Whilst the patch was my main focus following my successful coastal excursion on 15th July, I did manage to get in quite a bit of birding and see a few birds outside of the patch without actually being out birding. On the topic of jamming in on birds when not birding , I forgot to mention a singing Lesser Whitethroat I had along the cycle route into Norwich near the city itself on 14th . On 16th I was oddly enough on the north coast again, but instead of birding I was on a tour along the least attractive and most touristy towns and villages on the coast (Sheringham, Cromer, West Runton) with an elderly family member in non-stop, pissing rain… great!
My heart needed lifting as we headed eastwards through Cromer after a pretty miserable visit to Sheringham. I had taken the bins just in case a few birds could provide a distraction from the oppressive tedium of the occasion. I am glad to say that they came in handy and that my hopes were realised,. As we were driving through Cromer I glimpsed the rear end of gull with all white primaries on an area of grass by a car park with a group of Black-headeds. Some quick thinking saw us pulling in to the car park (ideally for my elderly family member this was looking towards the cliffs, so that kept them satisfied) and I was able to confirm that the bird in question was a smart sumplum Mediterranean Gull, my first of the year. It was only 15ft away, and with my bins and my compact digital camera at hand I was able to get both decent views and digiscope it for a few minutes from the car, though with the dire weather the latter was not so successful. Bonus. A surprise addition to my ‘self-found from a moving car list’ (not that I keep one). Exactly the remedy I needed, and a fabulous looking creature it was too.
The day after that (17th) I met up with local birder Daniel Watson (http://scoutingforbirds.wordpress.com/) for a day’s birding in and around Norwich. Our destination was Cantley Marshes RSPB, a reserve I hadn’t visited before despite having been to the nearby Buckenham and Strumpshaw RSPBs. We got here an hour later than planned as we had managed to board the wrong train and ended up spending over an hour wandering around Brundall marina. It was actually reasonably eventful in Brundall, as we stumbled across an escaped Harris’ Hawk, first seen in flight with jesses dangling from its talons. It landed on a tree and showed off its fantastic self for 10 minutes or so; superb looking thing. It was later followed by a male Marsh Harrier.
Once we arrived, Daniel kindly acquainted me with the various pools around Cantley Beet Factory and then Cantley Marshes itself. A Grey Wagtail over the factory was a Norfolk first for me. Reed Warblers were widespread, with no less than 10 in the whole area. A few Little Egrets were around as well, and the odd Bearded Tit popped up from the reeds every now and then. The actual pools hosted a few things, with the main pool holding 3 Green Sandpipers and a healthy total of 80 Lapwings. Cantley is very good for Green Sand. By the end of our tour we had seen at least 5, which was quite a low total when compared to the usual amounts around there from July onwards (often 10+). Aside from breeding Great-crested Grebes, Kestrels and dingy looking moulting Pochards, there wasn’t much else around on the pools.
We turned our concentrations towards Cantley Marshes proper in the hope of some decent raptor action. As we passed the pools again I got onto a mega-distant falcon that was probably a Hobby, but just too much of a dot on the horizon to confirm. I needn’t have worried though, as once we got ourselves comfortable overlooking Cantley Marshes and eastwards towards Buckenham we were rewarded with plenty of Hobbies. During an hour so of scanning the woods lining the marshes we had a minimum of 8 Hobbies; the most I’d seen in some time. As a Hobby lover this was immensely enjoyable for me, and views were pretty good as well. An accompanying cast of other raptors included 6 Marsh Harriers (2 ♂ 3 ♀) and a Buzzard.
We got back to Norwich, where we enjoyed watching the Norwich Cathedral Peregrines (two adults and a juvenile). This year is the first time Peregrine has bred on Norwich Cathedral for over 200 years, so it was pretty exciting to have the privilege of watching them with a youngster here. Daniel and I then parted company. It had been a reasonably quiet day as a whole, but the company was very enjoyable. I will look forward to birding with Daniel again.
On my final day (18th July) in Norfolk I found myself back in the Cantley/Buckenham area in retrospectively stupid pursuit of a Caspian Tern that had been found the day before at Strumpshaw. As always with this species, this individual was very mobile and wasn’t present for the hour I was there on the small pool that it had been favouring. It was sod’s law that it reappeared 15 minutes after I left, unbeknownst to me until I got home, but I wasn’t fussed. To quote Gyr Crakes, ‘it’s just a bird’.
Thanks for reading,