Tuesday 10th April saw me birding the North Norfolk Coast for the first time this year. I took an early train from Norwich to Sheringham and then the Coasthopper bus service from Sheringham to Cley in order to meet Simeon Grundy, a good birding friend of mine who I had the day out with. It was a sunny day; the sunniest it had been for some time. I arrived at Cley shortly before Sim, setting up in Avocet Hide where 2 Spoonbills were roosting at medium distance, my first of the year and a cracking start to the day. They are such wonderful birds and always leave me with a smile on my face. I have noticed that Spoonbills don’t excite some Norfolk birders in the same way that they used to and may not be considered a ‘day maker’ due to the increasing occurence of this species in the region, which is a pity as they are such visually appealling birds. Anyway, these two birds roosted for almost the entirety of the time I was there. On the one occasion they did raise their heads, it was confirmed that an adult and juvenile bird were present respectively; the juvenile with a fleshy pink bill.
Roosting Spoonbills, Cley Marshes NWT (10/4/12)
Sim soon arrived and was watching the Spoonbills with me. There was plenty of other activity too, including delightful numbers of Black-tailed Godwits, numbering 70+ in varying plumages, and 145 Avocets. Seeing the latter in triple digit numbers was and always is an amazing experience, especially to seasoned NE Scottish birders such as myself who have to cope with Avocet being a sometimes less than annual regional scarcity. I saw similar numbers when I was birding at Fingringhoe Wick in Essex during New Year, where a good number of the Norfolk birds winter. It was great to see them newly back and in force at their beloved North Norfolk hotspot. Perhaps 10 Ruff were doubted around the various scrapes, whilst a Marsh Harrier quartered the dunes.
Sim and I had a good catch up as we walked up towards North Beach and then Blakeney Point. As we walked along the road a white rumped passerine flashed in front of us onto Eye Field, one of a total of 6 Wheatears present here – my first of the year. Rather concerningly, a Brent Goose was sat in a puddle on the right hand side of the road here, seeming unable to fly and at close quarters appearing very small. It looked moribund, but when we returned later we found it feeding in Eye Field; a big relief.
Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Cley Marshes NWT (10/4/12)
A quick look offshore from the shelter at the beach did not reveal much species variety, but did make it clear that vast numbers of Sandwich Terns were on the move. Our walk to Blakeney Point and back saw them streaming westwards along the shingle beach at a rate of a few birds per minute; a total of 120 were seen going in this direction. A strong westerly wind meant that the three mile walk to Blakeney Point and back was disappointingly quiet on the passerine migrant front. Another Wheatear was seen near Halfway House, whilst 3 Rooks were heading determinedly west here, rather exciting as these birds were definitely migs. A female Merlin was the highlight of our stint, which showed nicely eventually as we followed it through the shingle towards the point. Halfway House held nothing, whilst The Plantation and The Lupins at the point itself were dead quiet. The only other birds we managed were a nice White Wagtail at The Hood on the way back and 7 Swallows west. Despite it being very quiet, I was glad to have done Blakeney Point for the first time and to have familiarised myself with the different parts of it. I will look forward to visiting during prime time conditions in future autumns, what with its amazing habitat.
Halfway House, Blakeney Point (10/4/12). Halfway to Blakeney Point itself.
Blakeney Point itself, as viewed from a dune top, the famous plantation on the right (10/4/12)
Looking across the expanse of sueda towards Cley and further eastwards, as viewed from a dune top (10/4/12)
Having taken nearly two hours to get to the point on the way, it took us an impressive 50 minutes without stopping to get back to Cley, at the expense of all our energy! Once on the Coasthopper bus, we headed west towards Titchwell, giving our knackered and aching legs a well earned break. We arrived at Titchwell at around 5:30, where a nice evening’s birding was had. This time of day meant we had the reserve largely to ourselves, a nice contrast to its usual crammed nature. From Island Hide we looked out onto the freshmarsh, where a dainty Little Ringed Plover was feeding; my first of the year and always nice to see. A White Wagtail was scurrying back and forth along the scrapes as well amongst a few Pied Wagtails, whilst other waders were represented by numerous Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits, 15 Dunlins and a Grey Plover. We headed to the nearby Parrinder Hide, but were first stopped in our tracks by a simply stunning summer plumage Spotted Redshank on the brackish marsh near the path, another year tick. We watched this bird in admiration as it fed no more than 15ft away from us which was spectacular. The rest of the brackish marsh was quiet, so we moved over to the other hide and had another look onto the freshmarsh. A second Spotted Redshank was located here, as was a male Marsh Harrier and a beautiful Short-eared Owl quartering the bank for 10 minutes or so. This was a special way to end an enjoyable day’s birding with Simeon at the classic North Norfolk sites; it was nice to see him again and I am eagerly anticipating his visit up to Aberdeenshire in June.
summer plumaged Spotted Redshank, Titchwell RSPB (10/4/12), phone-scoped courtesy of Simeon Grundy
a dramatic and contrasting sky-scape at Titchwell RSPB, overlooking the freshmarsh with Island Hide in the foreground and Parrinder Hide in the background.
Despite being quiet at Blakeney Point, North Norfolk had once again proved itself as the superb place for birding that it is, providing some lovely birds such as Spoonbill, Short-eared Owl, Little Ringed Plover, Spotted Redshank and tons of Avocets which allowed its brilliance to shine out despite it being quite quiet on its own terms.
Thanks for reading,