Tuesday, 29 January 2013

What a Splendid Hour

Tuesday January 29

News came through of the (iffy?) Ross's Goose south of Horsey with six Barnacles. It has been in the Halvergate area with Pinks but it's been missing for at least a week. It was early afternoon when we set out, giving the Marrams road a miss to-day... lucky we did. As we neared Sea Palling, a lovely male Hen Harrier crossed the road in front of us. Even nearer Palling, before Manor Farm, in a flooded field on the right, we counted 24 Bewick's , eight of them juveniles. Must have been a good breeding season.

Bewick Swans
Parking in the usual raptor watching lay-by south of Horsey Mill, I pointed out some outlines in the distant murk, towards Horsey Mere. Four Cranes, two adults and two juveniles. Excellent, our first this year. Despite the light rain, poor visibility and distance, I tried some digiscoping.

Enlarged, cropped...Common Cranes - couldn't get all four in

Adult and juvenile - even more cropped and enlarged

Suddenly, one of the adults bugled - a lovely sound - and they all flew away. Pam took this flight photo

I then turned my attention and scope to the eastern side of the road, where an enormous flock of about a thousand Pinks were resting and feeding. At the furthest point towards the dunes, The Ross's showed itself before being swallowed up by the mass again. Pam got out and eventually managed a look too. A very successful and enjoyable outing.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Garden Bully

Wednesday January 23
Much of the snow has dissipated but there's enough to well cover feeding areas for birds.Our first garden Brambling - a female - dropped in to-day, a Snipe probed the mud at the edge of our dyke.
The garden was a constant flurry of movement from feeding birds, many of them regularly seen off by a single very handsome Fieldfare which is owning the territory. He's seen off the other two but the Blackbirds keep coming back - they can get into the ground cage to feed.
As a result of avoiding a game of Rummykub with our 93 year old neighbour - Pam told a lie - we drove to Winterton this afternoon so that it became a truth. She already had someone coming over so I didn't feel too bad. I really enjoy playing games.......
The whole day was plumbeous, a louring sky and temperatures of 1C made the outing very dimpsy and much later than the watch showed. We saw nothing on the way there, couldn't park at Winterton Beach, turned round and arrived at Horsey Mill in time to see a Hen Harrier being bombed by a male Peregrine. Good to be out.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Snowy Garden

Monday January 21

We've had about 6 inches of snow over the last few days, much less than many others but enough to make the garden and trees look lovely. The first fall was last Wednesday, much of it had disappeared by yesterday afternoon. As the roads were clear, we drove to North Walsham to stock up on milk and fresh vegetables for us and currants, suet, cheap apples and bread for the birds.
A further fall yesterday evening made all look good again, the strong wind had thrown the snow on the eastern side of the trees without any drifting in our sheltered garden.
I made some more 'cake' to put in our cage ground feeders - large holed one for the blackbird family and a small one for the tits and finches. Pheasants and Moorhens patrolled longingly outside - Pam sprinkled a mixture of seed and nuts for them too. We had two Fieldfare, one Redwing and two Song Thrushes at the feeders on Saturday, to-day a single Fieldfare only along with a minimum (feeding at one time ) of ten Blackbirds. The Fieldfare really enjoyed the apple halves tied to the cage - it wouldn't venture inside. Too big for the holes? Or, not accustomed to one. Pam boiled up our remaining small potatoes from this year's crop but I haven't seen anything eat them yet. It's fun experimenting though. We shall do the RSPB garden bird count next weekend as usual, It will have to be Sunday as we have a friend's birthday lunch in Dedham on Saturday. I hope we can make it, very low temperatures expected but there should not be much - if any - more snow. So they say.........

