Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Sculthorpe in Sun

Tuesday November 26

Pam was having a dozy morning. At my suggestion, she had her breakfast first , yet we were still at Sculthorpe Moor reserve soon after 10.30. After basking in the warm car, sun streaming in, getting out was a rude awakening, cheek-stingingly cold. Fortunately there was little wind.
I don't much enjoy the 400 metre  walk down a pot-holed track to the start of the boardwalk, usually with very  few birds appearing. The rest of the reserve is good boardwalk topped with chicken wire for good grip. There were frequent warnings of 'slippery boards' but they weren't.
Despite no exercise since Scilly, we decided to do the circular route via the Woodland Hide instead of directly to Whitley hide.
We added Marsh Tit en route and then enjoyed sitting watching seven Greenfinches, 3+ Brambling, Blue and Great Tits and a Robin both on the feeders and on the ground below. Two very brightly head-marked Pheasants strolled in to the ground feeder. Although they are so common in Norfolk and in our garden, I've never bothered photographing them. So I did.

 The Brambling were in the shade and I trashed all my pics as not good enough.
We often see Siskin and Redpoll in the Alders leading back to the direct track, none to-day. Our first Willow Tits of the year, attracting our attention with their wheezy call, was a welcome experience. I also photographed splendid, fresh, Bracket Fungus but, for some odd reason ,took them as video. After inspecting my Canon 200 I still don't understand why!!

Pam's photo
Two birders in Whitley soon left. It was lunchtime. We sat in  pole position viewing the right hand feeders until........ 
We looked at each other as running feet pounded along the boardwalk, becoming thunderous on the incline to the hide. Kids I thought. The door smashed open, all the birds flew away and a loud voice called 'Hallooooooo, there were Bramblings here an hour ago'. There were 2 minutes ago too ! He turned out to be Mike, one of the volunteer wardens, elderly and wearing a hearing aid. Pam had a coughing fit and departed. I asked him if there were any Marsh Harriers left, knowing that the reserve's birds migrated south. We then - and on the walk back - had a very interesting conversation about the reserve, displaying Goshawks, no breeding Barn Owls this year and only 3 fledged Tawnies. Let's hope for a less cold winter and drier Spring in 2013/14. 
The birds from the hide were disappointingly poor in variety. More Bramblings, Blackbirds, Dunnock, Blue and Great Tits. 


Adult male Blackbird
We expect to see Bullfinches, Water Rail and Reed Bunting. After an hour, it was time to leave.
I almost suggested looking at the box near Whitley to see if there was a Tawny showing...but we were both cold. On return to the Centre, there was a Tawny Owl on the CCTV camera, showing well in the nest box I'd thought of visiting. Another look at the Harvest Mouse box in the warm Centre saw it perched on top of its cage heater. Pam took a good photo earlier.

Harvest Mouse
At 2.30, the light is fading fast but maybe just enough time to try for the Parrot Crossbills at Holt Country Park. We've only visited there a couple of times and missed the entrance so gave it a miss and drove home.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Distant Views

Saturday November 23
After a very pleasant evening and an excellent meal at Kate and Jim's, we were late to bed and late up this morning.
The trees retain many of their leaves, due to the late heat I suppose. This morning was sunny and cool, enhancing the colours of the early winter countryside. Too nice to stay in, where should we go? Buckenham Marshes got the vote.
Far fewer Wigeon on the marshes than I expected, widespread in small groups. Scoping from the railway crossing, a flock of White-fronted Geese flew in from Cantley, landing very distantly yet near enough to scope the gleaming white patch above the beak. They kept well away from the many groups of Canadas.
The best experience, was a pair of Peregrine falcons perched in a bare tree to the north of the road in. A passing birder leaning in through Pam's window, said ' that's cheating, staying in the warmth of the car, it's freezing out here'. He then pointed out the falcons which were not yet in view for us. On the way back when they were my side of the car, I attempted some photographs with the 1.5 times on my 300mm lens as they were so distant in fast dropping sun. The flash popped up ! That's my excuse for the less than sharp images.
The smaller male on the bottom branch
The male exercised his wimgs before flying away, followed by the female. This is the pair that nests on Norwich Cathedral.
We drove as far as the mill to eat our late lunch, getting closer views of the White-fronts. A Chinese Water deer fed in the flocks of lapwings, a few Ruff stalking stiff-legged amongst the latter.  As usual, a flock of feral Doves loafed on and in the old Mill.
Ever decreasing light, it's dark by 3.30, drove us away after a very enjoyable few hours.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Puffins, Geese and Gulls

Wednesday January 20

Happy Birthday grandson Josh, 12 to-day.
As it is the last day of Irene and John Miller's Paintings and photographs exhibition, we needed to pick up our Puffins painting. What a splendid opportunity to have a fruit scone. 
Before indulging, we drove a very wet and extensively puddled, Beach Road. It has rained heavily most of the morning. A smaller flock of Brents, thank goodness, but many seemed to be over the brow again. On the return journey i found the Pale-bellied again and, at last, a good adult Black Brant. The flock of Golden Plover flew off as we arrived.
After the scone, coffee, a chat with Pat about Honda CRVs and collecting the painting, we drove down to Salthouse Beach car park. Pam remembered that we had a bag of cubed stale bread in the back, so we fed the gulls and Turnstones. Great fun trying to photograph them, the Turnstones never still and the gulls too near for my 300 lens much of the time. Never pleased.....

