Saturday, 27 December 2014

A Composite including a Garden Rarity

Mid December
More antibiotics and short visits to Cley and Buckenham via Sea Palling.


Ingham/Sea Palling - Both Whooper and Bewick Swans. 3 Cranes south of Horsey Mill.
Buckenham - the fewest Wigeon we've ever seen in December, still in their hundreds though. Large groups of Canada geese and 6 White-fronted Geese. Our first Ruff of the month. The gates to the mill are now heavily padlocked. Another blow for the disabled and or elderly ,  birder. Must apply to Strumpshaw for a permit. Do they give you a padlock key?
Cley - Black Brant and Pale-bellied Brent along Beach Road in a flock of Black-bellied. 3 Avocets and a few Ruff on Bishop's Pool from Cley Centre.

Sunday December 14

Waw !

Looking for December ticks, I'd asked Pam to alert me if a Long-tailed Tit flock came to the feeders. She duly did so and I went to the kitchen armed with my indoor binocs. The nearest feeding station is in the fig tree about 5 metres from the kitchen window.  Whilst admiring the Tits, I noticed a very pale sparrow-sized bird with a pale supercilium and lores in the tree amongst the feeders. I pointed it out to Pam just as it flew down to the low Acer palmatum beneath. She said Shrike as I called 'with a very red tail'. It posed for half a minute whilst Pam dashed off to get her camera. It then flew down the garden, flashing its bright tail and paler rump, landing on a small metal pergola. Despite my inward enteaties, it then flew off west, BEFORE Pam returned with her camera. Blast.
The Helm and newer Collins books are kept in the car. Pam checked with the indoor Collins and declared it to be a first winter Red-backed Shrike which I then tweeted. I was still puzzled and doubtful but hardly dared to believe otherwise. 
Steve later phoned, asking if it was a Brown Shrike. No, definitely not, not with that red tail. I think it was Keith who first verbalised Isabelline Shrike which made a lot of sense. The Helm book really nailed it for me as did a web search, Pam is even more pessimistic that we should have such a rarity in the back garden without a photo to prove it. 
The rusty red tail is the defining ID, as is the pale supercilium, lores and overall plain, pale brown upper parts and creamy underparts with faint streaking around the neck and breast sides. Isabelline Shrike, probably  of the Daurian race, the same species as the one we saw at Stiffkey on October 16.
What a garden bird. Shame it was such a short stayer.
I talked to J and D about it when we met for coffee and they sent me a submission form as it is a BBRC bird. I shall bite the bullet and submit the record. Although I'm certain, who's going to believe me?  Fingers crossed.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Norfolk Birding

Monday December 1

A late start, it was a very dark morning and it stayed dark all day. Not a day to brighten the spirits of one still suffering from a chest infection brought home from Australia. The paucity of birds, especially passerines, was very disappointing. It was still good to be out though.
Not much water at Abbey Farm, very distant at Snettisham. A pair of Goldeneye on the first pit near the caravan park was a highlight. The expected waders, Mallard, Teal and Wigeon the only ducks plus a large flock of Golden Plover, showing a shade lighter than the mud.
We only recorded 59 species all day, which did include Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare. The Black Brant we saw at Cley a couple of days ago and the Stonechat along Beach Road were absent.

Saturday December 6

Ludham Marshes looked splendid to-day, under the first sun of the week. Blue sky, the only car and birders in sight and 16 Cranes feeding near the windmills. Intermittently, most of the birds started to 'dance', not seriously as yet. It looked like a wing-stretching, jumping practice without the attendant bugling. Lovely to watch them through the scope.
Six distant Whooper Swans added to the month list.
Scratby cliff car park brought our first Gannet and two Fulmar were loafing on the sea. 
Winterton beach was full of cars, the fine weather and a Desert Wheatear 1 mile north will have brought in the crowds.
Huge numbers of Pinkfeet swirling patterns in the sky and then filling a Horsey field on the way home. Nothing else of note.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Last Day Out in October

Thursday October 16

Where should we go? Cley? We started off there, with a scone and a cuppa in the Centre cafe. Moth-ing had been cancelled for this morning, we did not miss out on the refreshments.
Maybe we should go for the Isabelline Shrike at Warham Greens. Ominously, the roadside leading down to the smallish car park at Stiffkey was completely lined with cars. Taking a risk, we drove on, finding a good parking place in the car park. I didn't much enjoy the walk to the Whirlygig area. Much of the track was muddy and very slippery, parts of it more like slurry. Returning birders, including Lee, kept telling us to take care, warning of the slipperyness. And... news that the bird had gone missing - again - keeping its reputation of being elusive.
We stayed at the Whirlygig area for nearly half an hour, entertained  firstly  by Giles who we saw on Scilly every year, who approached us with a lovely smile. Then, a man who goes to Mull every year, we see him with his two collies. He'd been to Shetland for the first time this year and had the Siberian Rubythroat as a day tick. Envy.
Walking on, a small group of birders were obviously intent in their walking. We got to the area where a lone man had just had crippling views. A short wait, as more and more birders arrived, before we saw the Isabelline twice in flight and perched on a hedge top. Good. Shame it's not a tick, not even for Norfolk.

