Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Success with Two

Monday June 4

Weeting and then Lakenheath Fen is an, at least, annual trip. Not the best of days, grey, low overcast and a cold northerly wind. Immediate success at Weeting NWT, one adult Stone Curlew, barely visible in the long grass to the right of the solar panel powering the nest cam.
There were also two chicks reported but we didn't see them. They could do with the rabbit we were horrified to see in our garden yesterday, for the first time ever. Last weekend's  Muntjac which ate all the tops off my strawberries was bad enough. Tewo Grey Squirrels was a first too. I love animals when they're not in the garden !
Lakenheath reserve is one of our favourites, for the insect life as well as the birds. Whitethroats, Wrens, a Cetti's and a Blackcap sang as we drove out to the hide overlooking a pool and woodlands. We sat in the hide shelter for almost two hours, despite the cold, ever optimistic. There were not any Dragonflies nor Butterflies flying about, hardly surprising that we only saw one Hobby - and that was a short view. A family of Coot, two adult Great Crested Grebe and their stripe-headed young, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Reed Bunting and Reed Warblers kept us interested, on and around the pool. The Hobby was over the distant clearing, as was a Green Woodpecker. Neither of us remember seeing a pair of Cuckoos do a fly-past, the difference in size and colour obvious. He had been calling most of the time we were there. We usually see boith Kingfisher and Bittern, not to-day.
Back to the comfort of the car. I got there first as Pam was sleuthing the roadside verges, very successfully, she's good at spotting invertebrates.
She drove me back so that I could photograph this Micro moth. One of the Adelidae (Longhorn) family. I identified it as a Breckland speciality, Adela croesella,  but there is another, commoner and very similar, Nemophora degeerella.

Armed with a hot drink from the Centre, we drove home to open our own moth trap. The best was a Clay Triple Lines which we'd only seen once before - at Lynford last year.

Natural Surroundings Tuesday June 5

David N had brought in a nationally scarce and threatened Grey Carpet. Such a featureless moth, shamefully I might have dismissed it as 'too faded to identify'.
My photo is truly 'orrible, in a very dirty and much used pot. And a poor attempt by me. This is not my photo !!

The other moth of note was this superb and uncommon colour variation of a  Lime Hawk-moth, brunnea,  where the green is replaced by a rich chocolate. Shame that one wing is damaged.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Go West Old Woman

Friday June 1

PC has often said that repeating our 'First of the Month' trip in Norfolk must be really boring. I have always vehemently disagreed, did cross my mind this morning. Setting off in mist which became thick fog at Sheringham, it was a quick repeat of last Sunday's May in Norfolk outing. It was only a fleeting thought as I love the trip and would happily spend the rest of my days birding. Every day, all day. With moth-ing as the start and finish. 
It was less foggy inland, visibility was reasonable at Sculthorpe Mill. How the trees have launched into full green in a few days of warmth. The Spot Fly perch tree is now fully leafed - even the Goldfinch family was difficult to locate, the youngsters frantically vying for the next beakful brought in by harrassed parents. Pam did locate a Spotted Flycatcher, in the garden behind the Hotel, viewable from the car park. The same one, or is there more than the one pair. Still no sign of any Grey Wagtails, their nest may have been washed away by the flooded Wensum. The nest in the lock wall at Ebridge is unused this year. The improvements made to the canal - and therefore disturbance - must have persuaded them to re-locate. There are always people there these days, even parking on the grass next to the lock, canoeists, anglers and dog walkers.
Pause there. A young Muntjac is walking across the lawn. Lovely but unwanted. 
Snettisham in the fog ! Visibility gradually improved but the tide was way out - again. We're in the middle of high tide days too so low is even lower. Apart from Avocets, Shelduck and Oystercatchers the mud was empty. And this lone Ringed Plover.

It was worth it for the singing Cetti's Warblers, definitely two, and a Cuckoo triumphantly proclaiming its success. I always think it's thumbing its beak and going Naa na na na na. 
There's always the possibility of something good here.

