Posts Tagged ‘Cromer


Fools dancing before an abyss.

It dawned on me quite early in my life that the way to protect the wildlife and birds in an area is to protect the area itself. Protecting the environment is key to having a safe home and area for creatures to live and breed. It’s not bloody rocket science is it? Cut down a forest for agriculture and everything in the forest will die or have to move elsewhere. Concrete and tarmac over a wild area and the insects that are key to supporting our wildlife will die or move on. Insect life supports everything above it like a Jenga tower. Pull out too many bricks and the whole lots clatters downward. The problem is we are running out of areas for our creatures to move to and we are loosing wildlife habitat and consequently our wildlife at a rate of knots.

Those of you that live locally will know of the area that is just to the West of Cromer on the South side of the A149 coast road. A wild piece of land full of bushes and scrub, often referred to as the site of the old zoo; not only important for breeding birds but also for migrants. Scrub is such an important habitat. It is not waste land. It’s essential habitat. I’ve seen Ring Ousel here, Red backed Shrike, Citrine Wagtail, Barred Warbler as well as commoner migrants. Those of you that have lived here longer than I will know of more rarities found here on migration. Well no more!

The area has been cleared. It’s gone. bulldozed and cut away to nothing. Some, self-important, pound greedy, cretin of an imbecile, has ordered the whole area to be cleared. We are in the middle of a biodiversity crisis and some idiot did this.

A few years ago I was just one of the individuals that objected to a building development on the land. For all the reasons outlined above, it did not seem like a good idea. Well take away all the ideal habitat and all the reasons to object are swept aside. Ruthless.

It was friend Andy (his photo below) that told me of the clearance. I went that morning to take a look. I was so so dejected. When will people understand that we are sawing away at the branch of the tree we are sat on. Bloody fools. Complete and utter … BLOODY FOOLS!

Photo credit: Andy Hale


Paled into significance

I was beginning to form an opinion that identifying Pallid Swifts from Common Swifts in the UK was beyond the capability of normal mortals. That is until I saw the four birds that roosted this evening on the cliffs at Cromer. They showed remarkably well in excellent light and at close range. All the identification features on these avian knives of the air stood out like a silver shilling up a sweeps a**e.

Are four birds together a UK record does anyone know?


A speeding swift

For the second time this year I have managed to photograph an Alpine Swift in Norfolk last week. Thanks to friend Ben who found it among a flock of Common Swifts over the golf course in Cromer Tania and I braved the busy Cromer traffic to see it before it disappeared to the West around lunch time.

Flying high and fast it was never going to provide as good a subject photographically as the last individual but it was good to see it all the same. No doubt the swifts had been attracted in by the myriad of hatching flies. I think I ate more flies than lunch that day.

Alpine Swift


As Tania and I were walking through Cromer we both heard a screaming above us and instinctively looked up. The Peregrines are back!

Chasing one another in courtship display around the church tower they were making such a din. This went unnoticed by the majority below however friend Eddie was also staring upwards from the pavement. It was good to see him looking so well. It was also good to see the Peregrines back too. It looks as though Cromer church is going to be well established as a breeding site. Eddie and I wondered how long it would be before Southrepps and perhaps even Northrepps church was similarly blessed.

As we drove the coast road the other evening a dark shape in the centre of a grazing marsh attracted our attention. As we pulled over to take a closer look we could see it was a Muntjac. Two to be precise. It appears the mild weather is prompting everything to pair-up!


Light and easy

Pallid Swifts within Norfolk during November are regular but always a little contentious. They are never easy to distinguish from Common Swifts. Even photographs can be a little confusing and it’s not too difficult to inadvertently change a common to a pallid during processing. Time must be taken to watch the birds in a variety of light from various positions. It’s only then that distinguishing features can be clinched such as the dark eye, the darker saddle and underbody, darker primaries and leading edge of the wing that contrast with paler coverts and secondaries, the paler head and throat and the slightly shallower tail fork as well as paler feather edgings on the flanks. The feature of a blunter wing tip on Pallid is not as easy to distinguish as literature states and in my opinion varies from bird to bird. I guess it is one of those features that is dependant on it’s attitude in the air.

A message from Ben today stating he had a Pallid hawking along the cliff top at Overstrand saw me make a diversion from the shops in Cromer to the cliffs above the golf course. The light was immaculate as it frequently is in Norfolk and we were looking north to watch the bird hawking in front of the cliffs. Although relatively distant the bird’s milky coloured plumage was immediately apparent. However it took a while for the bird to come closer so the other features could be seen but in the end the identity of the bird was unquestionable.

Today’s Swift was in the company of a white rumped hirundine. Shame it was only a House Martin!



