Norfolk Monthly Review


What an amazing month in Norfolk. December 2002 will probably go down as the best ever with two additions to the county list and potentially a third that was not conclusively identified. Top spot must go to the juvenile female Pallid Harrier that joined the roost at Warham Greens for the last week of December. A sub-adult Black-browed Albatross flew past two north/east coastal sites on the last day of the year, while a tern close inshore at Holkham Bay for ten minutes was probably a Forster’s Tern. Unseasonal reports of Great White Egret and Black Stork were unexpected in December, and the Lesser Yellowlegs remained at Cantley BF for the first week of the month. A female Surf Scoter was located amongst the scoter flock off east Norfolk, while a female Two-barred Crossbill was found with the Common Crossbills at Sandringham. The year ended with a most obliging Yellow-browed Warbler at Stiffkey that had delighted observers each day for the previous fortnight. What will 2003 bring to this superb county?

Red-throated Diver

The only counts to exceed double figures were off Sea Palling, with a maximum of 200 on 21st. Unfortunately oiled corpses continued to be found on the tideline with a total of 26 at Blakeney Point on 13th. Inland singles were present on the River Thurne near Martham, at Breydon Water and Horsey Mere.

Black-throated Diver

Only reported from Holkham Bay with one on 1st and 2 on 21st.

Great Northern Diver

Two at Burnham Overy Staithe on 1st and singles at Mundesley on 11th, Stiffkey on 25th and Titchwell on 26th.

Red-necked Grebe

Remains scarce this winter with just three reports – at Mundesley on 13th and Titchwell on 21st and 28th.

Slavonian Grebe

Up to 3 intermittently off Titchwell and one at Blakeney Point on 13th.

Black-necked Grebe

One at Saddle Bow on 31st.

Black-browed Albatross

A sub-adult flew east past Mundesley at 0830 and south past Scratby an hour later on 31st. If accepted, this will become the first albatross to be specifically identified off Norfolk. The four previous records of albatrosses have all been in October/November and is the first for 15 years.

Sooty Shearwater

Singles past Sheringham on 7th and 11th, and 2 past Mundesley on 11th. Only three previous mid-winter records.


The oiled bird remained in Wells Harbour until 22nd.


Up to 2 at Strumpshaw and one at Hickling during the month.

Little Egret

Only reported between Burnham Deepdale and Stiffkey. The highest counts involved 46 at the roost at Holkham FM on 22nd and 43 flying west to the roost over Warham Salt Marshes during the late afternoon of 27th.

Great White Egret

One flew northwest along the beach at Sea Palling on 17th, continuing the impressive run of records this year.

Black Stork

One circling over Tharston on 9th and 10th. The twentieth county record and the first in winter.

Whooper Swan

In the absence of any reports from Welney, the highest count involved 40 at Catfield on 17th.

Bewick’s Swan

No reports from Welney. Highest counts from Catfield where the herd increased from 58 on 10th to 175 on 26th. Elsewhere the largest count was of 60 at Stalham on 5th.

Taiga Bean Goose

Up to 123 at Cantley Marshes throughout the month.

Tundra Bean Goose

Two at Cley on 21st (reported by the non-birding wife of a well-known resident Cley birder as “Two hundred Bean Geese”, instead of “Two Tundra Bean Geese”, which resulted in a minor stampede to the reserve!), presumably the same 2 at Stiffkey on 27th - 29th and one on 31st, up to 3 at Brancaster on 27th – 29th, one at Catfield on 27th and 8 at Welney on 26th – 29th, representing a minor influx into the county.

Pink-footed Goose

Four-figure counts of 5000 at Flitcham, up to 6000 near Brancaster, 3000 at Wighton, up to 2500 at Waxham and 1400 at Catfield.

European White-fronted Goose

Highest counts of 100 at Holkham, 82 at Martham Broad on 17th and 63 at Cantley Marshes on 28th.

Greenland White-fronted Goose

Singles reported from Flitcham on 14th and Brancaster on 28th.

Lesser White-fronted Goose

An adult of unknown origin at Holkham FM on 8th.

Ross’s Goose

Adult reported with the Pink-footed Geese at Brancaster, Holkham and Wighton up to 19th.

Barnacle Goose

Apart from 26 at Martham Broad and up to 7 at Waxham both on 17th, no other site held more than three.

Pale-bellied Brent Goose

One in Cley area 9th – 25th, 2 at Holme on 14th/15th and one at Fring on 14th.