Holme NWT to check on the Marsh Orchids. Many more visible and in full spike. Pam got out to take some photographs. I was still holding my camera, which I'd picked up to photograph the two close Tree Pipits - which flew away before I could point and shoot. Two tiny blue butterflies settled on a bramble in the verge which I then found, and  photographed using my 300 mm lens.

Common Blue Pam thinks. 
On the return bump and lurch, it was my turn to  photograph an Early Marsh Orchid-or two.

when  Pam called a Barn Owl making a purposeful flght east about a 100 metres away. A quick re focus and pan........

Lapwings are beautiful birds which I can often pass by as photographic subjects. Despite the lack of sun, their almost iridescent plumage colours are obvious. Couple that with the crazy hairstyle....

Holkham Marsh is always worth a look. Full house to-day. Marsh Harrier sat in a bush, Spoonbills, Great Egret, Grey Heron and LIttle Egret. We'd already seen two Spoonbills, a Brancaster Staithe tick, never too many. 
We both love fine farm animals. Holkham's herd of Belted Galloways, cows, calves and a bull, added another dimension to the marsh view.

I have a better photo, this programme will not accept it !!
Inland at Stiffkey to avoid the coast road, a Little Owl on shed 12B again, sat on the apex this time. 
What an enjoyable day, with 75 species seen, despite the paucity of both waders and duck species.  No Buzzard !! That's part of what makes the day out interesting, there's always something different seen and unseen.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

May Moths - Garden

Wednesday May 30

We've had our Robinson MV out nightly since returning from Scotland, with very mixed results. Nights have been cold, misty, windy rainy - and any mix of these conditions  Everyone seems to be complaining about the lack of moths.
I now realise that I don't take as many photos as I once did ! Here are a few of this month's beasties.
Privet Hawk-moth


Ephestia woodiella I believe.

May Highgflyer


Yellow-barred Brindle

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Norfolk Day Out

Sunday May 27

Bank Holidays are usually a cue for staying indoors, avoiding the  masses. We haven't been birding in Norfolk since April, not much time left in this month to remedy that. We saw remarkably little traffic and even fewer people,  apart from the Dersingham - Hunstanton nose to tail queue. 
Pauline had tipped me off that the Flycatchers were back at Sculthorpe Moor but were being elusive. As soon as Pam entered the car park and stopped the car, a Spotted Flycatcher called from the top of a tree against the side wall of the house nearest the water. It was obviously a favoured perch as it kept returning - always against the light. 

There was a big gap in the traffic so Pam took the opportunity to cross the solid yellow lines and dive down an unused side road towards Harpley Cottages, shortly before the Dogotel.
Scanning the fields here is often worth while. The farm owners are either wildlife conscious or have received a grant to plant a wide wild flower belt down the side of most of the fields.

It's good for raptors here too. A Buzzard and a beautiful, very distant, Red Kite to-day's reward. 

The House Martins are back at the Cottages, as they are at home. Will they actually use our artificial boxes for nesting this year or, merely as a roosting place for the young before their departure. The latter is what happened last year.
Tree Sparrows and Pied Wagtails ticked off in valley Farm Lane, next stop Abbey Farm. Plenty of Little Owl sitings in the record book, none to be seen by us. A roadside perched Mistle Thrush was a surprise. We saw them regularly in Scotland, fewer and fewer at home.
Miles of mud, it must be Snettisham at low tide ! The chalet park was bustling with children, bicycles, dogs, cars and people. Snettisham.......... was empty. No birders and no birds either. A bit of intensive scoping added Avocet, Dunlin, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Sanderling and a myriad Shelduck. Both Sandwich and Common Terns were returning with sand eels firmly beaked, yet we couldn't see any nesting. They were probably carrying a hopeful bunch of flowers breeding incentive to a female.
We have yet to identify this patch of clear yellow flowers. Gardening necessary for a good photograph but it will have to do for ID.

