With a decent push of E/SE wind forecast for this year's Bank Holiday weekend, it was a must that I had a day on the coast looking for migrants. I got in touch with Norfolk birding mate Johnny. He was keen and so we agreed to meet at Cley and give Blakeney Point a go on the Sunday (25/08).
The point is often better in the afternoon, so having met up just after 9am, we started by having a good look at the Cley scrapes from Dauke's Hide. This proved to be a bloody good move as we quickly got onto 5 Wood Sandpipers and a crisp juvenile Little Stint at the back of Simmond's Scrape. Finally, I'd caught up with some Wood Sands after somehow evading them during what has been a bit of an invasion of them during July & August. The Stint was also a welcome bonus.
We then heard the excitable calls of several Wood Sands. We assumed they were the birds at the back of Simmond's. It soon became clear though that these calls were in fact coming from up in the sky! In no time at all, a flock of about 20 birds dropped down from up above and joined the birds already there - and they were all Wood Sands!!! Wow, how mad was that! Several attempts at counting seemed to indicate a total of 26 Wood Sands - I've probably never seen more than 4 or 5 before, so 26 was insane! A paler wader had also dropped in with them and in scanning through them all, revealed to be a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper too. Another great addition!
A fab show of waders, that also included 6+ Green Sands, 6 Knot, several Ruff, a Barwit, Black-Tailed Godwits, Avocets, a summer-plumaged Golden Plover, several Snipe, 1-2 Dunlin. A fab hour an a half or so!
The drop of all those Wood Sands, gave us the impetus we needed to get ourselves round to Cley Coastguards and begin our shingley slog! It was already super hot and was forecast to only get hotter. So after a generous application of factor 15, plus water and snacks squeezed into our bags, it was time to begin!
The walk up soon brought us our first Wheatear and Whinchat, as well as a couple of noisy Greenshank. Further encouragement of birds dropping in came with singles of Green Sandpiper & Whimbrel, plus the awesome sight of 1 then 11 (!) Grey Herons high off the sea. Exciting stuff!
Next we clapped eyes on the first Pied Flyactcher of the day (one of 6 we found during the day). This was part of a really good influx along the E coast during the week. These kind of encounters are why I enjoy birding the point - you get to see things very much out of context and seeing a Pied Fly hopping around on shingle is a pretty odd sight!
The slog through the shingle continued, finding a few more Whinchat, another Pied Fly and a Spoonbill feeding out in the channel. We made our way to the area around the plantation, pretty much the end of our walk. I was hoping we'd bump into a Grayling at some point during the day. This is a species I hadn't seen for a few years, so I was chuffed we managed to at least find one, not too far from the plantation.
Soon-after, we found a Redstart in the tamarisks, although I saw nothing more than a blur, as it flitted away! Earlier on, the plantation had held a Barred Warbler, although it appeared to have moved on by the time we got there. A thorough search here delivered a sneaky Redstart, 2 more Pied Flycatcher, 2 Willow Warblers and a Whitethroat. Whinchat & another 2 Pied Flys were also in brambles and vegetation fairly close to the old Lifeboat House. Finally, just before we began the walk back, a surprise Great White Egret headed over out heads; gone as quickly as it appeared.
The walk back yielded perhaps a few more new birds or maybe ones we hadn't bumped into on the way up. These included more Whinchats, Wheatears, & 2-3 Willow Warblers. A 20 minute pause was also thrown in, to allow me to watch Ben Stokes & Jack Leach do the unthinkable and snatch victory from those Aussies!
The pause produced quite a few birds - a bloody welcome tonic to the nervy scenes of Headingley! A male and a couple of young-ish Marsh Harriers were cruising around the suaeda at close quarters and a Yellow Wagtail went over calling. There were quite a few waders about, with views of Spotted Redshank, a smart summer-plumaged Grey Plover, a flock of vocal, high-flying Whimbrel, Greenshank, several Snipe and Turnstone.
A small group of Grey Partridges jumped out from under our feet, scaring the shit of of us! A Tree Pipit popped up out of nowhere, calling as it flew, while presumably the same Pied Fly as the one we had first set eyes on, was in the same area - the last thing of note on the final stretch. Finally about 18:15pm, we got back to the coastguards car park - I was one sweaty mess!! It was then pub time!
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