Sunday 29 August 2010


After all the excitement in Leicestershire earlier on in the day, it was time for an afternoon of proper birding on the north Norfolk coast. The first stop however was the new visitor centre at Cley NWT. During a sudden downpour it made sense to grab a brew and a slice of cake and view this magnificent reserve from the comfort of the cafe. Marsh Harriers hunted over the reedbeds, Sandwich Terns dropped in to rest on the scrapes and Avocets busily fed around the pools.

As the rain subsided and the sun started to peek through the clouds we heard that a Common Crane had just dropped in at nearby Salthouse. The last of the tea was guzzled, our bins were grabbed and off we sped. As I zoomed east along the coastal road I could see a large bird flying towards the car in the distance. It had to be the crane. We pulled over adjacent to where I thought the bird had dropped down. As we pulled our gear from the boot the bird appeared once more, an elegant Common Crane (265) took flight and struggled to gain momentum as it battled against the gale force north easterly winds.

We then returned back towards Cley where Nadia Shaikh relocated the crane showing well in a field just north of the road. Our delight turned to despair however when we noticed that the unfortunate bird had the lower part of its right leg missing. Studying the bird through the scope the wound was obviously pretty fresh and it was tragic to watch as it struggled with its recent injury. Soon afterwards the bird continued its laboured journey west along the coast.

The famous Cley NWT reserve viewed from the Beach Hide.

As the strength of the winds increased we took the decision to stroll the short distance along the beach to the hide overlooking the Cley NWT reserve. There was plenty of hot wader action to be witnessed and we soon logged the following species: Avocet (12), Ringed Plover (6), Black-tailed Godwit (10), Ruff (juvenile), Knot (2), Curlew Sandpiper (6), Dunlin (25) and Sanderling (2).

We then decided to brave the elements and try a bit of sea-watching. Despite the ideal conditions for viewing passing seabirds it is always pretty frustrating in Norfolk. Everything seems to pass by as distant as it possibly can. Northern Gannets streamed past in their hundreds along with good numbers of Northern Fulmars and Kittiwakes. Sandwich Terns were also quite numerous along with the odd Arctic Tern occasionally. Unfortunately I failed to pick up anything more scarce than 2 Great Skuas and a single dark phase Arctic Skua. Another skua species that was too distant to clinch for certian was probably a dark phase Pomarine Skua.

It was time to stretch our legs and what could be better exercise than a stroll up to Blakeney Point? Admittedly we did not get too far as I managed to pick up an interesting call amongst the swirling winds. I knew that there had been a Short-toed Lark in the area recently and so we decided to hang around in hope that it would appear. After a few brief flight views of a small, pale lark species I eventually tracked the bird as it landed on the shingle ridge close to a footpath. A Short-toed Lark (266) then appeared in front of me briefly before flying off yet again to disappear amongst the dunes.

Short-toed Lark - Blakeney Point, Norfolk - August 2010
Photo kindly provided by Penny Clarke

The rolling waves of the North Sea viewed from a blustery Cley beach.
Photo by Adam Archer

A cracking day ended with fish and chips in Wells and a quick 'kerb crawl' around the 'Wolferton Triangle' for Golden Pheasants. Needless to say we did not see any at all.... I'm starting to write this species off for my year list bearing in mind I've dipped then about five times in recent months.

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