Monday, 29 April 2013

Rain, Sun and Dolphins

Sunday April 28

We woke to rain which continued until Munlochy Bay on the Black Isle. As we descended into Inverness on the A9, it became tempestuous, with an accompanying near gale force wind. What were we doing out? We wasted some of the rainy time in Inverness Tesco, doing some essential shopping.
Chanonry Point was a useful place for me to have my first meal, watching a very choppy Firth. Quick yelp from me...’Dolphin’. The jug containing my meal was hastily abandoned and photographs attempted. Have you ever tried photographing dolphins? One doesn’t know where and when they are going to surface next and I was trying from the car over the wing mirror in the rain. Miraculously, I managed one.

 A single Fulmar flew past but nothing else.
Munlochy was pretty empty too, a few Wigeon, Teal, Curlew and Oystercatchers.
Udale Bay is an RSPB reserve on the Firth of Cromarty, the firth is also a naval centre. The tide was well in, groups of Oystercatchers and Gulls roosting on a spit where I scoped our only Dunlin of the trip, just one. Around the corner 500 Pink-footed Geese strolled into view as did a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers.

Cromarty Point gives a very high view of the Firth Mouth - scenically good but only gulls in view to-day. Cromarty is lovely, boats, little houses huddled around the harbour, the road hugs the shore. What’s more, we had three hours of sunshine early afternoon.
That soon changed as we reurned to the A9 and Inverness. It chucked it down again from a navy blue sky. We decided to take the Grantown Road from Nairn instead of the dull A9 to Carrbridge - via Lochindorb. A Raven crossed the road in front of us. At last, we shall see plenty on Mull though. Rainy sleet became sleet which changed to snow. It was 1C on the car thermometer. Sitting at the end of the loch trying to see through a white-out was ridiculous. The Osprey which flew in and did a tour of the loch thought so too, it soon flew back from whence it came.
Driving on to where the Black-throated Diver nest is situated was madness too, we couldn't see across the water. I had to get out for urgent reasons, risking exposure, Pam saw a Merlin...........
Hurrah, the snow stopped and the Red Grouse came out to play, I saw at least eight in flight and a lovely male called from a ridge above the road. 

A female showed very well on the road but the mirror obscured her until she ran up the hillside. A male Wheatear showed itself for a brief visit.
We left just before 6 p.m. in lovely sun, blue sky and golden evening light. April showers.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Some You Win.......

Saturday April 27

Well, we did make it to the Loch Garten Centre, a little late at 5.45 a.m. Unfortunately the Caper didn’t... well a male flew in out of sight of us and the cameras. We stayed an hour in the freezing cold, it was 0C, everything was white with frost, the mountains deep white from overnight snow. We sat and listened to a guide talking about Capercaillie whilst watching the best footage ever from 10 days ago, two males posturing and showing threatening behaviour towards each other without actually making contact. The norm apparently, although there are occasional fights. More Crested Tits on the feeders, this time on the ones at the Centre, vying with a Red Squirrel.

Time for Black Grouse. What !! OH NO !! The Tulloch Moor road had a new notice ‘ Road unsuitable for motor traffic, Private Road’. Definitely a no no for Pam. I was all for continuing, it didn’t say we couldn’t. So we turned round, Pam’s in charge of the car.

Next try is a site near Abernethy on the Tomintoul road. Success immediately. As we drove the area, a male Black Grouse rose from the land beside the car, flew parallel to
us for a while before crossing ahead of us and landing on a ridge. It’s a very narrow single track road so we could’nt stop to scope it. There is a pull-off but we couldn’t find any more grouse. Snow even at this level, not enough to cover the heather but plenty to cover the mountainside.

As we returned to Abernethy, a Short-eared Owl flew past a plantation and across the road out of view. Good views of both this morning’s birds.

The sun was out and visibility looked pretty good. Was it worth having another go at Ptarmigan? Tremendous amount of snow on the way up to Cairngorm , even the trees were heavily laden from the Reindeer Centre onwards. 

The car park was absolutely heaving with skiiers, we decided not to join the mad throng and drove back to Loch Morlich where Pam tried out her add boiling water instant pot of Strawberry, Raspberry and Cranberry Porridge. It was surprisingly good.

