Monday, 28 July 2014

A Good Bird

Sunday July 27

Define a good depends on the birder's opinion, I think that a Pratincole is too good a bird to miss. A Collared Pratincole took up residence at Minsmere RSPB at least a week ago. We should go. We could photograph insects too, Odonata are usually good there.
What a surprise to set off in grey overcast, not good for insects - as it turned out. I should have done my homework better too. The bird was listed as being viewable from both East and West Hides. We walked to west as it was shorter with more chance of other birds too. Wrong. Plenty of room in West to view the packed East Hide with very restricted viewing of that distant scrape. Another birder had seen the bird fly, startled by a Marsh Harrier, about 15 minutes previously.
We sat for nearly an hour, seeing Black-tailed Godwit, Common, Wood and Green Sandpipers, Greenshanks, Snipe, Common and Sandwich Terns and  several juv Grey Herons which were useful in that they scared up birds for us. Patience was rewarded. Very good - if of only for half a minute - flight views of the Collared Pratincole which flew north, rising above the dunes before returning to land out of sight. 
Extensive searching of the area from the back of the hide was incredibly non productive. A vast empty reedbed, no Hobby nor Bittern, not even a Harrier.
On the return walk, we met a birder with whom we'd conversed in the hide. He'd just seen a newly hatched Ant-lion showing 'really well, on a leaf on the left near the toilet block'. Others there. We went as quickly as we could. No 'others' and we failed to find anything apart from three Butterflies, one of them a Greyling, on the Buddleias. It's only when this happens that one realises how sketchy the directions were. We should have asked for more detail. 
No Odonata at the ponds, plenty of Sand Martins on their second brood by now. Oh for some sun to bring the insects out. That wish was fulfilled too late, we were in Lowestoft when the skies cleared and it became a lovely day.  At least it was cool for walking.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Silvery Gem, Harleys and Strawberries

Saturday July 26

Thanks to PW, I'd read of a 'new for Norfolk, 2nd for UK' moth caught at Weybourne last night (R. Eagling). If it didn't escape when photographed out of the tube, it would be displayed at Cley Centre from 10 - 5 to-day. A Silvery Gem. I tried to find it on the web and couldn't - how did the trapper ID it without a name? I then looked on the Norfolk Moth site and found a photo on there. Looks nice.....
The Gem was still in a rather worn tube, despite which I still wanted some sort of photo. It was a busy corner, I would have liked more time ans space. Excuse for a pretty poor photograph of a rather small Macro. Exciting though.

Silvery Gem
 Pat mentioned another had been caught in Suffolk on the same night. So Penny wrote on her Blog anyway. Which is the second? Definitely County firsts anyway, I'm glad none were trapped on Breydon south wall, that would have been a howdy-do. JL turned up too, also twitching the moth, not as many moth-ers as I'd expected but there's a good time bracket. The trapper left after an hour, leaving the moth in the care of the staff there - in a bag containing a cold block. Apparently the poor beast has to be killed and pinned in order for it to be accepted as a record. Quite bizarre and antiquated in the days of photography and the web. There would be an outcry if birds were still shot and preserved for record purposes.

Passing Weybourne Camp entrance, the presence of a dozen Harley Davidsons reminded us that there was a Harley rally at Sheringham to-day. Groups of camera holding spectators along the road heralded imminent arrival, we were tempted. Pam parked in a field entrance just beyond Weybourne Railway Bridge - the laybys were occupied. We only had to wait ten minutes before two small groups passed by. Were there more? Pam was confident enough to take her secateurs out to improve our view. I was sceptical and continued with my DT crossword. Waw, I was scrambled into action by the unmistakeable throaty rumble of approaching HDs appearing over the brow and under the bridge. My camera was in the back......oh ye of little faith. There were hundreds of shiny, covetable machines, polished to perfection, riders waving and smiling at spectators. I've never seen such a variety of models, let alone the sheer numbers. Maybe to-morrow's EDP will tell me how many.  A joy. 
Here are a few photos - there are many more!

After the procession........from the sublime to the cliche.  PYO strawberries at Meales. Enormous berries which did not taste sweet but will be good for jam. There was 3p in price between our filled mini baskets.

Home to Commonwealth Games, supper and Man United/Roma from Denver. Two beautiful goals from Rooney and Mata shortly before half time, the transmission was lost. When it resumed we'd scored another, a penalty and the whistle went for half time. Before that I'd thought Roma were on top. We had a very different team out. Who'll play the second half?

