Friday, 30 May 2014

Wet Success

Thursday May 29

Was it still there? A quick look at the RBA website confirmed the bird's presence, we drove in to West Runton disused pig farm at 9.45. 15 parked cars indicated a small crowd of birders, huddled beside the buildings, gazing at a hedge running north towards the sea. This gave them some shelter from the light but persistent rain and cold easterly wind. We joined the overflow, standing on the rain flattened grass alongside. 
Bad news, the bird hadn't been seen since 9.00. Keith D and Peter M had been lucky enough to see it as soon as they arrived and were fairly convinced that it had flown west. Oh well...
An hour and a half later, the aforementioned Great Yarmouth Bird Club members - don't know who was first - re-located the female Black-headed Bunting perched low down in the hedge a fair distance away. A Norfolk tick for us and many others.
Keith kindly beckoned us over to look through his scope but it was too high for us.The friendly man next to us let us look through his whilst getting my scope on to it. Brilliant. Thank you, kind man. It was still difficult to see. Distance meant the focusing had to be critical,  in addition to the poor, wet and bedraggled, bird's perch,  hunched at the back of some bramble. We had good and prolonged scope views before leaving her sitting there.I tried digiscoping, the results are woeful and not printable!
We'd intended going on to bird elsewhere, so turned towards Sheringham. Passing the Maze nursery and cafe, I mooted a welcome hot drink. Diet gone, we enjoyed the best bacon baguette I've ever had. Unsmoked, very lean and thick-cut bacon - lots of it - in a self-baked baguette. Delicious. 
News that the Red-backed Shrike had gone and a lack of 'hwyl' re tramping Kelling Heath in wet trousers (I hate the waterproof sort) and coat, meant no more birding to-day.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Short Surge

Sunday May 24

A phone call from James A got me out of bed in a hurry. He'd heard a Golden Oriole  nearby.  We tried but failed. It had either moved on or become silent. Thank you James.
Back to gardening. Lifting the black plastic which lines the Runner Bean trough (for weed suppression and moisture retention), I found 4 ants nests and a very dark toad trying to dig its way back into darkness. Comfort, breakfast, lunch and tea in bed gone. I waited for the ants to disperse before feeding the soil, replacing the plastic and putting the bamboo canes in place. I hate the tying up, arms stretched at a painful distance. To-morrow's job.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Not Productive- Annual Brecks

Friday May 23

Postponed from yesterday, due to a dire forecast - when we had sun all day - an early start for Weeting Heath NWT reserve. Greeted by a doleful Major, in mourning because a Stone Curlew nest had been predated overnight. Not on the main reserve, on the hill opposite. He then gave us an update. One nest, the one in front of West Hide, had already produced three hatchlings which had died after 5 days of heavy rain. Hypothermia maybe. She was sitting again, the nest is on the slope behind the right-hand clump of 'brash' (sticks) to the left of the hide.
A second pair had hatched two young and the male had led them all over the brow where they couldn't be seen. The Spotted Flycatcher was sitting on eggs and unlikely to be seen, Turtle Dove was opposite at the top of the Woodland Walk. Good mourning indeed.
Entering the hide, we soon found the sitting Stone Curlew, in the open unusually, not even near a clump of nettles. I set up my scope and, optimistically, tried some digiscoping. 

This will not win any prizes....
 A call from the other birder present alerted me to the other pair plus one chick appearing above the brow of the hill. Most frequently, a head, sometimes a torso, never any legs. Where was the second chick? Hopefully out of view, not missing.
Lakenheath was great last year, less so to-day. Viewing from the large open-fronted hide overlooking a pool, I enjoyed scoping the three Hobbies hawking over the far bank of trees amongst dozens of Swifts. Hunting must be good. I love watching them catch an insect, lift a talon to their beaks and eat. It's the only time they lose their awesome speed. None came close enough to photograph, I concentrated on the spectacle. Some had seen five Hobby together, Tony S had, near the Centre. I had three in my scope at once which made me happy. Tony is a fund of information about Cley Marsh as he leads there. Liz wasn't with him to-day, she was still suffering from a stomach bug the whole party had suffered from during  an Ethiopia birding trip
We had two prolonged views of flying Bittern, always exciting, a lone Kingfisher, a pair of Marsh Harriers and a Great Crested Grebe. Reed and Sedge Warblers and Bearded Tits called around us as did several Cuckoos. We were seldom without the triumphant call of the latter, two flying from left to right across the clearing, views of three others.
No Golden Oriole this year, only one in 2013. According to Tony, the birds' study group has been disbanded. Luck with passing migrants seems to be the only opportunity for a sighting.
Not fancying the walk to the far hide, due to the mass of heavy black cloud now overhead, we decided to drive elsewhere.
Pam had spotted this 6.5 cm Drinker Moth caterpillar on the verge of the path.

A WWT rep. at the Bird Fair had told us about two Great White Egrets at the Welney reserve. When we got there, along the most undulating and uneven lanes in Norfolk - which is saying something - we were told that they hadn't been seen for 5 days. Great. 
The main hide is very comfortable, the best there is, we sat and looked through the non-openable panoramic windows. Twenty Black-tailed Godwits in the near pool and, at least 15 Whooper Swans spread throughout the marsh were the highlights. They can't all be injured......