Sedge Warbler at Holme whilst eating lunch in the NOA car park, two Pochards on the Broadwater, a few Tufted Duck and a hunting Marsh Harrier.
A few Early Marsh Orchids were showing roadside, nothing like as many as a couple of years ago. They have longish grass in that area now and the horses have been allowed to trample the ground.
A quick visit to Brancaster Staithe added the hoped for Little Tern, everything else scared away by bucket and spade wielding families. 
Having negotiated Stiffkey, where a coach was creating havoc, we thankfully took the inland road to Cockthorpe, where a Little Owl was perched on poultry house 12A. It refused to look at me......

Home, missing out the entire Cley stretch of coast, for a welcome drink.
A total of 70+ as is becoming the norm, missing out to-day on such as Mute Swan, Kestrel, waders and ducks. 
Garden feeders
Nuthatch, Marsh Tit and  Siskin are visiting daily. So are many other species, eating us out of house and home. They're very welcome - apart from the Rooks and Jackdaws, which Pam chases away.
Moth Update 
Still catching up to 40 every night, the species almost keeping up with the numbers until the last few days. Treble Lines, Silver Y and Heart and Dart are numerous. Poplar Hawk-moths every night, Elephant Hawk-moth becoming daily, Privet , Eyed and Lime every few days.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018


Tuesday April 24

Having deferred our departure,  missing out the steep staircase at Langdon Beck and going straight to Berwick on Tweed, I was able to hear the cries of the Estonian White-tailed Eagle as she rose from her nest, showing that the egg had hatched overnight. The chick was still lying in the remnants of the shell. What a joyous experience, being witness to that and the pair bonding on the edge of the nest. The male has brought in three fish to-day, triggered by the chick I suppose, although I am yet to see it fed.
I have the sound on and only look when one of the adults calls. It is also possible to hear the chick chirping. 
Background Cranes continue to make the most noise.  
I could not resist taking some photos from my PC monitorof rather dubious quality but a pleasing record.


Saturday, 21 April 2018

Free Day - at Last

Friday April 20

Apart from a 9.00 INR test at the surgery.....still sorting it after the two operation lay-offs, a free day. 
Our last chance for Norfolk migrants before leaving for the north on Monday. Not such good weather as the last few days but, pleasantly warm with little wind. 
We didn't make many stops to-day, concentrating on hedge-lined lanes until we got to Snettisham.  The latter is usually good for early migrants, more so in the eastern trees and shrubs area, too extensive for us to walk.
A few handsome, brick-red, summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwits on the reserve muddy bay with noticeably fewer waders in number. The Avocets have mostly dispersed too. Three Common Terns cruised the pits, yelling at each other like teenagers, a host of Black-headed Gulls adding to the cacophany. They seem to have taken over some of the islands. 
Best was our first Cuckoo, calling from the other side of the last pit. Lovely. We always had a Cuckoo at home, May 1st the usual arrival date, until the marsh at the bottom of the garden was planted with trees which are now a tidy sized wood.
Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps  have arrived in numbers, their calls everywhere, even in our garden. I'm pretty certain that I heard a Garden Warbler at home too, but only the once. 
I am guilty of neglecting the birds we see all the time in suitable habitat. This handsome pair of Shelduck adorned the mud near enough to try a photograph.

Oystercatcher pairs were looking to nest very near the track through to the hides - again. They were successful last year though.
No singing warblers at Holme either, there could well be Reed and Sedge here by now, a good place for Grasshopper Warbler too. I did pick up, at last, my first Ruff of the year feeding beside a pool on the entrance road. 
New at Holkham was a small herd of young Belted Galloways, east of Lady Anne's Drive and just before a newly sculpted pool in a fenced area. Part of the new 'Reserve'? 

