Monday, 27 January 2014

Two More

Monday January 27

We had to take the car in to the Mundesley Garage as the cigarette lighter wasn't working, it's essential that it does.  But we don't smoke.....
It's used as a charger for both the SatNav and my phone. Gavin fitted a new fuse and away we went to some local fishing lakes Jax and Dave had alerted us to. We didn't have to enter the leisure complex, two pairs of Goosander were visible from the road. Indeed, they may not have been in view if we'd entered.
Making our way back to the main road, two Mistle Thrushes foraged in a ploughed field.
During a phone call from Bob this morning, he'd said that the Martham Glossy Ibis were 'really close'. Maybe I could get some photos. They were showing well but, rather distantly, both feeding to the east of Cess Road.
Cold and damp to-day. We were lucky to do the RSPB garden Birdwatch early on Saturday. We had a tremendous storm that evening and yesterday was a filthy day. I hope that the new venue for the Gt Yarmouth Bird Club meeting to-night is warmer than the previous one.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Winterwatch Delay

Thursday January 23

No lekking Black Grouse on this morning's Winterwatch on the red button, but, a pair of Golden Eagles were still in their roosting tree. We've really enjoyed the four evening broadcasts - despite the presenters - all of them irritating, silly and annoying at times. Chris Packham is the least annoying in my opinion. He's such a bright man and a talented and knowledgeable naturalist. Why do they have to do it? Bill Oddie and Kate Humble were the same.
As a result, we didn't set off until nearly 11 a.m. Nearing Thorpe Market, it started to rain very heavily and continued to do so until we reached Cley. We debated turning back for home as it looked very dark ahead, the road heavily puddled, chocolate coloured water from field drainage producing a bow-wave splashing over the car. Ever optimistic, I suggested having a go for the Wiveton Glossy Ibis so that Pam could catch up. Two are now present in the Martham area so they could be a better bet.
The drive from the Three Swallows to Wiveton Bridge where we turned round, was birdless. At least the rain eased. Nothing visible over the gates into the pooled field where I first saw the bird. I asked Pam to drive slowly on and I caught a view of the Glossy Ibis standing in water accompanied by eight Black-headed Gulls. Pam manoevred the car so that she too could see the whole bird through two layers of hedge. Lucky.
News of a Grebe in Burnham Overy harbour had come through earlier. Knowing the area, we'd dismissed going for it as it would drift away on the outgoing tide. Another message changed our minds. Twenty five minutes later, after spotting the dot from the car, I got out and used my telescope to confirm the identity of a constantly diving Red-necked Grebe. It was well on its way to the harbour mouth, along with a male Goldeneye and a second Grebe which was the same size but darker. What was it....? No way was I going to walk the seawall to get nearer, I was already frozen.

Burnham Overy Harbour. The birds were in the furthest water shown in this photo.
 Thinking that the Rough-legged Buzzard in the Holkham area was worth a try, we parked roadside in the small 'lay-by' overlooking the marsh and Gun Hill. We'd only been there a few minutes when Pam saw a Buzzard over the trees behind the farmhouse. Hm... too distant, against the light, no distinguishing features in those conditions.
Meanwhile I saw another Buzzard appearing from the Gun Hill area, then flying above the same trees as the earlier bird. There were now three Buzzards in the air. The last one looked promising. The birder in front of us, leapt out of his car, used his scope and mouthed Rough Legged Buzzard. ID confirmed of the bird I saw approach and thought it was a good un, based on jizz really. 
Where next? We'd now got blue sky and sun and the temperature had risen to 2C. A Ruddy Shelduck had been reported at Blickling Hall Lake. We'd never been there but knew that the lake could not be accessed from the house. Driving a back lane which seemed to be the right one, signs appeared confirming this. It ended in a dirt parking area. We walked through a patch of woodland and arrived at the lake shore, where lone fishermen huddled under their green umbrella shelters gazing at nothing, not even their rods lying on the bank, tips in the water. How tedious, paint drying came to mind.
Walking into the sharp wind, along an increasingly muddy path , me seeing no birds at all, Pam a group of Mallard, we soon turned back. We met a woman birder in the car park. 'It was there this morning' she said, after asking if we'd seen it. Probably up the far end. It can stay there !!
A lovely mature woodland area which we shall visit again - when it's warmer.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Gloss Taken Off

