Monday, 5 January 2015

Jan 5th NWT Cley Marshes

View of NWT Cley Marshes
After feeling under the weather for most of the new year so far, it is nice to finally get some fresh air. I am on the North Norfolk coast at the popular Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve of Cley Marshes with my mum. As it is my first outing of the year, I am hoping it will start my year with a bang. I wasn't disappointed.
As we made our way to the cluster of three hides at the centre of the site, we bumped into someone from BBC Radio Norfolk who wanted to interview us about our expectations of our birding year and what we are hoping to see. I did most of the talking as Mum is less knowledgeable on the subject than I am. I think he was happy with my answers.

Black-tailed Godwit
Once that surprise interview was over, we entered the first hide (the one on our right). The view was a scrape full of birds and more was coming in the longer we stayed inside the hide. Black-tailed godwits were busy feeding close to our hide and were joined by wigeon. On the scrape with them were; lapwing, dunlin, pintail, avocets and a large flock of golden plover. At first the golden plover were on a tiny island on our far right. But then something must have spooked them as hundreds of these birds took to the air in a murmuration of gold and white and then settled on the island in front of us.

Golden Plover
Golden plover is a personal favourite of mine and when they settle in front of you like a carpet of speckly golden feathered bodies, I just had to show them off to someone. That person, of course, was Mum. With my scope, she could see the detail of their upper wings. The speckles were like gold leaf mingled with black dots. The birds were figety and costantly stretched their wings, revealing the clean white undersides. For the original lapwings and dunlin that were roosting there before the golden plover showed up were now outnumbered. Joining them, almost unnoticed by us, was a snipe. It's cryptic camourflage seemed just as good for hiding amongst golden birds as it is for normal vegetation, only that huge bill it possesses gave it away.

Brent Goose
A winter visit to Cley means that you are garanteed in seeing large flocks of wild geese. Today, we had two species flying above us from many directions. Brent geese were bold enough to join the plovers, ducks and the other waders we've been watching on both viewable scrapes. These are black and grey geese with a white neck bar patch and tail. You can hear them calling to one another with barking 'brr brrr brr' sounds.

Pink-footed Geese
 Above them, pink-footed geese (or pink-feet as I call them) were also coming over in good numbers but were not stopping by like the brent. The name points out the reason for why these grey-brown geese were named, those pink feet. Those feet are not the only things that are pink, their bill is too. They also like to call out the word 'pink' as part of their most distinctive vocal calls 'pink-wink-wink pink-wink-wink'. Listen out for that phrase and you will know that you have pink-feet in the air somewhere, flying in 'V'-shaped skeins.

No visit to Cley is complete without a sighting of a marsh harrier and we had a male and a female patrolling the shrubs and reedbeds in the background. Cley often provides great birdwatching opportunities and is probably why Mum and I enjoy coming here a lot. This will be the first of many visits to this reserve this year.



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