Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Brecks

Monday March 26
Written on the 27th - too late in from a birding and then GYBC Bird Club some excellent photos of Menorcan birds and wildlife from Peter R.
We arrived at Weeting NWT before 9 a.m. and then escorted to the hide by The Major who is increasingly hard of hearing. He did have a Stone Curlew lined up for us... a head and shoulders (if you were tall enough) in the far right hand corner. Fortunately Pam then spotted one walking along the ridge near the shed at the back of the field. Excellent scope views considering the usual heat haze here. Surprising really as we had to clear frost off the car windows this morning and our lawns were white. It wasn't mist rising off the grass either.
The Majot then led me back to the car after asking me to look at a stretch of rotivated land in the area opposite the centre. A pair of 'our' Stone Curlews had nested there last year, on English Nature property - and the warden hadn't believed him when told that they were sitting on eggs. They hatched 4 and they all survived to migrate.
Pam was sat on the back of the car eating her breakfast by now. he then told us how lucky we'd been. In common with the Suffolk area, very few birds have returned and he'd only seeen 4 at Weeting, two still around.
We debated Olley's Farm but decided on Mayday. It's a nerve to signpost a Hide, it's a roughly woven willow fence with a few gaps in it where you stand and peer. A rougher version of the one at Tulloch Moor for Black Grouse viewing. I've never yet found one which has viewing slits at the right height for either Pam nor I.  It's tiptoe or crouch!
We heard two Woodlarks here, I saw a head on the ground. We both saw one later on, singing from the tree above our heads. How can they be so hard to see in a bare tree? Myriads of overlapping twigs and basically brown birds is why.
We trudged for a while, seeing a pair of Buzzards rise which caused a momentary surge of hope. We haven't seen Goshawks here for some time and part of the trail was closed off to-day. Tree cutting going on. We also had immensely loud aircraft noise from Mildenhall to contend with. Constantly taking off and landing, after burners roaring and crackling as they flew overhead. Most unpleasant.
A quick visit to St Helen's picnic ground, many small children and dogs, Nuthatch calling and drive home.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

A Quickie

Saturday March 24
Lunchtime is not the best birding time, couldn't resisrt the lovely day any longer. Barton Broad often has early terns, hirundine and Little Gulls. None of them for us to-day. The carr was ringing with ChiffChaff song and the end platform full of young people with cameras. They didn't stay long.
Plenty of handsome Great Crested Grebes, 4 Marsh Harriers soaring distantly, a lone female Goldeneye and the usual ducks and gulls.
As we left, a couple arrived for their second visit of the day. This morning they'd seen Otter, Little Gulls and 4 Cranes flew over ! Earlier next time..
I did manage to SEE the Cetti's who's loud song had echoed all round us. They sing and fly, we were always looking where they'd been.
Lovely fat yellow flowers on the Willows, glistening in the sunshine.

Typical carr from the Boardwalk at Barton Broad.
We drove home via Dilham and East Ruston, walking to the pools at the latter. More ChiffChaff song, a few Teal, Coot and Mute Swan the reward. The causeway was much dryer than on our last visit in the Autumn. What we reckon were shooting blinds seen in both pools.
We had our first garden ChiffChaff on Friday, in the woods the other side of the dyke.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Odds and ....Moths

Friday March 23
A Chiffchaff singing in the wood at the bottom of our garden to-day.
A Comma butterfly in Mag's garden yesterday.
We identified a few of the moths caught in our trap on Wednesday night.
Hm, will not upload, will try again to-morrow........

Still will not work. I give up.......not easily.


Engrailed. very flighty - it flew away after this.

