Posts Tagged ‘Stiffkey


A Harrier among gentlemen

I finally found time to be at Stiffkey earlier this month. After a morning of faffing, I made myself a little lunch and set off after the mid-day news. The light was already beginning to go by the time I parked the car and walked down to the marsh. There were already a couple of guys looking for the Pallid Harrier.

We talked. I enjoyed their company. They were nice people. One guy had come a long way; from Wales for a holiday in Norfolk and the Pallid would be a new bird for him. It was fitting then perhaps he picked up the bird first as it flew over our heads and out onto the marsh. It perched for less than a minute and went down to roost. After a conversation of reflection my two new friends made their way back to their cars but I decided to stop and see if it re-settled. Sometimes as Harriers seek shelter for the night they fidget from their original spot in a restless flight as they seek a comfortable spot.

The dying sun showed below the clouds and bathed the marsh with the ‘death throes’ of an orange glow. The Harrier rose from it’s roost and circled. All the features of this beautiful bird were highlighted in the warm end of the spectrum; the orange underparts shone in the light and the boa wearing bird perched and once again settled as the sun pulsed out its last rays.


Living Gem

A stripy bright gem of a bird in a dull Autumn. A Pallas’s Warbler has to brighten anyone’s day. Seven stripes balanced by a lemon yellow rump, hanging under leaves, picking out the protein it needs to sustain a migration that seems impossible for such a small, tiny Siberian bird!


The Easterlies Continue

The unprecedented Easterly winds that have occurred so far in October have dropped a few more scarce and rare birds than we would normally get.

Having arrived back home from Scillies on Thursday evening I thought on Saturday there might be a few more additions for the year list that would be around. Little did I expect to see a new British bird. My first for two years since the Grey Catbird in Cornwall.

When the message came out regarding the Eastern Roufous Bush-chat at Stiffkey it filled me with elation and then dread. This was a very rare bird. The responsible thing would be to keep away as parking difficulties and poor social distancing was almost inevitable.

Photos of crowds and stories of police giving out fines reached us. We decided to spend the morning at Holme watching a Pallas’s Warbler and Red flanked Bluetails and see how the situation lied later in the day when the initial surge of birders moved on. This was a good decision as we when we arrived we had no difficulty parking and social distancing was easy. Although I would have liked to have seen more birders wearing face masks we decided it was safe. A swift walk out across the ‘mud-rink’ of the saltmarsh (Tania decided to wear a mud facepack on two occasions) and 10 minutes later we were watching the bird.

We didn’t stop long. Just long enough to ‘scratch an itch’ that was 40 years in the making.


Over the brow

Yellow browed Warblers, the seven striped sprites, have to be my favourite; tiny loved jewels from the north. Occupants of the Taiga forests these birds move in a fleeting migration through the UK and winter in north Africa and southern Europe in small numbers.

On a birding tour at the end of last month we found not one but two together at Stiffkey. Try as I might to get the right angle to photograph both together I couldn’t do it. Still … just adore these tiny, tiny long distant migrants. In the last few years one was even found in Australia. How’s that for a migration?


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.



The Great Fall of Twenty Twelve.

That’s how it will be known. The Great Fall of Twenty Twelve. It started on Monday 22nd October and the after effects are still being seen as I write this note on the Friday 26th. Birds are still re-orientating themselves now the mist and fog have gone; most of the Fieldfares and Redwings have moved through but there’s still lots of Blackbirds and Ring Ouzels with seven of the latter seen today at Overstrand and Sidestrand. Yesterday we even had a Black Redstart trying to get in the house!

It was Thursday however that was ‘my’ day. Walking beneath the edge of the reservoir the call of a bird in the scrub on the bank above me made me swing around and raise my bins. It was the unmistakable call of a Pallas’s Warbler. I couldn’t see it. Frustration set in. It was constantly calling but vegetation was in the way. I moved back a little and there it was, a full crown of stripes on this bright little sprite. It was agitated as though it had just made landfall. It flicked left and then right among the nettles. It was here and then it was gone. Despite an extensive search with others disappointingly it could not be relocated. I dearly would have liked to sit for a while and photograph it.

Not so frustrating further west was a Red flanked Bluetail. This bird found by Mick Sidwell was bouncing around the small campsite wood at Stiffkey but sat up to be photographed in the dull and dingy conditions.

Now where’s that Rubythroat?

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May 2023


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