May Marshes

Continuing my posts inspired by/about our recent trip to England…

We had one day of good British Isles weather—wind, light rain, and a bit cold. (The rest of our week was predominately sunny!) It was a perfect day to stroll around coastal marshes looking for birds. Fortunately, we were near some. We visited Titchwell and Cley Marshes in Norfolk along the coast of the North Sea.

British birders proved to be a very helpful and friendly lot. Traveling light, I only had my binoculars with me, but several birders around Titchwell let me peek at birds through their spotting scopes. Birding near people who spoke my language made this a bit easier as well. While many Germans speak good English, not as many are conversant in English terms for birds and their descriptions.

From a blind on Titchwell, I was able to take pictures of several Pied Avocets. I enjoy the chance picture and this one caught an avocet with its wings up, maybe for balance or maybe to shake off accumulated rain. Avocets are the only species in the world with upturned bills.

My wife, who spent a bit more time with her head tucked down against the wind and rain, noticed the abundance of snails on the marsh paths. Here’s a sample of two types we saw frequently.

On Cley Marsh, my wife favored finishing her novel to the wind and rain, so I went out alone in search of spoonbills that had been reported there earlier in the day. I found a Common Redstart watching over its young as they fed. It’s not often I have been far enough north to see young shorebirds—many of them breed in the Arctic.

Continuing my walk, I found that the information gained at the visitor center was accurate. Eurasian Spoonbills were in fact on the ponds.

Making my way back toward the car, I observed this smartly-dressed Common Reed Bunting perched in a small tree.

I also found a Spotted Redshank. This bird is significant because in Kingbird Highway, Kenn Kaufman hitchhiked across the country at the report of one on the East Coast of the United States. (They are a European species, but occasionally stray.) He ended up not seeing the bird, which turned out not to be a redshank after all, but I’ve read the story enough to feel a sense of accomplishment at seeing one.

It was an enjoyable morning. I like looking for waders in questionable weather. Maybe it reminds me of the field trips I took with the Stockbridge Audubon Society from Fort Wayne to the coasts of Lake Michigan and Lake Erie. Those were also days of friendly and helpful birders, and I was still new enough to birding that almost every outing with them produced lifers for me.

Not many people share my proclivity for standing in drizzle peering at birds, but I enjoy being with them in their element. I like the wind and being out in areas often overlooked. And it’s best in the spring, when waders are putting on their fancy breeding plumages and heading north.

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