Norfolk Biodiversity

Birdwatching on the Norfolk Coast: Part 2

Following my break in Cley (see part 1 of my bird watching adventure here), I followed the Coast Path, past the Windmill and out into the Cley Marshes. I soon noticed a man staring off to the East of the path. As I gazed across, I could see what seemed at the time thousands of grey and black dots shuffling about.

Maybe not a thousand birds (Credited to Matt Thorne)

Maybe not a thousand birds (Credited to Matt Thorne)

As I took a closer look, I saw they were …

Brent Geese Again (Credited to Matt Thorne)

Brent Geese Again (Credited to Matt Thorne)

a large flock of Brent Geese, more like 300-400 in number. Since they normally return to the same fields every year, these birds probably knew that patch of the marshes very well. Time for a goosey fact or two. Approximately 120,000 Brent Geese come to the UK during the Winter months (Musgrove et al., 2013), of which over 10,000 stop in Norfolk (see Ward, 2004). Did you also know, these geese can clock up over 135,000 miles during their lifetime ( That’s well over 5 times round the world.

After watching the geese washing and feeding slowly waddling across the marshes, I continued to the beach. The sea on one side, the marshes on the other. The freshwater marshes importantly offering shelter, drinking water and excellent bathing facilities for birds. As I looked back over the marshes, I saw one such customer. A common stonechat. It kept jumping on and then off the fence to either side. It really couldn’t make up its mind where to get the best view from. I was stood in the best place, with it in the photo.

A Common Stonechat, sitting on the fence about things (Credited to Matt Thorne)

A Common Stonechat, sitting on the fence about things (Credited to Matt Thorne)

As I continued along the coast, I noticed a group of dots in the distance, but this time they were not waddling, they seemed to be fly-hopping. They kept flying up then into cover, quickly vanishing. They blended so well into the shingle banks and grasses. They kept getting closer. I reached for my camera, this time set to video mode …

It was brilliant seeing my first Snow bunting and up close. I tried to photograph them in the bushes, but this was the best I got:

Snowbunting (Credited to Matt Thorne)

Snow bunting camouflaged in the grass (Credited to Matt Thorne)

These are quite a rare sighting, my colleagues have assured me, since you can easily go to the Coast without spotting one. It was now getting extremely windy and a drizzle started, so time to head for home, I thought. My pace quickened.

Suddenly, just as I reached the coastal car park near Salthouse, a group of birds flew down and landed right in front of me, stopping me dead in my tracks. Ruddy Turnstone’s! (the name of the bird, not swearing, honest). It was a beautiful sight. Definitely made my day. I tip-toed around to get a photo.

Ruddy Turnstone (Credited to Matt Thorne)

Ruddy Turnstone’s blending into the landscape           (Credited to Matt Thorne)

They remained completely still. I could tell they really enjoyed the rocky landscape, in which they often tend feed (RSPB, 2014). I then headed down the path to the Coasthopper bus at Salthouse. A quacking day out!

I'm off home now ducky (Credited to Matt Thorne)

I’m heading home now, ducky (Credited to Matt Thorne)

As you may have noticed, I saw and photographed all this with very basic equipment. You don’t need anything special and you don’t need to be an expert to go and watch the birds. Plus, if you don’t fancy a big day trip out, you don’t have to travel far either, see our post on the ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’ (here). So why not take a bird’s eye view of things? Your day will fly by.


About Matt Thorne

Works in Environment, Transport and Development at Norfolk County Council

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This entry was posted on March 13, 2015 by in Birds, Norfolk Coast and tagged , , , , .

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