Sunday, 30 March 2014

Another South Easterly Day

Sunday March 30

The clocks went forward last night so rising at nine was not as late as it sounds. It's Mothers Day so I had a Facetime session with Sara and Josh until my IPad ran out of charge. She called early,  as I was about to see to the moth trap. She was anxious to know how her gift of a Mulberry tree, bottle of syrup and pot of conserve had been packed and received, I was delighted with it, novel and much appreciated. Pam was pleased with the packaging - wood wool and wooden slats for the bug house.  I WAS told off for taking the juice.
Emptying the overnight moth trap - at least 326 in number and of 17 species - took a while. Most of them were 'brown' !! 46 Common Quakers and 97 Small Quakers. We gave up counting in the end, there were even more of each. 
Four first hatching Early Thorn were the best looking,  plus our first Double-striped Pug and, a yet to be identified, large and greyish moth. Watch this space.
The yet to be photographed, and or identified, potted and in  the fridge, we drove to Cley Centre for a late cheese scone brunch. Very quiet on the reserve migrant wise, there was a sight-blurring sea fret which we hadn't had at home. After a look around, we gave up and drove home.
Pulling in at Ebridge Mill for the umpteenth time, at last, a Grey Wagtail perched on overhead wires. It then flew to the apex of the mill roof before  dropping out of sight.
A few of the moths we trapped and potted. The ones taken on or in the pot are too flighty to pose on vegetation or wood.  The Early Thorn in particular.

Early Thorn in pot

Oak Beauty

Front view of Oak Beauty

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Barton Broad

Saturday March 28

The first day of S Easterlies, what would they bring? Barton Broad is our nearest 'look and hope'. It being the weekend, we were not alone on the platform, Baz and his driver of the day, plus three others, had been there two hours already.
Apart from the three Little Gulls and three Common Goldeneye we saw, they had added Kingfisher earlier. The sky was hazy, but we'd hoped for Sand Martins and or Common Tern. It's a good place in favourable conditions to see both species late March, we saw a Swallow here that early too, last year.
A fly-catching female Reed Bunting, calling Water Rail, Chiffchaff and Cetti's kept us occupied. A male Sparrowhawk flapped and glided its way across the Broad.
As I reached the car park, the partial song of my first Blackcap rang forth.
This is positively the last photo of the Slime Mould. RIP.

To put it in perspective.....

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


Tuesday March 25

Shattered when I had to get up before Sue arrived for a day's birding. It was my presentation on Colombia at last night's Bird Club, we didn't get in until after 11 p.m. and Daile had returned my PC before we left. So......I didn't resist re-installing two programmes, including AOL and Firefox and testing them out. I'm always hyper, mentally,  after such an evening anyway and, need to wind down before bed. 
I eventually got to bed and had Robbie the cat needing attention on and off into the small hours. I may have had nearly 4 hours sleep after several similar nights.
The forecast had promised rain in the afternoon, we reversed our usual route and started at Cley.  Beach Road Salthouse only had a couple of cars parked at the end, Pam decided to drive it for the first time since the storm surge. We've only made it part way before due to the volume of cars and nowhere to turn comfortable.The 'car park' no longer exists, flat shingle extends to the sea, Gramborough Hill and Little Eye standing out at either end. It paid off though as we had our only two Wheatears of the day perched on roadside posts.
A lovely sunny morning, we called in at all our usual  waterside spots on the way to Titchwell. 
Brancaster had some comparatively close Black-tailed Godwits changing into summer plumage, probing the glutinous mud on the western shore.

A couple of Turnstone were also going through a plumage change

Pam's virus makes her very listless but she wanted to walk a bit so we went as far as the Island Hide at Titchwell.
I carried my camera this time so was able to photograph the complete Long-tailed Tit nest with no birds nor entrance visible. Two birds were flitting in the willows on the left of the path, maybe they haven't laid yet or built another nest in a less public place.

