Sunday, September 20, 2009

Spring Tide at Snettisham - Saturday

We've been looking forward to this weekend for some time. The combination of a spring tide at Snettisham, just after dawn, on a weekend, post-dissertation was something to get quite excited about. We got to the RSPB car park on Saturday morning around 5:45am and then walked in the first light of day towards the reserve.

We were surprised at how many people chose to drive all the way up to the reserve, there must have been 20 or 30 cars where there should have been none. We walked carrying lots of kit the mile and a half to the spot we wanted to watch the spectacle from.

The weather forecast was nearly right, it was millpond still, reasonably warm but unfortunately cloudy, some sunshine would have meant fantastic photography opportunities, but we had to make do with low light conditions. As well as Helen and I we reckon about 100 keen enthusiasts had gathered, including Bill Bailey, which was a surprise, he was doing something to camera with the spectacle of wheeling groups of waders behind him.

Anyway what we did manage to record at this stage was only moving pictures, the lack of light meant the telephoto I'd lugged was proving mostly useless. Here you can see a group of waders on the shore with more birds flying past:

And here with the camera pointed skyward a vast movement of geese and gulls from their roosts to feed inland:

By the time the tide reached its highest point the majority of the waders had moved on to other locations, leaving this section of the beach empty, so we headed into one of the hides at the end of the far lagoon to see what had settled there.

Here some of the birds in the roost, you can see how still the water is:

This film shows some of the Knot, Oystercatchers and Black-tailed Godwits in the roost:

Though most of them were asleep:

Some took the opportunity to get cleaned-up:

or just have a scratch:

Whilst it's fair to say we'd expected to see more birds the sight, sound and over spectacle was fantastic and we were very pleased with the planning that we'd done to ensure we were in the right place at the right time. By now it was around 7:30am and just after high tide. We decided to head on to Titchwell as some of the birders were getting a bit twitchy at the 'lack of action' and others had already drifted off.

On the way back along the beach there were a few lone waders about, including this Dunlin, moulting into winter plumage:

A couple of juvenile Ringed Plovers:

As we were about to leave the beach on the way back to the car park I spotted a bird whose immediate shape and pattern were unfamiliar to me. We got bins on it and it turned out to be our very first Wryneck:

We watched it watch us for a while then it obligingly flew to a better perch for us:

We'd been very keen to see a Wryneck on our Spanish holiday earlier this year and had assumed we wouldn't see one for a few years yet so were chuffed to bits! Surprisingly no one else was about, so we enjoyed the bird on our own until it dived into deep cover, disturbing a couple of Robins as it did so. We told some other birders who wandered past while we were trying to locate it again but no joy so headed off to Titchwell.

Titchwell is undergoing some well-publicised changes including a new sea wall which is sorely needed. The changes however mean that the reserve is very quiet for birding at the moment, though we were delighted to watch a small group of Bearded Reedlings pinging their way around the reedbeds near the path, even with the still poor light, this male showed well:

At the end we watched a number of waders and gulls, including this lone Grey Plover, still in breeding plumage:
We also caught fleeting glimpses of Snow Buntings, too fleeting however to record on camera. As usual the RSPB volunteers were a mine of information, they really do the RSPB proud.
We popped into Stiffkey to see a reported Red-breasted Flycatcher but the bird hadn't been seen on Saturday and we couldn't locate it either. Next up for us then the NWT reserve at Cley.

Again the ponds and wetland areas were quiet but again the Bearded Reedlings were putting on a show, this time with some sunlight to aid the photography. First another male for comparison with the unlit subject above:

Followed by a juvenile female:

Then an adult female:

These are fabulous little birds and the more habitat the RSPB puts in the more they breed and prosper. Next up we decided to gamble and visit Pensthorpe the location for Springwatch. Mistake. It cost £17 for us to get in which ended up costing us a £1 a minute. The place is very confused. There's a few captive birds, a crane conservation project and some hides, a strange little manicured garden, etc., but the 'habitat' is not really bird friendly. In fact it seemed like the place can't make its mind up what to be and as a consequence is neither garden of a posh house, National Trust style nor nature reserve. They should let the WWT or RSPB take over then the place would be a worth a visit. Unless you fancy a really expensive stroll to see the odd duck and flower garden then I'd give the place a wide berth.
We did get to see this Mistle Thrush on the perimeter of the park, so it wasn't all a waste:

So having made one mistake we decided to head for Sculthorpe Manor (we used the Best Birdwatching sites in Norfolk by Neil Glenn), which turned out to be a wise decision. As we walked in the door the volunteer asked us if we'd been before, and then proceeded to explain the various highlights of the reserve, what we'd see and where, and told us about the various birds we asked about including Golden Pheasant and Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker. Apparently the former is seen daily and the latter regularly including being seen on a feeder from time to time. No such luck for us but it was still a lovely spot, very pleasant to be at and to walk around. At the far end we sat with some other folk watching a fishing Kingfisher for 10 minutes. It was quite distant but great to watch. So time to head back for an early dinner and an early night after a really good day. Wryneck !! :)
Please excuse the bloggers license exercised here, this is an unpublished picture I took in Sri Lanka of a Common Kingfisher at the turn of the year, I spotted it whilst browsing for some other pictures last week and thought it worthy of airing, I hope you agree:

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