A pair of Little Ringed Plover and their two delightful chicks kept us amused. The young ones looked legless as they darted across the mud.
After a drink in the cafe, we drove home. Not as productive a day as we'd hoped for but we always enjoy our birding sessions.

Monday, 19 May 2014

So Fast

Monday May 19

Waking early on another lovely morning, we were at Cley soon after 8 a.m. Bishop's Hide was the place to be, mainly locals. A male Garganey in front of the hide was a pleasure - except that it spent 99% of the time with its head underwater. I managed a few photos with its head showing.

At the very back of the scrape, about 40 (Pam counted) Tundra Ringed Plover, 3 Little and 2 Temminck's Stints, 2 Dunlin and a few Ruff fed on the largest patch of mud. As warden Bernard said when he popped in, ' they must be getting plenty of food then'.
Gadwall are very understated but lovely.

Holt Country Park is another 'to be' place at the moment. After a scan from the car whilst I finished to-day's DT Codeword, I walked to the Campion, Buttercup and weed bed in front of the loos. Very soon, I saw a 'bee' at the flowers. Raising my bins,  it was my first Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth, only about an inch long, its wings as fast as a hummingbird, darting from Campion to Campion. Where was my camera? In the car. As soon as I returned, the moth left, flying high into the conifers. Maybe it was worth waiting. We occupied ourselves watching other insects, mainly Common Blue Butterflies which seemed to prefer the buttercups. My photography attempts were poor.
The board only named Holly Blue..........

About to give up, the Moth returned, leading me a merry dance amongst the tangled vegetation. I had to focus manually, my auto system couldn't cope with it. Neither could my shutter speed despite increasing the ISO. I saved 3 shots from about 50 and they're not all sharp.

 I bet there'll be some great shots from others. Penny's are great.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Norfolk Bird Fair - the First

Sunday May 18

What would be at the end of a tortuous route , mainly along Norfolk's maze of lanes, many of them single track. Had our SatNav gone mad?
Mannington Hall estate is beautiful. The 15C Grade 1 listed house is georgous, its proportions pleasing to my eye, the tall decorated chimneys are a favourite of mine. And... a wide moat. Excellent.
Only a short walk from the field car park,  along a path through mature trees into rolling, sloping, well treed parkland in front of the splendid Hall.  

This was the setting for  the first Norfolk Bird Fair's second day.
Soon after entering, we stopped at a small rescue centre stall where one could photograph a rescued Barn Owl for a small donation. I don't like photographing captive birds, it was a good cause - my photos aren't up to scratch.

Taking time to look through the programme in order to get our bearings, it was announced that a talk on digiscoping would take place in 15 minutes. The lecture hall was a coolish barn which made a welcome change from Rutland's steaming tent. Shame that the talk wasn't up to that standard and was solely Swarovski based. I have a Swaro scope but am not prepared to add to it's weight with more expensive equipment. I shall limp along with my little camera hand held to the lens.
After escaping,  we perused both optic tents, where I bought a waterproof easy access cover for my D60 and 300 lens. I'm always worried about getting the camera wet and the resultant expense. The second of the tents overlooked a small lake where a Spotted Flycatcher had been seen yesterday. Not to-day, it had flown elsewhere - to where we had entered !
Pam needed a coffee, available at the Greedy Goose cafe, part of the establishment, where I had a welcome cold drink. Sunny and very hot to-day, 23C.
RoyR was standing nearby, the first familiar person so far.
Resolutely, we ignored the hot food stands, Hog Roast is a favourite of mine so it took a bit of doing. We failed at the Norfolk ice-cream though, I had salted caramel, Pam toffee.
Time to brave the main marquee, they're always sweltering. It was. We were longing to sit down too. Not as many stands as Rutland and therefore not as crammed in. We spent time at the Colombian women's stand, more at Carl Chapman's where we chatted to him about Mull and a possible trip to the Farnes next  June to photograph Puffins and Terns.
Pam acquired a feeder which will challenge the Jackdaws and I fell for a Hummingbird sculpture. 
An expensive day out , it needn't have been though, our choice.
The short walk back to the car, after nearly four hours, was a penance, we were both very tired, uneven ground doesn't help.  We'd had  a very enjoyable time, hope it's successful financially and occurs next year.

A side view

Friday, 16 May 2014

Home in Norfolk

Tuesday May 13

After a morning in Norwich, a short late afternoon visit to Cley was mooted and, off we went. We didn't much fancy walking, still stiff and swollen-legged from all our travelling in and to Scotland.  No Wagtails in Cley field, a Blue-headed had been reported earlier. Yellow Wagtails have been present for a week or so. Where? Their squeaky cry alerted us to two Little Terns speeding by at sea. Plenty of Sandwich and Common too.
Despite an initial reluctance, we ambled to the Dawkes Hide trio, adding Bearded Tit and Reed Warbler to the month list. Despite some serious scanning, I couldn't find any waders apart from Avocet and Lapwing. I should definitely have carried my scope. What happened to my rule of never going without? Sciatica.........
Very enjoyable and relaxing nontheless, reminiscent of our Friday night after work sessions once the nights were light enough.

