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 ! 


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