We spent the remainder of the afternoon in the trio of hides at Cley. This proved both relaxing and exciting. It was truly enjoyable to watch the ebb and flow of birds around the scrape. There were hundreds of Wigeon, complemented by Teal and Shoveler. Six Little Stints beavered around the mud, as did a dozen Dunlin. Flocks of Black-tailed Godwits and Ruff loafed in the shallows.
Dave's train ushered us away from the scrapes before dark. At that point, we began to reflect on the day's birding: Firecrest, Lapland Bunting, Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls, Black Brant, Cattle Egret. Actually, upon reflection - that's really not bad. We may be spriteless, but perhaps autumn isn't quite done with us yet...
The end of autumn. My rarity-questing days are over for another year. On Saturday, Dave Capper and I birded north Norfolk and failed to find a single sprite (wing-barred warbler) - the first failure in 10 land birding days since the 'lemmings'started arriving. (Admittedly, one of the sprite-days involved a Two-barred Greenish Warbler rather than a Yellow-browed, but that most definitely still counts.) With no more easterlies in prospect before I head for a week in Portugal, this means my chances of finding rare Sibeage are over until 2018. A day of mourning then - and, irony of ironies, on the very date that is so renowned with megarares (23 Oct). The best we could muster in several hours birding a blustery Wells Woods was two briefly confiding Firecrest, a few Chiffchaff, a few finches, and a few score thrushes. A Lapland Bunting was among Skylarks in plugged fields south of the Caravan Park.
Then gulls started turning up. If I didn't leave the hide soon I would be in danger of scanning them for something interesting. We didn't leave the hide. Dave wondered why nobody else was turning up to scan through them. At that precise moment, as if beckoned by the Capper, a job lot of the great and the good of North Norfolk birding traipsed into the hide: Eddie and James and Mark and Dave. And there were some interesting gulls too. One with colour bling - whose life history Mark will hopefully determine. An adult Caspian. An adult Yellow-legged. And a darkish-mantled, longish-winged Lesser Black-back, that is presumably something along the lines of intermedius...
Fortified by pie and pud at the outstanding Walsingham Barn Cafe, we returned to the coast. Spotting an egret in the cattle field at Stiffkey, we paused briefly... only to find that it was a Little! The Cattle Egret transpired to be hunched on the flood, surrounded by Ruff, Teal and gulls. Perhaps the two egrets have swopped identities?
We then mooched along to Cley. Starting at the Eye Field, I joked that it was about time for a Black Brant to turn up. Within 20 seconds of scanning the dark-bellied Brent flock, we found one! As we were watching it, my phone beeped with news of... a Black Brant in the Eye Field. We were clearly not the first to find this particular bird this winter. Still, it was nice for the prediction to come true. Perhaps I should try it on a rarer species some time...?