Tuesday, 26 July 2011

July Birding Again..

Monday July 25
Abbey Farm was not very productive, two Little Owls on the back fence posts was the highlight. We don't usually have to wait this long for our first Grey Partridges of the month, again at the back of the field, viewable from the approach lane. A couple in the hide told us that the Kingfisher nest had been predated by a fox. That explains their disappearance.
Maybe I should have checked the height of to-day's tide before visiting Snettisham again. It was still lovely, plenty of waders for Sue to scope, but, the water stayed a fair way out. Seeing four minute Ringed Plover chicks nestling under a parent was a treat, eight pairs of skinny legs only viewable, until they started dashing about like fluff blown in the wind. Just the one Wheatear to-day, at the edge of the first pit on the reserve.
Holme NOA Broadwater hide seemed like a good bet. Even fewer birds in view to-day. A Grey Heron and a Coot ! Patient scanning of the distant tree belt whilst Sue ate her usual smelly sandwich lunch (goats cheese, salad and horseradish to-day, at least it wasn't the usual over-ripe blue), saw a good raptor count. Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Marsh Harriers and the juvenile Montague's Harrier again. Our first Holme Bittern flew across the reedbed in front of the hide, excellent. Such a lovely russet brown. Having heard our first returning Whimbrel from the hide, two flew overhead as we left.
After a Yellow Wagtail at the barns, we made our way home, Sue had a physio appointment in Norwich at 5.00.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Snettisham Spectacular

Thursday July 21
Fortunately, we arrived at Snettisham RSPB earlier than arranged, at  8.45. , Bridget and Aileen were due at 9.00, high tide at 10.46. The speed at which the tide rushes in has to be seen to be believed. When we arrived, there were thousands of waders on the near shore just inside the reserve. Both Godwits, largely Black-tailed, in varying degrees of summer plumage, and, thousands of Knot. The latter showing proof of their full name, Red Knot. Amongst the avidly feeding masses was a sprinkling of Curlew, Redshank, small groups of black-bellied Dunlin and a few Ringed Plover. We just sat and scoped.
Twenty five minutes later, the mud was covered and most of the birds were dark massed lines on distant higher mud, still constantly moving as the water moved inexorably onwards. There was enough of a sample left for Aileen and Bridget to enjoy. Even more Sandwich Terns flew in to join the already considerable number roosting on a mud island.
Two moulting Wheatears were an unusual July sighting for us in Norfolk.
Scoping the far pit before leaving, a lone Greenshank rested in the shade of poolside bushes. The pits were full of Greylags with the occasional Mallard, Teal and Cormorant. At least 150 Avocet roosted on a mud island.
Sooo...... we need to be there at least 2 hours before high tide, will try that on Monday with Sue.
The view from Holme NOA Broadwater Hide was not very promising at first look. Firstly it was cold enough to wear a fleece by now and that is a cold hide! One Green Sandpiper, half a dozen Black-headed Gulls, a few Greylag and two Canada Geese ! We persevered.
Scanning the distant trees for raptors, Pam spotted a Spoonbill flying directly towards Broadwater. It landed in front of us and started sweep feeding as soon as its legs hit the water. A lovely adult. We returned to scanning for raptors. In total we saw five Marsh Harriers, three of them very distant, above  a cornfield on the horizon, first seen by Bridget.
Pam drew our attention to a paler bird rising from the smaller trees in front of the tall poplar/deciduous belt. It flew low and kept dropping and disappearing. Eventually, it showed well enough to be identified as a Montague's Harrier - already noted in the hide logbook for Tuesday we saw later. We had seen one at Thornham a couple of months ago.
Twenty minutes after the first bird, another two Spoonbills flew in and joined it, feeding as soon as they hit the pool. Lovely. One was a young bird, snow white - made the adults look cream -and without the adult bill pattern.
We left them there and drove to Choseley Barns - no-one wanted to walk at Titchwell. A yellow Wagtail was the surprise find amongst the many juvenile Pied in the concrete yard. The usual Corn Bunting singing from its usual roadside wire down the hill.
After lunch watching a Little Tern fishing at Brancaster Staithe, we parted ways and drove home to watch the first Test against India at Lords.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Rain Break

