Thursday 26 September 2013

A Weekend on the North Norfolk Coast

Clare and I spent last weekend on the North Norfolk Coast, visiting some of the wonderful reserves such as Titchwell, Cley and Snettisham.  Here is a tiny part of the impressive high-tide roost of waders at Snettisham (with plenty of Greylag Geese in the background). In the foreground are thousands of Red Knot (in their grey winter plumage) and hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits. (Click on the photo for a larger image). During this roost, the knot flock was constantly alert, as newcomers continued to land among them. After an hour, the flocks began to leave again, heading out to the mudflats of the Wash. There were also great numbers of Oystercatchers, Common Redshank, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, smaller numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew, and a few Turnstone, Spotted Redshank, Avocet and Grey Plover. Add in heaps of Shelduck, various gulls and a few lingering terns....a great experience. 

 We watched Pink-footed Geese grazing on the pastures at Holkham - here are a handful of the thousands that have just arrived from breeding grounds in Greenland and Iceland. Their flight call is a characteristic wink-a-wink, typically uttered by a skein as they fly over in V-formation. At Titchwell, we found Bearded Reedlings in the reed-beds, Spoonbills asleep as usual, and even a Pectoral Sandpiper, a vagrant from Arctic Canada. The new hides offer superb views of a great variety of duck and waders which seem oblivious to waving arms, chattering visitors, and mobile phones ringing. 

I particularly enjoyed visiting Cley for the first time...after almost 50 years of birding in the UK. It's an old stomping ground of Clare's so she was happy to guide me round. Highlights were a Lapland Bunting, just arrived and quietly feeding on weed-seeds on the shingle by the beach, and a Hobby aerobatically chasing dragonflies. There was also a Red-backed Shrike on view. The flocks of Wigeon, Teal and Lapwing were frequently re-arranged by the resident Marsh Harrier. The panorama over the marshes from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust's superb reserve centre is magnificent.

From Morston we took a short boat trip to the tip of Blakeney Point to see the Common and Grey Seals hauled out on the shingle. The Common Seals (known as Harbor Seals in North America) have already had their pups this year, but the Greys give birth in October and November. In this photo most are Common, but the near-right seal is a Grey, with a longer, straighter nose. The Greys are steadily increasing in number. Most notable among the birds of the boat-trip was a large flock of Golden Plover, which wheeled round indecisively for ages before landing in the saltmarsh.

We visited our friend Stephen Clark, photographer and picture-framer, at his superb exhibition in Brancaster Staithe Village Hall. Here's Stephen chatting to Clare. With his wife Deanee, he runs Pebbles Photographya showcase of his wildlife and landscape work. Our Norfolk days were a great break, but now it's back to the serious stuff...I'm all packed and ready to leave for a two-week safari in Ethiopia, with an Ornitholidays group.