Monday, 14 December 2015

Too Good to Miss

Monday December 14

I went out without my pager yesterday. When I got home, I read that there was a Cattle Egret at Sea Palling, unreported for a week. 
After morning chores we drove the short distance to Hickling Lane which is west off the Stalham Road, shortly before Sea Palling village. More than a mile down the lane, we rounded a bend and spotted the lovely Park cattle in a field on the left. A group of them were feeding from a hay rack towards the back of the field, a white blob visible between the legs. It was the Cattle Egret. It continued to feed avidly the whole time we were there, finding lots of deliciousness amongst the trampled mud and manure. It did have to be alert in order to dodge swinging heads and legs.
The cattle are so beautiful - if dirty - the bird small and distant, I concentrated on photographing the cows, with the Cattle Egret as an additional extra. 

White Park Cattle

 Good Looks, Distinguished History, Future Potential
White Park is a very old breed of beef cattle, kept in Britain for more than 2,000 years but which is now rare. They are closely descended from Britain’s original wild white cattle that were enclosed in parks by the nobility during the middle ages. By the end of the 19th century such parks had largely gone out of fashion and the breed struggled to survive.
In 1973 the Rare Breeds Survival Trust was formed and chose the White Park as its logo. From around 60 animals left in the breed at that time the numbers have increased and there are now more than 750 adult breeding cows.  The breed is classed as “Minority” by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
The White Park is distinguished in looks – large white animals with black points on their muzzle, ears, eye-rims and feet. The elegant wide-spreading horns are usually black-tipped. The cows are noted for ease of calving, milkiness and high fertility, while bulls used as crossing sires confer ease of calving and exceptional hybrid vigour. Excellent foraging ability, hardiness and longevity are also notable. The cows breed until they are typically 12 to 16 years old, although some breed up to more than 20 years of age.

Last Birding of 2015?

Sunday December 13

As Pam is due to have a hip replacement on Friday, we decided to have a day's birding. It may be our last opportunity for a few weeks. This week is full every day and - if it's the same as last time - riding around in the car will not be comfortable for Pam, on Norfolk's bumpy roads.
It was still dark when we left at 6.45 and then, we hit patchy ground fog, which became ever denser as we drove west.  After an hour, we saw our first bird, a Barn Owl. What were we doing out? We'd started so we'd finish. We managed two Tree Sparrows at our usual spot, two Redwings and a few Red-legged Partridges. Reaching Dersingham, the fog went away and we had a dry, not too cold, day until mid afternoon drizzle.
The tide at Snettisham was well on its way out, having reached a low peak at 7.20. Our first Goldeneye, two females, of the winter, on the pits, all the usual waders apart from Ringed Plover and Sanderling on the mud.  We did not walk to the far marsh where Dawn B had Great White Egret, Waxwings and the Pallid Harrier later in the afternoon ! Too far to-day.
A lone patrolling Fulmar and a small flock of Common Scoter at Hunstanton - and too many dog foulers. 
Holme Broadwater held many more ducks than usual, Shovellers, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Tufted and Pochard. Lovely. One Marsh Harrier scattered them into flight as it flew through, ignoring them all.
Negotiating the speed bumps on the way out, very near Bob's caravan, Pam noticed a Barn Owl sitting on a post. Surprisingly, it didn't fly when we stopped. I made a few mouse type noises and it turned and looked at me. Waw.

Many photos later, it flew rapidly away.
The Buzzard we saw at Choseley was much too distant to ID.
On to Brancaster Staithe  for lunch, where there were fewer birds than usual. Low tide, so no sign of the Red-necked Grebe but, a male Red-breasted Merganser glided by on the ebb, distant and frequently snorkelling. Not the best of photo opportunities.

When the drizzle set in we drove home, having listed about 70 species on an apparently poor yet enjoyable day.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015


Tuesday December 1

Mothing has finished for the year, we still met for coffee at Natural Surroundings. The morning was heavy misty drizzle, meeting was a better option than a day's birding.
We left soon after 11 in clearing weather, still very cloudy but rainless. Pam suggested Morston ,where the tide was going out, the creeks still well filled.  Pinkfeet and Brent, with the occasional Curlew, rose from the marsh, Redshank changed banks with their sentinel call, a lone Skylark gave thanks for the cessation and a few Meadow Pipits temporarily left the shelter of the marsh vegetation. A couple of Little Egrets gleamed into view. Lovely. 
Our first visit to Blakeney Harbour for some months was a triumph. Scanning Mallard (!) I saw part of a bird, partially obscured by a notice. Cormorant......... no, its head came into view. A winter juvenile Great Northern Diver. Excellent. 
I spent the next 10 minutes photographing it in between its frequent food dives, catching at least two Crabs. Pam was ever obliging in moving the car in order to follow its movements, diving against the tide and then drifting back, eventually disappearing fast around the bend on the strong ebb.

The Brent flocks at Cley were very distant on the drive out to the beach car park. We watched over a 1,000 Golden Plover milling about high in the sky over the Eye Field, never landing. A male Marsh Harrier drifted by and we left to find a sizeable group of Brent had landed in a field at the village end. The Black Brant was immediately recognisable but, too close to the verge and obscured by roadside reeds for my liking.

Julian's white drinks van was a welcome sight at Salthouse, not always there since the car park disappeared. Pam fetched our hot chocolate (I was parked too near the ditch to get out) whilst I scanned the pool. Mainly Wigeon and Teal with a few showy male Shoveller.

The birding was very unexpected.