Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Spring Surprises

Tuesday March 13

After coffee and Snowy Owl chat at National Surroundings cafe, we intended  trying for Woodlark on Kelling Heath. Our first diversion was along Waterworks Lane in Cley, where a Woodcock swerved out from the left and flew directly ahead of us down the lane.

Beach Road had its usual large flock of Brent Geese, which formed a dense black cloud as they took off and flew towards Blakeney freshmarsh. 
I mentioned soon looking for our first Wheatear to Pam. David (the dog) was in the car park. As we left, he motioned for me to wind my window down, having seen a female Wheatear earlier which had flown out of sight.  I scanned from the car park, drawing a blank. Room to park at the sluice from where I scoped a pristine female Wheatear posing on top of the stone/broken pipe/brick remains near the far ridge. I attempted sopme optimistic photography, and again when it flew down to feed in the tufty grass.

Not our earliest spring sighting. Always a joy, a favourite spring bird. Now for Sand Martin, a Tern and Swallow. 
Must amend yesterday's Blog entry, I missed out a few pleasing sightings.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Better Late...

Sunday March 11

Our day's (first of the month) birding was booked for to-morrow - until Pam decided that she needed to spend Monday morning with Kevin, directing him in the garden.
We set off at 7.10 wondering why we were going at all. Thick sea fret hampered visibility, keeping it down to about 50 metres, not good for birding. Matters didn't improve until we approached Sheringham where the fret disappeared and the clouds gradually lifted. 
Sculthorpe Mill Race really was. The most water I've ever seen spewed forth from under the bridge as if jet propelled, the water churning wildly before charging downstream.The relief stream was half again as wide and overflowing its banks. As Pam looked from the bridge, I noticed the first of the two Grey Wagtails, only three feet away from her, hidden by the ivy on the lower side of the humpbacked bridge. The second was on the edge of the pond, out of sight at first.
The meadow beyond the Mill had two hunting Barn Owls, we saw another later.
Valley Farm Lane gave up the expected Tree Sparrows and the unexpected Yellowhammers

Our favourite gamekeeper was waiting for us on the return journey, we haven't seen him this year. They had four feet of snow but the farm equipment unblocked the road. His garden birds were getting through 30 fat balls a day and he used up 2 sacks of birdseed and peanuts.
Abbey Farm is a benchmark numberwise, we've done well if we're in the thirties, to-day it was 42.
The car park showed a mass of snowdrops, most of them past their best. These double ones around a tree were reasonably fresh.

Very little viewable from the hide, we didn't linger.
A distant Muntjac at the end of a track as we entered Flitcham Village did not look in the best of health.

North of Flitcham Village, a tree has the biggest nest of Mistletoe that I've ever seen.

No sign of the Snowy Owl this morning. I told Pam that we would see it at Snettisham - if it hadn't crossed the Wash to Lincolnshire.

I can't resist Grey Partridges, even if I do have to shrink down in my seat in order to peer through a gate to take a photo. 

The appalling track through the chalets to Snettisham RSPB was at its worst. Huge puddles as well as holes - farmyard ducks were swimming in one.
Yes, the tide was well out, with plenty of birds in a wet mud swathe near enough to scope and identify. Nothing unusual, really great to see so many waders again. Mostly Knot with Bar-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Teal, Shelduck, Wigeon, Redshank and a lone Ringed Plover. 73 Avocets huddled together on the mud and another 30+ on the pit. Deserted this morning, apart from a red car I think is the warden's and, a couple walking their dog, off lead and chasing a ball.

The Hares were also very distant to-day, another much loved animal, a Curlew in the background.

20 Fulmar on the sea off Hunstanton Cliffs  before another 'orrible ride out to Holme, where we added Pinkfeet, Buzzards and Marsh Harriers. 
Via another road closed detour, we circled Thornham, continuing east.
Pulling off onto Gun Hill layby, I added White-fronted Geese on the marsh and Pam found a Red Kite drifting south over the wood.
Hoping for another view of the Great White Egret and a Little Egret (one of these eluded us all day!) we squeezed into the steeply sloping bare area in front of a gate, overlooking Holkham. Several trees holding Cormorants, their branches mere skeleton outlines,  killed by their guano I should think. We had a total of three adult Spoonbills, long white head plumes flying in the small breeze produced by their flight and then tree perch. A low hunched Grey Heron was the first this month.
The adjacent rape field  had 25 Egyptian Geese hunkerd down for a rest.