Adult getting its summer dark brown hood already

Winter plumage

Getting there

Adult winter Turnstone

Juvenile bird

Winter adult

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Shopping the Pretty Way

Saturday November 16

News of Whooper Swans at Horsey diverted us from North Walsham Sainsbury's. A horrible November day where the grey sky merged with the ground giving poor visibility. Everywhere looked wet and miserable.
Passing Brograve Farm a small brown raptor flew low along the road in front of us. A Merlin.
We found the half a dozen or so Whoopers amongst a dozen Mute Swans before reaching Somerton, two fields to the west of the road. Appalling visibility.The only other birds worth mentioning were Golden Plover flying low above us.
Straight to North Walsham........past home

Friday, 15 November 2013

One Fine Day

Tuesday October 12

Despite setting out in rain and overcast, by 10 a.m. it was sunny with blue sky. No Tree Sparrows again in our known area, for the second month running. They usually congregate around the farm in the winter. Where have they gone?
Our first Fieldfare along the back lane to Abbey farm together with many careering immigrant Blackbirds.
 From the hide we saw.... Starlings and Jackdaws.
Pur first visit to Snettisham for some months coincided with a turning tide - at its lowest. The pit nearest to the caravan park had Tufted Duck, Pochard, Little Egret and a surprise female Red-breasted Merganser.
Most of the expected waders on the reserve mud. large numbers of Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot, 700 Golden Plover, a sprinkling of Grey Plover, Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatchers.So many Shelduck, as always.
Best was a flock of 150+ Fieldfare feeding on Hawthorn berries on the far shore of the pits and a couple of Goldeneye on the pits.

 Fifteen Fulmar loafed on the sea at Hunstanton, a lone Shoveller preened on the Broadwater at Holme.
Creeks full of water at Thornham and Brancaster Ovary meant flocks of roosting Gulls and our first Brents - two of them on the marsh. several skeins of Pinks during the day and one field-full near Holkham.
The hoped for Black Brant at Wells - and all the other Brents - had been scattered away by a man walking across the pitch and putt. Shouldn't be allowed !
We had another look for the Black Brant along Beach Road at Cley, a thankless task. It was a very large flock, many of them hidden behind a ridge, very active and restless. Part of the way through my scanning, most of them flew away even further and more widely spread. I gave up. The large flock of Golden Plover in the Eye Field gleamed in the fast dropping sun,

Part of the flock
 I took advantage of the light to photograph and obliging Lapwing.

A lovely day, although a short one, upper 60s the final number of species seen.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Cley for Lunch

Thursday November 7
After a hairdresser visit first thing, the plan was to bird at Titchwell. I did not feel up to it, still coughing and suffering an  infected sinuses thick head.
After a rest at home, we drove to Cley, parking at the centre intending to walk to Pat's. We had lunch in the cafe instead, scanning the marsh and pools from there. A single flying Black-tailed Godwit added to the sparse month list.
Spying a flock of Golden Plover on the Eye Field, we drove to the Beach Road car park, splashing through a large stretch of water on the approach. In the late afternoon sun, about 200 Goldies slept in a straggly line, Brent Geese feeding behind them.

Deciding not to walk beyond the Little Eye at Salthouse to see the Grey Phalarope  nor walking to North Hide to see the Shorelark, we drove straight home.

Monday, 4 November 2013

A Bit of Birding

Monday November 4
A lovely breezy morning, time for some sea watching. A flock of Pinkfeet on the Somerton Straight, a dozen Skylarks in a ploughed field.
Winterton was back to winter normal now that half term is over. The coast guard money donation buckets were out, the car park open whilst they're on duty.
We tried from the turning area first, then moved into the car park in order to better view the white-crested choppy sea. A steady passage of Gannets, way out, an equally distant Red-throated Diver and, at last, two Common Scoter playing hide and seek in the waves. Several sky watching Seals had us going for a while.
Time to pay our first ever visit to Caister Beach car park, I had to look it up on the map first. No Starlings in view at first ten a small group flew in to squabble amongst the warm chimney pots. Constant changes in position, groups leaving and arriving, us trying to see as many as possible. After half an hour, we were beginning to lose heart, especially when a flock of almost a hundred appeared from somewhere, adorned the roof tops, flew off again, etc etc.
A last scan of  nearby roof tops before leaving and Pam located the grotty juvenile Rosy Starling preening on steeply pitched slates, just viewable between the eaves. It's pink rump showed as it preened and then it's pink tinged front. Success.
We added our first winter flock of Golden Plover on the way home.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Virus Vengeance

Friday November 1

Too unwell to achieve a whole day's birding, we contented ourselves with a few hours fairly locally. 
Winterton is crowded this week, half term holiday, too many visitors, children and dogs. We drove to Cley via Gunton Park and Felbrigg, ending with the grand total of 40. No birds of major interest on that list, good to see something, the garden feeders are hardly used at the moment.
Many good birds spread around the country at the moment, the result of last weekend's storms, two of them ticks for us. Mourning Dove on Rhum and Cape May Warbler on Shetland. I have never twitched offshore..........yet. We also missed the Humpback Whale off Sea Palling, I didn't read my pager for 2 days due to this wretched virus. I would have liked to have seen that.