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Yarmouth the Pretty Way

Monday January 14

After singing Happy Birthday to Marj who was 80 to-day (not writing this until the 16th),we drove to Ludham Marshes, hoping for Whoopers and anything else we could find. The track posted 'Marshes' held only Mute Swans, several Robins and a flock of sheep containing a deer .
The St Benets Abbey track was much better. Several scattered herds of Bewick's adding up to about 300, and at least 50 easily spooked Fieldfare amongst the Golden Plovers and Lapwing.
Next try, Ludham Bridge. A dozen Mute Swans in view, we drove on towards Horning, turning back at the cluster of cottages named after trees. The road is raised here but flanked by high hedges with a couple of gaps. Ah Swans.......We pulled in to an extremely muddy gap to view 30 Whooper Swans in the fields below. Great.
Now for Yarmouth and the car wash near Asda which does an excellent job on our 4X. The only silver bit is the roof ! All the local cars look the same, caked in brown mud from roads covered in soil by farmers trying to harvest beet - and the muddy water washed off saturated fields.
Mags had told us how much she and John had enjoyed a light meal at the Waterside Restaurant overlooking Ormesby Broad. As we neared the turn off I suggested that we try it out. A very pleasant room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Broad, where we enjoyed a Brie and bacon panini.
The eastern European attendant really gave the car a good wash with a pressure hose before Pam drove the car into the automated ride through car wash. This makes a big difference, especially around the back door mounted spare wheel.It also means that the under side gets a wash, the handwash at Stalham doesn't
Caister road was blocked off but it's only a short drive before a right turn takes one back to the far end of Caister and Second Avenue. It was bitterly cold on the sea wall from which we scanned the beach for Snow Buntings. No chance to-day, not walking was an easy decision. There were people and dogs everywhere, especially around the rocky bits they like to feed amongst.
We drove home via Winterton and Horsey, always hoping for a view of the Cranes. No luck to-day but I was very pleased to see 5 Snipe on the west side of the road before Horsey Mill. Pam had seen one fly in response to a Marsh Harrier fly-by, tried to pinpoint where it landed and found not just one but 5. Our first of the year, such cryptic birds.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Felbrigg Dip

Sunday January 13

Four days since it last rained. The woodland path down to Felbrigg Lake is renowned for boggy sections, it might be OK to-day. It wasn't too bad but we had to negotiate several morasses. Very disappointing. Very few ducks let alone Mandarins. Only four Mute Swans too, there are usually teens of them, including an over summering Whooper. No sign of that either.
There were some excellent fungii though and several Cormorants flew in to roost in a dead tree. This kept us occupied whilst waiting for something to make an appearance. Three Great Spotted Woodpeckers had a drumming competition in the distant trees.

Probable Lumpy Bracket - fresh

Smoky Bracket

Lumpy Bracket

Digiscoped Cormorant

Now all; I need is someone to identify the fungus...

Thank you very much James E who identified these for me - and let me know. Much appreciated.

Eventually we tired of the cold mossy bench and the slight but cheek-biting wind and returned to  find Man U had beaten Liverpool 2-1. Three more points.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Where is Ormesby Little Broad?

Saturday January 12
Despite its name, Ormesby Little Broad cannot be approached from Ormesby. It's an extension of Filby Broad, parking near Filby Bridge and walking north. It's a corner of Ormesby Broad which extends into Great Broad - all the same body of water. Very confusing, why  label one body of water with five names?
Viewing from the platform at the northern end, through fencing and reeds in dull light was difficult. I set up my scope where I could view the ducks in front of a distant boatyard in the NNE corner. Most were Tufted Duck with a scattering of Goldeneye. I found an interesting looking bird and tried to describe its whereabouts to the three others present. It was very active, rarely coming up for air for more than a few seconds. Cue extreme irritation. I like men in general but a certain kind of male birder can really get me going - internally mostly ! I was told that there were Goldeneye in that area.... then that female Goldeneyes often have a white patch at the base of the peak.......Condescending know-all prat. End of my instructions. The bird I saw was slightly larger, had pale side panels/back (not white yet), a bigger head and beak i.e. the 1st winter male Scaup reported from the area.
Whilst watching, a female Smew splashed into my scope view. Jammy.
Great Crested Grebe was added in the side channel on the return walk. Three Fieldfare flew across the road just before Repps and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker perched on top of a tree near Ingham .

Open To-day...

