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Norfolk Adventures!

Updated: Jul 16

It's been a little while since our week away in our regular haunt of North Norfolk, and I needed some time to take in how amazing it was! I don't think I've ever seen so many rare British birds in one week in my life; and that's saying something after some of the trips we've been fortunate enough to have over the years. With wildlife, and in particular bird watching, you always want to see or hear something new and sometimes even a glimpse can be super exciting, but as the brilliant wildlife presenter Bill Oddie put it, "you always want a better view". Do watch his old programs if you haven't, they make great viewing with lots of great facts and humour.

View from Cley visitors centre!

The bird fest started with a trip to Cley Marshes on our way up to the bungalow, as my dad and sister wanted to go to the Open Garden day in the village. I would have gone too, but unfortunately the village isn't very accessible for wheelchairs, so I went to the nature reserve visitors centre with mum instead. It's a very good job I did because I spotted some rather special birds! I was looking accross the view when an egret like bird flew up and headed towards the area of pine trees beyond the reserve, a Spoonbill!!. We also spotted some Marsh harriers which I've seen so many times in Norfolk now that it's easy to forget how rare they are still. There are even fewer breeding pairs than the equally rare Hen harrier which I still find quite surprising. We moved to the other side of the visitors centre so I could use my telescope and I spotted the usual and equally brilliant Avocets, also Black-tailed godwits, Redshanks, Shelduck and many more. Once dad and my sister return the Spoonbills reappeared and through his binoculars dad was able to confirm they were indeed Spoonbills.

View from the hide at Minsmere!

When planning this trip we decided we would head over to RSPB Minsmere for a day out, which we did on the Wednesday. We had not been to Minsmere for sometime and the last time we got a great view of two Bitterns flying together, which was amazing! Would we see Bitterns this time? We sure did! We started by having lunch overlooking the Sand martin colony and watching the dragonflies and damselflies over the ponds in front. If you're a wheelchair user I would be a bit cautious with some of the routes, but most of the hides are good when you reach them. When we got to the far hide we were greeted by a male Marsh harrier right past the window, which was a good start! I then took my glasses off to look through my telescope, which turned out to be a bad move! The Bittern flew right across the hide from one side to the other and I couldn't see it apart from a brown blob, and I couldn't get to it fast enough with the telescope. I needn't have worried though as after that we then got an even better view (glasses on this time) which was amazing! We spied it several times in all, presumably heading back and forth from feeding young.

Nightjar glimpse!

Our final excursion, and perhaps the most exciting of all was our trip to Salthouse Heath to try and see Nightjars. I had heard nightjars on a few occasions, once in about the same area and also at Frensham Ponds, Surrey, but I had never actually seen one. Dad scouted the area a day or two before and managed to catch a glimpse of one which was a promising sign. You would think that your eyesight would be your most important sense when bird/wildlife watching, but a lot of the time it's probably hearing. You often hear birds in particular before you see them and a lot of the evening was spent listening to the sounds around us. We were also greeted by a spectacular view of a male Sparrowhawk, who landed on the fence no more than a couple of feet away from us!

Nightjar churring!

After a little while we heard our first real heath specialist, a singing Woodlark, which was such a thrill! Then it was joined by a very distant Turtle dove ,which is sadly a very rare sound now, but there is still hope with rewilding and wild areas. Than what we came for, a churring Nightjar, which is such a distinctive sound. What happened next though was just amazing! At around 9pm we bumped into a local and his dog who said that we were in the right place, and sure enough we then saw our first view of a Nightjar. Around the same time with Nightjars churring all around we suddenly heard three sharp calls repeating with a gap in between, my first ever Quail, so exciting! We were then treated to view after view as Nightjars flew around us getting really quite close at times. Then just like that they disappeared into the night and the local with us, who seemed to know their habits, said that would be it. Overall it was an amazing night and a real privilege to see one our most unique breeding birds, not to mention all the other great things we heard and saw that night, I haven't even mentioned the cranes we heard!

What a holiday that was and we will be up there again fairly soon! More posts to come very soon including bees and ponds!

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