Blakeney 2017 – Cley NWT in the wind and rain

Blakeney harbour
Blakeney harbour

The weatherman promised a wet day for our last full day in Norfolk, and we woke up to rain. We took our time there was not compelling reason to get outside, but we did eventually. As we passed Cley it was still raining hard so we cruised on past and grabbed some petrol at a garage in Sheringham before returning to Cley.

The what;s about board for the day was a very short list probably because no one could be bothered to get out to a hide and back. We decided to take a look at the set of three hides near the centre, it was a cold and damp walk out and there was not much to see the usual crowd of Avocets and Shelduck were there the highlight were some baby Shelducks making and appearance from underneath their mother.

Angry Lesser Black-backed Gull

We walked back the the visitor centre and had coffee, cake and a pee before heading out again to the new Babcock hide which had been worth a visit the day before. We were not disappointed the Common Sandpipers and the Ringed Plover showed well in the scrape just in front of the hide. The walk back to the centre was even wetter, we lingered and watched the superb video in the exhibition space, some really good photography and time lapses.

We felt we had made as much of the day as we could given the weather so we went back to the hut and tidied up to save some time in the morning when we would reluctantly leave Norfolk. We had a meal at The Moorings to look forward to after the great meal we had one evening earlier in the week..

Blakeney 2017 – Cley NWT and The Quag

View of Cley marsh with blue sky

The weather promised to be great day, sunny and quite still. We decided a walk from the Cley NWT visitors centre would make for a pleasant day. We arrived at the visitor centre at just before 10 and had to wait a few minutes to get in and check the what’s about list. Of note was a Black Winged Stilt at the Quag which is a lovely small body of water a couple of miles east down the coast, a place we were quite familiar with,

We made goo progress until we got to a sea breach which I estimate was over a kilo-meter long. We reached a rest point on a hillock and I checked out the car park in the distance to see if the coffee van was there, alas it looked like it wasn’t. We rested for a while then continued the trudge as we got closer I checked out the car park again it looked like there was a coffee van it looked like just another blue van, but it had a queue of two waiting.

The new Babcock Hide overlooking Watling Water Cley

We grabbed a coffee from the man in the van and wandered up to the next little hill to enjoy it. On the way I noticed a drone flying over the marsh. We got to our favourite bench on the hill for a spot of sea watching, when suddenly a woman started shouting at her partner to get the bee off of her, he said he could not see any. Helen stepped in and explained that the noise was the drone over the marsh which sounded like a bee!

We headed off to the Quag, and managed to get there by avoiding pebbles all the way. There were some cows in a field and we noticed, unusually, a Bearded Tit fly in and settle briefly. We sat for 5 on a large lump of wood probably washed up in the winter storm to see if it emerged again, but it did not. At the Quag itself things did not look promising although there were some scopes trained om the water no one seemed to be looking though them. We took a look ourselves then moved round a bit and tried again, the Black-Winged Stilt was behind a small island and was not showing really well. It was a first for us they are quite rare in the UK and normally found in the south of France.

The coast road at Cley

We walked up the lane to the coast road and checked the bus times, we had time for a coffee so we used the junk/book shop and tea room. Just before the bus we due we went out to the stop but the bus was just pulling past, I had read the timetable wrong. We had a 30 minute wait so had a quick browse around the junk then sat on the war memorial and watched some children doing cycling proficiency lessons until the bus came.

It was early afternoon at the NWT centre so I had coffee and cake and Helen a cheese scone, then we headed to the new Babcock hide. We were pleased to be able to watch Common Sandpipers and a Little-Ringed Plover. We got back to the hut at about 17:00 and spent the evening watching the Woman in Gold staring Helen Mirren which we both enjoyed.

Norfolk 2016 – Another Short-eared Owl

Sea bank at Cley next the Sea

After a late start we decided a walk from Weybourne to Salthouse would be a good way to start the day. We drove to Salthouse then waited for the bus to Weybourne. I had left my phone in the car so walked back to get it, luckily the bus was late, the fare was £1.60 each.

The bus stop in Weybourne s outside the pub but we took the beach road, then turned West at the sea. Before we left the village we popped into the village shop and purchased some goats cheese  baked on bread product for some lunch en route. There was a lot of construction work going on I had a theory that they were laying the cables for a new off shore wind farm. There were boats off shore and big reels of cable. It turns out I was right and it is controversial

Norfolk coast boat and tractor

Around Muckleborough we passed the strange weather monitoring station that makes a strange whistling sound. We then dipped and n land a bit to take a look at the Quag where we have seen some rare birds in the past, however there was not a lot to see. Back near the sea we spotted a Short eared Owl flying away from us, which landed out of sight. We thought it may have been the one we saw on Saturday.

