Monday, 31 December 2012

Shopping - Home - the Pretty Way

Sunday December 30
Very meagre birding this month, Pam still not fit enough for prolonged exposure to the weather.
Shopping became an essential chore, I couldn't resist suggesting that we drive home from North Walsham via Walcott front. No room to park, a rare dry and sunny day had brought people out en masse, the roadside was full of parked cars. I had a quick look for a Med or a passing diver, nil to both.
A diminishing flock of Pinkfeet still in the fields near Rookery Farm.
As we drove towards Batchelor's Lane. a juvenile Merlin appeared from the hedge on our left, flew thrush-like, low along the road in front of us and perched in a sloe near a telegraph pole. Good bin views showed the mottling of a juvenile bird, could be either sex, not possible to tell.
Monday Dec 31
Out Witch Hazel looks beautiful to-day. Most of the flowers opened in yesterday's sunshine. 

Pam took these.
Birds have returned to the garden in the last few days, having found the newly re-situated feeders. We haven't seen any evidence of rats for a while........A flock of Long-tailed, Coal and Blue Tits arrived this morning.
As the guineafowl has taken up residence, he has a name, Kobe. African species in origin so he has a Kruger name. Robbie's not sure what to make of such a large and noisy bird on his territory. So far it's been a stand-off at 20 paces. Advantage Kobe.
I made a loaf of bread following Paul Hollywood's instructions, using my new Kenwood to do the kneading hard work, this morning. I usually use the bread mixer. Here's the result.

Hope it tastes as good....
Ready for to-morrow's bird race sandwiches.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Boxing Day -Dry !

Wednesday December 26
Christmas was lovely, phone calls from family in Australia and friends over here, a very enjoyable main meal and TV. Our small Kelly organic free range bronze turkey was lovely. Much of it remains for sandwiches and my usual pie.
Traditionally, a day for a brisk walk after yesterday's eating excesses....we drove to Ludham Marshes! Pam still has a virus affecting her sinuses and did not need the fresh air - she was absolutely sure of that.
We drove the very pot holed road past some very nice houses to the marshes, all the holes deeply filled with water, the track thick with mud. A good size flock of mainly Bewick Swans with a few Whooper grazed and rested distantly in a meadow. There appeared to be a healthy number of first winters too.
The track to St Benets Abbey had a big stretch of  pond-like water at its junction. How's a dip so difficult to judge. It was fine.
A few more swans along here, a flock of Pinkfeet, about a dozen Egyptian Geese and very little else. The Broads Authority have built   anew car park with a footpath to the Abbey, not yet open, must have cost a lot. I wonder how many visitors go there.
As we drove home, the local flock of Pinkfeet has moved nearer to 'our' road away from the Rookery Farm area. The tractor entry paths are so deeply rutted and muddy that there is nowhere to park and scope, we had to be content with binning the flock from the car. Bob had seen a Tundra Bean amongst them last week, they were all lying down, legs invisible, we gave up.
We had a Guineafowl on our garden wall this morning, next door neighbours are busy trying to trace its origin. A local pheasant breeding station in a wood half a mile away is favourite at the moment, they keep a couple as fox frighteners. They make good guards.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Suffolk Snowball

Saturday December 15

A free day at last. I was quietly fretting ! 
Via Walcott Post Office to post our Christmas cards - another at last concern, I had printer problems so couldn't print off the newsletter for distant friends. Many of the latter range from birding trips in Morocco/ Santander whale watching ferry/Panama/South Africa,  to ex colleagues. I haven't done one for a while and try to keep it to one page.
A lovely sunny day, temperature rising to 10C, a welcome relief from a week of sub zero with torrential rain yesterday. We were in Aldeburgh soon after 11 a.m., negotiating the heavily pot-holed car parking area at the end of the main street. The location of the Hornemann's Redpoll was obvious from the knot of telescope - glued birders on the sea wall. I climbed the steep grassy bank and joined them. More big lenses were trained by photographers seated on the beach. All of us encircling an apparently oblivious and unconcerned bird feeding under and on a clump of weeds. What a cracker, absolutely beautiful. We watched it for a good half an hour before it flew off south along the beach. It makes Arctic Redpoll look dark!
I tried some digiscoping but had to move further away, we were viewing it below us from about 15 feet away.
Here are a few I managed when it showed itself well enough.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Colourful Legs

