Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Catch-up Time

Thursday January 4

Failing to find the Black Brant at Beach Road Cley but, adding a handsome male Stonechat, we tried Salthouse for Buntings. Another blank. 
Driving east, up the hill from Salthouse towards Kelling, a large flock of finches rose from the stubble field opposite Gramborough Hill. Pam thought she'd seen some white birds. We turned in Kelling and parked in the gateway to the horse field. I immediately saw that the stubble field was moving. Dozens of Chaffinch, Linnet, Greenfinch and the Salthouse Snow Bunting flock on the ridge at the back. Typically, for no apparent reason, the flock rose as one , disappearing over the brow. 

Saturday January 6 was a dismal day. Needing to get out, we drove to St Benet's adding a male Sparrowhawk to the year list. The weed field between Ludham and Catfield held the large very active flock of finches again. Mostly Chaffinches but 6 + male Brambling perched in the roadside tree above us.

Sunday January 7

The weather man forecast a sunny day and it was. Everywhere looked lovely, the temperature barely rising above freezing point.
We were not optimistic, just as well. The Parrot Crossbills at Santon Downham had not been seen since early morning, in the woods north of the level crossing.There were meandering groups of birders everywhere.One was seen by Dawn B and group later in the day.
I added Nuthatch and Longtailed Tit, Pam had seen them in the garden, we both added several Goldcrests flicking in nearby trees.
As we were comparatively near, we decided to drive to Welney WWT . The SatNav took us to the flooded road route.........where we had to re-trace our drive as far as the Denver Sluice and Ten Mile Bank turning (which I'd suggested we take in the first place). The car was full of unspoken frustration.
It was mid afternoon when we left the car in the car park - to a cacophany of swan calls. It sounded just like the sounds they play in the lifts here. The large pool behind the centre was full of yellow billed swans, viewable through the trees. Lovely.

After a much needed comfort break, and no food at all to-day (me) and a yogurt breakfast for Pam, the cafe was the first stop.We rarely eat main meals out at lunch time (3 p.m. to-day) a sandwich or soup is the general rule. To-day, to save cooking when we got in, I had Chilli Beef and Pam had Sweet and Sour Chicken. My Chilli was excellent, Pam enjoyed hers too. We sat at a window table viewing the mostly, Whooper Swans 

with a few Bewick's, Pink-footed Geese, Wigeon and Mallard on the pool with a flock of Tree Sparrows, Reed Buntings and Goldfinches visiting the feeders below.

Pam's favourite

I think that I prefer this one

Stuffing Tree Sparrows

Cleaning up
The Reception information board had an estimated 2,546 Whoopers and double figures of Bewick's (Tundra) present on the reserve.
The low and late setting sun bathed the scene in a golden light, very beautiful yet difficult for photography. As was the dirty window. I could have stood outside and frozen.........

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Curtailed Outing

Tuesday January 2

Strike whilst the bug is hot. 
Pam saw a Nuthatch at our feeders this morning, pointing out a Jay for me, she saw one yesterday.
A most unattractive looking day. Louring sky, gloomy, wet roads with dripping hedgerows. Maybe a short outing. As we approached the T junction beyond Strumpshaw, the rubbish lorry went by, towards the railway crossing. Damn. Pam turned the car round, parked at Strumpshaw and we walked to the Centre. Which was closed. Staff illness. The reserve is already closed due to flooding. We viewed a number of Wigeon, a pair of Gadwall and a Marsh Harrier from the outside open area. Ben, the warden appeared beside us, having tired of a morning in his office, working on a computer. His intention was to measure the salinity of the reserve's water.
During our informative chat, we learned that there were no White-fronted Geese at Buckenham and that if they were at North Warren, they were not here and, vice versa.
Only 5 Taiga Bean Geese this year, not reported for several days now. Again, he opined that 'ours' were going to the continent instead, most of them staying north anyway. A flock of 100 were reported from Scotland to-day.
We then moved on to moths. Ben doesn't trap after the end of October but found a new moth for him in his office this morning. A case-bearer (Micro).I didn't like to ask to see it.
Back to the Level Crossing to Buckenham, the lorry had indeed finished and gone.
At first scan, the marshes were absolutely deserted, Cantley's smoke trail lying horizontol on the horizon. Nearing the fishermen's car park, smallish groups of Wigeon grazed the pool edges, whisling madly into the air as a Marsh Harrier passed through. Twenty Canada Geese were a list addition as were the 17 dodgy Barnacles.They looked handsome but, they are permanent residents. A few restless Skylarks added to the list.
Persistent rain put paid to other plans, we set off for home. As we were leaving the marshes, a female Hen Harrier hastened past. Excellent, after yesterday's miss. 
Wew managed to see five distant Tundra Swans in the Ludham area but couldn't find them - nor Catfield - on the way home. Having negotiated umpteen muddy, narrow, twisting Norfolk lanes, Pam pronounced Catfield lost.

