Monday, 2 November 2015

It's the First

Sunday November 1

Very patchy, often extremely dense, fog made for a less than interesting drive from North Walsham west. Would we see anything at Sculthorpe Mill? 
It was full of birds. The car park held our first Redwings, Goldfinches, Blue and Great Tits, wild-flying migrant Blackbirds and Mistle Thrushes. Peering over the bridge at the mill race, we startled a Kingfisher from its perch and a Grey Wagtail from under the bridge. The Wag landed on some stones but the Kingfisher arrowed downstream and away.
The back garden held more of the same apart from a surprising Nuthatch on the stony path.
The hedges leading to Abbey Farm were devoid of birds as was the farm itself. Not even any Greylags. No water at all ! 
Driving west towards Sandringham, past Flitcham school,  the lanes are narrow and well hedged,  with varied crops growing in the fields.At one junction at least eight young Grey Partridges stood in the road staring at us, until we drove on. 
Further along the lane, nearing another farm, we stopped to scan the hedges as there was movement. Pam had a sunflower strip on her side, Brambling amongst the many finches feeding on the tops. I had a large number of Fieldfare flying from hedge to field and back again on my side, finches feeding on the seedheads left at the edge of the field. Thank you farmer.
 Not the highest of tides at Snettisham, due to peak at 9.22. We arrived before 10.00, in thick fog, the water's edge, still lapping the shore, barely visible. Oh dear. Several birders were giving up and trudging back to the car park. 
Teasels were festooned in glistening cobwebs, irresistible.

It cleared enough to view the pier 

and a ghostly Little Egret


Suddenly, the sun broke through and thousands of birds, avidly feeding on the rich food-filled mud left by the receding water, became visible.

A thousand Golden Plover, clouds of swirling Knot, another reef of Oystercatchers and Godwits of both species, scattered Redshank, Grey Plover, occasional probing Curlew, Shelduck massed on the water. All in warm sunshine and an almost cloudless sky.
Soon the air was filled with flighting skeins of gently calling Pinkfeet and the more strident calls of Brent Geese heading inland to feed. Wonderful.

Heading, slowly, back the Dunlin numbers increased, the odd Sanderling became a small flock and 20-30 Pintail paddled the creeks and shore edge. There were probably more, the females are pretty unobtrusive at this distance.
I love the pooled mud patterns left  by the tide. Could my camera do them justice?

Hunstanton was as crowded as it is on a holiday weekend. Loo and petrol stop at Tesco, no space to park on the clifftop, straight to Holme where we'd been told - in a text from friend Bob - that Short-eared Owls 'are easy'. He and his wife were there getting the caravan ready for winter. The kiosk was manned (?) by a woman we know from Scilly. She used to push her demanding and ungrateful mother around in a wheelchair every year. She told us that there were three SE Owls. We saw none.
From the car park hide, where Pam had her first meal, a pot of porridge, we saw Gadwall, Teal,  several Little Grebes, Shoveller and two Snipe. I heard the distinctive  kvik call of a Spotted Redshank and Pam saw it land on a near reedy edge, barely visible through the stems. At last, we've managed to miss them by not walking at Titchwell. Despite extensive scanning, no SEO here, only a Buzzard perched on a bush in the marsh. A Cetti's Warbler called once. Still a few Darters to be seen. We set off at 6C and the thermometer rose to 17C mid afternoon.
Titchwell would be packed, we tried Choseley. That area was packed too, Black Redstarts were about,  David the dog told us. We had a quick, fruitless, scan and left for Brancaster Staithe.
Plenty of room here. The clubhouse is now a pile of rubble and work on the foundations have started so,  no lunching yachtsmen. Pam ate her second meal. Lunch? I enjoyed photographing an adult winter Herring Gull,

standing sentry over a small flock of Turnstone. They see cars and come for food. Disappointed to-day. Unusually - although they're apparently easy - I managed some in focus shots. They're always scurrying about, other birds getting into the shot  and spoiling the focus.

Pam made the fortunate decision to turn down to Stiffkey Fen car park which was very full. We found a good spot on the front row where we pulled forward onto the grass so that I could scope from the car. The highlight was a diminutive Merlin, hardly bigger than one of the Starling flock he was harrying into a swirl of panic. Such a fast and acrobatic bird. He was unlucky on this occasion. John G came over for a chat. We saw a couple of Marsh Harriers and left as the light was fading, the sun a flaming vermilion orb on the horizon.
The Brent geese flock off Beach Road, Cley were at the main road end of the track. Pam drove out to the car park - just in case - and to turn round. The Eye Field exploded into at least 500 Golden Plover, taking to the sky before re-settling.
Straight back to the geese. I did one right to left scan and was on my way back when Pam called 'there it is'. A Black Brant had appeared on the nearside of the flock. Many geese were down in a dip. I took a few hopeful photos in the gloom before it disappeared into the dip again.

Photo enlarged and brightened
A lovely day which produced 82 species seen. Often missed birds such as Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Tree Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher and Snipe included
The Jack Snipe, Bewick's and Whooper Swans at Titchwell, the SE Owls all over the place, Hen Harrier at the west end of Stiffkey etc would have really bumped up the list. We were delighted with what we'd seen and had a really enjoyable day.
The drive home in ever thickening fog and darkness,  was not relaxing. 


No comments:

Post a Comment