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Norfolk a birding paradise

It was an early start as Ken arrived at 5.30am, we picked up Alex in St Asaph then Pete in Chester. Team complete we could begin our trip list and we had lovely early addition as a Barn Owl floated across the road in the dark!
As we headed east in sunshine we saw three Red Kites along the A14, two of these stunning raptors pasted right overhead allowing wonderful views through the huge sunroof.
We headed straight for Cley NWT reserve on the north Norfolk coast where a mega bird had been seen, a Western Sandpiper! The bird had been about several days but very mobile around the pools and marshes on the reserve. We collected our permits from the visitor centre where the news was not good, the sandpiper had been seen for over two hours.
We set off to try and relocate this tiny rarity and on a hunch headed for Dauwkes hide. As we neared the hide two Bearded Tits popped up right next to us!
Just before the hide we had a view over a wet grassland that was alive with birds - Wigeon, Teal, Brent Geese, Black-tailed Godwits - and we soaked up the views.
daukes hide view cley
Cley NWT reserve as always alive with birds

Then Alan's mobile rang, it was John Roberts calling to tell us that he was watching the Western Sandpiper at Cley from Dauwkes hide! What were the chances of us being stood twenty yards away? We dashed to the hide and squeezed in amongst a mass of birders, bins, telescopes and tripods!
hide cley
We found a small space and scanned the mud in front of the hide

western sandpiper cley norfolk
Wow! There it was the Western Sandpiper feeding with Dunlin, Copyright: Carl Chapman, Wildlife Tours and Education

What a brilliant start to our Norfolk birding, a mega rarity within minutes of arrival. We all enjoyed great looks at this tiny vagrant from North America as it dashed around the pools with Dunlin. It was about half the size of a Dunlin though very similar in structure and plumage. Having all had really long looks at the Western Sandpiper we turned to see what else was on the lagoons here. There was a lot! Avocets were amongst flocks of gulls, Ruff fed next to Redshank, Pintail were amongst Gadwall and Brent Geese filled the huge Norfolk sky.
next bird
More birds to see so we left Cley and headed west along the Norfolk coast

As we neared Holkham a lump in a dead tree lead to an emergency stop! Luckily some tempoary traffic light allowed us to park safely between the lights. We piled out and set up scopes - a Rough legged Buzzard was sat in the tree in the winter sun! Luckily John Roberts drove past and we flagged him down so he could enjoy this raptor too. After a few minutes the Rough leg took off and flapped slowly across the fields leaving us elated.
holkham geese
Pink-footed Geese at Holkham

We parked at Lady Annes Drive and marvelled at the masses of geese on either side of the track. Thousands and thousands of Pink-footed Geese fed on the fields in the sun making a wonderful sight and sound. Small numbers of Barnacle Geese and Eurasian White fronted Geese were also here. We then headed out on to the vast beach at Holkham.
holkham beach shadows 2
Somewhere out there are birds

holkham beach shadows
We scanned and scanned but no luck with Shore Larks, next time...

holkham beach shadows 3
We headed back to the car as the sunset over the pines behind the beach

holkham geese roost
The geese were also calling it a day

What an amazing day, and we looked forward to the next two days over a great meal in Thornham.
lots more to come soon.....


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