Saturday, 26 April 2014

I Feel Like Giving Up....

Saturday April 26
I was writing to-day's Blog when everything suddenly disappeared, all the last 3 days writing and photos. Have I the time or the inclination to start from scratch?

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Friday, 18 April 2014

Two Shorts

Wednesday April 16
After coffee at Cley Centre  and a chat about P's  recent Highlands Birding trip, we walked to Pat's Pool. I was pleased to see at least 5 Little Ringed Plovers, my first this year, and a handsome adult Alba Wagtail. 
Apart from the usual ducks, a small group of Black-tailed  Godwits and some Avocets, there was little to keep us in the biting east wind entering the flaps. It was warmer outside.

Friday April 18
After lunch, EM's tweets sent us off to the Glaven Valley, migrants are on the move despite the cold easterly.
Parking near the Sewage Farm, the first bird was a pristine Lesser Whitethroat. We've never seen a lesser before the Common before. It sang and showed beautifully. 
We tried hard but Gropper did not reel for us. A Cetti's call from very near sent my left ear ringing! On the way back from the ford, a Common Whitethroat also sang  from the other side of a thick hawthorn and bramble hedge.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Kew and Birds

Saturday April 13
Thanks to Mags, we were able to join Norfolk Alpine Garden Society's coach trip to Kew gardens. I am a member of the National Society but not the local branch. That will change.
The coach set off dead on 8 a.m., from Notcutts, Norwich, car park. Pam had woken me at 5 a.m.................
Kew has been on my bucket list for a while , I am remarkably ignorant of its history and geographical placement in London. The first surprise was disembarking at the side of a narrow urban street, crossing the road and entering via the ornate Victoria Gate. Where was the car park?
We'd been instructed to make our way directly to the Alpine House - via the loos - where Kit would be waiting to give us a tour of the alpine area. 

Davies Alpine House
We walked to the house via an extensive rock garden, longing to have a better look at the plants, yet not wanting to be late. 

Half an hour later, after a look at the plants in the house,

we were told that the tour wasn't until 1.15, it was now mid-day, and to go and have some lunch. Brilliant, all I needed was unnecessary walking. 
Good humouredly, we returned to the cafe at the Victoria Gate for a sandwich lunch, there was very little choice. The main eating places are elsewhere. M and J  found a lentil salad in a small tub, with the additional surprise of goat cheese, which neither like.  The place was heaving with families and small children. A holiday Saturday.
Back to the Alpine House, 15 minutes walk away, around the lake and past the Palm House.

Palm House
Kit soon arrived, telling us about the history of the alpine house, its sophisticated heating and ventilating system and the management of the display, before taking us behind the public area to the propogation, study and development section. What a privilege. Half the group stayed to look round the 'Melon Area' - in history it's where the king's melons were grown. This had many pots of plants, I was most interested in the miniature bulbs, especially the Tulips, Narcissi and Iris. I was delighted to see some of my plants growing there, including peonies I acquired from Pottertons last week.

When it was our turn, it was fascinating to hear from Kit how and when she and her team of three managed the whole area. It takes them a day a week to exchange display pots of flowers which are past their best for those coming into bloom. The fresh shoots of newly propogated bulbs looked like my minute leek seedlings.
By now, I was very foot weary, not to mention knees. I managed to walk the Princess of Wales Conservatory from tropical rainforest to desert houses, containing, cacti, ferns, orchids and carniverous plants before trudging back to the Victoria Gate for, first an icecream and then, the 3.30 train which tours the gardens. I would have liked a longer time in the Conservatory - with new legs.
The train was great for us. I knew the gardens were big but, the true extent was mind boggling. It would take us  a week to do it justice. There are 7 stops, one could get off at each, explore that area and then get back on another train for the next one. A good way to explore and spend the day. 
We loved the trees, a beautiful yellow Magnolia, enormous Eucalyptus, flowering cherries, gnarled and textured trunks etc etc. There are 6,000 trees of 2,000 varieties. Pam was in her element. 

