Archive for Feb, 2023



Over the past week or so there’s been a movement of our wild swans back North. I’ve seen several parties of Bewick’s tracking East along the coast and Whoopers heading back North. These are not our birds. We only borrow them for the Winter.


Who knew?

Who knew Kestrels had drumsticks?


Science Week Walk

Yesterday I hosted a walk around the perimeter of Cley Marshes. The walk was just one of the events for Norwich Science Week. It was well attended by a variety of guests of varying ages; however they all exhibited somethings in common. Enthusiasm and a keen urge to learn.

We discovered Winter visitors that use the area, we discussed the migration that got them there and we steeped ourselves in the history of the North Norfolk coast. We explored how the ice age shaped the landscape and how our birds use it to feed, migrate through and over-winter. We discussed how the NWT (Norfolk Wildlife Trust) was begat from the womb of the NNNS (Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists’ Society) some seventy odd years ago with a specific aim of purchasing the marshes and we talked of some of the local characters that shaped bird watching today!

The birds put on a good show with a singing Cetti’s Warbler, a stooping Peregrine, Marsh Harriers a plenty and a Red throated Diver that did everything but come out of the sea onto the beach. A flock of wintering Snow Buntings gave us a flypast as did a small flock of Bewick’s Swans and out on Arnold’s Marsh were a variety of Duck and Waders; including the over wintering Long-billed Dowitcher.

Arnold’s Marsh is named after Edward Carleton Arnold. A headmaster from Eastbourne who was no stranger to the Cley area in the early 1900’s. Edward (or given his headmaster status should we refer to him as Mr Arnold?) wrote several books back in the day. One of them, “British Waders” sits on my bookshelf. A signed copy, number seven of only fifty copies printed, with some stunning watercolours by the author.

There’s something humbling about watching the Redshanks yesterday illustrated in the book by the author who gave his name to the marsh where we were watching them.


Bill me!

Those of you that have been to Scotland with me in the past may remember Chris and Anne. They used to run Willowbank Guest House at Granton on Spey where we stopped when I first did the Scottish specialities Tour. Anne was renowned for her culinary delights she procured from the kitchen. Chris on the other hand left an indelible memory giving out whiskey ‘tasters’ and asking my guests to determine the brand. They sold the Guest House some years ago and I started using the Granton Arms Hotel.

A little bizarrely Chris and I knew one another many, many years before I started taking groups to Scotland or indeed before I started ‘Wildlife Tours and Education’, which by the way is now in its 16th year. We hailed from the same part of Yorkshire and we calculated that we once met over a drink some forty plus years ago but didn’t meet again until, at a guess, about 1993 when I first took a holiday at Willowbank. It’s almost surreal how we were able to trace back a chance meeting in our past.

Ever since I first used Willowbank for tours Chris, Anne and I have stayed in touch. We’ve become good friends. Chris and Anne have not lost any of their ability to always be good company and it was a delight to meet up with them this week when they visited Norfolk. They have both generated a healthy interest in birds so it was appropriate we would meet up and go for a walk together down East Bank at Cley. What’s not to love about East Bank?

The over-wintering Long-billed Dowitcher has been a little more sociable of late. This Nearctic visitor has usually been at the far side of the marsh but recently it has been occupying an area close to the East bank footpath. Nice to study that unique snipe-like feeding action so close. Difficult to photograph as it never stops feeding. It eats more than me! It always seemed to have it’s bill in the mud. It did a wing stretch at one point and even then never stopped feeding.

As Chris, Anne and myself watched the Dowitcher yesterday a Peregrine decided to swing over the reedbed. It ended up being moved-along by Corvids; as Bob Mortimer would say “… and away”. However, as the falcon flew over the Dowitcher it was interesting to see it hold its ground unlike the million other waders on the marsh that took flight in panic. Not only did it stand its ground but it crouched flat; maybe in fear, or perhaps defence it half submerged itself in the water. Trying to make itself blend into the marsh by donning a cloak of invisibility. Although it could never match the flock of 44 Snow Buntings we saw feeding on the Sea Wall. Now they really are masters of disguise; easily turning from feather to stone … and back again.

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Feb 2023


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