I didn't take this photo !
The pager's half a mile is very inaccurate. The 25 minute walk back to the car seemed shorter and not as muddy. Weird. It was exactly 25 mins on the way out!
A quick shop in Sainsbury's to buy Jaffa Cakes for Sara and Lamb Stock cubes - they don't sell the latter in Aus despite the huge number of sheep.
We leave for Australia at 3 p.m. to-morrow where I shall still be keeping a Blog with more of a family diary flavour with plenty of birds too I hope. The Blog address is:

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Notable for Battle of Hastings

Tuesday October 14th

And... Pam's birthday. 
After card and present opening, it was time to drive to Natural Surroundings for our weekly moth-ing session. It was good this morning, plenty of moths of  good variety in the three traps opened. The traps are put out in different areas of the grounds. One on the summerhouse type building's balcony, one in the herb garden and the other in a more open area.
New for us was a Yellow-line Quaker, an Acleris sparsana and an O glaucinalis (?) There was also a very tiny Groundhopper, less than half a centimetre long - excluding antennae. Pam looked it up in her newly acquired Insect photographic book and we ID'd it as Potato Leafhopper,  Eupteryx aurata.

Afterwards, we celebrated with a breakfast of cheese on toast in the cafe. Pam's choice. Very thick bread with delicious cheese, I had one slice, Pam had two !
Where to bird? So many migrants on yesterday's strong easterly with lashing rain. We succeeded in being where birds had been seen but not when we were there. Holme first, no sign of the reported Pallas's Warbler in the NWT car park sycamores. It hadn't been seen for more than an hour. ( seen well again later in the afternoon). News of a Grey Phalarope 'showing well' at Titchwell sent us on our way. So many Robins everywhere along the access road.
The car parks and road edges were full at Titchwell, luckily our fishermen's car park was empty. Red-crested Pochard, Bearded Tit, Little Grebe and a cloud of Golden Plover as we walked to Island Hide. All seats were full so we entered the hide, which was almost empty. The Goldens- a flock of 500+ - were very restless, constantly taking off, wheeling about and landing again. Trying to locate waders amongst them was a nightmare, both in the air and on the ground. I found a Little Stint, one Avocet, Ruff and Dunlin but no Phalarope. No-one else in the hide had seen it either. The pager gave a 'no sign of ' at 1.10 as we continued to scan. The facilities called. Two Water Rails ran across a bare area of mud near the Island Hide, always a pleasure to see them.
Pam's choice to-day. Did she fancy walking in Wells Woods ( Radde's, OBP ). No, neither did I. What about Gun Hill? No way, too far. The Steppe Grey Shrike again? Not unless someone was feeding it mealworms. 
So... we went home for birthday cake (Waitrose's Belgian Chocolate) and a cuppa before a birthday dinner - requested - of Donald Russell melt in your mouth Fillet Steak and Chips from the Kingfisher at Walcott. A side salad was the healthy bit.
With all the good birds around, not the best of lists but a very enjoyable and leisurely day.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Is it Allowed?

Saturday October 11

At last. Enough  unplanned and organised time to go birding. Where do all these appointments and social events come from? Two people making arrangements I suppose. 
We trapped moths last night too, the first time since last weekend. Not a vintage catch. 11 moths of 9 species. 1 Mallow, 2 Sallow, 1 Light Brown Apple, 2 Beaded Chestnut, Pine Carpet, 2 Grey Pine Carpet and 1 Red-green Carpet.
I tried out the C2 setting (Macro) on my Canon SX50. No different from the results I get on auto.


Red-Green Carpet
We drove off in sunshine, arriving at Burnham Norton in rain. Light but persistent. After two large hired minibuses had moved out of the way - stopped at the car park entrance - we found a parking space on the road's grass verge. Lucky. The hard standing car parking area is very small but, many had found extra spaces on the grass beyond. Not a long walk, along a heavily rutted tractor track, extremely muddy in places. It's a lovely area with extensive views over the marshes, skeins of Pink-feet flying in, Brent rising and falling again, Cetti's Warbler singing. We haven't walked out since going for the Stilt Sandpiper late on a windy evening after a drive back from Carrbridge in the Highlands. Aah,  I remember a later visit, the highlight two Cranes flying over. Always good to see those not part of the Hickling flock.
A constant procession of birders leaving and us walking out, always a good sized admiring group scoping east about halfway to the sea wall.. The Steppe Grey Shrike was perched distantly on top of a hawthorn bush. Lovely. 