Sunday January 19

Early afternoon departure for Cley. Morning spent on FaceTime with Aus and then having toenails cut (!).
Would we find this elusive bird to-day?
After one slow, and stopping frequently, circuit of the area, together with several other carloads, we started again.
Several birder standing in a gateway near the Three Swallows brought us to another stop. Yes, they'd seen it. just there over the sign. Most left, the helpful one turned round saying, ''Where's it gone''. Bother.
Much of the field wasn't viewable from the road so I got out, found the first two field gates open and stopped at the third with its ''Private Narshes, no entry'' sign. There was the Glossy Ibis showing well near a telegraph pole, photographable too. I stood back out of sight whilst it preened, so as not to frighten it before Pam arrived. When she'd squelched in through the mud, I let her peep first. No sign.......
We made another abortive circuit search before giving up.
The coast road through Cley is open to-day after two weeks closure in the aftermath of the deadly USAF helicopter crash on the reserve. Beach Road is open too, we were able to drive down to Coastguards car park which had had most of the shingle pushed back. Probably the US people making way for the vehicle to take the crash remains away.
Two Stonechats were perched on the remaining wire fence.
We spent some time scanning the large Brent Geese flock to no avail. It contains a puzzling bird. It has a very pale back and a washed-out neck and head. It took ages to get a view of the rest of it which looks like a normal dark-bellied. i was hoping it was a Pale-bellied!
I expect that we shall be looking for the Glossy again.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Two days, Two Dips

Thursday January 16 

Wiveton marshes, accessible via Salthouse Heath to the Three Swallows and then a left turn towards The Bell. Despite extensive searching there was no sign of the reported Glossy Ibis. Another day...
A very pleasant walk east along the seafront, scrutinising all the rock groynes was fruitless - apart from Turnstones and Oystercatchers. It was interesting to see how well thr area is recovering after the storm surge. One cafe was boarded up, another being worked on. All the lovely paintings on the cliff wall had been largely washed off.
It was dusk when we arrived back at the P and D, near The Crown, for a last look at the rocks down below. In the gathering gloom, two Purple Sandpipers showed intermittently. They are very difficult to see against the dark rocks, even in sunlight.
These are the best I could manage.

Friday January 17th

At last, we found the way to The Mound in Waveney Forest near St Olaves. We usually watch from the bridge which is very exposed, especially to the heavy traffic whizzing close by. Similar to that dratted layby on the A9 hoping to see Ring Ouzel.
It's a pleasant walk on a forest track, we met a couple who assured us we were walking in the right direction. The Mound is well treed and the view is impeded by them. We looked for over 30 minutes, seeing one distant Buzzard and a marsh Harrier. No sign of the two Rough-legged Buzzards, The couple we met hadn't seen them either.
We tried again from the roadside the other side of the second St Olaves bridge. Again, Marsh Harrier, not even a Short-eared Owl to-day. We turned down a lunch out for this !!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014


Tuesday January 14

We spent two hours walking the reserve - and sitting quite frequently, adding seven year birds.The first addition was a pair of female Bullfinches in the overflow car park. Good start.
Thank goodness there wasn't much wind, the highest temperature was 3C inland, mostly 2 at the coast after a 0C beginning at lunch time. As we set off , a group of volunteers were returning, all carrying bags or drums or pushing wheelbarrows, containing rubbish. Except for Dave B. I asked him why and he said that he'd worked hard enough. Jax was there too. All in a hurry to have a warm drink and some lunch. Good for them.The west pool was empty again.
A lone Linnet and a few Avocets were the next ticks along with a flight of Skylarks chirping their way across the marsh.
The coast is unrecognisable. The boardwalk is higgeldy piggedly as though dropped from high.

