Monday, 20 March 2017

Catch-up Day Out

Sunday March 19

We managed to be out by 7.00 a.m. despite it being a very dull, overcast start with very little birdsong. At least it was dry, after a wet night.
At last, two Grey Wagtails showing well at Sculthorpe Mill. Two walkers put paid to any photographs, we didn't even leave the car. My knees are still pretty dire.........
Two silent Chiffchaffs at Harpley Cottages, seen flitting in a bush, not even starting to compete with the noise from the Dogotel, were our second of the year. We had two singing birds on the way to Walcott earlier in the week. Our first Wheatear flew from Beach Road, Cley, on Thursday. 
A quick Tree Sparrow month tick, nothing else to linger for.
Abbey Farm field had a scattering of Fieldfare and Redwing still feeding up for their journey north. Again, no hide visit, it looked devoid of birds. 
A big effort added one Grey Partridge crouched low in the field margin near a feeder, on the lane north of Flitcham and an Egyptian Goose near the horse stables.
Maybe we'd catch high tide at Snettisham ? Yes, we did, but it was a low one. Still acres of mud in view. Plenty of waders to sift through. Best was a snow flurry of Sanderling, restlessly moving territory as the water flowed in. Lovely to see the migrant birds back from their North African wintering grounds.
A large group of Avocets sheltered, on an island in the last pit, from the very brisk and blustery westerly. More Turnstones than usual, no Golden Plover and very few Curlew. Handsome male Pintail still lingering along with the Knot and Wigeon.
The Wash was white waved turbulence, devoid of seabirds. The Fulmars are back and active, cruising just below hedge height above the cliffs.
The horrible road out to Holme has been surfaced and graded during the past week. Hard to believe.  If one hadn't experienced the previous surface, the complaints would still have come thick and fast. We have frog and toad spawn in our garden pond, none to be seen in the natterjack pools. Not from the road anyway.
After flying views of one Corn Bunting at Choseley and 300+ Golden Plover in the Doitterel field, it was Brancaster Staithe for lunch. The tide was still well in. What I believe to be a Yellow-legged Herring Gull took off as I raised my camera.

I've consulted several books and I'm still not 100% sure, despite seeing yellow legs, confirmed by Pam, when it was standing !! 
Still plenty of Brent Geese about, time to practice flight shots - very average.

A surprise male Red-breasted Mergeansr, resplendent in summer garb, appeared from nowhere, disappearing just as fast.

Turning into orange, Black-tailed Godwits probed the mud on the receding tideline.  Why can't they ever be in the right place for the sun at this place. I've taken more naff photographs here than anywhere else - there's a long list.

Bar-tailed Godwit
I had a thorough search through the large flock of Brent geese on Beach Road Cley. No Black Brant here. The last one was seen off the Serpentine. As we passed that area, there were still a few Brent there but.... nowhere to park. 
Refreshed by a hot drink from Julian at Salthouse, we drove straight home, we'd seen the Felbrigg Little Owl on Friday after my - requested by me -  mammogram at Cromer hospital. One has to be asked for after reaching 70 years old.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Raptor Day

Thursday March 16

After a very ordinary mothing session at Cley and the ensuing meet in the cafe, we decided to go for the juvenile female Pallid Harrier present since February. M told Pam that it had moved site a little, all I heard was Monty's area of North Creake.
Despite Pam's mild protest, we parked at the concrete area beside a brick wall and waited. Plenty to see. A large piece of farm machinery was harrowing the field beside us. 300+ gulls, Black-headed and Common mainly, following closely, swooping for upturned morsels, resting at one side then repeating their actions. Mesmeric.
I kept my eyes on the sky, seeing 2 Red Kites, 2 Buzzards and a Marsh Harrier over the farm woods.
A car swooped in and parked across our bows !! It was BC and his wife returning from getting their Holme caravan ready for the season. The pager had messaged that the bird was showing well in 'fields north of North Creake farm'. That's where we were !
Pal recalled what M had said, we drove to the Abbey tea-rooms car park. A field really, lining up next to cars with telescopes set up outside. Only a few minutes wait before the Pallid Harrier flew across the sloping field in front of us, out of view then back, twice   - to settle on the ground. I was about to set up my scope when a Marsh Harrier virtually landed on it, when it flew off right, behind the woods. 
We'd had really good views, phoned BC and left.  
We also added Merlin, sat on a telegraph pole, to to-day's raptor list.

