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.

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