Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Not Just Moths

Wednesday September 17th

Happy Birthday grandson Harry, who is 16 to-day. I got through to him whilst he was at his birthday meal in an Italian restaurant, awaiting his calzone. 
Home from an early dental appointment, time to empty the moth trap. Over 100 in number - we counted 125 but some always fly away - of 30 species. Nothing new for the year nor the garden, but an always spectacular, both in size and looks - Red Underwing and two Oak Hook-tips were the most attractive. Yellow Underwings galore, Setaceous Hebrew Characters and 30 Lunar Underwings made up the majority, normal for Autumn
The trap attracts other wildlife too. Yesterday at Natural Surroundings, a toad had found its way in plus our first Lilac Beetle.

The beetle is lilac and blue on its underside, difficult to photograph well through a mucky pot whilst it's paddling its legs like mad - a natural reaction to being on its back !

To-day, we had a huge 5cm long beetle which we are yet to identify, 

Large Diving Beetle - another one at Cley on Thursday

dozens of Shield Bugs, a few spiders and a Hornet. 

The Hornet is 4cms in length, a fearsome looking beast. The last three have been dead in the bottom of the trap, to-day's wasn't, its wings frantically quivering, warming up to take flight.

A Scorpion Fly escaped to rest on the back of my hand. This is the female which does not have the male's scorpion-like up-pointing tail.

Productive Days

Tuesday September 16

Yesterday's very busy pager, reporting the many migrants along the east coast during a spell of easterlies with coastal fog, was frustrating. I was busy harvesting, shucking, blanching, cutting off the kernels and freezing corn cobs.
After a moth trapping session at Natural Surroundings, full of hope, we set off for Garden Drove, east of Wells. Which one of the 'unsafe for vehicles' tracks north is Garden Drove? Not marked on the very large scale map book nor on the track itself. Local folklore! Fortunately, distant memory took us to the right one. In the 80s we had been able to drive right down to the gate onto the marsh where there was just enough room to turn and park. Nowadays, one has to park on the concrete pad at the end of the driveable section, keeping field entrances clear. The 200-300 metre track down to the marsh is narrow,  heavily rutted, lined by mature trees and shrubs, giving  dodgy walking conditions for the elderly unsure of foot. We hadn't expected to see as many parked cars nor the numbers of birders - mostly older  - scattered around the tree belt lining the marsh.
Nearing the gate, Dave H ran past telling us that two Honey Buzzards were over the marsh. We didn't run.......couldn't. We got there in time to see one gliding away across the tree-tops.Phew. Time to look for and see, two Red-breasted Flycatchers, our first Spotted Flycatcher of the year (!) and make a hasty retreat back to the car for a drive to the toilet block at Wells. No bush stops to-day, too many birders. I would have liked to have seen the male Redstart further on down the track. We took the upper way back, along the field edge, which was much better walking. 
Relieved, we drove to Salthouse, parking in the track leading to Kelling Quags. 300 yards down the track, a few birders gazed at a willow thicket. We joined them. I'd taken a stool this time so could wait in relative comfort. A beautiful Yellow-browed Warbler fed,  restlessly flitting through the centre and back of the willows. I had very good binocular views, probably the most prolonged ever, at a comfortable viewing height. None of the usual painful neck craning. The many branches impeding camera viewing and focusing meant that I had not even tried a shot. Suddenly, the bird appeared in a clearer area. I pressed the shutter .......nothing. Hm, I only changed the battery last week when nothing showed in the display. I did so again when I got home, still nothing. Despond, the electrics must have died.Never had a camera go wrong before and it's only 3-4 years old. Worse... I've carried it all day to no avail. Just as well I didn't have the possibility of achieving the crippling shots Penny C has on her Blog.
Plenty of birders' rumours abounded to-day. The buzzards were Common - someone had a photo purporting to be of a Honey. It wasn't. There certainly were both sorts there.
The reported  Icterine Warbler at Garden Drove - another photograph reporting - was a Willow Warbler. And so it goes on. Men's stuff. Some seem to delight in bad mouthing other birders, Lee came in for more than his fair share of this. He was there to-day, scoffing at the 'I can see wingbars' etc plus other calls - of the same bird, which was a mooted Barred Warbler when it was the often confused, juvenile Garden Warbler. Part of birding which we walk away from.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Another Early Morning

Thursday September 11

Cley Centre moth trap opening morning. At 9.00, very few people had arrived and only 2 traps had been delivered - on top of the mound where there are cafe picnic tables. Every week is a surprise. The 'usual' bottom car park was being used by contractor's cars - they had excavated the area in front of the old Centre in order to place a sewage tank for the new toilet block. Greg appeared and disappeared, returning after 10 minutes looking a bit miffed. Bernard had forgotten to put the trap out last night. At least he came over to apologise although his demeanour was defensive, an antithesis of  the words spoken.
Eventually, a rather leisurely session with enough moths to keep us amused with a couple of goodies. Gold Spot - a Macro - and Schoenobius gigantella - a Micro.