Oh no. News through. The Snowy was at Snettisham, behind Shore Hide and showing really well all afternoon. She must have been there whilst we were but out of sight ? Penny C did write that her sister reported seeing a Snowy Owl late morning, flying towards Snettisham as they drove to Holme for Mother's day (Or Moth-ers Day as its being mooted).
Sue and Ian had good views, which is excellent, I hope that Mick did. Penny's videos are good too.
Pam says that neither of us could have done the walking and standing anyway..........

Today's total was a respectable 72.

Big Grey Blob

Saturday March 10

Scolt Head? No way could we get there nor walk at Burnham Deepdale for a distant view. Many of our friends went last night and posted euphoriic sightings. 
Man U were playing Liverpool at mid-day to-day, would the bird be seen? The dreaded ''no sign of'' message came through on the pager first thing. Yes !! It had re-located to Thornham Marsh, a half hour walk from Titchwell beach. Still not a reality for us.......until the news came through that it was viewable distantly from Thornham Harbour.
Footie recorded, off we went.
Unbelievable number of road closed signs, we just couldn't get down to the coast. It started at Docking when an oncoming deriver was good enough to tell us that the road was impassible due to an abandoned car. We came across that driver twice more as he too tried to find a way through.. Eventually we managed it - via Ringstead. The really pretty way. 
The approach to Thornham was remarkably quiet. Plenty of cars and scopers parked roadside, everywhere looked chokka. There was room in front of the Coal Barn so we parked there and joined a group viewing from the building. A delightful young man pointed out a grey blob behind a bush on the beach, about a quarter of a mile away. Pam found it in my scope and euphoria flooded in. Nothing quite like the anxiety and anticipation of travelling on a twitch to find that the quarry is still there. Our first Norfolk Snowy Owl, a first winter female. Our very first Snowy was also a female, on Fetlar in 1974 when a red-wellied, seven year old Sara,  skipped 7 miles there and back for the viewing. We were staying in a caravan on a bothy's field in the far west of Mainland. It was a fair trek by car and boat to get to Fetlar. Probably my best birthday bird at that time.
At 50X I could just see the white face and the black-highlighted  breast and wing feathers


Add that to the news that the Happisburgh Elegant Tern has been accepted onto the British List.... a really good week.
It was a much more leisurely journey home  A late lunch bought at Titchwell, where we had to shoehorn the car onto a grassy mound near the staff car park, then eaten at Brancaster Staithe. The Turnstones here are always entertaining. It was high tide, they found a roost.

This close Black-headed Gull is nearing summer plumage

As we drove through Stiffkey, I managed to find news on the radio. YEEEES. We beat Liverpool 2-1. I punched the air as a motorhome passed, I hope he didn't think that it was directed at him. 
The Morston Greenshank  enlivened the drive home. Appalling light....

What a great day but I do wish we'd had better views.

Friday, 9 March 2018


Friday March 9

Scraping about for March birds, having spent so much time at the hospital or doctor's . Last Monday's eleventh hour aborted operation was almost the last straw. All for a 3mm spot which was nearer my ankle than my knee.
Newly returned from the surgery for my INR check after the 4 days without Warfarin in preparation for the arthroscopy, I almost immediately had a phone call from Mr Shirodian's secretary asking if March 23rd was OK for the op!! That's before the duty doctor's report that it was healed - her initial reaction was 'it's very small'.
That and a second injection in my left eye this morning at Cromer hospital. We went on from there to the Cliff car park Sheringham where we added Cormorant to the month list.

Tuesday March 6

A coast drive to Sheringham, as we were both fed up after yesterday and had risen too late for Natural Surroundings anyway.
West Runton beach car park, where we risked not paying during a shortish sea watch. Last week's weather brought a rotting swathe of sea creatures and seaweed to the north coast beaches. Starfish and Crabs of several species, Weaver Fish and other creatures. Some were alive and some good hearted people had worked hard putting them back in the sea.
A horde of Gulls were feeding on the beach detritus, squabbling over the tasty morsels, jockeying for position. One Mediterranean Gull and at least two Yellow-legged Herring Gulls amongst them.
The drive ended mid afternoon at Cliff car park Sheringham, where we realised that neither of us had eaten yet. Pam descended the steps to the Funky Mackerel cafe and we were delivered a burger each to the car in the car park. Service indeed. My burger was the best I'd ever eaten out. Pam loved her cheeseburger too.

