Friday 25 May 2018

North Norfolk with Anoma from Galle, Sri Lanka

On Monday of last week I picked up friend and fellow naturalist, Anoma Alagiyawadu from Heathrow after his long journey from Galle in southern Sri Lanka to Colombo airport, followed by an 11 hour flight. We arrived back in Little Hadham quite late and after a drink turned in as we were off to Norfolk the following morning.
Following a brief shopping trip to get Anoma warm clothes we headed off and were birdwatching at Cley before lunch. We noted that the boats to the seals were departing at 5.30pm so purchased two tickets having checked in to the superb Manor Hotel in Blakeney. Before arriving at Morston for the boat we popped into Wells to buy Anoma a pair of gloves as he was really feeling the cold.
The boat trip was brilliant with great views of the seals, both common and Atlantic grey. We also spotted 4 species of tern: arctic, common, little and sandwich as well as the regular waders that are frequently around Blakeney, Cley and Morston salt creeks. Back at the hotel we warmed up with a beer and had a meal in the White Horse before further pints in the Kings Arms. We then returned to the hotel bar for a scotch before preparing for a long day birding, beginning with an early start for Blakeney Esker and Kelling Heath.
Common seal

Common seal

Common tern

little tern

grey heron

greylag goose


arctic terns


arctic tern

Atlantic grey seal
First stop on the Wednesday morning was Blakeney Esker, near Wiverton. No hoped for nightingales but yellowhammers, willow warblers and chiffchaffs a plenty plus the first of many kestrel. We then headed for Kelling Heath, adding expected warblers but nothing more apart from a common buzzard and distant red kite. Then, on to Kelling Watermeadows. By now it was genuinely cold and very windy, the birds were not showing well, but a shoveler, little egret, linnet, red legged partridge added to the trip list. From here a quick visit to Salthouse beach before a coffee at Cley. No trip to Cley is complete without a walk to Arnold's Marsh along the East bank. Reed and sedge warblers, bearded reedling heard and plenty of sandwich terns, redshanks at Arnold's before we did a quick check from the beach, very little here due to the breeze and cold, so on to Wells Woods where we added coal tit and goldcrest along with a surprise Tawny Owl calling. A search for it proved fruitless but we added jay to the list. From here, Lady Anne's Drive and then a quick visit into Holkham Estate to see the deer. Finally, we took a walk down to Stiffkey Fen to scan over the lake, not too much about  but a common sandpiper made the list before we returned to the hotel having had a great day out. We spent a few minutes over a pint checking out list, now totalling 86 species for the trip. 14 needed on the Thursday for the century and plenty of species still possible.
avocet on eggs

