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Saturday, 7 April 2018

Birding at Cley NWT, Salthouse & Simon King!

 Simon King and I at Cley Visitor Centre NWT

I was up very early this morning and arrived at Cley Visitor Centre NWT car park at 7.30am and was the first person here! With south east winds there should be a good chance of seeing some Spring migrants. It was quite bright first thing, but rain set in for a while later on my mammoth walk. With camera rucksack packed up with drink and snacks, I set off from the visitor centre on my search for migrants.

Route and Summary of the Day!
Cley Visitor Centre, Walsey Hills NOA, East Bank, shingle ridge east to Little Eye, shingle ridge onto Gramborough Hill, Beach Road south at Salthouse, west along A149 by duck pond, south up Cross Street, Salthouse Church, public footpath west then public footpath west from Dun Cow pub, Sarbury Hill, Walsey Hills NOA, west along NWT footpath back to the visitor centre, lunch in car park, selfie with Simon King, bought cheese scone for tea, afternoon nap in car at Coastguards, Walsey Hills NOA to search again for birds, Daukes' Hide with Eddie, East Bank again and sunset! Almost dawn 'til dusk!

At Walsey Hills NOA a Kestrel was perched in the trees in North Forlorn Wood by Snipe's Marsh, along with a Collared Dove, Wood Pigeons and a Chiffchaff was singing and another along the bottom path at Walsey Hills – nothing else of particular note. From the East Bank I saw several Pochard, Ruff x 2, several Shoveler, Gadwalls, one male Tufted Duck, Brent Geese, good numbers of Redshanks, Lapwings and a Marsh Harrier – mostly on The Serpentine. Sadly no sign of the Garganey that a local birder had seen about 20 minutes ago (flew off east apparently). Along the East bank I bumped into Steve Gantlett, John Furse and Eddie! Four Sandwich Terns flew west over our heads. Nice to have a brief catch up with everyone.

I continued east along the shingle ridge and it started to rain. I was very surprised not see a single Wheatear or any hirundines whatsoever! On the sea pool I saw a couple of Turnstones, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, Avocets, Curlews x 2 and several gulls. There was also a few Skylarks and Meadow Pipits around. I sat on the shingle ridge (seaward side) for my breakfast – a Paddington bear sandwich!

At Gramborough Hill there were 2 Carrion Crows on the shingle ridge, a few Linnets in the brambles, Skylarks, a Rook and that was it! No Wheatears, no Stonechats, nothing else of note. The pool just west of the hill held 2 Avocets, a Ringed Plover (someone saw a Little Ringed Plover here late in the day, but mine was definitely a Ringed Plover (no eye ring etc) and 2 Redshanks. Bumped into Jake G et al, they had seen a Yellow Wagtail flying south.

Walking along Beach Road, 2 Med Gulls flew over west calling. The highlight of the day was listening to the wonderful singing of a Willow Warbler in the willows at the end of the road! There were also 4 Greenfinches sitting in the bushes in this area. Starlings perched in trees by Cross Street, a Collared Dove, Goldfinches, and a Blackbird feeding on a lawn along with a darkly coloured Pheasant. Whilst I sat on the bench seat at Salthouse church enjoying the stunning views of the coast and the village below me, I watched a Blue Tit, Great Tit, more Greenfinches, a Wren and a couple of Magpies.

Continued my walk through the little gate at the back of the church, along the narrow hedge-lined muddy footpath west to Salthouse village. No birds of note seen on route back to the visitor centre, but a beautiful walk over the fields with stupendous views of Salthouse and Cley marshes and the coastline, but did hear a Bullfinch at Sarbury Hill. The sun now out and getting hot, so had to stop to remove a layer of clothing. Still no sight of any hirundines. I collapsed in my car at the now extremely jam-packed VC car park! Simon King's talk was at 12pm, which I had missed completely and had probably missed seeing him too – it was now about 1.30pm. After having my lunch in the car I ambled up to the visitor centre to the CleySpy and Carl Zeiss demonstration event situated outside the centre.

I found out that Simon had not left yet – he was having lunch I was told and was then leading a guided walk – a very expensive guided walk! Long story short, I managed to catch him and got a selfie picture with him! I didn't think he looked very well, I hope he is ok – his wife Marguerite was also with him – I have never seen her before at any events – she is very tall and has a figure to die for. He didn't give me a hug like he normally does to all his fans, but simply stood next to me!!! Simon pointed out a Peregrine to us all, which a nice addition to the day! Tim (Managing Director) of CleySpy introduced me to his wife and daughter – lovely to meet you both (hope you enjoyed the walk) and also bumped into Sue Gantlett with her daughter (nice to meet you too). I was most impressed by the Carl Zeiss Victory NT 8x42 binoculars which were extremely bright and better than my bins! Bought a cheese scone for my tea later and left.

A much needed snooze was enjoyed in my car at Cley Coastguards! The weather was wonderful this afternoon – like a summer's day! Later I returned to Walsey Hills where warden David pointed out my first Swallow of the Spring to me – at last! Nothing else of note apart from Chiffchaff singing again.

From Daukes' Hide with Eddie I saw a Water Rail, Chinese Water Deer, Shovelers, Avocets, Redshanks, Little Ringed Plovers x 2, Heron, Canada Geese x 2, gulls, Marsh Harrier, Lapwings, Coot, Moorhens, Redshanks and Black-tailed Godwits.

Walked along the East bank alone and up as far as the sluice. Still no sign of this morning's Garganey, but one now at Titchwell RSPB I note via RBA. At 7.30pm on Arnold's Marsh I counted 64 Dunlins, one Grey Plover, 52 Black-tailed Godwits, 4 Curlews, Avocets, Redshanks, Shelducks, Teal, Little Grebes x 2, Mute Swans x 2 and good numbers of gulls. Watched the sun setting and ambled back to my car and home to King's Lynn. What a fabulous day! The highlight was hearing the Willow Warbler singing and the buttered cheese scone!!!


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