An enormous amount of water on the Freshmarsh, with few birds apart from ducks and a flock of Black-tailed Godwit. The latter were spooked by a Marsh Harrier, leaving two Knot in view. Far fewer Avocet than before and no other waders. On the return trudge, I saw a Red Kite approaching from the west and then found a group of birders watching a pair of very distant Red-crested Pochard. They were at the far end of the pool to the east of the path near the Centre.

The SatNav - Cressida 'cos she's very posh-voiced - took us to Flitcham and Abbey Farm. Three Buzzards and  a Barn Owl sitting in a hole of its nesting tree at the far right of the pasture.
The sun had disappeared behind cloud cover and it was getting rather cold, we didn't stay long.
Valley Farm Lane produced a single Tree Sparrow sitting on top of the hedge. I took one hasty photo before Pam - inadvertantly - turned on the windscreen wipers. Goodbye bird.
A second Red Kite for the day, in the Harpley area, was the last bird of note before arriving home for a much needed cuppa.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


Saturday March 22

We sorted  last night's moth catch first - 74 of them, our biggest of the year but of only 7 species, Clouded Drab the only new one - then drove to Cley Centre via Gunton. Still no hirundine over the lake.
We both love the view over the marshes from Cley Cafe, we barely beat the coach party rush and got window seats. Nothing to do with the scones............
After a chat with Pat, we drove to Beach Road car park . 13 Wheatears had been reported in the Eye Field. They usually start off at the North Hide ( washed away) hide and make their way west. We saw four from the car park at the west end. Always a delight. I had no intention of walking as Pam has a stubborn upper respiratory infection - again - or should it be still?
I intended going to Minsmere  on Sunday for the digiscoping display and talk, until I found that it was Viking Optics based. I have none of their products and Pam should be resting more. I shall probably finish sorting my talk for Monday's Gt Yarmouth Bird Club instead of leaving it until Monday.
I do have some gardening to do too.
Manchester United won again, West Ham this time, Roo scored a wonder Beckhamesque goal from halfway, lobbing the keeper. What was amazing was that Becks was in the crowd to witness it. The cameras panned straight to him and youngest son Cruz.
My younger grandson's Futsal team won their league this week too. He's an Arsenal supporter !!!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Mind Change

Thursday March 20
We'd intended birding at Sculthorpe to-day. Somehow, the early morning drifted away and the very strong wind added to the reluctance to drive that far. Eventually we went to Barton Broad where there would be some shelter from a south south -westerly.
The wind didn't deter and the sun encouraged, a carr full of bird song, Robin, Wren, Chaffinch, Cetti's and several Chiffchaff. Our first Barton Marsh Tit was a bonus. We haven't had one visiting our garden feeders since before Christmas.
Checking on the progress of the slime is deteriorating, in five days the top brown clay coloured edging has spread.

Sitting on the bench on the end platform, enjoying the sun on my back, watching the strong squally wind send dark clouds of ripples scudding across the water, was very pleasant. Several pairs of Great Crested Grebe had no intention of displaying for me, the biggest action was a threatening dash by one male at another.

Two first year Mute Swans approached each other, making what must be a sibling display of greeting. Heads dipped to one another and then simultaneous neck shapes and water dipping. I've not seen that before. On cue, an adult appeared, steaming through the water to see them off. It was probably the male, female now on the nest.
A Welsh nursery rhyme about a swan translates as ' in his boat of white satin'.

Willow catkins are starting to appear

Another new experience yesterday. Pam called me to the kitchen to watch two Robins displaying on the boundary wall. The male stood, neck and beak reaching to the sky, turning its head from side to side. The female stood in a semi-crouched position, head stretched out, bottom raised, as if playing statues. He did not oblige...they flew into next door's garden, out of sight.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Slime and Murder

Sunday March 16
Pre breakfast on a beautiful, cloudless morning, we set out to check on the progress of the slime mould at Barton Broad. A Chiffchaff was singing as I turned onto the boardwalk and ........was confronted by the freshly dead corpse of a Woodcock. It looked whole until Pam turned it over with her foot and found its breast had been eaten. No feathers around, we think the killer was a mammal. Which one? Not one with a large appetite.

