Tuesday, 28 February 2012

In Search of a Glossy

Tuesday February 28th
After spending the morning completing the last of the articles for the Autumn Great Yarmouth Bird Club newsletter - all 25 pages of it - I needed a break. Keith's Bird Notes will wait until to-morrow and the following days. I need to get it to Dave for printing a.s.a.p next week.
Halvergate Marshes are extensive and not easy to view. The best vantage point is the bridge on a busy road with nowhere safe to stand. We started off in a layby nearby and then moved on to Stone Road, a turning to the left near the farm at the end. This road ends in an extensive parking/turning area, further car access is denied. Baz and a few others were already there, they hadn't seen anything. We'd heard at club last night (very good talk and lovely photos on Alaskan bird and animal life by Guy Kirwan) that the birds have been very difficult to see. They feed in the ditches and one has to wait for one to fly.
We spent about an hour after the others had dispersed, a couple to walk a footpath and the other two cars drove off, scanning in all directions. One of the walkers returned to say that he'd seen a Glossy Ibis in flight for a short while when the gulls and lapwings were spooked by a male Marsh Harrier. I was watching the Harrier.......
We returned to the bridge area where all the small parking places - field entrances - were already taken. Immediately we stopped, Pam saw a single Glossy Ibis rise and fly towards a windmill - near where we'd just left! I managed to get views through the back window behind Pam's head. I then realised that I'd seen one earlier and dismissed it as a Cormorant. What a good birder. My excuse is that it was very distant.
Baz and three other birders were on the bridge. As we drove past, they informed us that the bird was in the scope but.....out of sight in a ditch. Jokers.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Groyne Search

Thursday February 23
Too lovely a day to have wasted by waking up late after a short night!
Walking along Sheringham sea front in February with my coat open is a new experience. Searching the rocky groynes from the esplanade didn't bring anything apart from Turnstones. We walked down the steps and east along the path, scrutinising each stretch of rocks. I thought I'd struck lucky at the second one but only had a glimpse. Then, for no apparent reason, a much larger flock of Turnstones than was visible, rose and flew to the next groyne, a 'different' bird amongst them. Some patient watching and a single Purple Sandpiper rose into view before dropping into a crevice again. We had several short views before returning to the car.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Chinese Royalty

Tuesday February 21
Yesterday, the  photo of the Two-barred Crossbill at Lyndford appeared on BirdGuides as promised - looks good to me.
Pakistan were batting first in the 4th ODI , time to have an outing,  the annual walk through the woods to Felbrigg Lake - we use the back path to the lake, part of Weaver's Way. The path was almost totally dry, it can be very boggy and wet in parts, necessitating several detours into the woods. Coal, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits as expected, no calling Nuthatches to-day. A pair of Treecreepers chased from tree to tree, delightful birds.
The footpath through the wooded side of the lake had a big 'Closed' sign on it... we carried on regardless, most unlike Pam. We guess that the path was closed to through walkers, there was the sound of heavy machinery from that corner.
The usual search through the fringe thicket of branches and tree roots, changing position. I saw a female perched 6 feet off the ground and then Pam, from a different angle, spied the splendid drake Mandarin Duck amongst the roots.
Time to try the Powershot to the scope lens........

Now I could relax and take some general photographs.

Across the lake, Felbrigg Hall in the distance.

There were 29 swans viewable, 28 of them Mutes, the most we've ever seen here, one of them a distant Whooper. Digiscoping time.... Siskin called nearby.

 It's an old wood with many aged trees and fallen logs, rich ground for fungi.

