7th Oct 2022 – Autumn Tour, Day 2

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Day 2 of a four day Autumn Migration Tour today. It was another windy day, but with some nice blue sky and sunshine at least until the end of the day when the rain arrived. Unusually, that was pretty much exactly what was forecast!

As we drove up to the coast, we could see large skeins of Pink-footed Geese flying inland to feed. Our first destination was Wells Woods. As we walked in past the boating lake, we could see two Grey Herons roosting in the trees beyond. There were lots of Little Grebes on the water along with several Coot and a Tufted Duck which was new for the trip list.

As we made our way into the birches, the wind had already picked up more than we had hoped and it was a bit breezy. Several Jays moved away through the trees ahead of us and a couple perched up nicely for a closer look.

Jay – good views

We turned onto the path on the east side of the Dell where it would be more sheltered and immediately came across a large tit flock – several Long-tailed Tits flitted in and out of the birches, along with a few Coal Tits, Treecreeper and Goldcrests. A Chiffchaff appeared in a small tree by the path briefly. The flock was moving very quickly though, and disappeared through the trees ahead of us out towards the main path. We heard a Yellow-browed Warbler call over that way, so tried to get round ahead of them.

Unfortunately, by the time we had got out onto the main path and round to where they were headed, most of the flock had already gone across towards the caravan park. There were just a couple of tits still in the bushes by the path. We waited a few minutes to see if they might come back round, but they didn’t. A Blackcap flew across and landed briefly in a hawthorn behind us and a Song Thrush flew out of the same bush.

We decided to have a bit of a walk and see if we might be able to find anything else further into the woods. A Water Rail squealed from the back of the boating lake as we passed. We did a quick circuit of the open area south of the main path but there was no sign of any migrants freshly arrived, and the trees along the main path beyond were quiet today too. The tit flocks were obviously hiding in the pines out of the wind today.

As we walked back to the east side of the Dell, a Chiffchaff was calling in the trees. It was more sheltered here and the sun was out now. A small flock of Lesser Redpolls was feeding in the tops of the birches, and we had some nice views of birds above our heads. A Willow Warbler flitted around above our heads, where we got a good look at its pale legs. When we heard Long-tailed Tits approaching we got our hopes up, but it must have been a different group – there was nothing with these ones at all.

Lesser Redpoll – in the birches

There were several other things to look at here today. Some dragonflies were making the most of the sunshine, good numbers of Common Darters, one or two Migrant Hawkers and several Willow Emerald damselflies. We rescued a young Smooth Newt which was trying to cross the busy main path. We did a quick circuit round the other side of the Dell, but it was quieter here. We decided to move on. We made our way back out to the car park, and over to the Wells Beach Cafe for a coffee break.

After coffee, we walked up to the harbour. The tide was out now and there was a very nice selection of waders out on the mud and mussel beds. Lots of Oystercatchers were mostly asleep but a few were feeding on the mussels exposed by the tide. Two Greenshanks were more active, feeding in the shallow water on the other side of the channel. Scanning over the mud, we found several Grey Plover, lots of Ringed Plover, a small group of roosting Knot, a couple of Turnstones along the shore, and several Bar-tailed Godwits and Curlews.

Greenshank – in the harbour

A single Brent Goose was asleep on the sand on the far side of the water. Looking up the channel, we could then see many more sleeping on the sandbars further up, out of the wind. The only thing feeding in the channel today was a single Cormorant. It was a lovely spot here, in the sun and out of the wind, but it was time for lunch now so we made our way to the car park.

After lunch, we drove round to Stiffkey. There were lots of Brown Hares hunkered down in the field as we made our way along the permissive path. A Chinese Water Deer emerged from a game-cover maize strip at the back, and a second ran across the field and disappeared into the hedge the other side.

The bushes down by the river were rather quiet, apart from a couple of Bullfinches calling which we couldn’t see through the dense sallows. A large fallen tree right across the footpath was a bit of an obstacle but thankfully everyone managed to get over it.

Spoonbill – just one on the Fen

Looking over the reeds, we could see a single Spoonbill asleep out on the Fen, but we had a better view of it from up on the seawall. There weren’t many waders out on the Fen this afternoon, as the tide was still out and they were all feeding out in the harbour, but we could see a few Black-tailed Godwits. There were lots of ducks – mainly Teal, Wigeon and Mallard, with several Gadwall and Shoveler, and a single Pintail.

A single Greenshank disappeared off up the harbour channel as we arrived. Looking out over the saltmarsh, we could see all the seals out on the sandbank beyond the pit. Making our way down along the seawall, there were several Redshanks, three Black-tailed Godwits and a single Grey Plover on the mud on the corner.

Black-tailed Godwits – in the channel

Round on the edge of the harbour, we could see another Greenshank further out along the channel. A grey Grey Plover was on the mud opposite but further back we found one still largely in breeding plumage, still with black face and belly. A Common Snipe was extremely well camouflaged, hiding out in the saltmarsh vegetation. Two Little Egrets were having a territorial dispute over the water in the bottom of the channel.

Common Snipe – out on the saltmarsh

There were lots of ducks out in the harbour, mostly Wigeon, but also several more Pintail. There were lots more Brent Geese too – numbers are increasing steadily now. The tide was finally starting to come in and we picked up a Red-throated Diver out in the pit, carried in on the water, preening. Scanning through all the gulls loafing on the mud, we couldn’t find anything unusual but we did put the scope on a smart adult Common Gull for a closer look.

As we walked back, a Cetti’s Warbler shouted from the reeds by the river. A young Red Kite hanging over the trees had something in its talons, until it dropped it. It swooped back down towards it but changed its mind, and drifted over towards us and then away over the road.

Red Kite – drifted over the road

As we drove back to North Point, we could see already darker clouds building away to the west. There were lots of Egyptian Geese in the field opposite the parking area, despite several scarecrows, and a single Brown Hare.

We were told that the Jack Snipe had walked in to the rushes close to the path out of view, and had not been seen for an hour or so, but we we walked down the path we saw people lifting their binoculars and pointing. When we arrived, it was just showing – perfect timing! It disappeared back behind the rushes but thankfully came straight out again and we had great views of it feeding on the open mud, bobbing up and down constantly in the distinctive fashion Jack Snipe do.

Jack Snipe – with Meadow Pipit behind

There was a single Ruff out on the mud too and several Meadow Pipits on the grass behind. Then the rain arrived – thankfully it was already pretty much time to call it a day, so we decided to stay dry and head for home.

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