reedham 4, while 5 flew west with Pink-footed Geese at Cley on Jan 10th.

Brent Goose

1-3 birds of the Pale-bellied race were recorded at a few localities, mainly in the northwest of the county, with 16 at Holkham on Feb 1st.

Black Brant

The first of the winter was located at Terrington on Dec 4th, thereafter 1-2 adults were identified intermittently at various coastal localities between Snettisham and Salthouse through to the end of February.

Ruddy Shelduck

A remarkable group, albeit presumed feral birds, of 15 were found at Bittering GP, near East Dereham on Jan 17th, peaking at 17 on 28th, with the last 2 reported on Feb 11th. No more than ten fully-grown Ruddy Shelducks had been seen together in Norfolk before. Elsewhere one at Cley on Nov 7th and up to 6 at Briston on Feb 7th/8th.


A female at Cley on Jan 12th.

American Wigeon

A drake at Holkham from Jan 11th to Feb 24th, was also seen at Burnham Norton on Feb 4th-7th.

Green-winged Teal

Drakes at Hickling Broad on Jan 10th-26th and Buckenham from Jan 11th to Feb 3rd. The latter bird may well have been the same recorded at Breydon Water on Feb 6th.

Green-winged Teal: Buckenham Marshes, Norfolk. (Photo: Ron McIntyre)

Red-crested Pochard

Up to 6 at Martham Broad from Nov 29th to Dec 8th.

Ferruginous Duck

At Welney a drake was present on Nov 1st-4th, a female on Dec 5th/6th and a drake again intermittently from Jan 11th to Feb 7th. A bird that was probably the same drake was recorded at Tottenhill GP on Dec 14th-17th, Watlington on Dec 19th/20th, Denver Sluice on Jan 17th and Lynford GP on Feb 21st-29th.

Ferruginous Duck: Welney WWT, Norfolk. (Photo: Nigel Blake)


In common with all the sea duck, very few Scaup were recorded this winter with singles at Snettisham, Mundesley and Great Yarmouth, and 3 flying south at Gorleston. Singles were also present inland at Hickling Broad, Barton Broad, Tottenhill GP and Fowlmere.


150 flying west at Blakeney on Dec 3rd and 118 past Mundesley on Jan 2nd were the only significant numbers reported.

Long-tailed Duck

Apart from up to 30 at Holme in Jan/Feb and 8 at Titchwell in November, 1-2 only recorded at Holkham , Blakeney Point and Gorleston.

Common Scoter

The highest site-counts this winter were 1000 at Holme and Titchwell, 200 at Holkham and 136 at Winterton.

Surf Scoter

A drake flew east at Sheringham on Nov 1st.

Velvet Scoter

By far the largest number reported was a party of 100 at Holkham on Nov 22nd, otherwise maximum counts – Titchwell 15, Blakeney Point 8, Sea Palling and Winterton 6.


Maximum count of 60 at Snettisham in February.


Maximum of 4 at Tottenhill GP in December, otherwise 1-2 at Snettisham, Holme, Titchwell, Mundesley, Great Yarmouth and Gorleston around coast , and inland at Martham Broad, Hickling Broad, Broome GP, Sparham GP and Bittering GP.

Red-breasted Merganser

Inland 3 at Denver Sluice in January.


As usual highest counts inland and mainly in the west of the county – UEA Broad 12, Sparham GP 10, Lynford GP 7, Nunnery Lakes 11 and Denver Sluice 8, but 8 flew past Mundesley on Jan 2nd.

Ruddy Duck

Only reported from Hickling Broad 6 and Tottenhill GP 3.

Red Kite

At least 2 and possibly 3 different individuals probably involved in the following sightings – in November at Upper Kelling on 4th and Wighton on 7th-15th, Stalham and Worstead on Jan 4th and flying west at Cley, Stiffkey Fen and Holme on Jan 10th.

White-tailed Eagle

A report of one flying in off the sea and continuing south at Stiffkey on Jan 29th.

Marsh Harrier

Impressive numbers now overwinter in Norfolk, no doubt a reflection of the very healthy county breeding population. Maximum roost counts of 27 at Stubb Mill in December and January, elsewhere up to 10 at Strumpshaw and 3 at Titchwell. The vast majority of daytime sightings are also from Broadland.

