Saturday, 31 October 2015

Mid-day Outing

Saturday October 31

We decided to take advantage of the lovely Autumn day and drive to Ludham Marshes. On the drive out to St Benets Abbey, we saw a few feral doves and a Carrion Crow.  Good start.
Parked looking over towards Thurne, I had a good scan before settling to the DT crossword. Almost immediately, Pam said 'Look' and a Short-eared Owl appeared from behind the hayrick, gliding to land on the grass about 100 metres away. I watched it for nearly ten minutes, whilst it preened vigorously - until a Magpie landed nearby. Mexican standoff ensued. The Magpie hopped  stealthily ever nearer, the Owl swivelling its head to watch every move. Near enough to peck the Owl's tail, the bird had a go but the Owl saw it off.
A few feather-shakes and re- adjustments  later, the Short-eared flew off towards the Abbey, disappearing over the raised river bank. With so many SE owls being reported flying in off the sea, this is what I'd hoped for.
One of these days, I'll manage some really sharp photos of flying Owls.

Pam's photo of it sitting down, taken through the windscreen using her Panasonic Bridge, is much better than any of mine when the bird was perched. 

A Pied Wagtail kept an eye on the proceedings.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Moth day

Friday October 30

 The wind was from the south east, a cloudy and warm night , good conditions for putting the moth trap out. We trapped 15 moths of 10 species in our Robinson MV, not bad for this time of year. 

At last, our first lovely, furry, December Moths. We've had a couple at Natural Surroundings but not at home - until to-day when there were two .

This Satellite Moth has orange 'satellites' rather than the more common white centres.

We also trapped our first Mottled Umber of the year but it was far too flighty to photograph, even after a few hours in the fridge to calm it down. I don't like doing that even though it's accepted practice and does them no harm - unless you forget to release them !
Siskin   and Brambling on the garden feeders this morning. Good to see.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Such a Dismal Day

Wednesday October 28

An excellent start to the day. Our doctor's receptionist rang to say that Pam's blood test was good, giving her the all clear to phone her consultant so that her hip operation can go ahead. Waiting to hear from the Spire now.
The Robinson trap held 4 macro  moths of  4 species this morning - after a cold, rainy night. Still no longed for December Moth. Feathered Thorn are always nice.

A morning of rain with louring clouds reminiscent of late November, did nothing to perpetuate  the earlier euphoric mood. Time for some birding. The rain stopped at mid-day, the gloom got worse if anything. We drove to Winterton via Happisburgh, Cart Gap, Sea Palling and Horsey. Our daily flight of Pink-footed Geese had greeted us as we left home, there was another very large flock up to their necks in lush vegetation at Horsey. We scrutinised a Buzzard sat atop  a telegraph pole for some time. No way was it a Rough-legged, unfortunately.
On the premise that any pic is better than none (probably not), here's one of the Common Buzzard  - in the gloom.

Nearing West Somerton, a flock of about 200 Lapwing rose from the plough, a flight of smaller birds leading the way. After a patient wait, watching the startlement of finches fly hither and thither, a few landed in nearer willows. Mostly Chaffinches, a few Goldfinches and at least two female Brambling.
On to Winterton Beach and a calm sea with one Red-throated Diver, several Cormorants and a Grey Seal.
Stopping in a gateway on the return journey, to try for the finch flock again, two large Swans flew towards us. Yes !! Two Whooper Swans, our first of the winter, called musically as they passed. Why wasn't my camera to hand........
We did manage to see nearly 30 species on out trip out, including a dozen Turnstones at Walcott. No sign of the returning Mediterranean Gull which Bob seems to see regularly. Must follow him next time.


Tuesday, 20 October 2015


Monday October 19

After a week of heavy grey skies, a strong easterly wind and frequent heavy showers, it was good to get up to blue sky. As we sat outside opening the overnight moth trap, the Autumn evocative and neck-hair raising sound of Pinkfeet took our eyes upwards. A flock of 100+ geese made their way inland to their feeding fields. Not an unusual Autumn/Winter sight, always a welcome one.
After the single figure weekend catch, 48 macro moths of 17 species  was proof of a warmer night. A few of them........


