Thursday, 28 February 2013

Worth It

Wednesday February 27

A stranger appeared. The sun came out early afternoon and  we departed for the 'Horsey run'. The Ross's was grazing, along with its feral entourage of a dozen Barnacles, amongst a couple of thousand Pinkfeet, south of Horsey Mill. 

As we were watching it and, ridiculously, attempting photographs, a ringtail Harrier flew by. In my haste to pick up my camera, finding it was switched off and then re-adjusting, I only managed one hasty shot.

 A perched Sparrowhawk took off in alarm at a passing car.
The road to Winterton was 'access only, businesses open as usual', we drove on. Not a good idea. barrier across the road and a waiting vehicle to escort buses. Undeterred we drove back to the main road and made an  approach was via Hemsby! The sea at Winterton was choppy but we managed three Red-throated Divers and a sparse fly-past of soaring, gliding groups of adult Gannets. Lovely.
Catfield still had a herd of Bewick's and Whoopers, mostly the latter.

The garden still has a myriad birds feeding. A dozen Siskins remain, the Jay comes daily as do Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Goldfinches. Very few Tit family though.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


Monday February 18

We needed to go to Hainford, on the outskirts of Norwich, to get some native trees to further encourage  garden birds. We went via Cley..........ending up driving a big sideways triangle.
The Purple Sandpiper was showing well, but distantly, on the flood pool in the Eye Field, viewable from Beach Road. I took some appalling photographs, so bad I'm not posting them.
Julian (he's not Jeremy , people call him all sorts  he says), and his drinks van,  was at Beach car park Salthouse, despite it being a Monday and half term. Maybe because it is half term. We took our hot chocolate over to the eastwards side of the car park as there were prone photographers, children etc on the west side.
Thirty Snow Buntings flew onto the area of shingle near to the bank where food is sometimes spread. Lovely. I waited as they gradually came closer, taking some more terrible photographs, when... a red car full of birders (!!) drove in next to them in a spray of shingle and the birds took off. What part of camera and lens out of window do they not understand? Nor was it an obvious parking place for them. Not new in the car park either, they'd shifted position and squeezed into a space usually avoided due to loose shingle and proximity to the bank. The woman passenger was heard to say 'What did you change places for'  - as she glanced at us. We drove away.
Successful with our needs at the nursery we drove home with the tree roots in the front foot well and the branches waving past my right ear where I sat in the back.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Curate's Egg

Friday February 15

Had a good day yesterday, bird-wise, at Thetford. Not good walk-wise ! Our instructions said : 'Park at Riverside car park, cross metal bridge, look for Black-bellied Dipper (continental race of ours, lacking the chestnut band between dark belly and white chest) is between two wooden bridges'. There was the car park and a metal footbridge. A young man said we were in the right direction but it was a long way. About a mile later, another said, we'd see some parked cars (!!) across the river and it was between the wooden bridges. We walked on past the metal footbridge and the parked cars the other side. Where now? No one to ask so we continued along a very muddy and rough footpath. No sign of a wooden bridge, just a stone one so we turned back. I added Nuthatch and Marsh Tit to my month list in this lovely, tranquil,  wooded 
area either side of the flood swollen Thet. Parts of the river were a raging torrent.. The whole walk was lovely, a new part of Norfolk for us.
As we reached the parked cars, four birders crossed the bridge, straight across and up a muddy track. We followed. Made our slow way through ankle deep, foot-sucking mud to a narrow, overgrown rivulet tributary and there was the Dipper feeding on the muddy bank, often from the shore, dipping its head neck-deep into the water to feed. Lovely. Hardly time to set up scope before it flew upstream. I was really hoping for one good photograph after seeing the excellent ones on Surfbirds and Penny's Blog.
Too weary to follow. so set off on the long walk back to the town.  The town in sight, crossing a little bridge, the postie, pushing his bike,  stopped me to ask if I'd seen the Otter. Hm. He then regaled me enthusiastically with stories of his sightings. When you're getting on and grey-haired all sorts of people talk to you I've discovered. Non-threatening. 
By now Pam had sat on a bench. I joined her and two Treecreepers flew into the tree in front of us.  Pam was carrying my camera so a shot was impossible. The bag was zipped and her under fleece threaded through the strap. 
We'd been idly watching three camera-toting people doing a bent-kneed walk along along the river bank. A brief glimpse of an Otter head set Pam charging (!) off. I followed, after divesting myself of my scope, in time to see the Otter swim under the bridge and out of sight. Would have missed the Otter if we'd parked in the other park. 
A red-headed woman turned out to work at the BTO centre 'The Nunnery' which we'd passed earlier. Otters had been present since they moved in, in 1991. They breed every two years and the apparently fearless ones being seen regularly along this stretch and as far as the town centre are the cubs from 2011. A dog Otter is occasionally seen. Again, some fantastic photos on Surfbirds.
Shame I hurt so much to-day. First mistake was carrying my scope on my back and my big camera and lens in a bag stretched across my shoulders. Very quickly, I got a stitch type pain in my right lumbar region. I did give in and let Pam carry the camera, about which I always feel bad. Firstly because it was my choice to carry it and,  secondly  because it isn't instantly available for me to use !! Haven't had this sciatica problem for over a year. Must be more careful.
We thoought we'd have lunch overlooking Lynford Arboretum Paddocks area. Arriving at the track entrance we found a notice saying 'Only authorised vehicles allowed'. When did that happen? I didn't fancy walking from the Arboretum car park, neither of us did. Back to Santon Downham lunch and home.
Great day out though.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Long Time No Write

Wednesday February 13

Due to the weather and inclination, we've done realtively little birding apart from our garden. Pam added a Treecreeper to the garden list, spotting it on the Youngii birch from the upstairs bathroom window. She called down but it had gone.
We drove to Salthouse one afternoon for 3 Snow Buntings and Jeremy's excellent hot chocolate (his van) in the beach car park. We also picked up the Bewicks and Whoopers in Catfield for the month.
This morning, we drove to Bland Road in Norwich which overlooks some river marshes opposite the Spire Hospital. Immediately we could see an egret, a hunched, looking as miserable as only the heron family can, which was a Little. 

