Sunday, 18 November 2012

A Little Sea-watching...

Sunday November 18

Such a beautiful looking day after heavy morning ground frost - the car had almost completely thawed apart from the front screen which faces the garage.
The Ibis was not behind the Salthouse duck pond, straight to the Cley Centre for coffee and a newly baked fruit scone. Surprisingly, no-one we knew, not even Pat at the desk. Pam knows one of the violunteers, she worked with her - and is still trying to remember her name. Not much is better than sitting at the window bench with a panoramic view of Cley Marshes, scanning the many birds on view... in the warm. One gets very reasonable views all the way to North Hide and the sea.
Deciding that the hides would be full and the birds no different from those already seen, I hauled myself up the shingle bank at Salthouse, set up my scope and scanned. I always enjoy the challenge but, found it frustrating to-day as the birds were very distant. Mostly Auks scattered about, at least one Razorbill, the others Guillemots much commoner on our coast. Red-throated Divers flew rapidly west but I couldn't ID anything else with certainty. I try not to 'string' !!
Eddie was at the tea van, he's laying a new lawn to-morrow when 50 mph winds are forecast for the east coast. My thoughts immediately turn to sea-watching. If we came up millions on the lottery, I'd have a heated hide with comfortable seats built, overlooking the sea. I might let friends use it.......
There's still a Richard's Pipit on the coast between Weybourne and Sheringham, no sign of yesterday's Surf Scoter though. As we drove through, Penny C appeared from the lane to the sea, I look forward to reading her Blog to-night.
I must remember to phone grandson Josh in Aus to wish him Happy Birthday late to-morrow night, he's 12 on Tuesday. I'll catch him before school if I ring at 11ish.

Sunset and Pinks

Saturday November 17
After a morning and afternoon of steady rain. I fancied some fresh air. I've described our road at the moment as like a ploughed field - sugar beet, salad crops and now potato harvesting - the Eccles/ Sea Palling lane really was. Even the tractor tracks were like furrows. We met one enormous tractor and trailer full of beet where huge clods of soil festooned all surfaces. Maybe I should feel sorry for the workers having to survive the conditions.....I don't ! Another visit to the hand-wash east Europeans in Stalham beckons.
As we entered the Marrams section, a male Sparrowhawk angled from the dunes on the left and arrowed along the lane in front of us. Superb.
The two thousand plus flock of Pinkfeet were again in the field south of  Brograve farm, looking directly into the brilliant sunset.

Difficult conditions for the camera to cope with. The geese were 'all lit up' (famous BBC broadcast by an inebriated commentator).

Too dark for sea watching, we turned round in the raptor viewing lay-by and returned home, glimpsing a mass of Golden Plover amongst the Lapwings on the outskirts of Sea Palling. 

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Winter Snows

Tuesday November 13
I'd forgotten that we were birding with Sue to-day,  else I'd have planned something different from Titchwell last Sunday. Her father has been unwell so dates have had to be re-arranged.
Where to go to give her enough variety? We drove to Holme next the Sea, parked at the first gate and walked to  Gore Point . Another lovely day .......and a very low tide. I've never seen the sea as far out as it was at Gore. Mud banks galore and the white, tented roof, building at Skegness clearly visible to the north. 
We enjoyed the search despite not finding much apart from the expected waders. A constantly diving Shag kept me occupied - trying to locate it for the other two. There have been reports of upwards of a 100 roosting on Hunstanton cliffs but they are usually uncommon on this coast.
As I was packing up my scope, Sue who was standing behind me, called a 'flock of small birds' flying through her view. Scope uncovered, I located at least 80 Snow buntings making their restless, flighty way along the top tideline before disppearing towards the golf course. Excellent, our first of the winter. The pager later reported over a 100 at the golf course end.......
The highlight at Abbey Farm was three Buzzards in the air at once over the far fields. We also saw two Sparrowhawks and a couple of Marsh Harriers to-day.
Shame we were too late for the Red Kite in the Witton area that James phoned in for us.  As soon as we got in, had a cuppa and said goodbye to Sue, we had two seperate visitors. I didn't notice the ansaphone flashing until it was dark. Thanks anyway James, much appreciated.

Monday, 12 November 2012

A Day to Remember

Sunday November 11

 Blue sky, no wind and a reasonable temperature, a good to be alive and out birding day. I did have to scrape frost off the front windscreen before setting out, the rest of the car was already defrosted and streaming. Straight to Titchwell via Choseley Barns. No sign of yesterday's reported Bean Goose and Snow Bunting, no birds at all in the yard. The usual anonymous hedge divers and Houdini birds until a single male Brambling posed on the overhead wires.