Dark Chestnut

Grey Shoulder-knot
No report of our intended target bird, Olive-backed Pipit at Muckleborough Hill, should have braved the weekend crowds. Couldn't see pam agreeing to that, especially after the report of police monitoring the parking in the area. Weynor Gardens must have been chokka.
Maybe Wells Woods would be less busy to-day? 
Another much larger flock of Pink-footed Geese flying in four skeins, were seen west of Holt. We spent the journey admiring the colours of Autumn, at their best in the sunshine, Chestnuts clearly visible against the preparing to die foliage. I love the bare outline of winter leafless trees just as much, if not more.
We saw P striding along the top of the sea wall on the beach road - yellow lines all along here.
Half of Wells' car park was unavailable, diggers and many men at work. How much will the parking cost next year? £3 for two hours at the moment. It needed improving, this looks major.

It's been a while since we walked Wells Woods. Although we've seen many good birds here, it's always been hard work. Apart from the breeding Parrot Crossbills many years ago.  No sign of the Blyth's Reed Warbler, not seen since early morning, straight on towards the drinking pool,  seeing delightful Goldcrests along the way. Not the number seen earlier in the excellent Fall but enough. As a stitch set in and a toilet call became ever more urgent, we reached the first seat. Thank goodness. Far too many people for a bushes call.......
We sat for about half an hour, not giving up walking to the Red-flanked Bluetail site but becoming less motivated as passers by reported 'a glimpse' after standing for some time. Amongst them were several people we know as reliable witnesses. A pair of Goldcrests flew into the Birch behind us, only three feet from Pam's head. By the time I'd got my bridge camera ready, several large-lens wielding men had the same idea. The birds flew to the back of the tree, I zoomed the lens up, pointed the camera in the general direction (I hoped, couldn't see anything in the viewfinder) and got this one greatly enlarged and cropped photo. I was amazed to find anything when I downloaded. Pam has a lovely head pic.

Time to return via a chat with Carl C who'd spent an hour and a half looking for the Blyth's, without success.
Still Pallas's Warbler, Hume's Yellow-browed and an Olive-backed Pipit in the woods, seen by a few hard working birders. Fieldfares and Redwings were regular fly throughs.
A very enjoyable session. Just good to be out.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Is it - or Isn't It?

Tuesday October 13

Considering what a cold night it was and the strength of the chilly easterly wind, the moth catch at Natural Surroundings this morning was reasonable. The best for us was an Orange Sallow. A good gathering this morning, the Duffs back from Namibia and JG in loud attendance. K and M not there though.
After the usual refreshment gathering, Pam and I drove to Beeston Common via Cley Coastguards.  JG had seen Auks, three species of Divers and several Skuas this morning from the latter. One needed to stand out and scope. We didn't. Cold and unwelcome looking and Pam was not fit enough for the shingle let alone the wind.
Plenty of parking space in the Beeston layby, thank goodness. We set off on the trail leading to the pond area before Pam spotted a group of birders to the west of the path. Back to the layby and the short trail to the waiting birders. The giant lens group of eight were standing very near to the hawthorn bushes where the juvenile Isabelline/Daurian Shrike was perching before sallying forth to catch wasps. Despite the sneers and mutters of 'b. photographers', they didn't seem to cause the bird any distress at all, nor prevent it from behaving normally.
Pam and I joined the small group on the path, about 80 -100 metres away from the bird. DN who'd dipped on the way to moth-ing this morning, joined us, leaving the near group. T and J had been and gone. David had seen Redpoll and Linnets fly over but nothing else. So many good birds in Norfolk over the weekend and yesterday. Red-flanked Bluetail, Radde's Dusky and Blyth's Reed Warbler to name a few.
After enjoying scope views, I decided to try some phone scoping. Poor light and an active bird was not conducive, but what the heck......

Then I turned the zoom up on the scope.

 There are some fantastic photos of this bird posted on line. If it stays and we get some sun, I shall be tempted to return.
ONE putative Daurian Shrike has recently been accepted by the committee, that in Fair Isle a few years ago. This, if accepted would be a first for Norfolk. Some birders think that all the 'Isabelline' Shrikes we see here are Daurian.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Snettisham Spectacular

Friday October 2

As it was the third day of the year's highest tides, we drove directly to Snettisham, leaving home at 6.40 a.m.  We arrived at the pits having passed a stream of walking birders and two cars parked along the track. To find another nine cars and about 200+ birders spread along the bank.......
Never before have we experienced this crowd, not even at a twitch here.
We set off at 8.30 having found a space to park the car. An hour and a half before high tide, the bay was already covered in absolutely calm, pelucid water, with a distant sandbank containing a mass of birds, the focus of attention. 

