Easterly winds in Autumn mean migrants and the weather chart had been dangling the prospect of some suitable conditions for several days. It was time to get out in the field and look for some birds.
Tuesday morning was windy and damp, but with the winds still coming off the near Continent first thing, there were few new birds to be found. A walk from Stiffkey to Warham produced nothing more than a couple of Lesser Whitethroats and a lingering Swift. However, through the morning the wind direction changed and the birds started to arrive. A walk out along the lane to Kelling Water Meadow looked likely to be similarly quiet until a flash of movement along the hedgerow caught my eye. Standing quietly for a second and a Pied Flycatcher flicked out and landed briefly on a bare branch, the first sign of things to come. Out at the Water Meadow, an adult Little Gull struggled east into the wind, and a Hobby buzzed through, flushing the waders from the pool.
With the first sign that migrants were starting to arrive, I decided to head for Blakeney Point – the Point is a magnet of migrants in the right conditions, though the walk out is not for the faint-hearted. The first section produced nothing of note, and I was just starting to wonder whether I had set out too early. Then a bird flew up from behind the low Suaeda bushes just ahead of me – the slightly larger size, grey-brown colouration, longish tail and streamlined appearance were instantly recognisable, a Wryneck! As I walked on, it flew up again and dropped into deeper cover out of view. I have seen many Wrynecks here over the years, but it is always a real buzz to stumble across one. A great start.
I was joined by two other hardy souls and we continued on our way. Gradually, we started to see other migrants. Wheatears and Whinchats, fresh in from the sea. Willow Warblers flitting around the low bushes by the shingle ridge. Then a second Wryneck flew up in front of us and dived back into cover. This one flitted on ahead of us several times as we walked along, only perching out briefly a couple of times, until it reached an area with more bushes. A juvenile Black Tern took shelter from the wind in the harbour, with the other resident terns.
Out at the Plantation, we spent some time watching both Pied and Spotted Flycatchers hawking for flies from the few stunted trees. A Redstart also lurked in amongst them. Out on the Point itself, we came across a third Wryneck and added Garden and Sedge Warbler to the list of the day’s migrants. We carried on hunting until dark started to fall and we had to make the long walk back to Cley.
A glutton for punishment, I made the long trek out again the following morning. With clear conditions overnight, it was immediately clear that many of the birds from the previous day had moved on. Still, a nice Hobby perched up on the shingle ridge and a Peregrine flew over.
I couldn’t find any new arrivals, despite the continuing NE wind, but came across two of the Wrynecks from the previous day still in much the same places, and was able to linger a little longer with them. The Pied Flycatcher was still present, along with several Willow Warblers, but the Spotted Flycatcher appeared to have moved on. It was glorious out on the Point in the sunshine, and a great way to round off an exciting couple of days.