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.

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