Monday, 29 June 2015

On a Whim

Saturday June 27

On Thursday, I received a mail from Carl stating that there were 2 places available on the 'Supper and Nightjars'  trip. We normally go to Dersingham Bog for Nightjars, combining it with a two night stay in the Hunstanton area and a trip to Welney. We no longer go to Kelling Heath, too many people and restricted viewing. We haven't done either this year, so I signed up.

After a pleasant meal at Falcon Cottage, meeting Ian, the only other participant, Carl drove us to Holt Country Park. We arrived at the viewing point just before 9 p.m., when it was still good daylight. What a surprise to hear a churring Nightjar immeciately on arrival. Despite careful searching in the nearby trees, there was no bird to be seen. The suspicion that an intrusive Wood Pigeon had driven the bird away was confirmed by further 'song' further away. 

We stood for an hour looking over a valley and clearing, hearing at least three Nightjars. I saw one fly through in the dark, two were seen in silhouette above the trees. Better views were had of 4-5 Woodcock flying overhead, two together against a pink, cream, and fading blue sky was the highlight. I've never seen two birds flying together before. Carl managed some photographs, I didn't even carry my camera - and didn't regret it either.

Ambling back in the dark, we heard two Tawny Owls, one responding very well to Carl's excellent mimicry. A most enjoyable and productive evening. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

An Orchid Twitch - Hush Hush

Sunday June 21

We're having a hectic week.
Armed with three photographs of the area plus Emailed directions, generously provided by friend D, we set off into the unknown. The instructions were spot-on, we were soon parked in a lay-by and climbing through a rough scrubby area into one of clearings and scattered trees. All lovely to look at, even if humid again.
Meeting another very pleasant man made the hunt even easier, as he'd just left the site and volunteered to show us there.
Waw, a Lizard Orchid, just the one - and the only one in Norfolk. It had been seen last year but it didn't flower. This year it has. The spike is about two feet tall, we seem to have caught it at its best.

It's being kept very quiet as the landowner is rumoured to be selling the land for development. If word got out to him, there is a danger  that the plant might be destroyed in order to ensure that planning permission is obtained. All hearsay and rumour.

Whitwell Common

Saturday June20

Whitwell Common is an SSI reserve, mainly for its flowers but it looks very good for wildlife in general. Greg had been asked to open some moth traps at 2.00 as part of their Open Day attractions. The moth group mob attended, few others did, what a shame. Greg said we should hire ourselves out as a Rentamob.
We got some very good moths in the three traps, one new for Greg, Four-dotted Footman. He brought along the migrant Bordered Straw which was new for us, as were the Footman, pale Oak Beauty, Beautiful Golden Y,  May Highflyer, Large Nutmeg and Mottled Beauty. In the general kerfuffle I didn't get any pics - too busy looking.
Someone had been busy labelling some of the wildflowers, I photographed a few before leaving.

Bee Orchid
The tiny Bog Speedwell - flowers barely half a centimetre in diameter
Common Spotted Orchid

Simon Harrap led the group on a flower walk when we'd finished. What a privilege, Pam will buy his latest book next week. Unfortunately, we'd had enough standing by then, so left to watch us bat and win in a rain curtailed Duckworth Lewis second innings. Series win 3-2. What a turnaround. We lost 5 wickets very cheaply and then Bairstow hit a nagnificent 80, aided by Billings and Rashid, to win.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Ebridge Patience

Friday June 19

Last Tuesday, friend Bob rang to say that the Grey Wagtails at Ebridge were feeding young. We'd been concerned that the high level of activity 
a) because of the publicity surrounding the Canal trust and
b) a central parking area directly overlooking the nest, 
would cause the birds to abandon the site. I kept seeing a single bird flying past with a beak full of food before disappearing into the reedbed and then, re-appearing under the bridge from downstream, before repeating the action. Gradually the cars drove off and the very active photographer left too. It was over half an hour before both birds flew in to perch on the old piece of metal pipe in the bottom of the lock. Not the most picturesque of perches. 

They were still very wary but the female eventually flew into the nest with her parcel of food. The male remained on the pipe, waiting his turn. 

The background is rather obtrusive but the birds are lovely. Not good light for photography down there in the shadow of the lock walls.  I didn't find it possible to get the depth of field necessary to have both birds in pin sharp focus and, to still the incessantly wagging tails at the same time.

