Weybourne Wag tale

We were at Blickling Hall, enjoying some family time with Noah our fifth grandson, when the news came through of a Citrine Wagtail at Burnham Overy. There had been a report of a probable at Kelling earlier in the the day but that was followed by a ‘negative’ update at lunchtime and, in the event, the Burnham bird only stayed for thirty five minutes before departing.  … oh well not today I guess. Then at tea time the news came through of another (or probably the same) bird at Weybourne camp – just along the coast from Kelling. We were in the car park in fifteen minutes and told that the bird was still showing about 400m away. A 1st winter bird, feeding with Pied Wagtails but rather  flighty and, being on the private campsite, only viewable from the beach path. We did eventually get reasonable views, as it moved up and down to feed, calling frequently in flight – rather reminiscent of Yellow Wagtail.

The essential id features are just about visible in these digiscope ‘grab shots’:  double broad white wing bar, long tail, a yellowish ‘super’ joining pale lores and looping behind the eye around the ear coverts and all dark bill.




A ‘bonus bird’ which brings me equal with my previous, rather modest, best Year List total of 254…  benefits of retirement and residing in Norfolk. 

Back on the bike – more historic churches

Last Friday I decided it was about time I stopped using my ‘falling off a ladder incident’ of a couple of months ago as an excuse for not getting on my bike and doing a few more of Norfolk’s historic churches! The weather was set to be warm, possibly in the high twenties, and there was a moderate easterly wind. I chose an inland route, hopefully to provide more shelter, and modified the itinerary to finish the ride close to a station on the lovely Bittern Line, which would take me back to Cromer, leaving only a short ride home. It was great to be back in the saddle, visiting some hidden ecclesiastical gems and exploring more of the counties byways. I was slightly disappointed to find a number of the churches locked, I don’t know if this is because of a different Deanery ‘policy’ or not, but it was in marked contrast to my last couple of trips in the Holt deanery, when all of the churches were unlocked. I also missed my old cycling companion and brother Bry, who has been with me on most of the previous excursions, but who is currently laid up following a hip replacement – I hope it’s not too long before we can be pedaling the lanes of Norfolk together again! Jane joined me for a pleasant lunch at the locally renowned, Recruiting Sergeant, at Horstead.

The Route: including the return ride from Cromer station, close on 70k


The Churches:

St Batholomew  Hanworth,  St Andrew Gunton, St Botolph Banningham, St Peter & St Paul Tuttington, St Mary Burgh next Aylsham, St Michael Oxnead, St Peter Brampton, St Andrew Buxton, St Margaret Stratton Strawless, All Saints Hainford old church, All Saints Horstead, St John the Baptist Coltishall, St Andrew Lamas, All Saints Scottow, All Saints Skeyton, St Michael Swanton Abbott, St Botolph Westwick, St Batholomew Sloley, St Mary Worstead.

As on previous occasions, for more detail of the churches, do visit the excellent Churches of Norfolk website.

The photos:

St Batholomew, Hanworth

St Batholomew Hanworth

Interesting architectural drawing of St Batholomews

St Batholomew Hanworth 2

St Andrew’s, in the grounds of Gunton Park, designed by the great Robert Adam – thought to be his only Norfolk church

St Andrew Gunton

St Botolph, Banningham

St Botolph Banningham

Medieval wall painting, depicting St George and the dragon – predates the installation of the clerestory windows

St Botolph Banningham

St Peter and St Paul, Tuttington – the only round tower of the day

St Peter & St Paul Tuttington

Burgh next Aylsham – St Mary’s, on the banks of the river Bure

St Mary Burgh next Aylsham

The restored church of St Michael,  Oxnead

St Michael Oxnead

St Peter Brampton

St Peter Brampton

St Margaret Stratton Strawless

St Margaret Stratton Strawless

… and this one makes 20!

