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.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Pot Pourri

Friday November 17

This week's Wildlife Highlights

Red-throated Diver, numerous Auks, Gannets and Brent Geese at Winterton. Large Diver flying south before ditching - too far out for certainty but probably the White-billed. One Bonxie trying - and failing - to start an intervention with a Gannet.

Great Diving Beetle Dityscus marginalis in the moth trap (thank you James).

Pearly Underwing in the moth trap - a garden tick. This is an immigrant and only the second we've seen. Earlier this year, Tony Morris' son ID'd one at Natural Surroundings. Everyone else, including Greg, had missed it.
We initially missed this one. We were potting our moths first thing before taking them to Cley. I thought it was a Dark Swordgrass, Pam was adamant that it was a Turnip. Neither of us had the time to check with the book and our group just accepted what we said. I remember now saying that it had a blonde Mohican ! So used to remembering facts I still haven't really assimilated that my memory is not what it used to be - eidetic. 
The book gives the confusion species as Turnip and Dark Swordgrass !
There is room for someone to produce a book which clumps confusion species together on the same page. I'm sure it would sell.

A pristine Grey Pine Carpet eventually opened its wings for a short time.

Driving to Felbrigg  in search of fungi and Little Owl, 2 Hawfinches from the car park. One low down and occasionally feeding on the ground, the other flighty bird, perched on the top of a large Beech.
The Black Brant on several occasions as we drive Beach Road, Iron Road and Salthouse after mothing sessions at both Natural Surroundings and Cley. No more moth traps being put out at NS but a coffee meet at 10.00 for anyone interested.
Cley should have one trap put out but no-one bothered this week. George is on holiday and Gary forgot. Fortunately, same as last week, several of us took in moths from home. We probably had more to entertain us at the Show and Tell (!!) than opening a Cley trap.

3.30 p.m. to-day

Newly back from an afternoon visit to Ludham Marshes. 
A flock of 200+ active Fieldfare with a few Redwings, kept us happy whilst scanning. A few Lapwings around and a stream of low flying Starlings throughout our stay. Eventually two Common Cranes appeared from a distant ditch, walking about amongst the weeds and reeds before disappearing again. Houdini birds. We were lucky that Pam saw something move and I scoped the low shooting blind area. One Little Egret and a Grey Heron before the exhilaration of a Peregrine sat atop a post. I came across it whilst tracking the Cranes.
Pam counted over 90 Cormorants going to roost.
Lovely sunset .
We had our first frost of the winter last night, probably another to-night. Any moths about?

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Winter Moths

Wednesday November 8

Definitely winter temperatures now but we're still catching good moths. In species anyway, numbers are extremely low. One moth at Cley last Thursday and one at Natural Surroundings yesterday. We didn't go yesterday, as I have a respiratory infection for the first time in years.
Some photos of a few of the species we've trapped in November so far. The Iron Prominent is the latest County record by a long way. - and we've had two. Will take this morning's catch to Cley to-morrow so that we have something to look at !

December Moth

Grey Shoulder-knot

Iron Prominent

Red-line Quaker

Vestal - a coastal migrant

In my  October end of the month sorting of unidentified moths before filing - usually the Micro moths - I found the one below. As, if i got it right,  it's pretty rare, I sent the pic to Richard and he confirmed the identity. An Acleris Logiana which would have been a tick for everyone, even Richard. No, I hadn't retained it............Oh dear.

Monday, 6 November 2017

November Birding

Sunday November 5

It looked like summer and felt like winter to-day.  The sun shone from an almost cloud free sky, the thermometer read 3C, when we left soon after 7.30. It did cloud over by the afternoon and the temperature rose to 8C. 
No real fireworks bird-wise, yet we had a lovely day. The Grey Wagail performed at Sculthorpe Mill, plenty of Tree Sparrows at Valley Farm, Redwing and Fieldfare in satisfactory numbers. We must have seen thousands of Starlings, swooping about in their large and close-knit formation flying flocks. I'd love to know which part of Europe was their place of origin.
What a surprise - not.  The tide was at its nadir at Snettisham,  which was very low indeed as it was a spectacularly high 7.1 at 4 a.m. Thousands of waders, the wintering flocks have arrived in numbers. Beyond telescope identification. Enough variety on the expanse of deep-channelled mud stretching to infinity. We didn't manage to find any Ringed Plover nor Lapwing, we had to wait until Salthouse for the latter. Amazing. 
A few Dunlin.

