Thursday, 11 October 2012

Norfolk Long-Weekend - Part 2

My second reserve visit during my long-weekend in Norfolk was to Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Cley Marshes. It was a bit overcast with some light rain threatened, but I wasn’t going to let that spoil a visit I had been really looking forward to. Fortunately the winds were lighter than during the visit to Titchwell, so my hopes were high of seeing more Beardies.

A view of the Visitor Centre
Following advice from one of the reserve’s volunteers I headed straight for Bishop’s Hide. The walk through the reedbed certainly provided some reassurance with “pings” going off all around me. Inside the hide it wasn’t very long before the birds made a first fleeting appearance. After a number of “pings” a group of 6 or so appeared at the top of the reeds about 50 feet from the hide, but they didn’t stay long as something large overflew them. However, over the next 30 minutes they returned a couple of more times, and seemed to head for a patch of Willow Herb that had gone to seed. Whether that was easier to pull than the other reed I’m not sure, but there was a clear attraction.
Beardie in Willow Herb
 In front of Bishop’s Hide is Pat’s Pool, but this was fairly quiet despite the approach of high tide. There was a single Dunlin and a couple of Black-Tailed Godwits, but otherwise it seemed to be more Wigeon and Teal city than anything else. Large numbers seemed to have flown in, all in various stages of eclipse.

Wigeon - in eclipse

Tufted Duck - also in eclipse
I tried my luck along East Bank. This was the volunteer’s second suggestion, and given the length of the reedbed alongside the path I was hopeful for more success. Interestingly it was along this path that I actually saw my first Cetti’s Warbler in the spring; even more interestingly a bird was calling from the reeds but was not so willing to be seen. Perhaps it may have been the same bird?

Very soon, though, the Beardies made a welcome appearance, and I was able to get some good views of both male and female birds. Again they were flighty and didn’t stay in one place for very long, and usually headed for the lower reeds if startled. However, these views we probably amongst the best I have ever had, and without the need for a scope!

Beardies - male and female

Resplendent male Beardie

Male and female Beardies
On our way back to our hotel, we stopped in at Morston Quay and Wells-next-the Sea, just to see what may be about. Both locations allowed some good shots of Little Egret and Redshank, but the surprise for me was two winter-dressed Guillemots diving off the main quay at Wells. Given the distance from the open sea, it seemed strange to see these two birds at close confines and not while on a boat!

Little Egret



Guillemot ready for winter
The following day we travelled home to East Yorkshire. Hopefully it won’t be long before I can go back to Norfolk.

Autumnal Norfolk - Part 1

This week my wife and I went down to the north Norfolk coast to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Being the wonderful woman she is, Lyndsay allowed me a couple of visits to reserves as a chance to get some photos and experience the last throes of this year’s summer return migration. I also wanted the chance to photograph Bearded Tits (or Reedlings as they are known locally).

The first visit was to Titchwell RSPB – the so-called flagship of the Society. It was my first visit, and my first impressions were all good despite the numbers of visitors. The day had been chosen specifically because high tide was due late in the morning. As at Spurn the tide supposedly pushes the waders up the beach, at which point they fly to the reserve’s freshwater and tidal marshes to roost until the feeding grounds resurface again. My expectations were of the scenes shot by “Countryfile” with thousands of Knot flying overhead. Given my past record you’ll not be surprised to hear that that didn’t happen. However, the day was by no means a waste for that.

The walk towards the beach took me past extensive reedbeds, and it wasn’t long before they were alive with the “pings” of my target bird. The wind wasn’t quite perfect, but very soon Bearded Tits could be seen in the reed-tops plucking at seed heads. These little birds are very flighty, and are a nightmare to photography as they cling to the reed tops, swaying back and forth in the breeze. But their fantastic colours were bright in the morning light.
Bearded Tit


 An additional surprise was the occasional, but noisy call of a Cetti's Warbler. It seemed to be very close, but after a full 45 minutes sat waiting for an appearance, I had to give up to the hunger pangs and have something to eat in the cafe.
After lunch I walked to the Freshwater Lagoon to find it stuffed full of allsorts – distant Spoonbill (from the nesting colony up the road at Holkham), Knot, Golden Plover, Ruff, Curlew, Black-Tailed and Bar-Tailed Godwits, Redshank and Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Curlew, Little Egret, Lapwing, and lots of duck.

Black-Tailed Godwit




Little Egret

I think that the thing that stuck with me was just how approachable some of the birds were. The walk alongside the tidal lagoon allowed me to get some close shots of Godwits, Redshank, Curlew, Greenshank, and Little Egret. Despite the numbers of people walking past these birds seemed not to mind at all – something that I find a little disturbing. Could Titchwell be turning into something of a zoo?

I tried the new walks. These are clearly under development, so it was not surprising that there wasn’t much about. However, I did come across one very tired Swallow. It was all it could do to fly a circuit of one of the small lagoons, before landing on one of the seats. It was so tired – presumably from flying across the Wash – that I was able to get within 3 or 4 feet of it. I left it sitting on the gravel, warming itself in the afternoon sun.

A very tired Swallow!!

Little Grebe
My impressions of Titchwell? I had a good visit. Titchwell is a good reserve with some excellent photo opportunties, hides and facilities - but for me, a bit too busy.