St Margaret Stratton Strawless (2)

St Andrew Lamas, another church on the banks of the Bure

St Andrew Lamas

Detail of the organ,  All Saints Scottow

All Saints Scottow

Detail of the unusual exterior stone work, depicting the ‘Sacred heart and Crown of thorns’ – St Botolph, Westwick

St Botoloph Westwick

St Bartholomew Sloley

St Bartholomew Sloley

The magnificent church of St Mary Worstead

St Mary Worstead

Details of the painted rood screen

St Mary Worstead 2

Hip, Hip, Hippo hurray!

The weather today looked promising for birding – moderate winds from the north and east, rain on and off all day and poor visibility. We started off sea-watching at Sheringham – nothing spectacular but a reasonable passage of Skuas, mostly Arctic with a possible Long-tailed, plenty of terns, ducks, Gannet, a Guillemot and a handful of Kittiwake. Then, as there was a brief dry spell late morning, a return trip to the Italian Sparrow which, unlike  yesterday performed very well. After lunch we headed towards Cley to find Pied Flycatcher which Bob & Sue needed for a year tick. They’d already been a steady trickle of scarce birds reports from along the Norfolk coast and then it came… ‘Booted Warbler at Blakeney Point’! We stopped off at Cley NWT to see the Pied Fly outside Daukes hide and then headed off for the beach carpark and the start of the three mile yomp up the Point.  News came through that there was also an Icterine Warbler and a Wryneck  on route, providing an additional impetus! The Icterine gave itself up pretty easily at Halfway House (unlike the bird we’d been for in the spring), a fleeting view of a Wryneck, more Pied Fly, Whinchat and we were there, staking out the Booted Warbler Hippolais caligata – a rare visitor from the eastern Russian steppes and our third Hippo species of the year! The bird obliged, with a modest amount of encouragement from the assembled crowd, by flying and perching amongst the suaeda. On the return walk we got great views of two Wryneck, more Pied Fly, Wheatear, two Spoonbill and Yellow Wagtail.  A really great day.

I know we shouldn’t get excited about this bird… but I can’t help it!


Icterine Warbler


One of a number of Pied Flycatchers along the Point


…the ‘prize’, Booted Warbler – a Norfolk tick for me


One of several Wryneck


The Italian Job – now with additional photos!

Over last weekend the news began to emerge of a possible ‘first for Britain’, in the form of an Italian Sparrow, a stable hybrid between Spanish and House Sparrow and found mainly, as the names suggests, in Italy and believed by some to be a separate species. The bird had been present at Hungry Hill, Northrepps for a few days, apparently breeding with a House Sparrow. I saw the bird on Monday evening, when it was singing, displaying and visiting the nest site. Tonight it proved to be much harder to pin down, probably because the young fledged yesterday and have presumably dispersed. The bird did however come to bread briefly, which was kindly put out by Carl the very obliging finder. To my eye, the bird is a dead ringer for the image of Italian Sparrow in the new Collins and the numerous photos on the internet, save for one small detail – it lacks any apparent white  ‘eyebrow’, although on it’s left side it did have a couple of tiny feathers, which hinted at that feature. Apparently it all hangs on the DNA analysis, so we’ll have to wait and see. An interesting bird, whatever it’s pedigree/origins:




No one has yet commented on its song which, according to Collins, is inseperable from House, but which to my untutored ear sounded noticeably sharper, sweeter, slightly more melodic?

Extra photos taken on Saturday 24th August:






Betjeman postscript

Recently, on a trip to the capital to see the fascinating  Vermeer and Music exhibition at the National, we took the opportunity to seek out the Betjeman’s house in Chelsea, where the family moved to from No. 31, West Hill (covered in our ‘Metro-land and beyond – on the Betjeman Trail ‘ back in March), whilst John was away at the Dragon School. In Summond by Bells,  John gives the address as ‘Church Street’ but we could only find Old Church Street, which runs between Fulham Road and the Thames. Assuming this to be the same street, there is a small house at number 53, potentially fitting his description of ‘poky, dark and cramped’ and which is within a short walk, via Lawrence Street and Upper Cheyne Row, from Cheyne Gardens and the house of his school boy chum, Ronnie Wright. The house is empty and rather unloved at present and we were surprised not to find a ‘blue plaque’, marking the spot. If anyone reading this blog knows better the location of the Chelsea house, please do leave a comment at the end.

