Wednesday, 22 June 2011

BBQ and Longest Day

Sunday June 19
Jen's caravan at Dunwich has a delightful setting, amongst a thicket of hawthorn and bramble, with an unimpeded view out to sea, Southwold to the north and Minsmere to the south.
After the initial chat, drink and brownie, we drove to what used to be called the overflow car park at Minsmere. It's now labelled Whin Hill Lookout and cars are prevented from driving in. Yet another barrier to disabled birders.
We walked  to the splendid view of  Island Mere pool and marshes with its extensive reedbed. Almost immediately, a Bittern flew across the reeds, a Green Woodpecker landed nearby, Cetti's called and a hurtling Hobby chasing prey was beyond Marj's failing eyesight. It was rather chilly in the wind so it was a short yet productive stay.

Tuesday June 21
Where should we take Sue birding to-day? We decided on North Hide at Cley again, the second time in under a week, at least there were some birds there.
Even further on shingle to-day, much more of the area leading to the grassy path section had been roped off with orange cord, which was almost invisible until you were on top of it.  Why? Only one nest, that of an Avocet, on the previously roped off area. Perhaps the sitting bird was being disturbed.
The hide was empty, as was the scrape compared with last week. A lone 1st summer Little Gull was joined by another and then a lovely adult, both flying in from the sea.
The Black-tailed Godwits were all asleep on an island so I couldn't use my newly acquired knowledge re separating Continental sub sp from Icelandic. It's depth of colour and bill length. I couldn't see either!
A steady passage of Sand Martins and sand eel dangling Terns kept us amused.
The trudge back was too far for my left knee which hadn't liked planting more leeks and the French Beans yesterday. I stayed in the car whilst Pam and Sue walked to Daukes,  adding two Green Sandpipers  to the day list.
After a short discussion, my suggestion of a trip to find the Horsey Red-footed Falcon was voted the next move. On our way, the pager announced that a Red-foot was showing from Hickling, Bittern Hide, a much better option.
At the Centre, we were told that the bird was perched in a dead tree on the other side of the wood near the Centre.
We drove towards Whiteslea Lodge and parked in a gateway from which we could view the reedbed and the edge of the wood. Almost immediately, the 1st summer male Red-foot sped out of the wood, flew straight over the car, fed nearby and returned - presumably - to its dead tree perch. I didn't think to photograph until it was too late and, the shots I took are appalling. I did catch it transferring food from talon to beak but it's not sharp. One day.....

Couldn't resist this magnificent pair of horns.
After a ten minute wait to see if it would re-appear, we drove to the Lodge and walked to Bittern Hide - Pam dropped us off at the entrance.
A Swallow in the reed thatch caught my eye, it was struggling and I thought perhaps its foot was caught in the wire netting covering the reed. My photo revealed that it was actually doing a demolition job. Looks mighty uncomfortable nesting material.

Not a handlebar moustache
Excellent views on several occasions of two Hobbies hunting dragonflies over the reeds in front of the hide. More unsuccessful photography of extremely fast and agile hunters.
The Grey Heron is rather more stately....

It turned out to be a successful day after an inauspicious start. The falcon was a UK lifer for Sue.

Friday, 17 June 2011

A and B

June 16
After some deliberation - June is not a top birding month - we arranged to meet Bridget and Aileen at Cley Coastguards car park. Quite a pleasant morning, no rain yet and very little wind at first.
The trudge to North Hide was shorter than I remembered, the shingle sections a foot dragging, knee taxing, pain. Views from the car park  of three Spoonbills on Billy's Wash, not easy to see from the path.

In Step.......
North Scrape is rather extensive, a telescope is essential, views through that are not easy on a hazy morning.

View from the Swarovski hide
Many Avocets in view, good to see several well grown young going their usual independent way. At least 40 Black-tailed Godwits, looking beautiful in summer plumage. How many of them are of the Continental race reported on the pager? All? Must investigate.....
Lengthy scanning produced 2 Spotted Redshank, a single Green Sandpiper, one Little Ringed Plover and one Great Ringed, two Little Gulls - an adult and a first summer.  A regular passage of Sandwich Terns carried large sand eels to their nests on Blakeney Point.
Facing the wind on the return journey, there was time to admire the flowers on the shingle.

Where's the Bird ?
Mainly Horned Poppy, the long green unripe seed pods which give them their name, arching elegantly forth. Not sure of the name of the small, white, daisy-like flowers carpeting the stones amongst the clumps.

A magnificent lone clump
After a late coffee at the Cley Centre we decided to lunch in Ridlington and watch the birds in the garden. We saw 15 different sorts during the RSPB watch at the weekend - and that didn't include marsh Tit, Jay, G S Woodpecker and Stock Doves which are regular. Pam saw a Turtle Dove take off early this morning, I had one here a week or so ago.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Doesn't make up for the Roller.....