Hen Harrier

Now appears to be less numerous during the winter in Norfolk than Marsh Harrier, with maximum roost counts of 4 at Titchwell, 12 at Warham Greens, 5 at Stubb Mill and 5 at Roydon Common.

Common Buzzard

Maximum counts of 8 at Wighton in November, 3 at Cley in January and 4 in the Massingham/Grimston/Flitcham area throughout the winter.

Rough-legged Buzzard

1-2 in the Massingham/Grimston/Flitcham area from mid-November to the end of February, with 3 at Massingham Heath on Feb 18th-21st. These birds may well have accounted for additional sightings in northwest Norfolk at Snettisham, Burnham Market, North Creake and Holkham. In east Norfolk, singles at Great Yarmouth on Nov 25th and Horsey on Feb 15th.

Crested Caracara

The escape first seen at Sheringham in the spring, was once again reported at Kelling Quags on Nov 15th and Hickling on 20th.


1-2 recorded at scattered coastal sites throughout the winter, and inland at Martham Broad and Welney. Up to 3 roosted at Warham Greens and 2 at Stubb Mill.


1-2 recorded around the coast, mainly in north Norfolk, but also at Winterton. Inland sightings from Flitcham, Strumpshaw, Cantley/Buckenham, Haddiscoe, Fersfield and Welney, also 2 at Stubb Mill roost in January.


A most unusual report of one in Holkham dunes on Nov 7th.

Golden Pheasant

Up to 5 at Wolferton and 5 at Wayland Wood throughout the winter.


A maximum of 20 was present in east Norfolk during the winter and a party of 5 flew over Sculthorpe on Dec 10th.

Black-winged Stilt

The long-staying male remained at Titchwell throughout the winter.


Up to 400 were present at Breydon Water in November, with maximum counts of 268 in December, 191 in January and 92 in February. Elsewhere in November 18 at Cley and 3 at Titchwell, one at Snettisham in January and up to 7 at Titchwell and 57 at Cley in February.

Grey Plover

A highly unusual inland record of one at Wacton Common, near Long Stratton in January.

Little Stint

One at Cley on Dec 3rd.

Purple Sandpiper

Very few reports this winter, with just one at Cley in November and one intermittently at Titchwell.


Up to 102 at Titchwell, 7 at Cley, 15 at West Somerton, 22 at Breydon Water and 16 at Cantley/Buckenham.

Jack Snipe

Very few reported – one at Titchwell and 2 at Waxham in November, 1-2 at Strumpshaw throughout the winter and one at Walpole St Andrew.


A very impressive count of 129 in fields near Sea Palling on Feb 27th during a period of snow.

Black-tailed Godwit

Highest counts in November with 70 at Cley and 850 at Breydon Water. Few double-figure counts in mid-winter, but 695 at Breydon Water in January and 200 at Welney in February.

Spotted Redshank

Maximum site-counts – Titchwell 6, Cley/Salthouse 2, Breydon Water 4 and Welney 1.


Singles at Morston and Blakeney Point, and 2 at Breydon Water.

Green Sandpiper

Reports of 1-2 wintering birds (all inland) at Martham Broad, Cantley BF, Strumpshaw, Sparham, Dickleburgh, Langmere, Lynford GP and Nunnery Lakes.

Grey Phalarope

One at Salthouse on Nov 13th and 2 at Cley on Dec 15th.

Pomarine Skua

Apart from 2 at Mundesley in November, all other reports relate to single birds at Sheringham, Sea Palling, Winterton and Gorleston.

Arctic Skua

Two at Sheringham and 3 at Mundesley in November were the only reports.


Up to 4 past Holme, 7 past Sheringham and 6 past Mundesley in November, and a good count of 17 past Sheringham on Dec 21st. Elsewhere, 1-3 at Holme, Blakeney Point, Winterton and Gorleston during the winter.

Mediterranean Gull

As usual, the highest numbers were noted between the piers on Great Yarmouth beach with monthly maxima of November 20, December 38, January 31 and February 35, while nearby up to 26 roosted at Breydon Water. Elsewhere in the county 1-2 were present at Thornham Point, Titchwell, Kelling WM, West Runton, Overstrand, Cart Gap, Waxham and Hickling Broad.

Little Gull

Highest numbers reported were 100 past Sheringham on Dec 15th, and past Mundesley 118 on Nov 1st and 391 on Jan 2nd.