Big zoom and crop
My Sibley says ' WAS part of the Great Grey Shrike' complex, now lumped with the Southern group which is being investigated'. Is it a full species? I expect we'll find out in time. A very pale bird compared with Great Grey. I attempted some shots with my SX50 set on C1 - birds -  according to the YouTube video I watched yesterday. They look better than the ones I took on Auto, despite being at full zoom which I rarely use. The 'better' is comparative !

Steppe Grey Shrike - a First for Norfolk

Huge zoom and crop for both......

 In excuse, I haven't seen any really cracking ones on Surfbirds etc. The bird shows well but at a distance. All better than mine though, which have been heavily cropped.
Wow. I should have looked at the photos on Bird Forum before I wrote. There are some beauties of the Shrike which obviously does come much closer. Will try again and linger if it stays. I should have been there after the bird had been lured with mealworms and voles when the beautiful pics were taken.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Last Sink

Wednesday October 8

The damaged Butler sink I bought last year from a smallholding owner in North Walsham for 'only' £10, has been looking at me reproachfully ever since. Standing on its side near the shed, slowly filling with dead leaves it looked - and was - abandoned.
When the cold frame had finished its use for this year, there was room for Kevin to bring the sink round to its final position and stand the sink on bricks. I even scrubbed it immediately.
Some weeks (months?) later, when it had become cooler, I checked I had the necessary ingredients. Yes. Still no action.......
Girding my loins, I measured out the builders' sand and left it on a large tray in the greenhouse to dry off. Not essential but dry sand is easier to mix with the peat, potting compost and grit. More prevarication.
Eventually, I measured the remaining ingredients into the wheelbarrow, mixed it well  and it rained. The barrow was moved into the utility room.......
A few days later, immediately after rising, Pam and I found the mixing board, tipped the barrow's contents onto it, Pam mixed whilst I added the water until the hypertufa was the required consistency - just wet enough to clump together. Although I hate wearing them, this is definitely a rubber gloves job.
First, the sink's surface is coated with PVA glue, using an old paint brush, I do it in sections. The sink needs to be covered about 4-6 inches down the inside of the sink as well as the outside.
Then comes the firm  moulding on of handfuls of  the mixture, leaving a rough finish so that it looks like stone, under the bottom edge of the sink is essential. 
Cover the sink with damp sacks or plastic and leave on for 2-3 days. One to two weeks later, depending on the weather and how impatient one is, put a layer of permeable membrane in the bottom of the sink, and add crocks/large stones to the depth desired. This saves on compost and adds necessary drainage.

 Fill with a mix of 2 parts JI 2 or 3, 1 part sand, 1 part peat. 1 part alpine grit and a handful of bonemeal, well mixed beforehand. When settled, plant, add tufa rocks - one's own can be made if there is any hypertufa left over. The final act is to add a top dressing of alpine grit, I shall do so this weekend. Phew. Enjoy.

The recipe for hypertufa is available from the Alpine Garden Society website.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

October Round-up - So Far

October 1-3

The first was occupied by Coffee morning and a flu jab. The latter made us feel sprightly in comparison with the others lined up. Worth going for that ! 
The 2nd started with moth trap opening at Cley, followed by coffee and a scone with Aileen  and Bridget on A's 80th birthday. She looked well.
In between we registered Ruff, Marsh Harrier, Wigeon and Golden Plover on and over the marsh. We had a quick look at the west bank marsh in search of Stonechat and  the Eye Field, before driving home. 
At least one Marsh Tit and Coal Tit are  regular vocal visitors to the garden bird feeders at the moment. Tawny Owls are calling from the wood - in daylight - and the sound of rutting Red Deer is not infrequent. We often hear Chinese Water Deer and Muntjac, this is the first year the Red have been close enough to hear. A few House Martins are still present, for how long I wonder.
Autumn moths are making an appearance in our garden trap. Yellow Underwings are disappearing, Beaded Chestnut and Lunar Underwings have increased. The beautiful Merveille du Jour and Dusky Thorn are beginning to appear

Merveille du Jour

Dusky Thorn - wings never flat
We are also still getting second broods of earlier moths such as Yellowtails and Brimstone. I am becoming more aware of the seasonality of moths.

