9th June 2023 – Early Summer, Day 1

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Day 1 of a 3-day Summer Tour. It was cloudy but dry all day, with a very cold and blustery ENE wind which kept temperatures down noticeably on the coast (little did we know how much that was about to change!). We spent the day along the North Norfolk coast.

The Bee-eaters which bred here last year had returned to Trimingham a couple of weeks earlier, so we decided to head over there first thing this morning to see if we could catch up with them. As we got out of the minibus it was decidedly cold in the wind – not ideal weather for Bee-eaters! We walked through the hedge onto the footpath and stopped to scan the wires in the distance and there were two Bee-eaters, quickly joined by the third. We got them in the scope and enjoyed good, if more distant views from here.

Bee-eater – one of the males

We were then met by one of the locals who has been keeping an eye on the birds while the watchpoint was being set up, and we walked up to the next field. We were closer here, and had great views of the Bee-eaters on the wires, flying down and catching bumblebees in the quarry below. We watched the pair courtship feeding, the male presenting bees to the female, and even mating. The other male kept trying to get involved, but when it landed next to the female with a bee, it was chased off by the primary male.

Bee-eater – one playing gooseberry

There were Linnets and Goldfinches flying around and landing on the wires too, and a Common Whitethroat singing from the bushes. In the cold wind, several Swallows and Sand Martins were hawking low over the grass trying to find any flying insects. A Kestrel circled over the quarry and a Common Buzzard flew over the field beyond.

Having drunk our fill of the Bee-eaters, we drove back to Cley and parked at the Visitor Centre. Having arranged our permits, we set off to walk to the hides. A Hobby shot in over the car park and disappeared straight off over the Centre, but a Kestrel was more obliging, hovering over the Skirts path. We could hear Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers singing, but they were keeping down out of the wind, whereas a male Reed Bunting was perched precariously on a swaying reed stem singing.

We went in to Teal Hide first. There were lots of birds on Pat’s Pool – several Tundra Ringed Plovers and Little Ringed Plovers, lots of Avocets though with few chicks seemingly left now, a single Black-tailed Godwit and two Dunlin in breeding plumage but no sign of the Little Stint which had been here earlier. We heard Greenshank calling on our way out, but there was no sign of them now either, just Redshanks. A Marsh Harrier patrolled over the reeds beyond.

Teal – one of several

Amongst the regular ducks on the scrape were some more unseasonal wildfowl – including several Teal, presumably mostly returning failed breeders, and a female Wigeon swam past right in front of the hide. A pair of Swallows kept coming into the hide and we realised they had a nest on one of the rafters – they were perched just a few feet away from us!

Swallows – nesting in the hide

It was warm out of the wind in the lee of the hides on the boardwalk as we walked back out. One of the group spotted a Drinker moth caterpillar on a reed stem and we then found a tiny Diamond-back Moth nearby (amazing to think that it had possibly migrated here from foreign climes!). An impressive-looking Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn beetle was on the vegetation here too.

Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn beetle

We had a quick look in Dauke’s Hide. The water level has been raised on Simmond’s Scrape and there were not so many birds on here today – three Oystercatchers being the only notable addition, and there was no sign of the other waders on here either. When we heard everything alarm calling over on Pat’s Pool, we looked over to see the Hobby flying through again, before disappearing off over the reedbed beyond.

As we made our way back to the Visitor Centre, a Red Kite drifted in from the fields beyond and past us over to the reedbed. Despite the wind, we could sit on the picnic tables to eat our lunch. A couple of Spoonbills now flew in and out of Pat’s Pool and a nice male Marsh Harrier flew in across the near edge of the reeds. A smart male Greenfinch was singing, and landed in the big hawthorn bush just the other side of the road.

Marsh Harrier – a male flew past

After lunch, we made our way along to Kelling. It was breezy even in the lane today, and apart from several Goldfinches coming down to bathe in the beck at the top of the lane, a couple of Speckled Wood butterflies, and an impressive Hornet Hoverfly (Volucella zonaria), there was not much of note until we got down to the copse, where a couple of Blackcaps were calling. Looking out from the gate, a Brown Hare was on the Water Meadow but ran behind the bushes as we walked up. A Kestrel flew over and there were two more Teal on the Water Meadow pool.

Hornet Hoverfly Volucella zonaria

A Common Whitethroat was singing in the brambles by the track and perched up nicely briefly. We stopped to watch a family of Stonechats on the crosstrack, male, female and one or two streaky juveniles. There were also a few Linnets, Sedge Warbler singing and a Reed Bunting perched up in the bushes. Continuing on down to the Hard, there were more Linnets and Stonechats in the brambles and several Common Blue butterflies in the grassy area behind the beach.

Stonechat – one of the males

We took the permissive path up the hill and stopped to look out to sea. Three Sandwich Terns flew past, and one of the group noticed two drake Common Scoter on the sea, quite close in, which we got in the scope. Up at the gun emplacements, the Wheatear was still present around the pill box below the weather station, but there was no sign of yesterday’s Black Redstart nor Whinchat. As we walked back down, we stopped to look at a lone Bee Orchid which one the group had noticed on the way up.

Bee Orchid – by the path

There had been a Rose-coloured Starling at Titchwell the last few days, but it could be elusive at times and had been reported to have flown off west this morning, so when it reappeared in its favoured garden in the village this afternoon, we decided to head over and see if we could see it. It was a chance to get out of the wind, and we had done a lot of walking already today. When we arrived, it had disappeared into a garden and a small crowd had gathered on the pavement, looking across a field at the bushes on the edge. We joined them and waited a short while.

There were lots of Starlings coming and going, several juveniles, and lots of common garden birds. A couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers flew in and out repeatedly. We watched for about 45 minutes, before we had to call time – enthusiasm was waning and we had to get back for dinner. By the time we got back to base, we could see it was another 25 minutes after we left before the Rose-coloured Starling finally reappeared. We had thought we might get the chance to have another go on another day, but it was the last time it was seen that evening. Still, lots of other birds for us to see instead!

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