Black Brant

Two at Titchwell on 5th, 2 at Cley on 8th and thereafter one intermittently in area until 25th, a different bird at Morston Quay also on 8th, 2 at Holme on 14th, 15th and 26th, and one at Burnham Overy Marshes on 21st – 29th.

Green-winged Teal

A drake at Buckenham Marshes on 9th.

Red-crested Pochard

The female remained at Whitlingham Lane CP until 6th and 2 at Cley on 28th.


The only reports in double figures concerned 42 flying south-east off Mundesley on 13th, including a flock of 25. Elsewhere 5 past Sheringham on 11th, 3 at Saddle Bow on 31st and 1-2 at Snettisham, Hunstanton, Holkham Bay and Horsey Gap.


212 past Sheringham on 7th was the largest number reported. Elsewhere maximum counts of 43 at Hunstanton on 7th, 20 at Titchwell on 26th and 20 at Sea Palling on 21st.

Long-tailed Duck

Very few reported this month with just singles at Holme, Holkham Bay and Horsey Gap, and 2 off Titchwell.

Common Scoter

Maximum site counts of 400 in Holkham Bay on 3rd, 160 off Sea Palling on 19th and 100 off Horsey Gap on 12th and 18th.

Surf Scoter

A female between Sea Palling and Horsey Gap on 14th – 22nd. The thirteenth county record.

Velvet Scoter

Up to 50 in Holkham Bay, elsewhere 16 at Burnham Overy on 21st and 35 on 31st, 6 at Sea Palling on 19th, 6 at Horsey Gap on 22nd and 16 at Winterton on 16th.


Up to 2 ‘redheads’ at Strumpshaw until 26th, and singles at Burnham Overy Dunes on 21st and 31st, and Gunton Park Lake on 20th/21st.

Red-breasted Merganser

Maximum site counts of 10 off Titchwell, 20 in Holkham Bay and 3 off Gorleston.


More coastal reports than usual with 3 at Kelling WM on 13th and singles at Titchwell, Blakeney Point, Arnold’s Marsh (Cley), Horsey Gap and Winterton, and 5 offshore at Sea Palling on 21st. More typical inland reports of singles at UEA Broad on 5th, Horsey Mere on 7th, River Yare between Buckenham and Strumpshaw on 9th, Whitlingham Lane CP on 13th and 3 at Gunton Park Lake on 20th/21st.

Ruddy Duck

Up to 11 at Tottenhill GP and one at Cley on 26th.

?Eagle sp

A large raptor believed to be an eagle, probably White-tailed, flew low west over Holme on 27th.

Marsh Harrier

The Stubb Mill roost peaked at 13 on 2nd. Elsewhere maximum site counts of 4 at Winterton and 3 at Strumpshaw and Cantley Marshes. A few records of singles in north Norfolk.

Hen Harrier

Maximum of 6 at Warham Greens roost and 3 at Stubb Mill roost.

Pallid Harrier

A juvenile female in the Langham/Cockthorpe/Morston area by day and at the Warham Greens roost at night on 24th – 31st. An addition to the county list.

Common Buzzard

Singles reported from Horsey on 19th and Winterton on 23rd.

Rough-legged Buzzard

Singles at Fulmodeston on 14th and flying east over Blakeney on 19th.


Two reported from Blakeney Point, Stubb Mill roost and Breydon, otherwise singles between Titchwell and Warham Greens.


Singles at Holme, Titchwell, Burnham Overy Dunes, Holkham, Warham Greens and Blakeney Point, in the north of the county, and Gorleston, Buckenham Marshes and Haddiscoe in the south/east.

Water Rail

Up to 4 at Hardley Flood, 3 at Surlingham Broad and 2 at Titchwell.

Golden Pheasant

Three males were present at Wolferton triangle on 14th and 4 males at Wayland Wood on 31st.


A maximum of 7 in the Horsey area during the month.

Black-winged Stilt

The long-stayer remained at Titchwell all month.


Maximum site counts of 14 at Cley on 13th and 145 at Breydon on 22nd.


One at Whitlingham Lane CP on 11th-13th.

Purple Sandpiper

Up to 2 at Hunstanton/Heacham, one at Titchwell on 13th and a maximum of 7 at Sea Palling on 17th.


2 inland at Whitlingham Lane CP on 11th.


Numbers at Titchwell had increased to 51 by 19th, elsewhere 3 at Cantley BF on 1st and 30 at Wiveton on 11th.

Black-tailed Godwit

One at Stiffkey on 21st was the only one reported.

Spotted Redshank

Maximum of 7 at Titchwell on 21st, 2 at Cley on 13th and one on 18th/19th, and one at Breydon on 22nd.


