Saturday, 30 January 2016


Saturday January 30

Seemed wrong not to try.
Driving to Yarmouth via Horsey and Somerton is definitely going the pretty way. It paid off to-day as we saw two Common Cranes distantly from the raptor lay-by. 

A few seconds later, after a quick re-positioning of the car to improve Pam's view, they were nowhere to be seen.
The wintering juvenile Glaucous Gull has been reported as being on the Waterways along North Drive in Yarmouth or, on Beaconsfield recreational area, which is inland from there. A cloud of gulls brought us to a rapid stop at the northern end of the Waterways. They were being fed . We saw a likely candidate fly away but were not 100% sure. We'll be back. After a visit to the beach behind the Sealife Centre to look for Mediterranean Gulls. 
Plenty here, resting on the beach as usual, along with Black-headed and a few Herring Gulls. Pam threw some bread out and.....they came too near for my lens and were wary of the weekend families and their dogs walking by. A little patience and a quiet period gave me some photographic opportunities. Cutting down 70 shots to those below was a headache.

Beaconsfield Rec was bare of gulls, despite a pager message to say that the Glaucous had flown over shortly before our arrival !  Typical.
Back to the Waterways and another flying, feeding frenzy. Not a good idea to come on a sunny Saturday. Except.......... we saw the juvenile Glaucous Gull fly away towards Beaconsfield. Yes, that was the bird we saw earlier. No chance of a photograph. 
Home via a recce for Mautby Church where Bridget will be buried next week in her family plot. Just as well we did so, not easy to find and nowhere to park.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Plus Two

Thursday January 28

Sculthorpe Moor Reserve has beckoned since the year started. Too much rain...too much wind.....could Pam do the walking.....all the good boxes ticked to-day. A lovely winter day. Rather cold, frost-solid car wndows to clear first but, good conditions all day.
I went to reception to show our membership card, saying 'Pam had a hip operation 5 weeks ago....' Immediately the old boy behind the desk asked if we'd like to drive down as far as the boardwalk, especially as the entry road was both muddy and heavily pot-holed. Brilliant. The other, equally elderly, man had opened the gate for us by the time we drove round - and shut it afterwards. Great service.
  Pam decided that we should walk directly to Whitley Hide, best for photography. I was concerned that it would be packed, the car park was full. Unfounded. The right hand feeder is now a much smaller table, thickly filled with unhusked black sunflower seeds. The Chaffinches stay and gorge, squabble for position and fly off when the Bullfinches arrive. 

The Great, Blue and Coal Tits do a nick and fly, to eat their trophy in the bushes. Two Bramblings were an addition to the year list.
The birds arrive in busy waves with gaps in between.I tried very hard to take photos of the birds in the trees but, the dark sun-dappled shade and thick twiggy branches were not helpful. I managed a few pictures of the ground feeders, using manual settings, before moving to the left side of the hide.

Why do I not take photos of Robins? I found this one irresistible - it was still AND clear of twigs.

A Nuthatch had shown here earlier. We had one short visit by one, same applies to a Reed Bunting, with a longer spell from a small flock of Long-tailed Tits. That was fun, trying to catch them both still and clear of branches. I managed one of the criteria.

After Monday night's excellent discussion, led by Justin, on Continental Coal Tits - aper race - and Northern Treecreeper, I again inspected the Coalies here, as I did at Natural Surroundings on Tuesday where we had coffee with some of the moth-ing group. All Brittanicus race. 
We remembered to look for Elf Cap fungi on the way back to the car. Pam found a lovely, fresh trio on moss but I only had my 300 mm lens with a 1.5 extender fixed, hence, poor depth of field. I should have concentrated on the two undamaged specimens.

Here's the culprit.... dragonfly larva? 

Would the Wells Shag show to-day? Eventually, we had good views as it returned from a seaward direction before fishing directly below.


 It was very active - many of my photos looked like the above.

A Hen Harrier at Stiffkey and Golden Plover at Cley were the day's full stops. 

To-morrow will bring a third hunt for the Walcott Purple Sandpipers and the Gimingham Goosanders reported to us by Bob. I think I'll ask him to stay put and phone me next time he sees either or both !  
Friday - mission aborted - blowing a gale. 


Winter Moths ?

Monday January 25

Warm last night so we put the trap out again having attracted nothing on Saturday.  Waw. 5 Pale Brindles Beauty, 3 Chestnut, 1 Satellite and a surprising March Moth. All but the Satellite - blurred - shown below in name order.