June 14
We planned to go for the Roller in Suffolk to-day, after Pam's physio appointment. As I suspected, no sign of it. One should always go as soon as it is announced.......not be consumed with such mundane things as the gardener coming. It wasn't a lifer, we've seen one previously, but, such lovely birds, always worth seeing.
Instead, we drove to Horsey and had distant flying views of a Red-footed Falcon hawking insects over the trees near the caravan site. Such elegant flying machines.
More good June birds please.
Shall we go to Aberdeen for the American White-winged Scoter? Black Dog does not hold good memories, the birds are always so distant.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Hartlepool x 2

June 11
Phew. Hectic couple of days..............
Dying to make it to Hartlepool , Thursday the 9th after Pam's dental appointment was the first opportunity since the bird was found on Monday the 6th. Trapped by a local ringer and originally ID'd as a Red-flanked Bluetail, understandably from the pics.
We arrived at the Inner Bowling Green on Hartlepool Headland at ten minutes before two. We joined about thirty other birders in a six hour futile wait for the bird, leaning on a fence watching a men's bowling match. They were elderly, most were unable to bend low enough so that the bowls were launched Barnes Wallis like, bouncing along the lawn.
The Green is enclosed by houses, it really is a suburban area with the sea in the distance. Two birders kept watch over the walled gardens, using  ladders. Had a good chat with Dave who we birded China with and saw the man who watched the Nightjars with us at Dersingham Bog.
At 8 p.m we made the decision to drive home rather than find a B and B and hope for a sighting in the morning. Home at 1.05 a.m. after a good run with very little traffic.

June 10
The bird had re-appeared! 
Pam said 'Let's go, it will be too crowded at the weekend', and we did. A quick visit to Rai and Barbara re the cats and we left at 11.10.,  arriving back at the Headland at 5.20 having stocked up at an M and S, intending to stay the night.
An empty and quiet bowling green this time and only about fifteen birders , the bird had been showing well on and off all morning and the successful had left. After ten minutes,  a man with a ladder went off to inspect the doctor's garden and we stayed chatting. Five minutes later - after an offer of a couple of ladders by two window cleaning lads - at a price - a pager message sent us back to the main road where the ladder owner was perched on top of it peering over a ten foot wall. 

A second ladder quickly appeared, ours is the one on the right - note the black stuff on the wall.
Pam was second up the steps and I was third to see... a 1st summer female White-throated Robin resting at the foot of a rose bush at the back of a substantial lawn. (Lee thinks it's first summer male owing to the amount of blue showing) Trying to still my jellified knees (years since I climbed a ladder) , I took some record shots before climbing down to give others a go. 

No more than a record shot, it was very distant, of a lovely bird.
The wall was daubed with some black oily stuff. I reckon everyone had a black smear on their hands and/or clothes as a souvenir. I certainly did.
We then stood chatting to a very pleasant local birder who was a fund of twitch stories.

Pam talking to the local birder

*1,500 birders made the journey on Monday and there were 15 ladders propped against the wall.
*Some kids offered tea and coffee and were inundated. When birders asked if there was any food, they disppeared into their homes and came back with cheese sandwiches.
* A funeral cortege squeezed through and, when it was over, some of the mourners came back to join in.
* One man atop a ladder was binoc-less and, when asked if he could see the bird replied, ' I've always wanted a look at this garden, I've never seen it before'.
* Another child offered the use of a trampoline to see over the wall.
All the locals were very indulgent, pleasant and interested. Our local informant said that they were used to birders peering into their gardens as the whole built up area had seen some very good birds. He reeled off a mouth-watering list. Apparently the trees by the chippy are a good trap. It explains why mist nets were up in the first place.
If we'd stayed another hour or so, the bird returned to the bowling green and I might have got better photos, there are some crackers on the web. It seemed more urgent to get home, after Pam made the decision to do so, rather than stay the night. Several really heavy showers and heavy traffic made the drive to Kings Lynn unpleasant, especially when it got dark. We were still home at 11.20 after a very successful final outcome.
Saturday June 12
The bird has flown! Very disappointing for the weekend crowd. It happened to us frequently when we were working, Monday to Friday raries that is.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Weekend Round-up

Buckenham Marshes
Having been unable to go birding on the 1st - coffee morning - and with a free morning in view, we gave the marshes a go. We added a few month birds of course, the highlight being our first Norfolk Common Sandpiper. It was on the Mill Pool, hidden behind the island most of the time. We saw so many in Scotland that finding it was a local first came as a surprise.
We also met our third RSPB warden at this site. Again a very pleasant chap. He was really checking with us because he was about to disturb the birds by driving around the pool to check the batteries of the cameras monitoring the Lapwing nests. We'd thought that there were more Lapwings than usual and he confirmed this. We were hoping he'd disturb something but he didn't.
Stopping to give the crossing keeper a Werthers - they never refuse - there wasn't time to photo the lovely Swallowtail Butterflies which were on the crossing Rhododendron bushes again.

Harpley Cottages (I wonder what they're really called) and a nearby lane, produced a single Turtle Dove feeding roadside in the shade of a tree and a few Tree Sparrows flitting about. Their call is very distinct from that of House Sparrows, which alerts us to their presence when they're hiding in the hedge .

