Saturday, 26 April 2008

Norfolk holiday

About 2 weeks back, I went on holiday with my dad camping for a couple of days in Weybourne, north Norfolk. It was fantastic, because the weather was great. Over the couple of days I spent most of my time at a Norfolks Wildlife Trust reserve called Cley. I also went to Blakeney Point on a boat trip.

I have had to sort out my photographs (over 500), which is why I am posting this now.

I decided to make a few targets for myself before I went. I wanted to get a photograph of a Marsh Harrier in flight, and to also see them hunt. Marsh Harriers are such magnificant looking birds. I knew it would be a hard task to photograph them in flight, but I was prepared to give it a go. Watching them hunt would be easy if I knew the birds hunting grounds, and this would involve me studying them.

Here is where I went and what I did over the couple of days:

9th April

Arrived in Norfolk mid morning. The first stop was Blakeney Point to check out the boat times for the seal trip. I saw a Yellowhammer going into Blakeney, that was a first for this year. There is a wildlife pond at Blakeney with exotic bird species, here are photographs of some of them:
Mandarin Duck:

Carolina Wood Duck:

Unknown (could be a hybrid):

After spending an hour or so in Blakeney we went and put the tent up and then went to Cley NWT in the afternoon and to East Bank (East of Cley NWT), where we saw plenty of Marsh Harriers, Greylag Geese, Redshank, and Avocets.

Avocets at East Bank:

At night, the campite was surrounded by calling Tawny Owls.

10th April

At 5.00am the dawn chorus began, what a wonderful way to start off the day. We arrived at Cley NWT with a day permit at about 8.00am. The weather was wonderful and a great way to start off the morning. At Cley there were Black Tailed Godwits, Marsh Harriers, Redshank and a lot more.

Black Tailed Godwit silhouettes
( a rather interesting compostition)

On the way back to the car from the hides, there was a faint rustling in the reeds, when I checked it out, it was a Bearded Tit, it must have only been about a meter away from me. That made me happy. Then by the car there was a Dunnock singing.

We left Cley late morning, to go on the boat trip along Blakeney Point to see the seals. When the boat set off, there were 2 Turnstone, on a boat, looking great in the breeding plumage. When the boat was almost at the end of the spit, there must have been over 200 Sandwich Terns, and they all flew up and circled above the boat, then landed back on land. A fantastic experience.
Seals are known for being curious, and this is definitely true, as they came very close to the boat. The noise they make is extraordinary, when you hear them you can see why people on boats at night think they are being haunted, because it is such a mysterious sound they make.

Sandwich Terns:

If you look closely at this picture, you can see some of the birds courting, e.g. in the centre of the photograph.


The boat dropped everyone off near the end of the spit so we could go and explore. It was great to go and see a spit for myself, because I had only ever seen them in text books in lessons at school. While I went to explore, about 10 Brent Geese flew over head calling.
Boat trip used:

After leaving Blakeney it was back to Cley village to a place called Cley Eye (west of Cley NWT), where there had been sightings of a Lapland Bunting, I had been a few times to try and see it, but failed everytime. This time, I was in look, I was on the way back to the car, after waiting a while, and on the way back, there it was. It was the highlight of the day so far. I had never seen a Lapland Bunting before, I had only ever seen them in books. Seeing the Lapland Bunting was a first for me.
While I was photographing the Lapland Bunting, along came a flock of Linnets, and a male Wheatear, I also managed to photograph these as well.

