Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Migrant Hunt

Wednesday September 26
After finding somewhere to park, the Winterton Quilters were meeting in the Village Hall, everywhere was chocablock, we walked Winterton South Dunes. Well, the landward side with its steep bank of bramble, bushes and trees which small passerines love. Plenty of food and cover, not easy to watch.
Eventually, after two hours of standing, walking and searching, we saw three Redstarts, a very yellow first year Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Stonechats and a Sparrowhawk. Another birder had had brief views of a Yellow-browed Warbler in the favoured bushes below Hermanus - where we had searched diligently. It had flown off with Long-tailed Tits. We saw the Tits.
It rained as we walked back to the car, eyes down meant that I saw this hairy caterpillar which I have yet to identify.

It's walking right......

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Birdtrack Attempt

Tuesday September 25
We sea watched at Winterton from 1.11 - 2.25 p.m., trying to shelter behind a car park shed from the strong and blustery SWesterly. When the sun went in we needed coat, hat and gloves.
There was enough activity to keep us interested although not a great variety. We added Red-breasted Merganser, Black-throated Diver, Med Gulls, Razorbill and Kittiwakes to the  month list.
Best was seeing at least 30 Red-throated Divers, most of them in full - or almost - summer plumage. I tried some digiscoping towards the end and this is what I got lots of.......

A heaving sea
A sudden shower brought a spectacular and complete rainbow - couldn't get it all in. I had my little Canon in my pocket so had a go on the wrong setting. I'm ever so good at getting a wonky horizon with the Powershot. Must be something to do with my looking at the screen instead of a viewfinder. I am aware of it too but still got a sloping sea.

Rainbow at Winterton Beach
When I got home I tried to load my first BirdTrack report after hearing the talk at Club last night. As usual, anything new has problems for the beginner but I managed in the end.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Missed Lots

Sunday September 23
Man U were playing Liverpool at lunchtime,  we still went out birding. Our ginger cat woke me early pawing at my face, I got up and so did Pam. 
A Wryneck had been reported from Holme last night plus a Red-breasted Flycatcher, that and the promising weather conditions made Holme the first stop. Several other birders were patrolling the Paddocks, none of us saw the Wryneck, not reported all day, it must have gone.
Spending an hour sea watching at Gore Point was enjoyable, sitting on our waterproof boot cover.watching the tide - and the birds - come in. Almost the first bird I saw was a Bonxie sitting on the water. It sat throughout the time we were there, occasionally flapping its wings, drifting slowly west. Not even passing Sandwich and Common Terns tempted it into flight. Many Gannets to-day, of all ages, mostly far out near the wind turbines. Two small groups of Common Scoter flew past, several Teal but nothing more interesting. On the shore, it's always lovely to see about 70 scurrying Sanderling, 80+ Knot, a few still showing red, half a dozen moulting Grey Plover with dalmation like spotted breasts, Turnstone, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew and numerous Oystercatchers. One female Reed Warbler landed in front of us, Linnets, Skylark and Meadow Pipits came in off the sea. 
Inland, large flocks of Pinkfeet swirled over the marsh. Winter is here. Still no Brents, despite the northerly wind at the beginning, changing to south westerly.
By the time we got to Holme NOA, the Red-breasted Flycatcher's favoured Sycamore was waving madly in the brisk breeze. A good crowd of other birders had been looking intently for an hour, without success. We sat for twenty minutes, commiserating with Sophie who had spiked under her right eye with the net raising pole on Saturday and was sporting a bruise and a small dressing, probably covering stitches. Everyone was drifting off, we followed. Halfway along the raised walkway,m a man called that he'd got it as I was passing. 'In the tree with the drooping branches, in the branch going from the top to the bottom' he said. Classic. I didn't see it despite looking in the correct area I discovered. It didn't show again. A Buzzard drifted by as we walked back to the car.
Checking the book in the NWT Centre, we'd missed Hobby, Brambling, Red-breasted Merganser, Arctic Skua and Med Gull !! How many people had seen any of them I wonder. We added our Bonxie to the list....Enjoyed it all though.
Watched the match, well Pam did, I listened mostly. We played so badly again, it's been the same all season, so frustrat6ing. You look at the names of the players and wonder why it can happen, I should think Alex got the hairdryer out at halt-time. We did win 2-1, at Anfield where we haven't won for five years.
News of a Booted Warbler at Gun Hill this afternoon was groanworthy. Always a good bird.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Good View Eventually