 We were soon upon the slime mould, which was more convex and a less white colour than it was five days ago. We must have caught it at an early stage.  The photographs on the web are very variable. It will be interesting to have another look in a few days to compare.

A few very vocal Wrens this morning, little else until nearing the platform when I saw a Cetti's Warbler sat near the top of a tree in its favoured territory near the platform. They call loud and clear but are infrequently seen well.
The usual Great Crested Grebes, Mute Swans, Coot and Black-headed Gulls on and over the water. Some skulking Mallard and Greylag along the Broad fringes. I then saw one Little Gull disappear up a distant side channel but was unable to get Pam onto it. I thought that 'low over the water behind the green boat, now dipping' was obvious, until I put my bins down and saw that there were two green boats very near each other !
After a drink, we left for Cley Centre and a fresh cheese scone whilst comtemplating our next move. 
We met P again on the way in. A lucky meeting as Pam has mislaid her Email address.
Apart from a large group of Avocet, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, a few hundred bathing Brent Geese and a small flock of Lapwing, Cley Marsh pools were not enticing. There's still a lot of water and the salty inundation will not have done the food supply any good. We didn't see any Marsh Harriers at all, were all the small mammals killed? I expect that if we'd walked to the newly re-opened hides, we'd have seen many more species but nothing untoward.Although three Swallows were reported, a two and a single, passing through late morning, we didn't see them. Salthouse doesn't have a car park, many parked cars along the road makes turning very difficult which is off putting. I miss my hot chocolate made by Julian. I should think that his trade has dropped off too. I wonder if the old boys who used to sit round his van still do so.
The garden jobs called - and the dread of the Man U/Liverpool match. Home to work on the wildlife mansion (Pam) and to try to put a flatpack together (me). I didn't succeed, holes not bored all the way through, minimal instructions - 5 drawings only - and I gave up. I don't do that easily but my tools were inadequate too. Yes, I know, a bad workman always blames their tools. In my case, it was a lack of them .
Yes, Man U's performance - I use the term loosely - was dreadful, a 0-3 loss at home. The season gets worse. Ignominy may well be repeated on Wednesday when it will be a miracle if a deficit against Olympiacos in the European Cup can be overcome.
Go away Moyes. Typical of him. He put on a defender - Ferdinand - and took off a forward towards the end of the match. I was sceptical when he was appointed......I'd love him to prove me wrong. I just don't like his defensive mindset.

Saturday, 15 March 2014


Saturday March 15

Sorting through the overnight moth-trap catch at this time of year is much less daunting than during the later spring/summer. There are fewer in both number and variety. Last night's catch was only 26 of 10 species.
10 Common Quakers
3 Twinspot Quakers
3 Small Quakers
1 Yellow Horned
2 March
2 Clouded Drab
2 Satellite

1 Pale Brindled Beauty
1 Dotted Border

1 Early Grey

We trapped 46 species last week when the nights were less cold, including several Oak Beauties

 and the usually ever present Hebrew Characters.

Always Hopeful

I was unable to identify the 'fungi' photo in my last post 'Just in Case'. Not on the web nor in my ID book - because it's not a fungus. It used to be classified as such but now it isn't.
Thank you James E. for the identification.
 It's a slime mould, Enteridium Lycoperdon, sometimes called False Puffball.

Friday March 14
We didn't leave until we were sure that the overnight fog was dissipating. Would it have brought some migrants down? Or, was it a low one and they would have flown through above it? We didn't see any all day ....we had a lovely time though.
First stop was Sculthorpe Mill to try to see Grey Wagtail. One has been reported here this year but, they've failed to appear for us. Pam got us a hot chocolate from the Hotel and we sat outside at a picnic table, enjoying the view of the Wensum from directly behind the rushing mill race outflow,  widening into a pool and then,  slowing  to the well treed banks downstream. 
Pam's photo

