Thursday, 16 October 2014

Last Day Out in October

Thursday October 16

Where should we go? Cley? We started off there, with a scone and a cuppa in the Centre cafe. Moth-ing had been cancelled for this morning, we did not miss out on the refreshments.
Maybe we should go for the Isabelline Shrike at Warham Greens. Ominously, the roadside leading down to the smallish car park at Stiffkey was completely lined with cars. Taking a risk, we drove on, finding a good parking place in the car park. I didn't much enjoy the walk to the Whirlygig area. Much of the track was muddy and very slippery, parts of it more like slurry. Returning birders, including Lee, kept telling us to take care, warning of the slipperyness. And... news that the bird had gone missing - again - keeping its reputation of being elusive.
We stayed at the Whirlygig area for nearly half an hour, entertained  firstly  by Giles who we saw on Scilly every year, who approached us with a lovely smile. Then, a man who goes to Mull every year, we see him with his two collies. He'd been to Shetland for the first time this year and had the Siberian Rubythroat as a day tick. Envy.
Walking on, a small group of birders were obviously intent in their walking. We got to the area where a lone man had just had crippling views. A short wait, as more and more birders arrived, before we saw the Isabelline twice in flight and perched on a hedge top. Good. Shame it's not a tick, not even for Norfolk.

I didn't take this photo !
The pager's half a mile is very inaccurate. The 25 minute walk back to the car seemed shorter and not as muddy. Weird. It was exactly 25 mins on the way out!
A quick shop in Sainsbury's to buy Jaffa Cakes for Sara and Lamb Stock cubes - they don't sell the latter in Aus despite the huge number of sheep.
We leave for Australia at 3 p.m. to-morrow where I shall still be keeping a Blog with more of a family diary flavour with plenty of birds too I hope. The Blog address is:

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Notable for Battle of Hastings

Tuesday October 14th

And... Pam's birthday. 
After card and present opening, it was time to drive to Natural Surroundings for our weekly moth-ing session. It was good this morning, plenty of moths of  good variety in the three traps opened. The traps are put out in different areas of the grounds. One on the summerhouse type building's balcony, one in the herb garden and the other in a more open area.
New for us was a Yellow-line Quaker, an Acleris sparsana and an O glaucinalis (?) There was also a very tiny Groundhopper, less than half a centimetre long - excluding antennae. Pam looked it up in her newly acquired Insect photographic book and we ID'd it as Potato Leafhopper,  Eupteryx aurata.

Afterwards, we celebrated with a breakfast of cheese on toast in the cafe. Pam's choice. Very thick bread with delicious cheese, I had one slice, Pam had two !
Where to bird? So many migrants on yesterday's strong easterly with lashing rain. We succeeded in being where birds had been seen but not when we were there. Holme first, no sign of the reported Pallas's Warbler in the NWT car park sycamores. It hadn't been seen for more than an hour. ( seen well again later in the afternoon). News of a Grey Phalarope 'showing well' at Titchwell sent us on our way. So many Robins everywhere along the access road.
The car parks and road edges were full at Titchwell, luckily our fishermen's car park was empty. Red-crested Pochard, Bearded Tit, Little Grebe and a cloud of Golden Plover as we walked to Island Hide. All seats were full so we entered the hide, which was almost empty. The Goldens- a flock of 500+ - were very restless, constantly taking off, wheeling about and landing again. Trying to locate waders amongst them was a nightmare, both in the air and on the ground. I found a Little Stint, one Avocet, Ruff and Dunlin but no Phalarope. No-one else in the hide had seen it either. The pager gave a 'no sign of ' at 1.10 as we continued to scan. The facilities called. Two Water Rails ran across a bare area of mud near the Island Hide, always a pleasure to see them.
Pam's choice to-day. Did she fancy walking in Wells Woods ( Radde's, OBP ). No, neither did I. What about Gun Hill? No way, too far. The Steppe Grey Shrike again? Not unless someone was feeding it mealworms. 
So... we went home for birthday cake (Waitrose's Belgian Chocolate) and a cuppa before a birthday dinner - requested - of Donald Russell melt in your mouth Fillet Steak and Chips from the Kingfisher at Walcott. A side salad was the healthy bit.
With all the good birds around, not the best of lists but a very enjoyable and leisurely day.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Is it Allowed?

