Monthly Archives: June 2015

20th June 2015 – Swallowtail Tour

A Swallowtail Tour today, we headed down to the Broads to look for butterflies, dragonflies and, not forgetting, a few birds. It was forecast to be cloudy but dry in the morning, with rain moving in for the afternoon, so we had to make the best of the early weather.

We started at Hickling Broad. There were lots of warblers singing from the bushes as we set off from the car park – Blackcap, Whitethroat and Willow Warbler. One of the latter perched up particularly obligingly in the top of an tree. We had a quick look in at the first hide, but the scrapes were very dry and there were next to no birds present.

IMG_5817Willow Warbler – perched up singing

The weather was just warm enough, and fairly still, which helped us in our quest. We did not have to go much further before we found our first Swallowtail butterfly, fluttering round by the path. As we walked towards it, we could see that there were actually several, feeding on the flowers of Marsh Thistles. We stopped to admire them – stunning butterflies. The Swallowtail butterfly is widespread, found all around the world, but the distinctive British subspecies is only found in the Norfolk Broads. It is a real treat to be able to watch them fluttering over the reeds and around the flowers.

P1020402P1020441Swallowtail – we were treated to a great display today, several on the wing

There were several other species of butterfly also feeding on the Marsh Thistle flowers. Notably there were several Painted Ladys. This is a migratory butterfly and variable numbers occur in the UK from year to year – 2015 looks like it may be a good year for them. We also picked up a couple of Large Skippers and a Small Tortoiseshell in the thistles. Later, around the reserve, we added Meadow Brown to the day’s list.

P1020496Painted Lady – 2015 may be on track to be a good year for this species

There were a few dragonflies on the wing here too, plenty of Four-spotted Chasers among the reeds along the ditches and Black-tailed Skimmers basking on the paths, plus a couple of Emperor Dragonflies over the water. However, we could not locate any Norfolk Hawkers here today, another localised insect restricted in UK to the Broads (though we did manage to see some elsewhere, later in the day).

We could hear lots of Reed Warblers singing as we walked along the path. Appropriately enough, they are often to be seen (or not) hiding out amongst the reeds. We managed to find one bird perched up in a bush. It sat and sang for several minutes, giving us plenty of time to get a great look at it through the scope.

IMG_5828Reed Warbler – perched up in full view for us, singing

The Sedge Warblers have gone a little quiet know, as they are busy with the breeding season. Along the edge of one of the ditches, we found a small family party. At least three juveniles were hiding among the reeds and we could watch one of the adults collecting food and returning to feed them.

IMG_5830Sedge Warbler – two juveniles hiding in the reeds, waiting to be fed

Several Cetti’s Warblers sang from the scrub, but as usual they proved hard to see. A male Reed Bunting was more obliging, perching in the top of a sallow bush singing. A pretty bird, but not the most enchanting of songs. A lone Cuckoo flew over silently, presumably looking for a Reed Warbler nest or two to lay its egg in. Something flushed all the birds from the scrapes on the other side of the Broad – Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits, Shoveler and Shelduck. A minute or so later, two Green Sandpipers flew over our heads calling, presumably similarly disturbed.

We could hear the distant sound of Cranes bugling across the Broad as we walked round. Just as we got up onto the bank, we picked up two birds in the sky heading towards us. They were not gaining much height, given the comparative lack of warmth in the air, but they circled gradually over our way and right overhead. It was great to watch them.

P1020564P1020570Crane – these two birds circled across the Broad and right overhead

Out on the Broad itself, we could see a Great Crested Grebe. A closer look with the scope revealed at least one small, stripy-headed juvenile riding on its back, tucked in between its wings. It beats having to swim yourself if mum or dad will give you a ride! While we were watching it, the other parent suddenly surfaced in the channel right in front of us – obviously out trying to find food for the hungry brood.

IMG_5846Great Crested Grebe – adult with juvenile hitching a ride

Round at Bittern Hide, the Marsh Harriers were circling pretty much constantly. We watched the male returning with food, and dropping it for the female circling below to catch. A couple of Hobbys appeared, flying back and forth over the reeds at the back of the scrape. We could see they were catching insects, occasionally stopping to eat something, bringing it up in their feet and bending their heads down to eat it.

However, the highlight here was the Bearded Tits. They frustrated us for some time – we could hear them calling, but there was no sign of any around the reeds. Then suddenly a couple appeared in the tops at the back. As we watched, more and more Bearded Tits climbed up the reeds to where they were in full view until we could see at least a dozen. It was hard to count them precisely, as they kept dropping down into the reeds and climbing back up again. However, we got great views of them through the scope. Most appeared to be juveniles – presumably a large family party – though we did eventually see a male briefly.

On our way back to the Visitor Centre, we took a quick detour to look out over the grazing marshes. It didn’t take long to find a pair of Cranes out in the grass. For a bird which stands about a metre tall, they are remarkably hard to see on the ground and with their heads down feeding they disappeared into the tall rushes. We found a good place to watch them and got them in the scope. We could even see their red crown patches. Suddenly a smaller, pale orangey-grey-brown head appeared next to them, on the top of a shorter neck – a juvenile Crane. Nice to see them doing so well.

IMG_5854Crane – an adult bird feeding out on the grazing marsh

IMG_5856Cranes – a much smaller juvenile following the adult

We headed back to the Visitor Centre for lunch, even managing to sit out at a picnic table in the ‘garden’, which was an unexpected bonus today. A smart golden-headed male Yellowhammer sang from one of the trees, and various warblers sang from the bushes. A Short-tailed Field Vole ran out across the short grass, realised the error of its ways and ran back in again. It clouded over as we ate, but still the rain for the most part held off, save for a few spits and spots.

After lunch, we moved on to Upton Fen. The wet woodland was a little quiet at first, but there were more dragonflies on the wing here. We caught up with Norfolk Hawker at last, with several flying around the edges of the trees and the sedge beds. There were also more damselflies, with lots of Azure and the odd Variable Damselfly in amongst them.

P1020603Azure Damselfly – little clouds of this & Variable Damselfly were in the reeds

There were lots of orchids out here too. Mostly Southern Marsh Orchid, there were big drifts of purple flowers along the paths. We did also find a Fen Orchid growing right beside the path at one point, which negated the need to stray to try to find one. A rather unprepossessing flower, but a real treat to see.

