Saturday, 17 December 2016


Friday December 16

One of the December days when I long for spring. Low grey overcast, fog, damp air to breathe, the once vibrant Autumn leaves a soggy dull brown carpet. 
Not knowing exactly where they were, what they looked like and their size. I found the Earthstar fungi very quickly. They didn't look exactly like the photograph in the Daily Telegraph but are purported to be Geastrum Britannicus.

''A new type of mushroom shaped like a fisherman has been discovered in Norfolk – just don't try to eat it.
The fungi, first spotted in the remote Cockley Cley, almost 15 years ago has been confirmed by scientists as a completely new species.
Its appearance has been compared to a fisherman because it has a little round head that could be a seafaring hat and two protrusions that look somewhat like arms inside a Mackintosh.
The fungi have been given the name Geastrum britannicum, recognising that, so far, they have only been found in Britain''.

Maybe the ones we saw were not fully grown as they were not fully standing up on their unfurling 'legs'. There were at least 50 in groups around the base of a very large churchyard conifer, nestling in the leaf litter.

My first Earthstar species and one only found in Norfolk.
After a week of socialising, it was more than time to get out there. No point in walking to the sea at Titchwell as planned, low tide and the fog made for poor visibility. We did enjoy our lunch in the reserve's feeding station, whilst watching a video of the reserve ! 
The minute Candlesnuff Fungus on dead tree stumps along the path from the car park was interesting if common. Tiny white stems, some antlered at the top. This photo is one I found - not the best but gives an idea.

As we drove the approach lane to Thornham, a small flock of about 30 Twite appeared doing their usual, apparently aimless, circling, restless, bounding flight. They landed out of sight behind the car park.
Walking to the bridge, the birds were in view, feeding on the top of vegetation.  Pam had her camera, which, considering the distance and the poor light, performed well.

We'd arrived at the coast via Choseley Barns, where half a dozen birders were scanning the 'dotterel field'. Thousands of Pink-footed Geese were their focus. When the pager messaged that the Todd's Canada Goose, form interior, was amongst them, we returned that way. Leaving the car and starting to put my tripod up, a car stopped and the driver told me that the goose could be seen from the parallel road. We and the other two cars present, hastened to the described lay-by - a field entrance really - set up our scopes and.......scanned.  Several thousand constantly moving Pink-feet , deeply layered in an undulating field, the most distant a mist enshrouded blur. Lovely. I found two Tundra Bean Geese whilst scanning and hardly gave them a glance !
After twenty minutes, my knee locked and I returned to the car for a respite. Almost immediately, an exultant Pam called that she'd found it. It took another quarter of an hour before all three men and I had located it in our scopes. One just had to be looking at the right place when the Todd's put its head up.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
B. c. canadensis (sometimes called "Atlantic" Canada Goose) -- This is a large goose, averaging about 7.5 to 9 lbs., lightest in color, long neck, sometimes showing a whitish collar, a strong contrast between the breast and the black of the neck. This is the common subspecies of eastern North America.

B. c. interior (sometimes called "Todd's" Canada Goose) -- Similar in size to canadensis, about 7.5 to 9.5 lbs.; somewhat browner and darker, contrasting less with black of neck; long neck, and seldom with a white collar. Breeds mostly in eastern and central Canada, winters in the east and Midwest.

B. c. maxima (sometimes called "Giant" Canada Goose) -- This is a very large goose, about 14 to 15 lbs.; rather pale overall, especially on the underparts; white on cheeks extends somewhat farther up on sides of head than in canadensis. The neck is very long, it rarely has a white collar, and the bill is very large. This subspecies is found mostly along the Mississippi Flyway.

B. c. moffitti (sometimes called "Moffitt's" Canada Goose) -- This subspecies is only slightly smaller than maxima, about 8 to 14 lbs.; and is similar in general coloration; may have white markings on forehead and, in intermountain birds, a dark chin strap. It is long-necked, and often has a whitish collar. This is the common subspecies of the west.

B. c. parvipes (sometimes called "Lesser" Canada Goose) -- This is a medium-sized goose, about 5 to 6 lbs.; the same size as the largest subspecies of Cackling Goose, or about the same size as a Snow Goose. It is similar in overall shape and color to moffitti, with a pale to dusky breast. Breeds in Alaska, with winter records for Washington. Oregon, Idaho, and Utah.
B. c. occidentalis (sometimes called "Dusky" Canada Goose) -- This subspecies is medium to large, about 8 to 10 lbs.; generally dark overall; underparts chestnut to dark chocolate brown; seldom with a partial white neck collar. Breeds in Alaska; winters in Washington, Oregon and possibly isolated birds in Idaho.
B. c. fulva (sometimes called "Vancouver" Canada Goose) -- Similar but slightly larger than occidentalis about 6 to 13 lbs, has a relatively small bill. Breeds in western Canada; winters in coastal British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon.

What a success, one of the men had tried five times previously. Especially for Pam who normally shies away from scanning large flocks. Those men should have been more grateful.
I wish now that one of us had photographed the flock, by far the largest I've seen since the spring gathering at Holkham a few years ago. 
Man U playing again to-night (written on Sunday). Another hour and a half of anxiety ? 
NO. We won 0-2 against West Brom - Zlatan scored both goals. Rooney still needs that one goal to get the club record, Bobby Charlton and his wife are attending all matches......


