Welcome to my birdwatching blog. This blog will contain stories about my bird watching trips, interesting bird news and other tales that may or may not be bird related. I want to make it useful to the avid birder as well as those who may only have a passing interest in bird watching. I enjoy photographing bird life, common and rare through a spotting scope, not that they always sit still long enough for me. Being on the outskirts of North East London, my reports will not only cover my local patch of Redbridge/Waltham Forest, but also dip into deepest Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk.

Monday, 23 August 2010

North Norfolk

Norfolk is one of the premier counties for birds. Not only does it hold some of our more scarce breeding birds including stone-curlews and golden orioles but it also plays host to a hat full of migrants each spring and autumn.

In my mind, I had planned a sketchy idea of the places I wanted to go to. It looked a bit like this: Weeting Heath, Titchwell, Cley-next-the-sea and Snettisham. Overall, this stayed in place with the exception of Titchwell that annoyingly was as good as closed for pathway renovation.

So anyway, first stop would be Weeting Heath. Weeting is situated just west of Brandon on the edge of Thetford Forest. This is brecklands country, an unusual  landscape with sandy heaths covered in gorse and ragwort and lined with Scots pine.
Weeting Heath

This site is famously important for a quite strange looking bird called a stone-curlew. It looks like something the artists at Pixar would dream up for a movie. It all seems out of proportion with huge eyes and a quite comical face, almost as funny as mine.
It’s best to arrive at the NWT reserve either early or late. This is mainly because the heat shimmer can make a difficult bird to see almost impossible.

I got there at 7am and was alone. The first of the two main hides revealed nothing apart from a few mistle thrushes. The surrounding wood had coal tits and long-tailed tits but little else.
stone-curlew, Weeting Heath

I then waked around to the other main hide to try my luck there. Bingo! I immediately found one stone-curlew lying low but near enough to get a shot. This has been the latest I have visited Weeting Heath so I was fairly relived to see one. Most had left, including the juveniles so this was good news. I carried on taking photos and as there seemed little else to see and my plans meant a busy day, I packed up. On my exit, I met the old warden who was just arriving. This is a stout man with an impressive handlebar moustache. He explained that there were in fact 6 birds still on the heath, 4 adults and 2 young. He was being mindful of them as a stoat had recently taken two of the young and a buzzard had also been showing interest in the past few days.

From here, I drove up through the winding lanes to Titchwell village. Titchwell is on the north coast and the RSPB has a premium reserve here. Unfortunately, there was a great deal of maintenance work being carried out and I was unable to get access to much of the reserve. I cut my losses and left. Just as a reference though, the toilets at Titchwell are cleaner than you might find in some London hotels. They just lack the Moulton Brown stuff.

Back in the car, I drove along the north coast, east towards Cley-next-the-sea. Love this place and would like to live here one day...dream on.

The skyline is marked by a beautiful windmill and the snaking high street is a true test of ones driving skills. The reserve visitor centre overlooks a vast flatland of fresh and salt marsh. The pebbled beach is a real test of your leg muscles as you tend to take one step forwards and two back. I began by walking along the east bank and quickly came across a whimbrel feeding in the small lagoons. Other waders present included common redshanks, black-tailed godwits and curlews. There were also common and sandwich terns along the sand banks with a few lapwing for company.

At the end of the east bank, you arrive at the beach. The sea was still today and there wasn’t a lot of activity on it. The north westerly wind made sure of that so with little interest other than the odd gannet and great black-backed gull to watch, I heading north to look for any early migrants. The only migrants were two wheatears in one of the fields so I headed for the hides.

This was better. remarkably, there was a single white-fronted goose and a single pink-footed goose among the greylag geese that I assumed were early arrivals – this area of Norfolk is amazing come November when thousands of wintering geese fill the air and surrounding fields.

The pools in front of the hide were full of waders and I love that initial moment when you sit down and start to scan the flocks as there is so much to take in. So, here is what there was. Avocets, Dunlins, ringed plovers, little ringed plovers, green sandpipers, a couple of wood sandpipers, 2/3 little stints, a single curlew sandpiper, common snipe, black-tailed godwits, common redshanks and last but not least a single spoonbill. Overhead, a couple marsh harriers were noted and ducks were represented by fair numbers of mallard, wigeon, teal and gadwall.
Green Sandpiper
I completed the round trip of the reserve and began to head back to the car park. One bird I had briefly heard but not seen largely due to the strong winds was a bearded tit. I had heard the ting ting call but these fellows keep their heads down in the reeds when the wind is up. However, as I got to the car  I managed to spy a single bird in the reeds.
Bearded Tit
A quick stop for lunch took me to The Victoria at HolkhamAdnams on draught. The beer garden is fantastic and as this is August, they put on a posh BBQ as well.

My final destination was to be Snettisham RSPB reserve. So far, the weather had been reasonably kind and had only threatened to rain but as I travelled north along the coastal road, the heavens opened. In fact, they opened to such a degree that cars had to pull over as their wipers just couldn’t cope with the deluge. Eventually I got to Snettisham and thankfully, the weather had abated and I set off through the holiday homes on my final trek.
Snettisham after the storm
I had accrued about 75 species at this stage and wanted to get past the 80 mark before I finished. Snettisham is a wonderful place for wader and although I had seen a healthy number at Cley, I was still confident the vast areas of mudflats and water filled creeks would allow me to get to this total.

There were thousands of birds gathering on the mudflats as the sea ebbed away and the RSPB had had the goos sense to provide wooden benches for old codgers like me to rest while scanning the shore. Sure enough, bar-tailed godwits were there in their hundreds along with knot, sanderling, grey plover and golden plovers. On the land, linnets flew around and a red-legged partridge scampered away as I approached the bench. That was probably the 80 mark but I wasn’t satisfied yet.
Grey Plover

My eyes were now growing weary, staring through a scope for long periods of time can give you a headache. The need to focus and concentrate and walk miles. saps your energy and this apparently sedate hobby can test the most able person. More wheatears appeared and a whinchat sat atop the heather as I trudged the last part of my intended path.
In the end, I managed 82 species for the day which isn’t too bad and if the wind had just been in an easterly or northerly direction, that total would have been over 100. Maybe next time who knows.

1 comment:

  1. Nothing wrong with dreaming... on day mate, one day.