I had booked the half term holidays off to spend time with the family, before I did this, I had negotiated a days birding and had decided to go east with the hope of seeing some of my favourite birds.
On 28th May I headed over to Lichfield to rendezvous with Alan Northern and Dave “Robbo” Robinson (Cheshire). I had already picked up Dave Western (Shropshire) and off we headed toward Cambridgeshire to Little Paxton in the hope of seeing Nightingale.
On arrival the rain began and we were a little concerned by this as it may put the birds off from being as vocal as normal. Sure enough we walked quite a way before we actually found a singing Nightingale and typically it was deep in scrub. But with patience and a bit of luck we saw one very close in and I managed to get this shot.
The Rain suddenly got harder and so we opted to dive in the nearest hide named “ Kingfisher hide”. We sat down and opened the shutters and within a minute a Kingfisher flew out from underneath the hide. Believe it or not this was the first Kingfisher I had seen all year!
The rain subsided and we emerged from the hide to hear a cuckoo, which we managed to pick it up in flight, giving me my third year tick of the day. This made me jolly and grumbles came from some of the ranks who hadn’t had a tick yet (their own fault for going out of the blocks early I say).
We ambled back to the car and many of us had a pit stop en route. Just a word of warning hear, if you are going to do this, make sure you are on the alert for herds of joggers in fluorescent clothing which frequent these parts!
So next we headed in the general direction of Lakenheath Fen, but decided to drop in to a well known spot to view Stone Curlew. You know, the place where you can’t park but everyone does. We picked out one bird very quickly (4th tick of the day) and fortunately it ran toward us to eventually give me a half decent shot of it.
Onwards to Lakenheath, got gen from the visitor centre and a sumptuous cereal bar to keep me going. Headed out onto the paths and found a group of about 30 birders holding watch over a small stand of trees. Actually, come to think of it, none of them were watching anything, or even trying to scan the trees, so our chances were looking slim and after an hour of seeing only a Cuckoo (in front of us) and Bittern and Marsh Harrier (behind us) we were all getting impatient. We hadn’t even heard a Golden Oriole and this strong wind was not going to encourage them to come out and sing for us. It was at this point that a call of nature, of the 2nd variety, came about and so I had to kind of waddle back to the visitor centre to use the facilities whilst the rest of the team decided to try going to stand in front of some other trees and not look.
After this we all met up on the “Wash” side of the reserve and managed to see a pair of Garganey on one of the pools (5th year tick of the day).
Off toward Norfolk we trotted and as we approached Swaffham (where some of the worlds scariest Marsh Beasts live) we decided to park up to get some well deserved fish and chips. This little lot only came to £5 and was deemed a medium size portion. I would be intrigued to see the large offering.
We opted to go and look for some Monty’s and failed and so we headed to Cley where some other targets had been seen earlier in the day. On arrival at the car park we were fleeced for £1.20, so I gave the man £1.50 and he casually walked away without giving any change (probably needed to feed his book habit) and we parked up amongst the 4 x 4’s of Barbour wearing families flying kites and shouting “Tarquin stop that!”.
Over the shingle we trudged and entered the hide and positioned ourselves carefully amongst the throng. No Little Stint (Damn) but we did bag 2 Little Gulls.
Word of a Shorelark got Dave Western excited so we all yomped over to the east bank and waited for Dave to do his thing whilst I tried to get a half decent shot of Sandwich Tern (see below).
By now it was getting late but we decided to go to Titchwell as we all needed a bird that had been seen here. Mr Western was getting emotional and suggesting to me what photo’s I should get and eventually I got these 2 shots.
I also tried my hand at getting Avocet in flight but failed miserably.
In the end we got to the new hide (I liked and disliked this hide, liked the wind up windows and the twirly seats, didn't like the depth of the shelf in front of the windows) and located our quarry in the form of Curlew Sandpiper. I got many shots of this bird but all were in the weed, until it decided to associate with the Dunlin, and then I got this shot, which I like, because it clearly shows the differences of these 2 species.
On leaving the hide a Male Shovelar
As we left Hunstanton I saw a bird, on the phone wires, which was small enough to be Turtle Dove. None of us had been paying attention so I screeched on the brakes and turned the car around for all of us to see this bird fly off. None of us got a good enough look so we decided to continue on home. We did a quick trip around Wolferton triangle but this didn’t produce any Golden Pheasant. Seemed like the Golden birds didn't want to show on this overcast windy day.
Onwards home for us, as we neared a place called Elm, I noticed a bird fly out of some bushes and land on an advertising board near the road. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I just slowed the car down and pointed “Turtle Dove!” It was as if it had decided to hop out and be our final bonus bird of the day. Eventually I got home at 11pm exhausted but satisfied.