Wigeon are back in large numbers everywhere, the custard stripe-heads of the males  gleaming in the sun, their whistling call piercing, over the plaintive calls of the Grey Plovers.


 At least 500 birds in the massed flock of Golden Plover. Another, only slightly smaller, flock in the Eye Field at Cley. A pair of Stonechats always lights up my day.
Geese are not here in any great numers yet, mild weather has kept them further north I guess.We saw a couple of skeins of Pink-feet and the Cley flock of Brent Geese which flew off as we got there.

One splendid adult Black Brant amongst them, probably the best plumaged one I've seen in Norfolk.

Pam loves Morston quay. So do I - it's the humpy entrance road I truly hate. The speed bumps are so big and frequent. I distract myself by looking for the smelly goats ( a small one has joined the old bearded wonder) and, identifying the variety of chickens scratching about.
In the late afternoon sun. 
The view of beached boats, old wooden pilings, mud with a central small meander of water, was enticing. For my camera anyway. Only a couple of shots possible before the sun went behind the clouds for a lengthy rest.

The far end of the car park is known as Redshank Bend to us. More than ever to-day. At least fifty birds wheeling restlessly from place to place, quarrelling noisily, pushing each other on from resting. Their call is the sound of the Norfolk marshes to me, I often whistle back at them - much to Pam's disgust. She doesn't like me whistling softly to her to attract her attention either - after she's ignored my calls. Sometimes I still do so. The reaction is immediate but muted, in Sainsbury's for example.
Back home in time for Chelsea/Man United match. Oh dear. I couldn't bear to watch the 1-0 home win. The wonder is that they only managed to score one goal. They were really up for it after several bad performances. We were not there at all, come back Pogma, the sooner the better.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Afternoon Birding

Friday October 27

Were we really in Scotland this time last week? 
Our first chance to bird since getting home. We drove to Winterton Beach car park, where the parking fee is now £1.50 for an hour, 50p more. We enjoyed the first hour in sunshine, watching ever present Gannets of all ages, small groups of Auks, mainly Guillemots with a few Razorbills, Common Scoter, Kittiwake, Brent Geese, one Shag and Cormorants. The green birds are Norfolk year ticks !
Greatest excitement was sighting a very large, pale, winter plumaged diver fly by. Distant and only binoc. views as I hadn't got my scope set up yet. Was it? A birder we know well by sight knocked the window behind me. After I'd peeled myself off the car roof.........In answer to his ''what have you seen'' question, I told him about the diver. He'd had a similar experience earlier in the week. He'd seen Great Northern this morning but that was in summer plumage still. At least I learned that the White-billed Diver present in the area is in winter plumage. I bet that's what it was. We see enough Great Northerns on Mull in May to notice that the '' b great diver'' I called was different.
More Pinks have arrived in the area. We had two large skeins fly over the house this morning. I don't know what they'll find to feed on, virtually no sugar beet fields around. Plenty of celery and green feed for sheep.
Moth-ing in the present warm spell is continuing to be interesting. I thought we'd missed Vestals, coastal migrants from the continent,, but we trapped our own on Tuesday. I didn't manage to photo that one, this one turned up at Cley yesterday.

We are still getting unseasonably late moths e.g Brimstones but are also seeing Red Admirals most days. 310+ (everyone got tired of counting) Large Wainscots in two marsh traps at Cley yesterday was a record. We trapped 7 overnight ourselves, a garden record.
Giles and Judy brought in a much debated Carpet sp. Richard took it home and - much to everyone's delight - pronounced it to be an Autumn Green Carpet. Local and a new one for everyone. David N brought in another goodie Small Marbled.