Friday, 22 January 2016

First Long Day of 2016

Thursday January 21

Pam felt fit enough for a day out in the car, although her healing scar was showing its presence. 
A meteorological map of North Norfolk to-day was interesting. A late start - 8.30 - after scraping thick ice off the car in -3C. A beautiful looking blue sky and sun morning made the drive to Fakenham careful but, scenically lovely. Even thicker frost now, the trees looking like a Disney Arctic cartoon. Then..... thick freezing fog at -3C again. Should we turn back? I ploughed on, the fog dissipated, leaving increasingly grey clouds which persisted for the rest of the day. The temperature did increase to +5C though.
A few yards past the BP garage on the right, before the Thursford road, Pam spotted a Tawny Owl in roadside bushes. I turned round as soon as possible to drive back - and it was still there. Only about 8 feet off the ground in full view. In daylight ? Best view for years.  
Sculthorpe Mill bridge was frost crystal topped, the Wensum in full spate, shame there were no water birds. 

Pam's photo of Sculthorpe Mill Wensum from the frosty bridge
We did have a good selection of thrushes though, Song, Mistle, Redwing and Fieldfare. The increasingly scarce Greenfinch too, there seems to have been a population crash. I read that there had been a disease outbreak, spread by irregularly cleansed, contaminated bird feeder. We'd seen a Grey Wagtail at Cley Sewage works yesterday so its lack wasn't missed too much.
Probably wisely, I decided not to take the 'back road' to Abbey Farm.  It's narrow with few passing places. Approaching the farm from the Flitcham end, we soon retreated having seen the many birders on the road and parked cars everywhere. The Pallid Harrier remains a big draw. I'd love to see it but.....
After another abortive Wolferton triangle drive for a view of the 'Golden' Pheasant' - its black throat indicates mixed ancestry, are there any true ones left - on to Snettisham. We were hoping for a wader top-up. The tide was so low that we couldn't see anything on the shoreline through the scope. We really must get a current tide timetable from Titchwell. We did add Sanderling to the year list and Pam, Dunlin. Lovely Goldeneye on the last pit too, much of the water on other pits was still frozen. A zipping and constantly moving, only to land in a cloak of invisibility, Linnets, kept us interested. Disappointing.

Some of the Tufted Duck on the unfrozen Pit 1
Fulmar and Common Scoter on the sea off Hunstanton Cliffs before - amazingly - giving Holme a miss as the light was really bad and only three hours of daylight remaining for the rest of the coast
We had to fight our way through at Thornham, groups of birders parked haphazardly and standing in groups across the road. Men of course.......I like their company but not all of their habits. It paid off though, 28 Twite landed in the low suaeda only ten feet from the car. Pam was able to photograph them from her window but they flew before it was my turn, an incoming Egret spooked them. Unfortunately, the poor light made Pam's pics low quality.
Brancaster Staithe for a short meal break was quite producrive on the wader front. Ringed Plover, both Black and Bar-tailed Godwits and Grey Plover. The tide was slowly coming in, I was tempted to stay on and on.... A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers fished their way past but, no sign of the Red-necked Grebe still reported as being present.
Enough light for Stiffkey Marsh? Just about. John G and his Devon friend Richard stood next to me as I scoped. They'd had great views of the Pallid only 10 yards away, perched in a tree - as well as the Wells Shag which had disappeared for us. They regretted the lack of Barn Owls, perhaps I shouldn't have told them we'd had three separate sightings !
A female Hen Harrier gave me extensive, if distant, scope views as it patrolled the shoreline from west to east and back again.
Pam loves Morston, I hate the speed bumps. I did - reluctantly - make the decision to drive down. She didn't ask me to do so... Good decision. A Greenshank was feeding in the inland pool as the creek was now full - and it was dusk.

Babcock Hide and the Grey Palarope must wait another day. It was nearly dark when we drove away from Cley Beach Road and the Eye Field Golden Plover, Brent and Pinkfeet flocks startled into flight by a low flying four engined plane. Will they never learn?

Pam's photos
73 birds for the day and the year and month total crawling up to  96. We usually manage 130+ in January. 
I will add some photos despite the light conditions,  it seems wrong not to do so. 


Sunday, 10 January 2016

Smoke and Sunshine

Sunday January 10 2016

After all the rain, the glorious sunshine was too good to miss. Delayed by two long phone calls - ours to Bridget when Pam talked to her sister Janet and Sara's to both of us - it was mid-day by the time we left.
I'm enjoying this enforced driving, the car is great to drive.
Still some roadside puddles but most of the standing water had dissipated, apart from the lane to Strumpshaw which had its usual small lake across the road. Not idly named Low Road.
As I rounded the corner onto the real Buckenham Marshes, hundreds of birds startle - jumped into the sky. Lapwing, Golden Plover and Starlings. 

Golden Plover at the very top, Lapwings and Geese below
The reason showed itself. A female Peregrine landing on one of the gates which dot the marsh, soon flying down to perch on the ground.

Cantley Beet Factory looked in full production, very photogenic joined bubble-snakes of smoke forming a horizontal line against the faded winter-blue sky. 

Scanning the marsh brought hundreds of geese quietly grazing or just resting. I identified Pink-feet before driving on to where I could safely stop and set up my scope. Pam called a Little Egret before I found a number of White-fronted Geese and the flock of feral Barnacles and Canada Geese. The white-headed Barnacle still survives.

