Posts Tagged ‘Cley


Six Whistler

When staring out to sea, as I often do, looking for cetaceans, birds often attract my attention. These Whimbrel flew West the other week when watching at Cley.



Some of the Black tailed Godwits visiting Cley at the moment are just stunning.


A Bird from Kent or a Kentish Plover

I was engaged doing something which must for the time being remain a mystery. However, the story will reveal itself in the fullness of time. Anyways, I was thinking I better get off home and do a little work before the tour to Scotland at the end of the week when a message popped up on my mobile phone. ‘Kentish Plover on Simmonds Scrape at Cley’

It’s been a good while since I saw the last one but I played it cool and had a vegan cake and an oat milk coffee at the reserve centre before walking out to the hide. Although a very smart male the bird might as have well been in Lincolnshire; it was miles away at the back of the scrape. I gave it the opportunity to move closer by waiting a couple of hours but it stubbornly stayed well out of range of the camera.

I sat in the sunshine outside and dealt with a few emails before intending to walk back to the car park. It was only when friend Trevor came out and said it had moved closer I put the plans to leave on hold. The Plover had indeed moved to the nearest sandy island. Although it was still aways-away I at least managed a record shot.


Hardly Iceland

A day or so before New Years Eve the rain had abated and left a balmy end of year Southern wind casting up from the Azores. The warmest winter temperatures for a long time … maybe on record.

I took the decision to make the most of the heatwave and visit Cley to seek out the Iceland Gull that had been roaming the coastline there for the past week or two. It had been visiting a seal carcass just east of the beach road. I thought that may be a good place to start. Even as I walked down the beach I could see the distinctive white winged form cutting the air distantly towards North scrape. It promptly flew over me and West to Halfway House. I’d no sooner put the message out and it returned and flew east towards Weybourne. Taking a photo wasn’t going to be that easy. To add to the difficulty the beach couldn’t have been busier if it had been a bank holiday. Still I had some good company as i waited for the gull to return which it eventually did. Sadly it looked to have an issue with one of its legs. I was told this was because of an entanglement with fishing line the previous day. Enough said.

A seasonal bird in un-seasonal weather.



On Saturday I held a ‘cetacean workshop’ in the reserve centre at Cley NWT. It was a good interactive group of interesting people. The morning was classroom based and after lunch we went down to the ‘beach hotel’ to look for a few porpoise out at sea. We unfortunately didn’t see any and guests gradually bid their farewell, but there were a few birds passing to keep interest high. As the light was failing the Black Guillemot that had been moving up and down the coast for the past week or so sailed-by. All the remaining guests managed to get onto it and have a good look through the scope. Some compensation at least for the absence of porpoise.

I took a few record shots as the bird bobbed and dived in the swell. I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular given the distance and the failing light. I put the camera away and took the opportunity to look at the bird through the scope myself. It was then I saw it tilt its head sideways and look up. I’ve seen many birds do this over the years and it’s always indicative of them seeing a raptor above. However, I’ve never seen any species of auk do it previously … and I’ve seen a lot of auks.

Following the guillemots line of sight I looked up myself and very high above us was a Short eared Owl coming in off the sea. Seeing an owl come in-off is always good; a treat in itself. The owl spilled air from it’s wings and steeply dropped down onto the marsh behind us.

I pondered on the fact that the two species, Black Guillemot and Short eared Owl, would rarely be in the same environment and have a chance to interact. So how did the auk know the Short eared Owl was a threat? I guess it is just hard-wired into most birds that birds of prey, whatever the species, are just not good news.



We were stood watching a duck that supposedly has a lot of Whistling Duck in it as it swam around Snipes Marsh last week when Steve stopped to pass on a message. He told us the ‘White Heron’ seen around Cley of late was sat in the field at Babcock Hide. I’d wanted to see this individual since it had been initially seen some weeks earlier. Photos of it looked odd. A short trip to the field in question only took two minutes and as we watched it a goose pushed it off the marsh and into the air.

I have to admit it took me a while to eliminate Great White Egret. Structure and leg colour was not right for that species but at a cursory glance its true identity  probably would have passed me by. In any case I don’t think I would have put it down as a leucistic Grey Heron.


A Cley Visitor

I’m used to seeing Black Guillemot in full breeding dress during our visit to Mull each year. They tend to stay north and west; rarely visiting the South East coasts. Not so this little chap. He spent a week or more just further out than the surf at Cley-next-the-sea in August and was sporting his casual dress.

It was quite amusing to see a whole bank of photographers overlooking the swimsuited masses on the warm bank holiday.


An entertaining couple of hours in Babcock Hide

“You wont need that” Marcus said as I grabbed my coat. He was quite right I wouldn’t need it. The day was warm and bright. Not a cloud in sight. However the forecast had said rain and I was being cautious as I intended stopping in the hide for a while. It was late Sunday afternoon and the sun was swinging into the west and people were going home after a weekend on the coast. I figured I might have the hide to myself for an hour or so. There was a popular Black necked Grebe on the scrape and I’d promised myself some time off from working at the laptop to do a little photography before I needed to get back and put the Yorkshire puds on. There isn’t a good hide on the North Norfolk coast that looks west; they all face east into the morning light. Afternoons are therefore usually best for hide photography here. Better light, fewer people.

The Black necked Grebe was indeed present. In full summer garb. Spikey gold headgear and all that. At distance. It was as far away as it could get. If the scrape had a far right-angle corner I’m sure the bird would have been cowering in it. I waited. People disappeared.

The storm clouds gathered and eventually, as promised, it rained. I mean really rained. It rained like someone had upended all the clouds and it rained hard. Thunder, lightning, the whole first scene of Macbeth.; and the migrants started dropping in. Grounded by the bad weather a couple of Sandwich Terns came to take cover, Wheatears appeared in their ‘just got out of the shower’ plumage and a Short eared Owl pitched in at the back of the scrape. Several Marsh Harriers battled away into the downpour and the Spoonbill thought ‘bugger this’ and flew off. Black tailed Godwits and a totally confused Dunlin pitched in too. All lovely birds to see.

As for the Black necked Grebe … it did come closer … but not much.


Skitty Coot

Wherever you go in the UK you will have a high chance of seeing a Moorhen. Even on the smallest pond, the shallowest ditch or the narrowest flowerbed; the Skitty Coot will be there. This young one was strutting his stuff outside the centre hides at Cley the other day.



The report of a Wood Warbler in Norfolk is always refreshing. We don’t often get them here but they are annual on their migration north. I was leading a ‘birds by song’ workshop for the NWT when one turned up on Saturday. We did call and have a brief look around but given it was silent didn’t place too much effort into seeing it. Besides it was a pig to see and even worse to photograph. I did however go back in the afternoon after the workshop and have another quick look for it. The event of lunch had not made it any easier; always at the back of bushes and never really showing well.

The Pied Flycatcher at nearby Granborough Hill that turned up late afternoon was only marginally better to photograph; by the time friend John and I got to it … the best of the light had more or less gone.

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Dec 2022


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