24th July 2014 – Raptors & Cley

Another rare breeding birds tour in North Norfolk today, looking for raptors, Spoonbills & waders. We spent the morning exploring inland, at a couple of farmland sites, with Skylarks and Yellowhammers again in abundance. A family of Bullfinches flew ahead of us along the hedge, calling, and a young bird perched up for a while in some dead trees. There were butterflies in abundance in the hedgerows, including in particular good numbers of Essex Skippers. Once again there was no shortage of raptors. Amongst the commoner species that we saw were lots of Buzzard, Marsh Harriers and several Kestrels.

P1080122Yellowhammer – the males are still singing away

We drove back to Cley for lunch, and headed then headed out onto the reserve. There were lots of waders on the scrapes. We saw at least 6 Green Sandpipers, feeding furtively around the weedier edges and flying round calling loudly, and 2 Greenshank. There were lots of Ruff, mostly males still in a kaleidoscope of colours, in various stages of moult. Increasing numbers of Black-tailed Godwits are now gathering, the small number of over-summering birds boosted by others returning from Iceland, some still in bright summer plumage contrasting with others in grey winter garb. The best of the waders was a Little Stint – picked up first right at the back of the scrape, we couldn’t see any real detail, but after getting flushed by a young Marsh Harrier, it flew round and landed much closer allowing us great scope views. A still bright rusty summer adult, it was good to see it with a small group of Dunlin, allowing us to appreciate just how ‘Little’ they are.

P1080140Black-tailed Godwit – very smart in its summer plumage

There are also increasing numbers of duck already returning – with the males in their more female-like eclipse plumage at this time of year, it is a harder exercise sorting some of them out. The best of the wildfowl was a Garganey, but we also saw lots of Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler and a few Wigeon.

P1080134Wigeon – an eclipse drake, the grey feathers still showing through give it away

In the reedbeds, we came across lots of Reed and Sedge Warblers, although the Bearded Tits would not perch up in the hot and windy conditions and we had to content ourselves with flight views. A Yellow Wagtail was a nice find on one of the scrapes amongst the numerous Pied Wagtails. We had seen some large white shapes throughout the afternoon out on North Scrape and at the end of the day we walked round there for a closer look – at least 20 Spoonbills were snoozing on one of the islands, with the odd bird occasionally waking up long enough to have a quick preen or feed. Increasingly one of the sights of summer in North Norfolk, such a large group of Spoonbills seemed a fitting way to end the day.

P1080147Spoonbills – at least 16 of the 20 on North Scrape today, a mixture of adults and recently fledged juveniles

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