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Spoonbills surprise Norfolk birdwatchers

PUBLISHED: 07:39 10 July 2009 | UPDATED: 10:42 06 July 2010

Sweeping their spatula-shaped bills from side to side through the water at Cley Marshes, the sight of this group of spoonbills greeted a surprised group of birders on a guided tour.

Sweeping their spatula-shaped bills from side to side through the water at Cley Marshes, the sight of this group of spoonbills greeted a surprised group of birders on a guided tour.

Visitors on a walk accompanied by warden Bernard Bishop were treated to a view of 12 spoonbills seen feeding on the scrapes at the internationally famous Norfolk Wildlife Trust nature reserve.

The group was the largest recorded together at Cley since the second world war, when 17 were seen in 1940.

Following the recent hot weather and lack of water, staff at the reserve opened an inlet pipe that runs water on to Pat's Pool.

Stickleback fish were sucked through the pipe, attracting the spoonbills. They were joined by 11 egrets and a spotted redshank.

The colour rings on two of the spoonbills indicated that the birds were hatched in the Netherlands. One has been recorded as far north as Caerlaverock, Scotland, and Cádiz in Spain, where it spent the winter. These same two birds have regularly been on the south-west coast of England.

Mr Bishop said: “Fish are making a great recovery after the floods at Cley in recent years and watching the birds, you can really see how quickly they adapt to food supplies - they are waiting near the pipe and chasing each other for food. I've never seen anything like it.”

Trust bosses said the autumn migration was now under way. So far, good numbers of greenshank, spotted redshank, ruff, bar-tailed and black-tailed godwits, wood, green, common and buff-breasted sandpipers have been spotted.

Walks with the warden continue on Saturdays and Wednesdays until the end of September. To book, call the visitor centre on 01263 740008.

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