Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Sculthorpe Moor

Tuesday January 24

We spent far too long at Natural Surroundings cafe, talking to the members of the mothing group who had turned up. K and M full of their Lynx watching trip to Spain, G and V looking forward to their Uganda trip next month and MH excited about Mull and Corncrakes. Very enjoyable. 
Such a beautiful day, it was tempting not to drive on to Sculthorpe Moor Hawk and Owl reserve. It would also be my longest continuous walk for many months. 
The best places for Elf Cap mushroom now have notices, asking photographers to stay on the boardwalk to avoid damage. My impression is that there were fewer of these mushrooms than in the past but, that could be attributed to several factors other than disturbance e.g. climate conditions last year and this.
I thought this looked like a green bug-eyed caterpillar.

We walked directly to Whitley Hide, around 500 metres along the boardwalk. It seemed longer as the whole area was devoid of birds. The new 'aerial' boardwalk for which we bought several boards, must be further on. 
Consternation when the hide came into view. The door was wide open, construction materials stacked outside and .......a man holding a drill. We still entered and found it full of birders apart from the low bench directly inside the door where the leaning shelf and window had been removed as had the one next to it. It was pretty chilly sitting there. The man continued to work round us, brushing wood clean and varnishing the sills.
Unsurprisingly, not much in the way of species. The best for us was the constant presence of two male Brambling and a Nuthatch, always good to see. A table full of Long Tailed Tits, 

one Reed Bunting, Blue, Great and Marsh Tits, seven Collared Doves sitting on the far table. 
The water was still frozen, I enjoyed watching a pair of Mallard make their way very sure-footedly along  - until they stood still and first one foot and then the other would slide sideways.

Frozen ankles prompted me to leave for the trudge back which was notable for two Red Kites, soaring over the trees. It was fortunate that I happened to look up at the right time.

Monday, 23 January 2017

A Fudge Duck

Sunday January 22

 Heavy overnight frost delayed our departure until 9 a.m. It was still -4C with a cloudless sky. That meant that driving through the countrysidewas lovely, trees, verges and meadows a glistening, shimmering silver. The roads were reasonable as it had been dry yesterday.
Still no Grey Wagtails at Sculthorpe Mill, very few birds of any species as we cloudy-breathed our way across the bridge. 
Several Tree Sparrows at Valley Farm Lane and our first sighting of Nuthatch on the Gamekeeper's bird feeder. He appeared for a chat, saying that they were recent additions to his garden. We must ask him his name !
The track out to Holme has a 1001 potholes, a painful couple of kilometres drive. Sitting in the NOA Broadwater Hide. my heart dropped. There were more birds on the water than I've ever seen there before. Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Shoveller, Pochard, Tufted Duck and a few Little Grebe. We eventually located the Ferruginous Duck present for at least a week, a warm chocolate brown with a white tail. Iffy views unfortunately, I hadn't carried my scope.
The fields opposite the hide had many Common Snipe, Curlew, even more Wigeon and a few Greylag. 
Our beloved Thornham and Brancaster Staithe added a Rock Pipit at the former, too many amateur photographers at the latter. No wonder, it looked glorious on a fast ebbing tide. 
In plenty of time for thr raptor roost at Stiffkey - and lucky enough for someone to pull out of the front row overlooking the marsh. Why do people, especially dog walkers, park their cars in the best spots and then go off walking. Grumpy Old Woman............
I scoped from the car, Greg was a car away,  standing out with a friend.  He eventually saw us and came over to say that NS is open to-morrow.
We added Hen Harrier to the year list, only a ring-tail was obvious. Dot and Steve drew alongside later and said that Eddie had a perched male at Warham. Greg's friend had also called a male earlier but I couldn't see it. One of the Marsh Harriers passing through over the far dunes, startled a Barn Owl into flight, it soon settled again. We once saw a Harrier try to catch one here, repeatedly knocking one down into the sueda. We were rooting for the owl and were pleased when it stayed in cover and the harrier flew away empty clawed.
I've changed to blue for year birds, the green didn't show up well enough. I may well alter the earlier posts........