Pam's Photographs - all three

The dune line has eroded to 10 metres inland, we could step straight onto the beach via a new track. All that remains of the viewing platform is some stumps in the sand.

I thought that the rocky/brick outcrop in the middle of the beach had also altered .
The sea was well out, scoping the only option. Handsome Goldeneye nearest to the shore, a distant flock of  about a hundred Common Scoter , at least one Velvet Scoter amongst them. As I scanned, a great Northern Diver flew through, looking slow and ponderous in comparison with Red-throated. The distant occasional Auk sp. were not identifiable.
Reaching the car park, a Cetti's Warbler shouted. Pam was already in the car so didn't hear it.
A quick - and late- lunch at Brancaster Staithe before a dusk drive home.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Clearing Vigil

Monday January 13

It wasn't a good morning for Pam. Owning an elderly cat (18 in August) has its disadvantages. He's very affectionate, a bit deaf and yowls for food any time between 4 and 7 a.m. There's no pacifying him despite bowls of IAMS dried food and tinned food in another bowl left ready.
No, we're not going to kick him out at his age.
We set out for Edgefield, near Holt, about 12.30, not feeling very optimistic. Parking the car in a muddy, rutted, field before crossing the road brought a view that raised the spirits. A group of four birders were stood, not too far, up the forestry ride.
The news? The dreaded '' they were here 20 minutes ago, showing in those bare trees

before flying into this stand'' !

They left to look elsewhere. A single birder joined us, he'd been looking in Holt Country Park for 4 hours already. A lone Red Kite and two Buzzards soared over the far trees against the blue sky. After a pleasant chat about what he'd seen - on holiday here - he walked off. As he passed the conifer stand, we heard Crossbills and he called a sighting. Four Parrot Crossbills,  showing well for a very short time before departing south. Phew. Lucky. 
After an hour of standing and then -me- finding a tree stump on which to sit, we gave up on a further sighting. I always want better views.
Would the Glossy Ibis still be showing in the Glaven Valley? No.
It was dusk when we reached Felbrigg Park, just enough light to see the resident Little Owl sitting in a hole in a dead tree.
I tried some digiscoping. Asking a lot of my little camera. I used my editing programme to make the owl visible, the light was appalling

Pam took much better photos than I did of yesterday's Snow Bunting. I must replace my dreadful effort with one of hers, She kindly said ''Well you couldn't even see them''! 
A productive and enjoyable afternoon.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Slog It

Sunday January 12

I woke to a silver morning. The heaviest ground frost of the winter - so far. Not conducive to leaving the comfort of a warm bed. It was late morning - after 11.30 - when we set out. I had a lot of farming to do having been unable to access it all day yesterday. Downloading Firefox solved the problem.
The instructions for finding the Shorelarks said ' quarter of a mile north of the Imperial Hotel near the pink and blue beach huts'.  Having passed the area......we decided to try for the Mediterranean Gulls first. There they were, on the beach behind the Sealife Centre. Easy. Two Sanderlings and our first Lesser Black-backed Gull were a bonus. I had to wait for the gulls to settle again - a bread feeding local - before taking a picture.