P1020595Southern Marsh Orchid – out in drifts along the paths

P1020588Fen Orchid – a rather more subtle species

The avian highlight here was a Grasshopper Warbler. We could hear it reeling from some distance away, but even though the boardwalk got us fairly close to where it was hiding, unfortunately we could not see it. We also saw both Mistle and Song Thrush here – we stopped to listen to the latter singing its delightful song. Lots of Chiffchaffs were singing from the trees and we heard both Marsh Tit and Bullfinch calling by the entrance.

We finished the day at Ranworth Broad. It was busy here today, and quiet in the wet woodland. Out at the Broad, there were lots of Common Terns fishing. The young Great Crested Grebes were much older here and much bigger – too big to ride around on mum or dad’s back now. The adults were out fishing and the still stripy-headed juveniles were floating asleep amongst the vast hordes of Greylag here. At least they were until one of the parents returned with some food, at which point they promptly woke up and started begging.

P1020616Great Crested Grebe – this adult was fishing right below us

The clouds were building and time was getting on, so we headed back to the car. Just in time, as it started to rain just as we got back. Still, we had had an excellent day and been very lucky with the weather considering the forecast.

19th June 2015 – Day & Night Birds

A Summer Tour today, to look for Birds of Prey in the morning and head up to the coast for some more general birding in the afternoon.

We started by heading inland, meandering through the farmland behind the coast. We hadn’t gone very far when we spotted our first Red Kite drifting over the road. We pulled in at a convenient spot and watched as it circled right overhead. It was a very tatty individual – very often this is down to wear and moult, but this bird had some interesting looking holes in some of its feathers! When we scanned the skies around us, we could see several Common Buzzards starting to circle up as well.

P1020234Red Kite – a very tatty bird drifted over the road

We continued on our way, and our next unscheduled stop was to admire a Little Owl perched in a gnarled old tree by the road. It eyed us warily at first, but seemed happy as long as we remained at a discrete distance in the car.

P1020283Little Owl – watching us from an oak tree, watching it from the car

It seemed to be a morning for owls, probably because they have young to feed and that forces them to hunt during daylight hours at times (there aren’t so many daylight hours either, as we approach the shortest day). Further on, we came across a Barn Owl hunting along the verge of the road, which disappeared over the hedge as it finally saw us in front of it. Then we spotted yet another Little Owl, this time perched on an old barn, sunning itself. It seemed a bit more wary, and flew off when we stopped.

Having enjoyed some great birds on our drive, our first walk of the day took us along an overgrown farm track. Several warblers were still singing from the high hedges – Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs and even a couple of Willow Warblers. We could also hear the plaintive piping of Bullfinches calling from the bushes. There were lots of Yellowhammers singing too, though they were hard to see from down in the lane. As we got out into more open fields, we could see them more easily, flying back and forth.

From up on the high ground, there was a good selection of raptors on view – lots more Common Buzzards, particularly as the sun came out briefly and the temperature lifted accordingly. A Sparrowhawk circled up out of the wood. Several Common Kestrels flew back and forth.

P1020251Common Buzzard – we saw lots circling up this morning

We saw several butterflies along the track too, particularly large numbers of Speckled Wood. A single Painted Lady was resting on a bare patch of ground – there have been lots of these migrant butterflies around in recent days. We also had to watch where we walked, to avoid stepping on the large number of Bloody-nosed Beetles walking on the track. A Brown Hare surprised a Red-legged Partridge and gave itself a bit of a shock.

We headed back to the car and drove back the way we had come. The Little Owl was back on the old barn again. This time it less us pull up alongside it, perching for a time on an old window frame, looking at us nervously, before flying off inside. Quite a haul of owls for the morning!

P1020321Little Owl – our second of the morning, on an old barn

We moved on to another site, where we parked with a good view of the surrounding countryside. There were lots of Linnets perching on the overhead wires and dropping to feed on the ground below. A Mistle Thrush perched up as well. A Lesser Whitethroat appeared in the hedge right beside the car, feeding unobtrusively deep in the bushes but occasionally working its way to the outside briefly.  As we parked, we flushed a pair of Grey Partridge from close by, which disappeared into the long grass. We could hear another pair calling from the field, further over.

Several Marsh Harriers quartered the fields or circled overhead. One in particularly suddenly swooped down to some thickish vegetation and two Grey Partridge leapt out. Whether there were young birds in there we couldn’t see, but the Marsh Harrier stooped at the ground a couple of times, with the partridges seemingly defending it or themselves. The Marsh Harrier then landed on the ground nearby and a hen Pheasant appeared from the undergrowth as well. The Pheasant stared at the harrier in a stand-off for a minute or two before the Marsh Harrier finally flew off.

IMG_5692Marsh Harrier – landed on the ground after a altercation with some partridges

We had hoped to find Turtle Doves here, but the area of dense, overgrown hedges which they traditionally favour has recently been burnt (by the farmer burning some old straw bales). We did see a couple of Turtle Doves which flew past, but they didn’t stop and not all the group got onto them.

From there we drove down to Cley, and spent the afternoon on the reserve. Even from the Visitor Centre we could see several large shapes out on Simmond’s Scrape. From Dauke’s Hide we could see they were Spoonbills and doing what Spoonbills like to do most – sleeping! A closer look through the scope confirmed that there were three whiter juveniles and one buffier-coloured adult. We could also see the shorter, fleshy bills of the juveniles and the yellow-tipped bill of the adult when they occasionally stirred.

IMG_5700Spoonbills – three short-billed, whiter juveniles

A little later, another adult Spoonbill flew in and dropped down onto the scrape. One of the juveniles immediately awoke and set off towards it. It started bouncing its head up and down and raising its wings as it did so. It pursued the adult backwards and forwards across the scrape in this fashion, relentlessly. The poor adult had no chance. Eventually it gave in and fed the youngster, opening its bill and regurgitating food into the juvenile Spoonbills bill.

IMG_5765Spoonbills – this adult was pursued relentlessly by the juvenile to be fed

There were other things to see on the scrapes as well. Lots of Little Gulls today, at least 6 on Pat’s Pool, again all were 1st summer birds. Some were paler headed than others, the birds differing in the degree to which they had acquired the black hood of summer adults.

IMG_5714IMG_5752Little Gulls – six 1st summers at Cley today, with differing amounts of black

There was also a good selection of waders on show. Lots of Avocets, many still on the nest. About 30 Black-tailed Godwits dropped in. Several Little Ringed Plovers tried to hide on the islands. But the highlight was two Greenshank which flew in, one in summer plumage with dark streaking around the head and breast, and the other much paler.

