Thursday, 16 May 2013

A Late Shift at Cley and Salthouse Marshes

Carl Brooker, Cley Summer Warden

Sometimes at Cley the working day doesn’t always adhere to a standard nine to five routine; last Tuesday found centre manager, Jonathan Clarkson , myself and guests in Dawkes hide at 10pm. We were running our second Dusk Patrol event of the year (the last one was on a freezing cold January evening!).

The Dusk Patrol walks are all about experiencing the sights and sounds of Cley Marshes as the sun goes down after a tasty jacket potato supper in the visitor centre. For a while I thought the sights were going to be limited as fog crept in off the sea while we were dining. Thankfully it dissipated during dessert and we set off down the boardwalk just as the sun was on the horizon. The first thing one of our guests pointed out was how golden the colour of the reed bed looked against the low sun.

The straw colour of the reed beds, last year’s growth, is starting to be punctuated with new green growth this week and it’s amazing how quick this grows, when it starts you can see  it change on a daily basis.

First sounds we had was  two Cetti's warblers singing alongside the A149 coast road (such an amazingly loud song for such a small bird). I have a theory that they are like Dr. Who’s Tardis and bigger on the inside, but as more often than not with Cetti's no one got a look at them as they tend to skulk in the undergrowth of the bramble bushes. When we arrived at the boardwalk the newly arrived sedge warbler (see last blog) gave us a good rendition from the elderberry trees, and we had another six singing by the time we arrived at the hides.

We chose Dawkes hide, the middle hide of the three, and opened up all the flaps. Although it was now getting very dusky there were still quite a number of birds feeding on Pat’s pool and the surrounding dykes. Avocet, that distinctly black and while wader with its upturned bill were easy to spot in the fading light and we also managed to spot redshank, greenshank, a large flock of greylag and just about made out little ringed plover running along the edge of one of the islands. For some strange reason the male lapwing continued to display even though we could hardly see him. A hare loped past the front of the hide totally unaware of our presence, but the big surprise of the evening was the four bats that kept zooming past the windows of the hide often only inches away from our faces. These were pipistrelles judging from their flight pattern but of the two types we have in the UK, common and soprano, I couldn’t determine without a bat detector. Mental note to self, bring a bat detector to next event!

The oddest moment of the evening was, as we were making our way back to the centre, a couple of the sedge warblers were still singing although it was by now totally dark. It was nice to do something a bit different, and all our guests were keen to book for the next one. Why not come and join us for the next event, keep an eye on the events page on our website.

Visitors to Cley and Salthouse this week will have noticed the reserve team has expanded in numbers with the arrival of some large mammals roaming the Eye field. This is our regular summer addition to the Cley team, our cattle. Their role, which they manage very successfully, is to crop the vegetation to different heights and create bare ground patches that suit the widest range of our wildlife species. This is a good time to look for yellow wagtails feeding around the feet of the cattle as they disturb insects whilst grazing.

Ruddy Shelduck
Bird highlights on the reserve this week have included four temmincks stints present on the North scrape along with a curlew sandpiper, some common sandpipers and a ruddy shelduck between the 8th and the 12th.

During the same period we had a Montague’s harrier ring tail (ring tail donates a bird that is female or a juvenile bird of that species) over the marsh on a few occasions along with a hobby. On the 11th while catching up with Mick and Kath the BTO recorders, we had a turtle dove going west over Cricket Marsh. Yellow wagtails continue to grace the Eye field with blue-headed being observed on a daily basis at the moment as well as white wagtails.

In the visitor centre this week we are hosting a fantastic exhibition wildlife sculptures by local artist Mary Richardson.

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