We've put the Robinson actinic out several times this month but mostly failed to trap any moths. Much better this week but only low single figures. We took these three in to Cley yesterday morning. Good to see David N back after his winter absence.

Clouded Drab

March Moth

Small Brindled Beauty. New for the garden and our life list

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Incarceration Over

Sunday March 4

We have been housebound since Monday February 26. Even though there were snow warnings due to a weather sustem dubbed ''The Beast From the East'', we had to travel to North Walsham so that Pam could have her carpal tunnel op. stitches removed. Already three days late as there wasn't a nurse available. Fortunately, we also did some essentials shopping i.e. milk. We woke on Tuesday to find three inches of snow. 

Not right somehow... ele should be in the greenhouse for the winter, we forgot to take him in.
Roads throughout Norfolk were blocked, most schools closed, nothing could get in nor out of North Walsham. We seemed to have got off very lightly. It was bitterly cold, the wind becoming a gale by Thursday causing further disruption by blowing the snow off the fields and onto the roads.
Birds did not flock to our feeders as expected but we did have a maximum of four feisty Fieldfares. One remains, feeding on the scattered fruit.

A Grey Squirrel arrived to share the fruit.... Not a welcome visitor but just as cute as a Red. Shame they're such virus carrying pests. We only have the occasional visit.

Three Siskins, two males and a female, new for the year. Where have the Nuthatches gone? We ran out of the mixed food at one time and had to buy some from Amazon which arrived in time for the freeze-in.

The thaw began on Friday morning, still no post nor papers. JH brought us some papers and milk from Waitrose on Saturday.. We had bread as a near neighbour bakes and delivers on a Friday. A Malted Multi-seeded small  loaf and a Red Onion and Rosemary Focaccia this week.  A luxury really as we eat very little bread. It was delicious.
Hardly any snow remained in the garden this morning. A newspaper was delivered for the first time since Monday, the roads should be clear. Out we went. Walcott first after an abortive attempt at Bachelors Lane which was deeply snow blocked, must have blown off the fields.Hm, a thick mist, combined with my hazy left eye  made viewing very difficult. A few gulls, no waders.   
Gulls are beginning to gather for their flight north to breed. A few black Black-headeds amongst them.

On to North Somerton via Waxham,  which was more productive. Golden Plover, male Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge, Egyptian, Greylag, Brent and Pink-footed Geese.  I counted 193 Mute Swans in a single herd, there were probably more. Common
Then it rained.........

Monday, 19 February 2018

Not a Lot

Monday February 19

Two weeks best forgotten. No birding, lots of medical appointments. pam had her carpal tunnel operation last Tuesday so ........enforced non driving. Still hardly any vision in my left eye making it inadvsable for me to drive.
The weekend's lovely sunshine encouraged me to inspect my alpine troughs. Two of my baby irises are in bloom and at their best.

 Others are either past it or yet to come.
The acacia is covered in blossom, it will look great in a few days time. Very encouraging that it's doing well despite the really cold weather of the past few weeks. We needn't have kept it in the hreenhouse for all those years.
Our first Siskin of the year was a beautiful male on the garden feeders. The Marsh Tit and Nuthatch visit sporadically - I've missed them both - and the Tawny Owls were calling well last night. Until I went out that is.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Itch Scratched

Thursday February 8

In the middle of what turned out to be an extremely hectic week - two visits to the NNUH in 24 hours, retinal bleed in left eye - the sun was out, we drove to Horsey.
Room in THE layby south of Horsey Mill, from which I scanned the fields. A flock of grazing Pinkfeet, a few Lapwings and Golden Plover. A dangerously low turboprop plane overhead caused all birds to take flight,  anuisance to all.
A little further on, I asked Pam to stop at the roadside in order to view - again - the 100 + Mute Swans on the east side of the road to-day. YES . Very distant, it was worth getting the scope out to see a pair of Common Cranes feeding, silhouetted against the line of reeds below the dark green of a coniferous belt.
Ridiculous photo........they're centre back !

Deciding not to drive as far as Winterton beach, we turned for home when Pam spotted a movement on the dung heap opposite Waxham Great Barn. We returned to investigate, finding our first Grey Wagtail of the year tripping daintily through the liquid effluent run-off from the heap. Beauty and the Beast.