We headed out to the East Bank next. There were a couple of Little Egrets along the pools by the path, and several Grey Herons as well, both adults and grey-headed juveniles. Out on the flooded grazing marsh, there were plenty of Redshanks and Lapwings, the latter in particular chasing off anything and everything that moved. There were Avocets too – they were most vocal when a 1st summer Great Black-backed Gull flew overhead, and they rose up and attempted to chase it away. A flock of Black-tailed Godwits was dozing on the bank of the Serpentine and more were out on the pools further over. There were not so many ducks as in recent weeks, but we did find a few Teal and a little group of Tufted Duck, all asleep in the grass.

Out at Arnold’s Marsh, we could see lots of terns out on the islands. A large group of Sandwich Terns were loafing. A single Little Tern was asleep and another was fishing, hovering over the main drainage channel. There were a few waders as well. In particular a good flock of almost 30 Knot – they were in grey winter-type plumage (probably 1st summer birds), so not living up to their proper name of ‘Red Knot‘. There were also three Bar-tailed Godwit hiding amongst the islands – it was interesting to compare them with the Black-tailed Godwits we had just seen. Waders are on the move already and while we were standing there we could hear Curlew calling. A flock of 13 Curlew flew west over our heads together with a moulting adult Bar-tailed Godwit. Is this a sign that autumn is coming?

P1020330Reed Bunting – lots were still singing around the reedbeds today

We got good views of the main small reedbed dwellers as we walked round – Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting. But what we really wanted to see was a Bearded Tit. We could hear them calling as we walked out and while we looked through all the waders and terns, but we didn’t manage to get a good look at one. Only as we turned to head back did a Bearded Tit fly up out of the main reedbed and it carried on over the East Bank in front of us and dropped down into the reedy ditch on the other side. That was good, but we thought this was our chance to see it really well, so we waited for it to reappear. Needless to say, there was no sign of it. It was only when we had given up that it popped up and sat in the tops of the reeds behind us – we turned around and saw it perched there, a very smart moustachioed male Bearded Tit.

That seemed like a good way to finish, so we headed back to the car. As we walked back by the road, a juvenile Spoonbill flew over from the reserve and seemed to drop down towards the Serpentine. Then an adult appeared in the sky as well, but it dropped down onto the pools in front of us where it stopped to have a drink. We had a good look at it close up, before it took off again and it too headed for the Serpentine.

P1020359Spoonbill – dropped in for a quick drink…

P1020363…then flew off towards the Serpentine to feed

Nightjar Evening

After a break to rest and get something to eat, we met up again in the evening to go out and look for owls and nightjars. We had pretty much avoided any rain in the day, despite a slightly gloomy forecast, but as we arrived later on the light drizzle started. It seemed inauspicious for owls.

We drove round some regular Barn Owl locations, but there seemed to be no sign of any tonight. We stopped to listen to a Song Thrush singing from the trees. The rain was only very light, so we decided to walk out anyway onto the marshes. It was a good job we did.

We had not gone very far when we spotted our first Barn Owl, a male out hunting. Shortly afterwards, a second bird appeared much closer, a female this time. We watched them silently quartering the grazing marshes. The male dropped into the grass and came up with a vole, and he proceeded to fly back to a nest box with it and present it to presumably some juveniles inside. A further one or two birds appeared from behind us – presumably this is rich hunting territory, pulling in birds from around the area. We were treated to a great display of Barn Owls out hunting.

IMG_5785Barn Owl – one of at least 3-4 out hunting this evening

The local Marsh Harriers were also still out quartering the marshes. And while we watched them and the owls, we picked up at least three individual Spoonbills flying along the coast, presumably heading off to roost.

It would normally have still been a bit early to go looking for Nightjars, but the dull conditions meant it was darker than it would normally have been, so we decided to head up to the Heath anyway. Lucky that we did. As we walked out across the heath, we bumped into one of the locals who had located a male Nightjar roosting in a tree. We walked over to it and had great views of him in the scope before it even started to get properly dark. Stunning! After a while, still before any Nightjars would normally be awake, he headed off to another perch further over to start churring.

IMG_5798Nightjar – great views of a bird early on this evening

There were also Woodcock roding overhead pretty much constantly, making their distinctive squeaky flight call and we could even hear the quieter grunting as they passed low overhead. Then the male Nightjar returned to where he had been roosting and sat back down on the branch. Shortly afterwards, a second male Nightjar started churring nearby. This prompted the first male to respond, and he flew back in close to us, calling and displaying with the distinctive flicking wing action. He flew round above us several times. As the gloom descended, what was presumably a female flew in as well.

It was an all-action Nightjar evening, with great views of the birds despite what seemed initially like very inopportune weather conditions. Then it was time to retire to bed – happy.

15th June 2015 – Birthday Birding

A Private Tour today, a birthday gift for one of the participants. Even better, it was mostly sunny and warm on the coast today, perfect birding weather.

We started the day up on the Heath. There were lots of warblers singing as we walked up the path, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat and a couple of Garden Warblers. We eventually got a brief look at one of the Willow Warblers as it flitted up in to the top of a birch tree. Further round the heath, we got a much better look at another Garden Warbler which finally emerged from cover and perched out singing in the top of a tree.

P1020015Garden Warbler – this one came out to sing in the open

It was while listening for the Garden Warbler that we heard the delicate purring of a Turtle Dove amongst the birch trees. We worked our way towards the sound, and eventually found it perched unobtrusively amongst the foliage. We got great views of it in the scope, the delicate barred neck patch and rusty-fringed upperparts. It is always a real treat to see this increasingly rare species.

IMG_5506Turtle Dove – perched unobtrusively in the birch trees

As we walked on round the heath, there were several bright male Yellowhammers singing, and little family groups of Linnets all over. The gorse has finished flowering now, but the Bell Heather is now coming into bloom and there were little patches of pinkish-purple appearing.

We could hear a Dartford Warbler singing as we approached, but on the way we were distracted by a blue butterfly down in the heather. A closer look confirmed our suspicions – it was a Silver-studded Blue, the first we have seen on the Heath this year. We had a closer look at the underwing to see the distinctive silver-blue-centred spots.

P1020022Silver-studded Blue – the first we have seen on the Heath this year

After a good look at the Silver-studded Blue, we went on to look for the Dartford Warbler. Unfortunately, despite the fact that we could hear it calling still while we were watching the butterfly, by this stage it had gone quiet. We had a walk round, but there was no sign of it at first, until finally it started singing again. It was very mobile, zooming off across the Heath, but by following it at discrete distance we were ultimately rewarded with some great views of it perched up on the top of the gorse singing.

