Monday, 12 October 2015

Oct 12th Cley and Beeston Common

I'm back at Cley once again in the hope of seeing any autumn migrants. When we arrived, I bumped into one of my Strumpshaw regulars who had just seen a really special migrant of his own, an Isabelline shrike! It wasn't at Cley, but we were given the directions to it. The shrike will have to wait though, as there was another special migrant written on the sightings board. A white-rumped sandpiper was apparently at the pools at the far end of the East Bank. This American wader has flown across the Atlantic, I would be lying if I said I was not interested in seeing it.

Sun rays over the pools at Cley
Little Egret
So I led Mum down the recently resurfaced path along the East Bank to join the twitchers to see the American visitor. We were a bit distracted with bearded tits, little egrets, brent geese and other wildfowl along the way and by the time we got to the other end, the twitchers had dwindled to a single man and the bird had gone. The lone twitcher told us we had to go alongside the pools by following the path along the beach. It was a bit of a distance and we only attempted halfway before Mum's back was playing up, a cue to turn back without the sandpiper in the bag.

It wasn't a wasted walk despite not seeing the white-rumped sandpiper though. There were curlews, redshanks, goldfinches and cormorants to enjoy feeding from the pools. As we rejoined the East Bank path from the beach, meadow pipits caught my eye a few feet from us. Then something smaller flew behind us and into a very small bush while we were watching the pipits. It was a goldcrest! It was foraging through the branches of the bush for food just metres from us. I managed to get my first shots of a goldcrest that I was happy with. Finally! Actually, one goldcrest became two and they got extremely close to us. Seeing these tiny woodland birds landing on the sand inches from my feet was quite a strange experience for me. But true to tradition between me and these birds, they evaded my camera and my luck was back to the way it was.

Meadow Pipit

Continuing our walk back down the East Bank, the crowd of twitchers had grown in size once more and yet another bird distracted us as soon as we had reached them. This time it was a handsome wheatear. This is a regular migrant that visits this part of the coast before heading south to Africa. Its buff-orange breast means it is a male and he was posing upright as he hopped around the path like a proud robin. He occasionally flits up to the fencing of red and white striped tape bordering the path with his bright white rump showing as he flew. A few meadow pipits came to join it on the path as if they were part of the same flock. Further down the path, we also saw a female kestrel sitting atop of a tree, looking as if she was eyeing up a woodpigeon that was sitting a few branches below her.

Meadow Pipit
Watch out pigeon! Someone has an eye on you!
Before heading to the visitor centre for lunch, we made a quick visit to Bishop's Hide. The pools here were full of wigeon, teal, black-headed gulls and mallards with a single heron watching from the shore. A snipe made a dash for the reedbeds, briefly pausing in the tall grass of the bank in front of the hide.
Wildfowl and gulls in front of the hides

Isabelline Shrike
After lunch, it was time to pay that shrike a visit. We were told to pull up at a lay-by at Beeston Common just outside Sheringham. We soon knew we were in the right place as there were plenty of cars parked in the lay-by and a pair of twitchers confirmed to us that it was still about just a short walk past the gates to the common. I soon met up with the rest of the twitchers spaced out around the site. They pointed me to the direction of some bushes full of berries a short distance away. And there, sitting in full sight like a fairy on a Christmas tree, was the Isabelline shrike!

Though it did move around a bit, it did not go far or hid from view. It stayed around the group of bushes, catching insects and posing within sight on the exposed branches. Isabelline shrikes are rare vagrants from Central Asia and juvenile individuals occasionally venture this far west from time to time. They look similar to red-backed shrikes but are more sandy coloured with a longer tail. I have never seen a shrike of any kind before, so this rarity has made my day. I have always wanted to see a shrike ever since one appeared on 'The Animals of Farthing Wood' when I was a kid. It was known as 'the butcher bird' as it picked off the rodent characters from the show and skewered them on a barbed wire fence. This Isabelline shrike, however, was happy with catching flying insects today. It will probably use the thorns of the bushes it was sitting in to store them on. What a great bird!

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