The final day of three days of tours and what a difference a day makes. After the heatwave of the last few days, today was cool, cloudy and with rain forecast. Still, that wasn’t going to stop us getting out.
We started the day at Titchwell. A quick walk around the back of the car park on arrival revealed a small group of Bullfinch calling, though they proved difficult to pin down with other cars arriving. Walking out onto the reserve, a Cetti’s Warbler was singing from the scrub but proved similarly hard to see, one of many we heard through the morning. A Kingfisher flashed quickly over the reedbed.
With the cloud building behind us, we made for the Island Hide. One of the first birds we found was a real surprise – a Water Pipit landed on the edge of the reeds close to the hide and stayed just long enough for us to get a good look at it through the scope, before it disappeared into cover. Later in the morning, we got to see several Rock Pipits as well, giving us a great opportunity to look at the differences between these closely related species.
The freshmarsh was filled with wildfowl and waders and we set about looking through them. The highlight of the ducks was five Pintail, one of the drakes starting to look very smart although still without its distinctive long tail. There were also lots of Teal, Shoveler and Wigeon, as well as Gadwall and Tufted Duck on the reedbed pool. A group of Brent Geese dropped in – we saw lots during the day, with several small flocks out on the saltmarsh. Pink-footed Geese were a feature of the weekend, and yet again today skeins were seen coming in over the reserve during the morning; with a larger flock feeding in the fields inland, we were rarely out of earshot of their yelping calls.
There was a good selection of waders on view. A single Spotted Redshank was hiding amongst a bigger group of Bar-tailed Godwits. Several Black-tailed Godwits were not far away. There were also still a few lingering Avocets and a couple of Dunlin. Heading for the Parrinder Hide, we were distracted by some waders on the Volunteer Marsh. In particular, a single Bar-tailed Godwit and a single Black-tailed Godwit were feeding in the water alongside the main footpath, so we carried on a bit further. The two Godwits came right past us, giving a fantastic opportunity to get to grips with the identification of these two tricky species at close range. Also a great photo opportunity! On the Volunteer Marsh and the saltwater pools beyond, we also saw several Curlew, Grey Plover and Knot.
We decided to continue out to the sea, but the cloud was now building again. By the time we got to the beach, the rain was starting to sweep in. A quick scan revealed a couple of late juvenile Common Terns offshore, but we didn’t stay for a closer look and made a hasty retreat. We got back to the Parrinder Hide just in time, as the heavens opened and the rain poured down. We were also just in time for the Water Rail. No sooner had we sat down than one scurried across into the bullrushes right in front of us. A Common Snipe also flew from the freshmarsh to seek shelter from the rain right directly below the hide. As the rain eased, it edged its way into view and proceeding to give us stunning views at close range.
We headed back to the car for a late lunch, stopping to get a warming cup of coffee at the visitor centre. Afterwards, we took a short detour inland to look for a Great Grey Shrike which had been reported the day before, but unfortunately there was no sign of it. We did find a large flock of Chaffinches and Yellowhammers. We left as the clouds started to build again and the rain started to pour down once more as we drove back along the coast. It looked like the last part of the afternoon might be a washout, but shortly after we arrived at Stiffkey the sky started to brighten out to the west. The rain gradually eased and stopped and we were even greeted by a spectacular double rainbow.
Looking out over the saltmarsh, first a female Marsh Harrier appeared, followed by a male and then a young bird. Then out to the west of us a ‘ringtail’ Harrier appeared – a juvenile Hen Harrier. Then the icing on the cake – we picked up a stunning male Hen Harrier flying past. A fantastic way to end the day, and the weekend.