Thousands of Wigeon slept, waddled and grazed in large groups, most of them asleep. A Chinese Water Deer grazed amongst them. The geese were much too distant to even attempt identifying the TWO Tundra Bean geese reported to be present.  I did think that a goose with its landing gear down had orange legs..... 
All the photos are Pam's.
 In the past week, we have also added :
Male Siskin on the garden feeders
A pair of Bullfinches along Bachelor's Lane
Lesser Black-backed Gull near Martham

Monday, 4 January 2016

Birding Hopeful 2

Monday January 4

After a weekend of heavy rain showers, prolonged for most of yesterday, it was good to wake up to sunshine. We'd planned an outing to Cley anyway, hoping that the tourists had gone home.  Yes, they had. The roads were very quiet.
We drove the coastal route via Bacton and Mundesley as we are due at The White Horse in Overstrand for the moth-ing group lunch to-morrow. Having ascertained its location and the lack of offroad parking, we drove on via East Runton, where Pam saw a Short-eared Owl being mobbed by a large number of gulls. I saw the gulls as I drove by......... Despite a quick turn around, it wasn't seen again.
A small lay-by on the hill before Salthouse gave views of a very large flock of Brent Geese and another of Pinkfeet. No room for us to park. 
Salthouse added Wigeon and Teal.
Coot on the duck pond.
Two Marsh Harriers over Cley Marshes, only a few Canada Geese on the Eye Field.
Cley Centre has a lift so we parked and had a scone and a drink after a chat with Anne D who had been called in for an extra duty. Although the car park was pretty full, the cafe wasn't.
We'd seen Avocet, Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwing, Shoveller and Shelduck from the cafe. Leaving Pam in the car I took my scope over to the picnic table mound for better views and added three Dunlin.
The Egyptian Geese are now in pairs ready for breeding, we saw three pairs as we drove along the reserve. They stick to the breeding time of their native African lands.
There was room in the geese viewing lay-by on the way home, the flock of Brent rose as one and landed further away before I could get my scope raised. The Pinks stayed and, from outside, I could see that they extended into the far reaches of the next field east, down in a dip. Whilst I was diligently searching for orange legs, Pam called that she'd seen at least three geese with bright legs land in the next field. Turning up the zoom, I ascertained that at least one was a Tundra Bean Goose, one will do. 
Felbrigg came up trumps to-day. A Little Owl was sitting in its decayed tree nesthole. These photos are phone-scoped through my Swarovski 80mm scope using a Kowa phone adaptor. 

I zoomed the scope lens more and more - my three year old IPhone is impressive. The tree must be over 100 metres away.

Gunton lake added four Tufted Duck and another pair of Egyptian, nothing in the trees. Bob says that the woods are empty these days.
Lovely to be out birding and the day stayed dry too.


Saturday, 2 January 2016

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda - Happy New Year

Friday January 1

The strangest first of the year day ever. Pam is still on crutches after a hip replacement exactly two weeks ago and a long day is not advisable nor planned. We couldn't do nothing though. 
Getting ready to leave late morning, a flock of tits descended on the fig tree feeders. It contained, Blue, Great, Coal, Marsh and Long-tailed, all that could be expected.
Ludham Marshes, viewing across to Thurne, were a bird-free zone to-day but,  also the desired (by Pam)  birder free zone. Apart from dozens of Mute Swans, one Kestrel, a Marsh Harrier, all the Corvids and the, often missed, Grey Heron.
Finding Ludham Airfield can be a problem. Although one can see swans in the distance from the maze of small lanes, finding the entrance to the re-cycling dump can be tricky. Pam directed me well and we parked as close as we could, the 60 or so wild swans still about 200 metres distant. And.........they were all bodies and heads down asleep. By the time I'd got out and set up my scope a few birds had lifted their heads and a few were grazing so I took a few hopeful photographs with my 300 mm lens.

Part of the flock

They were mostly Bewicks, a small group of Whoopers towards the right hand end with only five of this year's young amongst them. An accurate count was not possible due to the head hiding.
We decided to travel home via Potter Heigham, Martham and Winterton.  A mistake. It started well when I pulled off into a gate entrance in order to avoid the unusually heavy two way traffic. A female Sparrowhawk flew towards us scattering the ten Snipe which had been feeding near one of the pools on the water-logged pasture.
As we passed Horsey Windmill and car park, the reason for the traffic problem became apparent. We queued for at least 10 minutes in the car mob going to see the seals at Horsey Dunes. One or two of us were not going there but, couldn't overtake as there were also cars coming from Sea Palling and turning in, delaying our queue from doing so. Entry was only possible when a car left - slowly. There were even parked cars in a field before the car park entry through the alder carr approach. We'll know now!
We managed a total of 40 species despite the restrictions. It's obviously a slowly, slowly start to the year.