October 3rd

It never seems right doing our 'big day' on anything other than the 1st - this one wasn't. We set off at 6.30 in thick sea mist (haar) which didn't clear until we were well past Holt. It was a lovely sunny day by valley Farm Lane, it was almost as though there had been an invisible wall. One side haar, the other, blue sky and sun. No Tree Sparrows nor Little Owl to-day. Nor was there anything to add - apart from Coot - at Abbey Farm. The water there has diminished to two small pools again, the spring is low after a very dry September.
As we drove west, the haar descended again. That made viewing at Snettisham, in addition to the tide at its nadir, very frustrating. I got cross with the couple in a car which sped past us on the way in, we found them parked at the first hide. They got out, not a binocular between them, carrying a plastic container, proceeding to pick blackberries. I was all for asking them if they had a permit but Pam persuaded me not to !
Waders included a beached flock of Golden Plover, a scattering of Grey Plover, several still in their black aprons, Numerous Redshank, Curlew and Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, 1 little Stint and Black-tailed Godwits. The Knot were scattered about, the large flocks were probably on the shore. This Little Egret fed along the inshore pit, water gleaming silver behind it, disappointingly, the photo doesn't do it justice.

 As we left, the sun broke through and we had a glorious day. The blackberries at the gate entrance were large, sweet and delicious. Pam nearly drove off without me, waiting the other side of the gate for me to close it. That's what she said anyway. I can't even take some back for her as she dislikes them - then she enjoyed Blackberry and Apple Crumble at the caravan with M and K yesterday (hm......).
No Fulmar at Hunstanton, about 20 Common Scoter flew past.
Seeing Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier and Kestrel in five minutes at Holme was notable. One Greenshank and a lone Avocet amongst the Mallard and Wigeon on the Broadwater.
Not a good day species wise and one lacking in 'hwyl' for both of us. Which came first? Enjoyable though, really good to be out.
Empty creeks apart from Curlew, at Thornham. 

Not even any Brent on the marsh. (We saw a regular procession of them flying past the Dunwich caravan, which has spectacular sea views, on Saturday.  A vismig experience). 

'Cos I fancied it, I tried some shots of a soaring Marsh Harrier. 

A walk at Cley was also declined, the day did not reach 70 species and did not include Great Tit, amongst many other 'misses'. And... the ice-cream van wasn't at Salthouse.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Not Just Moths

Wednesday September 17th

Happy Birthday grandson Harry, who is 16 to-day. I got through to him whilst he was at his birthday meal in an Italian restaurant, awaiting his calzone. 
Home from an early dental appointment, time to empty the moth trap. Over 100 in number - we counted 125 but some always fly away - of 30 species. Nothing new for the year nor the garden, but an always spectacular, both in size and looks - Red Underwing and two Oak Hook-tips were the most attractive. Yellow Underwings galore, Setaceous Hebrew Characters and 30 Lunar Underwings made up the majority, normal for Autumn
The trap attracts other wildlife too. Yesterday at Natural Surroundings, a toad had found its way in plus our first Lilac Beetle.

The beetle is lilac and blue on its underside, difficult to photograph well through a mucky pot whilst it's paddling its legs like mad - a natural reaction to being on its back !

To-day, we had a huge 5cm long beetle which we are yet to identify, 

Large Diving Beetle - another one at Cley on Thursday

dozens of Shield Bugs, a few spiders and a Hornet. 

The Hornet is 4cms in length, a fearsome looking beast. The last three have been dead in the bottom of the trap, to-day's wasn't, its wings frantically quivering, warming up to take flight.

A Scorpion Fly escaped to rest on the back of my hand. This is the female which does not have the male's scorpion-like up-pointing tail.