P1020047Dartford Warbler – perched on the top of the gorse singing

We also came across the usual family of Stonechats. The juveniles are much more mobile now, and independent. The male was still feeding around its favoured perches, close to where they nested. While we were watching the Stonechats, we heard a Woodlark calling distantly, but unfortunately it did not appear. It was only as we were walking back that we got a call to say it was feeding along a path further over. We turned back to head over to see it but unfortunately it was flushed by dogs while we were still on our way over, so we reverted to our original plan.

Our next stop was at Cley. Even as we drove along the coast road, we could see a group of large white shapes out on the grazing marsh. We stopped the car and confirmed our suspicions – Spoonbills. And they were doing what Spoonbills like to do most of all – sleeping! We walked out along the East Bank and could see them standing on the bank of the Serpentine. We were only about half way out when a couple of microlight aircraft buzzed overhead and all the Spoonbills woke up. At this point we could see that there were two adults and three juveniles, the latter sporting not yet fully grown spoon-shaped bills. Presumably this was a family party, fresh from the colony. Possibly even the one we had seen departing the other day.

IMG_5533Spoonbills – the birds finally woke up when 2 microlights flew over

IMG_5535Spoonbills – one of the three short-billed juveniles

Thankfully, the Spoonbills didn’t fly off when they were disturbed from their slumbers and, once the danger had passed, they went back to doing what they do best. As we got closer, we could see the crests of the adults blowing in the wind, and their duller off-white plumage compared to the juveniles.

IMG_5527Spoonbills – the adults nuchal crests were blowing around in the wind

There was plenty more activity either side of the East Bank. Both Sedge and Reed Warblers were singing, and we got a nice Sedge Warbler in the scope. We could hear Bearded Tits calling at one point but we couldn’t see them – it was a bit breezy out on the East Bank at that stage. However, the Marsh Harriers seemed to enjoy the breeze and we got good views of both male and female circling over the reeds.

P1020053Marsh Harrier – one of the males over the reedbed

Out on the grazing marsh, there were lots of Redshanks and Lapwings, the latter particularly chasing anything which came near. The Serpentine also held several Avocets and a pair of Ringed Plovers. A Little Egret was fishing in one of the flooded areas.

P1020059Little Egret – feeding on the flooded grazing marsh, as usual today

There was also a good selection of ducks out on the grazing marsh. This included plenty of Gadwall and Mallard as usual. A female Shoveler swam across the Serpentine, flashing her enormous bill. A couple of males were lurking in the grass further back. A single drake Tufted Duck was asleep on the edge of the water. But the biggest surprise in the wildfowl category today was a drake Teal sleeping in the grass – there are not many Teal around at the moment.

While we standing on the bank, a Little Gull flew over in the direction of the reserve – we noted its small size and buoyant flight action. When we got to Arnold’s Marsh, we heard the distinctive call of a Mediterranean Gull and looked up to see two smart adults flying west just behind the beach. Arnold’s Marsh itself held a nice selection of terns – a little cluster of Sandwich Terns, a single Common Tern on one of the islands and a pair of Little Terns. It was a good opportunity to look at the differences between the three of them.

Then it was back to the visitor centre for a late lunch. Even there, the birding didn’t stop. It was a lovely afternoon, so we sat out on one of the picnic tables. Scanning Pat’s Pool, we picked up a Little Gull feeding on the edge of the water, possibly the one we had seen fly over earlier. A Greenshank was preening on the tip of one of the islands. More unexpectedly, a Siskin flew over the car park calling. And we could hear a Cetti’s Warbler singing – loudly – from the bushes down by the road. We got a real treat when it flew up into a hawthorn bush and perched out in full view long enough for us to even get the scope on it!

P1020064Cetti’s Warbler – serenading us at lunchtime, in its own fashion!

We spent the rest of the afternoon at Holkham. The passerines put on a good show, despite the warmth of the afternoon. A couple of Blackcap sang from the bushes by the end of Lady Anne’s Drive and we saw several more including a family party as we walked west. A mixed-singing Willow Warbler, its song incorporating a passable imitation of Chiffchaff as well as the conventional Willow Warbler bits, was an interesting diversion.

We came across a couple of tit flocks, with their attendant Goldcrests and Treecreepers. One in particular was feeding in some low Holm Oaks by the path and we watched several tits come down to bathe in the ditch, as a Goldcrest flitted about overhead and a Treecreeper preened in the sunshine on a bough.

Out at the Joe Jordan hide, most of the Spoonbills were lurking at the front of the pool today, behind the rushes. We could see them as they preened or flapped their wings, but like the ones we had seen this morning, they also seemed to spend much of the time asleep. Several more birds flew in and out of the colony, or dropped down onto the pool after a busy session out feeding.

P1020082Spoonbill – several birds were coming & going from the colony still today

As usual, there were Marsh Harriers in the air pretty much all the time we were there. There is a small colony of Black-headed Gulls just to the east of the hide, but they still seem to go up in a panic whenever a Marsh Harrier passes overhead. Today seemingly with good reason, although little effect. At one point we watched a Marsh Harrier fly into the screaming melee of gulls, unconcerned. It swooped down into the middle of the colony and came up with a gull chick in its talons, presumably destined for its own hungry brood.

The grazing marshes are packed with feral geese – mostly Greylags, many with large broods of goslings, but also several pairs of Egyptian Geese. Out in the grass on its own today was a single Pink-footed Goose. During the winter, there are many thousands here, but only a handful stay through the summer, mostly sick or injured birds. We also watched a Stoat running around in the grass below the hide. At one point it came upon a brace of hen Pheasants. The closest of the latter pulled herself up to full height, puffed out her feathers and clucked aggressively at the Stoat until it thought better of attempting that challenge and scurried off.

We had a quick look in on the beach on the way back. It was looking beautiful as ever, and not too busy on an admittedly sunny Monday in school termtime. A little group of four Gannets passed by just offshore. Several Little Terns were feeding just offshore or flying around the beach.

There were a lot of Red Admirals along the path – seemingly one every few metres. Painted Ladys were also much in evidence again today, both at Holkham and at Kelling Heath earlier. As we walked back to the car, a Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth zoomed past us and paused to hover in front of some Honeysuckle flowers.

P1020080Red Admiral – many more on the wing today

Then it was time to call it a day and head for home.

12th June 2015 – Afternoon Around Wells

A half day tour today, in the Wells and Holkham area this afternoon. It was gloriously sunny again – cool in the East wind coming in off the sea, but lovely out of it.

