Saturday, 23 April 2016


Friday April 15

We haven't been to Minsmere for over a year. To-day was not a good day to choose. A brisk northerly wind and no sun at all. Always a good visit  with birding possibilities, we added two year birds despite the conditions. The best was three Swifts over East Hide viewed from North Hide. We walked from the centre to North Hide, enjoying the buzz of 50+ Sand Martins investigating the many holes in their sandy bank tenement. The many Cetti's sing despite the conditions. We also saw a lone female Wheatear, 4+ pairs of feral Barnacle Geese, one Black-tailed Godwit, Gadwall, Lesser and Greater Black-backed Gulls and too many Black-headed Gulls to count.
We hoped to see the Stone Curlews from North Bank, they seem to be nesting out of view this year. Our reward for braving exposure to the wind was a Green Woodpecker and a short Garden Warbler song and flight.
After a welcome hot drink, we drove to the Rhododendron tunnel entrance to Island Mere, parked and walked. We must have sat for 45 minutes seeing.......very little. Two Marsh Harriers, Greylag, Mute Swans, Swallows, House Martins and the occasional boom of a distant Bittern. Disappointing.
The lane to Eastbridge and Sizewell was closed, the inland route is very much longer so, we drove home.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Sue and a Perishing North Wind

Monday April 18

We haven't seen Sue for about a year. Our regular birding days have been arranged and then cancelled, mostly owing to her father's medical needs. He's 96, blind and lives in St Ives. 
Not an early start therefore, as she lives south of Norwich and is suffering sleepless nights. So cold too - and she needed to drive to St Ives to-night for father's medical appointment to-morrow. Where to go?
Cley is always a good bet. We started at Beach Road Salthouse. hearts sinking when not even a Wheatear was in view. With patience and much scanning, the birds appeared. The first of the trickle of Swallows seen during the morning, a first for Sue.  Grey Heron, Avocets, at least ten Meadow Pipits and ... two handsome Yellow Wagtails. Probably the best photo opportunity for these birds that I've ever had, across the dyke trying to dodge the reeds on both sides. They are so active in their sprightly balletic dashes and darts, tails wagging, heads scanning from side to side.
We were all delighted.

Not the sharpest but, I love the worm
Wheatears are one of Sue's favourite birds, we saw both male and female before leaving. 
More Swallows and Sand Martins from Iron Road, one Curlew and a large group of Greylag. I read recently that Curlew numbers have crashed and they are becoming endangered. Still large numbers left but, far fewer.
A walk at Walsey Hills might be a good idea. Well, it added a Willow Warbler - another first for Sue, not a lot else. As we parked there, a larger group of hirundine hawked the marsh and the pool, a first for us too, House Martins at last.
From the Beach car park, we added Stonechats and more Wheatears, perched on the fence posts in front of us. I stood out with my scope and got as cold as I have all winter, such an icy wind. Maybe I should have worn gloves........
The tide was well out at Morston, the usual Redshanks edging the stream, two Greenshanks the month bonus.I tried some photography of an active bird in poor light.

Further on, an always photogenic Little Egret did its foot probing dance in the diminishing water, seemingly successful in its beak stabbing angling.

What was that bird upstream? Our first Whimbrel, always a special pleasure for me. Not photographable.
To end the outing, a hot drink at Cley Centre, Sue's treat for us as thanks. Most welcome.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Not Worth it For the Moths But.....

Thursday April 14

Another pretty good moth catch again last night. Lunar Marbled Brown, Pine Beauty and Angle Shades were new for the year. Diurnea Phagella was a new Micro, large for a micro.

Angle Shades

Lunar Marbled Brown - crescent moon mid wing

Pine Beauty

Pine Beauty, top view

Diurnea fagella

We took these plus a Shoulder Stripe to mothing at Cley, just as well, a very small catch with Shoulder-stripe the best. The latter escaped before W had seen it, a lifer for him. Good thing we had ours potted. Apart from Pam and I only three people there too, most are on holiday. What came afterwards made the visit worthwhile.
We always drive Cley Beach Road. Alerted by PC on top of the bank and another birder below, near the steps to West Bank, we stopped. A Short-eared Owl was patrolling an area between North Hide and East Bank. Stopping further on, we saw the same owl again and another hunting the marsh beyond West Bank. A catch-up for me and always a delight. Earlier, at the first stop a Sedge Warbler had momentarily distracted us from the owl.
Many Wheatears about, the nearest one a distant female.