mixed plumage black tailed godwit

Hare at Kelling water meadows

Hovering kestrel

same bird

little egret

flyby marsh harrier at Stiffkey Fen

singing reed warbler

reed bunting
Thursday dawned and another early start at Blakeney Esker. We added yellowhammer  but nothing else so off to Cley Beach hoping for the white barn owl that is present there. No luck but great views of good numbers of gannets, a wheatear in the car park and a grey wagtail on the roof of the "Beach Hotel." All went on to the list before we set off for a long walk to Gun Hill from Burnham Overy Staithe. Reed buntings, sedge warblers called everywhere before we got another new bird, a blue tit! Egyptian geese in the field before clocking a whimbrel on the salt marsh and then another new bird, a robin being the 90th  bird of the trip.
We wandered back, looking for the hood to my lens that I lost here a fortnight earlier. No luck but great views of red kite and marsh harrier.
We popped up to Choseley Barns but no grey partridge so into Titchwell which seemed very busy. 9 species to go.
Into Titchwell where we made it 92 with med gull on the Fresh Marsh. Over on Thornham Marsh a superbly plumaged grey plover (93) and a solitary female teal (94)
We headed to the beach where dunlin and sanderling took us to 96 and then into the Parrinder Hide. Here, a little ringed plover, followed by finding both knot and bar tailed godwit in with a hoard of black tailed godwits so on to 99. As we trudged back to the car park another check for red crested pochard and there, right at the back of a small pool was a pair. 100 birds and soon after we added Whinchat.
A flying visit to Holme gave great views of a cuckoo, 102! but no hoped for greasshopper warbler or turtle dove
Later we added a little owl in Allens Green, a grey partridge and Green woodpecker in Little Hadham and peregrine falcon on the left hand spire of Kings College Cambridge on a visit Anoma and I made on the Friday morning, having returned home in time for us to have an enjoyable Indian meal on the Thursday. The Bangladeshi owner of The Star of India said that he thought Sri Lankan curries were too hot, even for him so when Anoma's Jaipuri chicken arrived it was accompanied by an extra plate of fried and dried red and green chillies!
A superb trip and hopefully one that Anoma will remember for a long time. It was great to spend time with this leading expert on whale migration around the coast of Sri Lanka, just a shame the temps were rather low.
 I can highly recommend the Manor Hotel in Blakeney, overlooking the duck pond: great single rooms at a sensible price along with an excellent breakfast.  A good bar, too and Chantelle at the front of house was great fun in the bar on the Tuesday night. With the average age of guests here being north of retirement age, they don't often have guests in the bar at gone 10.30 at night, never mind later. for details and booking. For those who travel with their pet dog, the hotel is 100% dog friendly, permitted in the bar and the rooms.
Black tailed godwits over Titchwell


Gannet off Cley Beach


Little Ringed plover

Meadow pipit

Ragged robin at Titchwell

Redshank, Eye Field, Cley

Wheatear, Cley Beach

Distant whimbrel at Titchwell Freshmarsh, our 2nd of the trip

Species List
  1. mute swan
  2. greylag goose
  3. canada goose
  4. brent goose
  5. shelduck
  6. mallard
  7. gadwall
  8. shoveler
  9. pochard
  10. red crested pochard
  11. tufted duck
  12. red legged partridge
  13. pheasant
  14. gannet
  15. cormorant
  16. little egret
  17. grey heron spoonbill
  18. red kite
  19. marsh harrier
  20. common buzzard
  21. sparrowhawk
  22. kestrel
  23. hobby
  24. moorhen
  25. coot
  26. oystercatcher
  27. avocet
  28. ringed plover
  29. lapwing
  30. turnstone
  31. common sandpiper
  32. reddshank
  33. black tailed godwit
  34. ruff
  35. black headed gull
  36. common gull
  37. herring gull
  38. lesser balck backed gull
  39. great black backed gull
  40. little tern
  41. sandwich tern
  42. arctic tern
  43. common tern
  44. stock dove
  45. wood pigeon
  46. collared dove
  47. tawny owl (heard)
  48. swift
  49. skylark
  50. sand martin
  51. swallow
  52. house martin
  53. meadow pipit
  54. pied wagtail
  55. grey wagtail
  56. dunnock
  57. song thrush
  58. mistle thrush
  59. blackbird
  60. garden warbler
  61. blackcap
  62. whitethroat
  63. sedge warbler
  64. cetti's warbler
  65. reed warbler
  66. willow warbler
  67. chiffchaff
  68. goldcrest
  69. wren
  70. great tit
  71. coal tit
  72. long tailed tit
  73. beared reedling 
  74. magpie
  75. jay
  76. jackdaw
  77. carrion crow
  78. rook
  79. starling 
  80. house sparrow
  81. chaffinch
  82. linnet
  83. goldfinch
  84. greenfinch
  85. reed bunting
  86. yellowhammer End of Wednesday: 14 needed
  87. wheatear
  88. blue tit
  89. egyptian goose
  90. robin
  91. whimbrel
  92. med gull
  93. grey plover
  94. teal
  95. dunlin
  96. sanderling
  97. knot
  98. little ringed plover
  99. bar tailed godwit
  100. red crested pochard
  101. whinchat 
  102. cuckoo
Brent geese