We met up in Wells and headed down to the harbour first, to the gull colony. There was lots of activity, as usual, and the Black-headed Gulls were making lots of noise. There were plenty of fluffy brown juveniles already. Those that wandered away from their nest site or down onto the beach were aggressively pecked at by the other neighbouring adults. With the odd Great Black-backed Gull hanging around as well, it is a perilous existence for a young gull away from the nest. A pair of Common Gulls down on the edge of the beach were particularly smart – we admired their pure white, rounded heads, dark eye and yellow bills.

We heard the Mediterranean Gulls first, their calls are very distinctive and could be heard quite clearly even over all the background noise. Then we picked out a pair of adults wheeling in the melee above the colony. We watched them flying back and forth, flashing their white wingtips. Even better, they then landed on the beach below us. We got them in the scope and could see their jet black hoods (unlike the inappropriately named, chocolate-brown headed Black-headed Gulls!). Very smart birds.

P1010981Mediterranean Gull – this pair of adults landed on the beach below us

There were lots of terns to look at too. On the edge of the gull colony, several Common Terns were sitting on the shingle. We got them in the scope and noted their bright orange-red bills with a distinctive black-tip. Eventually. we managed to find a single Arctic Tern as well – its slightly shorter, darker, blood red bill gave it away, as did its longer tail streamers which stuck out noticeably beyond the tips of its wings. The Little Terns were all feeding over the channel, plunge diving. One in particular came very close in front of us and we could see its yellow bill and white forehead patch, which help to distinguish them from the others. Their small size also gives them away, and this was most obvious when a Common Tern joined them fishing.

With the tide on its way in, we could see lots of waders being pushed up the mudflats on the opposite side. There were lots of Oystercatcher, but also a few smaller waders. A flock of 7 Knot was notable, in all grey winter plumage, and a couple of Turnstone. A single Curlew was also probing around in the muddy channels higher up the beach.

Our next stop was at Holkham. Despite the warmth of the afternoon, there were still a few warblers singing. A Blackcap sang from the shade of the trees by the end of Lady Anne’s Drive. There were several Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats still in full voice, and a single Willow Warbler in the edge of the pines. From out in the reeds by Washington Hide, we could hear both Sedge and Reed Warblers, but they were not so easy to see.

The usual tits were also present. We came across a nice family of Long-tailed Tits which dropped out of the pines to feed in a Sycamore, with lots of sooty-faced juevniles. While we were watching them, a Treecreeper appeared in the same tree and worked its way up and out along the branches. We could also hear several Goldcrests singing. The local Jays can be a bit elusive sometimes in the warmth of an afternoon, but we saw several today. Often, the alarm calling of the tits and warblers gave away their presence – there should be lots of nests for them to raid at this time of year.

P1010996Jay – very active today, even in the heat of the afternoon

As soon as we arrived at the Joe Jordan Hide, we could see a collection of white shapes on the bank of the nursery pool – Spoonbills. They were mostly asleep – sleeping is what Spoonbills do best! There were 5 dazzling white juveniles, not fully grown yet and so slightly smaller still than the more dirty-coloured adults. Another juvenile was more obliging, practising its feeding action out in the middle of the pool, and we could see its short, teaspoon-shaped bill. As we sat in the hide, there was plenty of coming and going, with Spoonbills moving backwards and forwards between the trees and the pool. An adult returning from a feeding foray was instantly set upon by its young, pursuing it, bouncing up and down, until it got fed.

Spoonbill juv Holkham 2015-06-06_3Spoonbill – a recent short-billed juvenile at Holkham

There were other birds coming and going as well – Little Egrets and Cormorants back and forth to the colony, bringing food for hungry beaks. There were still several Grey Herons around as well. Down on the pools, there were several Avocets feeding and flocks of Black-tailed Godwit which flushed periodically and whirled round flashing their black and white wings and tails. A Kingfisher was flushed by a Marsh Harrier from out of a ditch, but disappeared too quickly for everyone to get on it – a wise move, given that the Marsh Harrier took a swoop at it as it did so!

There are always lots of geese at Holkham, at this time of year mostly Greylags and Egyptian Geese. However, a scan of the grazing marshes revealed a couple of Pink-footed Geese still as well. There are often tens of thousands here during the winter, but almost all of them leave for Iceland in the late winter or early spring. Only a few remain through the summer, often sick or injured birds. We could see their distinctive dark heads and small, dark bills compared to the Greylags.

Holkham is also a great place to watch Marsh Harriers. We could see a pretty constant stream of birds flying back and forth from the Joe Jordan hide, but we stopped in a Washington Hide on our way back. We were glad we did – a particularly fine male Marsh Harrier passed right in front of the hide, and proceeded to spend several minutes wheeling over the reeds and back and forth over the grazing marsh just to the east. We saw a good selection of other regular raptors as well – a distant Red Kite or two over Holkham Park, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel.

P1010988P1010992Marsh Harrier – this fine male put on a great display today

Also from the hide, we watched a family of young Swallows in the dead trees below. A Cetti’s Warbler sang loudly from the bushes on the edge of the reeds. And a line of five Spoonbills flew out east over the grazing marshes, presumably heading to the saltmarsh to feed. Then it was time to head back.

7th June 2015 – Fen & Forest

Another Summer Tour today, but this time we headed down to the Brecks. Another lovely sunny day and, even better, the wind dropped. It was a glorious day to be out.

We started at Weeting Heath. We wanted to see the Stone Curlews before the heat haze got too bad, so we headed straight for West Hide. We could see three pairs of Stone Curlews – two were a little more distant, but one pair was feeding out on the grass with two already well-grown chicks. They are not the most doting of parents, and for the greater part of the time left the chicks to fend for themselves, though remaining nearby and keeping a watchful eye out for any predators.

IMG_5397Stone Curlew – adult and well-grown chick

We could hear a Firecrest singing while we were in the hide, so we stepped back outside to try to track it down. It was singing from the very tops of the pines, further along. We walked a little further down the main path and could see it flitting around below the canopy of the trees and it dropped down into an ivy-covered trunk.

The Spotted Flycatchers seemed to be a little elusive at first. We were just about to move on when we spotted one briefly, flying through the trees. Next thing we knew it appeared on a dead branch right in front of us, then flicked round and dropped into the ivy. It had landed on a nest! It was next to impossible to see, so well camouflaged, but we could just see a head and eye looking out.

P1010775Spotted Flycatcher – on the nest, can you see it?