The Micro was discussed over a drink in the cafe so I didn't have the opportunity to photograph it.
Via Kelling to have a futile look for the Eastern Bonelli's Warbler - it was reported last night but everyone seemed rather sceptical - we drove to Cromer. Unsurprisingly, nowhere to park along the front so it had to be the main car park. We walked to the pier area, viewing from the esplanade in front of the Hotel de Paris. The few gulls present were rather distant and the walk down to the lower esplanade was vertiginously daunting. Down - fine, BUT back up? No way. Especially with a hospital visit for ultrasound injections in both shoulders for Pam later on to-day. My knees aren't good to-day either - great yesterday. 
We managed to identify a Yellow-legged Gull and a probable Caspian but the latter was a bit stringy. Another visit required.......investigating a different approach road.
Friday September 12
A good moth catch last night in the Robinson MV.  50+ of at least 22 species excluding Micros. Our first Snouts of the year, although we've had several elsewhere, and our first Flame this year. Will try and take a better pic later as we have it tubed in the fridge.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Efforts Rewarded

Sunday September 7

Many commoner migrants had landed along the east coast this week. In Norfolk, the landing places are Blakeney Point, Winterton North and South Dunes, Wells Woods and Yarmouth Cemetery. None of these are favourites of ours. I like Winterton South Dunes but parking is almost impossible.Cley looked like a good start.
Walsey Hills was the first port of call. As usual, many frustrating sightings of birds flitting into and out of sight in the thick vegetation and trees. Chiffchaffs fly-catching, making vertical ascents out of the Hawthorn were the most attainable. Reaching the end of the path, a Garden Warbler sang from the right, two Pied Flycatchers, Willow Warbler, Blackcaps and more Chiffchaffs fed in the thick sunlit ivy, its mass of flowers buzzing with insects. Lovely.
The East Bank's Wryneck had left overnight, time for Cley Centre where we found Steve and Dot with Steve's mum. After a chat and refreshments, we drove to Blakeney Harbour where a Red-backed Shrike had been seen 'in the bushes by the pond'. We parked near the entrance to Friary Hills and scanned the hedge - until a man we've known since he was a teenager, greeted us, leaning on an open window. He was after the Shrike too. Another approaching birder said that he'd seen it - near a 'pond' out along the bank towards the seashore.
Off we walked, along the rough track being used by the machinery re-shaping the defences after the storm surge.
One really does not expect to find bi-lingual, Welsh/ English signs in Norfolk.

Near the machinery, a hedge leading towards the raised bank held the 1st winter Red-backed Shrike. It was seldom still, using the length of the hedge to hunt, apparently unconcerned about the people walking nearby. Despite the distance, after carrying my camera all that way, I took some 'record shots'. One was sharp enough to enlarge.

The trudge back crossed a still, reed-lined dyke along which a male Common Skimmer darted, hovered and dived. I've never attempted flying shots before.........a challenge.

After visiting Natural Surroundings to clear the way (subs) for Tuesday's moth trapping, (No-one told us that one had to become a member to attend - until Greg did at Cley last Thursday. Embarrassing. I apologised and Andrew was very gracious and grateful for our donation. Good that that's sorted.) news came through that the Western Bonelli's had re-appeared at Kelling after several hours' absence. We called in on the off-chance that it was showing, finding a crowd of about 40 birders staring hopefully at a conifer at the back of the school. No way could we stand for any length of time and the chairs had been removed from the boot (to make room for transporting the mower for repair). It would be a Norfolk tick too. Steve S tweeted that he waited nearly 3 hours. Fingers crossed that it stays.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Titchwell with Sue

Friday September 5

These days out never start early as Sue has to drive here from Burghapton. We didn't get to Titchwell Reserve until  10.30. The west pool had 2 young Red-crested Pochards, a Common Pochard, Tufted Duck and 2 Little Grebes.
As we passed the Reedbed Pool, I looked down to adjust my scope and.......Pam and Sue saw a Bittern make a brief flight. Bother. We met Dave H soon after who said that they were showing frequently this week. Not for me.
Settling on the bench before Island hide to view the reedbed and part of the Fresh Pool, we had a lovely half an hour listening to Cetti's,  watching a male Bearded Tit feeding on Rosebay Willow Herb and a family of two + juvenile and one adult Reed Warbler. Pam called a Hobby flying over, much to the delight of the group we'd gathered behind us.
The Fresh pool held a host of rather distant waders. I scoped, 8+ Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stint, Greenshank, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Ringed Plover. I had counted 22 Avocets when Ray K,  passing by, told us that a Wryneck had been seen at the back of Fen Hide. I'd been looking forward to walking on and seeing more waterbirds but that news was too tempting. 
In the vanguard of a general exodus, we made our best pace (still slow) along the Meadow Trail. Seeing that the shorter part of the trail leading to the Centre was now closed, new boardwalk being layed, was not encouraging for the return walk. 
The Wryneck had appeared, very briefly, in the hedge to the south of Patsy's Pool. A good dozen still looking, no-one had seen it - apart from Dave H. I sat on the bench overlooking the pool. finding Snipe and the usual ducks, before turning to scan the hedge where 'loads of warblers' had been reported.  I saw one Whitethroat and a Chiffchaff.
Lunch was eaten sitting on the newish seat at Thornham, which was lovely. Not as many birds to-day, still some noisy terns but far fewer. The sea was calm and empty too. Our first winter Pinkfeet flock flying in off the sea, was a bonus.
We now had an ominous sky and the first drops of rain. A quick visit to Burnham Overy before driving to Cley. I had hoped to walk East Bank for the Wryneck followed by Walsey Hills for migrant passerines. All parking places were full. After a consoling ice-cream at Salthouse, we drove home.

