The north Norfolk coast at dawn is a magical place, particularly so in October. A favourite haunt at this time of the year is the narrow lane that runs from Kelling down to the sea. The thick hedgerows here have the potential to hold newly-arrived migrants and the occasional gaps in this berry-laden screen afford views over the surrounding fields. At the bottom of the lane things open up, a small expanse of water attracts waders and duck, while short cattle-grazed turf is great for wheatears, finches and buntings.
This morning looked promising, even though the wind had moved round and there had been clear skies overnight. The numbers of less common migrants reported along the coast over recent days, including dozens of Short-eared Owls, several Bluethroat and a Radde's Warbler, not to mention that Rufous-tailed Robin, were more than enough to give the local patch some added allure.
A tit flock feeding in the upper part of the lane held at least one Blackcap but there was no sign of of Chiffchaff or Goldcrest, both of which can be encountered here in numbers on some autumn days. What was particularly evident, however, was the large number of Starlings and Skylarks passing overhead. Small groups of Skylark peppered the soundscape with their calls, while the Starlings whooshed by on hundreds of noisy wings. Trailing off the back of one of the smaller Starling flocks were two Redwing.
The numbers of Chaffinches either passing overhead or dropping into the hedgerows also suggested a movement of some size, my highest count for the patch at any time of the year according to my BirdTrack records. There were also good numbers of Goldfinches, with fewer Greenfinch and no sign of the Linnet flock that had been engaging a fortnight ago.
While the pool held 28 Teal and 4 Snipe, it was the short-turf behind the sea wall that was busy with birds. Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails were here in reasonable numbers, feeding alongside Egyptian Geese and a solitary Little Egret that stalked the wetter ground. Also present were three Wheatears, still moving through from northern breeding grounds.
It did feel like things were on the moving, the crossover between summer (Wheatear and Blackcap) and winter (the arriving Starlings and Redwing), and this is one of the reasons why patch birding in autumn is so rewarding. The combination of your familiarity with the site, the sense of arrivals and departures, and the chance that something rare might be about to pop out of the bramble, make for exciting birdwatching.
39 species in total, not bad for a couple of hours on this particular patch.