Sunday, 30 June 2013

Sue = Rain

Friday June 28

How unlucky is this. Every time we have arranged to take Sue birding this year, it's rained. I know we've had a lot of rain but the days are well spread.
We set off in the dry, the rain starting after Fakenham Morrison's petrol stop. We walked as far as Island Hide at Titchwell and took refuge there. I didn't have a jacket, apart from a fleece which  I decided would be too hot, I felt very under-dressed compared with rainproof clad others. I didn't get very wet and was comfortable temperature wise in a short-sleeved Tshirt and a gilet.
Scanning the freshmarsh was enjoyable as it held at least 500 Knot. That was a surprise. Most of the flock, crowded on three islands, were juvenile/non breeders in winter plumage. The handsome brick - red fronted others stood out. A few of the Bar-tailed Godwits were red too but none of the Black-tailed were. A single ginger male Ruff and one black-bellied Dunlin heralded the return of the waders. We'd seen 4 Ruff from Cley Centre on Wednesday when we met D and J for coffee and a natter.  Plus a Hobby flying in front of the cafe. Dave spots everything, we always let him sit facing the windows.
One of the Little Gulls was an adult, the others juveniles. The reported Spotted Redshanks were missing until a single flew in, landing briefly around the corner before flying off, calling.
Via a Corn Bunting at Choseley, we drove to Brancaster Staithe for lunch. The tide was as high as I've ever seen it there  but starting to ebb. just about enough room to park on the mound. Two Little Terns fished nearby and a Curlew flew west along the marsh.
Cley Coastguards for sand eel beaked Sandwich Terns - anything in the rain - and an enjoyable time watching three newly fledged Swallows waiting for food. Two sat on the barbed wire, the other , wet and bedraggled, on the shingle below. We were all concerned about the latter, would he survive, would he get fed? To begin with, all insects went the way of the two on the wire, the next five feeds went to the grounded waif. No worries. It flapped like mad at an approaching adult - even when they were not the parents - but it was obviously a successful ploy.
I stuck my lens out of the window to take a few quick shots in steady rain and poor light = poor photos.

Friday, 21 June 2013

A Rosy Lunchtime

Friday June 21

Well, it was nearly mid-day by the time we parked at Wells. Where was this bird? The instructions seemed to be straight-forward........until I tried to follow them. In the end, we did a classic ' two men with bins, they look as though they know where they're going' and follow them. It did cross Pam's mind that they might be going home for lunch.
They weren't. We joined a group of about ten lounging about watching a tree which was hung with feeders. Pat and Reston were there and Brenda joined us later.
Eventually, the handsome adult male summer Rose-coloured Starling appeared from somewhere in the thick canopy to feed on the fat balls in the best hidden container in the deepest shade. It was a very dull day anyway.........

Apart from a short visit to the bird bath, where it was partially hidden from me, there it stayed. This is the pattern of its behaviour, feed and then perch somewhere out of sight for 20 minutes or so. 

Only my second summer adult ever in Norfolk and the previous one was a very long time ago. Seventies or eighties?

Whilst I was waiting, couldn't resist the dabbling Egret closely watched by a  Herring Gull.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Long Wanted

Sunday June 16

After spending four hours planting out vegetable plants, Leeks, Sweetcorn and French Beans, then having to cover everything against the pheasants, I was looking forward to watching the shortened rain affected England/ New Zealand Federation Cup, cricket match. If England won, they were through to the semis.
Only a few overs of the 23 over match bowled, England put in to bat, my pager announced that there was a Roller at Edgefield, near Holt Country Park. I'd eaten very little to-day, one small lunch, as had Pam. A few skinny small sausages and a bag of crisps, mango, apple, banana and blueberries thrown into a bag and away.
Along with many others, we parked in a field and set off down a grassy track. Where to? We followed a few others assuming they knew where to go. Ticker had parked at the bottom of the field.......wish we'd known. Woods, a stile, through a wet boggy bit, round a pond, another uphill wood, a steep climb up a stony bank onto a cleared open area and we could see some birders. Very far away at the top of a hill. Still no marked path, uphill and down dale across a heather, low bracken, small tree-stump strewn area. Would we ever get there? Was the bird still around? The half a mile stated on the pager was a good mile and a half of rough hot trudge with midges at times. I had new walking shoes on.. worn once around the house. They were great.
The crowd at last. Jacquie told us where the bird had last been seen !! Quite a distance away low in a wooded valley. I caught my breath and then joined an advanced group of six or so, including Eddie, who looked as though they could see it. Yes, they could - beak and legs in a birch tree - so could I if I'd been a foot taller. Eddie found the area in my scope but couldn't see it. Fortunately, after five minutes or so, The European Roller flew out for a short sortie before flying back into cover and out of sight. 
We waited on, more birders left and eventually, so did we. I'm pleased that my first UK sighting was infinitely better and for longer but I've long wanted this for my Norfolk list. Makes up a tiny little bit for missing the Pacific Swift at Trimley Marshes. That involved a minimum of a 6 mile walk tjhere and back which we thought was too far for knees, hips and backs. Poor old things.....We missed the Norfolk one some years ago as we were already at the welsh borders on the way to Pembrokeshire.
I was delighted to get back to the car, some birders still rushing out, including Penny who'd been for the swift. The pager later said that the Roller was visible from the gate near the Edgefield sign......
Leaving Holt, I turned on the radio when we listened to England bowl the last over of the cricket. England won by 10 runs. Phew. Good timing. NZ could easily have won in the last over, well bowled Jimmy Anderson.
Home just before 8 p.m.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Sunny Hunny