Findhorn Valley is one of our favourite birding trips. It looked lovely in the sun. Nothing of note on the way to the car parking area but we weren’t waiting very long before a Golden Eagle soared the ridge directly in front of us. Lovely.

The wild goats were feeding roadside on the way back. I find them very photogenic and can’t resist taking their photographs, especially as there were some cute young. 

A Hare stood still long enough for me to take one shot before rocketing away.

We rarely see anything on the Farr road, and to-day was no exception. Not even any Wheatears, everything is very late due to the wintry spring. Crested Tits on the feeders is unknown as late as this. Good for us but - not the lateness of everything else.

As we drew in to the small Ruthven car park, a Slavonian Grebe showed in a gap in the trees. No need to do that treacherous path climbing between tree roots and over boulders to the hide, thank goodness. Three Little Grebes and two Curlews later I suggested that we call it a day. We were up at 4.45 a.m. and it was nearly 4 in the afternoon before we were back in the chalet. We were both tired. I had to keep Pam awake, singing usually does it.

Shame Norwich lost to-day. Go Man U against Arsenal to-morrow, it will be a sickener for them to have to give the team, RVP in particular, a guard of honour.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Tues April 23 - Friday April 26

Photos added later - and text edited !!

Tuesday April 23The alarm went of before 4 a.m. ! We were packed and off by 4.47, driving in sun and cloudless blue sky - until reaching the A1. The cloud gradually increased and the rain started at Skatteraw, our favourite stopping place, which is a small car park + loo overlooking a lovely bay, in the shadows of a power station, a good birding spot. Not a lot about to-day. Two Wheatears, Meadow Pipit, a pair of Red-breasted Mereganser, our first of many Eider, Curlew, Redshank and the occasional passing Gannet. The latter are usually numerous. The wind was really fierce too, especially during the squalls.

Longniddry Bents , south east of Edinburgh is another good spot for auks, terns and divers. To-day? A huge swell with white tops to the waves and an even stronger wind meant seeing nothging apart from one Sandwich and one Common Tern. Maybe a short return journey to the more sheltered Aberlady Bay would be calmer. Yes, it was but everything was hiding. Careful scanning added about a hundred Curlew, two pairs of Pintail, Goldeneye and R B Mergansers. As always on Scottish coasts, many Shelduck Eider and Herring Gulls.

We didn’t want to go to the Travelodge mid afternoon and the sun was out, we decided to drive to Methil/ Leven beach. The tide was high but starting to fall. At least 20 Red-breasted Mergansers, Kittiwakes and Gulls were bathing in the river mouth to the south of the beach. The Lesser Black-backed Gulls are looking lovely at the moment. We added a few summer plumage Long-tailed Ducks and Common Scoter.

Getting travel weary but remarkably fresh really, we drove to Glenrothes Travelodge and settled in for the night.

Wednesday April 24

Later start this morning - steady rain, what a pain. We hit Aberdeen at rush hour but the Satnav did us proud. Aberdeen Esplanade is north of town and has ample parking room along the road overlooking the sea. We sat on a bench and enjoyed view of a sea scattered with Red-throated Divers in very variable plumage, from full summer to winter. I had 14 in my scope at one time. More delightful Long-tailed Ducks, two Common Terns, Razorbill, Guillemot and.... Eider and Gulls. I will not mention the latter again unless there’s a good reason. This morning’s year tick and we’ve seen hundreds.

Even more at Newburgh on the Ythan together with a couple of winter plumage Knot, two orange Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew and a distant Tern. The disappointing closure of the public loos we’ve been using for years, meant that our stay was quite short. Then the road to Waulkmill Hide was closed, still, it must be at least a year. Meikleloch is well off the road down a track and quiet ... an essential visit. Plenty of Teal and Tufted Duck, a few Mallard and nothing else.

Time to back-track a mile to the Collieston turn-off.

This time, the sea was calm ! Not a good augary for Collieston, as it proved. A few Guillemots and Razorbills, usually distant, and two House Martins visiting the puddle for mud.

