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.

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