Clouded Drab

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Specific Birding = No Guarantee

Tuesday March 20
Where should we take Sue to-day? She'd seen Sand Martin, Wheatear and Chiffchaff in Wales (and Choughs and Auks and Dipper and Grey Wag !). Somewhere new to her, Roydon Common, in search of Woodlark. We had an extensive walk, finding two pairs of Stonechats, 2 Wheatears and a dozen Dartmoor ponies. No sound nor sight of the target bird, maybe the latter had disturbed them?
Next new site for Sue, Dersingham Bog, not a regular spring haunt for us, we usually go for Nightjars in the Summer. Such a beautiful - and warm - day, many Siskin buzzing around the plantation as we walked to the John Denver Memorial seat (why here?). A very helpful NARVOS member had his scope trained on the trees across the valley. A handsome red male Crossbill feeding at the very top of a conifer, Pam spotted his green female in the next tree top along. Lovely. During our hour or so there, we saw two Sparrowhawks, several Buzzards, a Kestrel and a Marsh Harrier.The man called Red Kite but, it was out of sight for Pam and I. Sue caught it as it dropped out of sight - and she didn't really care, saw dozens in Wales.
We lunched at Wolferton Triangle where we saw our first Brimstones of the year, such a lovely yellow, before Sue opted for Snettisham as the next site. The tide was on the way in according to the tide table.........Hm. Acres of mud and the workmen and their equipment still there, taking up the first wide parking space. It looked as though they might be nearly finished.

Clouds of Knot and a big flock of Golden Plover gave delight as did a single Goldeneye. I can't resist Avocets, one day I'll get a good photo - but probably not at Snettisham.
Pam drove cross country to Flitcham, might as well have a quick look at Abbey Farm. More water than before, still restricted to pools in the near water. There's a notice on the door now, explaining the dried spring problem.
A pair of Grey Partridges showed superbly in front of the Hide. Pam went off to get my camera and they moved away.......gently, feeding as they went.

Male Grey Partridge, legging it.
As we were preparing to leave, a Little Owl appeared in the usual oak, perched above the nestbox. Are they using it?
A thoroughly enjoyable day - even if we didn't see Woodlark. The NARVOS man hadn't seen any there either. We'll try other sites before we leave for Scotland at the end of April.
Booked our flights and over-night Hotel in Panama City to-day. Exciting. Must start doing my birding homework.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Cantley Marshes

Monday March 19
Lovely day, why not try for the Glossy Ibis at Cantley Marshes. We left at lunch time and were home again by 2.30.
The car park is almost opposite Dot and Steve's home and then it's a short walk to view the marsh over a field gate. A man in the car park said he'd seen three  - there were 4 when we got there, the most we've seen at one time in the UK.
This an uncropped photo taken with my 400 lens.

They were distant but, excellent views through the scope. I did some digiscoping..........

Against the light, difficult to get any gloss or eye showing

Feeding avidly, obviously plenty of food. Will they do a Little Egret and breed?

Caught a bit of gloss on this one

Sunday, 18 March 2012

After the Rain

Sunday March 18
After nearly two days of rain, the sun came out late afternoon. I felt like a walk. I decided on Crostwight Common and woods. We did a circular walk along paths through the woods first, well trodden by dog walkers. We returned along a bridleway through the common where Woodlarks bred. Too much disturbance for that now. We did see and hear our first ChiffChaffs of the year though. Lovely when first heard, spring is on its way.We did get fed up with the one constantly Zilp Zalping in our garden last year. It was told to shut up on many an occasion.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Plans Change - Again, That's Birding

Friday March 16
Grey, overcast - and absolutely freezing at Gore Point, Holme. We managed 20 minutes of misted scope, running eyes and nose, before making a hasty retreat to the car. The only reward was a pair of Mergansers and a Shag.
A drop-in to Thornham en route to Titchwell (again), where the pager announced that there was a pair of Garganey at North Wooton. Just up the road !!
We set the SatNav (Cynthia), and she took us very directly via an enjoyably traffic free, cross country route to North Wooton. It took half an hour at the most - we did divert via Wolferton Triangle, no sight nor sound of Golden Pheasant. I downloaded the British Birds app. onto my IPad recently, the bird calls are really good.
We found the Red Cat Hotel in the very pleasant village of N Wooton, drove west and found the 'river'. Looked like a canal/dyke to me. There was a small pull-in the other side of the bridge, where we stopped and walked, to immediately view a rather distant and actively feeding pair of Garganey. Always close together, Teal nearby to compare size. I tried a few digiscope shots before  returning to the car's warmth once more.

