The final part of my July holiday was spent in Norfolk. I had a full days birding on the North Norfolk Coast on 15th before heading down to Dersingham Bog in West Norfolk for dusk. I can’t remember it ever being truly quiet since I’ve started birding on the North Norfolk coast, and this time round was no exception.
It was a day largely centred around passage waders. Wader passage started a little bit earlier than usual all over the country this year, most likely due to many of the waders being failed breeders. A visit to Cley proved that many passage waders were in evidence. I started at Pat’s Pool, before moving onto the two other hides overlooking the other scrapes. Pat’s Pool was most lively, with Avocets and Blackwits being the predominant waders at totals of 100 and 60+ respectively. It was endearing to watch a Little Ringed Plover and 3 young moving hither and thither along the scrapes. An entertaining supporting cast included 3 Common Sandpipers, at least 20 Ruff and a Greenshank. The highlight though was 2 Wood Sandpipers that were creeping about at the back of the pool, concealed for the majority of the time behind one of the scrapes but occasionally wandering into view as they fed busily, providing nice size and structure comparsions with the few surrouding Common Sands. Other birds here included a single female Marsh Harrier over towards the East Scrape distantly, two Little Egrets and a male Bearded Tit which flew across the hide. The other hides didn’t provide anything new in particular.
Cley still had plenty more on offer though, once again displaying its ceaseless quality as I stationed myself in Swarovski Hide and overlooked the North Scrape. 10 Spoonbills were doing what comes most naturally to them on an island towards the back of the scrape; roosting, and nothing else. Some were partly concealed behind tall vegetation, but others roosted out in the open. Yet it was still superb to watch these birds, despite these being my second at the site this year after two in April. This was by far the largest amount I’d ever seen anywhere, and they’re such brilliant and stupendous looking birds that I always relish seeing them. I am glad to say that I’m yet to succumb to the mindset of taking these birds for granted, despite the species having become quite ordinary fare from spring onwards in Norfolk. A fresh new round of passage waders made for another productive spell. This included my first Curlew Sandpiper of the year with a group of 40 Dunlins , a 1st summer sporting a neat buff wash to the upper breast. A dingy looking Spotted Redshank put on a good show close to the hide, whilst two sumplum Knot were roosting nearby.
Immensely pleased with the Cley session, we toddled up to Salthouse for some lunch. This was the first time I’d visited so I didn’t really know my way round. As a result I didn’t really see much, apart from this ridculously obliging Redshank. As you will be able to tell from the pics, I got within 6-7 feet of this bird. It seemed utterly unfazed by me, so I was able to spend ages photographing it and admiring its intricate beauty.
I stopped in at the Stiffkey Fen Roadside Pools on the off chance there may be some passage wader action there. I was rewarded with my first Green Sandpiper of the year amongst 7 Greenshanks and 5 Black-tailed Godwits. No less than 25 Avocets and a Little Egret were also present on the busy pool. This was the second time I had visited; the first time it also held a Green Sand coincidentally. Its definitely somewhere I plan to check more often as the habitat is just superb; I hate to think what rares have passed through there unnoticed!
We continued westwards; a stop in at Titchwell was irresistible early evening. Passage waders dominated again, rivalling the selection that Cley had hosted that day. 15 Spotted Redshanks were the undoubted highlight, clumped together on the freshmarsh and many still in summer plumage, with a supporting cast of 800+ Knots roosting on the scrape (always superb to see in such big numbers), 2 Whimbrels, 4 Little Ringed Plovers (pair and two young), 15 Ruff, 60 Avocet, 10 Dunlin and a Common Sandpiper. To boot, a pair of Marsh Harriers were quartering the area. Superb stuff, especially the Spotted Redshank count; by far the most I’ve seen. After dinner in Snettisham, we quickly headed to the beach there for a look across the Wash before moving on to Dersingham Bog. It was low tide and most of the waders were dots in the scope. The only waders I could successfully make out were 500+ Knots in flight, which added to the beauty of the setting sun.
Dersingham Bog was the final stop, where I hoped to see the famous Nightjars there. We arrived at 9, but had to wait for half an hour before at least 4 Nightjars started their deeply evocative churring. In the mean time, I enjoyed 4 Woodcocks going to roost. As dusk fell and the Nightjar’s mechanical churs crescendoed and then decrescendoed, I scanned the bog with the hope of connecting with one of these lithe, scimitar-winged birds in flight. Whilst doing so a sequence of high-pitched, frog-like nasal calls sounded right in front of me; the Nightjar flight call. I turned round and got onto a pair of Nightjars stretched flat along the heather within 10ft of me, having just landed. The pleasure was brief but intense as I watched them on the heather, before they took off and flew right past my head. I was awe-struck at the end of that; I couldn’t have asked for better views or a more exciting experience of these surreal, absolutely superb birds.
It had been a very long day, but one to remember. Great views of 2 Nightjars, 10 Spoonbills and 19 species of wader, all in one mid-July day. A prime example of Norfolk’s ability to provide lastingly memorable and fantastic quality birding all year round.
Thanks for reading,