We haven't seen any Greys at our other two sites, Gunton and Ebridge,  either .
Taking a different lane down to the coast road, leading directly into Thornham Village, a surprise Corn Bunting was perched on overhead wires. I suppose it's very near Choseley as the bird flies.
The lane to Holme village was delightful. A bridal avenue of dense white starry flowers festooning entire Blackthorn trees, meeting overhead in places.
The usual Mistle Thrush in the meadow where we turn off on the ever more potholed and weather eroded track to the NWT and NOA reserves. I wanted to 'do' Gore Point for the first time this year. I'm sure that the area holds the record for the number of Dunnocks per sqare mile. Wheatear plain was empty and only Curlew and a sole Linnet flew overhead.
Sitting on a convenient grassy mound at the Point, I scoped the sea and beach - in a very limited fashion. The sea was out as far as it goes and the fog lingered. The December Storm Surge has really changed the profile of this area. Mini stacks of debris raked up in the dunes stood sentinel to the extent of the sea invasion.
I love sea watching, even in these conditions. All the expected common waders along the shore and beach, most numerous were Bar-tailed Godwits and Curlew. Three Sanderlings and four Red-breasted Mergansers, two males and two females, for the month list. Although the spot is exposed and there was a slight and chilly breeze, sitting here for half an hour was surprisingly comfortable. It doesn't take much to make my eyes water which isn't good for scoping either!
Driving out, a Toad was walking slowly across the path. I asked Pam to stop in case it was a Natterjack, there's a colony here. It wasn't.

Thornham Harbour so that Pam could have something to eat and I occupied myself photographing a summer plumaged  Redshank and a Black-headed Gull swaying gently on one of the boat landing stage stancions.

After the obligatory Brancaster Staithe drop-in, we drove to Cley in case the Great White Egret was still on view. We couldn't find it.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Just in Case

Tuesday March 11
I had a regular six monthly hygienist appointment in Stalham, after which we drove to Barton Broad disabled car park - the warden gave us permission. As soon as the car stopped, we heard our first Chiffchaff of the year. Pam heard her Cetti's for the month but we added nothing else. We didn't stay long at the platform. It was a northerly wind which blows straight in at you. Chilly - I could feel that my hair wasn't dry yet.
The book had records of Otter, two Kingfishers on the 3rd and Little Gulls on the 8th..... I was hoping for the latter and maybe a Common Tern. Try again.

 I did see this very white cauliflower-like fungi, will look it up later.
I was unable to find this 'fungi' not on the web nor in my ID book - because it's not a fungus. Thank you James E.for the identification.
 It's a slime mould, Enteridium Lycoperdon, sometimes called False Puffball.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Much Better than Ollie's Farm

Friday March 7
Ollie's farm was the well known site for viewing Goshawk in the early months of the year. About three years ago the site was closed off. Parking was perilous, a very rough, heavily potholed and small area off the A11 or in a roadside layby which involved a walk and a perilous road crossing. It was then at least 2 kilometres along a pleasant track beside a firing range. The latter was not visible as the area was heavily forested but, shots could be heard. Why was it closed? Who knows....I don't.  I can conjecture that it was something to do with the range or maybe because growing trees were gradually obscuring the viewing 'clearing'.
There had been rumours of a 'secret' but well known new area. Not by us, until friend Bob told us to try the road to the Iceni Village. We decided to explore to-day as the favoured sunny conditions were forecast for the afternoon.
Setting the SatNav for Cockley Cley, we turned off on the road signed to the Iceni Village and found what we'd hoped for. Three birders' cars parked in a layby facing a clearing with mixed woodland beyond. Just enough room to park and scan the area. We didn't have to wait long before seeing several Buzzards float along and then....Pam saw a raptor rise from the far corner.  One became two Goshawks who performed a very distant and short sky dance before descending out of view and then rising, repeating the manouevre.
The other birders reacted to the song of a rising Woodlark from a meadow behind us, one of them recognised the song, we already had. BJ came over to talk with us and when I mentioned the 'easy Goshawk' his face was a picture. Although scopes had been trained in that direction, no-one else had seen them. Whoops.
The sun gradually produced a blue sky. More Buzzards appeared as did a Kestrel. BJ's shout to the other birders dragged us back to the woods where, in the same area as we'd previously viewed a pair,  a lone Goshawk put on an at least 10 minutes flying experience, occasionally displaying. Excellent. The best and definitely the longest views I've ever had. I was able to view through my scope, eyepiece set at 50x. Very happy, we tried and failed to find the Iceni Village, all we found was a closed Museum.
Back via Norwich and B and Q for a new strawberry planter, my ancient half barrel has finally disintegrated beyond usefulness.
Why was it better than Ollie's?
Easy parking. No walking. Better viewing. We'll go again.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Dydd Gwyl Ddewi