Lakenheath Fen was the next stop on the itinerary. It was very busy in the car park – lots of people are seemingly still visiting in the hope of glimpsing the secretive Little Bittern. As we walked out along the main path, we had a chance to catch up with a few of the regular warblers singing again. There were lots of Common Whitethroats, several Blackcaps, many Reed Warblers and the odd Sedge Warbler, and a few very noisy Cetti’s Warblers. New Fen viewpoint was a little quiet, but a Kingfisher flew into the pool in front and landed in the reeds. It caught a fish – unfortunately out of view – and then flew off with in into the trees. A Cuckoo flew overhead.

P1010778Common Whitethroat – there were lots singing at Lakenheath today

As the temperature warmed, suddenly the Hobbys appeared. Before we knew it, we had at least three circling together round above us catching flying insects. It was great to just stand there and watch them, marvel at their effortless flight and exceptional manoeuvrability!

P1010791Hobby – we watched several hawking for insects over New Fen

We could hear a Bittern (a Great Bittern!) booming from the reeds in front of the New Fen Viewpoint, and we could hear it even better further along the path. At the west end of the West Wood, we caught up with the crowds awaiting the appearance of the Little Bittern. Normally a native of Central and Southern Europe, they have bred in Somerset in recent years. This one overshot the continent on its return migration this spring and has ended up here – if only it could find a female! We only waited a short time, and we really wanted to hear it (some people have waited many hours just to catch a glimpse of it). Eventually it started ‘singing’ – or should we say ‘barking’. It sounds rather like a cross between a dog bark and a toad croak, issued repeatedly. What a treat – to hear two species of Bittern within a few hundred yards of each other!

We walked up onto the river bank and, after a little while searching, we located a couple of adult Common Cranes in the reeds. We could see two long necks periodically stretching up, with black and white necks and red crowns. Standing over a metre tall, they can be surprisingly hard to see. They have a chick in tow, so we were careful not to disturb them,; we had a quick look and then headed back to the reserve.

On our way back, we stopped in at Mere Hide. There were several young Coot on the pond, together with their parents. Another Cuckoo sang from the trees. A Sedge Warbler kept coming down to the reeds in front of the hide to gather food, presumably for a hungry brood somewhere. Several Reed Warblers lurked more furtively in the reeds. We could hear Bearded Tits calling on a few occasions, but only glimpsed a shape flying up and over the reeds briefly.

P1010805Four-spotted Chaser – it was a good day for the number of dragonflies today

There was a good selection of Dragon- and Damselflies to look at as well today. Numbers of Four-spotted Chasers and Black-tailed Skimmers are starting to increase, but we also saw a few Hairy Dragonflies. Damseflies includes Large Red, Azure, Blue-tailed and Red-eyed Damselflies. As well as the regular butterflies, there were notable numbers of Painted Ladys again today.

After lunch, we headed into the Forest. Walking along a sunny ride, the grassy margins either side were alive with butterflies and day-flying moths. The butterflies were mostly Common Blues, along with a single electric Green Hairstreak. The moths were all Speckled Yellows, an enormous number of them.

P1010819Speckled Yellow – enormous numbers of this day-flying moth on the wing

We came to a large clearing, which is always good for pipits and larks, but an unusual song drew our attention to one corner. There, amongst the trees, a very smart male Redstart was singing. A slightly odd place to find one, they are very rare these days away from the Stanford battle area, so this was a real treat. We got him in the scope and got a good look and then stood and listened to him singing.

IMG_5425Redstart – singing in a clearing in the Forest

Out beyond the Redstart, we could hear a different song carried across the clearing. A quick scan revealed a Tree Pipit singing from the very top of a pine tree. There were other birds around the clearing as well – a family of Mistle Thrushes, several smart male Yellowhammers, and Skylarks singing.

IMG_5436Yellowhammer – singing from the same clearing today

We finished the day with a quick visit to Lynford Arboretum. We hadn’t even left the car park, when we heard the first Firecrest singing. A Goldcrest singing nearby gave a great opportunity for comparison. We ended up hearing at least 4 singing Firecrests around the Arboretum this afternoon. We managed to see one of them flicking surreptitiously around a fir tree.

There were other birds to see here as well – tits, Treecreepers, a smart pair of Siskin and a very pink male Bullfinch. Unfortunately, then we had to call it a day and head back, but what an enjoyable day it had been.

6th June 2015 – Heath & Marsh

A Summer Tour today in North Norfolk. It was a gloriously sunny day with only patchy cloud, but very windy once again gusting 35-40mph all day.

We started up on the Heath. A Willow Warbler was singing from the bushes as we got out of the car, and we could hear a Garden Warbler further along. We walked down to see if we could see it, but we only got a glimpse of it as it disappeared into the depths of a Blackthorn tree.

As we walked round the heath there was no sound of any Turtle Doves in their favoured area. However, we had only gone a little further when one flew past us and into the trees where we had just left. We could then hear it purring. We walked back, expecting it to be deep within one of the birches, but it was perched right on the top! It was being blown around a bit, but we got a great look at it, the bright rufous-fringed upperparts and delicate black and white streaked neck panel. The UK Turtle Dove population is in precipitous decline and it always a pleasure to see one as well as this.

P1010746Turtle Dove – being blown around in the top of a birch tree

It was blustery out on the open parts of the heath and general bird activity was a little subdued. We saw several Linnets and a couple of Yellowhammers, including a smart male perched in the top of a gorse bush singing, but there were not as many out in the open as usual, probably due to the wind.

P1010750Linnet – still a common bird on the heaths

We found the family of Stonechats in their usual place. We saw the juveniles first – they are becoming more confident now and perching up in the tops of the bushes. The male was busy collecting food nearby, for his hungry brood. We did also have a quick look for the Dartford Warblers, but they have been elusive anyway in recent days and they don’t like the wind, so it was no surprise that we couldn’t find them today. We didn’t waste much time there.

IMG_5346Stonechat – the family was still together on the Heath today

As we walked round back to the car park, the Garden Warbler was still singing away. We stopped nearby, and it seemed to come ever closer, until it was almost right in front of us, and still we couldn’t see it. Suddenly it flew up from within the brambles below us, and perched in full view for a few seconds, still singing. Then it flew back into the dense Blackthorn behind. It was great to get a good look at such an elusive species.

P1010754Garden Warbler – finally flew out right in front of us

The Garden Warbler had found a sheltered corner and when we looked down there were also several Green Hairstreaks in the undergrowth right in front of us. They were looking for nectar, but the bramble flowers were yet to open and they had to make do with some Groundsel.

