BTO Bird Camp 2016!

After a brilliant weekend of meeting fellow young birders, packed days of birding and being deprived of sleep (worth it though!) it is time to write a blog!

Friday 27th May

The weekend started on Friday where I left my house at 8:30 to catch the 9:30 train that would take me and my mum to Clapham Junction. From here we got the train to Fleet to meet Josie (@josiehebirder) who was, very kindly, taking me the rest of the way to Norfolk. After 4 hours on the road we arrived in Norfolk.

Firstly we went to Weeting Heath, which is good for Stone Curlew. After getting there we went into the hide and after a couple of minutes Josie had found one! I had them in my binoculars and saw that the Stone Curlew were displaying in some sought and after this we spotted another one. That was a lifer!

2 very distant Stone Curlew (Record Shot)
We then headed to the BTO Headquarters, the Nunnery. As we got there early we were able to help Lee Barber and Justin Walker put up the mist nets for the following morning's bird ringing. After this we went back to the Nunnery to meet the other young birders, have dinner and an introduction about the weekend ahead. Lastly we headed out to the campsite for the night to wake up at 4:30 the next morning.

Saturday 28th May

We woke up to a Cuckoo calling in the distance followed by heading out to Nunnery Lakes Nature Reserve for a morning of bird ringing, nest recording, bird mapping and bird ID. We were split up into 4 groups, mine including some fabulous birders including Toby Carter (@Tobywarbler), Paddy Lewin (@P_Lewin) and Sam Pitt Miller (@sampittmiller). Our first session was bird ringing (my favourite!). I got to extract a couple of birds and see Reed Warbler and Kingfisher being processed and ringed. 


Reed Warbler
Our next session was bird mapping led by Su Gough, this was new to me and was interesting to see what was involved. Taking a walk around one of the lakes at Nunnery Lakes we saw Reed Warbler, Canada Goose with cygnets and Cuckoo (including a hepatic one that we all thought was a Kestrel!) Using our maps of the reserve we had to note down what birds we saw singing, calling and nesting. This is actually a really cool way of recording where each birds territories are.

This was followed by a session of bird ID by Paul Stancliffe were we saw the Cuckoo again and a Sedge Warbler. He taught us how to tell Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler song apart, Reed Warbler being generally more rhythmic and definite and Sedge Warbler being basically all over the place!   Next was nest recording. We got to look at a Yellowhammer, Linnet and Red-Legged Partridge nest. We also learnt all about the nest record scheme and how it is done. We had a go at trying to find a nest by tapping (using a stick to tap the vegetation to see if a bird flies out). Unfortunately we had no success however earlier in the morning nests had been found. However after spotting a Willow Warbler dive in the vegetation with food, we waited for about 10 minutes to see exactly where the bird's nest was located. After seeing where the nest was we had a look and it was found, with chicks in as well! We were very lucky to be able to ring one chick each!

Yellowhammer Nest

Linnet Nest

Red-Legged Partridge Nest
It wasn't until around 11 in the morning we had our breakfast followed very quickly by our lunch!
Lakenheath Fen was next... After listening to a talk about the reserve and being shown a predated Crane egg we were off! We split into two groups, we were also joined by David Walsh (who I knew off twitter) and headed out.
Reedbed at Lakenheath Fen
At the first view point we spotted Grey Heron, Little Egret, Reed Bunting, Gadwall and Common Tern. Then we walked all the way around the reserve and were treated with two fly-bys by a Bittern (a lifer that I was pretty excited about!) which was a relief when me and Amy Hall (@wildlifebloga) had earlier thought that a log was a Bittern followed by all of the group, aimed with binoculars and cameras rushing over!
Bittern Fly-by
A pair of Cuckoo also flew into the trees. Here's a great video of a Cuckoo taken by Toby Carter (blog at:

Flying down the river, catching dragonflies as it went, we also spotted a Hobby. About an hour into the walk we could see the other half of the group rushing over to a viewpoint. So, hopeful that they had spotted something good, we rushed over there. In fact it was a Crane, bobbing its head up and down above the long grass. Another lifer!