One at Cley on 27th.

Lesser Yellowlegs

The first-winter at Cantley BF was last seen on 8th.

Green Sandpiper

Maximum of 3 at Cantley BF.

Common Sandpiper

One at Cley on 21st.

Grey Phalarope

One at Kelling WM on 5th.

Pomarine Skua

One west at Sheringham on 7th.

Arctic Skua

One past Sheringham on 5th.

Great Skua

11 at Sheringham on 5th, 2 at Waxham on 7th, one at Titchwell on 11th and one feeding on a seal carcase at Thornham Point on 24th.

Mediterranean Gull

A maximum of 21 at Great Yarmouth on 5th, 2 at Snettisham on 10th and Thornham on 14th, and singles at Hunstanton on 24th and Gorleston on 26th.

Little Gull

One remained in the Northrepps area near the airstrip until 31st.

Sabine’s Gull

A first-winter was reported flying east at Holme on 7th. Only the third winter record.

Yellow-legged Gull

One at Titchwell and 4 at East Harling Heath on 15th.

Caspian Gull

A second-winter at East Harling Heath on 15th and an adult at Sea Palling on 15th/16th.

Glaucous Gull

An adult flew east over Cockthorpe on 31st. No doubt seen by observers looking for the Pallid Harrier.

Sandwich Tern

A first-winter flew south at Winterton on 26th. This species is increasingly being recorded in December.

Tern ?sp

An unidentified tern flew past Holme on 15th, while another tern, possibly a Forster’s Tern was close inshore in Holkham Bay on 28th. Another potential addition to the county list.

Short-eared Owl

Up to 5 continued to be seen at Burnham Overy Marshes towards the end of the month, 2 joined the harrier roost at Warham Greens on 25th and 31st, and one was at Welney on 26th.


One at Salthouse on 2nd. Where do all East Anglia’s breeding Woodlarks spend the winter?

Shore Lark

The flock at Holkham Gap peaked at 90 on 1st and 8th, with up to 45 remaining for the rest of the month. At Blakeney Point a maximum of 24 was recorded on 18th, while 15 were found feeding in a roadside field near Stiffkey on 28th.

House Martin

2 remained at Cromer on 1st/2nd.

Water Pipit

Up to 7 at Cley from 26th and 2 at Buckenham Marshes on 11th.

Pipit ?sp

An intriguing report of a pipit heard calling at Lynford Arboretum on 27th was considered to be either a Tree Pipit or Olive-backed Pipit. Could it be the Olive-backed Pipit from February showing winter-site fidelity? Maybe it will be relocated in the New Year?


Singles at Catfield on 10th and Brundall on 11th, one remained at Acle from 25th to 31st, and singles flew east at Holkham on 30th and Sheringham on 31st.

Black Redstart

One at Sea Palling on 11th.


Reports of 1-2 from Titchwell, Cley, Winterton, Breydon, Gorleston and Buckenham Marshes.

Cetti’s Warbler

Away from breeding areas, males at Welney on 7th, Stiffkey Fen on 21st and Cley on 18th – 26th. Reports from river valleys at Strumpshaw (up to 4), Hardley Flood, Surlingham Marsh and Whitlingham Lane CP (on 13th and 24th).

Yellow-browed Warbler

An unusually obliging bird at Stiffkey from 15th to the end of the year. Unfortunately, it has yet to be heard calling.


2 at Cley SF on 14th and one at Winterton on 16th and 23rd.


Singles at Great Yarmouth Cemetery on 3rd, 21st and 31st, Holkham on 10th and Filby Broad on 21st.


An impressive count of 66 roosting at Whitlingham Lane CP on 13th.


The flock at Holkham Gap peaked at 100 on 6th. Elswhere 6 near Burnham Norton and 13 at Cley on 14th, and 12 at Winterton on 26th.

Common (Mealy) Redpoll

7 at Holkham on 23rd.

Two-barred Crossbill

A female at Sandringham on 8th – 15th.


The highest count concerned 31 at Lynford Arboretum on 27th. Up to 12 at Sandringham, where a probable female Parrot Crossbill was also seen on 15th.


1-2 at Lynford Arboretum on 26th, 27th and 31st.

Lapland Bunting

One flying west at Cley on 19th was the only one reported.

Snow Bunting

The flock at Holkham Gap peaked at 200 on 1st. Other maximum site counts included 40 at Hunstanton on 7th, 80 at Holme on 22nd, 142 at Blakeney Point on 28th and 70 at Sea Palling on 16th.

Written by: Moss Taylor