Bracket Fungus sp

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Paddocks and Treetop Gazing

Sunday February 19
Concerned that roads would be slippery after overnight frost and a -C temperature, we didn't leave until 9.00. The first news we heard on arrival at the Paddocks at Lynford Arboretum was that there were 20+ Hawfinches in the central tree at 8.20!! It was now 10.25........
Two hours later we'd:
Scanned from the usual seat, walked the entire perimeter and, had seen none. Well, I saw one fly into a tree above the path before Pam had finished getting herself dressed but, not satisfactory really.
It was a beautiful day, blue sky and very little wind, the latter was biting in the occasional gust. We met several people we knew, including two ex students of mine. All very pleasant.
Someone had spread food on top of a pillar on the first bridge, we lingered to watch Nuthatch and a pair of Marsh Tits come down to feed. The Robin chased everything off apart from the Nuthatch, which gave it a taste of its own medicine. Siskins constantly called as they flitted restlessly about and there were a lot of Crossbill calls. Two Redwing in the top of THE tree, raised the heart rate briefly.....
Time to move on to the disabled car park area to look for the Crossbill nest. I'd left my pager in the car, it tinkled and I read an old message 'Two-Barred Crossbill at Lyndford Arboretum'. Where? It's a big area. Shrug, ah well, we'll go for Crossbill before St Helens.
The car parking entry drive was crowded, about 30 birders coming and going including the finder of the 2 barred. The latter is a member of Berks (accidentally derogatory, honest) Bird Club, up for the day.He was becoming more and more agitated at the questioning from others present, poor chap. There's no reason to disbelieve him, he'd seen a pair and they had been photographed. If sent the promised photo, he was going to put it on BirdGuides to-morrow. I hope he gets the pic and the doubters will be put to rights. A brief view of a male Crossbill flying from the nesting area and we left for St Helens.
It was very crowded, picnicking families and dogs, we drove as far as the church, where Pam lunched.
Back to the Paddocks, viewing from the car this time, scope through the window. Eventually, a single female Hawfinch flew across the area, landing out of sight. That would have to do for to-day.
Not exactly crippling views of the two target species, we'll try again. No-one else was seeing them well either.  Still thoroughly enjoyable, just being out birding.
Astonishing. 100 metres from our road, 3 male Goosanders flew south east. Where from and to?

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Why weren't we at Lyndford?

Thursday February 16
Because Pam had a physio appointment.........
Instead, a mid-day trip to Barton Broad. The board-walk woods only held Wren and Blue Tit on the way to the end platform, unusually quiet. Settling to scope the distant flock of birds, the water birds are always distant here, I scanned slowly through the churning mass of diving Tufted Ducks Pochard and Coot, The latter waiting to scavenge anything dropped.
Actual view, true size, from the platform. An excuse for later photos....?

Distant dots - the flock of birds

A few Great Crested Grebe slept, gently bobbing, around the fringes.
Imprisoned by my scope viewing, I failed to see the Bittern Pam saw flying across the far reed-bed - she was pointing at it !
On the return scope-sweep of the flock, a female Scaup bobbed up to the surface and, just as rapidly, dived again. Trying to get Pam onto the bird, without any visible landmarks to help, an additional pair of Scaup showed.
A female Smew flew in and then off again.
At least 30 Goldeneye kept to themselves much further left, associating with Cormorants, Gulls and the myriad  Coot always present on Barton.
Time to experiment with my Powershot manually held to the lens of my Swarovski 82 scope.......

Part of the main flock

I had no idea what I was taking, I just scanned the scope whilst clicking. Luckily, I caught a female Scaup.

A pair of photogenic Mute Swans glided majestically towards us, hoping for food, must bring some next time. Just the camera this time.

The display photo was taken through my scope again. Always reminds me of a Welsh poem from my childhood.

Dyna Alarch ar y llyn,  yn ei gwch o sidan gwyn.                       
There's a swan on the lake, in his boat of white satin.