Friday September 21

Yes, the sky was grey when we left home, we still did not expect the rain which greeted us in the Fakenham area. This continued all the way to Roydon. What to do? I suggested trying Holme anyway which turned out to be a good idea.
We sat in the car eating breakfast, viewing the clump of Elder and Bramble between the pay hut and the first car park. Four hardy souls stood hunched, hoods up, gazing intently at the bushes. Plenty of blackberries and raindrop-shimmering elderberries meant a flurry of small birds including a male Blackcap and several linnets. One of the men then moved left and appeared to see the bird. We all joined him. I moved to the right of the group and immediately saw most of the juvenile Barred Warbler in an Alder. Jammy. It then flew right into a Hawthorn and posed in full view for a couple of minutes. Excellent views of a skulking bird. 
The rain became heavier so we made for home via Thornham, where the creeks were still full. Thornham at its best - apart from the rain. I scoped the beach finding Gannets, Bar-tailed Godwits, Turnstone, Sanderling, Dunlin, Curlew and Ringed Plover. A group of large gulls included both Lesser and Greater Black-backed. Two Sandwich Terns preened at the tide's edge.
Still raining heavily at Titchwell so we gave up and drove home. As we entered North Walsham the pager told me that there had been Bonxies and Velvet Scoter past Gore Point and a Red-breasted Flycatcher and a Yellow-browed Warbler on the NOA reserve. Later on, Redstart and Pied Flycatcher were seen in the 'Forest'. Was this in the rain?  The roads were dry at home........not for long though, the rain came down seriously enough to give the garden a good soaking.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Better Than Forecast

Tuesday September 11

Sue was late - not usual - all sorts of road problems including the inevitable tractor for miles and miles.
Baird's Sandpiper would be a lifer for Sue, Titchwell first stop. It was first identified by Alan Davies of The Biggest Twitch, down from North Wales leading a group for the weekend. I'd originally planned on walking the new trail but, the waders were showing best from the west path. 
We tried Island Hide first, where the birds were nearer and the light was good. The north facing end was packed, understandably. Big lenses on tripods, fine. Pushchairs in prime position and taking up a lot of room? No........It could easily have been parked in full view around the corner.  Two women sat in the front row didn't even have binoculars......(Bah Humbug!!).
On, to the west bank path, we went. We soon saw the Baird's with its attenuated profile, long wings extending well beyond the tail. It fed on its own, comparatively near for the expanse of the freshwater pool. Excellent scope views so I had a go at digiscoping. The very brisk and cold northwesterly wind shook my tripod like mad, the bright sunshine made viewing anything in the camera screen impossible. I had to focus the scope, stick the camera in and hope - on the principle that if I took enough photos, some would actually have the bird in them. So it proved.
Some 'record' shots (photographers parlance for not good).

There were also three juvenile Curlew Sandpipers and a host of Ruff and Black-tailed Godwits, a few Avocets and sleeping Spoonbills, very few Dunlin  and, four vigorously feeding in agitated unison, Spotted Redshank.
Pam had forgotten her lunch, a good reason for buying some delicious rolls and cake from Titchwell. Eaten at Brancaster Staithe before motoring on to Cley and a walk to Pat's Pool where we sat separately, Pam and Sue at one end, me at the other. It was perishing in there, the wind blowing straight in, it was warmer outside. When I located the Pectoral Sandpiper, I looked across, saw Sue's scope apparently on the bird and Pam asking if she'd got it. They didn't see it, the birds all spooked and it wasn't seen on there again. Probably flew to Daukes. A lovely Yellow-legged Gull in summer plumage, yellow eye-ring clearly visible and a curtsying Common Sandpiper were the only additions.

Thursday, 6 September 2012


Thursday September 6

We'd talked about trying out the new trail at Titchwell. In the end we stayed in to finish chores; me to book three Travelodge stays and make a trip enquiry, Pam to slice the whole Scottish beef  fillet Rai got us from Macro - on offer.
We explored the back road to Sea Palling, which always promises something at this time of year. A small passage of hirundine, little else apart from one Marsh Harrier.
A quick look at Horsey Gap where the catering van man provided us with an ice-cream and the news that there was no-one around so we didn't have to pay car parking while we ate it ! We were told to keep an eye open though......even he has to pay daily.
Winterton Village parking place was jam packed, which put paid to searching the bank of bushes along South Dunes for resting migrants. That's a good place to look for Barred Warbler, Wryneck, Redstarts and various warblers. We thought that with the schools at work again, visitor pressure would have eased. The fine warm weather must have encouraged the childless and retired.
Instead, we parked ourselves in the beach car park, got out seats and scopes and sea watched. 
An hour of watching a calm sea brought a steady trickle of Gannets, about 50 an hour, two winter plumage Guillemots, a Shag, Oystercatchers, a small flock of Sanderling flying through and both Common and Sandwich Terns flying around, and perching on, the large yellow and black buoy.
On the way home, three Common Cranes flew along the dunes as we drove along the straight before Horsey Mill.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