Notable to-day was the large passage of Redwings.  Three flocks passed through whilst we were at Cley, two more at North Creake. The first time I've witnessed that spring migration.

Back Home - Mothing and Birding

Wednesday March15

Twenty four hour notice for Greg, via Sharon, then the moth group. The prospect was too good to miss.
Cranwich Heath at 10.00, Sharon would set out three traps overnight,  in a secret location, hoping for a couple of Brecks specialities.The catch arrived in Sharon's car, the eight of us who could make it, hovered expectantly. We were not let down. A total of 11 Barred Tooth-stripe moths was astonishing - and a tick - for all present. One had to be photographed in the pot, so that it could be returned to its site.

We also added Mottled Grey to the Norfolk list. Also trapped: Pine Beauty, Dotted Border, Small Quaker, Double-striped Pug,Yellow Horned, Clouded Drab, March Moth, Chestnut and Engrailed. We missed Small Eggar at NT yesterday.

Best of all.....
As we stood chatting in the Cranwich Heath car parking area, a male Goshawk flew low directly overhead. My best views ever. K had heard Woodlark earlier but it was not seen.
A flowering tree near the park, had Red Admiral, Peacock, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell feeding. Brimstones hastened by throughout our stay. Lovely.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Thailand Blog Address

Very Enid Blyton.


Friday February 10

At Natural Surroundings last Tuesday : our first Treecreeper of the year - on the feeding station tree support 2 metres away from the cafe window. There was also a Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit, Blue and Great Tits and a Sparrowhawk flew through - twice - there and back again 10 minutes later.


A trip to pick up prescriptions in North Walsham culminated in the Sheringham car park above the Funky Mackerel.. As soon as we stopped,  2 Purple Sandpipers flew from the groyne in front of the pub to the rocks below us. Jammy. We didn't want to walk on such a dull grey day with a biting easterly.

Flowers have appeared in two pots of the alpine Iris I planted in the Autumn. Probably because they were taken into the leanto greenhouse for shelter from the torrential rain we had earlier in the winter. Then, I forgot to take them out again.......
The main varieties whicjh I planted in a trough and left outside, look as though they'll flower whilst I'm away. Ah well !!
Iris Reticulata Katherine Hodgson

Iris Reticulata Blue Note

Friday, 3 February 2017

After Two Hours Sleep

Thursday February 2

Not at my most alert to-day.......a lot of cat napping between birds. We did manage a few year birds , namely Tree Sparrow at our usual spot, Tundra Bean Goose at Holkham, Greenshank at  both Thornham and Morston, Linnet at Morston, Mistle Thrush at Snrttiaham and Great Ringed Plover at Burnham Overy Staithe.

Still no Grey Wagtail at Sculthorpe Mill but,  a new site tick, a Red Kite idled its way around the mill and river. We then saw another near Harpley Dam Cottages and a third at Burnham Overy Staithe - another site record.
Our gamekeeper friend's garden feeders came up with Coal Tit and Nuthatch and a chat with him. He looks out for us passing and intercepts on the way back. He's a mine of information about the area but confuses by talking about the landowners rather than the area. I hadn't realised that the Sandringham estate extends as far as Harpley Cottages, viewable from his farm lane. Probably why it's so well kept. His constant companion dog went missing whilst we were there. I hope he found him.
Always a sense of anticipation when we reach the brow of the track overlooking the Wash at Snettisham RSPB. Waw, full of water. A little disappointing as there were no waders to be seen. I said '' might as well scope the sea in case there's anything amongst the hundreds of Shelduck''. The second bird I saw was a juvenile Glaucous Gull. Not even a year tick !! As I reached for my camera, it flew off west.........
Once the tide turns here, it gallops out, Teal and Wigeon enjoying the rapid roller-coaster ride along the creeks towards the sea. Fun. All the expected waders, Redshank, Dunlin and Oystercatcher in the majority, with a few Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Curlew. 
Most spectacular was a murmuration of Golden Plover, several thousand, massed on the beach, rising into the air, morphing in clouds high above before dropping to their original place. Why? No raptors around.
This is only a small part of the flock.

