Tuesday, 30 August 2011

£5 for a Wryneck

Tuesday August 30
Birding at last. We didn't leave until mid-day though, a slow morning after a hectic couple of days.
Wells footie club had opened up part of their field as a temporary car park, which saved us walking from the Beach Road car park. It still cost us £5  for an all day ticket despite trying to persuade the attendant that we'd be no more than an hour. I'm not a cheapskate but it seemed rather exorbitant.
The Wryneck was at the south west end of the pitch where we could see a small group of birders on top of a steepish grassy bank. I staggered up, looked through Judy Geeson's scope - she beckoned us across - and joined the group in lying down on the slope looking over the top, Well, I did, Pam saw the bird and climbed back down. The bird was feeding this side of a wire fence, close in to the verge. I attempted some photos but it was rather distant for my 400 lens.
The least bad enlargement !
Lovely birds, looked great through my bins, the lilac back stripes very obvious. After about ten minutes, it slipped under the fence and disappeared into the jungle beyond.
Pat's Pool, Cley was the next stop. We walked out to the eastern hide with the best view of the pool. Virtually all the waders were on the far side of the pool. 141 Curlew Sandpipers were reported yesterday and it looked as though they were still here to-day, some adults amongst them. Our target was Little Stint and one appeared on the nearside of the scrape but still distant for such a small bird.

Another 'least bad'
A single Common Sandpiper, a few Ruff and Dunlin amongst the hordes of Greylag, Canadas and eclipse ducks.
A lovely Meadow Pipit passed through on the grass verge in front of the hide and, a male Yellow Wagtail briefly tripped through.

It was rather cold in the hide, warmer outside as we set off for Walsey Hills. We haven't visited since the new and very impressive wooden steps leading up to the viewpoint over the feeders and Snipe's Marsh were constructed. We sat for a while, whilst common birds came in to feed. No sign of the Red-backed Shrike.
Some birders appeared from the flight leading  down into the trees, having just seen it 'round the back'. Off we went, finding that the path through the trees no longer leads to the bottom track. After a few false routes, we climbed the bank through a gap in the hedge into the field at the back. Hm, two birders who showed us where it HAD been !
Back around the field to the very end this time, didn't fancy the scramble down the bank again. It sometimes hangs about at the opposite, western, side of Snipe's Marsh. Pam made her way through some nettles, calling that she thought she might have got it. I followed through to find no sign of any bird at all. Back on the lower path to find two birders scoping from up above. Another steps-climb to the viewing platform and the bird at last, scope views of it, rather obscured, in a very large area of Blackthorn scrub. It soon showed better, perching on a bare bramble. Success with all three target birds, very satisfying.
I'd fantasized it feeding from the steps' handrail as reported previously...........what a photo opportunity that would have been.

8 (EIGHT) - 2

Sunday August 20
What a day.
We left home at 8.00 a.m. and signed in to Manchester Airport Travelodge soon after noon. The taxi was booked for 2.00 and it was dead on time. The driver, Billy, was a died in the wool Man City supporter and had the radio commentary for their match against Spurs playing loudly. His yell when Dzeko scored their first goal was ear-splitting. He was great fun though.
We were dropped off very near the closed off Matt Busby Way and made our way to Old Trafford, scarves dangling around our necks, past the stalls selling all things Man U and a few Arsenal too. The usual cosmopolitan throng, most wearing shirts with players old and new printed on the back. Many eating Hot Dogs, Burgers and chips.

Making our way to the gate for the NE sector, an older steward suggested that we take the lift to the second level (white hair and stick again!), inspected and tagged our bags and led us to the lift which was in the hospitality sector and he had to ask permission from the guards.
I was determined to have a true footie experience this time and bought a piping hot peppered steak pie on the way up from the lift. It was delicious. As good as the excellent one I had in Aus on the way to Moolloolaba.
Row 37 was a long way up with enough steps for me, our seats in the middle of a row so no-one bothered us to make their way along.
In the hour and a quarter wait for kick-off, we were entertained by intermittent pitch sprinkling, which sometimes took the men carrying out and unrolling the pitch logos by surprise.
Then De Gea was put through his paces by Alex Stepney, the goal-keeping coach before the Man U team and the subs came out to do their warm up routine in a very organised manner.

 Rooney did everything faster and with more energy than anyone else - and no-one was shirking.

 Arsenal appeared, to do theirs right in front of us and, they looked a shambles in comparison - as the ensuing match proved. The captain, Van Persie seemed distant from the team and spent much time playing keepie uppie on his own.

Ready for kick-off, mascots still on the pitch
The two hours of the match sped by, joining in the chanting and singing (Stand up for United/ Knick Knack Paddy Whack/ We love United we Do and the brainless 'Who Are You?' and 'You'll be Sacked in the Morning' - aimed at an increasingly forlorn looking Wenger), leaping to one's feet to see the goals. Thus I managed to see every goal and the penalty save (Pam sat down for that).