Friday, 20 January 2017

Don't Trust the Forecast

Friday January 20

Daile brought my PC back last night plus the necessary new monitor. At least the hard drive also had a service and the layers of dust were removed.
The morning was spent sorting out stuff on  my machine, mid-day, clear blue sky and sun was a siren call not to be ignored.
Strumpshaw Fen RSPB from the Centre Hide our first - and last call. All the ducks were concentrated in a small area at the far end of the pool, the only water not frozen. Mostly Mallard with a few Teal, Shoveller and Gadwall In the past, a new year has meant trying to see as  many birds as possible in January. This aim has been amended to seeing as many difficult to see or, seasonal birds, as possible.
Scoping along the track at Buckenham, at least a thousand Pinkfeet with a couple of hundred Whitefronts (why are Eurasian suddenly being called Russian on the pager?), a large flock of Canadas, and, 5 Taiga Bean Geese. Don't know how I blocked that colour in and I can't change it.
A male Peregrine temporarily flushed all the geese before perching on a gate, a Merlin sat on another post. Lovely. Many Snipe around too.
Driving home, shortly before the Clippesby turning off the Acle road, two Common Cranes flew across the road. Brilliant 
Northern Swans, in two groups of about a hundred each, stood distantly in fields at Ludham. The nearer group flew before I could identify them, probably all Bewicks.


Birding in the Dreech

Thursday January 19

Led to believe that to-day was a better option than to-morrow weather-wise..........we headed for Sheringham.
I didn't think that the weather could get any worse. As we approached the north coast, it certainly did. Low grey overcast, became lower, the poor visibility became appalling - and drizzle set in. Truly a Scottish dreech day.
Well, we were here now. Parking in the area at the sea end of the High Street, I leant on the wall to view the rocks - it was also a pretty high tide. On the rocks below was a Juvenile Ist winter Glaucous Gull.

 More interesting was a 1st winter Herring Gull, a sponge of yellow whelk eggs in its beak. The sea kept breaking over the far rock on which it stood, washing the eggs into the sea and the gull into the air, before it fished them out again. Very entertaining but, not possible to get sharp photos in the poor light and activity.

I don't know where the seal corpse where other birders are  taking photos of Glaucous and Iceland to post on Facebook, is to be found.
Most of the promenade east is closed off due to surge repair workers and vehicles. No-one was seeing Purple Sandpipers.

On to Cley for a progress report. The A148 is open to traffic again, ricks of storm debris at intervals roadside.

A large puddle across Beach Road Cley. brought us to a stop at the village end . As we pulled in to the gateway I saw a bird fly from the nearby debris into the ditch. As I had suspected, it was a Water Rail.. Pam got out and was rewarded - eventually - with a short view. 
I was glad to get back to the comfort of home.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017


Sunday/Tuesday January 16/17


Such a miserable day, it never really got light. The drive to Horsey was virtually birdless until the usual lay-by. Pam scanned the flooded field to the west, I scanned to the east,  vision hampered by the now tall reeds lining the road.
I saw a myriad Lapwing, a few Golden Plover and masses of sheep. Pam picked out a small distant wader. Green Sandpiper
The sea at Winterton was birdless. For the last two winters, the regular wintering Red-throated Divers and Common Scoter seem to have moved elsewhere.


A short night and a late start aborted the plan to go to Sculthorpe. J and D had mentioned seeing- at a new site for us - Siskin and Redpoll. Selbrigg near Holt and on the Hempstead road. Parking the car near a gate which forbade entry, we noticed a Grey Squirrel feeding from the top of one of the gateposts. No birds until a passing dogwalker frightened the animal away. Then, a pair of Marsh Tits, Blackbird, Dunnock, Robin and Coal Tit soon appeared.
What did Cley marsh look like to-day? Friday the 13th's storm surge had broken through the shingle near East Bank, flooding the marsh and making the A149 impassible. Approaching via Old Woman's Lane, the water had receded to below the hide base level whilst leaving much more surface water pools than is normal. 
Seeing lights on at the Centre and cars appearing, we drove as far as the entrance gate, the last 100 yards or so on the remaining and rather bumpy debris covering the road. The road east beyond the entry is till 'Closed', the bottom car park also coned off as it was flooded and needs clearing.
Sylvia, one of the cafe ladies said that they were, officially, only open for walkers and serving drinks, cake and bacon rolls only. Elf and safety. The boardwalks needed to be cleared before the reserve is open again.
Nothing new for us in the bird line, plenty of ducks exploring the new waterways, a passing Marsh Harrier and the highlight, a perched, and then fly-past, Barn Owl. Always a pleasure.
I wonder if the very recent plaque commemorating the death of the USA helicopter crew two years ago is still in situ. Is it buried in shingle?
Felbrigg Park on the way home. YES. The Little Owl was well in view, sitting in its nesthole.