Monday June 3-Wednesday June 5

To-day's aim was to settle in to the Shellbrooke Guesthouse in Hunstanton, visit an outdoor clothing shop in King's Lynn and make a late night visit to Dersingham Bog.
After a name mix-up and wrong room allocation (tiny), our Beach Suite was excellent. Spacious, comfortable bedroom, good size bathroom and a sea view.
The outdoor clothing shop was closed 'for a holiday'........but a new Sainsbury's was awesome. Huge, high ceilinged, tiled floor and really classy looking. Good place to buy cheese and crackers and dip for to-morrow's lunch ! As we drove to the docks area to view the river mouth, a Peregrine flew from the top of the massive concrete grain silo.

Dersingham Bog
Ensconced on the John Denver seat overlooking the bog, dowsed in repellant against the noseeums (Aboriginal word for those tiny midges which cause pinpricks of fire in the scalp and any exposed flesh.), the first Nightjar started to churr at 9.20. I had three views in all, not brilliant. All the power lines and poles where they used to perch have been taken away.
A highlight for me was the frequent twitting call of a roding Woodcock, I saw it once against the wood and one then flew directly over my head, calling. Excellent. I wish they still roded the wood at the bottom of our garden, standing out there in a June dusk was a joy.

Wednesday - Lakenheath Fen RSPB

I love this reserve, not a huge variety of birds but what we see is lovely. Again, a lovely cloudless, sunny day , the edge of the easterly wind making the temperature comfortable.
After driving to the New Fen area, we sat on a bench outside the open hide for over an hour, spellbound by the Hobbys' hunting flight display in front of us. Such great acrobatic flyers. Hundreds of Swifts flew amongst them, silhouetted against the deep blue sky. A Bittern flew across the reedbed and out of view, later returning. Three Marsh Harriers in the air at once, triumphant Cuckoos  calling, Reed Warblers, Reed Buntings and Cetti's Warblers announcing themselves at regular intervals. Very enjoyable. Pam saw a Kingfisher skim fast and low across the reeds, only one other did - and she had to ask what it was.
Eventually we walked as far as the reserve stretches, nearly two miles. Along the way, we saw many Orange-tipped Butterflies, a few Peacock Butterflies, Hairy Dragonfly, Blue Damselfly, Water Violets and upteen caterpillars, spiders and beetles.
The track leads to another open hide and benches looking over more extensive reed beds, ditches, small pools and a few trees. Its intention is to allow views of the breeding Common Cranes nesting area. We did not see one fly in the 40 minutes we sat scanning. I did see a Cuckoo in long flight, Bearded Reedlings, more Cettis and Reed Warblers.
Returning by a different route, a pair of Great Crested Grebes shepherded one stripe-headed young on what could have been a maiden swim.
Trudging car-wards - I carried my scope, camera and big lens all day - we met again the kneeling entemologist we met near the car park this morning. I had suggested that Pam ask him what  he was doing and she did ! Well, he was kneeling, using a camera with a white paper around the front of the lens, about a few inches from the ground. A very slim, diffident and quietly spoken chap, he is working for the RSPB surveying reserves for any living thing apart from birds. I saw a beetle fly in, which he identified as a Soldier Beetle. 
On the second occasion, he was using a net. I asked if he'd found anything interesting. The answer was affirmative, several species of Weevil. fascinating. I would love to spend time with such an obvious expert in his field (pun accidental). he suggested that an ice-cream would reward our long walk. What a good idea, they sell Ronaldos at the Centre. Pam bought them when she took our permit to drive back.
What a lovely day, ending with a delicious meal at the B and B, the husband is a chef.  They used to own a Bistro and have only been running the Shellbrooke since last October. Thank you Ruth and Alan (Biggest Twitch) for recommending the place.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Quality, not Quantity

June 1
6 a.m. was the arranged departure time. Imagine my astonishment (!!) at being handed a cup of tea at 4.45. Pam was awake and thought we'd go...........
5.30 was the eventual time, I'd only had about three hours sleep.
On a dull, cold, sometimes misty morning, birding was very slow indeed. A Barn Owl, then  a Turtle Dove at Harpley and a Grey Wagtail  were good,  then, we dipped Tree Sparrow, Spotted Flycatcher and Little Owl.
We met our Gamekeeper friend in the Harpley area who said that he was feeding very few birds in his garden at the moment and the Ring Ouzel he'd had for two weeks had gone (!!).
Thankfully a hot chocolate was available at Holme, nothing else was. The Pied Flycatcher and Red-backed Shrike had cleared off overnight. 
Maybe Titchwell would come up to expectation. The Red-crested Pochard pair was showing well at the very back of the western pool, I tested my digiscoping in the gloom.

