Good things come in threes

Today I ventured out to Cley: I had been looking at any reasonably common bird species that I’ve missed so far this year, and when I checked my previous records for sandwich tern I realised that almost 90% of them were from north Norfolk, and a lot of those from Cley. So I parked in the small car park for the East Bank and headed out in the hazy sunshine.

Almost immediately I heard and then saw two bearded tits, and there were various waders around, plus reed buntings and other small birds, including linnet and goldfinch.

I always love seeing goldfinches – this one perched on, Brenda tells me, a creeping thistle

I then met a couple of birders who said “Have you seen the American golden plover?”. Not only had I not seen said bird, but I have never seen one, in the UK or anywhere else! So off I went in search of a new life list species, the only downside being that it involved getting to the screen that overlooks the north scrape, which means a trek over shingle. I do hate walking on shingle!

But before getting to the beach and the shingle I stopped to scan the gulls on the east side of the bank, and there were about half a dozen sandwich terns: Big terns compared to common or Arctic, and with a distinctive crest.

sandwich tern – this photo is of a non-breeding plumage bird which I took in November 2015

And I did manage to see the plover: Our normal golden plover is a lovely bird in breeding plumage, and there are two rarer varieties that occur semi-regularly in the UK. I saw a Pacific golden plover a few years ago just east of Wells, but have never seen an American golden plover. I and a handful of other birders spent some time watching this bird, trying to clarify whether it was American or Pacific. The larger black area, leaving a clear end to the white, meant the bird was definitely one of these rarer options, and the more protruding primary wing feathers, and small bill, tended toward American. I’m happy with the identification but will keep an eye on the bird reports in case weight of opinion turns it into Pacific. In the mean time it goes on my UK life list as number 297, making me fairly confident of reaching a UK life list of 300 birds by the end of the year. And – somewhat unexpectedly – my 2023 UK list is now on 203, keeping me a short head in front of Brenda and the flower list!

A distant “record shot” of the American golden plover. Too far for a good photo but this shows a couple of the distinctive features.

Brenda writes: “This morning I was in Wighton for the opening of the new East Anglian Methodist Heritage Centre in the ‘retired’ Primitive Methodist church. As I headed for home I had to stop to take a photo of the magnificent bank of poppies adorning the verge in Buddles Lane.

There was lots of traffic in the moth trap today including the highest number of heart and darts yet – 29. There were more heart and club too, and nearly all of the common wainscots are the darker form I commented on before. The one new moth today was a micro, paratalanta pandelis, commonly known as bordered pearl. Very pretty. It was very excitable and so had to be photographed inside the moth pot.”

paratalanta pandelis (bordered pearl)

New species for June 17th:
Birds: sandwich tern, knot, American golden plover
Moths: paratalanta pandelis (bordered pearl)

Birds = 203
Moths = 114
Wildflowers = 198