Yellow-legged Gull

Small numbers reported from various sites around the county with maximum counts of 4 at Breydon Water and 5 at Saddlebow.

Caspian Gull

Up to 3 at Saddlebow in January and singles at four other sites.

Iceland Gull

An adult at Great Yarmouth on Jan 3rd and a first-winter at Blackborough End tip on Dec 7th and Feb 20th.

Glaucous Gull

Three arrived in the county at the turn of the year – a first-winter at Hunstanton on Jan 1st, a second-winter that frequented the area between Blakeney Point and Weybourne from Dec 31st to Feb 2nd, and again at Salthouse on 25th and Sheringham on 27th, it was also seen at Holkham on Dec 31st, and one at Blackborough End tip on Dec 31st/Jan 1st. First-winters were also present at Saddlebow on Feb 9th and 12th, and at Ditchingham on 28th/29th.

Glaucous Gull: Weybourne, Norfolk. (Photo: Dr Kevin P. Elsby)


A total of 560 flew past Mundesley on Jan 2nd.


The highest count was of 70 past Sheringham on Feb 22nd.

Little Auk

The only report was of one at Winterton on Nov 23rd.


One flew past Mundesley on Jan 1st.

Barn Owl

An impressive count of 8 in view at one time near Burnham Overy Mill on Jan 22nd. One at Hanworth New Lake on Jan 14th showed some characteristics of the dark-breasted form.

Bengal Eagle Owl

An escaped bird of this species frequented Eaton Park, Norwich from Jan 30th to Feb 1st.

Long-eared Owl

Singles reported from Titchwell and Warham Greens.

Short-eared Owl

Up to 2 at Stiffkey, 4 at Breydon Water and 2 at Welney, otherwise singles reported from a few coastal sites. One arrived in off the sae at Great Yarmouth on Dec 28th.

Shore Lark

Up to 26 were present at Holkham throughout the winter. Elsewhere 2 at Cley, Salthouse and West Runton in November.


Late birds on Nov 19th at Salthouse, Sheringham, Overstrand (2), Happisburgh, and Caister

Richard’s Pipit

Singles flying east at Wells on Nov 1st, inland at Aylmerton on 6th and Holme on 7th.

Red-throated Pipit

One reported at East Ruston on Nov 21st.

Water Pipit

Small numbers present throughout the winter at Cley, Strumpshaw and Cantley/Buckenham, with a noticeable increase in February when maximum site-counts at Burnham Norton 11, Holkham 5, Cley 15, Hickling Broad 6, Strumpshaw 25 and Cantley/Buckenham 16.

Pied Wagtail

The roost at Thickthorn Services, Norwich held 1850 on Nov 30th.


Recorded from widely scattered areas of Norfolk throughout the winter period although few in February. Highest counts in the Norwich area with up to 59 at Hellesdon, 20 in the City centre, 47 to the west of the city and 18 at Postwick and Stoke Holy Cross. Elsewhere double-figure counts at Overstrand 18, Great Yarmouth 15 and Gorleston 10.

Black-bellied Dipper

One was reported to be present at Letheringsett from mid-December until Feb 18th.

Black Redstart

A small influx in early November with singles at Cley on 1st, Holkham Gap on 5th, Heacham, Holkham Park, Wells (2) and Blakeney Point on 6th, and Holme and Great Yarmouth cemetery on 7th. In mid-winter, 2 at Heacham and one at South Denes, Great Yarmouth in January.

Common Redstart

A late bird at Holme on Nov 7th. Very few previous November records in Norfolk.


Multiple sightings during the winter at Snettisham 2, Holme 2, Cley 7, Gramborough Hill 6, Winterton 4, Breydon Water 2 and Buckenham 7.

Northern Wheatear

A late bird at Breydon Water on Nov 8th.

Pied Wheatear

The female found at Paston on Oct 31st remained until Nov 1st. The tenth county record.

Desert Wheatear

A first-winter was at Burnham Overy on Nov 9th/10th and a female at Blakeney Point on the same dates. Only ten previous county reecords.

Cetti’s Warbler

During the winter reported at Burnham Overy, Holkham, Cley/Salthouse 3, Martham Broad, Breydon Water, Buckenham 2, Strumpshaw 5 and Whitlingham Lane CP.