That's all I remember, I must Google it - and the spelling too. Will edit if I find it......(It's correct)
The return walk was much more productive, a small flock of Siskin and at least 3 Redpoll  feeding on the Alders near the car park. Still no Cetti's Warbler heard nor seen, usually ever present here. Such a lovely day too. Temperature a pleasant mid teens, hardly any wind and welcome sunshine. Ideal for Lyndford and Hawfinch watching, it's often very cold there standing and waiting. Can't go to-morrow either and the cold weather is due to return this weekend, predicted to last until the end of the month. We'll see.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Good to be Out

Tuesday February 14

Pam fancied an afternoon cuppa at Cley Centre. We tried Salthouse Beach first, the usual Turnstones and Gulls feeding on the seed and oats spread by a local man, no Snow Buntings.... 
After a quick look at Cley Coastguards and its flock of Golden Plovers, it was cuppa time, water for me, looking out over the marsh. 8 Avocets and 2 Pintail to add th the month list, Pam also saw a male Marsh Harrier displaying to a female whilst I was elsewhere.
Another look at Salthouse. As we entered  the car park, the flock of c40 Snow Buntings flew in, landed at the far end and then back to the spread foodat the western end. Lovely views in very poor light, photos were terrible. I should have got out and tried stalking but would have disturbed them for the gathered admirers.
I did manage a few shots of the single Knot and Sanderling with a few Dunlin, also feeding on the grassy knoll.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Many Miles, Few Birds - but Excellent

Friday February 10
Not too early a start, after last night's forecast, we decided to check the weather and roads first. All good so off we went  to find Saddlebow near Kings Lynn. We've failed to find it in the past but now we have a street map !
The dry roads and remnant snow gradually changed west of Fakenham. There had obviously been fresh snow and low temperatures overnight. Maybe it was wiser to turn round. The hedgerows and trees looked wondrous, fringed with crystalline frosted snow. The side roads were icy, impacted snow, a return journey along the main road then......
We took the Wells turnoff and joined the coast road at Holkham, driving on to Wells Beach Road car park and Abraham's Bosom. Waw. A pool of water in the largely frozen northern end, held 7 drake and 4 female Goosander, the most we've seen together in Norfolk. We once found over 40 east of Inverness. A further 4 were at the other end of the pool. Wonderful scope views of very actively feeding birds, costantly diving and coming up with beaks full of what looked like weed. I took some photos with which I was not satisfied - into the light and not absolutely sharp.

Baz and to-day's driver joined us, pointing out the 5 Redhead Smew which were circling the pool before re-settling. 
The most amazing thing to-day was not seeing a single goose until the field past Salthouse where there were 2,000 Brent - scanning found nothing 'different'. A Woodcock flew up from the verge as we drove up the hill there. I'd read that the cold weather had brought an influx of them + Song Thrushes and Blackbirds. We've certainly seen a lot more Song Thrushes than usual but the normal winter population of 16 or so Blackbirds in the garden.
The Rough-leg is still around at home, I saw it perched in a tree near the North Walsham road yesterday, Pam had spotted it en route to Sainsbury's.

Saturday, 4 February 2012


Friday February 3
Written on Saturday the 4th - and my memory is fuzzy....birding after 4 hours of sleep didn't help concentration. I don't need much sleep, the last few days have seen less than usual.
Odd, the usual edge of anticipation for first of the month birding, was blunted by the previous two days' experiences. Still enjoyable, and we managed over 70 species, despite a scarcity of chance sightings and no walking in the icy wind. We hit the first snowfall at Hunstanton, it petered out by Thornham. I'd said before setting off that if we did see snow, it would be around the Wash. Not much anywhere, it varied from an icing sugar coating to a couple of centimetres on Hunstanton cliff car park.
A lone Buzzard 100 yards from home.
Abbey Farm as poor as expected now, frozen pools too. Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrows in the approach hedge.
Over a dozen Grey Partridges in a ploughed field the other side of Flitcham.
The sea so distant that it was barely visible through my scope! Five male Goldeneye on the pits, displaying to a lone female.
Choseley Barns
Our first Corn Bunting of the year and 20 Yellowhammers, mostly vivid males.
Gun Hill
My heart sank as I saw a tractor ploughing the stubble field. No problem. The extremely skittish and active flocks of Skylark and Lapland Buntings landed near enough to scope on the ground. I can tell the difference in flight but nothing beats a settled scope view.
Salthouse Beach Road
Two Whitefronts standing alone on the marsh to the east, attracted my intention. They looked different...On closer inspection, one had a pinkish beak, the other, orange. The belly stripes were heavier on the orange-beaked bird and the neck darker. As I called out what I saw, Pam was reading the Collins beside me and confirmed what I thought. One Greenland Whitefront and one European. I took some photographs, none of which pleased me - distant for my 400m lens.
I don't think the photographs are that conclusive...
If anyone disgrees with my ID, please let me know. The beak colour was much more obvious through my scope.