We walked on past the horses for a better scope view of ......Black-headed Gulls on a large area of frozen water. No sign of a big white blob. What a dismal day, poor light, low grey overcast, cold 2C max and, poor visibility.
Disappointed,  we walked a short way back when Pam spotted a promising looking shape in the far distance, I was putting my scope legs away. Legs out again and the yellow beak was clearly visible, the bird was about half a mile away. I still tried to digiscope with pretty poor results but they're the only ones I've got. Camera + long lens would not have succeeded in getting anything. A true 'record shot'.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

A Brambling Day

Friday February 1 (written on the 2nd)

Not out until 7.30 which gave the birds - and us - time to become active before we left home. A grey sky produced some rain between Harpley and Abbey Farm. Until we passed the hearse and its following limo, doing a steady 40mph , we'd been dead slow for half an hour before the rain. Pam called it statutory corpse speed. Quite a build up of traffic behind at this time of day.The first of three Barn Owls in the Fakenham area.
Our first Tree Sparrows at the cottages, more further along the road and another group at Flitcham.   Brambling accompanied the Tree Sparrows and Goldfinches.
Avoiding the ivy clad tree which had fallen partially into the lane, Abbey Farm added Greylag and a pasture dotted with a hundred Fieldfare and a few Redwing. Where have the Little Owls gone? They only appear sporadically in the logbook for January. Plenty of Grey Partridges to-day.
When we stopped for petrol, I overheard two men discussing why one had bought eggs. Breakfast for the boys as it was 'Cock Day' - the last shooting day of male Pheasants I assume.
Hopefully around Wolferton triangle........nothing.......
P C keeps talking about Sandringham bird table where she sees Nuthatch, Marsh Tits etc, we'll find it one day but no luck to-day.
An hour past high tide at Snettisham but plenty of water still in. All the expected waders and ducks, nothing startling. Always a pleasure though.
Fulmar are cruising Hunstanton Cliffs at the moment, we didn't have to stop long in the now sunny and warm -9C - mid morning.
Yet another inappropriately modern, sore thumb house,  being shoe-horned in along Holme NOA entrance track. I wish someone would spend some money on the road, it's impossible to avoid the deep and numerous potholes let alone the crunching road humps. 
Apart from a couple of reed Buntings not a lot to report until we sat in the Broadwater Hide. Five Marsh Harriers circled lazily over the far reeds, one of them a handsome male. Broadwater held more water than I've seen before.
Lunch at Thornham before walking at Titchwell. The 'Fishermen's Car park' was empty, we parked there as usual. A volunteer RSPB helper we hadn't seen before, proceeded to tell us that we might be blocked in by a fisherman's car !! I told him that we'd been parking there for 30 years........didn't add that we'd never been blocked in though as he was very pleasant.
Patsy's Pool along Fen Trail turned up trumps. The female Red-crested Pochard which was our target bird, was fast asleep tucked into the far reeds. I'd seen her lift her head once, but apparently Pam had seen it swimming with the Coots whilst I was setting up scope. 

Spot the bird
Lovely warm sunshine and a panoramic view so we sat a while. Pam called Bittern. I stopped trying to digiscope in time to see a caramel coloured bird fly strongly across the reedbed before dropping. Excellent.
The pool on the left of the path before Island Hide was a sea of mud, the farmer had decided to drain it, no-one knows why. Therefore, it was studded with waders, we added Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit to the day list.
Sleeping Snipe beside a marsh pool, five more amongst the stones and broken brick on a Freshwater pool island.. Others had seen a female Long-tailed Duck on a marsh pool which had disappeared by their return journey. A few Avocets, Pochard and a single Goldeneye amongst the Brents and Golden Plovers, two more Marsh Harriers and two reed Buntings.
We met Bren on the way back, she'd been at Choseley Barns, sounded good.
No views of Siskin and Redpoll to-day, half a dozen Brambling coming down to feed on the bird  table area. Our car wasn't blocked in.
As we arrived at Choseley, a woman and a black dog walked through the yard. How lovely. We decided to give it a few minutes in hope. Ten minutes later, at least 30 dazzling Yellowhammers and 20+ Brambling gradually returned to the sparse clumps of hedge. We tried hard but no Corn Bunting appeared. We left as the dog walker returned and re-traced her path through the yard.
A couple of fairly fruitless stops only as the sun was setting fast. A perched raptor swerved us into a layby overlooking Holkham Marshes. In the same tree as we'd seen one two years ago, sat a Buzzard sp. I ducked so that Pam could see it and it flew.. she said she had the impression of a pale tail as it took off, I didn't see it well enough but it was a very pale breasted bird. Was it a Rough-legged? A pale Buzzard was reported a few weeks ago.
 Beach Road, Wells added a gate-post sitting Sparrowhawk which arrowed away at our approach. It was dusk when we parked at the end of Cley Beach Road and ticked off the putative Pale-Bellied Brent feeding with another 40 dark-bellied. 
Contented and happy, home for chores and a welcome hot drink. I saw 82 species, two of which Pam missed, she saw two which I missed. I regret not seeing the Woodcock which flew across the car........