Down and Out in…: Cley & Salthouse

Hello everyone, sorry for the complete lack of posts lately, everything has been fairly hectic schoolwise recently (and also a secret project which will be revealed in due course…) and now I am on Christmas holidays I hope to get back to regular blogging again. I would like to write today about a few 0bservations from a trip to Cley & Salthouse in November.

First of all, we (my dad & I) were surprised to discover a juvenile Spoonbill on one of the pools at the end of the East Bank; it was very lost, as it should be in Dorset or France by now. It was still nice to see, and gave a flair of summer on a classic sunny winter’s day. We had just come from the Shorelarks that had been at Salthouse, so it was a nice change from the winter birds I had now been accustomed to be seeing regularly on patch.

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A Spoonbill at Cley would normally be a common sight… but not in November

We then made our way to Salthouse beach in order to see some Snow Buntings, which eventually showed very well (down to five metres sometimes). It was interesting to compare individuals of both races, nivalis & insulae. The latter race is significantly darker than the former. They also breed in different areas: nivalis breeds in Scandinavia, and insulae breeds in Iceland. These differences in distribution & plumage perhaps indicate that they are different species.

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Snow joke- two Snow Buntings side-by-side: different races. Can you tell which is which?

As you can tell on the rear bird, its cheek is far more muddy-coloured than the bird in the foreground: it also has a far darker breast & mantle. This means the bird at the back of the photo is probably an insulae-type bird & the one in the foreground is probably a nivalis-type.

You can also tell what gender they are by the width of their white wing patch: wide wingbar = male, thin/non-existent wingbar = female. As you can see, the bird in the rear has next to no wingbar, whereas the bird in the foreground has quite a big one. However, it is almost impossible to age these birds. As such, I believe the rear bird to be a female (possibly first-winter) insulae and the front bird to be a male (probably first-winter) nivalis.

I hope to release some more content in the festive season, including a new project…

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