The 'Whimbrel field' viewed from Iron Road had 14 Curlew with a few Sand Martins flying about.
 G had told us that he'd seen Little Ringed Plovers from Salthouse Beach Road earlier this morning. Not for us - again ! Plenty of handsome Wheatears dot dashing about, several females to-day too. Our assiduous scanning brought its reward. Pam was the first to find a lone, luminous, male Yellow Wagtail along the fence edge of the pasture.
I'm still waiting for further news of the male Montagu's seen at West Somerton this afternoon. Last report was of it flying west over the wind turbines, too iffy to drive there immediately with a boot full of Sainsbury's shopping. 
Still quietly euphoric after Man U's replay FA cup win 2-1 away against West Ham last night. Mostly the young ones again apart, from Carrick and Fellaini. I expect that Fellaini was played instead of Mata to look after the equally tall Carroll. Through to the semis.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Titchwell FFY

Tuesday April 12

Being late for mothing at Natural Surroundings, owing to having over 80 moths in our own trap, didn't matter. Amongst ours were Frosted Green, Pale Pinion and 4 Micros.

Pale Pinion
Frosted Green

Very few moths trapped at NS, despite having three traps out for the first time this year. One was a Lead-coloured Drab though, hailed by everyone. Difficult to tell from Clouded Drab without the experience of Greg, who caught plenty in Essex.
After the usual coffee and cake (for some) and very pleasant chat, we drove to Titchwell, another FFY (First for the Year) for us. Pam's operation during the early months and then, the lack of birds reported by J and D, had not motivated a visit. We drove in light rain which had eased by arrival, we walked the Fen Trail with its new boardwalk first. New boards, seats removed! Not great. Being serenaded by Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers was.
Nothing at all on Fen Hide pool, Swallows and Sand Martins hawking the freshwater pool in the distance, a pair of Marsh Harriers rising from their nesting site to the right of the central row of bushes.
Maybe the Red-crested were on Patsy's Pool. No they  were not, just Pochard, Gadwall, coot, Moorhen and Mute Swans. The seat was dry when I left, I wasn't.
Approaching  Fen Hide on the return trip, I heard a Bittern booming - and several times again during the next few minutes.
I don't know what the small central pool at the Fen T junction is called. Several Blackcaps, a pair of Bullfinches and two Willow Warblers flitted in the fresh, pale green-leafed willow at the corner of the pool. Lovely. Siskin were heard but not seen.
The walk to Island Hide was cold, damp and birdless. It wasn't worth it either. So much water on the freshmarsh, some mud and islands at the back of the pool, which is a long way away for viewing. The largest 'dry' area has been fenced off with sturdy posts and netting at least a metre high. Pam heard a guide say that the water level was being kept high to encourage birds to nest within the fenced area. What about the passage waders? And the birders!! Yes, nature reserves should be run with the welfare of the birds uppermost but, birders needs should be considered too. Especially when they help fund the society and its reserves. I'm not in a hurry to return, although the wooded area was pleasant. It's the marsh that attracts, plenty of woods elsewhere.
 Sitting in Island Hide, one other birder present only, listening to Pam doing a grumpy old woman act, the male Red-crested Pochard we'd seen on a pool nearby, flew in, did a circuit and flew off again. Such handsome birds.
Bone-chilled, we lunched - at 3 p.m. my first meal of the day - on Sausage and onion baguette and a Brownie. Very welcome and delicious, enjoying the Birdwatching in Norfolk video showing on the screen in the indoor seating area.
Another Brown Hare show south of Choseley, a scattering of chase me's in all the fields.Three Ring Ouzels made their mad, wild flight ahead of us, dropping out  of sight beyond a hedge..Time to get home, late afternoon on a dull day, we took the shorter inland route.

