Saturday 25 February 2023

Four Days in East Anglia - Day 2 - 22nd February 2023

A weekend away...

An early start from Wymondham saw us convene at a very grey East Bank at Cley at 8.15am.  It was quite still but already drizzling but Wrens, Reed Buntings and Cetti’s Warblers were already proclaiming the morning in and five Grey Herons lumbered off inland after an early breakfast.

The Wigeon flock was enthusiastically grazing the closest area of freshmarsh with a few Teal but there were no waders at all on the Serpentine and it looked like once again the Dowitcher would be problematical. Three each of male and female Marsh Harriers patrolled the reserve reedbeds with some suggestion of territorial patch owning by the tricoloured males.  They spooked a Spoonbill from the scrapes which headed quickly west to be lost in the increasing murk.

Down on Arnold’s Marsh there were just a few birds to look through with three Black-tailed Godwits, five Grey Plover, 13 Dunlin, two Turnstone and a few Redshank and Oystercatcher while on the pool the other side of the path there were dabbling Pintail and Gadwall as usual. There must be something particular about the conditions at this spot for these two species.

As we reached the beach a flock of Snow Buntings bimbled east over our heads so we set of in that direction to where we had seen them land.  The drizzly became light cold rain at this point which did not help. The Buntings had vanished by the time we got down to the sea pool but a fortuitous scan produced a flock of 13 Twite that appeared on a fenceline with just enough time to get the crew onto them and see the pale wing panels, dark plumage, peachy fronts and pale (at that distance) bills.  They dropped down and we moved closer but could not find them again in the miserable conditions.

The Snow Buntings returned at that point, circled us and then went back whence they had come and so did we.  The shingle held the first leaves of new Yellow-horned Poppy and Sea Campion and there were some vibrant lichens to be seen.  

Snow Buntings 

Yellow-horned Poppy - Enid Barrie

A fabulous lichen and a little bit of Mossy Saxifrage top right - Enid Barrie

Xanthoria parietina - Enid Barrie

Out to sea there was, well, some sea.  It was almost devoid of life with just a few big gulls moving through, three Gannets of different ages and three Avocet that were the first of 16 that came into the pools where some more Dunlin and scuttling Ringed Plovers were now to be seen.

A murky Cley Windmill - Nikolaas Reuther-Hols 

The Barn Owls had been busy in the Arnolds Shelter

Brief Bearded Tits and a trilling Little Grebe were added on the return walk and the Teal not engaged in vigorous display were busy squibbling in the muddy margins and could be heard clearly from some way off!

A comfort break at the visitors centre where the Marsh Harriers put on a much closer display and then westwards to Stiffkey for a walk along the grey coast towards the gibbet. The saltmarsh was covered in hundreds on Brent Geese and I suspect that the super high tide had left strandlines of seeds that they were capitalising on.  I spent much of my time scanning for Black Brant but had no joy. 

Brent Geese 

A Great White Egret was feeding off towards East Hills and Little Egrets liberally dotted the vista along with a few Brown Hares.  Two Marsh Harriers were the only raptors seen on the entire visit. 

Arty Brown Hare in saltmarsh habitat with East Hills behind

Curlews and Redshanks probed the pools and a few Pink-feet were seen ‘winking’ along the coast.  I was hoping for some small birds in the game crop but it was very disappointing with just a couple of Linnets, Green and Chaffinches seen and it feels like birds have already began to move on as Spring looms somewhere through the dank greyness.

Alexanders was beginning to flower and a movement in the leaves produced a poorly young Common Gull that I ushered back out onto the saltmarsh where a half hearted flight was attempted but although unwell it was going to be better off out there that on the path to be snapped up by a passing hound or Fox. 


Common Gull 

Curlew - Nikolaas Reuther-Hols 

The rain returned and we sat in the cars for lunch and then moved on once again to North Point Pools where the weather was kind to us for the rest of the afternoon.  The east pool was covered in Lapwing, Curlew and Black-headed Gulls with Wigeon and Teal grazing around the edges. The west pool had more duck and a collection of Greylags, Brent and Egyptian Geese while many energetic Brown Hares lolloped between the fields in engaged in half hearted sparring matches.

The Barn Owl was hunting the same patch of scrub as a few weeks ago which was pleasing given the breeze but soon disappeared back into the Hawthorns.  We traipsed up the path through the high field once again for the view and also to see how the flora we discovered was coming on.  The periscopic heads of Coltsfoot were pushing through in vast numbers and I can’t ever remember seeing so much in one spot.  Most were just opening with one or two fully seeking the sun and in the next few days the lower half of the hill will turn yellow.  Some of the Dense Flowered Fumitory was now in flower and we also found Groundsel, Field Speedwell, Chickweed, Shepherd's Purse, Scentless Mayweed and Red-dead Nettle in bloom with Field Pansy and Marsh Cudweed on the way. 

Barn Owl 



Dense Flowered Fumitory

Marsh Cudweed

Mertzneria lappella in Burdock seed heads again 

The vast flocks of Linnets and Skylarks had dispersed but the air was still full of Skylark song and a Yellowhammer wheezily sang in the hedge.  Brent Geese moved over and into the pools for a freshwater drink before heading to a favoured field to graze with the Greylags and a solitary Barnacle Goose while a couple of thousand Pink-feet were feeding noisily behind the town and visible as a goosy cloud that appeared above the rooves every now and then.  A Raven kronked its way along the coast and I am pretty sure that this was actually a new Norfolk bird for me.


Brent Geese

Mixed Geese

Oystercatcher - Nikolaas Reuther-Hols 

Two Water Pipits were flitting around but refused to be found on the deck and a Chiffchaff called stridently from the bushes as we slowly ambled back to the car with Red Kites and Buzzards drifting over the inland countryside.

Red Kite

Red Kite

Red Kite

The Brown Hares were once again partaking of the zoomies with madcap dashing as we packed up for the day.  It may have been grey and a bit damp but any day birding on the Norfolk coast has its rewards.

On the way back to drop Joan off in Burnham Deepdale I stopped at the usual layby to scan the west end of the Holkham and BO Dunes freshmarsh and within just ten minutes had seen two more Barn Owls and Great White Egrets, two ‘ kerrickking’ Grey Partridges, the usual big three of raptors and about 30 Barnacle Geese with both Muntjac and Chinese Water Deer in the same view to round off proceedings.  I hoped that the weather would be kinder the following day for an evening visit.

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