At this point we were half-way around the reserve. "Ping, Ping, Ping," we heard in the reeds as we carried on walking, flying from each reed to another were Bearded Tits! A lifer!

Bearded Tit (Female)
In total I saw over 50 species, not bad for just an afternoon!

After quite a walk we were all very tired, we headed back to the Nunnery for a BBQ which was very nice and a break before heading out to Thetford Forest for the Nightjar GPS tagging. The sun was setting as we arrived and met up with Greg Conway who was in charge of the Nightjar tagging. He told us all about the project and then we went and set some mist nets up.

A tape of Cuckoo was played first due to it being a bit early for Nightjars. Whilst we waited we walked down a track to see if we could hear and spot them. The churring noise (which sounded a bit like a drill) is what we heard first, after waiting for a while one flew up in the air. We all watched in excitement as its almost bat-like silhouette swooped over our heads. Nearing the end of the track we heard a Long-Eared Owl call, we waited around for a while hoping to see it fly out of the tree we thought it was perched in, unfortunately we were unsuccessful. However as we walked back, only to see another Nightjar. we were in for a surprise. As we stood around waiting for any news about whether or not they had caught one, I could see a light flickering. Then Greg and Josie came out of the trees with a bird bag in their hand! It was a juvenile Nightjar! As Greg got it out of the bag we got to see how weird they were, whiskers, big eyes and bark-like plumage. It looked like a bat mixed with a mouse with wings! As it was a young Nightjar it didn't get GPS tagged but it was amazing seeing one so close!

Image by Elliot Montieth who I met at Bird Camp, you can check out his blog at: 

Image by Elliot Montieth who I met at Bird Camp, you can check out his blog at: 
Exhausted after an extremely long day we drove back to the campsite, where I fell asleep in about 5 seconds.

Sunday 29th May

We awoke at 4:30 to get to Landguard Bird Observatory as early as possible. It took us about an hour to get there. I was quite surprised to see how strange the observatory itself was (the observatory used to be a army base) and where it was located (next to a dock). The ranger took us to the viewpoint that looked out to sea. From here we saw Little Tern and flock of Brent Geese flying past. He also showed us some moths that he had in his moth trap.

He then took us for a walk around the coast. We saw the Little Tern again as well as a Cormorant drying its wings. A few Ringed Plover were bobbing along the beach, we also spotted some chicks!

After this we headed to some sites that David Walsh knew were good for Dartford Warbler, Woodlark and Turtle Dove. Our first stop was a heath to try and see a Dartford Warbler, within 5 minutes we had spotted one!

Very bad record shot of a Dartford Warbler
We then went to go and find a Woodlark, firstly we were unsuccessful but then after returning to get back into the minibus we saw one fly up in the sky! Another 2 lifers! David also knew of a good place to see Redstart, as it was nesting in a tree just off a path. He had already checked with the warden there to make sure that it was ok to show it to us. Straight away we saw it perched on a branch due to its bright colours. Constantly it kept going back and forth to the nest with big mouthfuls of insects.

Finally we tried to find Turtle Dove on some farmland, however after waiting around for a while we didn't get any good views or even hear one. A pair did zoom past and dive into a tree but I didn't see it. Although we did get to see Avocet with chicks and a Garganey which was on the lake. 

To finish off a brilliant weekend Ieuan and the BTO team took us for a pub lunch.

I would just like to say a BIG thank you to Ieuan Evans and the BTO team for organising such a brilliant weekend and of course all the young birders: Luke Nash (@young_birder89), Toby Carter (@TobyWarbler), Elliot Montieth (@Elliot_Montieth), Amy Hall (@wildlifebloga), Paddy Lewin (@P_Lewin26), Eleanor Morrison (@EcoBittern), Sam Pitt Miller (@sampittmiller), Josie Hewitt (@josiethebirder), Zach Haynes (@nerdboy386) and anyone I have forgotten for making it amazing!


  1. An absolutely brilliant post Mya, lots of stunning images, especially the Bittern and Bearded Tit! It was great to meet and I can't wait to see you again at BIRDFAIR with everyone else in August :)


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