HOPTON on SEA - a birding guide

by James Brown

This greatly under watched area lies directly on the county border and it`s birds are hotly debated on account of their County status. The area has a large diversity of excellent migrant habitat and is strongly recommended to those wanting to avoid the crowds with a good chance of finding there own decent birds. The Booted Warbler Hippolais caligata in 1996 highlighted the potential of the area but it is still only watched regularly by 2 local birders. The main areas of interest are as follows:

Looking north at HoptonTo the south of the town lies the Potters Leisure Resort (1) [see map below] and its small golf course can prove attractive to ground loving species. Yellow Wagtails Motacilla [flava] flavissima are regular in spring with a good chance of the rarer races (a probable Black-headed Wagtail M. [flava] feldegg was here in the early 90`s) White Wagtails M. alba are often noted in March and April. One or two Mediterranean Gulls Larus melanocephalus are often present on the adjacent beach. The gardens in Hopton village can attract migrants, with Redstarts Phoenicurus phoenicurus and Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus noted in recent years whilst the disused churchyard has held Lesser-spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor. A juvenile Dotterel Charadrius morinellus frequented the field to the south of Potters Leisure Resort on 21st September 1996.

The main area of interest however is best reached by parking at the northern end of Hopton holiday camp (2) [see map below] A path here allows access to a golf course which runs for about a mile into Gorleston. The scrub bordered path along the western edge of the course proves very attractive to migrants during fall conditions with birds often constantly flushed from in front of you after being filtered and concentrated along this path. Redstarts are often the most conspicuous as they flit along in front flashing their rusty tails and phylloscopus warblers often reach double figures. A very large rough field with attractive surrounding hedges lies to the west of the path and often holds large groups of Pipits Anthus sp., Finches Carduelis sp. and Buntings Emberiza sp.. Notable birds around this field in recent times have included Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus and Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio, with brief sightings of probable Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus and Little Bunting E. pusilla.

The pines and larger trees in this area have attracted both Yellow-browed Phylloscopus inornatus and Pallas`s Warblers P. proregulus, with Firecrests being particularly regular in Sept.-Oct. A Long-eared Owl Asio otus was discovered here in April 1999. The Golf course itself allows no public access but can be easily viewed from the perimeter. It is essential to view this area in the early morning before golfers cause disturbance. It can be very good for the likes of Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe and pipits. Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus is a distinct possibility here in spring and Red-backed Shrike has occurred. The cliffs on the seaward side of the golf course are covered in vegetation such as Lupin Lupinus sp. and are the first landfall for migrant birds. The aforementioned Booted Warbler occurred here and a number of Wrynecks Jynx torquilla have been located. Good numbers of Whinchat Saxicola rubetra and Northern Wheatear are usually to be found here. Over flying migrants such as Lapland Bunting Calcarius lapponicus and Common Buzzard Buteo buteo have been noted and the area can be good for visible migration.

The area can get very busy with walkers and holiday makers so it is an ideal venue for a first port of call for a days local birdwatching. You can of course continue south along the coastal footpath into the neighbouring parish of Corton.

Map of Hopton Area
Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Multi Media Mapping.