Friday, February 24, 2012

Wonderful Wells-next-the-Sea Feb 17 - 24

I spent several days holiday in North Norfolk to celebrate my 70th birthday. Here at Wells YHA hostel is where I chose to have my base. It only cost just over £16 per night but I did need to make my own meals. The bedroom was comfortably warm as were the lounge areas. Dining area was clean and bright and the showers great. The warden was very helpful even providing a list of Norfolk bird sightings from Birdguides.  Those of us having a bus pass can use the service which travels along the north coast from Cromer to Hunstanton for free, thus saving money and reducing our carbon footprint. A friend of mine arrived at the hostel unexpectedly and offered to occasionally give me a lift to the more remote sites

First location was Salthouse, just east of Cley. We started at the shingle beach where the turnstones and a single knot were almost tripping us up. To hear them calling as they fed was delightful. A flock of snow buntings kept moving around us but were never too far away. As I was trying to photograph them I heard the unique call of  Brent geese. Some other birders were also there and asked if we had seen the Arctic Redpoll. We hadn't but their directions were very good and within ten minutes we arrived at the site. There was a medium sized garden with several bird feeders and lots of birds taking advantage of the food on offer. Goldfinches, blackbirds, greenfinches, dunnocks and an occasional house sparrow were only the preliminary to the stars of the show. Scores of lesser redpoll were joined by a few mealy redpoll, but on this visit no sign of the Arctic redpoll.

 There were some workmen just across the road, who we suspected were the cause of the no show. we decided to return early on another day before the workmen arrived. We then thought it best to visit the Norfolk WT reserve at Cley, which some say is the best reserve in the country. ( My favourite is Abernethy RSPB) More Brent geese and hundreds of wigeon greeted us as we entered the first hide. A kestrel dived immediately in front of us and started to consume his dinner. Not to be outdone, three marsh harriers were practicing their display over the reeds. The duck species visible were shoveler, more wigeon, gadwall and shelduck whilst the waders included dunlin, ringed plover and the elegant avocet.

 We had lunch in the visitor centre and then walked all round the reserve. The only addition to our weekly total was a Cetti's warbler trying to perfect his song. This brought my challenge total to 185. Leaving our car at the Hostel we decided to walk towards the sea from Wells harbour. Little grebes, herring gulls, curlews and a single bar tailed godwit were in evidence as we walked towards the RNLI boathouse from where we could see both common and grey seals on the sand bars. We also saw a smallish grebe just off point where the lifeboat shed is. This proved to be a red necked grebe. ( Identification was only possible after two more walks, later in the week out to the RNLI boathouse with a telescope).  The sun was just setting so we returned to base for soup, spuds and a shower before sleep.

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