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Friday, 25 March 2016

Spring Migrants at Burnham Overy Dunes & Cley!

Burnham Overy Dunes

My holiday started yesterday, but I was so exhausted from doing two six day weeks on the trot, I didn't even leave the house, which was a shame, but sometimes you just need to rest!

Today was forecast to be the only nice day over the Easter weekend, so I wasn't going to waste it. It was a warm, sunny and beautiful day with southerly winds and a light breeze – perfect weather! I headed to one of my favourite places – Burnham Overy Dunes. I was hoping to bag the first Swallow in Norfolk today, but I didn't quite make it!

Burnham Market was full of tourists as I attempted to drive through the village. People walked hand in hand in the middle of the road like they owned it and reluctantly moved to allow passing traffic. There were a few cars already parked just outside Burnham Overy, but I managed to get a space for my little green Skoda! It was good to be out, I can't remember the last time I did some proper birding, due to family commitments, mood, work etc.

The hedge lined track was adorned with dog crap, worse than usual. By the oak tree on the left hand side just after the stile, I had wonderful views of a pair of Bullfinches – a nice start to the day. Hedge Sparrows and Wrens were singing, as were Skylarks high in the blue skies and bees were buzzing! In the fields and over the marsh were two Grey Partridges, Egyptian Geese, Shelducks, Brent Geese, Redshanks, Curlews, a Reed Bunting, Linnets, Starlings, Marsh Harrier, Little Egrets x 3 and Lapwings displaying. It really was a beautiful day, although I wished I had arrived much earlier, as there were far too many people here for my liking and far too many dogs racing round.

Just before the last corner of the sea wall, I was mega excited to see my first Swallow of the Spring, skimming and twisting past me at eye level and heading west at 11.05am– wow! The first Swallow had already been reported at Blakeney this morning, followed by one at Ryburgh, so mine was the third one reported today. A few seconds later I asked a photographer with long lens if he had seen the Swallow – he hadn't – he didn't have any binoculars, but I still don't know how he missed it, as he was only standing a few yards from me, unlucky. A Hedge Sparrow serenaded me in the apple tree in the bushes and there were a few Linnets. I saw a couple of Peacock Butterflies on route to Gun Hill, but no hoped for Wheatears. I searched hard and sat on the seaward side of Gun Hill to have a coffee and marmalade sandwich, whilst enjoying the view out to Scolt Head Island. No other birds of note apart from more Linnets, a few Meadow Pipits and lots of Cormorants flying overhead.

Back at the bushes and boardwalk, I headed east through the dunes towards Holkham pines, but re-traced my steps half way, after not finding a hoped for Wheatear or anything else come to think of it. Back at the bushes and boardwalk I was delighted to find a pair of Stonechats – the female showed on the barbed wire fence and bushes enough times for me to get some pictures, but her stunning partner only revealed himself a couple of times and was flushed continually by passing dogs. I arrived back at my car at 2.20pm. I was so hot and collapsed in the car to have my lunch.

Lady Anne's Drive at Holkham looked horrendous as I drove past, it was jam packed solid with cars, as far as the main road. I headed east and arrived at Cley NWT Visitor Centre, where I bumped into Andy J. who I chatted with briefly before heading to Walsey Hills NOA. Heard a Cetti's Warbler and saw the usual Chaffinches, Robin, Great and Blue Tits, but nothing else of note. Chiffchaffs had been singing this morning I was told. Also bumped into Mr Furse here!

Cley Coastguards – walked past the pill box and to North Scrape screen to search for a Wheatear, but again no luck. Lots of Brent Geese on the marsh, a few Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. I walked back along the beach and took funky mono pictures of the sea crashing on the shingle. Back at the car park two Black-headed Gulls were sitting on fence posts in anticipation of food scraps.

I left and headed for the East Bank car park – as I neared the car park I spotted a Common Crane flying over Snipe's Marsh/North Forlorn Wood at 5.52pm, heading south/inland. It disappeared very quickly, which was pretty annoying. Shot down the road to park at Walsey Hills, but couldn't see where the Crane had flown to. I drove up Old Woman's Lane to gain some height and scanned the fields, but no sign of the Crane. At Cley Sewage Works I watched a Redwing fly overhead in the fading light at 6.20pm and a Cetti's Warbler burst into song briefly.

Ended the day at Glandford Ford listening to a Song Thrush singing as dusk fell. A Kestrel flew past over the trees – no sign of any Barn Owls. It seemed to take ages to get home. Weather for the rest of the weekend looks pretty dire with strong winds and rain, but with southerlies, who knows what could drift in!!!


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