Friday, 20 March 2015

Three in One

Thursday March 19 - Friday 20


At last, a moth catch of both good numbers - and a reasonable variety for the time of year. I didn't expect it after a cold moonlit night, neither conducive to moth-ing. 36 in total with 9 species. 

A very active Dotted Border, taken through a plastic pot

Common Quaker - open
Common Quaker - dark
Common Quaker - pale

Twin-spotted Quaker
An afternoon visit to Felbrigg Hall in search of the recently reported but a 2 week resident Black Redstart was immediately successful. Walking across the front of the buildings, searching the rooftops, the adult male Black Redstart was perched on a lion ornamenting the top level of the main Hall. It was very active, eventually flying down to a low wall near the Orangery where Pam took some photos - I hadn't carried a camera. Why? That's a question I asked myself.......We didn't like to get too near as another birder was also photographing nearby.


Time for another visit to Barton Broad. After a very cloudy start, when all we saw of the solar eclipse was a crescent towards the end when the sun began to peep through the cloud, it was now a clear blue sky. Warm enough not to need a sweater under my jacket. At least two Chiffchaffs singing, probably a third, no migrants on the Broad. We usually see Little Gulls by now. The Hirundine and Terns are less predictable.
Again we enjoyed watching the 20+ Great Crested Grebes chasing off other males, presenting weed to the females and generally shaking their booty. I spent some time practising phonescoping on a perched Cormorant as well as the Grebes. I'm impressed with my IPhone camera - as good as the CleySpy man said it was when we bought the adaptor. I'm yet to try out video, first things first.

For comparison, these were taken with my Canon DX200

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Where is Creaking Gate Lake?

Monday March 16

Sue arrived soon after 8.30, we were off earlier than usual - she has nearly an hour's drive to get here. News of two Smew at Bittering, Creaking gate Lake yesterday, seemed a good first destination, as the weather has not been conducive for early migrants. 
We've been to Bittering, near Dereham once before but, to different lakes. Arriving in the area, not even the locals we asked knew of Creaking Gate Lake! All lanes led to Gressenhall......until we drove down a very narrow lane and came to a wood where we could see a glimpse of water in the distance. Beyond the surrounding barbed wire, we binned a Danger Deep Water sign. Creaking Gate Lake. Eureka.
Via an initial wrong farm track and then over (Pam under) barbed wire near a gate, we squelched down to view the lake through the trees. Mute Swans, Coot, Moorhen, Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Shoveller on the water, Long-tailed Tits in the trees around us. No Smew. Interesting place though.
North to Kings Lynn via Swaffham Waitrose for hot chocolate and the loo, we couldn't resist the turnoff to Snettisham. All the usual suspects in the wader, duck and geese family, apart from Golden Plover, they must have departed north. A surprise was the number of Avocets present. A large flock on an island in the first reserve pit and another larger number on the mud, well over a hundred. As we ate lunch, we could actually hear the tide rushing in, hundreds of Knot, Godwit and Dunlin rising in disturbed clouds to settle elsewhere.
On to check Hunstanton Cliffs where a Wheatear had been reported at the weekend. It would have been amazing to find one to-day, people and dogs everywhere.
Having checked out Thornham, I was able to take some photographs at a water-full Brancaster Staithe. The ever present Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit changing into summer plumage and the very handsome summer Herring Gulls.

Moulting Black-tailed Godwit

Grey Plover - still in winter plumage

Herring Gulls
Holkham Marsh is very difficult to view from the A 148 (or is it 149?) . We remembered that there was a well hidden pull-off before a road dip and a bend where the farmers turn in to feed the game birds. Nothing behind us meant a slow approach so that we didn't miss it - it's well hidden. No-one here to-day either. Good decision. A Buzzard perched in the nearby hedge, a Barn Owl hunting along the near marsh, three Spoonbills on the pools. 
It had been such a dull, dreary day weather-wise, with fog, some rain and low grey cloud cover. By now the cloud had lifted and we'd seen enough good birds to lighten the spirits. Sue is always so positive too which adds to the pleasure of being out and about.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Sculthorpe Moor NR