I can't recall seeing an earlier pair in Norfolk. Excellent, one of my favourite ducks.
News of Wheatear at Cley sent us directly east, Cynthia came up trumps again. We drove along Beach Road and there was a splendid male Wheatear feeding in the Eye Field. He was very active - we couldn't see any goose bumps - bet he wished he hadn't come. A chat with David (Geordie), he'd reported it, a turn round in the car park and the bird was using roadside posts as a jump-off. A passing car spooked it and it flew into the field again, a chance for some more distant pics.

Not a good photo but, the best I could manage in the weather/distance with my equipment. (Note to self. I'm always making excuses, must stop). 
Another very early Norfolk migrant for us - we usually see ChiffChaff first. We happened to be in the right area for the early birds to-day.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

A Dither

Tuesday March 13
Making the decision not to go to Olley's farm on Sunday was a big mistake. Sunday was warm and sunny, ideal Goshawk display conditions - as was promised for Mon-Weds. Up early on Tuesday, packed for a day out, we set off in grey overcast and misty drizzle. Hoping it was coastal, we set off for North Walsham...no improvement. Silly to go on......Olley's Farm is a good mile's walk through coniferous forest alongside an army firing range, with no shelter when you arrive at the clearing. Maybe Titchwell? We didn't abort until Felbrigg, dithering about where to go. We turned round and drove to:
Buckenham Marsh
We both love the place. At first glance it was birdless to-day - as it can often appear to be in the late winter/spring when the greater proportion of the ducks, Golden  Plover, grey geese and Lapwing have started their journey to their bereeding grounds. I found three Taiga Bean Geese near the railway lane, a single Lesser Black-backed Gull on the Mill pool and a few Redshanks and Oystercatchers with a single Ruff on the flooded area of marsh. I looked hard for a Garganey.
Notable was the first railway crossing keeper ever to refuse a Worthers!
When we first moved to Norfolk, we spent an exhausting day clearing brush and non native trees here, before it was open to the public - and the warden was a really grumpy, unsociable man! It's cahnged immensely since then. One has to visit the Centre Hide to get a permit, we sat for a while, seeing Tufted Duck and Wigeon, before setting off on the Woodland Trail. Temporarily distracted by a soft tapping - the warden had told us there had been a Nuthatch around - we found a Blue Tit pecking the surrounds of a nestbox entry hole. Why ?
We then met someone we know well by sight who always greets us very pleasantly. He'd been photographing Treecreepers 'by the seat' on the Woodland Trail. Pam wanted to see one, but gave up trying to find the right place along the streamside section  Woodland Trail.
The end section of the Fen Trail was closed due to muddy conditions, we only intended walking to Fen Hide anyway.
There we sat for an hour watching carefully - for not a lot. I'd been hoping for a Bittern, neither sight nor sound. A garrulous woman photographer talking to (at) someone she knew from her camera club, said that the Peregrines seen at Buckenham were the ones nesting on Norwich Cathedral. The young female and older male have been seen copulating this year and may breed successfully. The Hawk and Owl Trust are setting up a viewing marquee - at a price of course.
On the point of leaving, I saw a distant raptor making strange shapes. A sky dancing male Marsh Harrier. Our first ever views of their full display flight, delightful. This encouraged a female to join him and they then performed a mutual swoop and glide flight. Not a patch on his individual effort.
Pam needed a short rest on the arm of the seat where the Fen and Woodland trails meet. Immediately, a Treecreeper showed on dead tree stumps on the meadow side.