85 Species - How did we manage that........

Saturday Sep 1

Finding no jackets of mine in the car was a b....., a short-sleeved cotton shirt was not appropriate wear on its own. Who removed my fleece and birding jacket? We'd been promised dry and warm weather in the west of the county. Wrong. We set off soon after six a.m. in fine misty drizzle which did not stop until until tennish. 11C is not comfortable.
The birds weren't around either, we'd barely reached double figures before Abbey Farm, but that did include Tree Sparrow and a Buzzard, the latter seen along the Abbey Lane. The hide log book mentioned Honey Buzzard on the previous two days. How competent were the recorders? A short flying view was not enough for us to declare either way.
The only bird of note at Abbey was a Kingfisher. The nesting bank is now completely obscured by trees and vegetation. Our bird was sat on a low post, partially obscured, in the near lefthand pool - along with all the manky Mallard. Pam spied it a few seconds before it disappeared, looked like a young bird.
Checking the tide timetable took us to Snettisham in a hurry. High tide was at 7.30 and it was a 7.1 , a high one. It was lovely to be back there again, we tend to give it a miss in July and, this year,  August too. It was an hour after high tide when we got there, but it still lapped the shore, edged by a scattering of feeding Dunlin, Turnstone and Ringed Plover. A single Knot explored the seaweed line. What looked like distant mud became thousands of waders when scoped. Too far to identify all but, the mass of Oystercatchers, Godwits, Curlew and Wheeling Knot were obvious. I scoped the receding water, exposing food rich mud, finding Golden and Grey Plover in addition to all the birds previously mentioned plus Redshank and Whimbrel. Five minutes later when I lifted my eyes from the scope, it was all mud,the water had disappeared into the far distance. The speed at which the water floods in for its final zenith and then nadir is amazing and awesome. We once saw it come in at the western end, after hearing a strange and eerie sussuration as it sped across the mud. Unforgettable.
Still cold, I shed my scarf and gloves to do some shopping in Hunstanton Tesco. After a delicious breakfast in their cafe and the necessary shop (plus some treats), I was warmer and it was 16C outside.Next stop after the cliffs where Pam caught sight of Fulmar, we drove to Titchwell. The new Trail is officially open to-day, we expected crowds when we saw the sign but it was a normal weekend population. Pam didn't want to do the new trail as she'd left her boots in the porch and was wearing socks and sandals (!!). Walking to the Freshwater Pool it was a good idea. The trail goes as far as the east bank and then a good way along it. We could see three viewing platforms spaced along it.
We sat scanning the pool which held a lot of birds but not much variety. In total we added five species of duck including Pochard and Pintail. I saw a Red-crested Pochard on the first pool but it disappeared......Three Greenshank was a good sighting, as was a Little Stint. Still very overcast and murky, awful conditions for photography. I couldn't resist having a go at digiscoping a Black-tailed Godwit feeding in the near channel.

Black-tailed Godwit
 (At last !. I've tried umpteen times to upload this photo over the last day and a half. I succeeded by using Comodo Dragon - my new browser - said to be safer and less prone to error than Google Chrome. We'll see...)
 Nothing at Choseley nor at Brancaster Staithe, we took the inland route from Stiffkey to CleySpy so that Pam could have her binoc. piece glued back on. En route, I dropped off for five minutes and woke to find that we were parked in Morston with Pam asleep beside me. Three early mornings with little sleep had taken their toll (poor old things).
Via an ice-cream at Salthouse and a drop in to Gunton Park where we added Long tailed Tit, Chiffchaff and Great Crested Grebe, we got home at tea-time to do the adding up. Astonishing. How did we manage 85? I re-counted, still correct. And we didn't see a Dunnock.
Nothing to be seen in the garden at the moment as the feeders are empty. We saw several young rats around and Kevin put poison down, well pretected of course but we were horrified when ginger cat Robbie brought a couple of dead rats in. He doesn't catch anything live any more and he didn't eat them either so that was fine.