Another Year Begins

Monday January 1 2018

I still have the child-like awe, excitement and admiration of fireworks. Staying up for the London midnight display is obligatory. All based on and around the Eye now - I used to love the little tug boats chugging arouind the Thames emitting sparks and showers of coloured rain. They did add a lot of smoke though.
Dad always brought a box of fireworks home from the October Brass Band competition at the Albert Hall. Ystradgynlais Silver Band were in the top division with Black Dyke Mills, Foden Motors, Manchester CWS etc. Our best players were regularly poached for other bands via the offer of non coal mining jobs with more pay.

So........ we didn't set off in the morning until after 8 a.m., the sun was well up. Different from other years when we have breakfasted in west Norfolk field gateways, in the dark, waiting for a bird to be heard or seen. It turned out to be a good weather, non SAD day until the afternoon. Avoiding all the New Year's Day coastal crowds does not bump up the list. 68 from the car to-day, including two Red Kite sightings, 

Tree Sparrows, Grey Partridge and a perched Buzzard in a roadside tree. 

Just as many Starlings amongst the pigs as before, a nearer feeder this time, almost too close for my long lens from the car window.

Thoroughly enjoyable and soul lightening - especially Snettisham of course.
A flock of 600+ Golden Plovers a burnished ribbon of birds gleaming in the sunlight. So handsome Pintails, newly plumaged white parts lighting the way. A few Goldeneye, Redshank, Grey Plover, Curlew, a lone Bar-tailed Godwit, dumpy Red Knot busily feeding at the tide's edge, Dunlin scurrying busily amongst the flocks. Lovely.
A very slow Hunstanton approach, horrendous traffic, the cliff top road chokka with parked cars, walking revellers, dogs and children. Nowhere to stop and, we didn't want to anyway. I managed to see a couple of Fulmars gliding lazily along the cliff edge, looking as though they were crowd watching. Pam missed them as she was actually watching the road ! I then missed the Ruff she saw flying away when we stopped on the Holme approach 'road' (horrible track, gets worse by the week). 
On the return journey whilst I was scoping in hope of the Ruff, a Barn Owl flew through. Distant and flying very fast left, Pam managed to pick it up from my hurried description just before it dived headlong into a bush, when a Marsh Harrier shot out from the undergrowth .Having negotiated the Snettisham chalet park potholes there and back this track is the final straw. Adding appalling road humps to the deep potholes and aching bones really shakes us up. Not to mention the road to Morston car park where we ended. Pam loves it there even though it was virtually dark. As it was at Stiffkey Fen, where we spent half an hour in the gloom, scanning for raptors. Marsh Harriers were the only reward. Birders returning from the East Hills end reported a male Hen Harrier and a Merlin. Not from where we were looking. I did find two perched Marshies, one in the dunes and another on a stunted tree near the beach.
Cley Beach was very optimistic decision. The sun was setting hehind the Mill, Blakeney marsh a dark expanse. I photographed a boat against the sky which pleased me, until I have somehow managed to make both unopenable by Windows. Another computer mystery doing the same actions as always and the outcome so inexplicable. 
Home in time for the Man U match away at Southampton. A dreary first half with Pam shouting her frustration at her latest target - Martial. The second half was much better football with guess who... Martial .......scoring a good first goal followed by another cracker from the ever exuberant and cheerful Jesse LIngard. Phew.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Post Christmas

Thursday December 28

After yesterday's day-long deluge, the sun tempted us out, the roadside puddles still iced over. Still no snow for us, despite the low temperatures, much of the country is well covered.
I didn't want to go far as the roads could be unsafe along the north coast, Ludham marshes and St Benets again. Not much about. A lone Fieldfare, dozens of Starlings, a large flock of Lapwing, one Marsh Harrier and a Kestrel. Always a good scattering of Mute Swans, two Whoopers and about eight Bewick's amongst them. Again, too distant to photograph.
Four Chinese Water Deer grazed the meadows in front of the mills.

The weedy fields between Catfield and Ludham still had the flock of finches we saw earlier in the month. They were very distant, parking is difficult on a very busy road  so we didn't stay. Last time there was a good number of Brambling amongst the mainly Chaffnches, Pam thought she saw a Siskin but was not convinced.