There was a juvenile Siskin on our garden feeders, beautifully striped with lovely fresh plumage. They have previously bred in the area.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Better Moth-ing At Last

Sunday June 14

Countrywide, moth-ers have been complaining about the paucity of moth numbers, we are not alone. Those who have been trapping for years say that it's the worst year they can remember. We've had low numbers but a higher proportion of species than we expect. On Friday night, after a warm and humid day with rain later - we moved the trap to the outdoor table under the umbrella - we had the biggest number yet and a good number of new species for the year. A sole Alder Moth was a lifer and I only had a grotty photo of it in the egg box before it escaped. 

The warmer mornings mean much livelier moths. The resident Robins are looking well fed too. One tried to pinch one from the egg box in front of me on the table. Probably the same one as went into the Utility room this morning to help himself.

The most exciting was finding seven of the Flamingos of the moth world, Hawk-moths, of six different species. All in good fresh plumage.

Elephant Hawk-moth

Eyed Hawk-moth

Lime Hawk-moth

Pine Hawk-moth

Poplar  Hawk-moth

Privet Hawk-moth

Thursday, 11 June 2015

A Short Brecks Break

Wednesday June 10

We kept promising ourselves an outing, to-day we made ourselves go on our probably annual visit to Weeting and Lakenheath - unless something turns up there.
No Major at Weeting, the first time I can recall that his booming presence was missing. The sad news is that he has terminal cancer and hasn't been at his beloved reserve for three weeks. He will be missed.
West Hide is again the favoured viewing place. The warden said that there were four adult Stone Curlews present,  the two young had been ringed this morning so were probably hiding their shame. Her words.
We soon saw two of the adults strutting their strange boggle-eyed stuff on top of the ridge, frequently disappearing behind it. Despite the lack of sun, the heat haze was mirage producing. All as normal here - apart from the paucity of rabbits.
  No activity from the nesting Spotted Flycatchers - we were sanguine anyway as we'd seen them yesterday - and the reported Firecrest was also missing. 
Having enjoyed our half an hour in the hide and a hot chocolate in the car park, the next stop was Lakenheath RSPB. It's a lovely reserve which entails a lot of walking, something we cannot do at the moment. There were many envious birders as we drove the mile or so to New Fen, our permit to do so prominently displayed. There's only room for 5 or 6 cars to park, we were the third. Only a short walk to New Fen Hide along a much improved path, to find that the open fronted hide, shaded from the sun, was full. We sat on an outside seat for over an hour, gazing over an apparently empty pool and reedbed. Where were the Hobbies? Plenty of food, binoculars showed a myriad Dragon and Damselflies patrolling the water. They were very low, maybe that's why the Hobbies were viewable through the scope, distantly over Joist Fen. During our watch the Kingfisher appeared three times, hovering over the water before perching in a hidden area. I took one shot through my scope using my mini point and shoot. She who dares........ends up with poor photographs.

A Bittern flew in from the Centre direction, one Kestrel, a Buzzard and a male Marsh Harrier made cameo appearances, Reed and Sedge Warblers, Cuckoo, Garden Warbler, Blackcap and Whitethroat sang around us. A surprise was a Common Tern which also made three visits to fish in the pool. 
By now the sun was out and it was very hot, I was hatless, lacking suntan protection and becoming distressed by this. My fault, I dressed for the conditions when we left the car. Photography was not on either as it's against the sun here. Shortly before we left, a Hobby flew right over my head, so frustrating. Especially after seeing Glyn Sellars' photos of a Lakenheath Hobby on Surfbirds. They are superb.
The Black-winged Pratincole and Little Bittern being seen very infrequently over Joist Fen were not possible for us. It's a good two mile round trip further on. I'm sure we could drive there, it's not allowed though. Understandable.
We loved our visit, we should come more often - and they sell Ronaldo's icecream in the Centre.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Two Shorties

Monday June 8

The afternoon was due to be spent gardening, so we went to Cley early morning, after emptying the moth trap. A few nice moths over the last two nights, one new for the garden, a beautiful Puss Moth. 

Our first Privet Hawk-moth of the year too.

The highlight was this Seraphim, a 'good' moth which we had difficulty in identifying. I posted it on the Norfolk Moth Facebook group pages and  Greg and Andrew ID'd it - it's notoriously variable. We weren't such idiots !

We made ourselves walk out to Daukes in a cold north easterly wind. June ! 
The only birds we saw on the way out were three Reed Buntings. Even more disappointing was flower free verges. The water levels and the marsh in general look very neglected at the moment, the Iron Road area is much better managed. Everyone is complaining......Poor visitors are wandering around, spending a short time looking -at not a lot- from the hides, before moving on.
We sat it out  in Daukes for half an hour, until my eyes were watering in the teeth of the gale coming through the flaps and, I'd got goose bumps under my fleece.
Apart from Avocets, Lapwings, Black-headed Gulls and a couple of Gadwall, interest was provided by two Greenshanks, one making hard work of swallowing a large fish.
This less than sharp photo of a punk Little Egret shows the strength of the wind.