We had lunch on one of the grassy mounds where we found a convenient bench. I took the opportunity to grab some time lapse sequences. It was not along before we turned in land to Salthouse where the car had patiently waited. We had some time to spare so we thought a visit to Glanford would be nice, there is a shell museum, a cafe and our favourite binocular shop Cley Spy.

The Shell Museum, Glandford, North Norfolk

The shell museum is a gem of a place, started 101 years ago by the owner of Glanford Hall, Sir Alfred Jodrel, as part of a complete restoration of the village. It originally housed, his personal collection but has expanded by many donations one from many locals and people from far and wide including Sir Alec Guiness. As we left the Shell museum the church bells rang three o’clock, followed by a few notes from what we thought was a hymn, then about 30 seconds later there was another hymn, we thought it was very twee.  Next up was coffee and cake at the Art cafe, where we had a devine coffee each and I had a piece of carrot cake. Finally we did a bit of browsing in Cley Spy, the biggest collection of binoculars I know with friendly staff to boot.

We could not find anything to buy at but I was tempted by a Joby Gorilla Pod in metal, complete with ball head for £99. We booked a table in town at the Golden Fleece they do Pizza. The meal was great I had a monk fish curry, and they sold some lovely real ale, I went for the Adnams Ghost Ship. I took my camera with me because the light was low but it helps to take the battery with you which I had left on charge. We booked a table by the wind for Friday night.

Norfolk 2016 – Black headed yellow wagtail

View of Cley next the Sea

A&C were due back home today and C had the Spurs Chelsea football match to attend, so we got an early start at Burnham Overy Staithe the plan was to walk back to the Cafe at Wells next the sea. We parked up at 09:30 and headed out along the sea wall the windows was blowing and we were glad of the layers we had with us. On the west side of the wall in the mud we saw quite a few waders highlights included Golden Plover.

It was much warmer when we were out of the wind and after some distance on the beach we headed into the pine forest in search of Goldcrest but we dipped. Helen’s foot had been playing up so we stopped for a rest at the hide for 5 minutes, before resuming. The walk was a lot longer than we expected, and we were glad to the get to the cafe, where we all had a drink. We thought we might get some nice food back in tow.

View of Cley next the Sea

We cheated and got the miniature train back to Wells. It was an experience not to be forgotten and one I have never done before, it also saved us the long boring walk along the sea wall with the rest of humanity. We managed to get a table at the Wells Deli and I had a wonderful bowl of noodles vegetables and prawns in a chilli broth, it was excellent. We went back to the hut and grabbed A&C stuff then they dropped Helen and I back at the car. It had been great to have their company for a couple of days.

Helen and I drove to Titchwell RSPB which tuned out to be quite an adventure, first we blagged our way in because we could not find our current membership cards. The guy at the gate told us that there was a Black Headed Yellow Wagtail about and pointed out where it was on the map. Neither of us had ever seen one, and they do not feature in all bird ID books. Down on the path we saw a load of bird watchers scanning the area it had last been seen, but it had started to rain and so we did not hang about.

Holkham Beach and dunes Norfolk

The next hide did not seem to have much wildlife about it so I suggested we went to the Parrinder hide a bit further down the path. We found and empty hide but noticed that there were a lot of people in the one next door. We scanned the water in front of the hide and started to spot the odd wader or two, there was not much about to write home about. I noticed that the people next door were looking in a certain direction so I trained my binoculars there too. After about a minute I chanced upon a canary yellow bird with a black head, there it was the Black Headed Yellow Wagtail. We watched it for a while and had great views before it disappeared behind a bank.

Windmill at Cley next the Sea

Whilst all that was going on it occurred to me the people on the bank might not know, so I checked them out with my binoculars and someone had obviously radioed the news over to them, as they all decamped over to the hide next to the one we were in. When they got there a few of them were disappointed an grumpy because it has moved out of sight. Some of them came into our hide to see if the angle afforded a view but it did not. We left the hide soon after, and when we got back to the bank some birders had managed to get a view of the bird on the bank that was out of view. We saw some of the grumpy ones heading back to where they started.

Helen and I got a look through one of the scopes it was a very distant view. We had been very fortunate. On the walk back to the visitor centre we told a few people where to see the bird and quite a few epople had arrived to take a look. We headed home for some dinner (salad) and an early night.

Norfolk 2016 – Walk from Salthouse to Blakeney

View of Wells-next-the-sea Norfolk

We were up relatively early and were aiming to get a bus from Blakeney village hall to walk back to Blakeney, taking in a coiple of coffee stops. A made us some porridge for breakfast, and we followed that up with some toast, we were all set to walk at least until lunch time. The weather was sunny and slightly warmer than the day before.

