Sunday, 14 June 2015

June 14th Hunstanton

The cliffs of Hunstanton
Not the greatest day to be beside the seaside, but the bird I have come to see loves the strong wind and does not mind a bit of drizzle. The seaside town of Hunstanton is home to a colony of fulmars. They are nesting on one of the few beautiful cliffs in Norfolk. As you walk along it, you start to notice one nest, then another, and another, until you discover that there must be between 50-200 pairs hidden on ledges up there. I couldn't count them all, but they were everywhere! Their cackling calls gives them away.

They are one of my favourite seabirds. They may look like gulls with their grey and white plumage, but they are not gulls at all. If anything, they remind me of albatrosses. Fulmars are a species of petrel and their bills have tubular nostrels to help expell excess salt, typical of members from the petrel family. They are also masterful gliders, travelling for miles across the sea. As I walk alongside the cliff, they soar low over my head with an effortless grace. They are truly wonderful birds to watch.

The birds I can see are all incubating eggs or young chicks as far as I can tell. When a chick gets older, they are left alone on the cliff. At this stage of their lives, they look like large fluff balls. Don't let this cute act fool you, however, as you do not want to get anywhere near them. If you do, they have a way of protecting themselves from you. Fulmar chicks can project foul smelling vomit with incredible accuracy from a reasonable range. If you were a bird of prey, the oily vomit will ruin feathers and will make you vulnerable to the elements and is hard to clean off. Yuck!

This one decided to explore the rocks at ground level!
Feral Pigeon
Apart from fulmars, I also saw swallows, pigeons, pied wagtails and house sparrows either nesting or feeding on or around the cliff face and a flock of oystercatchers flying over the waves. Closer towards the town, the landscape as you walk alongside the cliff turns into from fine sand into wet sand with rocks and a series of tiny rockpools. Hundreds of periwrinkles cluster on the rocks, while the casts of lugworms cover the areas of wet sand and shells of mussels and razorshells litter everywhere you go. When we got to the town, the tide and conditions turned. The tide came in fast, the wind got stronger and it started to drizzle. It seemed like an autumnal storm with the choppy waves crashing in with force. With the tide now in, we had to return to the car park along the clifftop into the cold, strong winds. This and it's wildlife is Hunstanton's wildside.
Dad tackles the rocky landscape
Juvenile Pied Wagtail
Herring Gull
Remnants of an old shipwreck
Perfect weather for windsurfing
Starling at the car park we left the car in

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