Monday, 23 April 2012


Sunday April 22
We both woke early, setting off for Pentney Gravel Pits at 8.00 a.m. in a heavy shower. Big pools of water lined the roads.The SatNav took us on an interesting but very efficient route, some of the narrow tracks crossing main roads would not have been as good on a weekday.
The further west we drove, the drier the roads, becoming a lovely blue sky morning. Still cold though as we scoped the pits.
Two Common Terns, Swallows, Sand Martins, our first House Martins (Pentney Village), several Greylag pairs with Goslings, a male Goosander and a Cuckoo calling distantly. Scanning the edges, I saw a Common Sandpiper flick across the water, then land on the near shore out of sight - and never seen again. Pam didn't see it.......
After a chat with another birder we drove the lane hoping for the Nightingale reported earlier in the week. No luck but our first lovely male Orangetip Butterfly.
Still early so we drove to Cley. Two Golden Plover in summer plumage and several Wheatears in the Eye Field, three Whimbrel in the favoured fields near the Iron Road. We'll see many more in Scotland next week but I never get tired of them.
Home in time to watch Man U throw away the Premiership......Everton played well and never gave up - why us? Our defence was awful, all 8 goals were beauties. Shame we weren't impartial, great match to watch. 
Loved Real M beating Barca on Saturday evening, Ronaldo at his best.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

When April Showers...

Tuesday April 17
Towards the end of a day of sunshine and unheralded torrential showers, Pam collected our car from the garage in Mundesley - service - and we drove to Barton Broad.
A Blackcap was singing in the car park, a Willow Warbler along the trail (same one as last time?) and dozens of Common Terns fished the Broad, several hump-backed, long-tail-streamered Arctic Terns amongst them. So elegant.
Our first hirundine, a few Swallows and 30+ Sand Martins, swept the skies, swooped low over the water and many then flew away. Very late for our first sighting, we've missed them at the coast. I hear that House Martins are nest building in west Norfolk. 'Ours' are usually amongst the latest to return, end of this month is the norm. Only one brood last year when it was so dry that they couldn't find the mud to build a nest. We puddled some mud for them but it was ignored. Hope they make it this year.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Dune Yomp

Saturday April 14
Decision made......and it was as bad as I'd expected. Uneven paths, rough marram tufts, bramble trippers and sand. What a combination. I'm not having a good walking day and my knees were not happy until I got back to the car.
However, we did see the Hoopoe, distantly on the ground and in flight. We'd have had closer views if we'd walked further to the very end of the camping ground.
I scoured the 80+ flighty flock of Linnets for the Serin reported early to-day to no avail. No-one else saw it either.
The return walk had the cold wind behind us, much better.
We couldn't find the P and D machine on arrival, only the charges board. It was vandalised last week and payment is now to the jovial man who runs the mobile cafe unit. His hot chocolate was welcome, the sausage/bacon bap being devoured by other birders wasn't even tempting. Am I mad?
The approach track to the Horsey car park has been graded, making it a very acceptable driving surface. I suppose they had to when they charge a £1 an hour or £4 per day for parking.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Always Hoping

Wednesday April 11
At Barton Broad boardwalk soon after 9 a.m. Plenty of bird song on a lovely sunny and almost windless morning. Our first Barton Blackcap, Wrens, Chaffinches, Robin, Blue and Great Tits, ChiffChaffs and a shouting Cetti's. The most welcome was that of our first Willow Warbler halfway along the boardwalk.
As soon as we arrived at the platform, I saw a Little Gull flying around doing its dipping down to the water routine, showing its dark underwings. There were three altogether, two spending time perched on a line of distant buoys where I digiscoped them.

A Great Crested Grebe floated by.

One flew up and away, the first time I recall hearing their call.
Five Common Terns in long-tailed, pristine summer plumage, patrolled the far shore too, 0ne eventually landing to rest on the line of buoys.
More digiscoping efforts.......

The Common Tern is on the left !!

Hopes fulfilled to-day.

Some Barton carr reflections.


And Above
A toss up. Pipe Dump for a Hoopoe or The Hangs for Ring Ouzel? Tha Hangs won, we both dislike negotiating the dunes behind Waxham Sands Camp Site. The owner is feral where birders are concerned, he's fenced the area off and has fierce dogs! I understand the need for safety and keeping the campers safe but........we always used to be able to walk through around the edge.
The Hangs is an area extending from Salthouse Heath down to the coastal marshes. Half a dozen cars parked roadside gave hope of extra eyes. We walked half a mile to the edge of the heath seeing nothing - and no-one. Where now? Starting the downward walk along a cart track, we saw two birders walking towards us. Hurrah.Not far now, they'd seen the birds along a green verge to the north of a hedge leading to the Tumuli area.
I could hear the murmur of voices. They were sat the other side of the track hedge looking towards the mound. We immediately saw three beautiful male Ring Ouzels appearing from, and then disappearing into, the lush Alexanders edging the field. Great.
Having watched our fill we trudged back up the hill, my wretched upper respiratory infection restricting my intake of air - but my legs worked well as they do these days.My first infection for a few years - apart from Peru's campylobacter ! Mustn't let it interfere with spring migration!


