Tag Archives: Woodcock

13th June 2014 – Spoonbills, more Spoonbills & Nightjars

Day 1 of 3 day tour, we spent the afternoon and evening looking for Spoonbills and Nightjars. We started at Holkham and were quickly rewarded with the first White Admiral of the year, and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth feeding among the brambles. A splendid male Marsh Harrier passed by just in front of us, twice, but refused to come back a third time when we all had cameras at the ready! A Green Sandpiper called briefly, but was not seen, possibly an early returning bird. At least 9 Spoonbills were around the pools, mostly very white juveniles with their ‘teaspoon’ bills, but the odd adult flew in from feeding, causing a round of begging from the young. The adults are distinctive by comparison with their shaggy crests, yellow-tipped bills and duller body plumage with an obvious dirty yellow patch on the breast. A good selection of other regular wildfowl and waders was also on offer. As we walked back, a Hummingbird Hawkmoth landed on the track in front of us – very odd to see like that, and a good opportunity to photograph it.

From there, we drove back to Cley. On the way out, a small party of Bearded Tits pinged from the reeds. A group of 5 more Spoonbills were sleeping on one of the scrapes, but as we looked out of the hide two juveniles dropped down in front of us and proceeded to give stunning views right outside the windows. Amazing – a proper frenzy of Spoonbills for the afternoon. We also had a chance to look closely at both Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers in particular, as well as admire the variety of other waders and ducks in view.

After grabbing something to eat, we headed up to the heath before the sun went down. The Woodcock put on a stunning display, roding right overhead. It was hard to tell how many different birds were involved, but there were several passes overhead by a single bird and a couple of dogfights between twos. Several Tawny Owls were also hooting again. The Nightjars were a bit reluctant to get started, but once they did they more than made up for it. We had at least 3 churring males and one in particular perched up repeatedly on several of his favourite perches in full view of the scope – a real treat. We also had great flight views of the same male as it flew around us, displaying his white flashes in wing and tail. Such a good way to end the day.

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2nd June 2014 – Spoonbills & Nightjars… & Spectacled Warbler

Today was billed as a Spoonbills & Nightjars tour – it turned out to be a little bit more than that. Just as we were about to meet up for the afternoon, news came through of a Spectacled Warbler at Burnham Overy Dunes. Particularly as this site is very close to the Spoonbills, we were all agreed we wanted to try to see this very rare bird first.

A large crowd had already gathered in the dunes by the time we had walked out along the seawall. The Spectacled Warbler was initially asleep, but still lifted its head a few times to give little bursts of song. It quickly woke up properly, and started to feed around the sparse bushes in the dunes, singing and calling all the time and sounding somewhat like a cross between a Dartford Warbler and a Wren. A stunning male, rather like a diminutive Whitethroat with its grey head, white ‘spectacles’ and rusty wings, it fed characteristically low down in the vegetation and even hopped around on the ground. A real treat to watch – only the 8th record for the UK and the 2nd ever in Norfolk.

From there, we walked up to the Little Tern colony. The birds are only now getting down to business – a few birds were sitting on the beach, and several pairs were flying around together. At one point, we watched a pair courtship feeding, the male presenting a small sand eel to the female. A further stroll through the dunes and pines and we arrived at the Spoonbills. Eight well-grown juveniles with their ‘teaspoon’ bills were sitting around one of the pools, preening and loafing. When an adult flew in, fresh from a feeding sortie, the young birds chased after it, flapping and calling, pestering it like small children until it regurgitated some food. We watched them for some time, several adults coming and going while we were there. By the time we arrived back at the car, time was getting on and we headed off to get something to eat before sunset.

Up on the heath, we positioned ourselves in good time for the evening’s entertainment. Despite overcast skies and even a few spots of rain, the birds performed on cue. First, a roding Woodcock flew over calling, one of several we saw through the evening. A Tawny Owl hooted in the distance, a Barn Owl flew across in front of us, and then the Nightjars started. A quick burst of churring from the male, before a second bird started up more persistently behind us. This spurred the first into action, and he flew round past us, landing in the gorse out of view and churring again. Flying round a second time he landed all too briefly in a tree and we thought that might be the best of it, but he was not finished. Another quick circuit and he landed again, this time on a bare branch right in front of us. The light was still good at this stage, he stayed for a couple of minutes and we were able to get him in the scope affording us fill-the-frame views. Amazing! We stayed and listened to the birds for a while, with at least three churring males around us. As the light faded, the second male Nightjar came to one of his favoured perches, silhouetted against the moonlit sky, a fitting end to a very memorable day.

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