Productive Days

Tuesday September 16

Yesterday's very busy pager, reporting the many migrants along the east coast during a spell of easterlies with coastal fog, was frustrating. I was busy harvesting, shucking, blanching, cutting off the kernels and freezing corn cobs.
After a moth trapping session at Natural Surroundings, full of hope, we set off for Garden Drove, east of Wells. Which one of the 'unsafe for vehicles' tracks north is Garden Drove? Not marked on the very large scale map book nor on the track itself. Local folklore! Fortunately, distant memory took us to the right one. In the 80s we had been able to drive right down to the gate onto the marsh where there was just enough room to turn and park. Nowadays, one has to park on the concrete pad at the end of the driveable section, keeping field entrances clear. The 200-300 metre track down to the marsh is narrow,  heavily rutted, lined by mature trees and shrubs, giving  dodgy walking conditions for the elderly unsure of foot. We hadn't expected to see as many parked cars nor the numbers of birders - mostly older  - scattered around the tree belt lining the marsh.
Nearing the gate, Dave H ran past telling us that two Honey Buzzards were over the marsh. We didn't run.......couldn't. We got there in time to see one gliding away across the tree-tops.Phew. Time to look for and see, two Red-breasted Flycatchers, our first Spotted Flycatcher of the year (!) and make a hasty retreat back to the car for a drive to the toilet block at Wells. No bush stops to-day, too many birders. I would have liked to have seen the male Redstart further on down the track. We took the upper way back, along the field edge, which was much better walking. 
Relieved, we drove to Salthouse, parking in the track leading to Kelling Quags. 300 yards down the track, a few birders gazed at a willow thicket. We joined them. I'd taken a stool this time so could wait in relative comfort. A beautiful Yellow-browed Warbler fed,  restlessly flitting through the centre and back of the willows. I had very good binocular views, probably the most prolonged ever, at a comfortable viewing height. None of the usual painful neck craning. The many branches impeding camera viewing and focusing meant that I had not even tried a shot. Suddenly, the bird appeared in a clearer area. I pressed the shutter .......nothing. Hm, I only changed the battery last week when nothing showed in the display. I did so again when I got home, still nothing. Despond, the electrics must have died.Never had a camera go wrong before and it's only 3-4 years old. Worse... I've carried it all day to no avail. Just as well I didn't have the possibility of achieving the crippling shots Penny C has on her Blog.
Plenty of birders' rumours abounded to-day. The buzzards were Common - someone had a photo purporting to be of a Honey. It wasn't. There certainly were both sorts there.
The reported  Icterine Warbler at Garden Drove - another photograph reporting - was a Willow Warbler. And so it goes on. Men's stuff. Some seem to delight in bad mouthing other birders, Lee came in for more than his fair share of this. He was there to-day, scoffing at the 'I can see wingbars' etc plus other calls - of the same bird, which was a mooted Barred Warbler when it was the often confused, juvenile Garden Warbler. Part of birding which we walk away from.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Another Early Morning

Thursday September 11

Cley Centre moth trap opening morning. At 9.00, very few people had arrived and only 2 traps had been delivered - on top of the mound where there are cafe picnic tables. Every week is a surprise. The 'usual' bottom car park was being used by contractor's cars - they had excavated the area in front of the old Centre in order to place a sewage tank for the new toilet block. Greg appeared and disappeared, returning after 10 minutes looking a bit miffed. Bernard had forgotten to put the trap out last night. At least he came over to apologise although his demeanour was defensive, an antithesis of  the words spoken.
Eventually, a rather leisurely session with enough moths to keep us amused with a couple of goodies. Gold Spot - a Macro - and Schoenobius gigantella - a Micro.

The Micro was discussed over a drink in the cafe so I didn't have the opportunity to photograph it.
Via Kelling to have a futile look for the Eastern Bonelli's Warbler - it was reported last night but everyone seemed rather sceptical - we drove to Cromer. Unsurprisingly, nowhere to park along the front so it had to be the main car park. We walked to the pier area, viewing from the esplanade in front of the Hotel de Paris. The few gulls present were rather distant and the walk down to the lower esplanade was vertiginously daunting. Down - fine, BUT back up? No way. Especially with a hospital visit for ultrasound injections in both shoulders for Pam later on to-day. My knees aren't good to-day either - great yesterday. 
We managed to identify a Yellow-legged Gull and a probable Caspian but the latter was a bit stringy. Another visit required.......investigating a different approach road.
Friday September 12
A good moth catch last night in the Robinson MV.  50+ of at least 22 species excluding Micros. Our first Snouts of the year, although we've had several elsewhere, and our first Flame this year. Will try and take a better pic later as we have it tubed in the fridge.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Efforts Rewarded

Sunday September 7

Many commoner migrants had landed along the east coast this week. In Norfolk, the landing places are Blakeney Point, Winterton North and South Dunes, Wells Woods and Yarmouth Cemetery. None of these are favourites of ours. I like Winterton South Dunes but parking is almost impossible.Cley looked like a good start.
Walsey Hills was the first port of call. As usual, many frustrating sightings of birds flitting into and out of sight in the thick vegetation and trees. Chiffchaffs fly-catching, making vertical ascents out of the Hawthorn were the most attainable. Reaching the end of the path, a Garden Warbler sang from the right, two Pied Flycatchers, Willow Warbler, Blackcaps and more Chiffchaffs fed in the thick sunlit ivy, its mass of flowers buzzing with insects. Lovely.
The East Bank's Wryneck had left overnight, time for Cley Centre where we found Steve and Dot with Steve's mum. After a chat and refreshments, we drove to Blakeney Harbour where a Red-backed Shrike had been seen 'in the bushes by the pond'. We parked near the entrance to Friary Hills and scanned the hedge - until a man we've known since he was a teenager, greeted us, leaning on an open window. He was after the Shrike too. Another approaching birder said that he'd seen it - near a 'pond' out along the bank towards the seashore.
Off we walked, along the rough track being used by the machinery re-shaping the defences after the storm surge.
One really does not expect to find bi-lingual, Welsh/ English signs in Norfolk.