Getting ready for our penalty - Rooney and Young involved, Giggs looking on. referee - Howard Webb - too soft on Arshavin, he should have got a second yellow for his leg smash on Jones.
Brilliant, what a thumping. Eight goals for us, a Rooney hat-trick and two for Ashley Young, who would have believed it. The two for Arsenal were not acceptable !
The 3,000 Arsenal supporters encouraged their side throughout, to no avail but, good for them.
Having loitered until the crowd had largely dispersed, we made our way out and to the lift again, and stayed outside the stadium enjoying the crowds, the beautiful police horses and reading the floor tiles engraved with past players' and supporters names. When it was nearly time for Billy to pick us up again, we strolled back, enjoying a Burger (Pam) and Hot Dog (me) for supper from a roadside stall. Again, very good and another post footie experience.  Virtually all my roll went in the bin, far too big.
The emptying of the stadium took no more than ten minutes, 74,000 people. Phenomenal.
Billy was cockahoop too. Man City won 5-1
Earlyish to bed after watching the goals on M of the D.  On our way home soon after 6 a.m. on Bank Holiday Monday, we were awake so why not...Back in Ridlington at 10.45. after a very good journey.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Giant Caterpillar

Tuesday August 23

Whilst gardening yesterday, Pam found an Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar feasting on one of our newly planted flowers - not many leaves left!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Rutland Bird Fair

Friday August 19
We tend to opt for a visit when we want to buy something e.g. birding clothes or to look at new products. Nowhere else can one find so much variety and choice in one place. It's often the chosen place to float new gear and prices are frequently both competitive and have 'money off for the Bird Fair'. We bought new waterproof coats two years ago, this year I wanted to look at scopes and cameras.
We left home at 6 a.m. and arrived in the 'red' area parking field at 8.45, first ambition fulfilled, it's the nearest one to the massive Fair but still a few hundred yards walk.
Seduced by the Canon camera display, we inspected all before diverting to a nearby stall for a coffee and a bacon bap. here we had a chat with Sue who was making for the Panama stand, her next destination.
Then, directly to the scope and bins viewing marquee set up looking over Rutland water, one side of the marquee open and most of  the top scopes on the market, in all their variety and size,  set up on a raised dais. What fun.... We even passed by the BTO stand where a newly trapped  Nightingale was being ringed.
My old favourite 84 Zeiss was the first tested. The zoom as good as ever but not able to focus down to the reed mace in front of the platform.
The Leica 82 was awesome in its visual clarity and definition, easily focusing down to the reed mace and to a house so distant I could hardly see it with the naked eye. Will I ever be able to afford one?
After trawling three huge marquees looking at holiday destinations, picking up brochures and free gifts en route, I bought Stuart Winter's latest book. He was doing a book signing in front of the Wildsounds stand. What a charming man.
Time for lunch. I dragged an empty plastic table into the shade and looked after our gear whilst Pam did a chair recce, coming back with the necessary two . Another older lady thought this was a good idea, found an empty table and set it up next to us, we then looked after her bags whilst she had to find 4 chairs. It took her a while. There really aren't enough sitting places for the vast crowd present. It was very hot by now too, the marquees get stifling. We'd had enough by lunchtime, not being interested in queuing for the talks and quizzes etc. We were once......
Harrisons have their bird food pantechnicon parked on the way out, we were able to stock up with bags of mixed feed cheaper than we pay for the identical amount in North Walsham as it's direct from the supplier. He also included some 'free' feeders and then lobbed 4 small bags of mealworms through the window into my lap.
Home before 5 having thoroughly enjoyed a lovely day.
Even better. I applied online for some Man U/ Arsenal footie tickets about a month ago, only available for members. It's pot luck as to whether one is successful. A few days ago I heard that we'd been lucky and booked the Travelodge. The whole package much much cheaper than the Hotel + tickets deal we had last time. We got home to find my very impressive membership pack for this season (Pam had already received hers) and the two tickets for the match next weekend. Excellent.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Couldn't Sleep.....

Monday August 15

NooNoo our black and white cat (named after the vacuum in TeleTubbies), is obviously feeling better after 3 weeks suffering an eyelid infection. He woke us before 5 a.m., triumphantly celebrating a capture. He uses under the table at the foot of the stairs as his trophy stash. He then played with a small mammal, making further noises, until I was wide awake.
After reading, and failing to get back to sleep, we drove to Horsey and Winterton on a beautiful, cloudless morning.
Two pristine looking young Lesser Whitethroats flitted along the hedge on the dunes road to Sea Palling, Swallows gathering in large family groups on overhead wires.
First stop was the raptor watching layby past Horsey Mill - which had a Cormorant on top of one sail. Immediately, we heard the bugling of Cranes from fairly close by. A pair was in the far field to the west of the road, the male occasionally stretching his neck, calling, and then feeding again. Lovely.
The sea at Winterton was dead calm, birdless apart from an occasional and distant Tern. This combined with the blinding reflection off the water meant that our stay was short.
Our first Red-legged Partridge of the month on the return journey - the Cormorant was still atop the sail - and home for an early breakfast.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Guess Where?