We don’t usually visit the Crimond airfield site of the RSPB Starnafin Farm reserve first but we did to-day. Making our tortuous way across acres of badly surfaced concrete,
past skyscraper aerials, often having to zigzag through what looks like tank traps is not a normal reserve entry! The stays holding the aerials in place are very long indeed. To-day proved why they’re necessary. A tremendous squally wind was a constant, howling across the wide open area.

The walk to the hide is, after a muddy track, via a boardwalk over wet marsh and lichen-encrusted alders and birch trees which give shelter. The stilt mounted hide was draughty and shaking. We did not open any windows, it was airy enough already. Forty seven Mute Swans, two pairs of Pintail, a good smattering of Tufted Ducks, three Great-crested Grebes, a Grey Heron, 60+ Wigeon and a single Sand Martin kept us scanning until a huge squall hit us. The windows were heavily rain coated. Time rto scan and admire the Belted Galloway Bull, Ayrshire cows and Konik horses in the fields across the lake.

As soon as the rain stopped it was time to move, Three Willow Warblers, at least three Wrens and a Blue Tit sang in the woods.

Starnafin Farm Centre was empty, no children having lessons to-day. The usual Tree Sparrows in the car park area. What a disappointment. Hundreds of Black-headed Gulls, a few Mallard, Teal and Tufted Duck were the only birds in view. We enjoyed the seat in the warm for an hour or so but only three Grey Herons were added. We’ve never known it to be so birdless - variety wise - before. We knew that arriving early afternoon was not the best time but didn’t expect this. We’ve seen several hundred Pink-footed Geese to-day, many more than usual for us but apparently they usually hang around the area until the end of April.

A quick visit to St Combs before driving the rough track hugging the sea, to Carnbulg. The wrecked ship was wholly visible on a rocky reef offshore, the tide so low that there were rocks joining it to the coast.

Enjoying the sun and two Wheatears, jousting Rock Pipits, 30+ summer plumage Sanderling scurrying on a sandy/ seaweed area and Pied Wagtails, we stayed over an hour. A few Guillemots, Razorbills, Gannets, Kittiwakes, Shags and Cormorants flew through. The highlight was two Puffins rushing past.

Rose Lodge our B and B for the night, beckoned. Unfortunately, trhe internet connection is either slow or non existent, intermittently cutting out. I haven’t looked at my Fantasy footie team for weeks, maybe months. Suarez being banned for 10 games prompted me to try and remove him from my team. That will have to wait.

Thursday April 25

Breakfast at 7, both of the Smiths were up. He cooks breakfast and she is usually in bed ! She has carpal tunnel syndrome in her right wrist and it keeps her awake. It did mean that we met the delightful 16 week old Tilly, a Chihuahua/Maltese Terrier. She has the latter’s long coat and the former’s dimunitive stature.

The Sat Nav took us about a mile and a half up a potholed farm track....which was a very good short cut to the main road. Our first bird was a Tree Sparrow.

We have droppedin to Portsoy before, it has a photogenic 16C harbour which means the sea can be scanned from nearby. Three birders were already scoping. They turned out to be from North Wales, had driven up overnight, sen a male Capercaillie and Crested Tit at Loch Garten, were birding here as a result of a conversation at Garten and then off to Balranald for the Harlequin Duck, back from there for Ptarmigan and home on Sunday. One of them was an old boy with a hearing aid. Good for them. The sea was heaving with Long-tailed Ducks and Auks, a few Red-throated Divers and, eventually, a distant big, black, spotty Diver, the target bird, White-billed Diver in summer plumage. Eight were seen from a charter boat last weekend. It’s going out again this weekend. Lovely.

The tide was well in at Spey Bay, only three Goosanders in view, a pair on the river bank and a male snorkeling in the waves at the river mouth.

In addition to the birds now becoming ‘the usual’ at Burghead, a flock of about 300 Common Scoter straggled through befor elanding. No sign of any white wing patches.

A cold and windy Findhorn Bay was almost birdless, both the gorsed dune approach and the sea. The hide overlooking the estuary is now key only. Good job too. It’s been re-furbished and needs protection from the local vandals.

