Monday, 5 December 2011

Saturday 3rd December - A peep show in Norfolk

When a SEMI-P SANDPIPER at Cley was re-identified on Thursday as a WESTERN SANDPIPER, PJ rang me to ask if I was interested in going to see it on Saturday. I replied with "Already seen one. Don't need it". Now this is something I don't have the privilege of saying very often to veteran British lister PJ, as his list is considerably larger than mine (He's a member of the UK500 club now!). In fact, I only have three birds on him, one of which is WESTERN SANDPIPER.

Western Sandpiper at Brownsea Island in Oct 2004.

We had planned to pop down to Chew to see the SHARP-TAILED SAND and LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS, but you usually can't go wrong with a day out to Norfolk and so I agreed to change my plans and help PJ make his list that bit bigger. "Lucky" CJW was also available to come along, despite having only two hours sleep following a late shift. We set off at 05-00hrs, and arrived at Cley at 08-40hrs.

Now in time honoured Clayhead tradition, we decided to sneak into the reserve without buying a permit. We walked along the path, knowing the fact that the WESTERN SANDPIPER was showing and we could see the hides. Then, on the last bend, a cunning NWT warden was carefully positioned to check permits. We then had to retrace our steps and walk all the way back to the visitors centre. The most annoying thing about this was not the long walk back with the bird showing, nor was it that they could have told us before hand to buy a permit (original instructions said the visitors centre was open at 10-00hrs to buy permits), but the fact that when we walked back towards the hide, the little man had disappeared, and in fact I showed no one my permit at all during my visit.

Anyway, we managed to squeeze ourselves in one of the hides, and we were soon watching the Western Sandpiper distantly. Views weren't great, and then it poured down and the light wasn't very good.

Western Sandpiper at Cley, Dec 2011

Eventually it flew off down onto the other scrape. We moved into the Daukes hide, but we were now looking into the sun. So we walked down to the Bishop hide where we hoped we would have good views with the sun behind us. But by the time we reached the hide, it had flown back to the Simmonds scrape. We did however, see the drake Green-winged Teal, a Norfolk tick would you believe for "Lucky" CJW and PJ.

Everyone agreed that we should head back up to look at the Western Sandpiper for one last time. The sun was out now, the hide wasn't too busy and the bird was out of view, tucked up below a bank! It did eventually show, and we could finally see all the Western Sand features such as the legs looked like a Western Sand's legs, and the plumage and shape were also reminiscent of a Western Sand.

My photo's of the Western Sandpiper - A valuable aid in the id process for anyone.

For a more in depth discussion on the identification of Western Sandpipers, click here

PJ and "Lucky" CJW in the hides at Cley

And so we headed along the coast for our next target bird, the ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD at Holkham. We stopped overlooking the fresh marsh at first, seeing 70+ White-fronted Geese, a Marsh Harrier and a few Egyptian Geese. We carried along a bit further, and found loads of cars parked and birders. It looked promising, and by the time we had crossed the road, the Rough-legged Buzzard had been found and was flying in front of the pines. It was a bit distant, but it performed very well for us, even landing on the ground. Another Norfolk tick for CJW - his third of the trip!

Rough-legged Buzzard at Holkham/Burnham Overy Dunes - copies available on request

We were on a roll now, and our last stop was at Titchwell for the YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER. We were told that it had been heard calling around the car park area, and we had a good look around there and along to the Fen hide, but we didn't see it. We did see, however, a Spoonbill, Spotted Redshank and Little Egret to finish off a fine day's birding in Norfolk.

This sign was in the visitors centre at Titchwell. I'm glad that good old Potteries dialect is alive and kicking in North Norfolk. Good on you young Bob!

PJ trying to photograph the fancy handles in the weird Parinder hide.

Two Pintail

Wigeon showing well

Little Egret at Titchwell (photo by PJ)

Black-tailed Godwit at Titchwell (photo by PJ)

A triumphant Clayhead gang trudge wearily back to the car at the end of the day.