 We met Sophie the NOA warden at the entrance track to Holme. She achieved a total of 110 species on her annual Christmas Eve bird count. A record. Well done.
This time, the Broadwater was almost devoid of birds, so different from our last visit. Sophie confirmed that the Ferruginous Duck had gone, its cold weather arrival and departure giving some credibility to its wild prevenance.
Lovely Burnham Overy Staithe added the Great Ringed Plover and the third Red Kite.
Very little traffic to-day. despite the sunshine. We were able to stop three times to view Holkham marsh from the main road. A Marsh harrier on the ground attracted my scope. It had green wings !  This impression turned out to be two very large green wing tags. I know that they tag the Sculthorpe Moor reserve birds, Is this one of them? 
 We did not see the reported Great White Egret nor the Spoonbill seen near Washington Hide. We did find (Pam's shout, as I was scanning the marsh) one Tundra Bean Goose with five Pinkfeet in a roadside field. 
Half an hour's watch at Stiffkey was disappointingly unproductive. One Marsh Harrier the only raptor seen. We did very well for raptors otherwise. A Tawny Owl at home before we left, Little Owl at both Abbey Farm and Felbrigg, 5 Common Buzzards, 5 Marsh Harriers, 6 Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk.
It was virtually dark when we arrived at Morston.  A small flock of Linnets danced their way over the marsh, a hardly discernible Greenshank waded in the creek and, a Grey Plover came up trumps for supper.
Just to show that I will photograph and show everything going.

Over 80 species seen - from the car.
We'll try and fit in some more distant expeditions before leaving for Thailand on the 13th. Lynford Arboretum and Cockley Cley are on the list.


Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Sculthorpe Moor

Tuesday January 24

We spent far too long at Natural Surroundings cafe, talking to the members of the mothing group who had turned up. K and M full of their Lynx watching trip to Spain, G and V looking forward to their Uganda trip next month and MH excited about Mull and Corncrakes. Very enjoyable. 
Such a beautiful day, it was tempting not to drive on to Sculthorpe Moor Hawk and Owl reserve. It would also be my longest continuous walk for many months. 
The best places for Elf Cap mushroom now have notices, asking photographers to stay on the boardwalk to avoid damage. My impression is that there were fewer of these mushrooms than in the past but, that could be attributed to several factors other than disturbance e.g. climate conditions last year and this.
I thought this looked like a green bug-eyed caterpillar.

We walked directly to Whitley Hide, around 500 metres along the boardwalk. It seemed longer as the whole area was devoid of birds. The new 'aerial' boardwalk for which we bought several boards, must be further on. 
Consternation when the hide came into view. The door was wide open, construction materials stacked outside and .......a man holding a drill. We still entered and found it full of birders apart from the low bench directly inside the door where the leaning shelf and window had been removed as had the one next to it. It was pretty chilly sitting there. The man continued to work round us, brushing wood clean and varnishing the sills.
Unsurprisingly, not much in the way of species. The best for us was the constant presence of two male Brambling and a Nuthatch, always good to see. A table full of Long Tailed Tits, 

one Reed Bunting, Blue, Great and Marsh Tits, seven Collared Doves sitting on the far table. 
The water was still frozen, I enjoyed watching a pair of Mallard make their way very sure-footedly along  - until they stood still and first one foot and then the other would slide sideways.

Frozen ankles prompted me to leave for the trudge back which was notable for two Red Kites, soaring over the trees. It was fortunate that I happened to look up at the right time.