Loch Flemington added Moorhen and Little Grebe and the sad sight of two dead Badgers either side of the road. The road is long and straight, cars speed along. I’m glad Pam didn’t have her camera handy, as I got out of the car to take a photo of the loch, my newspaper fell under the car and was whisked away before I could rescue it. I was in the middle of the road picking up individual sheets which were blowing away from me when a car came along. It ran over two pages but the gust of the car whooshed the rest of the pages into the fence at the edge of the loch. I thrust them back through a laughing Pam’s window and she had them re-assembled by my return.

Loch Flemington
 As we were approaching Alturlie, a beautiful Red Kite showed in a field beside us and then flew across the road to our rear before showing well again against a plantation.

Alturlie came up trumps with over 30 Greater Scaup in the middle of the water. Little else though apart from three Hooded Crows which started on the road and then on to the stony beach enabling us both to photograph them. They’re usually very wary. 

A heavy squall drove us to leave for Tesco and shopping for the week’s supplies. I found Pam exactly what she was hoping for. Pots of porridge for 1 which only needed boiling water added. All the other quick varieties were microwave cooked for 2 minutes. We’ll see how she likes them.

After checking in and collecting the key at Fairwinds, we were welcomed to our chalet by a male Cross bill flying up from the ground in front of the verandah into the first tree . I dropped the shopping bags and got my binos..... Siskin, Coal Tits and Robins fed on the Hotel feeders.

Friday April 26

A far more relaxed start after 4 hectic and full days. The forecast for the rest of the week is very iffy, maybe we should go up Cairngorm to-day? It looked OK - until we got to the funicular car park .........when it snowed, quite hard but the flakes were small. The train was packed with skiiers, no other birders. I’ve never seeen as much snow as low down as this to-day. Visibility from the Ptarmigan cafe was only a few metres so we had a drink, hoping things would improve. We ended up making four visits to the viewing terrace, spending some time being buffeted by a strong westerly hurling cheek-stinging snow at us. The snow at either end was almost wall high and an inch of fresh powder fell whilst we were there. The temperature was -2C. The consolation was a pair of Snow Buntings in summer garb, which fluttered down to feed below the terrace and then - fleetingly - onto the terrace itself. Do you know what? We really enjoyed the experience, despite missing out on Ptarmigan, (apart from a dead one lying on a drift on the terrace), for the first time in many years.

The Reindeer Centre half way down the mountain road was the next stop. Pam’s
adopted Reindeer, Strudel, had shed his horns, which were said to be in good condition, and Pam had booked them. They look good still having some of the velvet attached in parts. The girl said that it would be easily removed if they were left outside for a while. What is Pam going to do with them...? They’re in the back of the car in a white bin bag

Loch Garten RSPB looked like a good bet and it was. As we were showing our cards at the gate, a Crested Tit came down to the feeders, joining the ever changing throng of Coal Tits and Chaffinches jostling for a place to feed. 

The walk to the Centre was birdless, our sole purpose being to view the Osprey nest. It’s difficult to see the female EJ sitting on her three eggs as the nest is high and deep. She was hunkered right down sheltering from the wind. Fortunately the male, Odin, was perched just underneath. He’d brought an 18 inch Pike in this morning. I tried digiscoping as it’s a fair distance to the nesting tree. 

We spent some time trying to photo the Crestie on the return journey with variable results. Why is the light always wrong and the feeders in the shade ! A dimunitive Wood Mouse was even more difficult to capture as it dashed out, burrowed into leaf mould and rapidly shot away again. Pam has some good pics.


Lochindorb, a perennial favourite, was the next birding call. We took a pleasant back road to the loch, feeling sorry for the lone Buzzard being hassled, harried and annoyed by 9 Corvids. Far too many for one bird to have to deal with.

In the hour or so we spent at Lochindorb, we saw:

Common Sandpiper, White Wagtail and 4 Redshanks on the shores of the loch.

At least 10 Red Grouse on the moors

A Black-throated Diver calling as he/she left the nest and departing high and

A single Osprey which circled and hovered its way along the loch before being spooked by a helicopter.

As we left the lochside, our first Hen Harrier of the trip flew along a ridge before dropping out of view .

The feeders we hung up outside our chalet had been well used to-day, the sunflower hearts in particular. As I type, I can hear heavy rain falling. Will we make it to the Caper watch in the morning? The Garten guide said that only one bird was appearing and it could only be seen on camera this morning. Not an attractive proposition.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Sometime soon....