Friday August 5
Yes, Snettisham again.
High tide was mid morning, so we didn't leave until after 8.00. Parking at the Rotary Hide, we walked towards the Shore Hide, comparatively very few waders on the shoreline to-day. Seeing a group of about 30 birders, including Sue Bryan,  scanning the bay beyond the hide, we joined them, standing next to Baz. The White-rumped Sandpiper was showing well (in the scope) the other side of the bay, along with Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Turnstones. As the tide came in and wet its feet, it stopped sleeping long enough to hop onto slightly higher ground, before roosting again. We watched it for at least ten minutes. An adult bird moulting into breeding plumage, retaining a vestige of russet brown on the wings, its supercilium not as obvious as the pics show. I took some photos but am too embarrassed to post them here! Must be bad !! Distance does not lend enchantment to viewing a bird. The white rump is obvious in the one I took of it flying off.....
As the tide lapped even further, all the immediate birds took off, the White-rumped stayed a little longer and then followed suit, allowing a view of the white rump as it flew left towards the pits.
We followed suit, joining a very few others in the Shore Hide. The White-rumped was already on the island to the left, along with terns, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwits. Not as many as on Wednesday but more than enough to make viewing difficult. The bird kept roosting out of view, being startled by a Kestrel, lost in the swirling maelstrom, re-found and then lost again. Eventually it appeared on the near shore when a host of birders arrived to excitedly crowd the hide - it had come through on the pager. We felt it was time to leave and give others the opportunity to view.
We met JP steaming past (limping), energy to spare to-day, he'd already got a permit. It was a timely encounter for him, he thought that the Rotary was the Shore Hide.
Our first returning Sanderling scurried along the shore near the pier, lovely to see them again, in winter plumage too.
After a chat with Betty and Pauline, we drove straight home so that grass could be cut and tomatoes gathered. Should open a stall I think. Will have to make some juice for freezing.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Birthday Treat

Wednesday August 3
Terry Wogan is 73 to-day too........
7.5m high tide at Snettisham, straight there after opening cards and presents, arriving just before 10. Amazing, there were nine cars, a motorbike, 3 bicycles and hordes of people there before us. Still many Dunlin in groups along the shore but, fewer than there were on Monday.
We walked to the second hide - known as the Shore Hide - after meeting Dave Hawkins who'd seen the White-rumped Sand from there an hour earlier. To our astonishment, there were only four people in the hide so we could sit with a view. Looking right was hopeless, into the sun and a terrific heat haze on a very warm and cloudless morning. Lovely - except for viewing!
The Sandpiper could well have been on the tenement island to the left.....heaving with Oystercatchers on the near edge, 145 Little Terns, Common and Sandwich in the middle and a grey and brick-red carpet of Knot at the back. I've never seen as many Little Terns anywhere. The warden said it was a record for Snettisham.
As the tide dropped, masses of Black-tailed Godwit rose from the right and flew past us onto the shore.

Impossible to do it all justice with my camera, the images remain in my brain. We'd both happily visit this reserve several times a week at this time of year - it can be perishing in the winter.
 On the trek back to the car - thank goodness we don't have to walk to the car park - we stopped to talk to JP, another man from Club and, someone who was pushing a Swedish made Veloped. The latter is a trolley type pusher, two close wheels at the front and two at the back, a bag for equipment and a comfy looking seat which can be folded down. Looked just the job
Expensive though.....
JP was really puffing having carried his photo equipment from the car park. He asked if he could borrow our Disabled badge! After putting him right - we have an RSPB permit to drive -we all studied the massed Dunlin around the pier (grand name for  rotting pieces of wood), for anything different before leaving him for the comfort of the car.
Summer Turnstone are absolutely stunning, this one has started moulting.  I couldn't - didn't try 'cos of disturbance - get close. This pic was taken from the car and greatly enlarged.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