Near the machinery, a hedge leading towards the raised bank held the 1st winter Red-backed Shrike. It was seldom still, using the length of the hedge to hunt, apparently unconcerned about the people walking nearby. Despite the distance, after carrying my camera all that way, I took some 'record shots'. One was sharp enough to enlarge.

The trudge back crossed a still, reed-lined dyke along which a male Common Skimmer darted, hovered and dived. I've never attempted flying shots before.........a challenge.

After visiting Natural Surroundings to clear the way (subs) for Tuesday's moth trapping, (No-one told us that one had to become a member to attend - until Greg did at Cley last Thursday. Embarrassing. I apologised and Andrew was very gracious and grateful for our donation. Good that that's sorted.) news came through that the Western Bonelli's had re-appeared at Kelling after several hours' absence. We called in on the off-chance that it was showing, finding a crowd of about 40 birders staring hopefully at a conifer at the back of the school. No way could we stand for any length of time and the chairs had been removed from the boot (to make room for transporting the mower for repair). It would be a Norfolk tick too. Steve S tweeted that he waited nearly 3 hours. Fingers crossed that it stays.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Titchwell with Sue

Friday September 5

These days out never start early as Sue has to drive here from Burghapton. We didn't get to Titchwell Reserve until  10.30. The west pool had 2 young Red-crested Pochards, a Common Pochard, Tufted Duck and 2 Little Grebes.
As we passed the Reedbed Pool, I looked down to adjust my scope and.......Pam and Sue saw a Bittern make a brief flight. Bother. We met Dave H soon after who said that they were showing frequently this week. Not for me.
Settling on the bench before Island hide to view the reedbed and part of the Fresh Pool, we had a lovely half an hour listening to Cetti's,  watching a male Bearded Tit feeding on Rosebay Willow Herb and a family of two + juvenile and one adult Reed Warbler. Pam called a Hobby flying over, much to the delight of the group we'd gathered behind us.
The Fresh pool held a host of rather distant waders. I scoped, 8+ Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stint, Greenshank, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Ringed Plover. I had counted 22 Avocets when Ray K,  passing by, told us that a Wryneck had been seen at the back of Fen Hide. I'd been looking forward to walking on and seeing more waterbirds but that news was too tempting. 
In the vanguard of a general exodus, we made our best pace (still slow) along the Meadow Trail. Seeing that the shorter part of the trail leading to the Centre was now closed, new boardwalk being layed, was not encouraging for the return walk. 
The Wryneck had appeared, very briefly, in the hedge to the south of Patsy's Pool. A good dozen still looking, no-one had seen it - apart from Dave H. I sat on the bench overlooking the pool. finding Snipe and the usual ducks, before turning to scan the hedge where 'loads of warblers' had been reported.  I saw one Whitethroat and a Chiffchaff.
Lunch was eaten sitting on the newish seat at Thornham, which was lovely. Not as many birds to-day, still some noisy terns but far fewer. The sea was calm and empty too. Our first winter Pinkfeet flock flying in off the sea, was a bonus.
We now had an ominous sky and the first drops of rain. A quick visit to Burnham Overy before driving to Cley. I had hoped to walk East Bank for the Wryneck followed by Walsey Hills for migrant passerines. All parking places were full. After a consoling ice-cream at Salthouse, we drove home.

Moth trapping has been enjoyable lately. We saw a rare for Norfolk, Micro moth at Cley, Argyrotaenia Ljungliana. Someone brought it in to be identified.
Our own garden produced these - amongst others - on Friday night.
Bordered Beauty

Frosted Orange

The excitingly named...Cabbage Moth

From the left, Cabbage, Elephant Hawkmoth, Small Cream Wave

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

September 1st

Monday September 1

Not a good forecast but,  hey, it's the first. 
Soon after 6 a.m., the rising sun glowing a brilliant orange behind us, scattered clouds in the east a paler shade, it was a pleasure to set out. Pam actually had to close the side mirrors, the reflection was blinding.
No bird song at all at home, yet we'd logged 65 species by 10 a.m. Sculthorpe Mill had a Grey Wagtail on the Inn roof. Whilst scanning the mill pool, a Kingfisher skimmed across before - obligingly - returning so that Pam could view it. A Chiffchaff called loudly from nearby gardens.
Valley farm Road was especially rewarding to-day. We had to search for the Tree Sparrows, a Buzzard appeared and disappeared, the many Partridges were all recently released  Red-legged, clustered around the feeders. As we neared the farm, a well grown leveret lolloped down the road towards us. I took some appalling photos through the windscreen and a better quality one over the side mirror as it played '' You can't see me'' in the verge.