P1010755Green Hairstreak – there were several on the Heath today, out of the wind

From there, we dropped down onto the coast. As we drove along the main coast road at Salthouse, we could see a large white shape on one of the pools. Sure enough, it was a Spoonbill and sure enough, it was asleep! We pulled up at the Iron Road, but we couldn’t see it over the reeds. However, the pools there held a nice flock of Black-tailed Godwit and we got the scope on a couple of male Shoveler. A smart male Marsh Harrier, with black-tipped, grey wings was quartering the marshes.

It was on to Cley next and our first destination was the East Bank. It was very windy up there, and at times we had trouble standing up! There were lots of Lapwing, Redshank and Avocet out on the Serpentine. We got a good look at both Sedge and Reed Warbler singing from the reedbed. Arnold’s Marsh held a large gathering of Sandwich Terns, clearly sheltering from the choppy conditions out to sea. We had hoped to catch a glimpse of a Bearded Tit, but it was always going to be an outside chance on such a blustery day.

P1010760Lapwing – stunning birds up close, check out the iridescent green upperparts

It was out to Teal Hide next. After our success a couple of days ago, we thought there might be more activity on the reserve proper, but it had gone back to being a little quiet. At least Teal Hide lived up to its name, and we saw a couple of drake Teal. There are large numbers here for the winter, but almost all of them have departed and there have been very few around in recent weeks, so this was a good bird for the day’s list. There were still lots of Avocet here, with several still brooding.

P1010766Avocet – lots at Cley today

There have been lots of Little Gulls along the coast in recent weeks, almost all young 1st summer birds, with black feathers in the wing and with variably patchy black summer hoods. There was one on Pat’s Pool today and another on Simmond’s Scrape.

IMG_5352Little Gull – 1 of 3 today at Cley, all being 1st summer birds

It was round to North Scrape next. This seems to be the best place to see waders at Cley at the moment. There was  a large, noisy crowd there today, but eventually they moved off and we could get a good look at the birds. A little flock of smaller waders consisted of 7 Tundra Ringed Plovers, a Dunlin and a single Little Stint. The latter was clearly much smaller than the other two species. There was also yet another 1st summer Little Gull.

Our last stop of the day was at Holkham. Lady Anne’s Drive was very busy today – I guess it was a Saturday and it was sunny, but the wind looked to be blowing a sandstorm across the beach! Rather than follow the hordes, we turned left and walked along the inside edge of the pines. We did walk up along the boardwalk by Washington Hide and out to take an admiring glance at the sea. It was nice and sheltered on the north side of the pines. We did also see a few Little Terns out over the beach and a single Common Scoter on the sea.

The flowers by Meals House have been very good for butterflies over the last few months. Today, we saw several Wall, a Red Admiral and a Holly Blue. We also saw quite a few Painted Ladys today – this species is a migrant, so they have presumably been carried her on the warm winds in recent days. There was also a nice female Blue-tailed Damselfly by Meals House.

P1010773Blue-tailed Damselfly – a female of the violacea form

There were a few birds along the edge of the pines today, though lots more were hiding from the wind. A Treecreeper flew out and fed in an oak tree beside the path, hanging upside down from a branch and working its way all the way along – its a miracle they don’t fall off!

Out at the Joe Jordan hide, it didn’t take long to find a Spoonbill. At first their was only one short-billed juvenile ‘Tea’-Spoonbill down on the nursery pool. Shortly afterwards, an adult arrived. It seemed to be feeding at first, but then started to wrestle a stick out of the water. There was obviously something substandard about it, so the stick was rejected and it started to pull dry leaves out of the reeds instead. After a while, it found something suitable and flew off into the trees with it.

IMG_5363Spoonbill – this adult was collecting nest material

More adult Spoonbills dropped down to the pool. One in particular, newly arrived from out feeding along the coast, attracted a single juvenile which started to beg, bouncing up and down and flapping its wings. The adult Spoonbill finally gave in and regurgitated a meal for the youngster. More juveniles dropped down as well and two stood out in the open on the nearest edge. We admired their whiter plumage and short, stubby bills. Then they seemed to engage in some sort of spoon-swordfight – it was hard to tell whether it was a friendly greeting, and at times it looked like they were preening each other. Interesting stuff.

IMG_5372Spoonbill – two juveniles jousting today

There were other things to see here as well. The nesting Cormorants also have growing young to feed. Both Little Egrets and Grey Herons were back and forth regularly. The pair of Grey Partridge were feeding in the grass down in front of the hide as usual. Several Marsh Harriers flew past. A large flock of Black-tailed Godwits periodically flushed from the pools behind the trees and flew round in a whirl. Then it was time to call it a day and head for home.

4th June 2015 – Summer’s Here

Another Private Tour today, based in North Norfolk. What glorious weather – mostly clear and sunny, light winds, and the temperature over 20C. That’s more like it!

Turtle Dove was a particular target, so we headed towards the Heath, which is a good area still for this rapidly disappearing species. On our way, we had a Barn Owl hunting beside the road, which just flew up for a second before disappearing behind a high hedge. Presumably it had young to feed. It seemed a perfect day to be up on the Heath. The Willow Warblers were singing from the birches and lots of Linnets were perched up on the tops of the gorse bushes calling. Everywhere we went, we seemed to bump into a Yellowhammer singing, which is always a great pleasure.

P1010660Yellowhammer – singing everywhere on the Heath this morning

As we walked round, we could hear a Garden Warbler singing. However, as we headed towards it, we heard the distinctive purring of a Turtle Dove. The Turtle Doves have some favourite trees they like to purr from and the noise seemed to be coming from that direction. We made our way there and it didn’t take long to find a Turtle Dove perched in the middle of a birch tree. We got it in the scope and had a good look at it before it flew off through the trees.

That was a good start, so we thought we would look for the Dartford Warblers as well. However, despite the seemingly perfect conditions, they were not being helpful today. We waited a little while, but they were not calling, so we decided our time was better spent elsewhere. As we walked back, a Common Lizard ran across the path and a couple of Cinnabar Moths flew up as we passed.

We headed down to Cley next. Driving along the coast road, we could see a Spoonbill out on one of the pools on the grazing marsh at Salthouse. It was doing what Spoonbills like to do most – sleeping! The East Bank at Cley has been the most productive area in recent weeks, so we stopped at Walsey Hills and walked out along the bank. There has been a Spoonbill here regularly in recent days, but presumably it was asleep at Salthouse today! We did see several Little Egrets, including one with particularly long nape plumes, a smart breeding adult.

