Monday, 26 December 2011

Eureka Moment

Christmas Eve
Having printed off our updated year lists for 2012, I decided to do a tick count. 500 for me. Never thought I'd make it and it sneaked up on me. Western Sand. was the magic number bird. Pam still one short, what will always be known as Duncan Mc'Donald's bedroom bird. Queue outside Rose's Pightle, money in a bucket, shoes off at the door and upstairs to the main bedroom to see a Chestnut Bunting. Pam refused and returned to the car. Also memorable for the handsome bare torso'd young man framed on the wall - unexplicably carrying a tyre in his left hand.....

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Short trip

Saturday Dec 24
For the first time in at least two weeks, we both slept well and woke late. No patter of feet and gnawing from the roof space above and yowls from a hungry cat.
Much too late to venture far, we did the Winterton run. About 150 Golden Plover took off from a field beyond our church, flying off overhead, lovely.
A large flock of Pinkfeet was feeding on the harvested beet field on the Happisburgh road, nowhere safe to stop, we had to drive on.
No Marsh Harriers at Horsey, even better, a Rough-legged Buzzard wheeled over a field, did a short hover and disappeared.
Many cars on the approach road to Winterton, luckily the Coastguard had opened the car park again. Pam lobbed a £ coin towards the bucket...and missed ! She had to get out and scrabble for it amongst the gravel. Waste of money too. One Red-throated Diver, a Cormorant and a Herring Gull over a calm sea, we didn't stay long.
Fancy not buying any mandarins for to-morrow's stockings. We stopped at Cooke's which is very upmarket these days, a far call from the draughty old barn of previous years. Banana Curd sounded interesting.
Home to prepare the turkey and veggies for to-morrow, less to do in the morning.
I love Les Dawson, he always makes me laugh, two great programmes in his memory to-night.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Birds and Shopping

Tuesday December 20
The title sounds like an idea for a birding tour company....... They already have Birds and Cricket and Birds and Photography.
Such a lovely day after the recent wet gloom. We started at Sculthorpe Reserve, walking to the Woodland Hide first (turn left at the first junction). They've really developed the Education area, fenced it in using rough poles and explained the programme of events for a local Primary. There must have been a dozen mammal traps in a very small area just before the hide. They must have to check them at least once a day, nice job for someone. The hide door was wide open, a volunteer was filling the feeders from a sack stored in the corner. This might have explained the paucity of birds. We didn't stay long, it was cold.
The walk to Whitley Hide was more productive. A mixed flock of Siskin and Goldfinches high in the Alders, two Willow Tits and a Marsh Tit. All three were calling, making identification positive. They looked lovely too.
Much work still going on the other side of the river, brush felling, chewing and spewing - a very noisy piece of machinery. Fresh wood-smoke plumed into the pale blue winter sky.
Us and an assistant warden in Whitley Hide, we could choose our seats. A male Bullfinch was the highlight here, a distant Sparrowhawk perched on the Scrape Hide. no sign of the Water Rail to-day.
Pam noticed a cage with movement as we returned through the Centre. A minute milk chocolate coloured Harvest Mouse had emerged from its haystack cover to feed. Apparently the two became seven this morning, no sign of the babies yet.
After a welcome cup of hot chocolate from the machine, we drove to Swaffham and a Waitrose superstore, Christmas treat ! So much better than the one at Cringleford in our opinion - we went there last Christmas. We bought a splendid looking free range bronze turkey as well as a few other treats, Diet? What diet.......

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


Tuesday December 13
We called in to George Fox Road on the way to Global this time. Second time lucky. 24 Waxwings perched high in the top of a birch tree. I managed a few photos using my Canon Powershot SX 220 'point and shoot' which lives in my handbag, before they flew off.
Justin Lansdell was around the corner. It was his 7th visit and he'd seen them, at last, before they departed. They don't seem to feed here but regularly perch/rest  in the same tall birch.


We had a trip out to Waxham and Winterton yesterday morning as it was sunny and beautiful. very few birds about en route. The usual flock of Lapwings and Golden Plover and a single Marsh Harrier. The sea was pretty calm considering the wind we had on Sunday. We parked in the car park which you can still do for a donation (bucket!) if the coastguard has opened up. Sparse but regular Red-throated Divers, a few Guillemots, three passing Gannets, 5 Scoter and at least 50 Cormorants. The latter had found a shoal of fish close inshore and feeding avidly. One more Marsh Harrier on the way back, an adult this time.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Chance Birding.....