Treetop Walkway
The Thames looks like an ordinary country river here, lovely.
Such and informative and interesting commentary by the driver, we loved the experience and the rest.
Back at the Victoria Gate Centre, Pam bought a thistle to commemorate the occasion. Time for a drink and a snack with M and J and two other society members before getting the coach home at 5.30.
The local society members were very pleasant and welcoming. Thank you. 
Kew Gardens List - 2 year ticks!
Two Ring-necked Parakeets flew, squawking, over our heads as we queued to get in. The day was punctuated by their strident but beautiful presence. Sheila found a nesting hole and a good photograp., Pam's only chance was a distant two birds in a tall tree.

We also had: Mute Swan, Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Greylag, Egyptian and Canada Geese, Grey Heron, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Jay,  Dunnock, Robin, Golden Pheasant (from the train),   Wren, Crow, Jackdaw, Black-headed Gulls, Greater Black-backed Gull, Starling, Wood Pigeon, Rock Doves.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Two Short Sessions

Saturday April 5
After a leisurely morning, I went out to admire my plant buys from yesterday. Spurred into action, I then weeded, dug out overgrown Sedums and generally sorted four of my earlier alpine planters, including the Gentian round. I couldn't resist planting my new super-sized- flower Gentian.
Maybe time for some birding, Barton Broad is the nearest migrant spot. Alone on the platform, we quickly added four Little Gulls, three of them superb black-underwinged adults, dipping along the far channel. Three Sand Martins became a flock of about 15, which left as suddenly as they'd arrived. Identifying one Common Tern flying along the boat channel, we then found four more perched on buoys. A distantly singing Willow Warbler completed the migrant sightings. I thought I heard one at Pottertons yesterday, a partial phrase which wasn't repeated.

Sunday April 6
At last, a lengthier night's sleep - and a very late start for Cley. Pam was talking to Marj when I got up in a panic, because it was so late. That made the start even later. That meant a lunchtime scone and a most fortuitous one. Two House Martins flew past the window in the direction of the village, never to be seen again.
A Sedge Warbler had been singing at the village end of Beach Road but not whilst we were there.
It must be holiday season, a warden was back at the Beach Road car park. Not only did she inspect our membership tickets, she also engaged us in lengthy conversation. Very pleasant but not expected.
I looked up from my crossword in time to see a lone Swallow flit through along the shingle, luckily Pam caught it too. Then Pam saw the first Sandwich Tern rise from the rough sea and then drop again, before I saw it. This was soon followed by small numbers flying towards the point at irregular intervals. Such a strong and gusty wind to-day, they were keeping low.
Home to find long streamers of 'wool' flying from our apple shaped wool container again. We watched a Great Tit spend ages - and expend a lot of neck-stretching energy - trying to tear a piece off, earlier in the week. He eventually flew off with about a foot of it which snagged on a branch. He was then able to get a piece off. Pam then tore the rest into smaller pieces and stuffed it back into the container. Much of it is hanging loose outside again. I hope there are some very comfortable parents and babies around here !

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Not Birding..But

Friday April 4th
A long term arrangement to visit Pottertons, the Alpine Nursery In Lincolnshire, with Mags and John was very successful despite foggy weather most of the day. 
I bought several plants I'd been wanting - and not finding - such as dwarf Daphnes and Chinese Peonies. One of the tiny Daphnes is a scented variety. The nursery area is beautifully kept as are the 7 acre grounds. Five acres of the latter were acquired in !978 and are now a show area for alpines, containing a small lake, several rockeries and mature trees. We ticked Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Nuthatch, Jay and Kestrel.
Most of their business is mail order and shows, we had the place to ourselves. We should have taken coffee and a snack, fortunately Mags had. 
We intended doing some birding on the way home but didn't,  it was getting a bit late and we were tired after a 7 a.m. start