Having located the new GY Bird Club venue in Albert Square (!) in preparation for this month's meeting, we parked near the beach huts, north of the Imperial Hotel and slogged across the sand to the sea edge of the dunes. North Denes could be swear words for me. A vast expanse of marram clad dunes, fairly flat but very exposed, especially in to-day's raw wind at 6C. The last time I trudged here was to release a Leach's Petrel which Millsy had in his shower room. Don't ask.
Seeing a group of birders, seawards, hastened our steps. To no avail, they scattered as we approached. Ah well, Denes strikes again. We met up with Pauline, first time for ages, the group hadn't seen the Shorelarks either. marginally better news. After exchanging Man U commiserations, we returned to the warmth of the car.
Second Avenue, Caister was the next destination. As we parked, Paul Lee appeared from below, having seen the Snow Buntings 'about half a mile away'. These birder distances kill me. Always under-estimated. He hadn't found the Shorelark either.
Oh no. Four horses were cantering along the beach followed by two more. Maybe they'd disturb the birds for us was our optimistic conclusion. They didn't. Neither did the inevitable dog walkers. How does any bird survive on a Norfolk Beach. These Snowies are fed by a local ringing group which must help keep them here.
Eventually, as we turned round to face the biting wind on the way back (it was more than half a mile), Pam spotted a group of about 30 Snow Buntings. Almost invisible at the edge of the sea amongst small stones and very still. They're not often so immoveable. Pam was walking on the beach by now but I had a better view higher up in the dune below the concrete path. I'd carried my Canon bridge zoom camera but couldn't even find the birds in the view-finder.
Pam's photo of Snow Bunting
I couldn't pass Winterton without deviating to the beach car park.  Pam needed to eat her lunch too - mid afternoon. The luxury of sea watching from the car at the hut end of the car park.
We added, Kittiwakes, one Gannet, my first Red-throated Diver and Grey Seal of the year.
Not a bad day's outcome. I regret not finding the Shore Lark but at least we tried,


Saturday, 11 January 2014

Every January

Saturday January 11

I enjoy it when I get there but never look forward to going. The target birds at Lynford Arboretum are Hawfinch and Crossbills. Over the years, Hawfinches have become less likely, especially since the back road to the Paddocks area became 'Private, authorised personnel only'. We didn't see one to-day, nor did anyone else. One couple we met, who recognised us from Scilly, had put in three hours before we arrived.
Such a beautiful day and we did see some nice birds. Leaving the car park and crossing the road to the Arboretum entrance, only Blue Tits were in evidence. There is now a large feeding station to the left of the track about 100 metres in. The usual Tits, Robin, Chaffinch etc with many Coal Tits, the woods ringing with the call of Nuthatches. My first Jay of the year  called loudly, 
Seeing a Knot of birders near the pay hut, we returned in time to see one female Crossbill before it flew away. We later saw five flying overhead, calling as always. Despite patient searching, Goldcrest was the only small bird skulking here, no sign of any Firecrest.
The Alder wood near the bridges was very actively populated. A few Siskin and Redpoll, more Nuthatches, Coal Tits and a couple of Marsh Tits. That's two birds caught up from Pam and she caught up with Lesser Redpoll. 
Bringing my eyes down, I noticed that someone had placed lumps of fat full of nuts and seeds on top of the bridge pillars. As soon as the group also noticed and moved back, Marsh Tits and Nuthatches came down to feed, only staying a short while to grab and fly. Pam tried some photography and , eventually I tried too, using my small camera, the only one I'd carried as I had my scope on my back.

Greatly enlarged, my first Nuthatch photo., appalling !

PAM'S PIC Marsh Tit
Looking for an opportunity to move off, a Kingfisher flashed through. The most unexpected sighting of the day.
A late lunch at St Helen's Picnic Ground where we saw two Chinese Water Deer and Highland Cattle - very few birds and no additions, before driving home.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Sainsbury's Via.......

Monday January 6

Gunton Park
I really don't know why we bother. friend Bob spent 2 hours here, without seeing a single passerine. we didn't stay as long but the result was the same.
The lake was full of Coot. I've been trying to think of a suitably derogatory collective noun for Coot, without success so far. Watch this space.
Many Canada Geese, a couple of Little Grebe, a dozen Tufted Duck, several pairs of Gadwall, a few Wigeon and Greylag.
The lovely old Sawmill was getting a new thatch last time we were here, it's finished

The ancient logs had interesting fungi.

Pam called me out to hear a Tawny Owl calling very loudly in the garden. It didn't !

Felbrigg Woods
Only enough time to don coat and gloves and enter the footpath before a tit flock arrived. Along with Blue and Great, it contained: Nuthatch, Goldcrest and Treecreeper. Great.