Wednesday April 13

Both of us were awake early, time for a cuppa before walking at Barton Broad. Only a single pair of Great Crested Grebe, three distant and very mist enshrouded Common Terns. a Cormorant, Greylags and Black-headed Gulls, the reward for our efforts. The delightful yellow flushed Willow Warbler along the boardwalk kept flying off from its singing post whenever I raised my lens.
Back to the moth trap. Only 30 moths to-day but of 11 species again. One was another much paler and better coloured Frosted Green , and a FFY Muslin.

Frosted Green


Sunday, 10 April 2016

Migrant Hunt

Sunday April 17
Such a dreadful day yesterday, heavy rain and wind, I was determined to go out to-day as it is probably the last chance in the week to come. 
Wow, lucky chance. The day dawned sunny and cloudless after overnight frost. April's warm sun had cleared most of it off the car by the time we left - 7.18.
Directly to Snettisham to-day. We turned round at the pager noted fish shop and returned to the entrance of the RSPB car park where we parked before walking the short distance to the gate overlooking the pasture. The latter turned out to be a rough field with a high bank at the back, caravanners on the left. What? There seemed little chance of birds. Whilst scanning my first Greylag goslings of the year, and one Wheatear,  a male Ring Ouzel appeared on the far bank, 100+ metres away. I then saw a second male even further away. Brilliant, I am quite obsessed about seeing Ouzels in the spring, as are J and D. I sent them a text on returning to the car for my camera. Ever the optimist - stupid? - I took a few shots.

Heacham North Beach next, not an area we know well. Driving north past the car park and Chalet 42, where there were no birds at all on an increasingly well peopled morning taking their exercise along the sea wall, we drove on and on. The road became very rough and pot-holed, the houses increasingly more up-market. Soon after the start of the un-made road, we saw a Black Redstart sitting on a fence. A short view before it disappeared totally. 
Where would this road come out? Promising looking area on the inland side too, much like Snettisham Coastal Park. We stopped in a wider section where the sea was in view to eat our porridge pot breakfast. The usual gulls, and a fly through Swallow, before I saw a Great Crested Grebe on the sea. The road joined the coast road at the Tesco roundabout.

'Daisy'  was on duty at the entrance hut to Holme. She and her demanding and rather dictatorial mother were always on Scilly at the same time as us. News of a migrant bird in the Paddocks saw us park and walk. Five people were viewing a beautiful male Redstart flitting in amongst the Hawthorn bushes, shivering tail alerting us to its presence.
What next? The reported grasshopper Warbler was not singing in the NOA car park so we walked to the cafe for lunch. What a rip off , never again. Two 4 rasher bacon rolls and two hot chocolates at Tesco cost a total of £7. To-day's cheese sandwich for mew and ham for Pam plus some salad and a cold drink each cost £ 14. 20. Doorstep bread would have looked elegant beside ours. The cheese was tasteless too. Two inch thick crusts were abandoned. Good point? A Tree Sparrow on the feeders.
 Pam then requested that we return home as she had chores she wanted to do.
Via Choseley Barns. Two Grey Partridges ran down the road as we were parked looking for Corn Buntings - none again. The active hares in the fields gave great pleasure. I counted 14 in the plough and Pam 8 in the grassy field. None came near enough really.

We also saw Muntjac and Chinese Water Deer to-day.
Home to watch the end of the Leicester match and Man U lose 3-0  to Spurs. What a disaster.