Friday January 11
With snow and sub zero temps in an easterly weather system forecast from Sunday, I thought we'd better get on with it. It was still damp and chilly at Sculthorpe but the lack of wind and the shelter of the trees made it bearable.
A Marsh/Willow Tit fed briefly on the feeder beside the entry hut. My immediate reaction was Willow, a bull-neck impression and a clean white collar/cheek patch. I only saw it for two seconds and it didn't call.......inconclusive.
The Woodland Hide had at least 20 Bramblings feeding on the ground under the feeders, regularly spooked by the - apparently - unnecessary alarm call of the Blackbirds. About the tenth time this happened, we gave up photography and walked on, finding the Brambling, Chaffinch and tit flock on the ground under the trees, fleeing in front of us. One Marsh Tit fed on the feeders near the hideously named 'Old Gits Corner' bench. This one called as well as giving decent views. I still can't make out the pale based upper mandible which is the true diagnostic ID if not calling - whether or not it's present that is.
As we neared the stream and its surrounding Alders, 20+ Siskin swung upside down on treetop catkins and a Nuthatch called.
 Despite the full car park, there were only two birders in Whitley Hide, our favourite as it's the most reliable for good views and variety. They soon left and we sat for an hour enjoying the almost constant activity - Blackbirds spooking again. Two male Bullfinches, two Reed Buntings, a horde of Chaffinches, another dozen Brambling, one visit from a Marsh Tit,  a mere  two Blue Tits, one Great Tit and a foraging Water Rail. Appalling light but I just love taking photographs.....

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Will We Ever Remember?

Monday January 7
As we turned in to Sculthorpe Moor reserve, a car approached and stopped opposite. 'Were you ladies expecting to bird here to-day '?  David Smith who organises the talks etc.  They're closed on Mondays and were taking the opportunity to fill in some potholes on the approach track.  Bother. I was looking forward to some woodland birding and photography.
We arrived at Titchwell at mid-day and Pam managed to walk as far as Parrinder Hide entry track - although she is feeling better, thank goodness.Over 3,000 Golden Plover closely packed on the islands together with Lapwing and, about a dozen Avocets roosting at the back of another.  Ray K told us that the female Red-crested Pochard frequents the new pool, we intended walking there on the way back but left it for another day.
A handsome Spotted Redshank flew in to the brackish marsh as we were leaving.

Things can change in a minute. The freshwater pool now held a few Dunlin and at least 30 Ruff flew in over our heads. We saw nothing on Thornham Marsh but J and D had a Red Kite here. We met them at Cley to-day (Tues), we'd obviously missed each other yesterday, they'd walked to Thornham Point for the flock of Twite.

High tide at Brancaster, all the waders were massed on the far spit instead of being scattered in the distance. 60+ Knot, Bar-tailed Godwits, 30+ Ringed Plovers, a few Curlew and Dunlin, rather more Lapwing. Lying in the middle of them was an adult winter Mediterranean Gull which later flew in to the water in front of the car. I attempted a pic through the windscreen.......Bar-tailed Godwit and Oystercatchers there too.

Busy watching the Gull, we'd both missed the Little Egret in partial breeding plumage feeding in the car park pool in front of the Yacht Club.

As the light was failing, we made for Stiffkey Fen where we parked overlooking the marsh. Several Marsh Harriers distantly circling near East Hills and then landing in the vegetation to roost for the night. Two Barn Owls in the same area, we've seen 6 so far this month - none for the last three. One male Sparrowhawk rose from the top of a nearby bush before disappearing and there must have been at least 20 Little Egrets scattered about. White spectres kept rising from the creeks.
Joy. A Short-eared Owl appeared from somewhere to the west, flying fast and direct towards the conifer clump north of  the beach where it hunted to and fro. I was busy enjoying the spectacle through my scope when Pam called a Ringtail  Hen Harrier flying fast east towards Morston. Was it a female or a juvenile male? We'll never know. Especially after seeing a similar bird on Mull last year which had paired up with a female and bred in 2011. 
A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, woodland birds can wait.....