Not a Lot...but Dry

Tuesday April 10
Sue arrived 15 minutes early, I'd only just arrived downstairs! Not that it matters at all to any of us.
Should we try for the flighty Hoopoe at Waxham or go to Titchwell? The latter won.
A tremendous amount of water on all the pools, very little space for waders and there were few. A scattering of Ruff and Redshank, 30 Turnstone and 7 Black-tailed Godwits in brick summer plumage. Two White Wagtails were a bonus.
To the sea.... The tide was in as far as the beach ruin. We perched on the dunes as the platform was full, scanning across an empty tide's edge from there. A happy hour passed, finding 6 Common Scoter close enough to pick out the three males' yellow beaks,  the female face patch and the two Velvet amongst them. The latter preened, showing their white patches well. Great Crested Grebes were well scattered as were the pairs of Red-breasted Mergansers. We all succeeded in seeing the more distant Red-necked Grebe, always actively diving and showing intermittently. The ten Long-tailed Ducks were very active too but then just bobbed about on the dancing waves as the wind rose.
Nothing of note on the ride to Cley. I'd been hoping for a hirundine or Ring Ouzel on such a nice day. At the beach there was a steady passage of Sandwich Terns, a delight for Sue as they were her first. We always enjoy watching their apparently effortless flight. 

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Friends and Birding

Friday April 6th
We love visiting our friends at their caravan on Dunwich cliffs. The big front window faces the sea and we often see birds from there. Not to-day though - Jen saw a Sand Martin fly through and said 'there'll be more ' . There weren't.
After the initial chat, we set off for Minsmere RSPB. The car park was absolutely full, several cars driving around looking for space. As it was lunch time, we thought it was safe enough to park in the empty coach parking area, sooh joined by half a dozen more cars. Pam told them at the impressive new centre but they still hadn't opened the overflow car park when we left. The latter now has a pole preventing entry, we used to be able to open the gate for good views over the levels.
First stop. Bittern Hide, hearts dropping when we saw the number of people present, sitting and standing. We only stood for about 10 minutes before enough people left for us to find a seat. After 20 minutes enjoying Marsh Harriers in flight, a Bittern flew across the reedbed almost directly towards us, landing about 30 feet away in the reeds. It posed, beak pointing skyward in the classic mode, for 10 seconds before creeping away. Lovely.
Cameras pointing at a tree gave us a clue that we should look - Treecreeper showing very well.
East Hide had only two birders present. Were most people in the cafe and the Bittern Hide?
The main scrape held thousands of Gulls, nearly all Black-headed, a screaming cacophany. I scoped the larger gulls at the back of the scrape and found at least one 2nd winter Caspian Gull with its long slender beak and long-necked look.  A lifer for M and J. In the meantime Pam found a handsome Med Gull. All three hirundine had been reported this morning, we saw none.
As it was a very late lunchtime, we made our way back to the car, seeing another Treecreeper (might have been the same one ) and  a Goldcrest en route.
A short diversion down the Eastbridge Road where we parked in a pull off and we all scanned the surrounding fields. Pam was the first to find a feeding Glossy Ibis which we then shared with half a dozen other searchers.
A very successful, if short, interlude. We were home by 6 o'clock in time to see the end of the Swansea/Newcastle match which ended 0-2.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Not a Fool's Day

Sunday April 1st
I did fool Pam though, I always do......
We left home soon after 6 a.m - after clearing the frost from the windscreen and windows - amassing over 40 sp by Abbey Farm hide. This included a hunting Barn Owl near Harpley and another, dead, on the road within a few miles.
Bigger puddles at Abbey and many Grey Partridges, little else.
We've never seen as much mud at Snettisham. The tide was at its very nadir and the lowest of the low, checking the table there were none lower all year. We didn't stay long.
A bitingly cold wind, we decided to pass by Holme after the usual two ticks at Hunstanton. The latter was notable for at least 120 Fulmar in view, nearly all sitting on the sea in big flotillas. I wish I'd thought to photo them...
Titchwell was productive as always. We walked the Fen Trail first, seeing three Blackcaps and hearing probably more. The sun was lovely by now so we sat and scoped the Freshmarsh pool for an hour or so. Not many waders but excellent raptors. We added Red Kite and Sparrowhawk  high over the marsh to the west, missed a Merlin causing havoc to the gull flock (which included two Yellow-legged Gulls) excellent views of it on our return walk as it flew across in front of us.
Ray Kimber told us that the sea and beach were empty so we didn't walk any further.
Choseley Barns for.....yet more Yellowhammers....then inland to Sculthorpe. We'd visited the Mill and seen two Grey Wagtails this morning,  the HOT reserve wasn't open and Pam needed to collect a fleece from there.
Directly to Cley Beach car park, missing out most of our coastal stopping points to-day. Pam lunched there and I sat with my window open on the lee-side, scanning Eye Field. Two Spoonbills on Billy's Wash, discernible in the haze by their size and bill-sweeping feeding action. A call had us both leap out of the car to see three Sandwich Terns beat through, flying west along the sea towards Blakeney Point.
The ice-cream van was there........
We were home mid afternoon, having added 82 species on a shorter and less inclusive day than usual. We wished we'd walked at Sculthorpe.
A fox, dead Badger (!) Stoat, Chinese Water Deer and many Hares were also seen. Great.