Getting to Norfolk isn't that easy. Sure, it's just a drive, but to make the most of just a day, it meant getting up at 5am, and being on the road by 6. Traffic wasn't too bad though, despite being Summer Holidays for the kids, and I was at Cley by 9am. Sun was shining, and I was soon peeking out of the hide at the first new species for me of the day. Spoonbills.
Okay, so they were miles away, but lit up in the morning sun, they were a sight for eyes that had up till then been fixed on the road. While it was great to bag another species, the bird I'd come for was quartering the marshes nearby, so I left the comfort of the hide, and headed for the east bank, where I hoped the marsh harriers would stray.
To cut a long story short, they didn't. Not once in a couple of breezy hours patrolling the footpath, did one come anywhere near me. I think they must be in the same "Stay Away From Pete" club as barn owls.
Fortunately, Cley has other attractions, and the second new birds of the day soon took my attention from the camera-shy harriers. Bearded Tits. No, I hadn't bumped into Bill Oddie again ;) but had firstly heard the pinging call, and then spotted a pair darting across the tops of the reeds. What beautiful little birds they are. A most welcome addition to my gallery, and to be honest, I might go back to Cley solely for some more pics of them.
Eventually the cross-winds got the better of my contact lenses and I went for a stroll along the beach. Terns (yet to ID, bear with me!) cried out over head, as they made their way past, beak holding their catch, flying in that distinctive, slightly awkward manner. Gulls zipped by in the sea breeze, out beyond the waves, and the occasional little egret would make an appearance, commuting between the pools of the marsh.
Near the car park at the beach, a meadow pipit posed for me on a post and let me get pretty close too, as did the swarms of swallows, darting in and out of an old bricked pill box.
Alas the crowds were gathering, so I opted to head along the coast a bit to Salthouse. Maybe I'd see some buntings? I did. Flying away. Every time I went anywhere near them! Another pipit came to see me, this time along the ground, beak filled with its breakfast. And a lone common gull posed on a fence post.
It was lunchtime by now, and one place I had been meaning to try was Sculthorpe's Hawk & Owl centre. It was on the way home too, so perfect. Mr SatNav found it easily, and I was soon being given a warm welcome by the staff in the centre, who explained the sights and areas at the centre.
Unfortunately, I was too late in the season to see the marsh harriers feeding the young, as they'd fledged, though reaching the hide I did see a pair of youngsters flying and calling out. Like Cley, they kept their distance, and I actually spent more time photographing a hovering dragonfly than taking shots of the harriers. Just before leaving though, a pair of buzzards came over, and we watched a male marsh harrier (adult) mob them to chase them away.
I'd have loved to have stayed longer, and looked for the local barn owl, but my eyes were getting tired, and I had a good 2 hours of driving to get home. Next year, I think I'll time it for when the marsh harriers are feeding their young, and also look to stay over somewhere, as nigh on 6 hours of driving in one day is a tad too much, even for a petrol-head like me!