On Sunday 6th May I was surprised but nonetheless delighted to get some birding in at Holkham and Cley on the coast with family. I had no concept of this visit until the night before when sudden plans saw Holkham Beach being suggested for a place to take my young cousin. I turned on birdguides and became increasingly enthusiastic to go as it showed both Purple Heron and a mobile juv Pallid Harrier as present there that day with the hope that one of them may be around when I went the next day.
As it was just a family day out, I didn’t have the scope on me (which I’d left back in Aberdeen anyway) and thus relied solely on my bins that day. We didn’t get to Holkham until just before midday, by which time there had been negative news of both the harrier and the heron. I didn’t let this stop me from enjoying myself though, checking the freshmarsh from both Washington and Joe Jordan Hide whilst I was there. The area was filled with the commoner warbler species, including a reeling Grasshopper Warbler outside Washington. A good few people were standing right by the bush it was reeling from as I arrived but it typically wasn’t showing. I joined them and after a few minutes picked up the Grasshopper Warbler singing right in the middle of a clump of bushes with is back to us, very well hidden as always despite being so close to us.
I got others on to the bird and thanked a kind man who allowed me to have a look at the Gropper through his scope. This was the best views I’ve ever had of a Gropper, with intensely close views through the scope as the bird turned round and I watched it reeling face on. I was about to get a digiscoped shot when the bird flew into another clump of bushes further away, where it stopped reeling. This was a decent start to a very pleasant time at Holkham. The freshmarsh was teeming with hawking Swifts, numbering well over a couple of hundred. 4 Greenshank flew in from the east at Joe Jordan Hide which arrived a little while before 25+ Black-tailed Godwits, whilst a male Marsh Harrier was quartering the marsh at Washington Hide and amongst an assortment of the very common waders a nice Ruff moving in to summer plumage was feeding. A lot of the most distant stuff I couldn’t pick out with the bins alone, and with parental demands to return to the car I moved off, happy with how things of gone despite the disappearance of the Purple Heron and less surprisingly the Pallid Harrier.
Back at the car everyone was complaining about how they were in dire need of a nice lunch and a cuppa. Instantly I pitched in with the idea of the Cley café at the Visitor Centre there, and was soon being whisked along towards the site with reports of a Temminck’s Stint whetting the appetite. An hour later I was overlooking Pat’s Pool from Bishops Hide in search of said stint. News filtered through to me that the bird in question had not been seen for a half an hour and that no-one knew whether it had flown off or was hiding behind a high rising bit of the more distant scrapes. It did not show for the entirety of my stay, even from a different perspective of Pat’s Pool from the furthest right of three other hides. This did not dent my enjoyment however, with great views of a 1st summer Little Gull as it hakwed the pool, as well as 2 Little Ringed Plovers, a Common Sandpiper, 2 White Wagtails and good views of a pair of Bearded Tits from Bishops Hide. A nice posse of 40+ Black-tailed Godwit flew in a few minutes before I had to go, concluding my birding on the north coast as parental demands again saw me retreating to the car.
It had been a very enjoyable day out despite not connecting with the rarer species on offer and the day being mostly a family day out. It was lovely to get good views of a Gropper and Cley provided a really nice assortment of species which kept me entertained. We took the Holt road back towards Norwich early evening, with 2 Barn Owls seen hunting on the way back wrapping things up nicely: one hunting over reeds at the southern end of Cley village and another over farmland at Edgefield a few miles south of Holt. A worthwhile trip even though it was not being a serious day’s birding.
Thanks for reading,