Wigeon, photo by David Colk 1/3
Pink footed geese, photo by Nick Appleton 2/3
red-necked phalarope, photo by Lawrie Webb 3/3

Autumn: Cley to Salthouse

Autumn comes in the sharp wings of wigeon and the high cackle of the pink-feet overhead. It was foretold, of course; we saw its coming in the bruised purple flowers of Cley’s sheets of reed, in the noisy white square of a green sandpiper’s rump and the gathering of the swallows along the fences. We knew autumn would come but still we chose to smile at summer’s last swift, at the happy pink flowers of great willowherb and the rattle of lesser marsh grasshoppers along the East Bank.
Green sandpiper, photo by Liz Dack
Now autumn’s come to Cley, the dull dragonfly days of late summer are done and our minds turn again to migrants. The wind swings to the north-west and the beach fills with birders, just as the sea fills with birds: gannets, Manx shearwaters, arctic skuas and kittiwakes slicing through our lives on their great salty journeys. On the North Scrape dunlin numbers climb, joined now by a pectoral sandpiper or a red-necked phalarope, and, with the shortening of the days, the brents gather in the greying saltmarsh, bringing in their throaty purrs the promise of winter.