Dartford Warbler

A female or first-winter at Snettisham CP on Dec 7th.


The only overwintering ones reported were 2 at both Weybourne and Sheringham.

Pallas’s Warbler

A total of 9 was reported in early November – Wells on 1st and 4th (2), inland at Felbrigg on 1st, Winterton on 2nd, Waxham on 6th/7th, Holme on 7th, Stiffkey and Trimingham on 8th/9th and Thornham Point on 9th.

Yellow-browed Warbler

A total of about 10 was reported, the last in late December – Wells up to 3 on 1st-6th, Cley on 1st, Winterton on 7th, Warham Greens on 8th-11th, Stiffkey on 8th (possibly same bird as at Warham Greens later that day), Holkham 9th, 23rd and 27th, Wiveton on 9th and 15th, and Great Yarmouth cemetery from Nov 30th to Dec 24th.

Hume’s Warbler

One was present at Great Yarmouth cemetery from Nov 30th to Dec 4th.

Dusky Warbler

No less than 5 were found in mid-November – Warham Greens on 9th-11th, Sidestrand on 9th, Caister on 9th/10th, Wells and Lessingham on 11th.


Reported between December and February at Titchwell, Cley, Sheringham, Melton Constable, Strumpshaw, Whitlingham Lane CP 2 and UEA Broad 3.

Siberian Chiffchaff

Birds showing the characteristics of this race were reported at Wells, Hickling Broad, Cantley BF and Broome GP.

Willow Warbler

A very late bird reported at Wells on Nov 11th. There have been very few November records in Norfolk.


A scattering of November records from both around the coast and inland, including 3 at Holkham, 4 at Wells and a total of 7 at the two Great Yarmouth cemeteries; and mid-winter reports from Holkham 3, Ridlington, Bradfield Hall Farm, Great Yarmouth cemetery, Burgh Castle 2, Earlham Road cemetery, Norwich, Lynford Arboretum and Welney.

Bearded Tit

Highest counts reported were 10 at Burgh Castle and up to 26 at Cantley BF.

Great Grey Shrike

At least 3 individuals reported – Roydon Common on Nov 5th and 9th, Horsey on Dec 12th and Sutton Fen on 20th-24th, and Grimston Heath on Jan 4th and Massingham Heath on 10th.


One showing the characteristics of the eastern race at Salthouse on Nov 18th and 21st.

Hooded Crow

Singles reported at Waxham in November and at Syderstone on February 15th.


Appears to have been rather scarce this winter with a maximum of only 50 at Thetford in February.


Largest numbers reported at Strumpshaw 60, UEA Broad 150 and Lynford 50.


In north Norfolk, up to 40 at Thornham, 55 at Titchwell and 130 at Holkham, and in the east of the county 20 at Winterton and Breydon Water.

Common (Mealy) Redpoll

Just three reports received – Titchwell, Cley 2 and Whitlingham Lane CP.


Apart from one at Holme on Nov 5th, only reported from the usual two Breckland sites, but good numbers at Lynford Arboretum in February with a peak of 25 in mid-month, and up to 3 at Barnham Cross Common.

Lapland Bunting

Passage birds reported at a number of coastal localities in November with a maximum of 4 at Kelling Quags and 8 at Happisburgh. The highest mid-winter counts of 6 at Holme, 9 at Choseley, 15 at Stiffkey and 5 at Breydon Water.

Snow Bunting

Maximum site-counts during the winter – Holme 60, Titchwell 80, Holkham 200, Blakeney Point 175, Cley/Salthouse 130, Happisburgh 150, Cart Gap 60, Caister 200 and Great Yarmouth 83. Also reported inland at Aylmerton on Nov 27th and up to 40 at Choseley on Feb 11th/12th and 13 on 28th.

Little Bunting

One at Walsey Hills, Cley on Nov 7th-28th.

Little Bunting: Walsey Hills, Norfolk. (Photo: Dr Kevin P. Elsby)

Pine Bunting

A male at Choseley on Feb 28th/29th. Only the second county record, but the first to be initially found in Norfolk, the previous one having flown across the county boundary from Suffolk.

Pine Bunting: Choseley Drying Barns, Norfolk. (Photo: Dave Hawkins)

Corn Bunting

The largest wintering parties were both in the Fens, with 90 at Southery and 70 at Welney.

Written by: Moss Taylor