An Email from Daile, saying that he'd come this afternoon instead of this evening, to sort my PC - it will not boot up after last Friday's electricity cut - shortened our birding plans.
Yes, we knnow Aylmerton...... where is Appletree Cottage? Several slow drive arounds later, we found the cottage. Roadside with nowhere to park, one vehicle width only, one tree in a tiny side garden. Why would 5 Hawfinches be seen here for several days ? Not by us to-day.
We seemed to be dogged by road closures. We'd had to go straight on for Cromer at Roughton, taking back lanes to Aylmerton. More back lanes from Aylmerton, parking in the entrance car park to Felbrigg at the bottom of Lion's Mouth.
Coal Tits and a Goldcrest in the conifers, Grey Squirrels feeding on the shell peanuts left on a picnic table. Again, the squirrels had to leave before two Jays arrived to feed.  Trying to take my first ever photograph of a Jay was as frustrating as always. We get them in the garden pretty frequently, still no pics. To-day, it was dark, 30 metres away, the birds dashing in and out, occasionally stopping for a sort through - and viewable through Pam's window. 
More excuses for less than good photos. One day.......At least they were recognisable, my Green Sand wasn't.

Daile didn't arrive until 3.45, due at 2 ! Just as well he's so good. Looks like a new graphics card needed. Phew, what a relief.  I will not have lost my Thailand folder containing our lists, itinerary etc. The only folder not in Dropbox, therefore not stored in the Cloud.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Local Clean-up

Wednesday January 11

Mautby Pig Farm

Hooded Crow plus hundreds of gulls and corvids - and entertaining piglets. 

Halvergate Marsh, east of the village, near the start of Stone Lane (not named, signposted Weavers Way).
2 Cattle Egrets

Three pretty appalling - they are distant - photos


Sealife Centre Great Yarmouth

30+ Mediterranean Gulls, many starting to get spring plumage.


In a large flock of Pink-feet, distant and largely invisible, from a road where stopping is not an option.
We managed 2 Taiga Bean Geese.

Swan Safari

Tuesday January 10

Too late a start really, to take full advantage of the daylight that is. My fault, awake for hours in the night and then slept late. 
An uneventful journey until the Ten Mile Bank, Welney. Roadside Swans started to appear. The first flock of about 200, mainly Bewick Swans, with a few Whoopers, was surpassed by one of  over 500 in three parallel lines. Unfortunately rather distant.

Lightly cropped.

Canon SX50 bridge camera - zoom
Our first Corn Bunting for about 10 months, perched on roadside wires, brought another brake application.
WWF's Welney Hide is the height of luxury. Approached via a two story shop/cafe building, the lifts emitting swan calls. A further lift takes one up to the enclosed bridge over the canal. The bridge sides have Bewick Swan migration information boards. In common with the RSPB practice of gearing information towards children, we find it irritating in practice. There's a lot of us too!
We began at an outside section where opening a window to take photographs is possible .  I regretted it. The wind was sharp and straight from the Arctic. Three Reed Buntings explored the muddy edge in front of us. 
The wash is immense. The area nearby held Whooper Swans, an army of Coot and a battalion of male Pochard

One grounded Whooper swan was obviously injured, constantly preening a bare patch on its neck.

The desk man said that if they investigated, the area would be clear of birds for weeks. Injured swans in surrounding fields are taken to the RSPCA and then brought back to recuperate at the reserve. One injured pair bred and produced a family last year. None of them will migrate again as the parents cannot fly and show them the way.
What a relief to enter the very large, heated hide. Finding that all the static telescopes had gone was disappointing, I'd carried my bridge camera and not my scope. We spent an hour or so scanning the islanded - and very extensive - wash.

The largely barren area looked as though it was covered in cotton grass.  The result of more than a hundred swans preening down feathers into the wind. Not much variety, time to enjoy the spectacle. A few Dunlin, many Lapwing, Teal, Wigeon, Canada, Egyptian and Greylag Geese. 
All photographs were taken from above. There is a photographic hide from eye level below the main hide, at £15 per head per day.

A small flock of Black-tailed Godwit, flashing their white wing bars and rump as they settled, relieved the sameness. A few Tufted Duck, their constant diving producing a maelstrom,  made up for the one Pam missed on the 1st.

A hot drink in the cafe, overlooking the feeders and Lady Fen. Goldfinches were the only birds to feed with a few Collared Doves and Reed Buntings on the ground below.
Time to leave and a detour to Denver Sluice where the relief Channel had three Goosanders, two males and a female. Again, rather distant but a lovely end to an enjoyable outing.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

At Last !

