Saturday, 4 July 2015

Birding at last

Friday July 3

Up before 5.30 and driving away at 6.00 a.m. on a glorious summer morning. The oppressive humidity and heat of the previous three days have gone - temporarily  from forecasts. We haven't had a full day's birding since early June and have really missed it.
We had a great morning. Sculthorpe Mill looked deserted, of both people and birds, until we crossed the race in front of the inn, walking around the corner to view the lane, hedgerow and fields. A Blackcap sang, that was all. For the first time, I climbed the grassy bank at the back of the house to view the gardens. Below me was the mill race flanked by a wall, over the top I had a good view of the beautiful, well kept and treed, garden complete with tables and benches. Seeing a movement in a near tree, two Spotted Flycatchers appeared, obviously feeding young somewhere. Pam had joined me, saying, look at the wall. A pair of Grey Wagtails with full beaks were waiting for us to depart before going to the nest, which must have been in the mill race tunnel.
Another tree was now swaying under the very active family of Long-tailed Tits speeding through the canopy. Lovely.
I couldn't resist trying to photograph the Goldfinches feeding on thistles at the edge of the car park.

We left the birds in peace and drove to Valley Farm Lane. Red-legged Partridge and Tree Sparrows quickly added we drove to the end to turn round. The car following us was our gamekeeper friend who had been up since 5 irrigating potato fields. He'd squared us up with Linda who had been a bit snooty last month . 'Those two little old ladies have been coming up here for years' he said !! Apparently the road is private after the last cottage. He asked after King Harrys, asking if they bred late. I thought he'd said Harriers as did Pam. We must have looked bemused as he said that that was what he called Goldfinches. New one on me.
Later than usual, a sunlit Abbey farm was meant to be a quickie. Scanning the high grass meadow, the small brown lump at the foot of the telegraph pole was a Little Owl. Attention distracted by a raptor, we watched a Red Kite land in a tree the other side of the pond. The Owl had disappeared.
Sidling out from our bench seat, a Sparrowhawk flew across the near water.
Flitcham Village has a roadside plant selling home. The man was putting them out for the day as we passed. One tall blue flowered plant caught my eye. Pam parked, walked back and returned some time later with the Tradescantia I'd spotted - and a few other plants. £2 each and perfect.
Snettisham still had lots of water at 9ish, high tide was 7.58 but it was a very high one. The pit verges through the chalets looked lovely, summer maritime plants at their best. The reserve looked colourful too. A froth of Cow Parsley on one bank,  much more variety on the east facing side.
An Oystercatcher left her  nest containing three eggs as we drove up. So near the drive, stupid bird. We quickly photographed the eggs from the car window and drove on.

Scoping the far pit, I saw, a sandbank of Avocets, another of Cormorants and hundreds of Black-headed Gulls.A nearby group of Black-tailed Godwits, a few Knot and a couple of Redshank added more variety. Oh... and dozens of Oystercatchers.
A group of four Oystercatchers were performing some sort of synchronised hoedown on the beach, video would have done it justice.

Very little water by now, we both spent a little time photographing the Hoary Mullein, maritime Thistle, sedum sp and Yellow Horned Poppies flanking the wash. Beautiful. 

Yellow Horned Poppies and Sedum
Hoary Mullein
Some lovely vari-coloured Convolvulus added to the scene. Very few insects here, rather more on the bank at the top of the entrance path. Pam parked and walked off, I sat in the car watching the shore. Not all young birds are attractive and fluffy... where do young Black-headed Gulls fit in ? Not bad really, except when they are pictured against a dead Seal carcass. My choice.

Pam was quite a while, she'd been photographing Cinnabar caterpillars on Ragwort. I contented myself with a Bee on Briar flowers when I got out to open the gate. 

I was checking to see how the crop for my Autumn gate-opening treats was coming along really.

The whole of Hunstanton Cliffs seafront was lined with cars. We found a single space to tick off Fulmar and. eat the meal of Bacon Bap bought in Tesco, before driving to Holme. Marsh Harrier and Whitethroat were our last new birds for the day.
Driving back, we were able to stop to photograph the Orchids in the inland meadows. I believe that most of them are Southern Marsh Orchids. Haven't fully studied them yet. Pam has one with spotted leaves but this variety can have that variant too.

A brief stop at Wiveton Farms so that Pam could get a better pic of the Currant Clearwing, returning with a Ronaldo's icecream each, before our last stop at Cley Beach.
We had made all our usual stops, added nothing, not even Terns at Cley. Loved our day though. I know I always write that, 'cos it's true, to-day was especially so. The weather, flowers, insects and scenery at its best.

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