Saturday 27th October 2018

Our day started with a visit to Salthouse on the North Norfolk coast where an EASTERN STONECHAT had recently taken up residence. Our foray out of the van was temporarily delayed when a heavy, icy squall came through but it soon passed and we made our way to the spot to find lots of birders searching for the bird.

After a while it was seen briefly by Yvonne and Steve but suddenly, a EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK came through and sent it to an area of denser vegetation. Despite being a little distant, the group enjoyed good views of this rare species. A few days previously, visiting birders took a sample of the bird’s droppings to send away for DNA analysis so we wait to see whether it is a Stejneger’s Stonechat or Siberian Stonechat.

After a brief stop at Cley NWT visitor centre for toilets and coffee, we moved the short distance to Cley Coastguards where it was busy with many birders seawatching. After lunch we spent time looking at the tumultuous seas, which over the next hour or so produced some really good birds.

Highlights included at least two POMARINE JAEGER (SKUA), SLAVONIAN GREBE, LEACH’S PETREL, MANX SHEARWATER, thousands of BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, NORTHERN GANNETS, COMMON SCOTER, PARASITIC JAEGER (ARCTIC SKUA), GREAT SKUA and a close LITTLE AUK which was excellent as it sat on the sea for us all to view. A LONG-EARED OWL flew in off the sea and carried on across the marshes until it was lost to view near the village.

With weather conditions worsening, we moved along the coast to Warham where a Great Grey Shrike had been reported several hours previously and on reaching the spot met a local birder who had just seen the shrike further down the field.

As we wandered along the track, we scanned through a gap in the hedge and there in a small hawthorn was a GREAT GREY SHRIKE! The weather conditions made viewing difficult and as we were so close to the saltmarsh, we walked down to get a closer look.

Our perseverance was rewarded with a female and male HEN HARRIER hunting the marshes along with a WESTERN MARSH HARRIER.

We then set off home through the driving rain and arrived back in Essex to dry roads. Although the weather hadn’t been the best, we’d had a superb day of birding!