Saturday, 26 November 2011

Another Sunny Day

Friday November 25
To make up for yesterday....
Not that early a start, no fog early morning though as we made our way west. Shortly before we got to Sculthorpe, a pager alert sent us slightly off route to Great Bircham, although we did go the 'pretty way'. As the instruction was 'east of Great Bircham' and too vague, I wouldn't have gone. Luckily, Pam thought differently.
We took the SE road out of Bircham for 2/3 miles. We were looking for somewhere to turn round, when I spotted geese in a ploughed field behind a high hedge. Having turned and found a reasonable window in the hedge, I scanned a very large flock of Pinks at the back of a deeply undulating field. No sign of the Snow Goose. I suggested another - and last - look. We turned, passed the field and turned again, stopping at the 'wrong' window - much smaller and lower. By this time, even more geese had flown in, there must have been at leasr three thousand. At last, a white blob feeding at the back of the flock, a Ross' Snow Goose. Still couldn't see it from the original viewing point, where we hoped for a clearer view, such is geese watching.
Hunstanton Cliffs were the next stop, the tide lower than we remember seeing. Fulmar briefly appeared above the edge and a lone female Eider in the distance, amongst the host of feeding gulls. A few Redthroats and Goldeneye.
The car park near the lighthouse produced nothing new but a better view of  half a dozen mixed plumage Eider.
All the usual stops along the coast as far as Wells with lunch at Brancaster Staithe, hoping for Twite. No luck.
We'd both had enough by mid afternoon , we turned inland at Wells and came straight home.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Not as Planned

Thursday November 22

We'd planned a full day out - until I got up with a numb hand and an exceedingly painful wrist/forearm. (legacy of the Aus injury) It didn't improve so we drove via the doctor's and got an appointment for 10.20. That scuppered the plans.
As I expected, probable RSI/ carpal tunnel syndrome/tendonitis, rest it, don't use the mouse, keep taking the tablets. Except that the Diclofenac was changed to Naproxen following recent official advice to the Health Service. Blooming old crock...
After the visit we drove to Friary Hills Blakeney and climbed tot he top of the hill (well, it is in Norfolk), sat on the bench and scoped the marsh. The cows were very distant, just a load of Wigeon, 2 Canada Geese and a lone Barnacle in view. After scanning thoroughly, I focused the scope on the cattle, more in hope than expectation. Hedges prevented viewing much of the pasture. After five minutes, an Egret rose into the air and flew high east before circling and landing so that I could see its orange legs. It spooked a Little Egret which looked slightly bigger and whiter in comparison. A few minutes later, it rose again and flew east, landing out of view.
Our first Cattle Egret of the year. Luckily, I managed to get Pam on to it! Not so lucky, the birder who arrived as we were leaving and left soon afterwards.
A long scan of the geese west of Salthouse duckpond failed to find either of the two reported Tundra Bean Geese amongst the Greylag. Again, they were quite distant with a restricted view, they could well have been there.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Golden Plover Count - Beaten

Tuesday November 15
What a lovely day to visit Titchwell, pre- arranged without a weather forecast too. Cloudless for most of the day. the sea, pools, reeds and birds shown off at their best. It was the coldest day since we came back from Australia though, zip up to the chin and gloves needed.
Not having done any real walking for three months or so, I took it easy on the walk out, one prolonged bench sit to view the Freshwater Marsh, which held more birds in number than I can remember in previous years.

Ray Kimber said that the warden reckoned there were in excess of 10,000 yesterday. The bulk of the birds was a huge flock of Golden Plover, covering two islamds and everywhere else I scanned.

Over 4,000, gleaming softly in the sunshine. Many Pintail, hundreds of Teal, fewer Mallard, Shoveller and Gadwall. The wonder is, apart from twenty four Brent Geese that flew in, there were no geese at all.
Trudging towards the sea, we met David (Geordie) and Ben the dog who'd walked to the Point and back, admiring the brightly coloured and confiding Desert Wheatear en route. It had re-located from the end of the boardwalk where it had been yesterday. Shame, I'd been hoping to see it, an extra 1 mile plus was too much. Baz and Barry were sea watching standing behind the bench with three others, the bench was empty. Great. Its legs and the platform were largely buried in the sand but I could still see over the wretched safety bar they erected last year.
Eventually, a male Long-tailed Duck, three Goldeneye, two close Guillemots, an even closer Red-throated Diver and a small flock of Common Scoter were added. A large number of Gannets were fishing actively far out to sea, Little Gulls and most of the waders were in the bay viewable this side of Brancaster Golf Clubhouse.
Birders returning from the Desert Wheatear looked rather leg weary.
Another sit on the way back, a chat with John and Judy Geeson who are off to Argentina on Friday for a 30 day birding trip. Similar to the one we did but omitting the Andes and including the south.
I was leg weary too when we arrived back at the car, in time for breakfast at 12.45 (!!) I couldn't wait to drink my sachet.
A few Yellowhammers at Choseley, before lovely Brancaster Staithe, where Pam ate her lunch.