April 25

Intermittent and frustrating net access. Am writing my Blog offline and will upload when time and access allows !

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Barton Beauties

Sunday April 21

Such a beautiful day, we couldn't resist going out birding, despite having much to do before setting off for Scotland on Tuesday. No, not packing, that's a last minute job, mainly gardening, dealing with potting on vegetable seeds etc. I planted a row of Chard yesterday but still have pepper and tomato plants to pot on.
Barton Broad woods were echoing with the song of Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs which seem to have arrived in force. From the boardwalk platform, we added a few lovely, so elegant, Arctic Terns to the year list. Too distant to photograph, even through the scope.
A Water Rail called very close to us and Pam managed to see a Cetti's again, whilst I was digiscoping an adult Little Gull. So difficult to catch any light in a black eye in a black head.

We added nothing at Winterton, No room to park at the Village Hall so we walked Winterton south dunes from the southern Hemsby end. A mistake. Accompanying our walk was the smell of chips and kebabs and the noise of go-karts and arcade music. The place was heaving with holiday makers and they're well provided for with entertainment and food .
The dunes here are very sparsely bushed so we soon gave up, seeing only House Sparrows and Dunnocks. Deciding not to walk from the Winterton Beach car park, we drove home, Pam adding a House Martin at Somerton. 
Pager message. Male Pied Fly in Kings Loke Hemsby !! We set the SatNav and drove back.
The loke is a very quiet lane, lined with large treed gardens and 'nice' houses. Where was the bird? Another car was parked in a small pull in at the end of the houses. We parked and he was the reporter of the sighting who then kindly led us along an unmade road and into a dense copse, to where he'd last seen the bird. We saw our first Comma and Peacock butterflies, plenty of bee flies and common birds but not our target. Ah well. Male Pied Fly in spring is pretty unusual in Norfolk which is why we tried. Maybe half an hour wasn't long enough for a reported as 'elusive' bird. The reporter had seen it once, gone for his camera and had been unable to find it again. Steve saw it late afternoon !

Friday, 19 April 2013

Poor Start, Great Middle and End

Friday April 19
We took a friend out birding to-day. She arrives at 8.30 so it's not an early start, not too disappointing considering the outbreaks of rain, overcast sky and the return of a cold easterly wind.
Catching up with news occupied the time spent in travelling to Holme, by which time the raim had stopped, other conditions remained the same.  We walked to Gore Point seeing a few Dunnocks, Magpies and Skylark. a flock of Brent rising and then landing again on the distant marsh.
Walking out to the Broadwater Hide, I heard the first Sedge Warbler of the year, and saw it too, along with a Willow Warbler, in the top of a hawthorn. Still a lot of water in the lake, plenty of Avocets, two Black-tailed Godwits, four Ruff, 2 Redshanks, a pair of Pochard and Mute Swans. Five Marsh Harriers in the air at one time, Curlew dotted around the marsh. Couldn't turn any of them into Whimbrel....
Titchwell is always worth a visit. Several Little Ringed Plovers, about ten White Wagtails flitting about, one dazzlingly bright yellow male Yellow Wagtail amongst them. Lovely birds. More Sedge Warblers, a good VIEW of a pair of Cetti's (amazing), sleeping Bar-tailed Godwits, four sleeping Sandwich Terns and a host of Avocets. A woman from Australia asked for help with ID, always pleasing to help. Ray K said that there was a Grasshopper Warbler and a Whitethroat in an inaccessible part of the reserve !
On an impulse, I suggested that we walk the Fen Trail which paid off. We watched a Reed Warbler and several Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers in the shelter of the smallish pool near Fen Hide. The Reed was exploring the reeds, the Warblers in surrounding trees. On the way to Fen Hide a Blackcap sang in the same area as previous years.
I saw  House Martin at Holkham but no-one else did...everyone saw one at Cley. Four Wheatears near the cattle pens in Eye Field, two of them males. Another 6 near Iron Road and a few more south of the road at Salthouse. Here after much searching in bright sun, hazy conditions and against the light, I found a Whimbrel amongst the Curlew.
A most enjoyable and worthwhile day which ended at home at 5.45. I'd have liked to have seen the male Pied Fly at Horsey, hope it's there to-morrow.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Late Barton Visit