Pied Crow

I explained carefully to my guests for the day there had been a ‘rare’ bird seen in the area of the dunes in which we were walking. Just in case they saw a funny crow I gave them instruction to shout up. I explained it’s undeterminable status, gave them a brief description and told them it would be nice to see. Several Hobbies, Great White Egrets, Bittern, Grey Seals, Water Deer, Norfolk Hawkers and Swallowtails, among many others, later, I bid them good-day and wished them a pleasant stay in Norfolk for what remained of their holiday.

It wasn’t until I drove through Cromer I received a message to tell me the Pied Crow had turned up about a mile from the flat just down the road from me. How could I ignore it?

OK no doubt there will be much discussion about if it’s an escape or not, if it’s the same bird that was seen at Spurn Point and if it could have got here on board a ship. Well sure it’s right to have these discussions but it matters not to me … it was good to see it acting as wild as the Jackdaws, Rooks and the odd Crow with which it was associating.


Something for a rainy day

A very rainy weekend in Norfolk had Andy and me clicking our heels. We decided to spend a little time within a forecasted weather window down at Cromer Pier. Trying hard to find something of note among the gulls … we failed … as miserably as the weather. Even a loaf of Sharon’s best homemade could not muster a Caspian or a Yellow legged on this dark dank day.

The only things we could find of interest were a Greater Black Back with some odd bill feathering and an adult Black headed that despite being in winter plumage had the subtlest of pink suffusions to its underparts. There’s always something to look at even when it’s raining stair rods.

Greater Black Backed Gull Z5A2385Black headed Gull 1 Z5A2329 Black headed Gull 2 Z5A2327



A Lousy Day

Stood on the prom at Cromer the other month throwing a little bread out to the gulls I looked down. There crawling along the wall was something I’ve only seen a few times before; a Sea Louse. Not one of nature’s most attractive creatures I think you’ll agree but they are good mothers. In fact she is the ultimate mother as she will let her offspring eat their way out of her body. A mildly gross but endearing act.

Sea Louse





Some great gulls around the pier in Cromer at the beginning of September. This 1st year Caspian Gull and an Adult Yellow legged Gull keeping the Larophiles entertained. 


1st Year Capian Gull


Yellow legged Gull


There was also an adult gull showing characteristics of a Caspian. When we attracted the bird close with a little bread the seemingly dark eye turned pale. The lack of a prominent tertial step was perhaps because the bird had a moult worthy of a bald dog. Others were also seeing a ‘snouty’ appearance as well as long legs. I couldn’t really see this but tried hard to see what they meant. The gull ‘morphed’ every time I looked at it. I eventually got a series of shots that showed sufficient detail to convey the shape and size of the bird. It started to look more likely there was some Caspian in it … but I couldn’t be sure. The upshot was I didn’t know.


Adult Caspian Gull Cromer Norfolk


Adult Caspian Gull


I have been referring to the paper on ‘Identification of Caspian Gull’ by Chris Gibbins et al. which states that ‘non calling birds  can be identified using head and bill shape alone (call and calling posture are diagnostic – but this bird remained silent): other structural features vary and so are less important’

To be fair the bird in the above photo of it running looks long legged and snouty with a parallel sided bill so I guess on that basis alone it’s a Caspian. Other photos  however show it with a rounded head. I just couldn’t help feeling it’s not so straight forward and I couldn’t make up my mind. The books weren’t enough. I wanted someone with much more experience than I to take a look.  Via Mark Golly, Chris Gibbins, who is currently in Georgia, has commented as follows:

“Plenty of birds here just like this in fact.  I appreciate your point – its not the minds-eye image of cach, but I can find many birds (I’m guessing females) that really are like this structurally. The pale eye is of course not entirely unprecedented in casp but I can see why in combination with the jizz it gives you trouble.  This type of more rounded head is something I see frequently; but if you look at the structure of the bill it is really good for Casp.  Many at the moment have this light head streaking which, as with mich, soon wears off. The moult and wear dont help in assessment of primary pattern, but the P10 tongue seems long, square ended and whitish – paler also than the upperparts.  So seems fine. Black just on outer web of P4 is fine.  Leg colour is also no problem for me.”

“I think it really is a case that when you are a saddo like me and looked at many many casps, this bird is not out of range of acceptability.  BUT it really would be worth throwing bread out to get birds fighting, and listen out for its call.  With some birds this really is the only way. I will look again properly at the pics once I’m back and give you a second mail but my first impression is that it is actually OK.”

My thanks go to Chris and Mark Golley for their comments and to Simon Chiddick for finding the bird. 

It boils down to experience. I was certainly being too conservative. If it had looked like a bird I saw at Cley the other month I would not have thought anything but Caspian… no doubt about that one!

Now where’s that bread?


2014 07 31 Caspian Gull Cley Marshes Norfolk_Z5A7894





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Apr 2023


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