We were home at 3.10 in good light, which soon faded.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Rather Rare These Days

Wednesday November 10
Ruby phoned early to say that she'd like Freda to come here first, she had a friend sorting her TV out. Freda arrived at 9.00 but work was delayed by social interaction (Pam having a good chat with her!).
We were late leaving for Happisburgh and the hedge opposite the cricket pitch. Many familiar faces were lined up on the field verge bank, peering at a right angle hedge. Richard the Hat told us where to look - at a dip in the hedge where  trees in the garden abutted it. Others were further up the road, the bird is on a circuit. Pauline and Betty had enjoyed my Australian Blog, Bob C was busy talking, Robin A had seen the bird four times since dawn this morning. Our hearts sank. Phew, after 20 minutes or so, peering through people's legs, I saw the Melodious Warbler in the cherry tree, from which it soon flew out of sight. A Norfolk tick. We were unable to walk to the Point for the last one - this is the first county bird to stay overnight. I can't stand for long these days, we left for Waxham.
Plenty of wildly careering Blackbirds (migrants newly arrived), and the odd Redwing in the church area, no sign of the reported Waxwings.
As we drove through Upper Sheringham, news of a Great Grey Shrike at Gibberts Lane (sic, it was Gibbet Lane) off the A149 Holt Road came through on the pager. A short back-track and we found the lane, which was very narrow, with high banks and lined with tall trees which met overhead. Not exactly good viewing - and we found nothing.
Cley Spy yard was the next stop. Pam asked in the shop and then mooched about until she found the male Black Redstart on top of a house roof, no sign of the female though.
Now a lovely sunny, early winter, afternoon, we walked out to Daukes Hide where the bulk of the occupants left as we arrived ! Good, plenty of room to sit and scan. Pat's and Simmonds held many birds of a few varieties. We sat and loved the warm, low golden light of mid afternoon, Cley's reed beds and scrapes looking their best.
First surprise was the arrival of a lone Avocet, it had a damaged leg which meant that it fed hopping, balance achieved by a wing flutter. Later,  it put the leg down and hobbled. Next was the arrival of a seemingly endless cloud of Golden Plover, which found it difficult to settle, over
2,000 in total, my largest flock ever. A Sparrowhawk zipped through, creating havoc, a Greenshank called and a lone Knot appeared. A lovely hour or so, reminiscent of Friday nights at Cley when we were working.
Home via Sainsbury for Pam's fruit and veg shopping.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

First of the Month on the 4th!

Friday Nov 4
We woke to a dark and damp morning which delayed our departure until 6.50. The weather worsened as we drove west, it was definitely a 'why are we doing this' morning. The rain becoming very heavy at times, enough to make us eat our breakfast sitting in the car at Abbey! Abbey was as bad as on Monday, apart from a family of Grey Partridges crossing the lane in front of us and a small flock of wildly careering Redwing diving into the hedgerows out of view, until one perched in the open for us to admire.
All the expected waders at Snettisham, I had one opportunity to use my scope out of the window without getting drenched. A large flock of finches swooping around the bushes held Chaffinches, greenfinches and Linnets but nothing more exciting.
Definitely a day for breakfast at Tesco in Hunstanton! Mine cost under £3 and Pam's just over £4 - she had an extra egg, hash brown and mushrooms. Incredibly good value and very nice too.
As we we were leaving Holme NOA, a female Hen Harrier showed briefly on three occasions above the dunes. Lovely, well spotted Pam.
At 11.45, it stopped raining and the sun came out for nearly three hours, wonderful. Scanning the west end of Holkham marsh from the layby, Pam asked me to check a blob in a distant tree - I was scanning the geese for something different. A soggy juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard. Let's hope it stays for the winter.
Last stop was Gunton in the hope of a Great Crested Grebe to make it a list of 70 for the day. No luck.
I'd had a very dozy afternoon, not managing to keep my eyes open very much at all ! It's all catching up with me I suppose.  After supper at Kate and Jim's, I was very late to bed too - and slept on and off until 10 a.m. Saturday morning. Unheard of!

Catch-up Time

Oct 31 and Nov 1
Sue had made an early date to go out as she's off to New Zealand for 5 weeks on Friday. Pam hadn't asked her to arrive until 9.00 and we had to be back home by 4 for her physio appointment at 5 in Norwich.....a short day for a long way!
Our Snettisham driving permit had run out, we needed to call in to the office in Snettisham Village en route for a renewal. First stop was Abbey Farm to see ..basically nothing. There wasn't any water either.
Armed with a new permit, we reached Snettisham reserve at half tide. Highlights were: Pintail, a female Red-breasted Merganser on the first pit and all the expected waders, including a large flock of Golden Plover.
Holme NOA to eat lunch, adding Shoveller, no sign of the Rough-legged Buzzard at Holkham nor the Cattle Egret at Friary Hills. We managed just over 50 species on a pretty dull day weatherwise - but it was good to be out birding again.
Nov 1
Busy cooking for to-morrow's coffee morning here, not too busy for a trip to Winterton in the afternoon.
A call at Cart Gap produced a Great Northern Diver flying east.
At Winterton, two Red-throated Divers on the sea and a flock of at least 8 Snow Bunting on the beach. They flew in and disappeared below the shingle bank, not to be seen again. At least four Shags fishing offshore too, always good to see in Norfolk.