Saturday, 28 January 2012

The birds sang today

Today, as if by agreement, the birds began to sing. It started with a chaffinch at Cley where I was talking and walking with Reg, Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s conservation manager. This chaffinch was singing from a hawthorn in a not-really-spring-don’t-listen-to-me sort of way. Later though, chaffinches were singing confidently everywhere and they weren’t the only ones. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First we have to visit the East Bank where a water rail was screeching from a wisp of ditch-side reed. I continue my curious run of luck with this reticent bird; it’s as if their resolution for 2012 has been to get out more. Over the bank on Arnold’s Marsh were plenty of dunlin and redshank but no western sandpiper. From the great beds of reed bearded tits pinged cheerily to themselves and an out-of-sight Cetti’s warbler gave its sharp electric call. Meanwhile the sun beamed for a second day.

Next stop Blakeney Freshmarsh, from both sides. At the Cley end were more bearded tits, a drumming great spotted woodpecker, and another invisible calling Cetti’s who plinked briefly into exuberant song. From the Friary Hills end we watched squadrons of too-distant pinks in the grazing marshes and gave up any hope of finding a tundra bean among them. Here the chaffinches were all a-clatter and a greenfinch, my first such singer of the year, wheezed from a stand of pine. In the harbour a herring gull shrieked its demonic laughter of a song. The birds have most definitely decided it’s spring.

At Burnham Overy a black-headed gull gave a snatch of its breeding-colony call and, with annual mercury and alexanders flowering around us, things felt distinctly springy. The beach was bare, except for a single bar-tailed godwit flying over a dejected collection of gulls. Back in the saltmarsh two pipits loudly lisped from the dishevelled mat of sea purslane and Reg and I turned to each other in wordless agreement: rock pipits. The grazing marshes here heaved with lapwing, curlew and golden plover (singing too: how I love their dippy sci-fi song). Overhead were marsh harriers and, our most-hoped-for-bird, a single rough-legged buzzard which thoughtfully flew past a common buzzard (for ease of comparison) and landed on a grassy mound. Reaching the road we disturbed a green woodpecker which flew along a hawthorn hedgeline flashing its mustardy behind.

Still more was to come: by the beach road at Wells a handsome, stocky black brant grazed the golf greens in the company of many hundreds of his Russian cousins. It’s a fine place for birds this Norfolk of ours.

Driving home I found myself in the village where I grew up so I nipped to the two crooked old oaks where the little owls lived. They still do. At least one of them does, hunkered today almost invisibly in a thick bed of ivy.


common stonechat
Saxicola torquata
grey partridge
Perdix perdix
bar-tailed godwit
Limosa lapponica
rock pipit
Anthus petrosus
rough-legged buzzard
Buteo lagopus
green woodpecker
Picus viridis

black brant
Branta bernicla nigricans
little owl
Athene noctua

2012 Totals
Mammals: 9
Birds: 117
Reptiles: 0
Amphibians: 0
Fish: 0

No comments:

Post a Comment