Thursday March 12

Time for some R and R after 4 days of gardening (not a lot after a winter of inactivity). Good to be out and about again in very pleasant weather. Pottering in the garden also adds to the bird list. Green Woodpecker yaffling, Great Spotted drumming, with the constant accompaniment of the very repetitive and amorous Dunnock 'song'.
Arriving at Sculthorpe Moor was good - and bad. A farmer was muck spreading in the field adjacent to the car park. I don't mind a good old manure smell, but....... this was a stinking, nose and sinus clearing, head filling stench. The car smelt all the way home and the following day, despite attempts to air it. A very strong and gusting headwind too, as we walked down to start the boardwalk trails.
Achieving the shelter of the woods, we walked directly to Whitley Hide, as far away from the muck as was possible, with a cursory look for elf cap fungus en route. Marsh Tit at the workshop feeders now protected by a viewing screen but very few birds until we got to the hide.
Taking a rest on the Ray Rowle (?) seat , hoping to see a Goshawk over the open ground across the river, the distinctive call of our first Chiffchaff came from the woods behind us. Very short as though practising at first, it warmed up a bit without achieving its ringing best.
Opening the Whitley shutters was a revelation. I knew that work had been in progress but, was not prepared for the very different view. Instead of an extensive reed-bed, it looks like this.

I can't see that the Water Rail is going to visit the very open feeders on the right any more.
We stayed and hour and more photographing the constant whirl of birds coming to the feeder table and onto the ground below. I prefer to photograph birds in the trees/reeds/shrubs etc,  all I took were obscured by twigs or, out of focus, for the automatic setting. I tried manual focusing but positions changed so quickly, making that a no go too.
It was all very enjoyable though, here are a few results. I'm not happy with any of the 'in and out' Nuthatch but I love the bird.

Male Bullfinch and one of the 9+ Reed Buntings coming to feed

Aggressive Nuthatch, wary male Chaffinch

Collared Dove

Dunnock at the entrance to the mouse track hole

Female Bullfinch

As I photographed a male Pheasant glowing in the flew

Long-tailed Tit

Male Bullfinch, so beautiful

Sunday, 8 March 2015

March Trapping

Saturday March 7

Common Quaker

Early Grey

Pale Brindled Beauty
March Moth
After a warm day with temperatures hitting 17C, it seemed like a good opportunity to put the moth trap out in the garden. Despite it being a clear night with a very bright moon, numbers reached double figures. 
Species trapped: 
6 March Moths, 2 Hebrew Characters, 2 Quakers, 1 Early Grey, 1 Pale Brindled Beauty.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

First Migrant Walk

Thursday March 5

Barton Broad is often a good spot for early Terns, Sand Martins and Little Gulls. A little early with unfavourable winds but we needed the exercise. 
A phone call from Australia - the dog, Mojo,  has a knee operation to-morrow and chores made for a late morning start, not the best time. The wet Alder carr flanking the boardwalk was devoid of birds apart from Blackbirds and Chaffinches. 
 Always a chance of seeing fungus here. Bracket fungus to-day.

Accompanied by the familiar dank, smelliness of rotting vegetation in stagnant water, typical of these carrs, we made our way to the platform at the end of the boardwalk. What? Four men of Eastern European origin took up all the benches, not an optic between them. Waiting patiently, we soon saw them off and took up our viewing  position - sitting down. 
Fourteen courting Great Crested Grebes were the highlight. I never get tired of their inflated head crest and cheeks bowing and nodding to each other, sometimes taking up an aggressive flat out head stretching stance to see off another getting too near. No 'dancing' across the water to-day. 
Determined to use my Iphone scope adaptor, I took my first ever photographs using the adaptor I had for my birthday in 2014 !! Previous attempts were aborted due to my having been sold the wrong adaptor. I had a go at the Grebes which refused to keep still......

 More practice needed.
Four Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk rose into the sky from the woods across the broad, a flotilla of Coots swam right in a long line. Why?
Two non English speaking children and their English speaking father arrived, armed with bread to feed the two Mallard and a pair of Mute Swans which quickly arrived. Dad enquired as to what he should call the Gulls also streaming in when the bread appeared. I always appreciate interest, so was happy to tell him that they were all Black-headed Gulls, including the ones with just a head spot.
I heard a Water Rail squeal but not a sound from the usual loud Cetti's present here. Canada Geese, Greylag, Tufted Duck and a single Common Gull were the only other species on view. It was also the warmest time we have spent on this normally wind chilled platform, bliss.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant

Sunday March 1

Heading = St David's Day for the uninitiated !