Early Morning from Daukes

Friday July 25

Awake early with the prospect of another scorcher, we did the essential chores - watering the toms and cues for me - and drove to Cley. We had Daukes Hide to ourselves, lovely. I hadn't catered for the blinding morning light there, especially when trying to view Pat's Pool. Again many Lapwing with a better variety of waders including Wood and Green Sandpipers. A lone Little Ringed Plover, five Dunlin skittere through and.....everything rose into the air and fled to North Pool, along with the waders on Pat's. Why? 
Not a raptor, a human bird scarer. Bernard the warden had driven his vehicle onto a bank near Pat's hide and was walking in front of the hide. Holding a metal bar, he was probably adjusting the water level, which was just about perfect for waders already.
Time for retreat and breakfast on beach car park  before driving home.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Still Very Hot

Thursday July 17

An early (ish) morning visit to Holt Country Park found us lethargic and lacking hwyl.  I sat and watched the wildlife area in front of the toilets whilst Pam found the P and D machine which was hidden behind the building. Almost immediately, a lovely warm, golden brown, Silver-washed Fritillary raced through. R Millington said that they seldom settle and, if they do stop, it's on Oak or bramble. My first Goldcrest of the month showed in a nearby conifer.
We walked as far as the small pond, seeing another 8 of the Fritillaries, none of them lingering. This Comma was much more accommodating.

The male Dragonfly guarding the pond was not still,  either patrolling its territory or bombing off an encroaching male. They usually have a regular perch or two.
These beetles are always coupling.........still trying to ID them.

Enough birds to keep us interested too. A flock containing Great and Blue Tits, Treecreepers, Coal Tit, Nuthatches and Chaffinches was the highlight.
Mid morning's increasing temperature and humidity reminded us of the advice to stay indoors. We didn't need much of an excuse to seek the air conditioned haven of the car - didn't even contemplate going to Stiffkey Fen for the Black-winged Pratincole.
An early lunch at Beeston completed an enjoyable morning.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Too Hot

Tuesday July 15

Much too hot to garden. Let's go birding. Cley at mid-day wasn't cool either. We walked out to Daukes Hide, noticing the paucity of insect life. One Small Skipper, two Small Heath, no Dragonflies, Damselflies nor small insects. Is this as a result of the flood surge? Waders don't seem to be lingering either.
Ensconced in shady Daukes hide, Simmonds Scrape looked like Lapwing City. After an hour's scanning, we found a Pectoral,  one Curlew and one Wood Sandpiper. A lone Dunlin and a handful of Ruff completed the wader count. 
Pat's Pool had about 30 Black-tailed Godwit which were disturbed from Simmonds - we couldn't see why.
Despite careful scanning, I didn't find any Garganey. The 'brown ducks' in eclipse included Wigeon. All but one Avocet must have joined the Breydon masses already. The very faded looking Brent Goose must be over summering.
After lunch (at nearly 3 p.m.) at the Centre,  a birder told us that he'd just seen a Pratincole on Arnold's Marsh. We'd planned a visit to Cley Spy to get my birthday present, so left East Bank until the return journey. Seeing no birders at all on the seaward end, we drove home. Half way there, a pager message announced that it was a Black-winged Pratincole sitting on Simmonds Scrape ! Bother. 
Pam took these photographs in the garden.

Amazing to find 3 different insects on a small alpine plant - delosperma 2 cms across

Great Spotted Woodpecker at the top of Ruby's birch tree.

Monday, 14 July 2014

No Great Dot

Monday July 14

I'm not often happy to be woken by a 6.15 a.m. phone call. To-day was the exception. It was Steve telling us of a Great Knot from Breydon south wall. After a cup of tea, it was nearly 7 by the time we left, 7.30 at Breydon Fishermen's car park. Dot was leaving as we arrived, with the good news that the bird was now very near. Hastily parking, a returning Dave H told us that, on the fast rising tide, it had flown to the Lumps, accessible from Asda car park.
Very quickly, we  drove to Asda where we parked near the Breydon wall, walking under the bridge and along a netted path to beyond the Hide, where we joined two other Yarmouth birders and Dave H.
Waw, no sooner had I set up my scope than  a Club member located the bird in it for me, Excellent service.
 We watched for over half an hour. The bird was quite flighty so I had good scope flight views as well as feeding. It got quite close at one time but not close enough for a reasonable digiscoping shot. Just very dodgy ones ! When it flew into vegetation and was hidden from view, we left to use Asda's facilities. There were about 30 birders present by now, including a grateful Bob who I'd texted before leaving. Dot, Steve and Keith had returned as had Peter Allard who found the bird late last night. All are convinced that the putative bird of about 5 years ago was also a Great Knot but, not in adult plumage and difficult to prove. This one is a nailed on summer adult with it's dark spotted pectoral patch and streaking down the flanks.

Adult Great Knot. Definitely NOT my image.
It was with two Red Knot so could be compared for size, length of neck, and tail attenuation.
We also added Med Gull. two Whimbrel and a Curlew Sandpiper to the hundreds of commoner waders. The Avocet flock is building nicely.
We've seen many Great Knot in Australia and a small number in China, none in summer plumage before this. The earlier  UK 'Great Dot' on Seal Sands was a real distance tick, which I've always been unhappy about claiming. No way was it identifiable by me.
Thank you Steve. Such a beautiful early morning too, it was a pleasure to be there.

 A lavender carpet adds to the scenery