Saturday January 8

The trip was originally scheduled for yesterday. Icy roads delayed plans by a day. Just as well, a mid-morning drive to North Walsham saw a car on its roof near Bacton Woods.
Setting off on at 06.10  wasn't brilliant, patches of thick mist for the first 10 miles and a forecast of cloud overcast in Derbyshire.
We collected J and D on schedule at 7.00, the SatNav predicting that we would be in Beeley by 10.00 a.m. That did not account for three circular detours in Matlock as the SatNav did not recognise mini roundabouts in the instructions...... 
I'm glad that we didn't have try and park in Beeley during the early arrival of the bird. A small village on uphill roads with nowhere to park, apart from the pub which said 'Twitchers park at....' another place miles away. 

We found room at the Dukes Barn Centre, having already sorted out Pig Lane before trudging up the hill to the muddy lane. The garden on the first corner had three pigs heads grinning at us from the wall.
Only 200 metres or so later, we saw J and D in the distance with about 15 other birders. We'd sent them on ahead to nail the bird down whilst Pam breakfasted. We stopped at a field gate just before them, so that we had an unimpeded view of the tree line between two fields, where a large group of Redwings were feeding. I'd taken notice of Pam and not carried my scope. Boy, did I need it. Fortunately, ever thoughtful D joined us, setting up his new Swarovski 90 scope beside me. Waw, my first ever scope views of a Dusky Thrush, said to be a 1st CY female. I'd dipped the Gravesend bird.  It was very aggressive towards the Redwings, constantly chasing them away whilst staying faithful to the patch of pasture under the tallest tree. It's pale upper breast patch and what looked like a dark semi collar were the most obvious markings. Too far away to make the marks on the breast into the reputed chevrons. We were all delighted.
This is the photograph which best represents what I saw. In the same position too. NOT MY PHOTO, but it is the Beeley bird, taken by Joav Perlman 

Photo taken at the beginning of December when it was closer, eating apples in the orchard.

There were also Nuthatch, Blue Tits, Chaffinch and corvids in the area. We did not walk a further half a mile to see a Great Grey Shrike.
I also saw the bird, even better, through J's scope. She was her usual generous self, allowing all and sundry to look through, as a good half of the 30 or so present did not have a scope. 
I suddenly saw an older woman with white hair smiling and waving from the lower end of the lane. I had a total blank. Fortunately, I remembered who she was but not her name, still don't, when she arrived for a chat  At least 30 years ago, we travelled Turkey with her, husband John (she called him), and a seed cataloguer from Kew. She had bright red hair in those days. John is a retired Customs officer who had many amusing stories to tell us of an evening. We've met them once at the Birdfair and once at Titchwell since.

After a much needed cup of coffee and loo stop in the village pub, we drove home, happy and contented. A very late lunch/ early supper in a Little Chef on the A47 and some Norfolk fog before dropping off the Bs.
Man U beat Reading 4-0 in the FA Cup and Rooney equalled Bobby Charlton's goal record for the club. I didn't realise that despite having very low scoring 2015-2017 seasons, Roo equalled the record in over 200 fewer games and two years.sooner. Charlton was a mid-fielder though.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Two Short Visits

Monday January 2

Ludham/ Thurne Marshes at twilight on a sunny afternoon. The hoped for 'wild' swans were not in the usual field along the entrance road. All fifteen were Mute Swans. We added Marsh Harrier and two Grey Herons to the 2017 list.
Returning via Martham and Horsey, all the 50+ herd of swans were Mute again. The diversion was recompensed by a roadside hunting Barn Owl near Cooke's vegetable barn.

Tuesday January 3

Very few moth-ers at Natural Surroundings this morning. The Duffs, who go to Jamaica and St Lucia next Sunday, Janice D who is shortly going on a Lee southern England trip and, Ian and Sue. 
Nuthatch and Long-tailed Tits on the feeders were new.
Lesser Black-backed Gull at Blakeney Harbour, no sign of the hoped for Scaup usually seen at high tide. 
Pied Wagtail on the Cley sewage works tank edge, otherwise an empty and sound free lane.
A small group of dark-bellied Brent Geese at the road end of Beach Road Cley, prompted me to ask Pam to park in the gateway. After a few binoc scans of the ever moving flock, a Pale-bellied Brent Goose showed. My photo is less than good.

There's a Glaucous Gull about, not infrequently found near Salthouse duck pond. Not to-day, later reported at Blakeney ! I enjoyed taking some photographs of the common birds aroud, waiting for a bread chucker to arrive.