Thursday, 14 December 2017


Wednesday December 13

After several days of icy roads kept us housebound, an overnight slight thaw  was sufficient incentive to do a little local birding. I chose Ludham Marshes, with three target birds more a long shot than a probability.
I saw two targets, Pam got all three.
On the bumpy drive out to St Benets Abbey, the sight of a small group of swans in a distant surface pool brought us to a halt. Viewing through the copse, Pam prounced them to be 'wild swans' but not the species. My turn on the way back....,
Alone in the car park, too cold even for dog walkers, I scoped the distant watermill meadows seeing Lapwing, Marsh Harriers and |Starling. Two chunky Chinese Water Deer fed and then made a run for it, no obvious reason for the spooking. They do look like mighty meaty little beasts. Pam called a glimpse of two Common Cranes flying low along the reeds before landing out of sight. Despite scanning for some time - I had to close my window as I was freezing - no further sightings of the pair of cranes before we had to leave. Our heating boiler was due its annual service.
The first four swans viewable through the trees were two Mute Swans and two Whooper Swans. The puddle group consisted of ten Bewick Swans.  Good. A few were reported from Hickling earlier in the week but these are the first for us. Cold weather in the Netherlands must have encouraged them to move on.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Starring role to....?

Friday December 1

Yesterday's wintry showers of sleet and hail did not sparkle the landscape here. The fallen leaves became wetter and their drifts larger, swirled into hidden places by the fierce wind gusts. To-day started off sunny. Students of Norfolk's vast skies would have enjoyed the kaleidoscope of blue sky, white cumulus and thickly grey,  snow and rain full clouds,  which marked our day out.
Not expecting much in the way of quantity nor quality - all our birding is done from the car due to my lack of mobility - we had a lovely day. A flock of Curlew dotting the stubble along the back lane to Abbey Farm. At Abbey, a pair of Bullfinches lighting up the bushes around the dried pond and a Red Kite surveying the far field before swooping down and startling the Starlings into flight. It looked like it was having fun.

Starring role to-day was at least five thousand Starlings on the pig fields seen from the Flitcham/Sandringham road. Five hundred Large Whites, Saddlebacks and patched pigs took no notice at all of their very noisy neighbours. (Did I just liken Man City to pigs there ? ) I'd love to see this mob go to roost - if it was a single one. The geometry of their murmuration would be magnificent.

As it is, the sight of so many on the ground amongst the feeding pigs is unsurpassed, by me anyway. Those animals at the feeding stations had rows of ignored Starlings on their backs. 

I only had my 300 mm lens so, the depth of field during an overcast and dark weather segment is pretty appalling. The photos only show a very small area of the fields.
Tide at Snettisham was on its way back in, with about four hours to go. So many Grey Plovers, a few Redshank, Dunlin, Turnstone and Ringed Plover feeding avidly on the mud. At least 30 Pintail could be scoped but not the sure identity of the hordes of birds that deckled the far shore. Many were Knot .... what else though?
No sign of the Great White Egret we saw on our last visit. A few Goldeneye and a winter influx of Wigeon on the reserve pits. Am I pleased to see 40+ Canada Geese gliding gracefully along? The sight yes, they're handsome geese, not their presence though. They've begun to colonise Mull, .Arthur Brown calls them White-tailed Eagle meals. He also calls Meadow Pipits the plankton of the bird world.
Thornham's creeks were fast filling with the inrushing tide. After seeing the flock of Twite from the car park, we quickly drove on to Brancaster Staithe for a late picnic lunch. No Long-tailed Duck to-day, a few Black-tailed Godwits, the odd Bar-tailed, more Grey Plover. The highlight was a lone Greenshank in the dim of approaching twilight.
So dark now at 2.30, Pam hurtled - as much as the road will allow - to Stiffkey Marsh car park. Just enough light to see a female Marsh Harrier and a ring-tailed Hen Harrier go to roost, dropping into the suaeda along the shoreline.
Hoping for an owl, we took the coast road home. No luck. 70 species, not bad.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Norfolk Year Tick

Sunday November 19

Not an early start on a beautiful, crisp, cold and sunny winter morning. The trees are now half dressed but, still have enough leaves to colour the view.
We drive straight to Thornham Harbour to find it packed with the vehicles and walking crowds of weekend visitors. Hoorahs in the main. The Lfeboat is a very popular restaurant, pub and B and B. Avoiding all the dogs is a chore too. Despite that, I love the place. Pam checked the far channels, I did the near ones. The tide was rushing out, not much water and few birds. No sign of the wintering Twite. 
The other destination was Brancaster Staithe, also full of parked cars, a knot of photographers near the water's edge heralding that the bird was still there. Yes, the Long Tailed Duck showed well if distantly until it decided to steam steadily upstream past the poised cameras. I took a few shots, none near eniugh. Serves me right for my obstinacy against joining the mob. John Miller has posted some lovely shots on FB.

Little Egrets are always good for a photo, especially in good light.

We added a Rock Pipit, which landed on a nearby boat, before leaving for home. It flew before I could reach for my camera.