Tuesday April 16
When the car was returned from its state of health service - requested by Pam before our trip to Scotland next week, well it has done over 100K - we drove the 15 minute trip to Barton Broad Boardwalk. It's good for early migrants and we love it there.
A pristine Willow Warbler sang during the first 100 metres of the walk and then, showed well.
Sitting on the boardwalk end platform on a day like this,  is a sheer joy. Warm, sunny and very little wind as, it was sheltered for a change. Sixteen Great Crested Grebes, swimming in pairs and, closer than usual, displayed to each other, whilst a nearby male showed a great deal of aggression, flattening himself in the water, beak pointing forcefully towards the encroacher, before flying at them. Must be a nest nearby. I tried some digiscoping despite their rapid movements. I haven't got enough hands to hold the camera to the lens, keep it steady and then pan smoothly to follow their movement. That's the advantage of using a mount where the camera is locked in place. Maybe I'll find a light and suitable one one day.
At least these Terns landed for a short time.

Not as rapid as the 50 Common Terns fishing avidly, diving at the water and then rising again to dive once more. Exceeding their speed was the cloud of 100+ hirundine, nearly all of them Sand Martins with a few Swallows. A lone Little Gull looked sluggish in comparison. Reluctantly ceasing our attempts to see a House Martin - it was making me see double trying to keep up with them - we packed up our equipment. As we rose to leave, our first Kingfisher of the year arrowed across the Broad to disappear into the reedbed.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

What a Beauty

Sunday April 14

After planting two double rows of Broad Bean plants - and retrieving my empty long rooters and tray from the dyke after a huge gust of wind - we watched Man U v Stoke.
2-0 to Man U, a penance though, I want us to play more entertaining football.
The pager rang at lunchtime with  news of a female Red-flanked Bluetail in Horsey Dunes. After the footie - 4.30 - we drove towards Winterton via The Marrams in Sea Palling. One Redwing in the horse paddock and a Swallow flew through. 
About a 100 Redwings and a few Fieldfare in the field near The Great Barn in Waxham.
I couldn't see any sign of birders in the dunes at Horsey, difficult to see from the road anyway. We hadn't discussed it but,  Pam drove in to the Gap car park and we walked north for about 200 yards before branching off seaward towards a clump of Willow in the dunes.Dune yomping is not my favourite........steep in parts and rough underfoot with plenty of snags to trip you up. We made our way up to a rise where a photographer was posed, overlooking the willow clump surrounding a pool. Almost immediately, the beautiful spring female showed well in the lower branches, sometimes landing on the ground to forage very near to us - if obscured much of the time. Much too busy watching to erect my scope and try some digiscoping.
This photograph was taken by the finder, Graham Clarke whose Blog is well worth a read.

What a weekend. 20C and great spring birds.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

A Week's Round-up....

Tuesday April 9th

A lovely sunny day which we thoroughly enjoyed .......seeing one bird for the year.  
We were looking for Stone Curlew. The first area was full of pig fields with many suitable fields where SCs had been seen last weekend. None to-day. Next stop, Weeting, where the warden in his Blog had reported two birds. The Major ( we now know he's called Rocky!) emerged from his shed to greet us, telling us that our journey was ion vain, the warden was telling porky pies. Perhaps I read last year's news on the NWT website.......He's a mine of information though. 
On to Pentney Gravel Pits for a quickly seen Little Ringed Plover. None of the hoped for hirundine.
We returned via the north coast where it gradually clouded over, without adding anything else.

Wednesday April 10th
Barton Broad platform at the end of the boardwalk was like being in the Arctic. A very strong wind blew straight in across the water. All birds were huddled against the very distant reeds, trying to find shelter. A lone adult Little Gull in lovely summer plumage flew, dipping, across the broad.

Thursday April 11

Early for our caravan meeting - changed from Minsmere as it was pouring down - we drove to Dunwich clifftop. What luck. As we approached the coastguard cottages, a pair of Stonechats appeared on the seaward side and then, a male Dartford Warbler on top of a bush on the landward side. He posed for quite a while, long enough for us to see a female  flit in to the back of the bush. Brilliant.