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Chasing the Specific

Wednesday January 2
Getting Tundra Bean Goose on the list in January is always a matter of urgency for me. They will leave fairly shortly.
Pam spotted a small group of Bewick Swan in a roadside field, white lines so we couldn't stop. Our first Rooks of the year too.
Getting a roadside Goldcrest as we left the level crossing approach to Buckenham Marshes seemed like a good omen. It wasn't. No sign of the Bean Geese flock. Two wet birders told us that they had been in the far corner until railway workers had scared them off. A barrage of shooting from the Strumpshaw direction had decimated the number of wild fowl too. To-day must be one of the designated days agreed by the RSPB as part of their leasing agreement. Scanning the marsh and the flock of handsome Barnacle Geese, I found a Grey Heron and a male Peregrine, the latter perched on a gatepost.
Plan B. A 6 bar gate at the side of a one track lane near Cantley village where there's barely room to pull the car off onto a steep grass verge opposite. I got out with my scope to scan the treed marshes below and beyond. When I found firstly the White-fronted geese and then the orange-legged Taiga Beans, I called Pam out of the car to view through my scope. I was only out a short time but the rain was rather heavy, I could feel it splodging through my trousers.
Winterton seemed like a better option than Chedgrave Marsh. Scoping from the car, I saw half a dozen Red-throated Divers, 1 female Common Scoter and one Black-throated Diver. There were probably more divers but, there was a strong northerly drift which made counting difficult in limited viewing conditions.
Maybe we'll add GCGrebe after lunch with friends on Friday. I have an early hairdresser appointment to-morrow morning but - weather permitting - we can probably fit some birding in to make up for the poor start.

Bird Race - More like a Sack Race

January 1 2013
After 3 hours of sleep, we didn't set off until almost 7.00 a.m. By 7.45 we had seen a total of 4 birds - one pheasant and THREE Barn Owls, all before the Fakenham roundabout.
Abbey Farm already had two parked cars. Penny left as we arived, the other two folk were still in the hide, reporting that P had seen a Kingfisher fly through. Lucky. The hedgerows, field and pond were pretty empty apart from Greylag and Mallard, a Stoat playing near the lower pond gate was nice.
After the now normal Golden Pheasant at Wolferton blank, next stop Snettisham at high tide. All the expected waders on the beach plus a Lesser Black-backed Gull, Pintail and Pochard. Four handsome male Goldeneyes on the third pit, a pair on the second pit. I got out of the car and looked about, finding birds Pam could rive to see. It was very cold, 2C on the car gauge, more like -2 in the wind chill.
No Tesco loo stop to-day, it was closed. On to Holme via Hunstanton Cliffs and several prospecting Fulmar, nothing on the sea...
I walked to the Broadwater Hide at Holme to find that I could only open one shutter, all others swollen tightly closed due to all the rain we've had, At least it was sunny and dry to-day. Shoveller and Marsh Harrier added to the list. I'd intended going to pay Sophie the sponsor money for her Christmas Eve Bird Race but decided to drive on in order to make full use of the day.
The next hour and more was a complete waste of time. The car park at Thornham was full.....
Titchwell was full, including three cars in the Fishermen's car park we use, people had Double parked along the approach road. Many seemed to be the fancy wellies, dogs and kids, no bins set. That knocked a minimum of 12 birds off the list.
Brancaster Staithe is the only reliable spot for Ringed Plover which we ticked and drove on. Traffic slowed as we approached Lady Anne's Drive to find chaos. Parked cars inside the entrance gate and a huge queue waiting to come out and another to go in, The entry queue stretched half a mile towards Wells.
We reached Wells Beach Road without a problem, turned left and encountered a stream of nose to tail cars from the junction as far as the beach car park. Yow. After a 15 point turn in the pitch and putt , packed,  car park, we eased back into the exit stream of traffic and inched our way out of there. Feeling very tired by now, a lucky chance finding a parking spot in the Cley East Bank car park. I climbed the bank and saw distant geese, motioning to Pam who decided to get out for the first time. The flock of Canadas was visible distantly at the far corner of the field, the Hutchinson's Canada Goose (sub-species of the recently split 'Cackling Goose' ) stood out due to its small size. I tried some digiscoping with very limited success, much too distant. 

Richardson's Canada Goose -  facing us front centre.
The Sacred Ibis was also visible about half a mile away towards Salthouse.
After our first hot drink of the day from the coffee van parked at Salthouse Beach - another jam packed with cars experience, we drove home via Gunton Park, adding Tufted Duck to the lowest Jan 1st list in memory. A bare 70 species. A just reflection on a day of car birding and no Titchwell. I think I'll have to review a) the date and b) the route. A fit Pam would also be an essential. I could have gone off without her but it doesn't seem right.
We saw 5 Buzzards and 4 Kestrels, dipping on Greenfinch, Coal and Long-tailed Tits and Grey Heron to name a few obvious misses. Enjoyed the day but not the traffic and the low total