A very relaxed, part day Private Tour today, a birthday present for one of the participants. The request was to go looking for Nightingales and anything else which might be around within close proximity. Once again, it was a glorious sunny day with a pleasant cool easterly breeze on the coast.
It was a later than normal start as we drove to a local site which is a regular place for Nightingales. They are best listened for at dawn or dusk, but will sing right through the day, particularly early in the season. We had only just got out of the car when we heard our first Nightingale singing. It was being rather drowned out by a Song Thrush singing too, at first, so we walked further round to try to hear it better.
As we made our way along the edge of the trees, we could hear croaking, a bit like a frog, which was the Nightingale calling and just saw it flit away into cover – it had obviously been perched up in a sunny spot. As we walked back towards the car, a Goldcrest was singing in the trees. Then the Nightingale started singing again, closer to us this time, so we stopped to listen to it for a while. Magical.
We walked on in the other direction. There were lots of warblers singing from the bushes, particularly Blackcaps, Common Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs. A Lesser Whitethroat called from deep in cover. A Cetti’s Warbler shouted at us as we passed. Then a Treecreeper started singing from the trees. As we walked along, a second Nightingale started singing close by. Again, we stopped to listen to it, but this one was tucked down deep in some bushes and wouldn’t come out to show itself. Still, it was great to just stand there and listen to it singing.
We carried on further and heard a Cuckoo calling in the distance. We followed the sound and were told it had been seen flying round in some poplars. It took a few minutes walking up and down as it flew back and forth through the trees out of view, before it eventually perched up in full view for us to see it. There were several butterflies out in the hedgerows in the warm sunshine, particularly Speckled Woods and Orange Tips.
Speckled Wood – several butterflies were out in the sunshine
We were just listening to the second Nightingale again, when another couple of local birders called to us from further along. A Spotted Flycatcher was making sallies out from a dense clump of sallows, catching insects. We could see it flicking around and perched up briefly in amongst the leaves, before it disappeared deeper into cover. There have been good numbers of migrant Spotted Flycatchers passing through in recent days, but it would be nice to think that this one might hang around here.
Blackcap – this male had just finished bathing in the beck
From here, we drove down to the coast and had a short walk along the lane at Kelling before lunch. A Blackcap perched in the blackthorn preening, having just finished bathing in the beck below. Several Chiffchaffs and lots of Common Whitethroats were singing. A smart male Chaffinch was also singing, just above our heads.
Chaffinch – the males are very smart at this time of year
There was not much on the Water Meadow itself today. The resident Egyptian Geese have four fast growing goslings and the male insists on chasing any duck which tries to stop here, as well as some of the waders! There was a single drake Shoveler on the water as we walked down, which was swiftly moved on. A lone drake Teal was trying to hide from view on the island. An Avocet had been left alone and was feeding quietly along one edge. There were several Sand Martins and Swallows hawking for insects over the water.
We walked round the Quag and a smart male Stonechat was perched in the brambles, dropping down occasionally to the ground below to look for insects. There were lots of Linnets and Meadow Pipits out in the grass too, plus a few Skylarks. We walked up the hill beyond, scanning the sea as we went, where a few Sandwich Terns were flying past. In the top of the sheep field, we found three Wheatears out on the short grass and one flew over and landed on a fence post in front of us.
Wheatear – there were at least three in the sheep field still today
It was a bit exposed and breezy on the top of the hill, and slightly cool with it, so we dropped back down and set off to walk back. Opposite the Water Meadow, our attention was caught by a movement on the edge of the field just beyond the reeds. We couldn’t see it at first, but by carefully positioning ourselves so we could see through the vegetation we could see a smart female Whinchat on the electric fence. Unfortunately, she quickly dropped down out of view.
We walked back round the corner, from where we could see the whole of the fenceline, but there was no sign of the Whinchat there now. When we got back to the gate, we discovered why – she had flown all the way across to the other side of the field and through the scope we could now get a better look at her.
We had lunch at Cley and afterwards walked out onto the reserve. The tame Reed Bunting was singing from the top of one of its usual trees but the Sedge Warbler was a little more shy and tried to keep itself half hidden behind the emerging leaves.
Reed Bunting – this tame male sings to passers by from the bushes by the boardwalk
There was a nice selection of waders on Pat’s Pool again today. The Ruff are looking particularly smart at the moment, with their brightly coloured ruffs, and no two of the males are alike. Two rather different chestnut-ruffed males were in front of the hide, at least they were when they were not being chased away by the over-protective breeding Avocets! A couple of iridescent black-ruffed males were further over but the smartest Ruff of all was hiding right over the back – a delightful combination of golden buff and shiny black. Even better, he had his ruff slightly fluffed up in the presence of a female (‘Reeve‘) nearby.
Ruff – this male was in front of the hide, before being chased off by an Avocet
A Greenshank walked towards the hide just below the bank right in front of us and seemed like it would pass close by until the Avocet intervened again just at the crucial moment. However, we still had a great look at it on its way and when it landed again a little further on. We also spent some time watching the Avocets feeding, sweeping their bills back and forth through the shallows.
Greenshank – before being chased off by the Avocet
There were a couple of large groups of Black-tailed Godwits on both Pat’s Pool and Simmond’s Scrape. Relatively few are now left which are in full rusty orange summer plumage – presumably many of the adults have now departed on their way north to Iceland, and a greater proportion of non-breeding first summer birds remain.
Black-tailed Godwit – this one only in partial summer plumage
There were fewer small waders on the scrapes here than in recent days, but apparently a Peregrine had been hanging around earlier in the day. Still, there were a couple of small flocks of tundrae Ringed Plovers with two summer plumage black-bellied Dunlin in with them.
At one point a Reed Warbler appeared low down in the reeds in front of the hide, just across the other side of the channel. Having heard a few singing, it was nice to be able to see one too.
Reed Warbler – perched in the reeds in front of Dauke’s Hide
We had intended to finish the day with a gentle walk out to the East Bank, but when we got back towards the Visitor Centre the prospect seemed to become less appealing and a request was made to head for home instead. It was only back at the car that we discovered that a bag had been left behind in one of the hides, so while one of the group waited in the Centre, the other two of us walked back. We successfully retrieved the bag and were also rewarded for our efforts with two Bearded Tits which flew past us calling and dropped down into the reeds just beyond the boardwalk.