Monday, 4 April 2016

After the Plasterers

Monday April 4

A mid afternoon foray to Barton Broad Alder Carr and boardwalk. A day of showers, mostly light and infrequent for us.
A lone Chiffchaff snag in the woods. An unfamiliar call brought us to a halt, trying in vain to find the source. Pam located a pair of Bullfinches, was it a call of theirs? I still don't know as the calls continuede after they'd flown away.
Again, the viewing platform was occupied, quiet birders this time. Great, a large  flock of at least 100 hirundine sped low over the distant water, occasionally forming a cloud in the sky before descending to feed again. What a muddling kaleidoscope of eye - blurring confusion.  Despite trying very hard, we had to conclude that they were mainly Sand Martins, with a few Swallows amongst them, not a single House Martin to be found.
Three Common Terns and two Little Gulls joined the melee, swooping from a height to dip and feed. 
Why hadn't we noticed the two Grey Heron nests in a tree on the far shore before? Pam found one twig muddle, a lone bird standing on top. Through the scope I found another further back, attended by two more birds. The handsome,  pale male Marsh Harrier patrolled the reedbed, two Reed Buntings flitted a near tree and a Water Rail squealed from the tangle of undergrowth. Yesterday's warm sun has brought the pussy willow catkins out into their yellow tipped splendour.
Those grebes are still part displaying ....... will they ever nest.

Oh Sole Mio

Let's do it

Maybe not to-day

Have you got a headache

In Hope

Sunday April 3

Our first workman-free day for two weeks, time to bird. Despite a late night after A's 70th birthday party at Cley Centre, we were driving away at 6.45. How long would I stay awake after three hours sleep and only four the previous night ?
Despite the dull and very low cloud conditions, we'd hit a record 50+ species by Abbey Farm. It's usually about 30. Sculthorpe Mill racked up the numbers, most of them 'padders', apart from  2 Grey Wagtails, a singing Blackcap first for me - Pam had one in the garden yesterday - and a surprise, first for the site, Little Egret.
The hedge on the Abbey Farm approach road had a flighty flock of at least 20 Brambling.  Good.
Breakfasting in Abbey Hide on a welcome porridge pot, we enjoyed both Little Owls in the oak tree and a Red Kite over the back fields. So many Black-headed Gulls to-day, Tufted  the only ducks. 
After the usual futile drive around the Wolferton Triangle, we drove to Snettisham without checking the tide timetable. We'd probably have gone anyway, despite the tide being at its lowest - on a low tide day ! We still managed to rack up all the expected waders, apart from Golden Plover.  It was just hard work. Me scoping and then,  getting Pam onto the birds when she was only using her binoculars. The pits were very unpopulated apart from Avocets and Gulls. I tried hard to find a tern or along the edge, a Wheatear.
By now, the sun was out. Hunstanton was chokka, as were the clifftop parking places. We did manage to find the only space where we parked and  ate our bacon roll bought in Tesco - which is an obligatory loo stop for Pam. We needed some shopping to-day too, most useful stop. The expected Fulmars cruised the cliffs.
Little Grebes, Cetti's, a lovely flock of Pochard, Brent Geese and Marsh Harriers at Holme. Singing Chiffchaff near the entrance gate and a single Swallow flew through the car park.
The resident horses came to the Natterjack pool for a drink, the only photos I took all day.

Brancaster Staithe was chokka too, it's a deservedly popular place in the spring/summer, especially on a sunny holiday weekend. With nothing to add, a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers flew upstream as we were leaving, Black-tailed Godwits near the busy prawn baguette van. The ice-cream van was doing a roaring trade too (yes, we had a cone each). The new sailing clubhouse looks almost finished at last, looking good too.
Still trying to see a Cormorant (!!) Pam  inched her way along the hordes in Wells harbour, past the wall crowded with fish and chip eating families and along the East Hills approach and, dead end, road. It's lovely there and not crowded. A splendid Great Crested Grebe was a welcome reward.
We sat  in the Beach car park at Cley for twenty minutes, scanning the Eye Field from time to time, whilst I was fighting to keep my eyes open. A lone Swallow flitted through and I started the Telegraph GK crossword to stay awake. One last scan,  I said as Pam mooted leaving, as she was also very weary and had done the driving. Eureka. Two Wheatears showed briefly but satisfyingly. One of my favourite birds, always a joy to see. 
Totting up at home, the day's sightings came to 87 species. I saw a Spoonbill and Pam saw a Barn Owl - and neither of us saw a Cormorant. Amazing.