Tuesday June 8

It was sunny - and cold - when we set off for moth-ing at Natural Surroundings, overcast with spots of rain by the outskirts of Holt.
More moths than of late, with some new for the year. Four Water Carpets and two new ones for us.
We were all pleased to retire to the cafe for the usual drink and chat - plus eats for most. We still needed to keep coats on though.
The plan to go on an orchid hunt at Holme was aborted after a stop at Sculthorpe Mill. As I left the car, a worker left his and asked if I'd seen the Spotted Flycatcher. Not this year I said, nor last year either. As we spoke, the male Grey Wagtail flew onto the restaurant roof.
I was told that the Flycatchers had returned on June 4th and were using the outhouse again. He also said that there was a pair in Syderstone churchyard.
Not seeing any birds here, we drove to Syderstone and spent half an hour in the churchyard, to no avail. Orchids ? No, back to Sculthorpe Mill. Pam hates the wind especially when it's so cold. She should have put a vest on.
Two Spot Fly's appeared as soon as we drove up but then, went missing for 40 minutes. I could hear them utter their high pitched squeak of a call from the yew trees above......
Eventually they both returned to make visits to the outhouse, probably carrying nest building materials. We tried some less than excellent photography whilst one was perched on a rough brick.

Such a pleasure to see them here again. The worker confirmed that they were not in the area last year.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

June 1 2015 Already !

Monday June 1

Neither of us full of the joys this morning after a 5.30 alarm call, it took us nearly 40 minutes to leave. Such a beautiful looking day after the previous few, cloudless blue sky, yet only 5C in a June sun. Not expected. Good to see screaming Swifts over North Walsham again.
Our first stop at Sculthorpe Mill was not promising, no sign of any Grey Wagtail and not much else, apart from a Goldcrest singing its heart out in the trees above our parking place. 
A quick diversion via Harpley Cottages, hoping for the usual House Martins. Yes, plenty flying around, there seem to be very few in the village this year. 
Our gamekeeper greeted us in Valley Farm Lane. He was outside his house with his Jack Russell x Dachshund dog. Seeing us coming, he waited roadside. Unusual looking dog, head like a Jack R and a body which was of obvious Dachshund parentage. He regaled us with the usual list of birds around and his dog's antics. The dog was pointing, absolutely still, at the base of a hedge, before suddenly pouncing. He's a dab-hand at catching moles, catching several a day. A recent rabbit gassing expedition (!!!) had left the dog with a piece of wood embedded across his mouth. The vet gave him the wood + the bill for £369 saying 'that's the most expensive piece of wood you'll ever buy'.
Shortly after leaving him - it's only a 400 metre lane - and slowing to watch Tree Sparrows at their nestboxes, a patrician looking - and sounding - older lady walking two Schnautzers off the lead, asked if she could help. We explained, upon which she asked if we knew that it was a private road. We said no, that we'd been driving it for the last 10 years and had just had a chat with her gamekeeper. She sounded like the owner of the estate. I pointed out that the road was on the map and marked as Valley Farm Lane, no mention of private. She then asked if we'd seen any Tree Sparrows (the nests were over her head). Showing her the nestboxes she said that they were facing east and the birds didn't like that. I told her that no-one had told the birds ! With a wry smile, she gave us permission to continue. She was busy chatting to the gamekeeper as we drove back - he gave us a big smile and wave.........
Landowners in Norfolk. 
Everywhere seemed very quiet this morning, despite this we had a total of 40 species by the time we got to Abbey Farm - which had plenty of water with few birds. Interesting news on a notice in the Hide. They're planning to build an artificial kingfisher nesting wall with money from donations. The culling and disturbance of Greylag Geese seems to be going well, very few present.
Why do we keep driving round the Wolferton Triangle - over two years since we saw a Golden Pheasant here. Pam's optimism is undiminished.
A very strong, cold wind and a low tide made me think again about visiting Snetterton at this time of year too. The main advantage is being able to look for waterbirds from the car. Pam actually got out, set up her scope and almost immediately retired to the car. She's had enough of the cold. Two Brent Geese remained on the extensive mud plus  a smattering of Ringed Plover, Shelduck and Oystercatchers. The latter in pairs, nesting on the shingle bank. Two Avocets in a distant creek. A lone Grey Plover, one Curlew and the call of a male Cuckoo completed the list before I scoped the last pit, where a huddle of Black-tailed Godwits joined a larger mass of Knot on the sheltered shingle bank. The far storm demolished hide has been re-built, its as yet un-weathered, wood gleaming starkly. 
As we braved the wind to photograph the flowers on the shore, two large flocks of departing Knot made their presence known by the shooshing of their wings overhead. I trashed most of my photos - even shutter priority couldn't still the wind's violent thrashing of the flower heads, particularly the Horned Poppies.