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A Lovely Fool's Day

Tuesday April 1
Waking early to a full orchestra dawn chorus, the soloist a Song Thrush, the undertones,  Dunnock, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Pheasant and Wood Pigeon, vying to be heard, promises a good day ahead. A Tawny Owl lent an occasional, comma. A lovely start to a most enjoyable day.
Yes. There is still at least one Grey Wagtail at Sculthorpe Mill. A handsome male sat watchfully on the apex of the roof, as a man exercised four dogs below. Only three were on the leash.
It was one of those days when we kept adding new species, many of them often not seen on the 1st, such as Jay, Bullfinch, Tree Sparrow, both Partridges, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Little Owl. 

Male Grey Partridge in breeding plumage

Revving up to call
Probably the biggest surprise was a calling Nuthatch in the woods at Wolferton Triangle, we've never had one there.
We'd seen 40 species by the time we arrived for a porridge breakfast at Abbey farm. Those porridge pots are ideal, I prefer the Alpen ones. 
Visibility was not good, the sea fret/haar was polluted by Saharan dust blown over from Europe by the light south easterly winds. Before leaving home, in the semi-dusk,  I sqeegeed the car windows  as normal, to clean off the dew, wiping the blade on a tissue after every swipe. When it was light, I saw beads of brown dewdrops making the windows a right mess. The car was covered in a fine layer of Saharan dust. I cleaned my window with my cardigan sleeve......
Apparently the pollution level in East Anglia is at its maximum level.
As soon as the Little Owl appeared, we left the cackling Greylag, Moorhens, Coot and singing Blackcap and Chiffchaff - no ducks - and drove to Snettisham for high tide. It had been reported that CITB students had restored the track in from the chalet park and re-built the roosting bank on the far pit. Indeed they had. Hundreds of winter-grey Knot pebble-dashed the sandy bank, most have already migrated north. Dozens of Avocets, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit massed on the islands. The many more massed on the west side of the wash were not scopable in the poor light conditions, yet  the sun shone warmly through the murk. 
The tide was falling swiftly as it does on the Wash, the second greatest tide fall and rise in the world. The greatest is Bay of Fundy in Canada,  I believe.
Our first raptors of the day at Holme. Two Buzzards sailing the sky effortlessly and a Marsh Harrier looking clumsy in comparison. Elegant Pintail on the Broadwater is not a common sight.
Brunch at Thornham was notable for our first Brent Geese of the day, rising from the marsh in small groups to fly away west and, our first Alba Wagtail of the year The latter was  trit-trotting along and then, making vertical swooping forays into the air after the disturbed insects.
I always reckon on adding 10+ birds by walking to the freshwater Pool at Titchwell (is it still 100% so after the storm surge breached the east bank?). Not to-day, we'd seen so many already. Two Long-tailed Tits looked as though they were dismantling their nest. Well, they'd made an entrance hole at the very bottom and appeared to be taking material away. We'll see. Silly birds had built far too close to the path, there must have been an unacceptable level of disturbance.
'Only' four additions to-day, the expected Gadwall and Cetti's and an always exciting,  flying Bittern and Bearded Reedling
Starting to flag by now, up since 5.30, out soon after 6, we paid a quick visit to Chosely for Corn Bunting before a longer stop at Brancaster Staithe. What do we call this small meal? Late lunch or meal 3?  We tried hard to make a distant Little Egret into  a Great, there's been one around the north coast. I even got out in the mud and scoped it. No go.
Yes, I managed to April fool Pam again, she falls for it every year. I even left it until 11.30 this year. The ingenuity lies in making it different, believable and well timed. 
A final totting up yielded a total of 86 species. Very pleasing, as many winter migrants have left and there are only three summer migrants in the total. We didn't see a Grey Heron either. An excellent day.
Man United drew 1-1 with Bayern Munich in the Champions League. I thought they'd be the Chumpions.....