Friday 4 May 2018

Guiding in North Norfolk

Yesterday I picked up Little Hadham residents, Frank and Karin for a day birding in Norfolk. Departing the village at 6am and grabbing a coffee at Wells meant we were at  Kelling Heath before 8.30am.
A wander along the track to the level crossing gave up many songsters, including: chiffchaff, whitethroat, blackcap, robin, garden warbler which we heard but did not see along with several yellowhammers. Our search in the usual habitat for Dartford warblers proved unsuccessful but this was made up for by the sight of 2 wood larks heading into distant birches. Maybe the long hard winter has done for the dartfords as we chatted with local birders who had not seen them for a while either.
We moved off to Kelling water meadows where swallows were on the wires and a lesser whitethroat greeted us along the track. More warblers before we scanned the ponds: shelduck, avocet, shoveler and Egyptian geese. We checked all perched birds, finding 3 whinchat and several more whitethroats. Towards the beach meadow pipits, little egrets and wheatear made the list before we returned to the car, noting red legged partridge and a hare in adjacent fields.
Linnet at Kelling Heath

swallow at Weybourne

Lesser whitethroat

red legged partridge

Kelling water meadows: one of several distant hares

Posing goldfinch

Common whitethroat in with the Alexanders.

Avocet pair at Kelling water meadows


distant whinchat: 1 of 3 around Muckleborough Hill

feeding meadow pipit

From here we headed west, parking in the small car park at East Bank, Cley. The temperature continued to rise as we scanned for the Great white egret we had seen from the car earlier, but no further sign. Greylags and marsh harriers in view as we checked Arnold's Marsh. Redshank, few black tailed godwits and shelduck here, but too much water for small waders and a disappointing lack of terns. Reed and sedge warblers were heard, but no bearded reedlings. We had time for a quick check around the beach car park, several gull species got on to the list before we encountered at least 6 more wheatear and a grey wagtail. Jackdaws, carrion crows and rooks made the list here, too.
Time for lunch at Cookies crab shop. Excellent value for money and polite and prompt service before we checked the board at Cley NWT Visitors' Centre. Nothing too exciting had been noted on the reserve so we continued west to Burnham Overy Staithe path down to the sea defence path and into the dunes around Gun Hill.
More finches and warblers along the track and plenty of avocets in the harbour but the tide was out,so no terns fishing. A bush at the end of the boardwalk contained 2 stonechat and a whinchat, the latter legging it before I could get a photo. In the dunes were numerous linnet and wheatears abounded. No sign of the reported wryneck so we trooped back to the car, checking for sights of sedge warblers that sang invisibly from hawthorn. At this point I realised my lens hood had fallen off the 400mm lens, not to be refound! The field near the gate on to the sea defence path gave great views of 3 whimbrel. Another lifer for Karin and Frank and a year lister for me.
Shelduck at Arnold's Marsh, Cley

Carrion crow mobbing a common buzzard over the East Bank

Skylark in the Eye Field

first of 3 wheatear from the Beach Road

Another wheatear

Distant marsh harrier at Burnham Overy

whimbrel near the sea defence footpath

Yet another wheatear on sueda

nest building linnet

distant stonechat, Gun Hill dunes

Having stopped at Burnham Deepdale for refreshments we parked at Titchwell. The day list in the book looked good so off we wandered. From the island hide we scoped med gulls, teal, godwits, brent geese, sandwich terns and common terns. As we walked to the Parrinder Hide a spoonbill flew towards Thornham Marsh. I got a very brief glimpse of a bearded reedling as I checked Patsy's pool for red crested pochard (5 were present) along with pochard. We chatted to a chap who had never seen bearded reedling. He wandered off and I stated it was highly likely one would turn up as he had gone. Almost immediately a male came into view, resplendent with grey/blue head and excellent moustache. We called the chap back and he got views of his first bearded reedling. Pleasing stuff.
A scope view over Thornham Marsh gave up views of a superbly summer plumaged Grey Plover before we got to the Parrinder Hide. From here, several smart male ruff and dowdier reeves, pied wagtail but no small waders.
We once again headed back to the car, stopping at the White Horse, Burnham Deepdale for a much required pint as we had covered 10 miles plus in temps touching 17C.
We then returned to the village, having reckoned on a species list of in excess of 80. A brilliant day with great company.
Yet another wheatear