Tuesday December 4
After a disturbed night - smoke alarm bleeping right outside my bedroom and unable to remove the battery - I was reluctant to leave my warm bed at 6.30. It was 7.20 with a lovely golden and deep pink sunrise before we set off. Too dozy after a mere 3 hours sleep to consider photographing it........
It seemed to take forever to reach our Tree Sparrow spot, caught in work traffic, and then we didn't manage to see one. Nor much else either. It was an apparently birdless morning everywhere. Pam ate her breakfast at Abbey farm hide whilst I scanned, seeing a few Curlew, Egyptian Geese, Gadwall, Teal and Mallard. The best was a cock-tailed Wren singing its heart out on top of a post directly below the hide. I needed earplugs.
The hide log stated that a couple of feeders have been hung near the car parking area. Not easy to find at first, one of peanuts and the other millet seed. Two birds came in...Coal Tit and Marsh Tit. Very nice.
A quick check showed that it was high tide at Snettisham, we went directly there as fast as possible - legally of course !
The chalet pits had few birds, two Goldeneye the highlight and, then Little Grebes and Tufted Duck on the reserve pits. I scanned the muddy shore from the car , even though the temp. had risen to 2C, it was still very cold in the onshore wind. I love to watch the serpentine , water-filled channels , as the tide recedes, sunlight gleaming off the wet mud.
The usual goodly variety and number of waders, Knot much the most prolific. Swirling groups lifting and adjusting their position as new feeding areas become exposed. It's only the Oyks that fly directly away in large pied flocks.
Tesco in Hunstanton for the loo, one bacon and egg sandwich to share and some bananas before Holme NOA and NWT. Yet another house is being shoe-horned in along the approach road, even more potholes and mud and a large scaffolding lorry being unloaded to evade.
Our first group of six Fieldfare on the approach road, a distant flock of Pinks and a few Magpies. Then... the centre was closed. No hot chocolate to-day.
Thornham's creeks were emptying rapidly. Waw. A handsome Greenshank fed on the far bank. Our first for months. Always a treat to find a wintering one. I went camera crazy.
Have I become an even worse photographer or,  was the camera auto focusing not working properly? Or, was the dark water backed by shiny mud banks, pale bird and sun combination too much ? Maybe a combination of all three. Or was it my 18-270mm Tamron lens at full zoom? Conjecture, conjecture..........

At Titchwell, we walked the east trail for the first time after ticking a Brambling on the feeders. We got as far as the first wooden screen viewing point over the large pool where the gravel and soil  was removed for the new Parrinder Hide bank. We had lovely raised views over the marshes and the muddy edge should be good for waders. A few ducks and a Little Egret to-day, one Marsh Harrier distantly over the east bank towards Gypsy Lane. Three Waxwings had been feeding along the berried hedge until mid-day,  when they flew off.
The light was fast fading, no point in going on along the coast unless we stayed until dusk for the roost. Inland past Choseley for the 'fast' way home. Grey Partridge and a flock of at least 80 Brambling along the hedges south of the barns, white rumps flashing as they hedge-dived in front of us.

I had a lovely day, sun and birds, it made up a bit for not doing well on the 1st. Tuesday was the only day free this week but we may be able to fit in a half day on Friday after my obligatory doctor visit - annual medication review. I only take anti inflammatories.... seems like a waste of their time.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Roast Pork for 40 People

Sunday December 2

Duly attired in Christmas sparkly cardigan and heeled boots  (me) we arrived at Joan's daughter, Kate and husband Pete's home in Bacton at 12.30. A bit late as I'd had a long conversation with my Brisbane family including both grandchildren. Fourteen year old Harry sounds like a man now, no longer can I confuse him with Josh or Sara.
The whole of the ground floor was full of standing/sitting/talking/drinking friends and neighbours of Joan. She's a very active lady,  taking part in many activities and local clubs e.g theatre, gardening, keep fit, book reading, all of which were represented. Seeing no one we knew, we found a space and Pete brought us a drink.
Dinner was an enormous shoulder of pork cooked in a Jamie Oliver wood burning brick oven in the garden. Too many accompaniments to mention here......I stuck to a jacket potato, tomato salsa and a barley risotto with mushrooms and pumpkin. All very nice when breakfast has been given a miss in preparation. Desserts were also many and varied, produced by friends. We ate our meal beside the well, under a canopy with an outdoor chimneya (spelling?) entertained by Don. Basically it was 'chip chops I have fried in' but very interesting. A London man who'd moved here in 1970.
We arrived home soon after 3.30 p.m. in plenty of time to watch Norwich beat Sunderland 2-1. 
Pam started taking the crib and other decorations out of the roof space yesterday. Robbie thought he'd try it out for size.......