Sunday December 4
George Fox Road is near the UEA village and on our route home from Global (knee scan). No sign of the reported Waxwings. We met the lad who phones the news in and he said they'd flown away about 10, they're often not there. The page reported them again at mid-day and in the afternoon, have to be lucky I guess.
Salhouse Nursery didn't have the new Daphne I'd heard about on the radio yesterday, so that was a cheap trip.
Next was a scan through 2,000 Pinks south of and off the main road to Walcott. My heart sinks....As always, the field was undulating and many of the birds at the back and  a good number lying down. I made myself use the scope through my window and found at least two of the Tundra Bean Geese present. Whitefronts and a single Barnacle should have been much easier, no sign of either.
Probably a dozen Red-throated Divers flying off Walcott and a few Gannets. Plenty of Gulls and a scattering of Turnstones scavenging for titbits along the sea wall.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Waw - and Excellent Views Too

Thursday December 1
Setting off at 6.45 on a very dark overcast morning meant no birds at all seen until well past Holt - Black-headed Gulls !
As we drove west, the weather improved so that Abbey Farm was bathed in cold sunshine. We'd had to back all the way from the horse stable end until the first cottage of the back road to Flitcham. A lorry driver decided he was bigger than us. Then we met more lorries moving sugar beet. The lane to Abbey was like a ploughed field. We did see a Buzzard along there but nothing of note at Abbey itself. Still no water and the hide door had been left wide open, midges aplenty.
An inrushing tide at Snettisham with avidly feeding waders of the expected species, no surprises to-day. Always a pleasure.
Our journey along the north coast was rather faster than usual due to a pager message received at Hunstanton. Viwing from Hunston cliffs added Red-breasted Merganser, Eider, Fulmar, Great Crested Grebe and a Guillemot. It was surprising not to see Gannets after yesterday's wind.
Holme NOA Hide was a waste of time - I was getting anxious to get to Cley.
A hastily eaten breakfast (me, at 11.30) at a full of water Brancaster Staithe, where I photographed Ringed Plovers before hastening along the coast.

At 12.20, we threw the car into a grass verge/field gateway at Cley 'triangle' - the parking area was full -and walked as fast as we could (still slow) out to Daukes. A returning birder told us it had flown off, inner groans. Daukes was fullish but not jammed, most birders standing looking through tripods, which always takes up more space. After seeing a small group of waders fly off out of view, it included THE bird, I manoevered a space for mine and the bird soon re-appeared towards the back of the central island. Our first WESTERN SANDPIPER. I missed the one on the south coast about seven years ago when I was sent back in to hospital with open knee wounds, also missing the Courser on Scilly that year. It still rankles.

Western Sandpiper - not my photograph
During the next half an hour, I had excellent scope views of a lovely juvenile bird, it looked freshly minted. Smaller than a Dunlin, its beak was half the length of a Dunlin's and slightly down turned at the end if seen in profile. It flew ever nearer, the camera shutters were on rapid fire, I wish I'd taken mine. Knowing how distant the birds usually are at Cley I'd decided it was a waste. I should always take one.
The bird has been present all week, originally identified as a Semi-palmated Sandpiper. Still a nice bird but Semi-p not a lifer for us, nor even a Norfolk tick. I'm pleased that it was re-identified. After a chat with Richard Porter we sat in the hide facing Pat's, admiring a large flock of Golden Plover, two pairs of Pintail, a single Ruff and 14 Avocets. In the excitement I forgot to look for the Green-winged Teal on Pat's Pool.
No sign of any Snow Buntings at Salthouse. Brenda drove up for a coffee from the van, we had a quick chat with her before driving up Station Road in Weybourne. Steve Gantlett was parked in the only gateway overlooking the geese field and generously moved to allow us in. I soon found two White-fronts and then.......the whole flock of Pinks flew off, including the Tundra Beans we were after. Another day.
A lovely day enhanced by the icing on the top. We saw 82 species in total, despite the haste, including a Common and a Rough-legged Buzzard, Bullfinch, three different thrushes, a Sparrowhawk and both Partridges.
Home at 3.05.