Saturday April 13

After collecting the mower from Anglia Mowers in Beeston, we carried on to Weybourne hoping that the three day stayer hadn't gone overnight. Parking at the entrance to the Muckleburgh collection, I scoped the nearby field to no avail. We then saw a couple of people viewing from low down Muckleburgh Hill. Striding along the road, Steve Gantlett slowed to tell us that he thought it had gone as he hadn't seen it. Undaunted, we walked the lower path, meeting the scoping couple who told us that they'd seen it.
So did we. Two Blackbirds, a Mistle Thrush and a male Ring Ouzel. He was feeding in the open allowing great views, but into the sun,  so I didn't attempt any pics. I didn't have my camera either.....!
Back at the car, another slowed to ask us if we'd seen it and then pointed out a White Wagtail in the near field.
Cardigan only to-day, a temperature of 15C at last
Salthouse Beach Road
Julian provided us with a hot drink whilst we watched Sand Martins flying on the sea side of Gramborough Hill. I had two fly over the car whilst Pam was getting the drink.
Cley Beach
A regular passage of Sandwich Terns flying towards Blakeney Point was a joy.
The Savages and another couple we know told us of Wheatears in the Eye Field almost to North Scrape. There was also a Garganey on the scrape.
Trudging the gravel, glad to reach the grassy path, we walked almost as far as the hide to the mole hill area. Three female Wheatears dashed and perched, as is their wont, feeding on the rough pasture beyond the mole hills.
Chiffchaffs calling all over the place to-day.
Home for a sespite - Pam tried out the mower actually, I rested! She was delighted with how easily it started and what a good job it made of the grass mowing. It looks almost new too.
Next visit...
Barton Broad.
By now, it was overcast and the wind had increased, as forecast.
Scanning from the platform, up to a hundred Hirundine fed low over the water. Impossible to count accurately, so fast and active. Most of them were Sand Martins, the others Swallows. Twenty - 30 Common Terns were also avidly feeding along the far shore along with two Little Gulls and a Goldeneye. I could not find the reported Scaup nor the lone House Martin seen by a birder we met on the way in. He'd also had a Willow Warbler there and Jack Snipe, Woodcock, Redstart and Black Redstart and Wheatears at Winterton North Dunes this morning. He'd worked for them and deserved it.
Our first Cetti's burst into ear-splitting song as we left the platform in increasingly cold conditions.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

At Last - Another Migrant

Sunday April 7

Fantastic overnight frost, the garden and all the trees were white. It didn't last long as we had a sunny day. The sun is warm enough to need the sun lounge double doors open to cool the lemon trees and warm up the living room.
Maybe a few migrants had arrived at last? We drove to Cley and Pam tried the Iron Road where we often see early Whimbrel. As we turned in, we heard the single call note of a Chiffchaff. There it was, leaving a bramble bush and working its way along the bottom of the reeds edging the dyke. A good omen? No !! Despite searching Salthouse and Cley Eye field for Wheatears - or anything really - nothing was found. We still had a NE wind so it isn't surprising.
Walking on the heath in search of Woodlarks and Dartford Warblers - they breed here - was fruitless. Apart from Chaffinch and Robin we saw/heard no birds at all. Very quiet, we agreed with another birder.
Any Sand Martins at Gunton ? No, nor Grey Wagtail either. I've never taken photos here so remedied that. The lake itself is not photogenic.......

But the old, historic, water powered sawmill is. It's kept in reasonable condition and does some active work on Open Days a couple of times a year.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Garden Flowers

9 inches tall Daffodils - I love the small ones


Clematis 'Freckles' in the hawthorn hedge. Flowering most of the winter.

The following photos - and this one - are all Hellebores

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

What a Penance

Wednesday April 3
 Mid afternoon, after coffee morning, we drove via Neatishead to Barton Broad boardwalk, hoping for a Chiffchaff at least. We usually get our early ones here.
Blue skies again, a pleasure to be out - well it was whilst in the shelter of the flooded forest. When we reached the end platform, the easterly was blowing straight in, directly from a glacier I reckon. A single adult Little Gull flew around on the far side where the Tufted ducks, two Pochard  and four GC Grebes were sheltering in against the reeds. We didn't stay long.
Pam was busy photographing a very tame Robin, will try and include a shot later. A Cetti's Warbler called as we were nearing the car park. Another year bird. I don't feel like singing in these temps either.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Where is Bure Park Lake?

