Posts Tagged ‘Cley Marshes



Good friend Simon and I were on the shingle bank at Cley not but a day and a half before Mark Golly found his Isabelline Wheatear. In fact I distinctly remember saying “Let’s have a walk down here Simon you never know what we might find” We found nothing of note; but Mark found a first for Cley and nobody deserves it more.

In yesterday’s bright sunshine I joined friends Bob and Bill to see if I could better photographs I had of the last Norfolk bird which turned up at Gun Hill in the later part of October 2016. It wasn’t a problem. The bird performed admirably. Fearless and confiding are perhaps the terms I would use. As we stood chatting and enjoying one another’s company the erect portly little fella approached us. Flycatching, sallying and running along the shingle completely oblivious of our admiration. This species breeds not much nearer than Turkey and covers a range East all the way out to Turkestan. Raised in steppe-desert perhaps it had never seen people before.

Nearby was a moving wave of Snow Buntings rolling over one another along the sea wall. These as well as the long staying Long tailed Duck were a supporting cast. A couple of Otters even got in on the act. A distant calling lark at the back of Snipes Marsh just may have been Short-toed … maybe!

As I carted my much too heavy photo gear back to the reserve centre the whole scene got me a-thinking-back to the Isles of Scillies when I saw my first Isabelline Wheatear. I stood on the Golf Course; the high point of St Mary’s. The view from there is to die for. Islands, sea and setting sun heaven. On one particular October day in the 1990’s it was enhanced by a similar sallying Wheatear. The supporting cast then was a Red throated Pipit and an Upland Sandpiper. A sort of East meets West mix. It was possible to stand between all three and ‘do a 360’ to take them all in. Heady days.

I had lunch back at Cley. Looking out from the busy restaurant, over the seemingly even busier marsh. I couldn’t help feeling how lucky I was to live in such a beautiful place as North Norfolk. There’s just one thing missing … soon to be corrected.




As we sat in the hide at Cley watching Black tailed Godwits they all of a sudden scattered. The reason; the largest female Peregrine I’ve seen in a long while came screaming in across the scrape at breakneck speed.



humbling forces

I have been out taking a look around. There was certainly a movement of the coastline landscape during the storm surge we had a few weeks ago. I wanted to know where access points had changed and where we could still get on our tours. New pools have formed; others have been covered or swept away. Sometimes it takes a while to orientate with new features horizons in place and old ones gone forever.

We mustn’t be too alarmed at the changes. For example if we go back to the 1800’s they were harvesting fields to the north of the existing shingle bank at Cley. These have been under the sea for many years. The latest movement of the bank is just a normal re-sighting of the landscape that has and will occur from time to time. The freshwater invertebrates within Cley reserve will take time to recover. Flooding has happened before here and the freshwater environment has re-established its former state more than once. However, movement of the shingle bank southward will surely continue pushing the reserve into a narrower and narrower sliver of coastline between the sea and the coast road. The purchase of the additional land between Cley and Salthouse by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust is a still a good move although given what we have just experienced the siting (or design) of the new proposed hide to the east of east bank could perhaps be given more thought.


What remains of the former Car Park at Salthouse is pictured above. I met a young mother here with her children. She was quite upset and explained she was lamenting the loss of the car park and the burying of the sign under shingle where she and her family used to lean their scooters. After talking a while she understood what had happened was only natural. As she gazed at the new landscape she said something I thought was quite profound. She said that ‘We all live cosseted lives and that occasionally it is humbling to be reminded of the forces the natural world can summon’.

Further west along the coast a gable end from a beach hut presumably from Wells next the Sea managed to end up 5km to the east at Stiffkey. Much debris along the edge of the Saltmarsh here.


Below a victim of the storm. The corpse of this Oystercatcher hung in the Sea Buckthorn bushes at the edge of the saltmarsh.



Distant PGP

With some birds it is possible to get close. Very close sometimes. Dotterel, it is said, can be stroked while they are sitting on eggs; although why you would want to stroke a Dotterel is beyond my understanding.

Some birds however remain at a distance simply because it’s not possible to get closer and so it was with the Pacific Golden Plover at the end of last month on the reserve at Cley. Always distant never photographable but a great find.

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Mar 2023


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