Tuesday July 19
After waiting in for the SKY man to come and replace both boxes - free update - which included replacing the cheapest SKY box with a Sky+ HD (Bedroom) and replacing the dish, we drove to Cley NWT. Our first shower of the day deluged the road within a mile of leaving but,  we saw no more rain. Plenty of dark, threatening, towering, cloud clusters though.
Parking at the triangle, we camped out in Daukes Hide. Two diggers were working at the road  end area of Pat's Pool, which was completely waterless.
A good number of birds from Daukes and we eventually, with a bit of patience and assiduous scanning, added 5 month birds. One was an en route Turtle Dove on wires north of North Walsham, the others: Teal, Green Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank and an adult Yellow-legged Gull. all from Daukes.
Fifty Curlew floated in, two Sandwich Terns and four Common Terns courtship fed. Twenty Black-tailed Godwits - and even more Ruff - gradually appeared from the vegetated islands. At one time there were five Marsh Harriers in the air at once. I contented myself with taking a few photos of Avocet, the nearest birds, and then just the one snatched photo of a Reed Warbler which poked its head out briefly. It was collecting food for its fledged young, flitting through the reeds outside the hide.

Reed Warbler
Juvenile Avocet

I sat on an outside bench to warm up in the sun - boy was it cold in the hide -  whilst Pam had a look  from Avocet Hide. This male Marsh Harrier circled overhead, gradually climbing into the evening sun. Lovely.

A very enjoyable outing, especially as we had the hide to ourselves for most of the time.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Birding at Last

Friday July 15
The forecast was correct, we rose to a lovely summer's day. A blessed relief after several days of strong north westerlies, overcast and heavy showers.
We hadn't visited Titchwell this month, that was our first port of call. We didn't leave home until 8.30,  it was gone ten by the time we were walking out.
An enjoyable chat with Ray Jermy during which we found that there had been two Bittern nests this year, one on the reserve and one on the saltmarsh to the west. One female had even been seen feeding well grown young in the open, viewable from the footpath - not a known Bittern behaviour. The first of many sightings of young Bearded Reedlings on the reeds this side of Bett's Pool (the first pool on the left as you walk out, I've discovered its name at last), delightful birds. After the early season reckoning that only one pair had survived the winter, one or two more pairs had been found on the new pool area to the east of the reserve. All seem to have bred well - they can have three or more broods a season.
No sign of the Red crested Pochard and her single remaining young on Bett's Pool, dozens of Coot, eclipse Mallard, one Great Crested Grebe and a single Little Grebe.
Shortly before getting to Island Hide, Pam saw a Dragonfly resting on a small grass seed- head amongst the reeds, close to the path . Very conveniently, it stayed to allow a good look. A passing birder stopped to investigate too, and, whipped an ID book out of his back pocket, handing it to Pam. She opened the book and said, 'looks like that' !! It was a female Common Darter in pristine newly emerged finery, why it posed for so long, drying out its wings. First page opened ! I didn't carry my camera.........
The man later stopped and said he agreed with the ID, having had a long look.
Reed and Sedge Warblers and, youngsters of both, were good to see. More pinging young Beardies too. All in the reedbeds lining the freshmarsh area.
Not many birds on the freshmarsh. A reported 1500+ Knot had flown back to the beach after high tide, half an hour before we arrived. We found a single bird remaining, along with about a dozen sleeping Black-tailed Godwits, many Avocets and juveniles - they've bred well this year (Ray said)- a single Greenshank flew in along with three Redshank. No terns and the usual gulls.
All the usual drop-in places on the way back towards Sheringham, adding nothing to the month list but lovely to look at in the warm sunshine.
The ice-cream van was there! The usual drivers had been on holiday and the owner had taken the van to a fete. Good news!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Swallowtail Moth

Sunday July 10

Pam found this Swallowtail Moth in the garden early this morning. They are sometimes day flying and feed on Hawthorn and Blackcurrant - amongst other plants. This specimen is rather tatty and worn - ragged wing tips and very faded. Nothing like the lovely, lemon yellow, pristine example which flew into the sun lounge and straight out again a couple of weeks ago.
I'm looking forward to a day's birding this week, the early July birding doldrums are truly here. It would have neen great if the Pacific Swift which flew past Gibraltar Point yesterday had appeared in Norfolk. We were on the Welsh borders with Aileen and Bridget when the last one was seen.
Ah well....., at least all the peas and beans have been gathered, podded and frozen.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Quick Visit

