Saturday, 28 December 2013

Better than a Building Site

Saturday December 28

Where to go on a beautiful day? The North Norfolk coast would be heaving with non birders, the Chelsea set, as well as birders. Ludham Marshes looked like a good bet. It was.
Not much from the first muddy track out to a farm, a few Whooper Swans amongst the Mutes and, a Red Deer with a flock of sheep. The latter has been raised from a faun.
The track out to St Benet's Abbey was infinitely better. I wanted to scope some distant Swans, fetched my scope from the boot and tracked a male Marsh Harrier causing havoc. A few hundred Golden Plovers and  Lapwings rose from the meadows/reeds plus a couple of birds I thought were Cranes at first  - until they transformed into geese.
Blast, we had to move on, single track road and two cars coming towards us. Rush hour.
Another stop, another scan.... two European Cranes (don't like the term common) flying right and landing out of sight. 
Another car, another stop. 
Careful scanning in the very distant crane landing area, brought more and more birds into view. First a group of eight and then another of five appearing from the reeds and dykes. 
Without warning, they all took off, SEVENTEEN birds in all. Waw. Still no nearer though. I took some photos anyway. I texted Birdline but they weren't reported on the pager. I also tweeted the sighting with a better site description.........

Can you spot 17?   True distance through a 300mm lens

Heavily cropped.

Home via Ludham Airfield where a mixed herd of Whooper and Bewick Swans had been reported. They were still there but distant.

Friday, 20 December 2013

No Social Commitments

Thursday December 19

A free day, time for some birding. We hadn't visited Titchwell reserve at all  this month, that was our sole destination. Such a beautiful day again, cloudless sky and very little wind. Where is the storm promised, which seems to have hit the north and west hard? I'm not complaining, I wish that the forecast was a little more accurate with regard to location. The whole country is included in a storm warning and checking the local forecast isn't much different. Better safe I suppose....
Neither of us felt like walking, having done very little in the last month, aches and pains take over. I girded my loins and insisted that we walk as far as Island hide at least. Scanning the ditches as we walked out, Pam spotted a Water Rail, only obvious by the ripples in the water. The ditches are heavily vegetated but we had good views.
Views from Island hide are restrictive, we settled on the first walkway seat beyond. The car park held fewer vehicles than we'd ever seen before, hence the sparse number of birders around and the empty seats.
The freshmarsh held hundreds of birds of very few species, mainly ducks, Golden Plover, Lapwing and Brent Geese. The ducks were mostly Teal with a few Wigeon, Shoveller and Pintail. Careful scanning added two Gadwall, eight Avocets, six Ruff, a lone Dunlin and a scattering of Black-tailed Godwit. A blob flying through my scope became an elusive Snipe ,landing at the edge of the reeds below Parrinder Hide.
Whoosh... up they all went. Why? One little Merlin had caused all the havoc. Hundreds of Golden Plover flew over our heads, the sussuration of their wings obvious. lovely.
I decided to try some digiscoping. Hard to resist on such a  golden, winter-sun lit scene. Difficult to get the depth of field necessary using my little basic Canon point and shoot, held to the 'scope lens. It did a sterling job nevertheless.

Teal nicely arranged so that I couldn't get them all in focus! Mohican crests.

Sleeping Pintail near right


Swimming Shoveler. My first attempt at tracking a bird , moving my scope using my left hand whilst holding the camera to the lens with my right.

Pam walked on to the Parrinder entry bank, seeing where the sea had lapped the very top of the new sea protection wall on which the hide stands. Apparently it had trickled over, just. They must have been pleased that it wasn't breached. The coastal dune profile has changed dramatically. boardwalk washed away in its entirety leaving entry to the beach from here forbidden. That's the dreaded, but necessary, elf and safety again.
We lunched on a very good sausage and onion baguette (mini) in the Food Station. Warm and comfortable whilst watching a Titchwell DVD playing on the TV.
The light was fading so coastal visits were short. Brancaster Staithe showed little results of the storm surge, apart from a damp tideline at least a metre up the walls of the Activity Centre. there was a 'drying services' van outside and all doors were open, furnishings outside.
At last, a Barn Owl flying along the A149, our first for months.
Great to be out birding again, it feeds my soul.

A few more pics

Pam took these  on Walcott front about a week after the event.