I asked Pam to park so that I could photograph the Partridges on the farm's work buildings part way down the lane. Little Owl, she exclaimed. Sitting on a tatty corrugated metal roof. First time we've seen one here.

It soon dived off, looping into a low opening before re-appearing and disappearing into a more distant dilapidated shed. Are they breeding here? 

Abbey Farm sheltered about 60 noisily gabbling Greylag Geese. A few Teal flew in and then, as we were leaving, our second Kingfisher flew across from left to right in front of the hide, landing on a low branch to the left of the gate. Lovely.
We always have a look at the last field on the left before the first house in Flitcham village. Many House Sparrows distracted from a pair of Blackcaps also feeding on the numerous berries available, both  Hawthorn and Elder.
Past the primary school, a family of skittish Mistle Thrushes swooped from tree to field and back again, the single Song Thrush fed on the ground, undeterred by their antics.
We hit Snettisham at the ideal time, nearly two hours before high tide. A mass of waders, ducks and gulls were feeding, relatively closely, at the eastern, entrance end. Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits and Knot, many still sporting summer red, one Avocet, Golden and Grey Plovers, Curlew, Sanderling and Oystercatchers. A surprising number of Sandwich and Common Terns gathered on the beach, at least 50, probably more as they were scattered amongst the gulls and waders. In all plumages too from full breeding to winter. Two Mediterranean Gulls were a surprise find.
Whilst we breakfasted on a porridge pot, the whole mass flew off west in response to the encroaching water.
We responded, parking near the Rotary Hide. Much more exposed mud here and very distant flocks, making the mud banks look black. Ringed Plovers, Dunlin and Turnstone fed diligently on the nearby exposed banks with their many creeks. Now you see me, now you don't.
The sky had been darkening for some time, a first flurry of rain curtailed our visit.
Fulmar are one of the - reputedly- easier birds to photograph. Today's bird, riding the thermals at Hunstanton cliffs, repeating its patrol for five minutes, certainly was. The challenge was achieving a sharp image in appalling light. I switched to TV, shutter priority with automatic repeat shots - as long as finger is kept on button - with  reasonable success.

We both scoped at Thornham, in a rain lull. Over 60 mainly Sandwich Terns with a few Common, on and off the beach. There must have been a shoal off shore,  as Gannets also plunged the viewable water. This attracted both an Arctic and a Great Skua to predate the terns. I feel a little sorry for the terns yet,  really love watching the supreme flying skill of the skuas  more. 
Best surprise was a Great Egret flying across the marsh, comparable with the many Little Egrets feeding there. Three adult Spoonbills were widely separated, a very murky and indistinct Titchwell showing in the distance.
The rain really set in now, we contented ourselves with a hot drink at Titchwell and deprived ourselves of a probable 10+ species by not walking there.
Apart from adding Pied Wagtail, 6 wet Snipe and a Carrion Crow from the Beach carpark at Cley, all our 87 species were achieved by mid-day - and from the car in my case, as I scope from my window when it's raining.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


Tuesday August 26

Suffering from a lack of birds to go for, our attention has turned even more to moths and insects/bugs in general. We've attended two moth trap opening sessions at Cley Centre and one at Natural Surroundings. We were due to go to another at the latter to-day but woke to a very strong wind with overcast after a rainy Monday and night. It seemed another opportunity for some sea watching at Winterton Beach. Disappointing for birds, it was an onshore easterly we discovered. magnificent sea though. A huge white-topped swell, enhanced by a warm sun. Not conducive to finding birds, apart from a steady stream of Gannets, one Fulmar and a dozen terns. I saw a probable Great Skua but will not count it - glimpses of a chunky black bird with large white wing flashes occasionally appearing above the troughs.

PS Just read my pager !! Dozens of Arctic Skuas, a few Bonxies and other goodies reported off Happisburgh and Horsey this morning. Should have got out earlier.

It's not advisable to trap in your own space more than 2/3 times a week. We tend to stick to twice a week depending on what we are doing the following day. Emptying the trap takes a goodly time - identifying its contents much longer. Here are a very few of the latest.

Aphodius Rufipes (Dung Beetle sp)

Flounced Rustic

Old Lady - our first. Very apt for this household.