“53, Church Street. Yes, the slummy end”


“I’d slam behind me our green garden door….

And hare to Cheyne Gardens… by Lawrence Street


…and Upper Cheyne Row’ ( the same sign that John must have often past )…

DSC04316 (1)

…Safe to the tall red house of Ronnie Wright”


But don’t think that this trip was all art and literature, not a bit of it – we had to have lunch in St James’s Park to make sure Jane could add Ring-necked Parakeet to her Year List!


Catching up with cachinnans

Tonight we were ‘third time lucky’ when we finally caught up with Caspian Gull, Larus cachinnans, at Cley NWT. An adult summer bird was found in the pre-roost gull flock, on Pat’s Pool at around 19.00. It was in the company of about fifty other large gulls, mostly Lesser black-backed but there were a few Herring and up to four Yellow-legged. Caspian Gull, a fairly recent split from Yellow-legged Gull, breeds in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and show up in Britain, mostly in the summer/early autumn. They can be quite difficult to separate from Yellow-legged but they have a peculiar ‘jizz’ – pulled out legs, neck and rear end, a wedge-shaped forehead, long parallel bill with small red spot, a mid-grey back lacking the bluish tinge of Yellow-legged and long white ‘tongues’ on the outer primaries – most have dark eyes.  A couple of digipic record shots:

The Caspian Gull is centre, back of the picture


and again, centre, back – the bird is facing left


One of a number of adult Yellow-legged Gulls present, providing useful comparison


Second helpings

Last Sunday afternoon a Roller was found at Horsey, possibly the same individual seen earlier at Holt in June or, more unlikely, another bird. Anyway, hoping for better photos than I managed last time, we set off on Thursday afternoon to find it. The good news was that it was still frequenting the coastal meadows at the end of the Nelson’s track, the bad news was that it was a ‘million miles’ away in strong heat haze…oh well! The resulting photos:


and a shot showing the turquoise under-wing


Just over the dunes there was a small group of Atlantic Grey Seals hauled up on the beach



Breaking News... Birdguides has just published their weekly review, including another digipic of mine, the third in as many weeks! Photos of the three species concerned, Two-barred Crossbill, Baird’s Sandpiper and Blue-winged Teal, are all featured in this blog.

Two more towards target

This morning we ventured into nearby Leicestershire to see a Night Heron which has been frequenting Thornton Reservoir for the past few days. We did manage to find the bird but unfortunately it was roosting up on the far bank, so views were ‘acceptable’ rather than ‘exceptional’. Night Heron are scarce visitors to our shores but respectably common, in suitable wetland habitat, across mainland Europe. The diffuse brown streaking on the neck and a few white tips to the coverts age the bird as ‘first summer’. DSC03842

On our way back to the cottage this afternoon we called in at the Ouse Washes RSPB reserve for a second go at seeing the eclipse drake Blue-winged Teal, which we’d spent a wet evening on Monday missing. Today it was much easier as the bird had just been re-found, after a four hour absence, as we entered Stockdales hide. Although always distant, the bird did actively feed and preen, allowing reasonable views of the important identification features, including the powder blue forewing, the darkish cap with weak supercilium, pale loral spot and dull yellow legs. Blue-winged Teal are rare visitors from North America which often show up in Britain during the summer – and therefore in eclipse. What would I give to see an adult in fresh breeding plumage!



Now that’s more like it… only these were taken in Texas, in April, 2009!


Anyway, two more nice birds to add to the ever-increasing Year List.