Monday, 28 March 2016

Before the Storm

Easter Sunday March 27

Would there be any migrants at Barton Broad after yesterday's southerlies?  Still breezy this morning with occasional warm sun. We managed to dodge the showers whilst at the Broad.
This walkway is popular with non birders and children, we were beset by some young shriekers throwing bread to the 'ducks' - Great Crested Grebes. Not a surprise that it was all left to bob in nearby water until some of it was far enough away for bold Black-headed Gulls.
The amount spilled on the platform was still there when we left. 
Two Little Gills swooped and surface pecked, on the far water , the two pairs of Goldeneye still remain, Grey Heron, Cormorants on the nesting rafts, Egyptian Geese and a Buzzard. A fly-by Kingfisher was followed by another, both returning at treetop level from their presumed nesting area around the corner. A Water Rail gave its cry of anguish from the very wet Alder Carr, Reed Buntings heard but not seen. The at least six pairs of Great Crested Grebes tantalised, performing their ear tufts raised, beak open, head shaking early courtship display.......before drifting away. A lone Gadwall was a surprise year tick !
We'd heard Chiffchaff on the walk out. On the way back, I managed to locate it, along with a Long-tailed Tit, the latter not usually seen here. 
Very few Willow catkins out, a lone Bee which could have been a Wood Wasp, Pam thought it was a Honey  bee. Who Knows.


Four hours later than its initial pager report, we drove to Buckenham in hope that the reported Garganey pair was still on the Fishermen's car park pool. They weren't. I scanned until my eyes were sore. The hundreds of active Wigeon still present, along with fewer Teal, Avocet, Mallard, Coot, Redshank and the hidden corners, reedy edges etc were not helpful. Neither was the fact thet they frequently took off, circled widely and returned to re-group. One flight was promped by a Peregrine low over the water. Pam was unsighted and spent the time watching a pair of Wrens carrying nesting material backwards and forwards across the track. Just as well. Her shout of Swallow gave me my first sighting of the year - after I'd regained my seat. Just as good as the Garganey....

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Early Moths

Tuesday March 22

Mothing has started again at Natural Surroundings - nothing different from what we are trapping at home, apart from Brindled Pug. 
We are trapping most days at the moment , numbers are low, as are species, inland moth-ers are doing rather better numberwise. We release the catch well away from the garden so that there is little to no chance of re-trapping. Keeping food intake steady for the moths is even more important at this time of year.
Here's a selection of this month's flyers.

Early Grey

Twin-spot Quaker

Dotted Border

Shoulder Stripe

Oak Beauty
Yellow Horned Face

Friday, 18 March 2016

Domino Effect

Thursday March 17

Our home is a chalet bungalow, therefore, as well as an attic space, there are also two roof spaces accessible from the upstairs bedrooms. One of them stores the christmas tree, ornaments etc. Access is via a three and a half foot high door - midget sized. Pam goes in and I pass her the items to be stored. This year, her hip operation meant that nothing had been put away - until this morning. It had to happen as the bathroom needs to be emptied before Monday and, that needs to be stored in the space made. Pam also decided to completely empty the roof space. The landing was full of folding beds, old sewing machines and assorted twt which then had to be carried to the garage.
After lunch we drove to St Benets on Ludham Marshes for a walk along the river bank. A shame to miss a lovely, if cold, cold spring morning.
 Access is via the old gatehouse, incorporating a windmill, a short walk from the car park.

This plaque, high on an interior wall, tells the story of the Abbey.

The river Yare meanders its sluggish way through reed beds and fen, the waterway much used by the boating fraternity. This deep red-sailed boat was irresistible. We returned at a wide bend, where many Greylag were resting/swimming, as the 'path' was very muddy and my knees of uncertain stability on rough ground. 

Views of the remains of the original St Benets Abbey could be had from here. Not exactly impressive !I
It wasn't until I enlarged my bridge camera photo at home that I could see the inscription on the cross.

A deep-red-sailed boat drifted silently from the west, far too lovely to resist.

Hundreds of Starlings appeared. We were hoping for a roost display. They swooped like smoke across the fields, landing to feed, rising again in an amorphous mass before repeating the action. Oh. They formed a spherical, kaleidoscopic ball. Was this it? No, before I could focus my camera, the cloud drift was back.  Entertaining.

I couldn't do the spectacle justice - nor decide which to include or omit. Still undecided really, may well delete them all.

 Six male Reed Buntings and one female showed near the barns - Reed Bunts are like buses.....Again, my camera wasn't to hand when a Wren sang in the open on a pathside bush. Not a very birdy trip but very enjoyable.

Friday March 18 
We'd planned to walk at Blakeney for the Lapland Buntings but waking to rain put paid to that.
The sea at Winterton was flat and empty of birds. An enormous number of Golden Plover, into the thousands, was spread across three fields, with a scattering on others, at Horsey. Nothing else of note.
Bathroom clearing awaits.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Pot Pourri

Wednesday March 9

Great Crested Grebe, Pochards and Tufted Ducks at Wroxham Broad on the way back from lunch at Salhouse with A .