Saturday October 11

At last. Enough  unplanned and organised time to go birding. Where do all these appointments and social events come from? Two people making arrangements I suppose. 
We trapped moths last night too, the first time since last weekend. Not a vintage catch. 11 moths of 9 species. 1 Mallow, 2 Sallow, 1 Light Brown Apple, 2 Beaded Chestnut, Pine Carpet, 2 Grey Pine Carpet and 1 Red-green Carpet.
I tried out the C2 setting (Macro) on my Canon SX50. No different from the results I get on auto.


Red-Green Carpet
We drove off in sunshine, arriving at Burnham Norton in rain. Light but persistent. After two large hired minibuses had moved out of the way - stopped at the car park entrance - we found a parking space on the road's grass verge. Lucky. The hard standing car parking area is very small but, many had found extra spaces on the grass beyond. Not a long walk, along a heavily rutted tractor track, extremely muddy in places. It's a lovely area with extensive views over the marshes, skeins of Pink-feet flying in, Brent rising and falling again, Cetti's Warbler singing. We haven't walked out since going for the Stilt Sandpiper late on a windy evening after a drive back from Carrbridge in the Highlands. Aah,  I remember a later visit, the highlight two Cranes flying over. Always good to see those not part of the Hickling flock.
A constant procession of birders leaving and us walking out, always a good sized admiring group scoping east about halfway to the sea wall.. The Steppe Grey Shrike was perched distantly on top of a hawthorn bush. Lovely. 

Big zoom and crop
My Sibley says ' WAS part of the Great Grey Shrike' complex, now lumped with the Southern group which is being investigated'. Is it a full species? I expect we'll find out in time. A very pale bird compared with Great Grey. I attempted some shots with my SX50 set on C1 - birds -  according to the YouTube video I watched yesterday. They look better than the ones I took on Auto, despite being at full zoom which I rarely use. The 'better' is comparative !

Steppe Grey Shrike - a First for Norfolk

Huge zoom and crop for both......

 In excuse, I haven't seen any really cracking ones on Surfbirds etc. The bird shows well but at a distance. All better than mine though, which have been heavily cropped.
Wow. I should have looked at the photos on Bird Forum before I wrote. There are some beauties of the Shrike which obviously does come much closer. Will try again and linger if it stays. I should have been there after the bird had been lured with mealworms and voles when the beautiful pics were taken.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Last Sink

Wednesday October 8

The damaged Butler sink I bought last year from a smallholding owner in North Walsham for 'only' £10, has been looking at me reproachfully ever since. Standing on its side near the shed, slowly filling with dead leaves it looked - and was - abandoned.
When the cold frame had finished its use for this year, there was room for Kevin to bring the sink round to its final position and stand the sink on bricks. I even scrubbed it immediately.
Some weeks (months?) later, when it had become cooler, I checked I had the necessary ingredients. Yes. Still no action.......
Girding my loins, I measured out the builders' sand and left it on a large tray in the greenhouse to dry off. Not essential but dry sand is easier to mix with the peat, potting compost and grit. More prevarication.
Eventually, I measured the remaining ingredients into the wheelbarrow, mixed it well  and it rained. The barrow was moved into the utility room.......
A few days later, immediately after rising, Pam and I found the mixing board, tipped the barrow's contents onto it, Pam mixed whilst I added the water until the hypertufa was the required consistency - just wet enough to clump together. Although I hate wearing them, this is definitely a rubber gloves job.
First, the sink's surface is coated with PVA glue, using an old paint brush, I do it in sections. The sink needs to be covered about 4-6 inches down the inside of the sink as well as the outside.
Then comes the firm  moulding on of handfuls of  the mixture, leaving a rough finish so that it looks like stone, under the bottom edge of the sink is essential. 
Cover the sink with damp sacks or plastic and leave on for 2-3 days. One to two weeks later, depending on the weather and how impatient one is, put a layer of permeable membrane in the bottom of the sink, and add crocks/large stones to the depth desired. This saves on compost and adds necessary drainage.

