Thursday, 1 December 2011

Waw - and Excellent Views Too

Thursday December 1
Setting off at 6.45 on a very dark overcast morning meant no birds at all seen until well past Holt - Black-headed Gulls !
As we drove west, the weather improved so that Abbey Farm was bathed in cold sunshine. We'd had to back all the way from the horse stable end until the first cottage of the back road to Flitcham. A lorry driver decided he was bigger than us. Then we met more lorries moving sugar beet. The lane to Abbey was like a ploughed field. We did see a Buzzard along there but nothing of note at Abbey itself. Still no water and the hide door had been left wide open, midges aplenty.
An inrushing tide at Snettisham with avidly feeding waders of the expected species, no surprises to-day. Always a pleasure.
Our journey along the north coast was rather faster than usual due to a pager message received at Hunstanton. Viwing from Hunston cliffs added Red-breasted Merganser, Eider, Fulmar, Great Crested Grebe and a Guillemot. It was surprising not to see Gannets after yesterday's wind.
Holme NOA Hide was a waste of time - I was getting anxious to get to Cley.
A hastily eaten breakfast (me, at 11.30) at a full of water Brancaster Staithe, where I photographed Ringed Plovers before hastening along the coast.

At 12.20, we threw the car into a grass verge/field gateway at Cley 'triangle' - the parking area was full -and walked as fast as we could (still slow) out to Daukes. A returning birder told us it had flown off, inner groans. Daukes was fullish but not jammed, most birders standing looking through tripods, which always takes up more space. After seeing a small group of waders fly off out of view, it included THE bird, I manoevered a space for mine and the bird soon re-appeared towards the back of the central island. Our first WESTERN SANDPIPER. I missed the one on the south coast about seven years ago when I was sent back in to hospital with open knee wounds, also missing the Courser on Scilly that year. It still rankles.

Western Sandpiper - not my photograph
During the next half an hour, I had excellent scope views of a lovely juvenile bird, it looked freshly minted. Smaller than a Dunlin, its beak was half the length of a Dunlin's and slightly down turned at the end if seen in profile. It flew ever nearer, the camera shutters were on rapid fire, I wish I'd taken mine. Knowing how distant the birds usually are at Cley I'd decided it was a waste. I should always take one.
The bird has been present all week, originally identified as a Semi-palmated Sandpiper. Still a nice bird but Semi-p not a lifer for us, nor even a Norfolk tick. I'm pleased that it was re-identified. After a chat with Richard Porter we sat in the hide facing Pat's, admiring a large flock of Golden Plover, two pairs of Pintail, a single Ruff and 14 Avocets. In the excitement I forgot to look for the Green-winged Teal on Pat's Pool.
No sign of any Snow Buntings at Salthouse. Brenda drove up for a coffee from the van, we had a quick chat with her before driving up Station Road in Weybourne. Steve Gantlett was parked in the only gateway overlooking the geese field and generously moved to allow us in. I soon found two White-fronts and then.......the whole flock of Pinks flew off, including the Tundra Beans we were after. Another day.
A lovely day enhanced by the icing on the top. We saw 82 species in total, despite the haste, including a Common and a Rough-legged Buzzard, Bullfinch, three different thrushes, a Sparrowhawk and both Partridges.
Home at 3.05.

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