Whose giant feet are these?

Another fruitless search for the Little Owl at Felbrigg before driving home. I did spot some bracket type fungus on a roadside Beech tree which I have been unable to identify so far. My little Concise Mushroom Guide is very inadequate. I have a short list from the internet but my photos, taken from the car, are not good enough. It may not be a Bracket.

The bark below the scar and fungus was interesting. Another fungus or just a rub?

Monday, 2 January 2017

A Wet Start to 2017

Sunday January 1 2017

Was it madness? We set out at 6.50 a.m. in rain - and it continued all day. All that changed was its intensity.  The only other birders we saw all day were at Sculthorpe Mill, at what turned out to be a very late first light. 
The first bird was great, a flying Tawny Owl caught in the headlights, between White Horse Common and North Walsham. The next.......Black-headed Gulls leaving their roost somewhere near Fakenham.
Bird feeders in the gamekeeper's cottage garden along Valley Farm Lane, now visible through the bare-leafed hedgerow, produced the only Blue, Great, Coal and Marsh Tits we saw all day. A few of his 'King Harry' - Goldfinch - there too. plus Blackbirds and a lone Song Thrush in a nearby field. Wow, double figures accomplished.
Stock Dove, Grey Partridge and Chaffinch along the back Lane to Abbey farm plus one Fieldfare feeding around the Little  Owl nesting oak, which seems to have an even larger hole in the base.
Pam still insists on driving the Wolferton Triangle, only once to-day. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that the inbred, and possible cross-bred, Golden Pheasants here are extant.
A particular field on the Broad to Snettisham is usually worth a look. Very much so to-day. The usual Egyptian Geese and a flock of 20 Eurasian White-fronted Geese. There seems to be an influx of Russian birds. 
Pam took a few photos, they'd gone by the return journey when I whad planned to do so. I thought I'd learnt that lesson!

Common Buzzard on top of the tree on the left (Blob) Pam's photo.
One Golden Plover amongst the Lapwings
Amazing. We were the only birders at Snettisham RSPB on Jan 1 at high tide.  We breakfasted there when an intrepid pair of wet and very ruddy-faced people hot-footed it to the first hide. There are usually many birders and dog walkers here.
All the waders and ducks to be expected at this site, all a delight to see, feeding on the newly uncovering mud as the tide raced out.  Lovely to see rapid-legged Sanderling again. There were at least 100 Pintail, one flock of 50 + at the eastern end of the reserve. One male Goldeneye only when there are usually many nore at this time of year. The only geese were brash, honking Greylags.
I had put my waterproof on when I got out to open the gate to the reserve so my left side didn't get any wetter whilst scoping - the dashboard and door had to be wiped down frequently in the rather heavier drizzle.
Making our careful, very bumpy, holey, uneven way back through the chalet park, a male Merlin sped along the track on the driver's side before swooping right  between two chalets.
Lucky chance encounter.
Tesco in Hunstanton was closed, we lunched on pieces of ham, cheese and crisps ! 
Fulmar and Rock Doves along the clifftop, Shoveller along the Holme track, hot chocolate and the loo at the NWT reserve centre Magpie in the Buckthorn. 
Parking in the muddy area in front of the designated car park at Thornham, the first birds I saw were the Twite, feeding on the ground about 10 yards away. Reaching for my camera, they departed - as they do  - to repeat their fuel-wasting, multi direction-changing flight around the area. They eventually dropped into the marsh across the creek.
We decided not to try for the Docking goose flock to-day, visibility not good and we didn't want to get out and scope in the rain. Another day. We paid a fleeting visit to Choseley, to no avail, before dropping in to Brancaster Staithe. Our first Brent Geese at last. We saw our only Pinkfeet just before Holkham, unable to stop and scope as the road does not allow it.
Morston was worth a visit. No Greenshank in sight but, even better, a Kingfisher flew up the creek.
The day ended, as it had begun, rain and a good bird. Fantastic birds, I love them. Three Waxwings atop a waving tree in a garden in Cromer. Nowhere to park as the garden is on a junction with a host of parked cars in front of houses. Pam pulled off onto a closed shop forecourt to photograph from her window. I braved the wet (!) and got out to take some appalling record shots in dreadful conditions. 

Enough is enough. I was pleased to arrive home for some comforting warmth. The day's total was a surprising 71. 
Big misses: Pied and Grey Wagtail, Tree Sparrow, Woodpecker sp, seabirds, Linnet, Marsh Harrier, Tufted Duck.