Day 1: Sun 4 June - arrival and local birding in the Dark Peak
We meet at the hotel around lunchtime (or prior if meeting at Sheffield Midland railway station). After time to settle in and freshen up, our birding begins at the River Don to look for Dipper and woodland birds such as Green Woodpecker, Blackcap, Nuthatch and Treecreeper, whilst also considering any scarce migrants which may be present locally.
Day 2: Mon 5 June - Dark Peak moorlands
Today we focus on upland birds of the open heather moorlands, fields of rush pasture, woodland edge and reservoirs of the Dark Peak region. Red Grouse are resident on the heather moorland, with breeding waders on the moors including Golden Plover and Curlew, Snipe and Lapwing in the fields and rush habitat plus Dunlin on the remote high elevation moorland blanket bog. Raptors such as Merlin, Hobby and Peregrine are likely, Buzzard and Raven pass overhead and Short-eared Owl is also possible. Ring Ouzel breed in some of the local ‘cloughs’ (small valleys incised into the moorland), with Cuckoo, Wheatear, Whinchat, Meadow Pipit and Skylark nearby and Reed Bunting in wetter areas. Woodland edge, and areas of clear-fell becoming colonised by young trees are important habitats for Tree Pipit and Willow Warbler, whilst Redstart and Pied Flycatcher can be seen in the woodland and Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher along the rocky margins of local upland reservoirs.
Watching the weather forecast, on one of our evenings based in the Peak District we may offer an optional evening visit to a site along the moorland edge for Nightjar and ‘roding’ Woodcock.
Day 3: Tue 6 June - RSPB Bempton Cliffs, Yorkshire coast and wolds
This morning we head to the Yorkshire coast and a complete change of scenery. A visit to the spectacular cliffs at RSPB Bempton is a must, taking in the large and noisy colonies of nesting seabirds. From the clifftop watch-points, we will encounter Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar and Shag, whilst offshore we may see passage Arctic Skua and Sandwich Tern. Peregrine is also likely here, with Rock Pipit, Stonechat and migrants too. At nearby Flamborough headland, a walk around the fields and hedgerows may reveal late-migrants such as Spotted Flycatcher Black Redstart, or perhaps something even rarer like a Red-backed Shrike, Icterine Warbler or Bluethroat if the weather conditions are suitable. Our route to and from the coast takes us through the rolling farmland of the Yorkshire Wolds, where we look out for Red Kite and Corn Bunting or a daylight hunting Barn Owl.
Day 4: Wed 7 June - Dark Peak Woodlands
Returning to the uplands, we concentrate on woodland birds in the Dark Peak region of the Peak District. We drive south birding en route, over the moorlands and through wooded upland valleys and small villages to Padley Gorge, a deep and narrow well-wooded valley which supports some key woodland species. Following the footpath on a leisurely walk through the valley, we look for Wood Warbler, Redstart, Spotted and Pied Flycatcher, Nuthatch and possibly Willow Tit, plus Dipper and Grey Wagtail on Burbage Brook which runs through the valley to meet the River Derwent further south. We travel back north to visit the well-wooded Ewden Valley, trails close to Broomhead Reservoir give us another opportunity for any woodland birds not yet have seen and also Lesser Redpoll, Crossbill and Garden Warbler. Some time looking for raptors from a watch-point above the valley could yield Hobby and Red Kite, and where migrant Honey Buzzard has occasionally been seen.
Day 5: Thur 8 June - Norfolk via RSPB Frampton Marsh
Today we change habitats again, transferring from the uplands of the Peak District to the lowlands of Norfolk, calling en-route at RSPB Frampton Marsh on the eastern shore of the Wash in south Lincolnshire to look for passage waders and wetland birds. Always a bird filled reserve, among the commoner wader species we might encounter Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Turnstone, Black-tailed Godwit, Sanderling and Knot and if lucky perhaps something rarer. There may be some late lingering Brent Geese on the saltmarsh or migrant Black Tern and Little Gull moving through. Marsh Harrier are likely and we keep an eye open for Montagu’s Harrier, an irregular passage migrant on the east coast. Moving on we continue to our Norfolk hotel where we are well placed for birding Breckland and the North Norfolk coast.
Day 6: Fri 9 June - Norfolk and Breckland
Roydon Common NWT reserve is a heathland site rich in birds and wildlife, and being close to our accommodation a pre-breakfast visit here for Woodlark and Grasshopper Warbler will be a good start. After breakfast we drive south into Breckland where one of our first targets will be Stone Curlew. While looking out over the heath for this cryptic bird, we keep our eyes and ears open for Woodlark, which may be singing overhead or from the pine trees. Marsh Harrier and Little Owl are also likely here, with Tree Pipit, Common Crossbill, Green Woodpecker and Spotted Flycatcher all possible in the woods and woodland edge.
Next we drive the short distance to RSPB Lakenheath Fen, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border where a leisurely walk along the trails will provide us with a good selection of wetland birds in rich fenland habitat. Common Crane is a key target here, and with a small number of birds becoming established we hope to connect with this stately bird. We look out for Bittern, Bearded Tit, Kingfisher and elusive, but vocal Cetti’s Warbler, and also see Reed, Sedge and Garden Warbler in the reedbed and scrub habitat. Hobby is likely overhead as is Marsh Harrier over the reedbeds, and on the wetland areas Great Crested Grebe, Shoveler, Common Tern and perhaps Garganey may feature.
After dinner, we have another good option (depending on our success earlier in the week) for Nightjar and Woodcock during an evening visit to a nearby site.
Day 7: Sat 10 June - North Norfolk coast
After an early breakfast, we head up to the North Norfolk coast for a busy final day. First, we check heathland habitat inland from the coast for Dartford Warbler, Woodlark and Tree Pipit before moving on to nearby Cley Marshes NWT - one of the most famous birding sites in Britain. Here we walk to the hides to view the pools and scrapes for wetland birds, including Spoonbill, Bittern, Egyptian Goose, an array of wildfowl and waders with the chance of a rarity also possible. A walk out to the East Bank and across the reserve to the shingle bank and sea, checking Pope’s Marsh and Arnold’s Marsh can be productive for waders and terns with warblers and Bearded Tit in the reedbeds. Later, we visit RSPB Titchwell where a walk to the coast birding the saltmarsh, reedbeds and freshwater lagoons will reveal an interesting selection of birds including wildfowl, waders, gulls, terns, raptors and passerines. On the reserve we look for Garganey, Red-crested Pochard, Brent Goose, waders including Avocet, Wood Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank and perhaps a rare Temminck’s Stint, while scanning from the beach may reveal Common Scoter and Little Tern moving past.
Day 8: Sun 11 June - Departure
The tour concludes after breakfast and clients can be dropped at King’s Lynn railway station for onward travel home, or travel back with us to Sheffield station to meet connecting trains there.