Puffinus puffinus

I have never been one for sea-watching! Often the best days for seeing birds passing along our coasts are when the weather is really rough, it’s raining and misty and birds are forced to pass close to shore. It’s not that I’m a completely fair-weather birder, but…..

Today I got a sample of what sea-watching can be, albeit in very favourable un-seasonable October weather. Still it did make me realise that it can be very satisfying to just watch what passes you from a beach vantage point. My chosen vantage point today was Cley. I parked in the small car park at the south end of the famous East Bank and walked north to the beach. Geese were massing in the fields to the east, whilst bearded tits and Cetti’s warblers were calling in the reeds to the west. There were little grebes on the pools and a selection of waders, including grey plover and greenshank, in the flooded areas.

There’s a dike that runs roughly east/west about halfway to the beach and a small group of birders alerted me to the fact that they had seen, quite distantly, an otter. Whilst searching for it we all saw a kingfisher fly along the dike, and then the otter surfaced with a fish! A few minutes later it began swimming towards us, then dived – visible only by a trail of bubbles on the surface – and emerged a surprisingly long time later on the other side of the bank (having passed through the sluice under the path) and now swimming away from us. I haven’t seen an otter at Titchwell (or anywhere else for that matter) for several years.

I had timed my visit for high tide (about 4.30pm) and there were a lot of birds about: Gulls (black-headed, great black-backed and herring) and several juvenile common terns.

A juvenile common tern

There were also three young gannets fishing. Mostly brown they are very different from the white adults.

A juvenile gannet – I love the beady eye!

I managed to photograph one of them diving, and decided to make a little montage of the way it changed its shape to streamline itself for the dive. Quite remarkable!

A combined series of photos to show a gannet dive

There were also several razorbills, a guillemot and a red-throated diver very close to the shoreline, plus a new species for 2023 – Manx shearwater. The Manx shearwater has the somewhat confusing latin name of puffinus puffinus: According to Wikipedia this is because the birds were originally called Manks puffins (around the 17th century) as puffin was the Anglo-Norman word for the cured carcass of a nestling shearwater! (It’s thought that the birds we know as puffins got their name much later, perhaps derived from the fact that their nesting habits are similar to shearwaters.)

I have only seen these birds a couple of times before, in southern Ireland, so this was a find I was very pleased with….and even more so when I managed to get some decent photos!

Manx shearwater (above and below)
A Manx shearwater landing on the sea

Brenda writes: “A very good night in the moth trap resulted in three new moths for the year in addition to more mallows and vapourers. I managed to catch one of the mallows this time.


The green brindled crescent is one of my favourite autumn-flying moths and we had three.

green brindled crescent

There was also a grey pine carpet and a satellite. There are two versions of this moth and I haven’t seen this one before with a tan spot (rather than a white one) on its wing with only a tiny white dot next to the tan area.”

grey pine carpet

New species for October 10th:
Birds: Manx shearwater
Moths: green brindled crescent, satellite, grey pine carpet

Birds = 223
Moths = 250
Wildflowers = 289