Lapland Bunting:

Male Wheatear:


On the way back to the car at Cley Eye, there was a Little Egret, which was great. It was then back to the campsite for lunch, and then back to Cley NWT, and east bank in the afternoon. At Cley NWT I managed to see a Cettis Warbler, I had seen one before, but the view was not as good as it was this time. Every time it called, I would locate it briefly, then it would stop, I would walk away thinking it had gone, and then it would call again. It did this about 4 times, I was sure it was doing it deliberately. This occured the last time I saw a Cettis Warbler, I waited about 2 hours, every time going away thinking it would never re-appear and then it would call again. It can be very annoying.
Mute Swan at east bank:

In the evening I thought it would be the icing on the cake if I managed to see a Barn Owl before I went home. So me and my dad went to Cley NWT and had a look there, as the saltmarsh has a good source of food for the Owls, yet there was nothing. There was a fantastic sunset though making it a really lovely evening especially with the Marsh Harriers hunting all around me. Norfolk is known for its superb sunsets, I was lucky enough to witness a fantastic one.

Just when I had given up looking there it was........ a Barn Owl, on the way back to the campsite on an information sign at East Bank. So a fantastic day.
11th April
An early start to the day - 7.00am. The tent was packed away and off we went to Titchwell RSPB reserve. On the way we stopped at Cley, where the Marsh Harriers were hunting again. I managed to get deep into the heart of the reed beds, and I waited. In the space of about 5 minutes, one flew by searching for food. I took this opportunity, and took a lot of photographs. I finally achieved my task, I managed to see them hunt, and managed to photograph them in flight.
Marsh Harriers:

We arrived at Titchwell at 9.45, and there was a lot of bird activity. Throughout the day we saw a lot, including Marsh Harriers, Brent Geese, Chiffchaff, Black Tailed Godwits and Bramblings. I also heard a lot of Cettis Warblers calling.

Brambling (top right):
On the way back to the visitors centre at about 1.45, the weather changed dramatically. It clouded over, and in the space of 10 minutes, it chucked it down. A great sight, how it changed so suddenly.
On the way back home, there were heavy thunderstorms, with amazing cloud formations. A fantastic way to end a great holiday.


jalynn01 said...

Wow You had quite an outing. My favorite picture was the Mandarin Duck. He is gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

sounds like an awesome couple of days. i believe your 'redshank' is in fact another black-tailed godwit though ;)

Anna Simpson said...

Cheers John. That picture was supposed to go up a line, and I was supposed to sort a Redshank picture out. Damn computers; I have had a lot of problems with it recently.

Thanks for pointing out the mistake.

Nick Patel said...

Excellent pictures and a great write up, i like the Lapland :)

Anonymous said...

i thought that's what might have happened. i don't doubt i'll do the same thing sometime soon, can be confusing arranging all those pictures. looking at my first blog entry [shameless self-promotion] it looks like i've not even finished some of my sentences. ridiculous.

James Owen said...

The girlfriend and I camped at a farm in Weybourne last summer, it was a nice spot with lots of log fires around the place.

Anyway, great trip report and that Lapland Bunting is a stunner. As for the Cetti's at Cley, it was the briefest glimpse for me the last time I was there. I can't imagine how many birders they must equally excite and frustrate (but importantly excite!).

Pete said...

lovely photos

bluebirder said...

Looking forward to a few days in Norfolk soon - it's such a great place at this time of year. This latest mission is to photograph Nightingales - an easy one then!

Peter said...

I'm not into nature as you are, but I do enjoy the sights& sounds. I do a lot of work at Rosliston Forestry Centre (Archery) & am also a walk leader in S'Derbyshire along with my wife. Anyway Here's some pic's of birds for you to identify for me please
They were taken at the bird hide whilst I was waiting for my wife to turn up after a walk.
Have a good life

Anna Simpson said...

Hi Peter,

Ok, working through your album, you have:

2)Great Tit on the left and a male Chaffinch on the right
3)Male Chaffinch
4)Male Chaffinch
5)Dunnock on the left and a male Chaffinch on the right
6)Female Chaffinch
7)Great Tit
10)Female Blackbird
11)Female Blackbird

I hope that helps.

Peter said...

Thanks Anna.
I don't know the first thing about birds, but I do enjoy their company & song.
Our two residents are still in the nest box by the back door. Not a lot of activity goes on, but we see them to-ing & fro-ing around the garden, so we go back indoors to let them get on with what they should be doing.