Driving back to shop in NW, there was an interesting sky as dusk approached - before the rain fell. Our first shower of the day. 10C too, very mild.
My small point and shoot didn't do a bad job in tricky light.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Cranes on the List

Sunday December 5

Sun shining on a sparkling, frost covered lawn, no rain. Let's go birding.
I'd read that Salthouse Beach Road was flooded  and Cley Beach Road closed again. Until the breach in the shingle ridge at Salthouse is fixed, so it will continue to be. That was no good then - even though a last scone (diet to-morrow) at Cley Centre was calling.
Would there still be Cranes at Ludham Marshes? 
The young deer, part of the sheep flock near Ludham, was showing to-day. The gate had a very strongly worded and heartfelt notice regarding feeding of the sheep by persons unknown. It had poisoned the oldest ewe and she is suffering. Why do people do this?

The Cranes were soon found, Firstly three in front of the distant St Benet's Level Drainage Mill.

A local man and his young son cycled past, then came back to ask what we were seeing. He dismissed the Cranes.........seen all the time! A nuisance at night when they call. I wish I could experience that. The most he'd seen was a flock of 37. It was a very interesting conversation as he knew local geography well, as well as the wildlife. The first part of the drive out is indeed Ludham Marshes, the second part Horning Marshes. It was he who named the drainage mills and pointed out rivers Thurne and Ant. Apparently the Cranes are nearer when viewed from Thurne Point. We shall have to investigate.

From the parking lot, four more Cranes were nearer. In total I saw 15 birds but there were probably at least the 17 I saw in December. They didn't fly to-day and again, kept appearing from the reeds and dykes. All at a fair distance.
I love this area. Pam has added Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Jay and Siskin to the year list, all seen in the garden. I missed them all apart from the lovely adult male Siskin....
Pam fills the Feeders, therefore is familiar with their placement and watches from the kitchen. I have to make an effort to see the feeders from the living room and don't understand her instructions quickly enough ! e.g. the second fat ball feeder from the right. Very frustrating for both.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Between Heavy Showers

Friday January3

After Kevin had taken down the outside lights and cleared the mountain of leaves which had collected outside the front door, we drove to Winterton via Walcott.
End result...not a lot. I've rarely seen so few birds on this run. Apart from a Shag at the beach and a female Hen Harrier in the Horsey area, fields, sea and sky were empty. As we left the beach, sun shining over the sea, we noticed the mass of deep navy cloud almost upon us. It soon emptied itself, serious stuff. Total now 80.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Goosey Gandering

Thursday January 2

The road to birding is paved with good intentions...
I didn't get up until 9.45, after a disturbed night with an hour and a half read in the middle. I only had about four hours before yesterday's birding and then we went to a dinner party at a friend's. Most enjoyable. There were seven of us and a 4 month old baby, Emilie only joined during her final feed. What a sweetie. She and her parents fly to Singapore to-morrow.
Then, whilst I breakfasted Sara FaceTimed me from Brisbane where it's 38C and stormy. That set me back another hour. Pam was busy showing her Christmas presents including what Sara sent us !
A lovely sunny day to-day, why couldn't it have been yesterday? First stop was Ludham airstrip where 60ish Bewick and half a dozen Whooper Swans are resting. I took some photos into the sun.

The family of Whoopers to the right of the tyre tracks, is obvious by size comparison with the smaller Bewick's.
Over 20 Egyptian Geese grazed amongst them. We didn't see any yesterday...

Parking in our usual gateway near School Road, Cantley, I scanned the marshes below. I found a few groups of geese which were probably Taiga Bean and White-fronts from size, jizz and favoured area but no way am I going to count them. Too distant and viewing into strong sunlight doesn't aid ID. Two Great-spotted Woodpeckers and a Marsh Harrier performed well. 
Buckenham/Cantley Marshes were heaving with birds of very few species. An enormous flock of Lapwings, only surpassed by the number of Golden Plovers. Slow scope scanning added a dozen Ruff, a large flock of Canada Geese and a few Barnacle Geese.Apart from the geese, all the other birds leapt into the air periodically, only to land again after swirling around in amorphous clouds. We found the pair of Peregrine again, lazing about on one of the many wooden gates and fences.
Not the geese we'd hoped to see but we added 11 species to the year list. Next fine day (another storm forecast), we'll try again.