 Fill with a mix of 2 parts JI 2 or 3, 1 part sand, 1 part peat. 1 part alpine grit and a handful of bonemeal, well mixed beforehand. When settled, plant, add tufa rocks - one's own can be made if there is any hypertufa left over. The final act is to add a top dressing of alpine grit, I shall do so this weekend. Phew. Enjoy.

The recipe for hypertufa is available from the Alpine Garden Society website.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

October Round-up - So Far

October 1-3

The first was occupied by Coffee morning and a flu jab. The latter made us feel sprightly in comparison with the others lined up. Worth going for that ! 
The 2nd started with moth trap opening at Cley, followed by coffee and a scone with Aileen  and Bridget on A's 80th birthday. She looked well.
In between we registered Ruff, Marsh Harrier, Wigeon and Golden Plover on and over the marsh. We had a quick look at the west bank marsh in search of Stonechat and  the Eye Field, before driving home. 
At least one Marsh Tit and Coal Tit are  regular vocal visitors to the garden bird feeders at the moment. Tawny Owls are calling from the wood - in daylight - and the sound of rutting Red Deer is not infrequent. We often hear Chinese Water Deer and Muntjac, this is the first year the Red have been close enough to hear. A few House Martins are still present, for how long I wonder.
Autumn moths are making an appearance in our garden trap. Yellow Underwings are disappearing, Beaded Chestnut and Lunar Underwings have increased. The beautiful Merveille du Jour and Dusky Thorn are beginning to appear

Merveille du Jour

Dusky Thorn - wings never flat
We are also still getting second broods of earlier moths such as Yellowtails and Brimstone. I am becoming more aware of the seasonality of moths.

October 3rd

It never seems right doing our 'big day' on anything other than the 1st - this one wasn't. We set off at 6.30 in thick sea mist (haar) which didn't clear until we were well past Holt. It was a lovely sunny day by valley Farm Lane, it was almost as though there had been an invisible wall. One side haar, the other, blue sky and sun. No Tree Sparrows nor Little Owl to-day. Nor was there anything to add - apart from Coot - at Abbey Farm. The water there has diminished to two small pools again, the spring is low after a very dry September.
As we drove west, the haar descended again. That made viewing at Snettisham, in addition to the tide at its nadir, very frustrating. I got cross with the couple in a car which sped past us on the way in, we found them parked at the first hide. They got out, not a binocular between them, carrying a plastic container, proceeding to pick blackberries. I was all for asking them if they had a permit but Pam persuaded me not to !
Waders included a beached flock of Golden Plover, a scattering of Grey Plover, several still in their black aprons, Numerous Redshank, Curlew and Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, 1 little Stint and Black-tailed Godwits. The Knot were scattered about, the large flocks were probably on the shore. This Little Egret fed along the inshore pit, water gleaming silver behind it, disappointingly, the photo doesn't do it justice.

 As we left, the sun broke through and we had a glorious day. The blackberries at the gate entrance were large, sweet and delicious. Pam nearly drove off without me, waiting the other side of the gate for me to close it. That's what she said anyway. I can't even take some back for her as she dislikes them - then she enjoyed Blackberry and Apple Crumble at the caravan with M and K yesterday (hm......).
No Fulmar at Hunstanton, about 20 Common Scoter flew past.
Seeing Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier and Kestrel in five minutes at Holme was notable. One Greenshank and a lone Avocet amongst the Mallard and Wigeon on the Broadwater.
Not a good day species wise and one lacking in 'hwyl' for both of us. Which came first? Enjoyable though, really good to be out.
Empty creeks apart from Curlew, at Thornham. 

Not even any Brent on the marsh. (We saw a regular procession of them flying past the Dunwich caravan, which has spectacular sea views, on Saturday.  A vismig experience). 

'Cos I fancied it, I tried some shots of a soaring Marsh Harrier. 

A walk at Cley was also declined, the day did not reach 70 species and did not include Great Tit, amongst many other 'misses'. And... the ice-cream van wasn't at Salthouse.