Sunday, 4 December 2016

Goose Bonanza

Sunday December 4

What a beautiful December day. Cloudless with very little wind but seasonable chilly. Where should we go? Buckenham Marshes is near enough and offers a good chance for some month birds.
I spent all the time we were there scoping from the car, gradually making our way from the railway crossing to the Fisherman's Car Park. All the geese were distant, fewer Wigeon that I anticipated as the norm, with a good sprinkling of Lapwing and corvids.
The end result was : 12 Taiga Bean Geese, a few Whitefronts, 100+ Canada Geese, a few Barnacles, 2 Egyptian Geese and Pink-feet. Pam spotted a Snipe which I eventually got after some good instructions - it was on the ground and distant. Two Marsh Harriers over Cantley, Shelduck, Teal, Shovellers and...... an adult winter Yellow-legged Gull  ..... on the main pool.
We missed the Taiga Beans in January as Pam was still on crutches after her hip operation. 

Home in time to suffer with Man United. I groaned when Fellaini got undressed towards the end of the match, he's a liability card-wise. Unfortunately, I was proved right. With almost his first kick he gave away a penalty. Another 1-1 draw and two points lost. Damn the man - and Jose for putting him on. Everton were pressing hard and I suppose JM thought that he'd bolster the defense. Wrong.

Friday, 2 December 2016


Friday December 2

There's something magical about Northern Swans. The first ones on the east coast marshes are few and transient, en route to Welney and /or Slimbridge. Yesterday, the  pager reported 20 Bewick's.
The drizzle was barely there when we left home after lunch. It gradually increased until it was like thick mist hanging on Ludham Marshes. Tree trimming in Ludham had meant an approach via Hall Road in Johnston Street, a detour much resented by Pam. It didn't look like an pfficial tree trimming operation, two men on a cherry picker and two men manning the cones either end. None of them wearing HighVis clothing nor looking 'official'. I think it was the imperious and impatient turn round hand signal from one of the men atop that got her going. 
Having identified a family of four Whoopers, two adults and two young, very distantly near the beginning of the track out to St Benets, we drove to the car park. A short scan, getting rather damp through the open car window, found four Fieldfare and two Grey Herons to add to the month list. No Cranes viewable in the murk and owls wouldn't be flying in this.  We drove back to the swans so that I could scope them from my side.
Two Bewick Swans on the left of the Mute Swan flock, the four Whoopers on the right. I turned up the ISA on my camera to 1.000 and gave it a go with my 3-600 lens. 
These are the only ones near respectable, much enlarged from an enlargement.

The Bewick's disappeared left when we weren't looking - I stopped photographing when Pam got out to photograph a tractor ploughing with hundreds of gulls in attendance. Then, the Whooper family and the one Pink-footed Goose present, exited right.

Ludham Bridge was not the flight destination, no swans at all there.

Winter Birding

Thursday December 1

Setting off at 7.50,  the dial reading 2C in an - as yet - unheated car it was easy to believe the date. It looked lovely. Blue sky, no wind and an overnight frost silvering the verges and their carpet of brown leaves. The cold stillness was not encouraging the steady, slow- fluttering shedding of leaves, it must have been gravity.
To complete the weather report...... the temperature varied from 2, rising to 6C then dropping again throughout the day, dependant on the thick fog patches we hit and the cloud cover at Snettisham.
We decided to breakfast in Sculthorpe Mill car park, birding whilst our porridge pots cooled. A Sparrowhawk flew through the other side of the mill, no small birds to be seen after that, until a pair of Grey Wagtails flew onto a cottage roof.
If there is no traffic, Pam dives across the double white lines onto an old lane on the right, near the top of the hill before the Doghotel. No Hares to-day but a very worthwhile diversion. A Red Kite made its leisurely way across the top of a field, banking whilst it hunted. Lovely.
The first of the day's Red-legged Partridges walked across the lane.
Valley Farm Lane's Tree Sparrows were already inspecting vtheir nesting boxes on the exposed end wall of the last cottage. At last we can see the Gamekeeper's bird feeding station again, now that the hedge and the walnut tree have shed their leaves. Coal Tit, Chaffinches, Blue and Great Tits and Goldfinches (he calls them King Harry). No Marsh Tit to-day in the short while we were there.
Abbey Farm lane and hide always have possibilities but often disappoint. To-day was disappointing apart from three pairs of glowing Yellowhammers in the same tree. Back onto the entry road, five Grey Partridges posed on top of the estate wall. Didn't like to disappoint them, despite the back lighting.

The others were in the sunlight on the left.

Female - funny colouring - back lighting
A pasture on the back lanes leading from Flitcham to Sandringham, had seven Roe Deer quietly feeding - until we stopped and they became a scattered group of white rears racing into the distance. Always sorry to disturb them but, they are so easily spooked, one's natural instinct is to stop and look. Theirs is flight, survival code.

Snettisham was dull and overcast. It was a Weston Super Mare mud vista, the water's edge not discernible. We added the commoner waders before getting out to scope the last reserve pit, where intermittent shafts of  light cast an eerie glow.

There's a Redhead Smew in there somewhere, towards the Shore Hide on the right. Also, several pairs of Goldeneye, one of my favourite ducks, innumerable Wigeon, Greylags, Cormorants and Lapwings.
No geese on the mud, we'd  seen a flight of Pinks on the way and added Brent later.
Already losing daylight at only mid-day, we added Fulmar at Hunstanton, nothing at Holme, and Choseley, Black-tailed Godwit at Brancaster. Maybe Stiffkey Marsh was worth a look. Only half an hour, during which I had a few inadvertant power naps, at Stiffkey in very poor light. 
At one awakening I said 'I've got a Harrier' . It was a ringtail Hen, juvenile male or female. Great, always a pleasure to see a Hen Harrier. That made five raptors for the day. Kestrel, Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and the Hen. Still no Marsh Harrier, usually a banker, that's why we left after half an hour, hoping for one at Cley. We always see at least one on Mothing mornings. Not to-day, almost dark at 3.50. 
The day's total was a pleasing 74 species.