Flyover little egret at Titchwell

Thornham Marsh little egret

Confiding robin along the sea footpath

coot chick, Titchwell

distant sedge warbler

black tailed godwit on the Freshmarsh

singing sedge warbler near the Island Hide

Species list:

  1. little grebe
  2. cormorant
  3. little egret
  4. great white egret (year lister)
  5. grey heron
  6. spoonbill (year lister)
  7. mute swan
  8. greylag goose
  9. canada goose
  10. brent goose
  11. egyptian goose
  12. shelduck
  13. mallard
  14. gadwall
  15. shoveler
  16. teal
  17. pochard
  18. red crested pochard
  19. tufted duck
  20. marsh harrier
  21. common buzzard
  22. kestrel
  23. red legged partridge
  24. pheasant
  25. moorhen
  26. coot
  27. oystercatcher
  28. avocet
  29. grey plover
  30. lapwing 
  31. redshank
  32. black tailed godwit
  33. whimbrel (year lister)
  34. ruff
  35. black headed gull
  36. mediterranean gull (year lister)
  37. herring gull
  38. great black backed gull
  39. sandwich tern (year lister)
  40. common tern
  41. wood pigeon
  42. collarded dove
  43. cuckoo
  44. skylark
  45. wood lark
  46. swallow
  47. house martin (year lister)
  48. meadow pipit
  49. pied wagtail
  50. grey wagtail
  51. wren
  52. dunnock
  53. robin
  54. wheatear
  55. whinchat
  56. stonechat
  57. song thrush
  58. blackbird
  59. garden warbler (year lister)
  60. blackcap
  61. lesser whitethroat (year lister)
  62. whitethroat
  63. sedge warbler
  64. reed warbler
  65. willow warbler (year lister)
  66. chiffchaff
  67. great tit
  68. coal tit
  69. blue tit
  70. long tailed tit
  71. bearded reedling (year lister)
  72. magpie
  73. jackdaw
  74. rook
  75. carrion crow
  76. starling
  77. house sparrow
  78. chaffinch
  79. linnet
  80. goldfinch
  81. greenfinch
  82. reed bunting
  83. yellowhammer
Did I mention wheatear?

This is me

This is me
At the end of another Norfolk Coastal footpath walk. 47 miles, 3 days 99 species of bird. September 2009

Caley Wood view

Caley Wood view
sunshine through the canopy 29.05.08

A walk along the Warta Valley, Poznan, Poland. Feb 2007

A walk along the Warta Valley, Poznan, Poland. Feb 2007
Best birds on this walk: black and middle spotted woodpecker and short toed treecreeper

About Me

My photo
A primary school teacher for 30 years, I retired from teaching in July 2009 to set up my own science enhancement and communication company. The Primary Works offers science clubs, workshops and staged science shows nationwide. I have always been interested in bird watching since my early years. Apparently my first tick was after inquiring about a chaffinch and then receiving the Observer book of birds. By the age of 9 I had moved on to Tory Peterson's collins guide and was now involved on YOC birding holidays to Northumbria, Essex coast, Slimbridge and Yorkshire. My twitching rule is that I will willingly travel 1km for each gram the bird weighs. However, I have had many rarities just by being in the right place. I have travelled widely throughout Europe and also visited Australia and Sri Lanka. In 2016 I spent time at Portland Bird Obs and two trips to Aviero, Portugal. 2017 found me back in Sri Lanka in Feb/March, then July and back for New Year's Eve celebrations in December. Also returned to The Camargue in May for a 4 day trip. Few plans for 2018, but nothing yet booked apart from a trip to the IOW.

