Summer Birding #2: Waders & Warblers

So, swiftly after the previous day’s escapade at Titchwell, we made our way home, where we planned out the programme the next couple of days. And here I sit, with an almost 100% success rate amongst the birds we wanted to see.

Day 2- Cley Marshes NWT

It was late in the afternoon of a rather overcast day, and the heavens smiled upon us after the cloud decided to clear specifically for our visit to Cley. We parked up & walked out to Teal Hide. A Greenfinch sat atop roadside wires, singing in its typically wheezy fashion, House Sparrows twittered amongst the grass verges, Bearded Tits & Sedge Warblers covered themselves, the only evidence of their presence being their call & song.

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It wasn’t long before we soon arrived out at Teal Hide. We had been joined by one of Dad’s friends, and we opened the shutters to the hide. We were pleased that the water levels had come down a bit since we had last seen them over a week ago. The mud held a pleasing amount of Little Ringed Plovers: two adults & three juveniles in total were seen.

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We had come here in the hope of finding some newly-arrived waders having seen the Curlew Sandpiper at Titchwell yesterday (which we had concluded was most probably a first-summer), and it wasn’t long before I picked out a nice Green Sandpiper at the back of Pat’s Pool.

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Unfortunately, this was the only sign that waders had returned. There were still several Ruff amongst a flock of now very red Black-tailed Godwits and the resident Redshanks were forever present, but there were no other waders (even Avocets, though we did have a flyover one later). Raptor numbers were also low: however, a patch first in the form of a Hobby hurtling through towards the path was a good thing to see. There were also two young Marsh Harriers perched atop a distant bush.

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We moved on fairly soon (having spotted a Reed Bunting close by) in order to scope out the five Spoonbills which had sat themselves on Simmond’s Scrape (its water levels still surprisingly high) & promptly fallen asleep.

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If Pat’s Pool was a bit bland, Simmonds Scrape was even more so: there wasn’t even a wader in sight, only the ubiquitous Shelducks & a close Mallard in the channel in front of the hide. There was even a Green Sandpiper on Whitwell Scrape, normally desolate in wader terms. We were just about to leave when a guy in the hide with us pointed out a Barn Owl flying over the reeds at the back of the scrape!! This was a welcome addition to the patch list, especially considering the views it gave!

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With the owl flying off west, we finally made tracks. Upon further discussion, we decided to visit the North Scrape in the hope of seeing some waders. Just as before, the walk out was nearly devoid of birds. That was until we were about to walk onto the road when we heard a Whimbrel calling above our heads, a patch first! It was flying with a Curlew, offering a suitable comparison between the two species.

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Whimbrel (right) with Curlew: note the size difference & the bill thickness between the two species

We soon parked up at the beach car park, and what immediately struck me whilst walking out there was the prevalence of Yellow-horned Poppy on the shingle. I was told about it once & I’m so glad that such a rare plant has made its home on the Cley beach.

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Just as we were approaching North Hide, the ‘pa-peep’ of an Oystercatcher drew our attention, and we saw it running away very quickly. We were some distance away, and it’s possible that the bird had a nest there, although we couldn’t find it (if there was one). Two more flew overhead. All the while, Sandwich Terns were flying around the bank in front of North Scrape.

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A quick check of North Scrape yielded nothing except a few Teal & a Grey Heron, so we decided to make our way back to the car, stopping only to watch a nice Meadow Pipit & a Swallow perched on the fence.

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I also managed to find a Twin-lobed Deerfly around North Screen- it crawled up onto the clothes of one of the people at the screen with us!

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Day 3Kelling Heath

We were out at Kelling Heath for our next adventure, and we had one bird on our mind- Dartford Warbler. I hadn’t seen them since the BTO Bird Camp in May (the account for which you can read here) & wanted to see them better.

We got to the car park, and headed north towards an area known as the ‘Enclosure’ which is supposed to be good for the warbler. Sure as eggs, we soon heard the buzz of a Dartford Warbler call. However, over the next 20 minutes, we could only see it briefly in flight: it wouldn’t pose for the cameras! There were plenty of Silver-studded Blues around on the heath, as well as a few Meadow Browns & lots of colourful flowers which I have forgotten the names of!!

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We then heard a distinctive purring coming from the birches to the south of us: it could only be a Turtle Dove. We moved around it, and got some amazing views of it perched atop the trees! I was really pleased to see this bird so well, and it’s a shame they’re not being seen as much around here anymore.

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Emphatic with our good start, we tried our luck with another reliable site for the warbler in the hopes we’d get a better view of the birds. We walked on down the track, across the railway, and waited. Silver-studded Blues were everywhere, but merely an indicator of what was to come later. We also had great views of Willow Warbler in the trees, and a Green Tiger Beetle was a nice thing to see.

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We got to the warbler site, and almost immediately a young bird flew out of one of the gorse bushes: the raspy call of the young were immediately evident, and they were seen feeding amongst some bracken & heather. Still not great views, but better than the last ones! We also heard a Woodlark singing in the distance, a Mediterranean Gull was a bizzare sighting and a Tree Pipit was a welcome surprise, especially since it was chasing a Yellowhammer.

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We then made our way back to the car park, but the Heath had one last trick up its sleeve. Just as we were heading up the final stretch towards the car park, we came to a track: there was a Silver-studded Blue on every bush!! It was brilliant to see so many of these threatened butterflies, despite them being introduced in this area.

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It was great to get out with my dad after his stint in hospital, but we aren’t done yet. Watch this space…

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