Abbey Farm
One Little Owl perched in the right hand low branches of the old oak tree but, no sign of any Kingfishers, during an afternoon visit. The only wildfowl was Mallard and  Greylags with goslings. Coot and Moorhen  also had young. One Buzzard the only raptor.

A late visit at low  tide, with no birds visible from the bank - apart from dozens of Shelduck and a few Oystercatchers. 
Scoping the far pit with its hundreds of squawking, nesting Black-headed Gulls, Pam spotted a lone Knot  huddled on the shore.  Ill ? Dozens of Avocets, a few Cormorants, one Sandwich and one Common Tern.
 I forget.... scores of Greylag !

Dersingham Bog
We timed our visit better this year and only had twenty minutes to wait before the first Nightjar started churring. Soon afterwards a calling Woodcock arrowed away at treetop height. We station ourselves on the John Denver seat, overlooking the valley and boardwalk. Maybe the birders below may get a closer view but, there's a much better overall view from the top of the cliff - and you don't have to negotiate the steep steps down and back again. A Cuckoo was calling much of the time we were there. What happened to the 'change his tune in June'  adage?
The first Nightjar flew before it was really dark, giving us good views as it flew off over the trees. We saw at least four in flight, one perched on top of a telegraph pole and, heard at least 6 churring. It's hard to estimate numbers because they move around !! 
A magical experience, sitting in the soft evening light, the setting sun giving a gentle apricot fringe to the tree tops across the way. I'd doused my cap in repellant after last year's bitefest, that, and the breeze, meant only a few hot needles in ear tips for me. Pam hates the stuff so had a lot of tiny midge bites in her hair and on her face. You make your choice.....
A second Woodcock flew through as we left after barely an hour, more than happy with our experience. Magical birds.

Weeting Heath
Waw. On arrival in the West Hide, four Stone Curlews were in view! It's years since we had such a a good view and, of so many. One flew across the field before we left to make more space for an arriving group. 
The increasingly deaf and stentorian Major had shown us a Spotted Flycatcher nest site, we didn't have long to wait before one could be seen in the nearby trees. The other was sitting tight.
Whilst our luck was in, we drove to 
Lakenheath Fen.
Pam went off to the loo whilst I finished Saturday's Telegraph crossword in the car park. She was away ages, returning wreathed with smiles. Whilst there, she'd gone into the centre to talk to the warden. A very pleasant and helpful woman suggested - unasked - that she get a permit to drive to New Fen viewpoint , which was at least a mile from the car park. Fantastic. Pam's white hair and stick probably helped ! It is possible to drive  as far as Joists Fen but they preferred us not to do so to-day as there were so many visitors. The paths were teeming.
The first hide, overlooking a reedbed, was only 50 yards away. About a dozen birders were already viewing from here, we decided to walk on past a poplar plantation towards Joists Fen. Half way along the path, a male Golden Oriole called from the plantation. Yes, our luck was really in. A warden later told us that they only have two males and a single female this year. Doesn't augur well for their future. If we'd walked along the river bank as planned - it's shorter to the first plantation - we'd never have had an Oriole. No sign of any Cranes on Joists Fen. Views of one hawking Hobby as we walked back towards the car.
The hide overlooking the reedbed near where we were parked is open both sides with outward facing seats. Thankfully, there was room for us, most people were lunching at the seats outside. During the half hour we sat there, we had three long flying views of a beautiful cinnamon-winged Bittern making feeding forays and then flying back to the nest. Another distant Hobby, a pair of flying Cuckoos passed overhead, their weak, long-tailed flight distinctive, and, a Bearded Tit calling from nearby reeds, added to the experience.
After returning the permit, we drove to
Welney WWT
More in hope than certainty. It's not a very long walk to Buxton Hide but the hide itself is one of the most uncomfortable I've experienced. Very high and narrow bench seats, no foot-rests so my legs swing. Singing Reed and Sedge Warblers  en route and also on the way to Lyle Hide, the territory of a White-spotted Bluethroat which has largely stopped singing. The path is banked by high vegetation. roped off with notices forbidding climbing of the banks and using tape lures. We probably heard the Bluethroat, having played the song when we returned to the car. Its beginning is reminiscent of a Sedge Warbler but different - not very scientific  but I know what I mean ! We should have visited earlier in the season. 
Half a dozen Black-tailed Godwits and three summering Whooper Swans visible from Lyle.
Tired and a bit footsore, we were pleased to get back to  the car and return in time to watch the dismal England footie display in the Euro Champ qualifying round against Switzerland which ended 2-2, whilst listening to Sri Lanka lay into us in the Test match. Oh happy days. It was actually a lovely and very productive birding day.
We arrived ten minutes before high tide and this is what we saw, on a breezy day with a cool NE wind and louring skies.
Not quite high tide.....we left after this
The Coal Barn, almost marooned

We usually park where the water lies on the right.