Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Hoopoe at Wighton

Having seen all the gripping images of the Hoopoe in Yorkshire I was itching to go and spend a day with it but I'm in Essex where the virus levels remain relatively low so was reluctant to travel to Yorkshire knowing there would likely be a bit of a crowd at this star performer so when one was reported in Wighton Norfolk another area with lower numbers of Covid infection I decided I'd travel up to see it.

I arrived early to find the bird feeding by the muck heap. Only two other birders present and no problems keeping outside the two metre rule. Before I'd got the camera out of the car the bird flew high east and landed on a telegraph pole before dropping to the hedge line near the village. A couple more birders arrived and shortly after the bird came back in and made its way back up the road to the muck heap where it started pulling grubs from the mud around the puddles and it did this for the next couple of hours.

Hoopoe at Wighton

Seeing the bird was no problem but I had to work to keep a distance from a couple of the birders who seemed to be unaware of the two metre rule especially when the bird appeared in the open. I have to say that generally the group was small and well distanced just on occasion people encroached my boundary and I had to step away sometimes giving up my view of the bird to avoid the close approach. I think we all need to take our own responsibility for policing the guidelines to stay safe whilst enjoying the hobby we love.

Easier social distancing on the early shift

After enjoying good views but now aware the gathering had grown to around twelve I reluctantly left and made my way along to Salthouse. I walked down the track to Little Eye and scoped the pools. A couple leaving had told me a Red-necked Phalarope had just swam left and out of view behind the reeds but as I scoped I could see the bird twirling round next to a Shoveler and enjoyed good views at distance through the glass of my trusted Swarovski.

Red-necked Phalarope at Salthouse

My next stop was Kelling Water Meadow a new place for me. I parked in Kelling village and carefully crossed the road (right on the bend and the traffic comes through fast so walk back a bit to see more of the road if you go) Walking down the track I was surprised at how quiet the bushes were. I made it to the meadow pools and scanned but found no sign of the Arctic Tern that's been hanging around for a week or so. I found a few Wheatear but little else of note. A Redstart and Redwing had been reported. On the sea I had just missed a very close Red-throated Diver but did see a comic Tern fly west towards Cley. Rain looked likely so I cut short the walk along the beach towards Weybourne and made it back to the car as the heavens opened briefly before the cloud blew over and the sun came out so I avoided a good soaking luckily.

Kelling beach 

Now I had to make a choice between heading down the A12 towards home via the Stonechat at Happisburgh (which I'm told is pronounced Hays borough....what's that about?)  or taking more time with the Hoopoe and you guessed it the Hoopoe won. When I got back to Wighton there were about ten birders on site and the bird was still feeding by the muck heap. I wad surprised to see that some birders had now moved up the hedge line and gone through the hedge to sit a few metres from the bird which to be fair didn't seem too bothered and carried on feeding regardless. I found a small gap in the hedge the allowed me to keep a distance from the other birders and poaked the camera through the hedge using it as a make shift tripod. I enjoyed the bird for about thirty minutes.

The Wighton Hoopoe

I had seen several Marsh Harrier and a couple of Buzzards during the day whilst keeping my eye out for the Pallid Harrier reported a couple of days ago. As I drove back down Crabbe Road I saw another Harrier fly across the road and low along the hedge line heading north, this bird was a longer winged bird and showed a white rump. I pulled over but sadly I couldn't get binoculars on it so I can't say if it was the Pallid Harrier or a Hen Harrier. I scoped the area for a while to find a Buzzard sat in a tree but couldn't see the bird again. It'll be interesting to see if the Pallid is seen again in the area.

I made it home in time to cook dinner for Suzanne and tell her of the Covid drama that now forms part of any birding day out.

Year list now 261 with the Phalarope.

Amazing that a trip to Norfolk in October delivered just one year tick.


  1. We are lucky we always have hoopoes around the garden here in France in summer. They were also regulars when we lived in South Africa. Keep well and stay safe, Diane

  2. Any encounter with a Hoopoe is a bit special but I'd love to be able to watch them in the garden, you're very lucky indeed.