After a good night’s sleep at the George Hotel in Cley, I woke up early with the monstrous void that is a late breakfast – 8.30 at the very least. Hence, a two minute ride in the car found me back at Cley Marshes. The rain of yesterday had subsided for a short time at least, and I made my way towards the hide overlooking Simmond’s Scrape again. Quarry this time was not the Red-necked Phalarope in particular (which as it turned out was on the North Scrape), but for Bearded Tit along the boardwalk. A quartet of Egyptian Geese took off and arrowed overhead, and I followed a Weasel along the planks of the boardwalk itself. A seat half way along provided some height to look over the heads of the rushes, where the calls of the reedlings were tantalisingly heard. Some time was spent at the task, with only brief glimpses to show for the effort.
After a brief visit to Daukes hide, I rounded the scrapes to emerge on the opposite side in Bishop Hide, which may have offered a different perspective. Highlight was what appeared to be a young Water Rail erupting up and over the reeds offering the briefest of views. On the walk back to the car and the call of breakfast, a Hooded Crow was something of a shock. This is a Norfolk rarity, and I didn’t know at the time that this single misfit had been in the area since July. A hunting Sparrowhawk in the same field was much more predictable.
The target after breakfast was the East Bank of Cley, for hopefully better views of Bearded Tits. This hope was rewarded many times over. The reedbeds seemed alive with the birds, usually marauding in flocks of up to 20-30 birds. They were first spotted from some distance away, but were eventually seen just below the track along the bank. A few Cetti’s Warblers were also calling from the confines of the reeds, and a couple of birds may have been seen, but were not 100% identified. 4 more Water Rails were also heard but not seen. The lagoon to the East of the bank, just below the shingle, was alive with waders, but particularly notable for Little Egrets. This vista exemplified the upwards expansion of a bird that was at one time a major catch, with 23 on the open water.
With the rain starting again, I decided on the coastal journey to Hunstanton Cliffs, where a Wryneck had been in residence for a day or two. The rain had faded again when I arrived here, with tales of the bird perching in the open on fence posts occasionally. This proved to be no idle boast. After combing the narrow band of vegetation on the seaward side of the lighthouse, the bird obligingly and repeatedly found the comfort of the fence posts to its liking.
And so on to Welney, where a Wilson’s Phalarope would provide an ideal contrast with yesterday’s smaller mite of the same family. This was an easy one – it was spinning its way amongst a throng of wildfowl directly in front of the main hide. I decided on the quieter option of the open observatory hide, where only one or two birders were stationed. About to start filming, some dimwit sat near to me, with the excuse that the closed glass hide was too noisy. No sooner had I started the video camera running than he piped up with “are you videoing then?”. I don’t think he saw the irony in the comment. However, a stroll to the more distant Lyle Hide was even more of a treat. 2-3 Short-eared Owls were quartering the open pasture, but more entertainment was dispatched by a Barn Owl. It was gliding over the meadows, when it suddenly wheeled and sprang on to its quarry. Some minutes later, it took off with what looked like a vole, only to be hassled out of its catch by a female Marsh Harrier. Directly in front of the hide was a lone Whooper Swan, which seemed a little early, and above my head (in the hide) was an active Swallow’s nest with well grown young still being fed. The parents were at one time both perched in the eaves of the inside of the hide, with one making an error of judgement when it tried to leave via a closed window!