Lovely cattle, I'm very fond of them, shame they were distant and facing away. Couldn't linger as we'd stopped roadside and the traffic is always steady. 
The day was shortened by turning inland, and returning via Cockthorpe.

Friday evening

The first time we've had to miss a moth-ing session at Cley Thursday morning  (hospital app) and Roger B brought in a Blossom Underwing moth, one I've wanted to see for ages. My appetite had been whetted by increased postings on Facebook. Mike H kindly mailed me of its appearance, we could have called in this afternoon if we'd known. Delighted that we were informed at all. If we don't attend, it's our responsibility if we miss stuff.
Roger was good enough to make it available at Cley Centre on Saturday. Again, thanks to Mike for making us aware of that.
Mike's photo is better, here's mine, taken in the pot.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Barton - Special Broad?

Sunday April 15

Plans to go migrant hunting were stalled by waking to heavy mist - again. After a leisurely start, we set off for Barton Broad. The general car park is a fair walk from the boardwalk, we park on a free patch of grass in the disabled parking area. The ranger once told us that we could use any space - there are four rarely used  - but a local jobsworthy told us that only the council could give us permission. I asked if that was him, to which he replied 'It used to be'.  
A Blackcap was singing in the surrounding trees, we soon heard our first of about three Willow Warblers. Shades of Scotland where we hear them everywhere. The creaky hinges call of Common Terns could be heard long before the viewing area. I settled with my scope and Pam counted at least 9 perched on the pipes/boys or flying. The Broad is wide  and littered with buoys of all shapes sizes and colours. I suppose they must mean something to someone. I can work out that the nearest semi circle, roped together are a Keep Out for boats. Both of the nesting platforms are moored in front of the end viewing platform.. Virtually all the birds were in the distant water, where a regular passage of tourist boats didn't seem to daunt the birds at all. 7 Little Gulls and a lone Arctic Tern, 4 pairs of Great Crested Grebes in half hearted display, a few Greylags, Black-headed, Herring and clean cut Lesser Black-backed Gulls added to the throng.
The increasing cold, lack of the anticipated Hirundine and the arrival of a family which included two very young and active - and noisy - boys, made the leaving decision for us. A Water Rail called, unseen,  from the thick, wet, understory. No Cetti's here either.
No Dick nor Snowy............yet a special Broad for us, so good for early spring migrants.
One small patch of Slime Mold and one group of Bracket Fungus. Some lovely fat, yellow pollen laden pussies yet, the Blackthorn, usually in full ethereal flower by now, is still in winter mode.

Garden Update

We had been bemoaning the lack of Brambling this year. Our feeders held three yesterday and Pam saw a male Bullfinch stop to clean its beak on a twig before flying away. A few Siskin are still feeding.
Moth trapping numbers are slowly increasing  whilst the species variety is dropping. The pick of the week were: Early Tooth-stripe, Mottled Beauty, Shoulder Stripe, Pine Beauty, Early Thorn and Mottled Pug. 
Pine Beauty

Shoulder Stripe

Early Tooth-stripe

I had already downloaded the PDF of the latest Pug book, my book arrived this morning. Other moth-ers have given it a very good write-up. I look forward to using it.
Our Mimosa tree continues to defy the British winter, a cold and wet one this year, by blooming profusely. Protected when in a pot by wintering it in the greenhouse every year until it got too big. Then, planted out, it had two chances, mummified by Kevin with a wrapping of fleece for the first three years. Last year..... nothing ...and it flowered beautifully. Not the best of photos, sun would help a lot.

 Thanks to Facebook, I discovere a wonderful webcam, the best I've seen. A clear and very close view of a Latvian White-tailed Eagle nest. I keep my sound on and when I hear them call, switch to view. They're sitting on 1 egg at the moment. I've seen egg turning, a fish brought in, both birds greeting each other and displaying on the edge of the nest, Cranes calling regularly in the background. This a shot taken from my PC. Its a real privilege to have such an intimate and informative experience.