A feast of waders

Having spent a morning on emails and other admin I decided to take a couple of hours off and visit the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve at Cley. One reason for this was that there has been a bird seen there for the last few weeks which I have never seen – a long-billed dowitcher. Is this blog making me into a twitcher? I don’t think so: On a nice afternoon such as today it was great to get out, and Cley has always been one of my favourite reserves, where there’s always plenty of birds to see.

I started off by walking to the central hides and scanning the pools for birds. Apparently the dowitcher – a bird that breeds in north America and eastern Siberia – had been seen there, but flew off east just before I arrived!

So having identified as much as I could from the hides I walked east to the famous East Bank, and headed north along it. This was a good move as there were plenty of wader species, redshank, dunlin, some avocets, a small group of ruff, some black-tailed godwits, large numbers (maybe about 500 or more) of lapwing, and similar numbers of golden plover. No sign of the dowitcher though, but a handful of birdwatchers were scanning the marches in the hopes of seeing it.

lapwings in the late afternoon winter sunlight

I walked up as far as the small hide, where – somewhat oddly – there was a seal pup on the grassy edge of some pools near the path. It looked unharmed, and was moving about a little, but it also felt like the wrong place for a seal pup to be. I was contemplating contacting the RSPCA or the reserve warden about the animal, but a couple of people there were already planning to, so hopefully that might result in a happy outcome: I don’t know enough about seals to be able to work out if the animal was in danger or not.

seal pup at Cley – it was definitely alive, but possibly stranded

As the light was shortly going to start to fade I headed back toward the car, but found a small group on the bank who had seen the dowitcher. At that point only its head was showing behind a small island in one of the pools to the east of the bank, but then it decided to be helpful and I managed to get good views through the telescope for about five or six minutes: Useful in helping to really see the winter plumage and the size difference to the black-tailed godwits that it was with.

In Saturday’s blog I talked a little about life-lists: Mine for the UK is – as I mentioned – not particularly noteworthy, but nonetheless includes a reasonable number of species, and so it’s not every day – by a long stretch! – that I add a new species. As for two in the space of three days: Almost unheard of! But there is a great deal of satisfaction in seeing a bird you have not seen before, and as my UK list has now (thanks to the recent Hume’s warbler and today’s long-billed dowitcher) got to 284, I am harbouring hopes of hitting 300 before the end of the year 🙂

sunset over Cley marshes

I had a look at my bird records and found that over the years I have now seen 111 species at Cley marshes. This will be nothing like the full list for the reserve, but it does feel like a good number to me, and reminds me just how rich the avifauna of the area is.

In case you’re interested my full Cley bird list from about 1977 to today is: (in alphabetical order of last name, as that’s how my listing app outputs it) avocet, reed bunting, snow bunting, buzzard, chaffinch, coot, cormorant, crow, curlew, collared dove, long-billed dowitcher, tufted duck, dunlin, dunnock, little egret, gadwall, gannet, bar-tailed godwit, black-tailed godwit, goldfinch, brent goose, canada goose, egyptian goose, greylag goose, pink-footed goose, red-breasted goose, little grebe, greenshank, black-headed gull, common gull, glaucous gull, great black-backed gull, herring gull, lesser black-backed gull, yellow-legged gull, marsh harrier, hen harrier, grey heron, hobby, jackdaw, jay, kestrel, kingfisher, knot, lapwing, skylark, linnet, magpie, mallard, house martin, sand martin, moorhen, barn owl, short-eared owl, oystercatcher, red-necked phalarope, pheasant, wood pigeon, pintail, meadow pipit, grey plover, ringed plover, golden plover, little ringed plover, pochard, collared pratincole, water rail, redshank, spotted redshank, bearded tit, rook, ruff, common sandpiper, curlew sandpiper, green sandpiper, western sandpiper, wood sandpiper, common scoter, white-winged scoter, shelduck, shoveler, red-backed shrike, snipe, house sparrow, sparrowhawk, spoonbill, starling, little stint, Temminck’s stint, stonechat, swallow, mute swan, swift, teal, green-winged teal, arctic tern, black tern, little tern, sandwich tern, blue tit, grey wagtail, pied wagtail, Cetti’s warbler, reed warbler, sedge warbler, wheatear, whinchat, wigeon, woodcock.

S: Any moths in….
B: No!

I think when we do get a moth it may be worthy of champagne!

Brenda didn’t manage to get to Cley with me, but did – from the comfort of our dining room – see three buzzards wheeling around in the clear sky.

New species for January 9th:
Birds: gadwall, moorhen, coot, avocet, golden plover, ruff, dunlin, great black-backed gull, stonechat, long-billed dowitcher

Birds = 71
Moths = 0
Wildflowers = 8