August Odyssey

Monday August 1 (written on the 2nd, too pleasantly weary...)
But I did edit the photos when I got in on the 1st.
Not the earliest of starts, we left at 5.45 a.m. on a lovely sunny morning. A common Buzzard was warming up perched on a roadside tree, a couple of hundred yards from the house.
The journey to our first stop, Harpley and Sculthorpe Mill, was unremarkable, common birds ticking along nicely. The lane to Sculthorpe was birdless but a Spot Fly graced a fence post in the car park. Having picked up Tree Sparrow, we made for Abbey Farm Hide.
As we turned into the path to the car park, a delightful family of two adult Grey Partridges and seven well grown young, scurried along in front of us. Not a good viewing spot on a sunny morning, looking directly into the sun. Not many birds either, apart from two Turtle Doves perched on wires and the usual motley collection of ducks and geese. A Kingfisher was in the book for even earlier that morning.....No Little Owls to-day.
A 7.1 tide at Snettisham meant that even an hour before high tide, the Wash was full. It gave us a new experience yet again. The shore was full of thousands of Dunlin, spread in large flocks wherever there was shingle exposed.
A few Turnstone and Ringed Plover amongst the first groups.
Down the concrete ramp to view the hide pits where there were unbelievable numbers of birds. Tens of thousands of Dunlin, Knot, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits and both Common and Sandwich Terns. Every island and edge tightly massed, no room to move. Waw. Couldn't distinguish individual birds, especially in the distant groups.
On the return journey on a receding tide, I was able to photograph some of the Dunlin.

An occasional,and unknown, alarm sent the flocks skittering into the air only to land again in the same place.

Worn adult Sanderling (thanks James)
An hour in the Broadwater NOA Hide at Holme was rich in Raptors - they take some working for though. We saw Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Marsh and Montagu's Harriers and Kestrel, including at least two young of the latter. A Greenshank slept on one leg, beak under wing, throughout our stay. A single Spoonbill glided in and fed avidly for the last ten minutes.
Our first Grey Plover for a couple of months, resplendent in full summer plumage, was the only wader at Thornham.
Nothing at Choseley.....explained by the nearby corn harvesting with full trailers arriving regularly in the yards.
After a difficult entry - a procession of cars and boat trailers leaving and parked cars on the left - we found ourselves alone on the Mound at Brancaster Staithe. Shame we didn't add any birds !
As we left, my pager bleeped. There was a White-rumped Sandpiper at the far end of  the pit at Snettisham whilst we were there !! It would have flown by now as the tide receded, we didn't go back for it.
It seemed like a good idea to sit on the beach at Cley Coastguards in case anything flew by, we were a bit short of species. Fortunately muy suggestion was successful, sea-watching is not Pam's favourite occupation but I think she's gradually warming to it.
After an hour enjoying the warm sun, a balmy breeze making it very acceptable, we'd added: a Guillemot, two Arctic Terns, Gannets and Little Terns. Excellent.
What would be at Daukes to-day?
No sign of Water Vole from the bridge.....
Daukes held three very garrulous men, only mitigated by their obvious love of birds. All visitors to the area, the photographer was the self appointed 'expert',he hardly drew breath. The one next to Pam was a total beginner but he was lovely, asking her for help with ID in a very pleasant way. Despite their intrusive presence, the birding was good enough to ensure we stayed (me anyway, Pam was further away and helping her neighbour). Nine Spoonbills slept throughout the hour we stayed, two Green Sandpipers made intermittent visits - as did a single Common Sandpiper - a juvenile Little Gull floated through and eventually three Spot Reds turned up. Even more Ruff than on Sunday and a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls again. A young Marsh Harrier spooked the waders and a flock of 30 Dunlin flew in. Small potatoes after Snettisham!  Scoping the flock produced a single, red, adult Curlew Sandpiper.
Pat's Pool was much fuller than on Sunday and we met Bernard directing the long loader containing the diggers etc, leaving the marsh.
We missed some very usual birds to-day including Egyptian Goose, ending with a total of 86 species. A visit to Gunton would have added GC Grebe, the Egyptian and Tufted Duck at least but it was time for home and to watch the post tea-time session of the Test Match. India anhilated again with a day to spare.

This and that

Sunday July 31
We fancied a ride out and decided on Cley Marsh. Always hopeful, I paused on the bridge to see a ball of dark fluff in the middle of the duckweed covered dyke. The Water Vole immediately swam into the side vegetation. Although Pam was behind me, she failed to see it, much to her chagrin.
Pam spotted a Common Lizard on the edge of the boardwalk, body flattened to make full use of the newly emerged morning sun. I had to retreat a fair distance because I only had my 400 mm lens  which only focuses down to about 20  feet.

Daukes was half full when we arrived, soon leaving Pam and I and, a man we know well by sight, to occupy the western corner which has the best view of the pool. Pat's is very slowly filling but only occupied by a scattering of Lapwing as yet. They seem to have finished the excavation work.
The flock of Spoonbill, spooked by a plane, had flown to North Scrape as we left the car, 16 we were told !
A Green Sandpiper, 4 juvenile Spot Shanks, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls and a Reed Warbler were the highlights of a very pleasant hour.