March 1
Leaving soon after 6 a.m, a little later than planned, turned out to be advantageous. As we left Holt, the slight drizzle and leaden sky became freezing fog, thick in places.Grey Wagtail had been seen back at Sculthorpe Mill, we couldn't see one this morning. Biting air, and a rushing torrent in the mill race, wasn't good for us nor them.
Harpley was hardly visible, Blue and Great Tits, no tree Sparrows again. I think we'll have to give up on this site soon. A Song Thrush sang as we left home and another was in good voice here.
Valley Farm Lane was also devoid of activity, usually a banker for both partridges, Redlegs only this time. We were to dip on Grey Partridge for the first time in at least a year. BUT as we drove away, two Tree Sparrows were on a well hidden peanut feeder. At last.
A flurry of activity in the hedge approaching Abbey farm turned out to be 30+ Brambling changing into breeding plumage. Two men ensconced in the hide thought we were joking when we told them. They were to be the first this year for one of them. One had his scope trained on the Little Owl in the oak tree. The fog gradually lifted enough for us to see it, the whole area had been invisible. Two Fieldfare, two Teal, a dozen Greylag and a Stoat didn't keep us there long. As soon as we'd finished out porridge pot breakfast, we left.
Golden Pheasant have been regularly reported recently, not to-day despite doing two circuits of the triangle. 
Debating the wisdom of driving to a foggy Snettisham, we decided to give it a go. Until we reached the first pit which was invisible. 
Fortunately, Hunstanton was an improvement but not clear enough to seawatch. After ticking off Rock Dove and Fulmar, Holme NOA was the next destination.  The best thing there was a hot chocolate from the NWT machine! Up to eight Little Grebe on the Broadwater and a few duck, still couldn't see well enough to scan for raptor
Thornham was considerably clearer, the tide well out leaving a trickle of water in the  creeks and very little on the beach. P was there having walked part of the way along the bank, seeing nothing of note. And... the sun broke through, shining for the rest of the day.
Titchwell can add ten or more species. We had to park in the far end of the car park, 'our' place was taken. What a delight. Part of the way along the main footpath past the shop, a pair of Long-tailed Tits were putting the finishing touches to their nest. I've always wanted to find their nest. Surprisingly, it was attached to the main trunk and a side branch, an extension to the lichened bark. It's probably normal but I didn't expect that. 
Dragging ourselves away, we walked as far as the freshwater pool where we found the backless bench empty. So many people here to-day, we're not used to visiting at the weekend. We succeeded in adding the ten expected species, I heard a Cetti's which Pam missed and, she didn't manage to point out a flying Snipe before it disappeared. Pam was having a painful walking day, another 5+ species were possible if we'd walked as far as the sea. I was very happy not to do so......I tried some digiscoping on a Pintail........

 and Pam took some Long-tailed Tit pics.

At last, good views of a Water Rail in the ditch near the feeders.
Lunch at Brancaster Staithe added Ringed Plover, Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit. On to Cley scanning all areas along the way. We couldn't park overlooking Gun Hill, it was full of cars. As was Lady Anne's Drive on our there and back no parking (no payment) loop. 
Three Buzzards over Cley and an adult Spoonbill viewable from Salthouse duck pond

before our second Little Owl of the day at Felbrigg brought the long day to a close. 

Carrion Crow in the car park
 Most enjoyable and 77 species seen, the most this year - thanks to Titchwell.
We now know our 'new' car a little better too having thoroughly appreciated its comforts. Most appreciated - by me - was individual temperature control for the front seats. Pam could turn hers down and I could stop myself from going blue!