Tuesday April 2

Finding Bure Park was easy, where was the lake? A map showed that it was the other side of a very wet and puddled meadow. There must be another way. I walked to the pitch and putt kiosk where the man told me that across the field was the only route to the 'small pond'. Neither of us fancied it much as there had been no news of the Garganey pair still being present to-day. 
Nothing ventured....
I put my scope up and almost immediately, a pair of Garganey swam briefly into view under the  near bank, through a gap in the trees.They showed intermittently for a couple of minutes before disappearing back into the overhanging trees. They must have been startled out by passing children, which also caused Mallard to fly away. Very lucky.
Home via Horsey, where we had the magical sight of thousands of Starlings forming tight balls and amorphous patterns, swirling, swooping, landing  and taking off again. Roost behaviour in the daylight.

Not a Fool's Day...NearlyThough

Easter Monday, April 1st

An inordinate proportion of the day was spent trawling lanes trying to follow pager instructions - our early effort was unsuccessful.
We had to work hard for a single Tree Sparrow yet, had a list of 39 by the time we drove in to Abbey Farm. A few Fieldfare flew from the field, all the ducks were Mallard, a single Coot and a few white-tail flashing Moorhens added to the few Greylag. The highlight was a Little Owl perched low in the fallen oak tree. He put on a good show flying down to forage on the ground before flying up and moving perch several times.
The large holes on the right hand side of the Kingfisher bank were obviously much larger beasts, two smaller holes on the left will be obscured from view when the trees leaf.
I thought we'd be at Snettisham in good time for high tide, we weren't. The Wash was full, the huge congregation of birds very distant on the western side. Too far for me to distinguish the smaller ones through my scope.  Many of the Dunlin - closest line - had black bellies, then came the Godwits, behind them the Curlew and Oystercatcher, the back mass was Gulls.
At least a hundred Avocets on the pits plus three Goldeneye and a Little Grebe. The pit on the chalet road  held a few Pochard, nice to see.
The wind was bitter, even the Fulmar were lying low on the sea at Hunstanton. As I got out of the car at Holme, it snowed......Avocets huddled on the far pool, Shoveller hid in the vegetation and a Buzzard soared undeterred over the far trees.
What about Thornham? The road was wet from the tide surge, driven by the wind, not due to be a high one to-day. Creeks were full, the beach covered with water, no sandbanks in sight. I scoped a Grey Plover int he bushes and tried to get Pam on to it. Trying to do so, she saw two sleeping waders in the undergrowth. One was a Greenshank, the other, a Spotted Redshank moulting into summer plumage. Its and wings heavily spotted.
It was all lovely to look at, Pam ate some food whilst we enjoyed the scenery.
Maybe we should have another go at finding Winterden Farm near Egmere. The latter is a mediaeval village which only seems to have some unsightly metal buildings, near Walsingham. Rather nearer where we were now  than we were this morning.
After a fretful half an hour or so, totally failing to follow the sparse instructions, I saw Winterden on a signpost. Shortly after turning into the lane , we passed a drive on the left. Pam reversed so that I could read the sign 'Private road to farm only' . Raising my bins I saw a Great Grey Shrike perched in the hedge. At last. Lovely pristine black and white beauty. 
I got out and tried some distant digiscoping in a blustery wind.

The SatNav took us via very rambling lanes, quickly and easily to Beach Road, Cley. The Purple Sandpiper was on its favourite pool and , at last, a male Stonechat on the fence between the car park and Eye Pool. Our first of the year. We also had a Pale-bellied Brent amongst a flock of  at least 500 Dark-bellied Brent at the end of Beach Road.
The ice-cream van was at Salthouse duck pond........Whilst Pam bought the cones (small) , I couldn't resist photographing a male Mallard gleaming in the sunlight. So beautiful.

Turnstone at Salthouse beach was our 82nd bird, Siskin at home the 83rd.