Moth trapping has been enjoyable lately. We saw a rare for Norfolk, Micro moth at Cley, Argyrotaenia Ljungliana. Someone brought it in to be identified.
Our own garden produced these - amongst others - on Friday night.
Bordered Beauty

Frosted Orange

The excitingly named...Cabbage Moth

From the left, Cabbage, Elephant Hawkmoth, Small Cream Wave

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

September 1st

Monday September 1

Not a good forecast but,  hey, it's the first. 
Soon after 6 a.m., the rising sun glowing a brilliant orange behind us, scattered clouds in the east a paler shade, it was a pleasure to set out. Pam actually had to close the side mirrors, the reflection was blinding.
No bird song at all at home, yet we'd logged 65 species by 10 a.m. Sculthorpe Mill had a Grey Wagtail on the Inn roof. Whilst scanning the mill pool, a Kingfisher skimmed across before - obligingly - returning so that Pam could view it. A Chiffchaff called loudly from nearby gardens.
Valley farm Road was especially rewarding to-day. We had to search for the Tree Sparrows, a Buzzard appeared and disappeared, the many Partridges were all recently released  Red-legged, clustered around the feeders. As we neared the farm, a well grown leveret lolloped down the road towards us. I took some appalling photos through the windscreen and a better quality one over the side mirror as it played '' You can't see me'' in the verge.

I asked Pam to park so that I could photograph the Partridges on the farm's work buildings part way down the lane. Little Owl, she exclaimed. Sitting on a tatty corrugated metal roof. First time we've seen one here.

It soon dived off, looping into a low opening before re-appearing and disappearing into a more distant dilapidated shed. Are they breeding here? 

Abbey Farm sheltered about 60 noisily gabbling Greylag Geese. A few Teal flew in and then, as we were leaving, our second Kingfisher flew across from left to right in front of the hide, landing on a low branch to the left of the gate. Lovely.
We always have a look at the last field on the left before the first house in Flitcham village. Many House Sparrows distracted from a pair of Blackcaps also feeding on the numerous berries available, both  Hawthorn and Elder.
Past the primary school, a family of skittish Mistle Thrushes swooped from tree to field and back again, the single Song Thrush fed on the ground, undeterred by their antics.
We hit Snettisham at the ideal time, nearly two hours before high tide. A mass of waders, ducks and gulls were feeding, relatively closely, at the eastern, entrance end. Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits and Knot, many still sporting summer red, one Avocet, Golden and Grey Plovers, Curlew, Sanderling and Oystercatchers. A surprising number of Sandwich and Common Terns gathered on the beach, at least 50, probably more as they were scattered amongst the gulls and waders. In all plumages too from full breeding to winter. Two Mediterranean Gulls were a surprise find.
Whilst we breakfasted on a porridge pot, the whole mass flew off west in response to the encroaching water.
We responded, parking near the Rotary Hide. Much more exposed mud here and very distant flocks, making the mud banks look black. Ringed Plovers, Dunlin and Turnstone fed diligently on the nearby exposed banks with their many creeks. Now you see me, now you don't.
The sky had been darkening for some time, a first flurry of rain curtailed our visit.
Fulmar are one of the - reputedly- easier birds to photograph. Today's bird, riding the thermals at Hunstanton cliffs, repeating its patrol for five minutes, certainly was. The challenge was achieving a sharp image in appalling light. I switched to TV, shutter priority with automatic repeat shots - as long as finger is kept on button - with  reasonable success.

We both scoped at Thornham, in a rain lull. Over 60 mainly Sandwich Terns with a few Common, on and off the beach. There must have been a shoal off shore,  as Gannets also plunged the viewable water. This attracted both an Arctic and a Great Skua to predate the terns. I feel a little sorry for the terns yet,  really love watching the supreme flying skill of the skuas  more. 
Best surprise was a Great Egret flying across the marsh, comparable with the many Little Egrets feeding there. Three adult Spoonbills were widely separated, a very murky and indistinct Titchwell showing in the distance.
The rain really set in now, we contented ourselves with a hot drink at Titchwell and deprived ourselves of a probable 10+ species by not walking there.
Apart from adding Pied Wagtail, 6 wet Snipe and a Carrion Crow from the Beach carpark at Cley, all our 87 species were achieved by mid-day - and from the car in my case, as I scope from my window when it's raining.