The launch ramp

Gulls feeding on one of the dead seals.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Storm Surge

Dec  6 - 9
Pretty horrendous damage along Norfolk's coast, especially Blakeney, Wells, Sheringham, Cromer, Mundesley, Walcott, Hemsby and Great Yarmouth.  
We could hear the sea from home, 2 miles inland. On the 6th, after shopping in North Walsham, we returned via the coast road - tree down around the corner on the NW road, cleared whilst we waited - and nosiness. No access to the front at Walcott, there was a residential caravan blocking the road at the northern end, we could see a crane trying to move it. 
Turning onto the road tio Ridlington via Bachelor's Lane, we could see the detritus strewn meadow and a large lake,  getting smaller as a digger had broken the road banks so as to allow the water to flood 'our' road and the field to the west! I took a few poor pics before we turned round in a field and got home by various small and circuitous lanes. 

Just as well. There was another tree down on the NW road, 50 metres from the Ridlington turning, which would have blocked our way home. Luckily the Bridges had re-arranged to-day's coffee date at Cley. Cley was under water. I shall try to add some photo links at the end of this posting.
On the 7th, we approached Walcott from the southern end to finf 'Road Closed' notices. Other cars were going through so we followed. The road was ankle deep in sand, emergency vehicles parked apparently doing nothing, helpers hosing down the concrete area in front of the Spar and the Kingfisher. Damage to the Caravan Park and some of the evacuated  houses, including a large portion of a house wall was discernible. It's hard to believe that water can twist metal railings and tear up concrete slabs.
Still no access on Monday the 9th. 
We drove to Winterton where we saw no birds at all from the beach car park. There were several yellow-jacketed Seal Wardens on duty there, protecting the few Horsey colony pups surviving and washed ashore here. 50 have been taken into care and about 20 euthanased due to injuries sustained from the sea and dogs. There were many adults offshore looking for their young. The wardens were giving them access and warning people not to approach them and, to keep their dogs on the lead and only on the southern beach.

Thank you Penny for the links
 Important news from the NT Rangers about Seal Pups HERE
• Update on Seal Pups and Good News for Blakeney Point! HERE
• Mute Swans & Seal Pup swimming along the A149! HERE
• Walcott Carnage! HERE
• Pictures and Updates from other Norfolk Birders HERE
• Unique pictures from Eddie Myers at Cley HERE
• Remains of the hides at Snettisham RSPB HERE and HERE
• Regional Update and Pictures HERE

Monday, 2 December 2013

Lows and Highs

Sunday December 1

A high of 8C and a low of 0C, very low tide at Snettisham, Long-tailed Duck, Short-eared Owl, Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, always a high, epecially the Owl and the Long-tail.
The morning got sunnier, the fog cleared and the temperature dropped, the further west we drove. Pockets of frost at Harpley but no Tree Sparrows - again. 
The RSPB office is closed to-day. Despite having an out of date permit and knowing that it was a very low tide, we drove to Snettisham. The first pit near the caravan park had a close female winter Long-tailed Duck, obscured by bank  foliage but a joy.

Many more Goldeneye to-day on the two RSPB pits. 
How can I get so much enjoyment from looking at miles of glistening mud and creeks? I love it. Best birds were Pintail and a  prey-carrying  Sparrowhawk which landed near us before hopping into the bushes. A missed photo opportunity. I did manage one of a young Greenfinch mashing rosehips in its beak.

The drive out to Holme NOA brought the surprise Owl. It appeared from nowhere, landing in the field right next to the car, the other side of the landward fence. I dived for my camera, it took one look at us and flew away very strongly. If it caught anything it must have left it. I love all owls, Short-eareds are one of my favourites. Probably because they show well in daylight.
Thornham looked lovely although the only birds we saw were the usual gulls on the beach, a flock of Pipits and a smaller one of Skylarks. AND... a female Hen Harrier flying low over the marsh from the direction of Titchwell, its fast progress east was betrayed by a scattering of birds from the reedbed, no views of the Harrier at this time.
Brancaster Staithe was remarkably empty of people and cars and water. Two waders fed nearby.

A lone Bar-tailed Godwit

A Curlew feeding mid stream -  that's how little water there was

We enjoyed lunch watching the mussell fishermen at work, hands bright red and mottled blue and purple. Don't envy them. 

At their roadside table, we bought a bag of mussells for Rainer and Barbara, as a thank you for the odd jobs Rai has done for us this week.
One more stop at Cley adding no new birds. We haven't walked at all to-day, ending with a total of 71 birds seen. My intention was to walk Titchwell which would have added 10 or more to the list, idleness/ reluctance to put pressure on both participants' joints, won out. Plenty more days this month, many of them already taken up though.