Wednesday January 1 2014

It was still dark at 6.55 when we eventually set off. No bird noise at all at home, which was very unusual. I could see the sky lightening in the east but overhead was a heavy grey. 
Our papers are not delivered on New Year's Day. The North Walsham corner shop was open and our first bird, a Robin, sang as I crossed the road, he must have been fooled by the road lights.
Black-headed Gulls and Wood pigeons were the only other birds until we were the other side of Holt, when Collared Doves and two separate Barn Owls were seen.
I don't think we've ever got as far as Harpley still  in single figures. Along the lane, a single Redwing was barely discernible at the foot of a hedge before sighting a Buzzard standing in a ploughed field before hopping along feeding on worms. My photograph is pretty dire  - so was the light.

Four Red-legged Partridges and a single Grey wandered onto the road to lift the spirits.
No birds in the hedges en route to Abbey Farm.......only Teal, Mallard and Moorhens at the farm itself. Where is everything this morning?
As we left the car park, a single Brambling was in the Chaffinch flock scattered by a sneaky Sparrowhawk. Now you see it, now you don't.
Two more Buzzards later and a fruitless drive around Wolferton Triangle, we arrived at Snettisham Chalet Park. Storm surge damage was much in evidence. Eroded banks on the pit, sea debris amongst the caravans and chalets, one caravan tipped off its base and well on its way into the pit, another chalet with cracked walls from a shifting foundation.

Due to the path being washed away, it's no longer possible to drive into the reserve. The gate has a huge notice and is wired shut. We managed to see the Black-necked Grebe against the far bank before squeezing through the bramble beside the gate and walking to the top of the bank in order to view the Wash. A bulldozer/grader had flattened the path sufficiently. It was freezing ! My eyes were watering so much, nothing was in focus. A pretty quick scan added redshank, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Little grebe, Dunlin, Shelduck, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Curlew and Pintail. Time to flee back to the car.
No sign of the grebe when we got back and others didn't see it later.
Porridge breakfast on Hunstanton clifftop. In the promised rain. 11.00 was a bit early though. Plenty of Fulmars to-day, a few Rock Doves, Cormorant and three Common Scoters bobbed up into view. Turnstones were looking for crumbs amongst the many dog-walkers.
Shall we get out at Holme?We did walk to the Broadwater Hide where many Shoveller were asleep in the reeds with more Teal and a few Mallard. 
By now it was raining hard, a strong wind hurling the drops like icy arrows at one's face. Oh dear. Very dark too.
A single Tundra Bean Goose and a lone Barnacle had been reported ' between Docking and Choseley'. off we drove, finding a flock of about two thousand Pinkfeet in the usual undulating beet harvested field.We found an opening and I scoped - in hope - until my arm, face and the front of the car were too wet to continue. I did have another shorter go but had to give up.
Whilst we were lunching at Brancaster Staithe, adding Grey Plover and Ringed Plover, Jax texted to say that they'd seen the Glaucous and a Red Kite at Edgefield Tip this morning. I replied that I'd planned it for the way home and she gave me instructions as to where the bird was hanging out. We met J and dave at Stiffkey , they were going home, freezing feet.
We gave up too, it was very dark at 2.00, and made our way as quickly as was legal to Edgefield. Jax's instructions were good an I soon made out the large, all white Glaucous Gull , hunkered down in a grassy field behind the tip.
Time for the warmth of home, driving through water-logged lanes and widely puddled main roads, we were there by 3.30.
One of our worst first day totals ever, upper 60s,  with some good birds. In those conditions, raptors weren't flying and passerines were sheltering. 
Not as many as usual non birding Hoorahs either but,  more than enough. Dogs off the lead in nature reserves, large groups completely filling roads, Pam had to hoot on two occasions to get through. Unheard of, she never uses the horn. That was in Thornham village not even on one of the minor roads. Good for trade I suppose.