Friday July 8
We fancied doing some birding after a few days of regular and heavy, squally showers. Cley won - until Pam remembered en route that Tony had said that the scrapes were being worked on. No machinery in sight - no water either - dry brown mud. North Scrape had water, we saw birds fly in there.
A strange 'sculpture' has appeared on the reserve, viewable from the roadside. A very tall and crooked ladder ! Art?
Dead calm sea at Coastguards, belying the brisk wind. A group of  24 Scoter flew through to add to the usual tern passage - not many of those either. Shortly before we left, a mass of birds lifte for no obvious reason. Amongst them were three Grey Herons, thirty plus Black-tailed Godwits and, ten Spoonbills.
Still no ice-cream van.......have they given up on us? They had been complaining about the competition from Salthouse Post Office shop and Cley deli.
Home to pick, pod and freeze peas in between showers, not as frequent to-day though.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Gwdihw at Sculthorpe

Monday July 4
Plenty of fireworks - of the experience variety.
We'd signed up for an Owl evening at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, owned by the Hawk and Owl trust. We'd been promised a talk on Owls and then, witnessing an owl ringing session.
We were offered a cuppa and biscuit on arrival, after being directed through to the impressive education room.
The session started 10 minutes late as others hadn't allowed enough time for the disruption caused by work at the Fakenham roundabout. Warden, Nigel, did the talk, using a hypothetical brood of 101 Barn Owls as illustration of the casualties inflicted by road traffic. A mere 33 survive after 5 years. Operation S.W.O.R.D. (Save Wild Owls from Road Death) where the public can report all owl species road deaths, can be found on the website:  http://www.hawkandowl.org/.
Two groups of 15 were then taken on a bit of a route march. Leaving the boardwalk soon after Old Gits Corner, we crossed some rough grazing before trogging off across a trackless field left to grow thigh high grass and flowers. Parts of it were very rough and uneven, just as well Pam had returned to the car for our sticks. Along the way, the lead volunteer gave us a couple of interesting talks about the management of the wooded area and the pasture for insects - butterflies, moths, invertebrates etc -  and small mammals for the owls. An extremely pleasant and knowledgeable young woman from the East Winch RSPCA, who walked with us for some of the way, is trapping mammals in the field so as to ascertain the variety and number for the owl population - not enough numbers - nor variety - at the moment. We  were also able to question one of the older volunteers - wish we'd asked his name - about the wildlife on the reserve. He works at fencing and tree cutting.
Eventually - last of course - we arrived at the nestbox. The ringer was waiting at the foot of a ladder. The nest had originally had 3 chicks , now down to two. Now 6 weeks old, they can be ringed at 3 weeks as the legs are fully grown by then.

After a short introduction, he climbed the ladder and extricated the first owlet, placing it in a bag before climbing down.

The ringer was another very affable, knowledgeable and pleasant man who proceeded to show the owlet to the group, ensuring that all who wanted to, could take photographs and see the bird well. It was very thin, its breast bone protruding and sharp. Also very quiescent, apparently typical of Barn Owl chicks. When he laid her down she closed her eyes! Female as she had a few spots under the base of the wing - not because she was malleable and closed her eyes when laid down! Placing the bag on the floor, he ringed a protruding leg, it's easier to ring them in the bag, more controllable.


The second chick was also a female and very thin. They can be fed day old chicks (Nigel said), but would probably die anyway when fledged if there was insufficient food in the area.
This one was rather livelier enabling us to see the wing development.