Careful scanning of the water filled Freshmarsh added little to the total. Most disappointing was the lack of waders apart from about 20 sleeping Bar-tailed Godwits, a single Ringed Plover and a scattering of Avocets. The latter didn't seem to have any young, maybe I missed them. 
Five first summer Little Gulls loafed on a mud bar, occasionally taking a short flight.
After a long and enjoyable chat with an ex Customs Officer we first met birding in Turkey, joined later by wife Pat and grand-daughter Sorrel, we walked on to Parrinder Hide. The marsh towards the sea held  70+ bar-tailed Godwits, viewing the Freshmarsh from another angle added five very mottled Turnstone and a single winter plumage Knot. The hoped for Temminck's and Little Stints had cleared off too.
Walking back, a lone Spoonbill flew west, overhead. I only had my small point and shoot Canon and wasn't quick enough to get it ready.
I wish I could capture the magnificent spectacle of the hundreds of hirundine hawking the marsh. Mostly the supremely elegant, agile, aptly named Swifts. As we walked the seven foot high, walled passage, out to Parrinder they were so low that I felt like ducking, the air disturbed by their passage was both audible and discernible. A few Swallows and House Martins looked pedestrian in comparison.
Early Marsh Orchids, nearly in their prime, decorated the Meadow Trail with their mini pyramids of tightly packed pink. Lovely. 
Patsy's pool was the target, beyond Fen Hide. The target, a pair of Garganey, swam amongst a flock of Gadwall and Mallard towards the back of the pool. I set up my scope at the right height for viewing through one of the lower narrow 'windows' in the wooden shielding wall. Why are they never the right height? Not for me nor for Pam nor anyone else I saw. I was hoping to digi the Garganey. The male was very dull and the female had a brighter supercilium stripe than I remember seeing previously.
Crouched over the scope eyepiece, lining up the duck, Pam called a Chinese Water Deer at the back of the pool, she'd appeared out of the reed bed. To our delight, three very small young appeared too. We were transfixed for the next twenty minutes, watching the tender family scene unfold, me trying to capture the moments, whilst unable to see the viewing screen clearly in the reflected light.

Newly born? A lot of licking went on.

Two men who joined us were equally delighted. A scene to savour.
I forgot to digi the Garganey............
Happy and contented, I strolled back towards the car, finding a group of seven people looking at the pool beyond Fen Hide. Four of them and two of us then watched a Water Vole going about its business, at one time directly below us. Pam's first sighting, she was delighted. I needed my good camera but, I'm pleased I hadn't carried it throughout!

No messages on my pager this morning, north coast coverage is poor. The warden at Holme had told me of a  White-spotted Bluethroat viewed from East Bank ,Cley. The men at Patsy's Pool had newly left it.
We bumped over the highish kerb onto the grass at the very small East Bank car park - all the official spaces were full, apart from the disabled spots, as usual. The latter have now been reduced to two which is very reasonable as per usage. Stupidly, I left my scope and carried my camera and 400mm lens. If I'd had pager messages, I would have known that the bird was viewed a minimum of 100 yards away ! As we reached the gathered throng, the bird flew towards the shingle bank, we'd no hope of seeing it without a scope anyway. We walked as far as Arnold's and sat a while before returning in hope. Still no sign.
Fortified by one of Julian's hot chocolates, we drove back, found the same grass parking spot and walked East Bank again. We'd both got sore toes by now. 
I set up my scope beside Bob and Julian B, focused on a small, distant  bush in the reed bed, buoyed by the news that the Bluethroat had been seen again. The day had brightened considerably, the wind moving to the west had brought the promised sun. And.......a shimmering heat haze. When the bird popped up onto the bush, I got good enough views but I was pleased that it wasn't my first view of the species. Waiting for it to appear was made very pleasant by the company.
Tender-footed, the walk bach to the car was shortened by a chat with the Kelling man we know well by sight, I think he's John M but will check (yes he is, his photos are great). He joined us to ask about Mull and then waxed enthusiastically about his recent trips to Tarifa and Poland. He was photographing incredible birds in the garden e.g 3 River warbler nests, two Thrush Nightingale nests, daily Golden Oriols and others I can't remember. Mouth-watering. He has a website which I intend visiting to look at his photos, he tells me that it's called Kellingnature.
We only counted 84 species but had a terrific day. We were out over twelve hours and had memorable experiences, mostly of the mammal variety.
Notable misses.....Blue and Great Tit. Really.