I tried some photographs of very distant Common Terns flying with the wind - foolish optimism but, this one wasn't too bad. Shame it wasn't one of the ones carrying sand eels.

Brunch on the cliffs at Hunstanton, watching the Fulmars struggle into the wind and then Ferrari their way back east. A few of the 'Rock' Doves were forced to hover along the cliff edge. Well, they do have white rumps and look pretty good. Not as good as the proper ones on Uist though.The RSPB turned down the Mull Rock Dove records for their garden birdwatch ! 

So many Common Whitethroats on the drive out to Holme, none of them posed for long enough to photograph. Wind again, I wouldn't sit up high either. I did snatch one of a distant singing bird. I'll see what it looks like on here.

 Stopping to view a Whitethroat, a parent Robin, beak chokka with insects, did pose for a few seconds.

No sign of the mass of early orchids where they bulldozed the verge last year, a mass of Mare's Tail only. 
At the pay hut, I heard a Garden Warbler which gave us several flying views. The densely leafed canopies provide efficient concealment.
Our first Reed Warbler of the year uttered its more guttural song, reminiscent of Great Reed Warbler, and distinguishing it from that of the Sedge Warbler, from the reeds beside the stream immediately after the pay hut.
With a call at Thornham, bypassing Titchwell, we chanced Choseley Barns which have not been good for us this year. Bingo. Some grain had been spilled in the yard. Feeding on it were, two Greenfinches, two Chaffinches, a male Yellowhammer and.... two Turtle Doves. Our first this year. I lifted my camera and they flew.  The Corn Bunting singing from a nearby hedge flew down to enjoy the feast.

Leaving Choseley via the southern road, a Skylark landed, rather precariously, on some well grown Broad Bean plants.

Adding a single Turnstone at a boat and mud filled Brancaster Staithe, we saw a new for Norfolk this year, fishing,  Little Tern at Burnham Overy Staithe. Somewhere during our journey to-day, we saw three Marsh Harriers, one Buzzard and a male Sparrowhawk. All from a moving car. We had to wait until late afternoon before our first Kestrel, soon seeing another two.
Coastguards at Cley for our first Norfolk Sandwich Terns, speeding west to Blakeney Point where there are over 2,000 of their nests.
Two Spoonbills swept the pool to the east of Iron Road, we rarely see Mute Swans until we get to Cley. A cloud of Sand Martins gathered insects from the shore pool. 
Getting weary - Pam had a doze earlier at Burnham - the last planned call was Gunton Park. Great Crested Grebe on the lake, no sign of the Grey Wagtail we saw on the sawmill roof last week. The enormous and beautiful Plane trees in the park have developed a lurgy of some kind. The leaves are sparse with many of them dying. I looked it up on the net. It's a fungus which was imported last century  by US soldiers in World War II.
Talking about Fungus. Pam noticed a bright encrustation on a distant Oak tree viewable to the right of the sawmill. We drove nearer so that we could photograph this new to us, fungus

This large, brightly coloured fungus is typically found in clusters but is occasionally solitary. Chicken of the Woods is leafy in shape and grows in a semi-circular form around tree trunks or stumps. Bright yellow and colourful when young, the Chicken of the Woods begins forming with multiple thick, petals that develop a bright ivory and yellowish-orange colouring on a velvet-like outer skin. It tends to lighten in colour near the edges. This mushroom has no gills, instead its bright yellow undersurface is covered with tiny pores. As it matures, it becomes thinner and speckled with many small dark brown spots that develop into a mixture of tan and off-white shading as the fungus gets lighter in colour and becomes shaped like a wrinkled fan with multiple leafy protrusions. When young, it is thick and juicy with a soft and spongy texture, becoming hard and brittle or crumbly as it ages. Chicken of the Woods should be harvested when they are young and tender, as older specimens get more woody and develop a sour flavour. Specimens that are found attached and growing on conifers and eucalyptus are considered inedible. 
Chicken of the Woods grows in trees that are either living (as parasites) or decaying (as saprobes). The mushrooms cause a reddish brown cubical heart-rot of wood and can destabilize a tree by hollowing out its centre. Although rarely fatal to the host tree it may cause it to decay to the point where wind or hail could knock it down. Historically, this fungus was known to damage the wooden ships of the British Naval Fleet.

We should, with some walking, see 90 + species in June, we saw 84  from the car !