It did not take long to get to Blakeney and the car park was not very full. We had a ten minute wait for the bus which arrived full of passengers but the bus almost emptied before we got on. The bus fare was £2 a head one way to Salthouse green. The weather was fine with wispy cirrus clouds, the type of Norfolk big sky weather I like. We took the beach road towards the sea and then turned west. The walk was a bit of a slog because NWT now let the shingle banks collapse in the winter storms.

Holkham Beach Norfolk

We stopped often to look for birds and I spotted what I thought was a Short Eared Owl, it was close in but flew away from us. Some other birds watchers further down the road confirmed by my sighting. The last time I had seen one was on the path between Cley and Blakeney quite a few years back. When we go to the East bank we noticed a new open hide had been built where a bench used to be, we stopped and tried it out, but most of the waders were over the far side further east. I took the opportunity to take a time lapse sequence of the stunning sky. We heard rumours of a Spoonbill and were chuffed to spot it close in further down the bank.

We stopped of in the NWT visitor centre for lunch which we had outside as the weather was noticeably warmer than the day before. I had a crab sandwich for a second day running. I took the opportunity to remove my thermal under layer. C took the opportunity to visit the Cley Spy shop to get replacement rain guards for her binoculars  which she had lost the day before.

Next stop would be Blakeney, and we headed into Cley then took the path that passes the Windmill rather than the busy road. Three of us grabbed an ice cream at the Cley Deli which went down well, and gave us an energy boast for the sea wall walk to Blakeney. Soon after the start of the path we spotted what might be Bearded Tits and after some perseverance we got great views which were a first for C.

News papers sold from a windows in Cley next the Sea

We were quite tired by the time we got to Blakeney and did not hang about  as there were a lot of people about. On the walk back to the car we tried phoning a few restaurants to try to get a table for 4, we we did not hav much luck until we called the Edinburgh Hotel which had a table for us. At first we were a bit worried as to why there was a table available, however when we looked at the website it looked OK and sold pub grub.

We got back to the hut and rested after the long walk. The pub seemed like a genuine local with lots of Norfolk accents to be heard at the bar. I had some great fish and chips with a very generous portion of mushy peas washed own with a pint of Woodfords Wherry and another of Nelson bot very quaffable. By the time we return to the hut we were ready for bed and soon were sleeping soundly.

Norfolk 2016 – It’s all about the journey

Big Norfolk sky at Holkham

No Thames Path for a couple of weeks as we are off to Norfolk for a week, staying at Wells-Next-The-Sea. We were up in good time so much so I took the opportunity to get a long over due haircut in Wendover. It was at the front of a queue of 3 when they opened, and left shorn when there were 7 in the queue. We had invited A&C to stay with us on the Saturday and Sunday nights.

We left the house at 09:30 and took a route via Hemel Hempstead and Hatfield, then on to Thetford and beyond. Helen contacted A&C via SMS it turns out we had made similar progress they were slightly ahead and warned us about traffic in Fakenham, which enabled us to take a cross country route. We agreed to meet up at Cley NWT for a bite to eat. After eating we decided to grab some food from the Cley deli them go to the hut and sump our stuff then go for a walk.

Holkham Beach Norfolk

We walked from the hut out along the sea wall to the caravan site and them the coat guard watch hut. We walked along the beach where there were some seals. I convinced everyone that we should walk all the way to The Victoria then get the bus. On the way we saw some Brent geese and later some meadow pipits. We arrived at the bus at the time of what turned out to be the last bus which luckily was running late and so we got the bus.

For dinner has stuff we had bought at the Cley deli. The blue soft cheese was lovely. All in all a good journey and a great time with good friends.

Lesser Grey Shrike Leiston Suffolk

Last full day of our holiday in Thropeness, the party is splitting into different factions. Helen and I went for a walk hoping to take in a rare bird that has been spotted less than two miles away from the hut. The others went for a walk to Aldeburgh to look at the giant clam sculpture.

Trevor on tour Lesser Grey Shrike picture

I spotted the bird sighting on the  UK400ClubRareBirdAlert site which is run by Lee Evans. Apparently according to the blog “A first-winter LESSER GREY SHRIKE is present for its fourth day in Suffolk after being discovered on Sunday by two novice birdwatchers who eventually notified RSPB staff at Minsmere RSPB after they had enjoyed a few beers in the Eels Foot Inn at Eastbridge. John Grant quickly made his way to the location and confirmed the bird’s identification. It has been showing well in the paddocks immediately SSE of Halfway Cottages, just east of Leiston town (situated on Sizewell Road about a mile down from the main Leiston to Yoxford road) at approximately TM 463 621. Park sensibly opposite the Cottages and respect the privacy of the residents. It constitutes the 9th record for Suffolk following singles at Hollesley Common on 22nd-23rd May 1970 (trapped & ringed), Walberswick Heath on 7th June 1973, Lakenheath on 4th June 1977, Lound Waterworks from 10th-12th September 1989, Walberswick Common on 25th May 1996, Thelnetham Fen in Suffolk Breckland on 29th June 2006 (singing male), Shingle Street from 8th-11th July 2006 (adult female) and at Trimley Marshes on 14th September 2009 (first-winter).”