Titchwell car park was packed, our usual fishermen's  parking spot was empty though. 
Five Pintail upended at the far end of the marsh pool on the left and a single little Grebe bobbed up, allowing a quick look.Scanning the Freshwater Pool with its hundreds of Wigeon, Teal. Brent Geese with a scattering of Shelduck, Pochard, Gadwall and Shoveller, we found a few Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit and Ruff. The near Teal looked so beautiful that I tried some digiscoping. Most of the pics were useless - they were busy preening and head bobbing at each other - or the light was wrong. Here's one.....

Pam missed the calling Water Rail, I'd left her behind - accidentally! 
The beach platform seat was occupied, so we stood and scanned the sea for half an hour or so. The tide had turned but was still four hours away from high. Plenty of the usual waders on the exposed mussel beds, including Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Turnstone, Sanderling and dozens of Oystercatchers. I love the plaintive whistle of the Grey Plover.
The sea looked pretty empty apart from at least a dozen Great Crested Grebes dotted around. Tennis match side to side scanning produced four Long-tailed Ducks, one of them a drake, close inshore, four Red-Breasted Mergansers, several fly-past Red-throated Divers and a lone Guillemot. No sign of the Red-necked and Slav Grebe mentioned yesterday, to the disappointment of a birder we know well by sight who always greets us as friends and we haven't got a clue who she is! She kept me up to date with her 2012 birds whilst I scanned.
Julian and Duncan didn't linger long after we told them about the close Long-tailed Duck in response to their 'what's on the sea' request.
As we reached the path to Parrinder, we were hailed by an older man who entertained us for a good fifteen minutes. He gives talks and is a keen photographer. The best tale was being given a copy of Saunders'  ancient and leather bound book of Norfolk Birds, reading about a Black-capped Petrel and tracking down the stuffed specimen. It's in the Norwich museum. Who is he? He mentioned 'Coe' - surname or first name? Anyway, all very entertaining and interesting, thank you Coe.
Reaching the Freshwater Pool once more, a friendly young man gave me directions as to the whereabouts of a Water Pipit. Good job he did. It was feeding in the thick undergrowth, close in to the bank beyond Parrinder Hide, only showing occasionally.
We made our way home along the coast road, adding a Sparrowhawk and a Marsh Harrier to the day list which was a respectable upper 60s - almost all of them seen at at Titchwell. Great reserve and a very enjoyable day.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Just a Quickie

Friday November 2

Attracted by the sun, we drove to Horsey and Winterton Beach along the back lanes at 2ish. As we turned the sharp bend into The Marrams at Sea Palling, where the New Age Travellers used to camp, four Swallows swooped across the road and landed on the electricity wires overhead. A good late record. although our latest is late December, along with House Martins, over Cromer church.
A male Marsh Harrier and a Kestrel were the only raptors, no sign of Cranes either.
A small flock of Common Scoter and several Cormorants on the flat calm sea, Pam glimpsed a Red-throated Diver which disappeared. Drowned ?

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Rain and Birds - from the Car

Thursday November 1

Ever reluctant to forgo our 'first of the month' birding day, I rose at 5.45 a.m. to find steady rain. Should we go? Yes, of course, but, delayed until 6.45 when the leaden skies lightened a shade or two.
Apart from about an hour at 10ish, it rained in varying degrees of severity, all day. The forecast said that it would be a sunny Hunny (Hunstanton). Wrong. 

Highlights - Birds
Tree Sparrows in two places
Two Brambling in the hedge at Abbey Farm entrance.
A wet, perched Buzzard.
Our first Little Egret since September - illness has kept us from birding as much as usual.
60+ Egyptian Geese in a field east of the Snettisham road.

A fraction of the flock. Wonderful, wind-shaped trees at the back.

Hundreds of Redwings everywhere.
10 Grey Partridge huddled together.
Red-necked Grebe off Hunstanton Cliffs plus an Eider and a flock of Common Scoter.

The incomparable swirling, dipping, ever-changing shape, smoke clouds of Knot at the Wash. Together with rocky reefs turning into a mass of Pinkfeet, Oystercatchers, Grey Plover and bar-tailed Godwits. Neither of us cease to wonder at this awesome experience. 
(It was on Autumnwatch later to-night)

Misses - there were many
The 20 Waxwings which turned up at Holme an hour after we'd left.....
All the seabirds at Titchwell - we didn't walk anywhere, Pam will not walk in the rain. With a cough still going strong after five weeks, I was happy to support her.
Shorelark and Snow Buntings at Salthouse - same reason.

I haven't done the final count yet, it's about 71.

From the Garden Tick

October 31

Double fortune.
I was lying in bed, reading, when Pam brought me a cuppa. That made me look up - in time to see a female Hen Harrier fly towards the wood. Excellent, we both saw it.