It then flew off into the wood behind us, with a beak full of spider's web. When I looked at my photos last night (I'm writing this on Weds), Pam noticed that I'd got one of the bird pulling at the web. The photo is already heavily cropped but here goes.

Fungi is fascinating. We know very little but are learning.
Pam noticed this one which looks like part of a cat's anatomy.

Daldinia Concentrica
And a dead stump was covered in a bracket fungus species.

The Centre Hide has a drinks machine, we'd got cold sitting in Fen Hide with all the hatches open, they're wooden so one has no choice. We sat whilst drinking our hot - supposedly - chocolate, which tasted like muddy water ! Lucky we did. A pair of Great Crested Grebes have built a nest platform on a small raised patch near the island. Whilst we watched, a pair appeared. She sat on the nest, lowered herself into a submissive posture, neck extended towards the water whilst the male brought several lumps of weed, adding it to the nest. She was still waiting patiently....

He then mounted her for a few seconds

Jumped off and displayed, what a clever boy!

He was very pleased with himself.

She seemed quite happy too.

They were back-lit. Not photographed in sepia!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

A Favourite Reserve

Friday March 9
I only wish it was a bit nearer home, the price of petrol is hitting home.
Sculthorpe Moor is mainly old woodland with some open fen and a tributary of the river Wensum. The area beyond the river shows evidence of more clearing work every time we go.
Stopping to photograph the delightful Scarlet Elf Cap fungi - the largest no more than a couple of inches across - my camera told me 'no card'. Puzzling, because I always leave the hatch open when I've removed it. Despite my protestations, Pam went back to the car to get one. I sat on the nearest seat and watched a large feeder the other side of a stream where Goldfinches, 5 Lesser Redpoll, one a splendid male,  and a Marsh Tit squabbled for position. A Treecreeper flitted about, me anxiously watching for Pam to return as it was a month tick! Eventually she did, the bird flew off and she had been looking for a battery....... I opened my camera to put in the card from my Powershot which she'd thoughtfully brought....and there was a card in place !! That's why the compartment wasn't open. Technology eh?

Scarlet Elf Cap. Pam's photo. It's better than mine
After photographing the fungi, we walked on to view the clearing across the river, hoping for raptors. Two Common Buzzards gave a short display before disappearing, a lone Kestrel the only other raptor.
On to Fen Hide, in my experience the best place to photograph some of the commoner birds and one or two desirable others. It held four well spread people but we were soon able to move into a favourable position near the feeding table.
This is part of the view from the hide window.

Some of the photographs I took in a most enjoyable hour.

A very ginger female

Amost dependable views of a Water Rail here in the winter.

The sun came out..backlighting changes the colours. I read recently that Gigrin farm (Red Kite centre in Rhayader) have built special photography hides where the light is always correct for photography. Tell the RSPB, especially at Titchwell where it's always wrong.

Is this a first summer male? Still not in full plumage whilst others are.
I still haven't managed a good Greenfinch pic, the best of an average bunch........

On the return journey, after a diversion to view a Tawny Owl box near Fen Hide, ( we'd heard a bird call, no sighting though), I tried to photograph the gently, partially rotating, feeder where the Lesser Redpoll were feeding. I wanted the male really but never saw the full bird, it was either the tail or the head.
 It's my first photo of a Lesser, greatly cropped....better views and results required.

Friday, 2 March 2012

It's the First of the Month Again

Thursday March 1

Thick fog is not conducive to birding! That's what we had until about 9.00 at Wolferton - having set off at 6.30. We then had sun and mainly blue sky for the rest of our day.
We managed Tree Sparrows in two places, our usual site in the Harpley area and in the hedge opposite the Abbey Farm entrance. I attempted some photos at the earlier site - thick hedge and fog my excuse here.