Greenland Anser flavirostris and European White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons
Greenland White-fronted Goose

European White-fronted Goose

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Historic Find - and Birds

28th September 2010

Thursday February 2
Dry roads, so the very cold night didn't affect driving conditions.
Strumpshaw RSPB
It didn't take long for a female Red-crested Pochard to appear from behind the island viewable from the Centre Hide. Excellent views of it actively diving amongst a horde of Gadwall, a single Tufted Duck, Shoveller and Mallard. A Water Rail flew across in front of us, into a fish refuge - we thought it was a pile of old branches. Well, it was... but an intentional one.
We lingered, hoping to see a Bittern but no luck this time.
Buckenham Marshes (again)
As we were so near, it seemed worth another look. Still no grey geese...at least 6 thousand Wigeon massed on the nearside of the marsh, taking off with a loud flurry of wings before re-locating.

As you can see, it was a dull day.
Maybe Ludham was worth another visit, it was on the way home. Yes, it was. A large group of wild Swans this time, Whoopers and Bewick's - all of which flew off north west within 10 minutes of our arrival. Looking at the swans, a Short-eared Owl made a fairly brief appearance before disappearing behind farm buildings. Long enough to enjoy its hunting technique. The two Cranes also flew through, must be their territory.
We decided to explore St Benet's Abbey Road on the way home. It was metalled until we passed through a gate onto sectioned concrete ending in a turning area in front of the ruins of the Abbey. Only the gateway is left of the original 9C building, a Mill was - later -  built within its walls.
The photo at the top, taken on a sunny summer day,  was taken from the web address below where there is also plenty of interesting information.

My photos were taken from a different angle in poor light.

Another and much nearer view of the hunting Short-eared Owl, probably the same one, quartering a dyke as we returned.
The final bird for the day was a Barn Owl landing on a gravestone in East Ruston Church (for review, I think it's called something else, even though it's in E Ruston parish) cemetery.
Four Snipe and a Redshank were added to the month list.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

An Afternoon's birding

Wednesday February 1
Coffee 'morning' finished late, we weren't home until gone 1 p.m. A change of clothes before leaving for Winterton via Walcott front. A very high tide, deeply troughed sea and......no birds apart from the usual gulls.
Such a lovely day again, blue sky and sun - but 3C without taking the wind chill into account. We picked up several flocks of Golden Plover numbering up to  500 +  and 3 Marsh Harriers. Last visit's Pinks flock has moved on.
Just as well that watching a heaving sea with white-topped, higgledy piggledy rollers gives me great pleasure, there weren't even any Cormorants at Winterton Beach. A lone Kittiwake hugging the shore was the bonus.
Buckenham Marshes
Plenty of Canada, Barnacle and two Brent Geese, more Golden Plover, masses of handsome Wigeon, at least 30 Shoveller and a scattering of Teal were the only wildfowl present. The others must have been out of sight the other side of the railway line or, across the river. An imperious Peregrine perched on a raised mound, distantly, in front of Cantley Beet Factory was a heart warmer. More Black-tailed Godwits than we've seen here before, at least 50, probably more. About 30 Ruff too. Difficult to count accurately when they're scattered across such a vast area.
A flock of 130 Linnets doing their skittish, restless flock swooping, landing and taking off again had us going for a while. Until they landed in a tree near us that is, it was educated guess before that.
It was tempting to call in at Strumpshaw for the Red-crested Pochard until we saw the full car parks. And ......we'd have to get out of the warm car. Call ourselves birders. After yesterday's penance, we took the soft option and drove home.
44 species seen.