After a night of very little sleep, we didn't leave until 7 a.m. A lovely looking day, blue sky and sun with a very cold breeze. Not much 'hwyl' for the numbers game, we'll just enjoy the day. As we left, a Song Thrush sang from the Dairy Farm direction and another was perched in the tree near the T junction at the White House.
At last. A Grey Wagtail flipped over Sculthorpe Mill's roof as we walked to view the mill race, which was in full frothing spate after heavy overnight rain. The hedgerows were pretty quiet too. Maybe Valley Farm Lane would offer more. Not in numbers but, our first Norfolk Tree Sparrow of the year showed briefly. Very few game birds around to-day, they can't have shot them all.....frightened them into skulking maybe.
Again there were walking birders in the lane leading to Abbey Farm, Flitcham. Result, empty hedgerows. A few Fieldfare, Greylag, Moorhens and Coot from the hide, the recording book looked mouth-watering again. When do these people watch? An interesting and informative notice re the culling of Greylag here. A visiting ecologist put the blame for sterile, plant less water, eroding  pool edges and a degraded marsh on the presence of large flocks of Greylag. Some egg pricking and shooting has/is being carried out. The shooting more for frightening off than for the numbers killed. Good.
The flock of finches was located in the hedgerow near game feeders viewable over the hay bales protecting a field entrance. Getting out was not an option. Neither was viewing from the car as the lane is narrow and one can barely see over the tops of the bales. The flock is very active too. We managed to ID at least 3 Brambling and a Reed Bunting amongst the Chaffinches before an approaching car enforced a move.
My first Green Woodpecker of the year showed briefly in tall grass roadside in the West Newton area, Coal Tits sang in the Wolferton woods.
A field off the B road approaching Snettisham is always worth a look. To-day it held about a thousand Pink-feet. I managed to see one Tundra Bean Goose, there were probably more, Again, the road is narrow with steady traffic. One would do. Only one pair of Egyptian geese, the others must have dispersed to breed.
The Snettisham pits were remarkably empty, the gusting wind made them look like the sea, white-topped waves racing across the surface. Low tide again too. Miles of mud with scattered Knot, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover donning their summer plumage and Dunlin. No Oystercatchers nor Little Egrets ! Amazing. The Black-necked Grebe has gone too.
The entrance field to the Holme reserves track had a small flock of Fieldfare and Redwing. The Broadwater area  from a hide where the wind made viewing pretty uncomfortable saw our first raptor of the day, a Marsh Harrier, 5 Avocets, at least 5 Little Grebes and distant Brent Geese.
Having bought lunch at Titchwell, we ate it at Brancaster Staithe, 

Black-tailed Godwit

Curlew on  a mission
 A mucky Redshank

sharing much of my roll with the gulls and Turnstones.  It's fun. I love watching the scurrying Turnstones get there before the gulls and the clever Black-heads who catch the food in mid air.  Much too close for me to photograph, the wind swirled the bread back towards the car. The finder of the Slaty-backed Gull in Galway used up 3 loaves of bread enticing it nearer for photography. Must try that.........
Instead I took the easy way out.  
Black-headed Gull in winter plumage

Black-headed Gull changing into summer
Turnstone moulting into summer dress
For the first time this year, there was space for us to park roadside overlooking Brancaster Marshes at the western end of Holkham Pines. Success. In about 40 minutes we saw, 3 Red Kites, 4 Marsh Harriers, 1 Common Buzzard and 1 first winter Rough-legged Buzzard. The latter perched in the hedge at the far end of the field where I was able to scope it. Satisfyingly, it shuffled its wings and spread its tail exposing its black-tipped paleness. We must have seen a dozen Marsh Harriers to-day and only one Kestrel.
The news of Spoonbills at Holkham came through after we'd passed and briefly scanned the area from the road.
It took a bumpy lurching drive down to Stiffkey Fen before we saw our only Little Egrets. 
The Felbrigg Little Owl put in an appearance in its nest-hole to become number 78, a male Yellowhammer on a telegraph pole near home the 79th. A bigger total than our efforts deserved. Maybe I should write an article entitled 'Birding From the Car'.