He insists on helping me work on the computer too. Well, he's an old boy and indulged! Keeps my ear warm ....
This is his true colour, Robertson's marmalade, not Robbie Williams.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Long Time - No Birding

Saturday December 1
Written on Dec 2

We think that we are very unsociable people, yet have spent a lot of time eating out with friends the last couple of weeks, with more to come. This, together with much rain and short days, has curtailed our birding to a few short trips around local lanes.
The much anticipated 'first of the month' long day out, birding the north coast, dawned to heavy frost and sub zero temperature on wet un-gritted roads. Hm. Maybe a long drive in the nearly dark was not advisable. Very disappointing.  To-morrow promises sun and dry but we are going to a - belated birthday -  lunch in Bacton. I had a cuppa, checked my farm and the temperature rose to 1C. We had to do something. 
As we set out for Cley, sleet fell, huge flakes in the heavy rain. parts of the country have had a good layer of snow already, skiing on Cairngorm has started a week earlier than usual.
Maybe the fields at Felbrigg Hall would have something, a good flock of Brambling wintered there last year. No sign of the Little Owl in its dead tree hole nor any other birds, It's not possible to drive through any more, so we returned to the main road. A dozen Blackbirds, all but one dark-beaked first winter males, probed the verges and a small flock of Redwing flew into a nearby tree. That's better !
I ate my cereal breakfast watching the flooded fields and marshes at Salthouse. About 20 Turnstone fed on scattered food near the car park, two Snow Buntings picked about the Horned Poppy and weed remains on the shingle ridge.
Parking at the triangle and trussed up against the very cold wind - not a strong one thank goodness - we walked out to Daukes. All the birds were on Pat's Pool so we moved to the other hide. Pat's was well flooded, the few remaining 'islands' not large. Plenty of Wigeon, a few Teal , Gadwall and Shoveller, eight Avocets and 20ish Black-tailed Godwits. A single Marsh Harrier quartered the reedbed. We stayed until hypothermia was imminent before returning to the car and Beach Road car park. The sea was very quiet, a couple of distant Red-throated Divers and a single Guillemot, all in flight. Comparatively few Brent Geese around so far this year, a small flock flew in opposite the Centre as we drove by.
Jeremy, in his drinks dipensing van, was still at Salthouse car park, we had hot chocolate and Eddie his second coffee of the day, before a last scan and a drive homewards.
The list stood at just over 50, what about Gunton? We took the back lane at Thorpe Market which misses the main junction and comes out on the Norwich Road. The horse paddocks are always worth a look.... definitely to-day. a handsome Green Woodpecker flew in and fed avidly ,probing the soft ground under an oak.
On the Suffield lane, a falconer was walking a field, I glimpsed a bird fly into a tree and sit silhouetted with its back to us. We reached the beet concrete pad at the same time as the man.  The bird was a male Goshawk which he has started training. He'd returned to his car to get a dead crow with which he hoped to entice him back. Can't count that........very tempting !!
Gunton lake produced plenty of Tufted Duck, three Little Grebe and two Egyptian Geese. No Great Crested Grebe to-day.
Sunset from North Walsham Waitrose car park, taken by Pam

Home in time to watch Man U beat Reading 4-3. All the goals in the first half, terrible defending. Rafael taken off after 20 minutes, threw a strop, refused his coat and had it thrown over his head by the kit man. He then sat in the subs seats like a sulky child, the solicitous Welbeck patting his knee before tucking the coat around his legs. All this whilst Rafael stared straight ahead with his arms folded. Not to be applauded but funny!