Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Cley Marshes, Norfolk (with Richard Farrow).

At 0400 I was picked up by my very good friend Richard Farrow for our pre-planned trip to Cley Marshes on the North Norfolk coast.  Even at this early hour it was very warm at about 18 degrees with a promise of highs of around 28 degrees.
The roads were relatively quiet at this time and as we left Dereham we were surprised to see a Tawny Owl sitting in the middle of the road.  Further along the route, the ever present Wood Pigeons gathered on the roadsides and typically flew up at the very last moment.
Approaching the coast, and as the skies lightened, some beautiful views were had of early morning mist over fields and valleys.

Cley Marshes (0530 to late morning)
From the car park at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust centre at Cley, we walked east along the reserve boundary and encountered the expected Sedge Warblers singing their fast scratchy songs from prominent bushes within reedbeds.  Sedge Warblers were to be the commonest Warbler species to be seen and heard today.  A Marsh Harrier made an appearance at dawn over the marsh, this was a female bird, later, both male and female birds were seen, the female clearly the larger of the two.
Walking north along East Bank, further Sedge Warblers were heard and Reed Buntings were seen and heard.  Several Meadow Pipits were both seen and heard and on occasions the 'parachuting' song-flight was seen.  On the path, a Skylark was seen gathering food.  A single juvenile Bearded Tit was briefly seen in reeds.
Ringed Plover (female) Cley 17/07/14 (One of a pair with single chick)
It was apparent that as we approached the northern end of East Bank, Arnolds Marsh to the immediate east was full of life.  Richard and I walked east along the shingle in order to overview the marsh with the sun behind us.  From various viewpoints we saw a few Black-tailed Godwits roosting in shallow water, Dunlin, Black-headed Gulls, screaming Sandwich Terns, Avocets (including a fairly close feeding juvenile bird), Curlew, and in the Serpentine, several Little Egrets were seen.  These beautiful pure white Heron species are reasonably common now, 20 years ago, the species would have attracted much attention as it was then quite rare to the UK.  Closer to us in the dunes, further Meadow Pipits were seen including birds with some plumage variations from browns to Olive-greens.
Bearded Tit at Cley Marshes 17/07/14
At the northern end of East Bank, I detected movement of a small bird at the base of a patch of reeds, this was a Whitethroat.  Clearly not in breeding habitat the presence of this bird would suggest this was an early migrant, or evidence of post-breeding dispersal.
It was immediately west of the East Bank where back in January 2014, the USAF helicopter crashed claiming for lives, a tragic event.
Walking a little further west we came upon a pair of Ringed Plovers on shingle with a single, quite independant chick.  The shingle sea wall and beach provides ideal habitat for this species for breeding where the nest and eggs are perfectly concealed.
Continuing west along the shingle periphery of the reserve, a couple of Spoonbills were roosting in shallow water.  Further birds were seen throughout the morning commuting between Cley and west of the location.
Reed Warbler at Cley Marshes 17/07/14
At Cley Coastguards several Swallows were seen around the car-park area.  From this locality we then headed back inland along the coat road towards Cley village.  Once again, Sedge Warblers and Reed Buntings were seen and heard, also, the marsh immediately west of the path/coast road was the best area for seeing Reed Warblers.
Close to the southern end of the coast road, a number of Reed Warblers were seen, including this bird pictured here which was carrying food for young.
Walking through reeds we came across a small patch of Elder, a habitat always worth checking within reed-beds.  This check produced in a single Elder, Sedge Warblers, Reed Warbler, a single Whitethroat, House Sparrows, and 'pinging' Bearded Tits, including the female photographed here.
With increasing heat, Richard and myself arrived back at the car park where we had a spot of lunch.  From one of the picnic tables here, a single Cetti's Warbler gave a few bursts of its explosive song.

Richard and myself finally departed Cley Marshes at around mid-day.  This was an excellent visit to Cley and I extend my thanks to Richard for taking me to Cley.  Thank you Richard my friend.


  1. Sounds like a great day. Very envious of your mobility and to be able to get about like you do. Nice to have you back on line. I hope your house move wasn't too troublesome. We moved to Watton to downsize from a 4 bedroomed house when I retired nearly 2 years ago; it's only now do I feel like we're getting straight but it's been the best move we've done in our life, such fantastic wildlife in and all around Watton. Keep up the good work Paul.

    1. Many thanks for your lovely comments. The house move went quite well, although it was hard to leave the old place. I created a nice habitat for birds in my old garden, the new one is practically devoid of habitat, therefore I suppose it could be an exciting time creating something new...I have in mind a mixed Hawthorn/Blackthorn hedge, and some Elder and Bramble also.
      I am really pleased to read that you write that moving to Watton is the best move you have made...that was lovely to read. We are lucky in this area with valuable and unique habitats which attracts many specialist species.
      I hope we can meet soon and once again, thank you for your lovely comments.

  2. Yes I understand how you feel. Our last garden in Bressingham was 10 times bigger than our current one and we used to get regular visits by foxes, 3 types of deer, water rail and best of all turtle doves nested at the bottom of the garden. We often used to film them from our kitchen window (hence our jokey trademark on our Youtube channel). I still pine for it now but circumstances change and we have to move on.