Pam and I left a few minutes before the others, in order to get a head start across the rough terrain. Very quickly, we were joined by the lovely fence work man who'd accompanied us on the way out. (His name is Geoff, I now know). White hair and a stick garners assistance - even when it's not wanted nor needed. Much appreciated on this occasion as we got lots of info. All the volunteers we met were great. Again we got more information about the reserve and it's ongoing work. I love this reserve, especially in the winter when the variety of birds is greater. The Willow Tits have done very well this year, as have the Bullfinches.
The now tail-less male Golden Pheasant was - typically -skulking near the Woodland Hide. He's on his own at the moment but another has been seen the other side of the river.
When we got back to the reserve, gate entrance works building, the mammal woman (wish we remembered her name, I think it was Lyndsey), came out with a 10 day old Pipistrelle bat. Its mother had a broken wing when it was admitted by the RSPCA, and had fed its offspring well for the first few days, before dying. Hayley is feeding it on cat milk and meal worms. The pictures show firstly, its minute size and then, nibbling on a worm.

Pipistrelle Bat

Much enlarged Pipistrelle baby

Monday, 4 July 2011

Birding and Babies

Sunday July 2
So much for the middle of next week......
We made a sudden decision to do our birding day on a Sunday - we usually avoid the crowds. Leaving soon after 5.00 a.m., we found empty roads on a perfect, cloudless, almost wind free day. This continued until we got home at 2 p.m. - the weather that is - the temperature becoming a very pleasant early twenties C.
An always delightful Spotted Flycatcher at the very top of a very tall old Yew tree at Sculthorpe - the Grey Wagtail perched a couple of feet away was a surprise.
Forty two species, including a Barn Owl, before Abbey Farm was surprisingly good. No sign of Kingfishers from the hide, a single Little Owl in the base of the big oak tree, Garden Warbler and Blackcap singing well from the pool trees. Six L Owls were reported on Saturday, the young must have fledged, a good brood.
Snettisham at high tide is not good. Up to two hours before is best - we were bang on to-day and it was a six feet plus one.  Very little to be seen on the sea and the shore apart from some delightful youngsters with their parent.

Great Ringed Plover
Juvenile Pied Wagtail - looks like a White Wagtail with its grey back.

Shelduck, all the broods seen were two or three ducklings only.
Common Terns were pair feeding on the ruined jetty near the hide, one even offering a sand eel to a startled Black-headed Gull.

Scanning the pools from the hide was cut short by Pam having an urgent need - cover is not great nor obvious on the Wash! Just as I found a Greenshank, which she then missed. Hundreds of Gulls, Cormorants, Greylag and numerous Avocets on the pool islands. about 90 Black-tailed Godwits roosting in front of the far hide. The heat shimmer made accurately identifying the small waders impossible.
Horned Poppies adorned the shore and Vipers Bugloss the bank amongst the bushes.

Broadwater Hide and the drive out and back added only a Kestrel, Black-headed Gulls rule the world. Ooooh... I've just remembered - how could I forget ? A big Little Egret (!) roosting on the far island,  its beak in its back feathers, was startled into exposure. A Spoonbill.

Corn Bunting at Chosely, Little Tern at Brancaster Staithe, a Green Woodpecker near Burnham Norton and a Marsh Harrier at Cley. Several Great Crested Grebes and another Grey Wagtail at Gunton before arriving home to watch the men's final at Wimbledon. We wanted Nadal to win but he was well beaten by Djocovic. I also saw the first set of the Broady match in the boys' final which he lost - after winning the first set!

Totting up later, we saw 79 species, very respectable on a day without Titchwell where we would/could have added up to ten more.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Some July Moths

Saturday July 2
We have yet to do our monthly birding big day, it may well have to wait until the middle of next week. We've got Red Kite on the month list and, a Norfolk Buzzard calling above the garden.

Yesterday was warm and the night partially cloudy, good moth-ing conditions. We had one new one for the garden amongst the dozens caught. I had a beautiful, pristine male Swallowtail Moth fly in this afternoon. My futile attempts to catch it were video worthy I'm sure!! Pam caught a glimpse of our first ever Broad-bordered Hummingbird Moth flitting along the wall bed yesterday - I missed it and she didn't see it well enough.
Three Hawk-moths. We trapped our first Lime Hawk-moth last month but it had somehow escaped the trap by morning. Next time, it will be potted immediately!
Poplar Hawk-moth

Elephant Hawk-moth

Privet Hawk-moth

Buff Arches

Lesser Cream Wave - the new one for the garden

This Field Grasshopper was on the outside plastic of the Sun Lounge. I don't know what the red insect is........