We are staying about two miles from the cottages so we set out for a walk that would take in the site in the hope that after 5 days it was still there. We came across a couple walking a dog and puppy, the puppy seemed to wary of us and took some cajoling by the owners before it would walk past us and then it did as fast as it could. We covered some ground that we had covered the other day when we walked to Sizewell beach. After having to consult the map a few times we took a pretty direct route to halfway cottages, then identified the paddock by the group of people with scopes. The shrike was sat on top of a bush and was very visible, John Grant let Helen and I have a look through his scope which gave us the opportunity to see the bird in detail. If I had seen it myself I could only have identified it as a Shrike, as it is the first one I have ever seen, so to see a rare Lesser Grey Shrike was a real treat.

Minsmere beach

We hung around for 5-10 minutes observing then walked toward the sea just south of Sizewell where there is a cafe attached to a camp site. We had a coffee then headed back along the coastal path to the hut, in time for a cheese sandwich for lunch. Helen and I then caused another split by heading off to Minsmere RSPB for the after noon while another faction went for a walk on the beach and three others went for a £30 30 minute sea blast in a rib boat from Southwold harbour.

Helen and I  parked up at the reserve then headed in land and took a footpath on the right that headed over Dunwich Heath in hope of seeing Dartford Warblers. We were not disappointed we saw two Stonechat and about 5 or 6 Dartford Warblers which the heath is famous for. At coat guard cottages we had a drink and shared a piece of lemon drizzle cake whilst enjoying warm sun. I was down to a single layer just a t-shirt was warm enough. We headed down to the beach and on towards East Hide (our favorite), on the way Helen spotted a single seal out on the water and we had a look at an RSPB sculpture made of plastic found on the beach, which was being used to inform people of the issue that plastic is and how it pollutes the sea, as it gets broken down into smaller and smaller bits, it affects the wildlife, as it gets into the food chain.

There was not much to see from the East Hide just the usual suspects ducks and a few godwit. On the way back we stopped to look for Bearded Tit from the new sea defenses, but failed to spot more that a pigeon and a blue tit. After a look around the shop we headed back to the hut to tidy up before heading to The Dolphin pub for a meal.

Wilstone Reservoir Great White Egret

View from Wilstone reservoir hide
Great White Egret at Wilstone

All week there has been a Great White Egret present at Wilstone Reservoir, I woke up to clear blue skies and a slight breeze, so no excuse to not get down there and join the twitch. It is fairly rare to get one in Hertfordshire, although there is another one at another site presently. I have seen a few mainly at Minsmere in Suffolk, I would describe them as a pure white Heron with or a large Little Egret with orange/yellow beak.

The car park was full but someone was leaving as I arrived, I parked up and wandered round to the hide. The hide was empty bar two people, both with cameras. I enquired about the Egret, they said it was still present but out of site. I found a seat and settle in for a possible long wait.

Slowly the hide filled up. After a 40 minute wait the bird came into site on the edge of the reeds, as usual the sun was behind the bird so it would be record shots rather than decent pictures. Five minutes later it was hidden by reeds. It appeared again for 10 then flew off out of site.

Whilst waiting I scanned the whole area. Quite a few Martins still about, but did not spot any late Swifts, wildfowl included Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Mallard and Gadwall, of the waders I only saw Redshank. A few times Buzzards flew over at one point there were three in view. The usual Cormorants, Lapwings, and Mute Swans were about. A fax was spotted in the far corner, and a late Tern was a highlight.

Distant shot of Great White Egret

The GWE reappeared perched right on top of a fallen dead Willow, the photo potential was great but it would have require a longer lens that is currently available! We were then treated to a long flight around the reservoir, they have a real strange way of looping around a more like a Little Egret than a Heron.

There was a teenage kid in the hide, obviously a very keen bird watcher, he was explaining to someone in the hide how he had come from Kings Langley, on the train with his bike, this allowed him to cycle along the canal from Tring station and take in College Lake, Startops Reservoir and Wilstone Reservoir all in one trip. Is he a Chris Packham in the making?

I had had enough by 12:00 so headed home for some lunch. Later on we are off to the Thame food fair then out for a meal in Thame with I&R.