We lingered awhile as small groups of birds were leaving the bank, flying overhead to the pit, carefully using the gaps between the groups of admiring birders and photographers. Oystercatchers and Golden Plovers left first.

Instinct and intuition led me to hurry to the Shore Hide instead of watching the flyover. Great. The 'best' seats on the north east side of the hide were taken, best because the sun rises directly towards the hide and the northern end allows one to look away from its glare.I passed the low chairs in the centre and we settled on the bench seat at the southern end. 
A good many of the seven thousand Oystercatchers present were already on 'their' bank, away to our right. 

 We were to find that the waders took up places as though they were allotted, ignoring the island in front of the hide completely. Identical to the last time we attended a high tide roost.

Within twenty minutes, the sky was full of waders, swirling, swooping, landing and taking off again until very gradually, they settled. Only for groups to take off again, before once more taking up limited space - incredibly without landing on another's head. This went on for the next twenty minutes before a - relative - calm descended. The spectacle was awe inspiring, breath-taking and a forever memorable experience. I took so many photographs in the, pretty dark for photography, morning light from an occasionally appearing sun. A hide on the opposite side is needed ! I loved it all. here are a few of the photographs.
By now the hide was full, many of the spaces occupied by a leader and his group who stayed on and on, until we left them an hour and a half later. The numbers quoted come from him.

A Little Grebe seemed unconcerned by the kerfuffle, probably accustomed to it
A perfect reflection of the Pied Wagtail

Black-tailed Godwits on the outside, Knot ebbing and flowing in constant movement, making their own tide, in the centre.
Another laden spit in the background.
Mainly Knot, there were 40 thousand plus present

The old fishing pier looked like a watercolour  pencil sketch

We left before the birds had returned to the Wash, satiated with the spectacle and wanting to do it again. The occupants of the car parked nearest  us had left Essex at 2 a.m and this was their first visit. TV programmes spread the news, the site is  of national importance to waders and the experience one to value and savour.
The few places we visited on the way home were pleasant but a lesser experience.
A pair of Stonechats on the way out to Holme, our second kingfisher in two days (when did that last happen) at Thornham where the water still lying on the road was proof of the extra high tide. We've never seen it as far up.

This Curlew was irresistible.

At Brancaster Staithe, the annual taking the boats out of the water for the winter had begun, a large crane totally blocking the way through. I suggested that we drive via the Yacht Club entrance and approach via the back road, This was successful thank goodness. We were able to view the ebbing tide, Grey Plover, Greenshank, Great Ringed Plover and confiding Turnstones whilst continuing  the lunch started on Hunstanton cliffs. All looked beautiful too in warm sunlight.
With various aching joints, we made for home arriving at 4 ish for a welcome drink. 

(This programme is messing me about to-day, no way can I change the size of the font to the one used above).

Phone-scoping Practise

Thursday October 1

A pretty poor moth-ing session at Cley this morning. The Centre trap was OK, both marsh traps not worth putting out. It could be the last session this year too - unless Bernard puts the Centre trap out next week. Carl is off to Corfu for two weeks and then starts his winter job at Thursford. Cley only employ him for part of the year and he puts the traps out and recovers them for us.
The highlight was a 'first for Norfolk' micro brought in by David N, found in a pile of bricks in Norwich by Rob L. A  Tachystola acroxantha .  Distinctive for a Micro.......

Taken from book
Such a lovely morning, we  walked to bird the pools from Daukes, for which  a scope is essential in order to scan the far reaches of Pat's Pool. Time to use the IPhone and its Kowa scope adaptor which fit easily into a gilet pocket. Plenty of handsome winter plumaged Black-tailed Godwit on which to practice

Up to its eyeballs........
and a group of six distant Greenshanks, there were eight in total. 

A lone Snipe flew in and just as suddenly, disappeared into the undergrowth. Four Bearded Tits gave up pinging, rose and whirled away east.

Lapwing, Teal and an unnoticed Dunlin
The Redshank was nearer but very active.

Driving out at Salthouse, a Kingfisher made its arrow straight, wingless - looking flight, west along the dyke which transects the road. It must have been perched at the bridge. Damn. 
Much of the low growth along the marsh has turned a wonderful deep brown/red. Glasswort (Samphire)  I believe. 
The fishing Little Egret against this background was difficult to resist.

I learned to-day that phonescoping photographs are sharper when both scope focussing and photography are done with my reading glasses on !!