Sunday March 13 - Buckenham Marshes

Two Peregrine,  15 Avocets, 2 Shoveller and... hundreds of Wigeon.

Monday March 14

Barton Broad. Time for a walk and, the chance of some early migrants, on a lovely, if cool, easterly wind day 
As always, the end boardwalk platform was exposed to the wind, fortunately it wasn't too strong.At least seven pairs of Great Crested Grebes, all asleep. Dance damn you, dance. You're supposed to at this time of year. Two pairs of stll lingering Goldeneyes was the surprise, diving actively on the far shore. Several Egyptian Geese, 1 Marsh Harrier, 1 Buzzard 5 Cormorants, 50+ Black-headed Gulls, I Cetti's Warbler, I Reed Bunting and  4 Blue Tits helped while away the time whilst looking/ waiting for Little Gull, Common Tern, Chiffchaff, Sand Martin. No luck, still lovely though.

Tuesday March 15 

We decided to check the moth trap before leaving for the usual mothing session at Natural Surroundings. The biggest  catch for us this year, inland trappers are doing better. Thirteen macros of 4 species, Common Quaker, Clouded Drab, March Moth and Oak Beauty - a year first.  The Oak Beauty is....a lovely moth.

Oak Beauty + dropping!

Male Oak Beauty head on

We also had a large Micro, Diurnea fagella.

Diurnea fagella

After our mothing session at NT, we drove to Holkham. Waw, immediate success. As we reached THE crossroads, Pam saw a large raptor appear briefly above the hedge. It was a Red Kite, obviously interested in the roadside Pheasant corpse. Pam parked on the verge so that I could attempt some photos in the misty murk.  The bird managed a couple of its usual quick fly-in mouthfuls, as a rule they do not land to eat, before perching high above the road.

Under carriage down - not landed

Must return on a sunny day - may never be as lucky again.
A passing car spooked it into flight and away into the woods nearer the house. No other sightings, we drove home via the bird food suppliers in Melton Constable.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Four Days Late - Lucky

Friday March 4

March 1st was not good weather-wise, to-day was lovely. Cold... 2C rising to 3C by 10.a.m. with blue sky and no wind until the afternoon. 
Home late last night, after a splendid talk on British orchids during a Butterfly Conservation meeting at Blakeney Village Hall, morale was not high as we set off. Birds soon changed that, despite the slow journey with numerous temporary traffic light queues. Sculthorpe Mill Race was a raging torrent, the Grey Wagtail was on the thatched roof apex of the Inn. Our first for this site, the only other sighting was at Cley sewage works in January.
Finding Tree Sparrow at our usual site was difficult, Coal Tit and Marsh Tit on some well hidden feeders was not. Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare, fed feistily together in the field behind the barns, spending more time chasing each other away than actually feeding. This alien, but smart, Red-legged Partridge, eyed me warily as I photographed him from the car.

No sign of the Flitcham finch flock , they must have dispersed. The Little Owls had gone missing too. So much for the culling programme, Abbey Farm field had over 50 Greylags back in residence.

Great, the lowest tide of the year ahead at Snettisham. Only two hours until high tide, yet the water was very distant. Not many waders either, spring passage is well on its way. We didn't see any Pink-footed Geese all day. The pits were full of water, no islands visible even in the southernmost pit. Very unusual not to see Cormorants, Lapwings and Wigeon by the score. Goldeneye are already breeding in Scotland, not surprising that there were none here.

The Wash at Hunstanton was milky calm and birdless. Fulmars patrolling their cliff-side nesting ledges are always a pleasure. In James Fisher's opinion, the greatest flyer of them all. Albatrosses would take ascendancy for me - although Fulmar do look like miniature Albatrosses and are a member of the tubenose family. Big is best !!
The drive out to Holme added Shovellers and yet more Curlew, which were very numerous throughout the day. Tufted Duck, Little Grebe and Pochard on the Broadwater, another field full of Curlew beyond. Then, a new and much wanted, although never sought after, experience. Five Marsh Harriers had showed in the air at once before disappearing. I then saw what appeared to be an out of control, dipping, rising and weaving stunt kite. A male harrier displaying, what is known as its sky dance. I'm sure that it was not its full display as it was pretty low over the reeds, its final stonedrop-like dive taking it down to the ground. Spectacular though, once I realised what it was !
Brancaster Staithe was full of water, two female and two male Red-breasted Mergansers the highlight. I tried to capture the colour on the handsome Teal and Wigeon, the golden light of winter late afternoon makes colour untrue on the media. lovely to look at, disappointing to capture.

Filthy-beaked Teal

Pair of Wigeon, mud stomping

The same applied to a Marsh Harrier,  which was close to the car at a convenient place to stop.

Our second and third Barn Owls of the day showed on Cley Marsh, one a warm biscuit colour, the other ghostly pale. Scoping from the Centre picnic site added 70+ Avocet, Ruff, Pintail and a song - practising Cetti's Warbler.
One last call, Felbrigg, where two Little Owls were visible in their raddled, dead, oak tree bringing the day's total to 81. Tired after a hectic week but, happy and relaxed - the usual effect of a good day's birding.