A host of raptors

Brenda wanted to visit Cley today and so we headed there just before lunch time and walked the length of the East bank to the beach. Distant views of a flock of about 30 snow buntings were nice to get, but the early part of the walk was quiet in terms of birds: The overnight frost had frozen most of the standing water and so birds were congregating on areas of open water nearer the beach.

It was a lovely clear, sunny day – cold though! Some of the hides were closed due to repair work on a boardwalk, but we did spend a little time in the Bishop’s hide, where we picked up two new species for the year: A lone whooper swan and some common gulls. One thing that this blog is making me do is take more time to identify species I might not normally bother with. I do get very lazy with gulls, so actually looking carefully through groups of gulls is very good for me!

marsh harrier (photo taken in 2013)

Brenda then needed to head back to Wells, so I got her to drop me off in Stiffkey so that I could walk the section of coast path from there back home. I was hoping for some good birds of prey…..and I wasn’t disappointed! Standing and scanning the saltmarsh with a handful of others (multiple pairs of eyes definitely help with such a huge expanse of marsh!) we quickly saw several marsh harriers and a couple of buzzards. And then a merlin zipped past. These are wonderful, fast, agile, small birds of prey. I managed to get the telescope on it when it landed on a wooden post, and then I waited and followed it for a couple of minutes when it flew off.

I’ve actually only seen merlin three times before, the most recent being in 2013, so this was an exciting bird to see. Soon after there were views of a sparrowhawk, and then a “ringtail” hen harrier (so called because of the clear white band at the base of the tail). Again this is a bird I have seen, but not that often, so it made for a great afternoon, but very cold toes with all the standing around looking through the telescope!

My birds of prey count so far in 2023 is pretty good: 10 species including owls. I should get it up to around 18 for the whole of 2023 if I’m lucky.

New species for January 17th:
Birds: common gull, whooper swan, sparrowhawk, hen harrier, merlin

Birds = 92
Moths = 0
Wildflowers = 10