P1010670Little Egret – a very well-plumed individual

There were lots of Lapwing and Redshanks, all fighting for territory, along the Serpentine, and good numbers of Avocet, but no other waders of note out on Pope’s Pool today. We could see the pair of Marsh Harriers distantly over Pope’s Marsh, but a darker male flew in from the east over them, prompting a little territorial circling. This was the Cley Marsh male, and he flew over our heads and landed out in the reedbed in the top of a bush. We had a good look at him in the scope.

We could hear plenty of Reed Warblers singing from the reedbed and we saw the odd one perched up briefly in the reeds. A Sedge Warbler was even more accommodating and sat in the top of a small sallow on the edge of the reedbed where we could get a close look at it. The Bearded Tits have also been very obliging here recently, but they were not today. On our way out, we couldn’t hear or see one!

IMG_5254Sedge Warbler – singing from the top of a bush as usual

We walked up to Arnold’s Marsh, which was also a bit quiet today. We did see a couple of Little Terns on one of the islands and a single Ringed Plover, as well as a small flock of Black-tailed Godwits. However, as we turned to walk back we finally heard the pinging of Bearded Tits. A male skimmed over the tops and dropped down into the depths of the reeds in front of us. After a couple of minutes he flew up again and disappeared again only a few metres further over, with a second bird calling nearby. Then they went quiet again. Still, at least it was a start.

We were not planning to walk out onto the reserve itself today, as it has been a little quiet in recent days, but we popped into the Visitor Centre to double check what had been seen. There was nothing on the sightings board, but as we turned to leave a quick scan revealed a couple of Little Gulls and a Greenshank in amongst a large flock of Black-tailed Godwit, so we changed out minds. As we walked along the path beside the road, a Grey Heron flew up ahead of us and perched on the rail of the footbridge. Nearby, a nice obliging Moorhen stood on the edge of the ditch preening.

P1010687Grey Heron – perched up on the bridge today

P1010690Moorhen – so obliging, it deserved a photo

As we approached Teal Hide, something spooked the Black-tailed Godwits and they all took off, frightening everything else as well. We half expected to see nothing left on Pat’s Pool when we got in the hide, but thankfully they all landed again. The Greenshank had now separated itself from the Godwits, but was mostly asleep. It woke up briefly when a Black-headed Gull tried to land on it, and we had a good look of it in the same scope view as a Redshank for comparison. There were at least 110 Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits on the scrape, most in winter plumage or with a few summer feathers, but a nice summer adult landed right in front of the hide. Apart from all the nesting Avocets, the only other wader of note here today was a single Little Ringed Plover.

P1010697Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit – in summer plumage

The Little Gulls were a little closer from the hide than they had been from the Visitor Centre. They were both 1st summer birds, neither with much black on the head. They were picking around on the mud around the edge of the islands today, rather than flying round catching insects. There have been a lot of 1st summer Little Gulls lingering along the coast in recent weeks, but it is always good to catch up with them.

IMG_5270Little Gull – 1 of 2 1st summer birds at Cley again today

While we were looking out from the hide, we heard the distinctive pinging of Bearded Tits again. This time, they flew in and landed in a narrow line of reeds in front of the hide. They dropped in out of view at first but quickly ran out of cover to hide in and worked their way up the dead reed stems. The Bearded Tits perched up in full view for a couple of seconds – two juveniles – before flying off behind the hide. Great stuff.

We had a quick look out from Dauke’s Hide, which was very quiet, and were initially similarly disappointed by the view from Avocet Hide. However, we heard the rush of wings first – something was flying really fast. Then a Hobby shot in from over the roof of the hide and powered towards an unsuspecting House Martin. At the last minute, the House Martin saw it coming and took emergency evasive action. The Hobby missed and turned for more, but the House Martin was now wise to it and flew off, with the Hobby still in pursuit. Even better stuff. Then it was time for lunch back at the Visitor Centre.

In the afternoon, we headed back west to the other side of Holkham, to walk out towards the dunes at Burnham Overy. Warbler activity was a bit more subdued this afternoon than recent mornings. We heard a Lesser Whitethroat singing briefly and saw one flick across the path in front of us. The Common Whitethroats were not singing as much as they have been and even the normally very vocal Sedge Warblers were mostly quiet. It was the middle of the day, and hot by now, so perhaps not surprising that activity has dropped.

While we were still amongst the bushes on the way out, we saw a Spoonbill fly west across the path over by the seawall, but it was too quick to get everyone onto it. There are often Spoonbills on the reedbed pool but when we got up onto the seawall we couldn’t see any today – only two more Little Egrets. However, we did hear a Bittern booming briefly. We could also see a Spoonbill very distantly, in the harbour channel towards Scolt Head, possibly the bird which had just flown over in that direction.

We carried on out towards the dunes. A Cuckoo flew in across the saltmarsh from Gun Hill and disappeared inland, chased by a Meadow Pipit. Otherwise, there was not much new to see on the walk out today – lots of Linnets and Reed Buntings.

From out to Gun Hill, we had figured we might be able to find the Spoonbill in the channel, but when we got all the way out there we couldn’t find it. There were lots of Ringed Plovers on the beach and a little group of Turnstone on a muddy island, including one stunning summer plumage individual with white head patches and rufous back.

There didn’t seem to be many terns initially, but when a Carrion Crow flew over from the direction of Scolt Head, a small cloud of Little Terns suddenly erupted from the beach, with a single Common Tern in amongst them. After that, the Little Terns started feeding in the channel alongside us and we had some stunning views of them. A single Sandwich Tern came in along the deeper part of the harbour channel as well – one good tern deserves another two at least!

P1010701Little Tern – feeding in the harbour channel at Gun Hill

We had all but given up hope of finding the Spoonbill when it suddenly flew in from round the corner and landed on the edge of the channel to feed. We got a good look at it in the scope. It wasn’t too distant from here, and we could see its mustard yellow breast patch, nuchal crest and yellow bill-tip. We thought that was good, but then it took off and flew towards us, landing half as close again. Great. Then it took off a third time and landed in the channel right in front of us. Stunning!

P1010709Spoonbill – flying past…

P1010714Spoonbill – …and landing in the channel right in front of us

We watched the Spoonbill feeding in the shallow water, sweeping its bill from side to side. It flicked its head up a couple of times as it caught something. Then it took off again and flew further up the channel. That seemed like a great way to end, so we set off for the long walk back to the car. On our way, what was presumably ‘our’ Spoonbill flew back over the seawall and headed in the direction of the breeding colony – presumably it has some young ‘teaspoon-bills’ to feed somewhere over there!