Thursday May 14

Time for Norfolk birding, having missed our usual first of the month expedition. Still not full of the joys physically but, a beautiful morning helped with that. We did manage to set off at 6.20 a.m.
A splendid start, the Ebridge Grey Wagtail was sitting on overhead wires, one of my favourite birds.
A very curtailed birding visit day compared with the norm, a short visit to Sculthorpe Mill in case the Spotted Flycatchers were back drew a negative. Next stop, the main destination of the day, Choseley concrete pad. We were the only ones there, apprehensive after a clear night, numbers already down to 5 yesterday. Viewing a potato field in a heat haze, we found nothing at first. Another birder drew up, he went to look at the adjacent field. Pam was scanning with her bins as was I, and exclaimed triumphantly 'got one'. We quickly put our scopes up and I found two heads and then torsos, together, of two lovely Dotterel. They were doing their usual ducking heads and running, hardly viewable above the potatoes.
I offered the other birder a look through my scope with which he was delighted. He'd never seen one before. Even at minimum zoom, the heat haze was considerable - but not enough to spoil the enjoyment of this beautiful bird, especially as the best view was of a bright female. There was probably a third but the farmer driving into the field in a tractor, complete with sprayer, sent us onwards. Did he do it on purpose? There are tales that he grubbed out the Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer attracting hedge near the barns to deter birders. What a shame if it's true. The previous farmer was co-operative, mostly, as long as gateways were not obstructed.
Holme was well worth a visit, yet frustrating at the same time. Parking is not allowed along the approach road, but we stop and have a scan if there isn't any traffic. Much bird activity this morning, mostly Whitethroat, and far too many cars moving us on.
The Broadwater Hide added Pochard, Tufted Duck, Avocet, Greylag, Canada Goose, Redshank, Sedge Warbler, a calling Cuckoo, Cetti's and two circling Buzzards. Pam hears Grasshopper Warbler well, I don't any more, unless they are close by. To-day, one was.
On the way back down the track, a Cuckoo sped across in front of us, closely followed by an irate dive-bombing Lapwing.
We have been concerned since the 2013 'flying flock' of sheep were fenced in on the area where a mass of Early Marsh Orchids grew.  Surely the Norfolk Wildlife Trust know what they're doing? This year, the whole of the area is a mass of the primaeval Mare's Tail and other lush vegetation. No sign of any orchids, is it too early? Pam found a group of three, not fully out,  in a different area.

Thornham, on a fast ebbing tide, produced a superb summer plumaged Grey Plover, three Gannets flying east, plenty of Curlew and a lone Brent Goose. 
Titchwell was merely a convenience stop to-day, followed by Brancaster Staithe for Pam's lunch time. So many boats back in the water.

Three Common Terns spent ages wasting energy, chasing each other around whilst constantly calling. Silly birds, testosterone based no doubt. A distant Little Tern fished amongst the boats. No Turnstone and only a few Ringed Plover. A sizeable number of Brent flying around too. No surprise, I didn't count them !
We found two very active Little Terns having a wash and preen on the far bank at Brancaster Overy. Couldn't resist... I probably should have done.

Pulling in at the western end of Holkham Marsh, I was delighted to find our first Hobby of the year flying west. Despite being the wrong side of the car., Pam got on to it too.
Time for another go at the Eye Field, Cley. We parked in the overflow car park, delighted to find that the herd of cows and their enchanting youngsters had moved to the very western end of the field, right in front of us. Bingo. One Yellow Wagtail tripping its way through the hooves, not easy to see as the grass and thistles are well grown. I was hoping to digiscope it but it flew away as soon as I located it in my scope. A Swallow was more obliging. 300mm lens this time.

David (Geordie) appeared at Pam's window for a chat.He's traded in his motor home for a smaller VW as he can no longer drive long distances, after a recent illness. he can still walk for 2 hours though. I believe he's even older than us!
Parking at Cley Centre, we walked to Bishop's hide, overlooking Pat's Pool. I had my scope and my D60 Canon this time.
Impossible to discern using bins but, very obvious once I set my scope up. 2 Temminck's Stints and a Common Sandpiper fed on a central island, amongst the myriad Shelducks. No wonder we couldn't find them on Tuesday. Never go without a scope !!
It was lovely, just sitting there, watching  a female Marsh Harrier wheel over the reed bed,

young Lapwings foraging in the weeds - until a Grey Heron flew over and an anxious mother called them to her. This involved swimming to an island, easy prey. Lapwings are nearly as bad a parent as the champion Avocet. They're very aggressive though when other Lapwing invade their territory. They abandon the chicks and fight. Very sensible.

At least two Little Ringed Plovers roamed the islands, their yellow eye-rings showing well. Shoveller are handsome birds.

One Bahama Pintail at the back of the pool, a definite escape.
Home by 4 p.m. with a day list of 85, very respectable for little activity and few sites. Great to see so may Swifts at their usual sites.