20th May 2014 – Firecrests in North Norfolk

Half day private tour today, I had been asked about the possibility of seeing Firecrests. There was not enough time to get down to the Brecks, where they are often easier to see, but they do breed in North Norfolk, mostly along the Holt-Cromer ridge. However, they are very localised and can sometimes be hard to find, particularly if they are not singing. Always nice to have a challenge, we thought we would give it a go.

We started off with a female Yellow Wagtail which dropped into the paddocks – good to see one away from the coast, and on the ground rather than flying over. Several Garden Warblers were singing, and gave us a chance to compare with nearby Blackcaps – one of the trickier pairs of songs to tell apart. As we walked through the woods on the ridge, we heard Goldcrests singing, which we spent a few minutes listening to, to give us a reference to compare with. We stopped at a couple of likely clumps of fir trees, then a short snatch of song ahead alerted us to the presence of a Firecrest. It was only half singing, and just occasionally, but as we followed it for a while, we realised that it was gathering food. A second bird appeared, also carrying food, and we watched them both going back and forth into the firs – we had found a nesting pair. The male had not been especially vocal until a Goldcrest approached the nest site from the other side, singing. At that point, the male Firecrest burst into full song and sang repeatedly for several minutes. A real treat to watch.

With the main challenge complete, we dropped back down to Cley to see some waders. There was lots of activity, with 3 Temminck’s Stints, a Little Stint, 35 Tundra Ringed Plovers together with a Little Ringed Plover to compare with, 2 lovely red Knot, Greenshank, and a particularly handsome breeding-plumaged male Ruff shepherding 4 Reeves, not to mention all the commoner waders.

Quite a morning!

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