This is the first of my more regular Birding Trips Series, and today I made a return to Cley Marshes NWT for another wader stint (no pun intended) in the hides.
I arrived at roughly 11:30am, kitted out for a session on Pat’s Pool. Walking down towards Teal Hide, the sounds of Sedge Warblers & Skylarks filling the air, I planned out my two and-a-half hours on the reserve: considering the vast numbers of Whinchats dropping in to the coast y’day, I figured a trip to Eye Field afterwards would be in order. But for now, it was waders or bust.
I got into Daukes’s Hide finding everyone there focused on the Black-winged Stilt which was feeding in the NE corner of Pat’s Pool. Brilliant. However, I was in the wrong hide; as the stilt had been reported from Simmond’s Scrape earlier in the morning, I figured it would be VERY good for photography; instead, I had to make do with a Black-tailed Godwit which had walked into the bottom corner of Simmond’s Scrape & an Avocet which followed soon after.
I was just preparing to leave the now rather desolate Simmond’s Scrape when a cry of ‘Water Rail!’ came up from the woman who had just been sitting next to me in the hide. Out came the Panasonic. It was indeed a Water Rail, not a Moorhen (a misidentification I’ve come across more times than one might expect), and it was walking ridiculously close to the hide along a wet grass bank. Then it flew to some reeds in the gap between Daukes’s & Teal Hide, right across the view of everyone in the hide! I’ve never before seen this species so uncharacteristically showy, or even in flight.
Only then did I progress to Teal Hide; it was jam-packed full of birders with scopes, ‘bazooka’ cameras & binoculars. I caught up with a birder who happened to know my dad & showed me where the stilt was; quite far away, but not so far that it was indistinguishable through binoculars. Not to be outdone, I snapped a few shots with my camera that were just about good enough so that you could crop them without them becoming blurry.
However, my other two (or should I say, three) target waders were definitely not readily photographable without a ‘bazooka’. The Temminck’s Stint was only tickable when viewed through a scope as it was sitting on a distant island which may well have been quite visable from Bishop’s Hide. The same went for the two Curlew Sandpipers; they were, luckily, on the edge of a flock of Dunlin frequenting a small ‘point’ towards the east end of Pat’s Pool. These birds are more common at Cley in the autumn & arguably much prettier, so I didn’t focus on them for too long before moving on to the Greenshank & Ruff from yesterday, again both just out of photography range.
Then one of the birders announced he had seen a Spotted Redshank on the scrape near to where the Ruff was. All I could see was that & one of the resident COMMON Redshank, but no Spotted Redshank. I said I couldn’t see it & he replied by saying that it was passing right in front of the piece of tubing which seems to be stuck in the middle of Pat’s Pool; the Ruff was there, but no Spotted Redshank. I asked him if he could have possibly mistaken his ‘Spotted Redshank’ for a Ruff, but he remained steadfast. It wasn’t until the other birders in the hide agreed with me & started having a bit of a chuckle that he changed his mind. It was easy to see where he’d gone wrong; the Ruff in question was very black & there was what looked like white spots on its underparts & even a hint of a red loral stripe, but it was still quite funny in a way.
I then bid farewell to Teal Hide & made my way to the Eye Field; Lapwings displaying with their iconic flight pattern, Redshanks whizzing over my head, Sedge Warblers absolutely everywhere, Meadow Pipits flighting through the vegetation & song-flighting Skylarks but none of the hoped-for Whinchat, nor any trace of the reported Grey-headed Wagtail yesterday evening. Still hopeful, I made my way halfway down towards North Hide, but still nothing, and I was now running out of time, so I made my way back, stopping to photograph the slowly eastward-moving Sandwich Terns.
The return journey was fairly uneventful, save for two Hares chasing each other round Eye Field, and subsequently being chased by two muzzle-bearing dogs which had stupidly been let of their leads, and the resident colony of House Martins zooming around one of the nearby houses (surprise, surprise). I then made my way back to the visitor centre, listening to the Swallows flying round the nearby fields, before being picked up at about one o’clock.
A great trip to Cley for a couple of hours, and a welcome distraction from my schoolwork!
Luke Nash, 8th May 2016.