Monday, 29 February 2016

Feb 29th Cley

On the first day of February this year, I was at Cley with my mum. Now it is the last day of February (a leap year day) and we are back. What could possibly change in a few weeks? Well, in truth not that much. The same species are about just as they were at the start of the month, but it is a lot warmer than it was back then. It is now early spring and the signs of change are only starting to show themselves.

Marsh Harrier
There was one change to take note about, our discision to not visit the usual cluster of hides like we usually do. Instead, we only made a visit to Bishop's Hide, a single hide on the other side of Pat's Pool. Marsh harriers were sky dancing above us as we walked down to the hide. These aerial displays, where the males show off their fitness by calling, flapping, flying high, producing stoops and flying almost wingtip to wingtip with a female. We watch as two birds circle around each other. They were then joined by a third bird. I noticed a lot of talons being used in the displays. One bird would hang their talons down, a threat to the other, telling it to back off. Mum, as far as I know, has never seen sky dancing in action before and to have them so close to us too, she just couldn't keep her eyes off them.

Two Harriers!
One above is stooping, the other is upside down!
Three Harriers!
From Bishop's Hide, a large flock of brent geese had flown down to the pool to feed. They were joined by flocks of wading birds, which include avocets, ruffs, godwits, lapwings, wigeons, shovelers, shelducks, teal and lots of gulls.

Brent Geese
Brent Geese and Avocets
Black-tailed Godwit
Black-headed Gulls
Ruffs and a Lapwing
Starling and Mallard
Reed Bunting
An artist at work!
The new hide/shelter
After our visit to the hide, we spent the rest of our time walking down to the beach and along the shingle ridge in search of snow buntings. On the way, we saw oystercatchers, curlews, linnets, pink-footed geese and little egrets. We also came across a new shelter/hide near the beach end of the East Bank, which must have been built since after our last visit to Cley as I have never seen it before.

Little Egret
Brent Geese flying over East Bank
Brent Geese
Pink-footed Geese
Red Kite
We got to the end East Bank and there was a large group from Naturetrek who had the same idea as us and were also looking for snow buntings. We ended up unintentionally tagging along with them. It was actually a great discision as it turned out, as they found us a red kite soaring over the reserve. I got a few distant shots of it, zoomed in as far as I can and you can see the distinctive forked tail well enough in a couple of them. Red kites are still not as common in Norfolk, but they are starting to appear more frequently recently. Hopefully, one day, Norfolk will be full of red kites just like other parts of England. It is always a special moment when see these enchanting birds, but to see them here in Norfolk is magic!

Snow Bunting
We followed the large group down the ridge, lagging slightly behind. But then they stopped, which obviously meant they had found them. There were twelve of these small white birds in all, but they could only see the one clearly. The others were hidden behind a dip in the shingled ridge. A couple of photographers were a lot closer to the buntings than this large group, so I managed to walk to them without spooking the birds. I got a few great shots of these lovely little birds, before several members of the Naturetrek group attempted to join us, scaring the buntings off during their approach. Fortunately, the birds were found again on our way back to East Bank.

Reed Bunting
Brent Geese
On the return journey down the East Bank, the large flock of brent geese had relocated themselves from Pat's Pool to the marshy field alongside the bank. There must be hundreds of them here, but I'm not much of a counter to count them for you. A pair of marsh harriers flew low over the geese, but amazingly, the geese stood their ground instead of taking off all at once. A great way to end to what has been a more eventful visit to Cley than the our previous visit at the start of this month.