A day tour in North Norfolk again today, looking for raptors, waders & Spoonbills. We headed inland for the farmland behind the coast again first thing, hoping to escape the thick sea mist which had descended. It was a little better away from the sea, but not much.
Our first stop was to look for Turtle Doves. Initially there was no sign, but just as we were starting to wonder whether they would grace us with their presence, one flew out. Rather than linger in the distance, it flew straight towards us and landed on some wires, giving us all great views in the scope. It almost seemed to know we would not get a very good look at it on its usual perches, and decided to come much closer! Then it even started to ‘purr’, the Turtle Dove‘s distinctive song, heard so occasionally these days, it felt like a real privilege.
From there, we headed on to a second site. Despite the mist, the Yellowhammers and Skylarks were still singing. One male Yellowhammer gave particularly good views, returning repeatedly to the same perch in front of us. The hedgerows were full of birds – Chaffinches and Linnets, Whitethroats and Blackcaps – gathering in mixed post-breeding flocks. The non-avian highlight was a Stoat, which appeared from a barley field right in front of us carrying a mouse. It seemed unsure initially whether to run out across the track, and kept darting back into the crop, before plucking up the courage to make a dash for the hedge. Amongst the commoner raptors, we saw Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzards, Sparrowhawk and Kestrels.
We headed back to Cley for lunch, by which time the mist was starting to clear. At the visitor centre, we made a quick visit to see the Silvery Gem moth on display (having been caught at Weybourne last night), only the second ever found in Britain. Then it was out to the hides. There were fewer waders on show than the last couple of days, though we still saw Green & Common Sandpipers, Ringed & Little Ringed Plovers, lots of Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit and several Dunlin. As well as a couple of Greenshanks and the ubiquitous Redshanks, a Spotted Redshank was the best of the bunch – a moulting adult, having lost most of its jet black summer plumage, but the silvery grey winter plumage sullied with several retained old dark feathers. They are always lovely birds to see, taller and slimmer than the Common Redshank, and with a longer needle-tipped bill.
We heard lots of Bearded Tits, and saw a couple perched up nicely in the reeds. Several Reed Warblers were still singing or zooming around among the reeds, and one was hopping around in the open among the willows next to the hides; the Sedge Warblers have now gone quiet, but one sat up for a while preening. Out on the scrape, at least one Yellow Wagtail was amongst the large number of Pied Wagtails. While we were in the hides, a Hobby flashed through. We walked out towards the sea, and a large gathering of very noisy terns were on the brackish Arnold’s Marsh – a mixture of juvenile and adult Sandwich & Common Terns.
To end the day, we went to look at the Spoonbills. They were closer than they had been the last few days and there were 12 this afternoon, mostly juveniles. The couple of adults in amongst them gave themselves away with their yellow-tipped bills and shaggy crests. Some were sleeping, balanced precariously on one leg with head tucked in, but several were preening or casually feeding. Always a joy to watch.