Grey heron

Grey heron
Over the allotment 28.09.08

Southern Hawker

Southern Hawker
Ridge footpath 27.08.08

Juvenile green woodpecker (17.08.08)

Juvenile green woodpecker (17.08.08)
Note the stripes, denoting a bird fledged this year.

common blue

common blue
Ash Valley G.C. 15.08.08

Indian balsam (impatiens glandulifera)

Indian balsam (impatiens glandulifera)
River Ash

azure damselfly

azure damselfly
River Ash 28.07.08

marbled white

marbled white
Discovered at Westland Green 22.07.08

ruddy darter

ruddy darter
Bush Wood 21.07.08

honeysuckle 19.07.08

honeysuckle 19.07.08
growing in hedgerow in Chapel Lane

cinnabar moth caterpillar

cinnabar moth caterpillar
Photographed on ragwort 19.07.08


Study of petals 11.06.08

male yellowhammer

male yellowhammer

common blue butterfly

common blue butterfly

River Ash

River Ash
looking south from the bridge at Hadham Ford

Common poppy (papaver rhoeas)

Common poppy (papaver rhoeas)
in rape field 29.05.08

Caley Wood sunshine

Caley Wood sunshine

Millenium Wood fox

Millenium Wood fox

common comfrey (symphytum officinale)

common comfrey (symphytum officinale)
06.05.08 banks of the River Ash

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge,(Alliara petiolata)

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge,(Alliara petiolata)
flowers, leaves and fruit edible . Good in salad and pesto

April showers

April showers
Double rainbow 30.04.08

Caley Wood bluebells

Caley Wood bluebells

Yellow Archangel

Yellow Archangel
Chapel Lane (20.04.08)

sunlight 16.04.08

sunlight 16.04.08
looking south west from Bush Wood

snowy buds

snowy buds
06.04.08 in Bush Wood

Looking north west

Looking north west
05.04.08 evening shower approaching

Back Garden

Back Garden
Easter Sunday (23.03.08)

Brick Kiln Hill

Brick Kiln Hill
Looking east (23.03.08)

No play today

No play today
The 2nd hole at Ash Valley golf course

Teasel head

Teasel head
Bush Wood (21.03.08)


daffodils at Bush Wood pond (21.03.08)

Swollen River Ash

Swollen River Ash
The river at the bottom of Winding Hill 16.03.08

Daybreak over the chapel

Daybreak over the chapel
Thursday 13th March

Wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus)

Wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus)
growing in Bush Wood

January snowdrops

January snowdrops
Banks of River Ash, north of Much Hadham

Good Moon

Good Moon
From garden 24.01.08

Village Green

Village Green
Looking east towards Acremore Street

Looking south before Hadham Ford

Looking south before Hadham Ford
rare January blue sky

Useful sites

The following are some useful websites that may interest readers of this blog.
Firstly, Bishop's Stortford Natural History Society

Fellow birder, Gary Whelan's blog. Gives reports from our trips out together plus reports from his trips abroad. The official herts bird club website. Frequently updated, listing bird sightings around the county. Offers links to many other websites. Both of these sites also offer links to yahoo discussion groups. An international site. You can enter as a guest but become a member( free) to post comments, bird sightings and just about anything to do with wild birds. Good news updates, classified section for binoculars, cameras etc. A new site set up where you can contact people worldwide who will help you find good birds in their country. UK section being set up presently.
Fellow birders blog. Strtford resident, Graeme Smith regulary birds the area south of Stortford as well as around Spellbrook and the River Stort from Spellbrook to Twyford Locks. Some superb bird photography: Graeme uses a digital camera attached to his powerful telescope to get detailled images of the birds he sees. Well worth a browse.
Two local sites that may be of interest can be found at

South Easterly walk

South Easterly walk
black, normal, red extended walk

South Westerly route.

South Westerly route.
Black usual, red extended

North Easterly walk

North Easterly walk
black short, walk. Red, extended

North West Patch

North West Patch
black route regular. Red route the extended wander