Parent Bug, Shield Bug sp

Six-striped Rustic

Garden Pebble - a Micro Evergestis Forficalis

True Lover's Knot

Light Emerald

A well camouflaged Red Underwing. Beautiful moth but camera shy.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

One Hour

Monday August 18

Stiff North Westerlies this morning, good for sea watching? The accompanying torrential showers put us off going until early afternoon. We paid for an hour's car parking at Winterton Beach before driving to the raised section near the shed, turning the car so that I could scope from my window. One other birder sat in the lee of the shed, someone we know as Honda man ! We first met him at Holden Honda in Norwich.
During the next hour when we had two more heavy showers, we saw about 16 Gannets, 5 Dunlin, a Cormorant, 6 Common Terns and.......a Red-necked Grebe and a Storm Petrel. It was whilst trying to ID the grebe in a heaving swell that a small dark bird with rounded wings, a very white rump and a square tail flew through my scope. I followed it, closely hugging the waves, in my scope for about 30 seconds. Unfortunately, Pam didn't get on to it as it was quite close in and out of view for her. Now,  Keith tells me that it's a reportable bird in Norfolk ! I must consult J and D on Friday as to how and who. 
There were also 3 Arctic Skuas flying north, one of them zooming up to hassle a Tern - which was empty- beaked.

Tuesday August 19

Another hour spent watching the moth traps being opened at Natural Surroundings near Holt. We almost aborted after the heavy overnight rain and the torrential shower as we were due to leave. Apart from arriving 20 minutes late - it was 9.00 not 9.30 opening - it was worth going. Four traps containing very few moths but a couple of new ones for us and a lovely Frosted Orange and a fresh Green Carpet. One can learn so much from the experienced moth-ers present.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Hold the Front Page

Sunday August 17

The Bug Mansion is virtually finished. Still a few more spaces to fill - suitable small logs required, cones collected from Bacton Woods yesterday. Turf 'roof' planted with saxifrage, very sparse as yet. Wild flower seeds will be scattered next spring.
Most of the work was done by Pam, a mountain of suitable filling material collected and stored in the utility room (glad that's gone), pallets cajoled from various sources. My contribution was downloading instructions from the web, muscle when needed and the occasional idea - the green roof was one.
Well done Pam, it looks great and I'm sure will have plenty of happy residents.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014


August 10- 13

Sunday August 10

I had a rush of cholestorol to the blood on Sunday. Never before have I fancied a fry-up for Sunday breakfast - especially when we had very few of the necessary ingredients in stock. Where could we go ? I had a willing accomplice. 
It was Brunch time by the time we left, aiming for Cafe Bacton first, with low expectations of it being open, which proved to be accurate. Pam said she was driving further on to turn round but her unspoken idea was right. Almost immediately after Bacton chip shop there is a new (to me) cafe open, set back off the road with parking space in front.
Mis-matched tables and chairs, sofas and cushions, a 60s juke box and very pleasant staff. Placing our order for all day breakfast - the others were too big and contained stuff like black pudding - we'd only had time to do the DT pub quiz before our piled plates arrived. 2 rashers of bacon, 1 egg and a sausage, 2 hash browns, mushrooms, baked beans and a slice of toast. £5.50. Not greasy and we thoroughly enjoyed it. 
Is this a birding/wildlife Blog?
The edge of tropical storm Bertha (it was a hurricane) was still influencing the weather. A very strong offshore wind but temporarily dry. Parking on Walcott front, I was able to add a juvenile Arctic Tern and a good number of Gannets to the month list before the next tropical deluge forced us away.
On August 11th, we did the Winterton run, for the first time in a couple of months. An apparently calm sea was actually deeply troughed, concealing the few birds present. In an hour's watch, we saw about a dozen Sandwich Terns, 5 Cormorants, 3 Gannets and one Marsh Harrier which flew in off the sea and got us excited for a minute !
Sometime during the night, I noticed the brightness of the moonlight. Remembering the report of the extra bright and large moon due to its proximity to the earth, I viewed it through an open window. It looked great. Why didn't I go and get my camera?

Tuesday August 12
After lunch with friends, most of the day had gone. As we stopped in the drive, I noticed several insects and butterflies feeding on the small dahlias in the front border, seeming to favour the white ones with a yellow centre. I hurried indoors to change and get my camera but was diverted by a request for a caterpillar ID from neighbour  J. It was a Poplar Hawkmoth giant which she took using her camera phone.

I then spent 20 minutes or so waiting patiently for a restless Painted Lady butterfly to alight long enough for me to photograph it. When it did, it immediately folded its wings to feed. I managed in the end.

I did not see nor photograph the Clouded Yellow which flew through the back garden yesterday. I had seen one last week which I discounted as being unlikely ! 

Wednesday August 13
Last night, I was looking for the Perseid shower of 'shooting stars' but it was mostly overcast. Good for the moth trap maybe? No it wasn't. A very poor catch last night, both in quantity and variety. As many Micros as Micras. We find other insects in the trap too, especially beetles and bugs. This handsome shield bug appeared this morning.

Parent Bug
We'd put our own trap out instead of travelling to the Titchwell trap opening. We intend going to the Cley trap opening in the morning. Next week is less busy so we'll go to Titchwell then.