We lingered longer than usual in the hopes of a Golden Pheasant at the Triangle, along with several other scattered birders. No sight nor sound, such a small number remaining, the odds are long. There seems to be much more traffic these days too.
Only an hour or so before high tide at Snettisham, a predicted low one though, the sea remained distant. The surprise was about 200+ lovely Pintail. All the expected waders, the Golden Plover flock smaller, more Grey Plovers, two returning Avocets and still a lovely swirling, restlessly rising, thousand or so Knot. Shades of grey smoke against the blue sky.
Some sort of water control work going on. Cabins and heavy machinery on the first rise beyond the gate, men and a white van on the raised entry path. Still a few Goldeneyes on the first reserve pit and a sole Little Egret. It did mean thet the gate was open and we could drive straight through.....
An empty, flat calm sea at Hunstanton, eventually a Fulmar appeared, the Rock Doves on a house roof.
Four Marsh Harriers from the NOA hide at Broadwater and the only Pinkfeet we saw all day -  about 20. 15 Avocets on the NWT pool and a large flock of Curlew on the adjoining field.
Alerted by three scoping birders. Pam and I walked to the sluice bridge at Thornham, from which we scoped a male Hen Harrier sat on the ground.
We only walked as far as the bench overlooking the fresh marsh, near Parrinder hide at Titchwell, aching ankles for Pam - arthritis aches to-day. I was quite happy to sit there in the sun, enjoying the scanning and birds. Our first Cetti's sang - and moved - in a bush near the first pools on the right as we walked out. Several Goldeneye and Pochard diving at the far,  eastern side of the pool, a small flock of Golden Plover, 2 Snipe, 10+ Ruff. a few Dunlin and one Black-tailed Godwit. Close scanning of distant waders, most asleep with beaks tucked away, and a Spotted Redshank in full winter plumage showed itself briefly.
I was fascinated by an immature male Shoveller which had scroll like 'writing' on its breast and flank. This is the photo I took through my scope.

A Water Rail, apparently unconcerned, fed in the ditch near the centre, Siskin feeding in the Alders above.
Many buttercup- headed Yellowhammers at Chosely, worth admiring, gleaming dayglo in a bush. One in comparison, drab, Corn Bunting showed in an nearby hedge. No competition but lovely brown shaded, scalloped feathering in bino views.
On the way back to the coast road, I got a peripheral view and immediately called 'Little Owl'. Pam reversed slowly to the tree and it sat on a low branch no more that 10 feet away, glaring at us, as always. Is it the 'eyebrows' ( my daughter always told me I had owl eyebrows when I told her off !) or the fierce eyes - or a combination? Both I guess.
I fumbled for my camera and it took off. I'm amazed that it hadn't done so when we reversed, the whine of the engine in reverse usually alarms birds. Pam did so very gently though.
Hearts rose at Wells, there was a good size flock of Brent at Wells putting course, a good chance of Black Brant. As we stopped, they all took off and landed distantly in Wells channel. A man carrying a golf club had walked straight for them. He was cursed. How dare he walk on a Pitch and Putt course...!!!
Pam climbed to the top of the bank to see if the geese were viewable, starting the descent as another birder called an owl. She waved to me, sitting in the car park, enabling me to see a Short-eared Owl come into view. I watched it for 5 minutes, quartering, stooping and flying above the reed bed in lovely, golden, late afternoon light.
No Snow Buntings nor coffee man at Salthouse car park, time to call in at Gunton Park on the way home. We'd seen a Great Crested Grebe at Titchwell, no need to scan the Lake for long. Egyptian geese for the day list, no Grey Wagtails yet nor anything in the stream - we have seen Kingfisher and Mandarin Ducks here so we're always looking.
A total of 88 for the day which is respectable for early March after a poor, foggy start - and a waterless Abbey Farm. Pam had a chat with the female owner who said that the springs have dried up. She was also concerned that if there was no substantial rainfall before April, the Kingfishers wouldn't return and the barley would die too. Farmers are more a slave to the vagaries of the weather than any other occupation I can think of.
Another 'in the fog' photo to finish. A Red-legged Partridge on a gate post near Abbey farm.