Also at Cley yesterday was this small and moribund Bee sp. We believe that it's a Nomada Stignata

We often find wildlife of interest, apart from Moths, in the traps. A superb Tiger Beetle in one trap at Natural Surroundings on Tuesday. 
A few more pics.

A weird Silver Y

Brindled Green

Red-line Quaker

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Last Lap

Saturday October 21

Having had a disturbed night - car park shenanigans - we left before the anticipated time. Morrison's for fuel and a Telegraph for me, my favourite edition of the week. The cryptic and general knowledge crossword puzzles keep me puzzled for much of the journey. On and off reading, birding and doing word games. I am so lucky that I can occupy myself thus in the car, with only the occasional rest.
We did take in another visit to Budle Bay. Acres of bare mud again and, very distant birds, did not  keep us long.
An uneventful journey, thank goodness, punctuated by a lunch stop to buy food at Scotch Corner services, which was heaving. 
Still no sign of the forecast storm, Brian. A little wind yes, no more than expected at this time of year and, no rain.
We have a few journey punctuation marks along the way. The Angel of the North at Newcastle,  furnaces at Goole in Yorkshire, leaving the A1 at Newark and the 'Norfolk, Nelson's County' sign after crossing rhe Welland. No bird news to divert our journey to-day. I've turned my pager back to Alert for Norfolk. It was a Carrion Crow call for N Scotland, a Herring Gull for Norfolk. Much more acceptable than pips and sirens.
Home to a pile of post, comfortable chairs and a slow internet as John is next door and must be on my router much of the time. I didn't allow him access for this amount of time, just during his mother's  funeral days but, it seems churlish to tell him not to use it . Pam thinks that I should change the code.......

Friday, 20 October 2017

South of the Border

Friday October 20

Bliss, an M and S food store a few yards from the Travelodge. Peculiar set up. A BP garage, a Wild Bean and an M and S in the same building. That was newspapers, a hot drink and lunch sorted.
First stop Loch Leven and Vane Farm RSPB. For a Pink-footed Goose fix. The visibility was poor. Thick mist over the water and surrounding wet meadows with 5,000 + Pink-footed geese grazing before suddenly leaping into the sky, disturbed by wandering sheep.Their combined musical, pinking calls are very evocative of winter marshes in Norfolk.
Good views of all three Forth bridges on the return route, side by side and so different in design. The original rail bridge is the immediately recognisable design, so long the known image for the 'like painting the Forth bridge ' saying, for a job that needs re-starting as soon as it's finished.
Until now, the sky was very threatening, portentous of impending rain, with some blue sky in between. A few drops only before the ground mist dissipated and the sun shone from a clear sky. South of Edinburgh, the day was glorious. 14C, no wind and the south Firth of Forth coast at its best. We'd seen that most of the birds were in a bay distantly viewable from Longniddry - high tide again ! Pam parked on a grassy verge so that I could scope all the birds feeding on the rocks, seaweed and sea. Amazingly, a new bird for the trip. It's difficult to believe that these were  the first Greylag Geese we'd seen all week.
It's the first time that I've seen Bass Rock looking grey, the thousands of nesting Gannets that normally turn it a bright white, have all gone south. North Berwick beach - the rocky end - had a few Purple Sandpipers amongst the Turnstones.
As to-day's journey was barely a hundred miles, Pam decided to go on to have another look at  an unrecognisable Budle Bay. Instead of the acres of mud, the bay was full of water with no bare edges. Large flocks of Mallard and the biggest number of Shelduck I've ever witnessed, even more than Snettisham, a few Shoveller feeding amongst them. Scoping was difficult. Mist had descended again, and was also rising from the water.
Preparing to leave, Pam saw a large flock of geese appear at the mouth of the bay before landing in a waterside field behind the trees. There was a farm there, so here must be a road? About a mile north was a badly potholed layby, two birders' cars already there. their drivers scoping through a gap in the hedge. We found a small open fence area and found the huge flock of Barnacle Geese down in a field. They were again, at least half a mile away, impossible to identify anything different amongst them. Ah well, we'll try again in the morning on the way home, Storm Brian (what a prosaic name for a storm) permitting.
I'm sorry to be leaving the north but, will be delighted to get home.