Monday, March 31, 2008

(not) Spring 08 holiday, day 3

and we're back in sequence.

Day three of the East Coast holiday and we wake up to snow, about three inches deep in Lincolnshire, though it had just stopped snowing by the time we were ready to leave. The traffic was, not surprisingly, very quiet for a Sunday morning, so we made good progress into North Norfolk. Our first stop was Titchwell (http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/t/titchwellmarsh/index.asp) as we didn't fancy taking on the track to Snettisham, that would come later once the snow thawed.

The sky was overcast and the day very grey. From the path to the beach the Avocets were showing well, here seen feeding in deeper and then shallower water, and finally a pair with one displaying:









































I think this last picture of the sequence is really very good, though it would have been great if I could have got both birds in sharp focus... and perhaps no breeze moving the water...

The beach at Titchwell covered in snow:















Elsewhere on the reserve this Stonechat cock:


















and hen:















These pictures illustrate well the pronounced sexual dimorphism (i.e. the male and female look different!) in Stonechats. It also shows what better light does for a picture, with the second, later, picture benefiting from a marginal improvement.

One bird that caught the eye on the reserve is this roosting Black-headed Gull with very pink plumage, presumably because of its diet?
















This Black-tailed Godwit in breeding plumage is a fine sight. I had to adjust the exposure in this picture so you can see the bird and plumage clearly:












We had lunch at Titchwell and then decided to head on to Snettisham (http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/s/snettisham/index.asp) as the tide drew in. It's quite a long walk from the car park to the first of the hides. En route we spotted this deeply unusual (for Norfolk) goose, a Ross's Goose. You can tell it's not a Snow Goose as the base of the bill is a greeny-blue, not a bright red:













It was resting with a flock of Greylag geese. I don't know if it's a feral goose (escapee) or a vagrant. According to Birdwatch Birds of Britain Complete Checklist, Norfolk is hosting genuine vagrants due to Ross's Goose enjoying a population boom, leading to a growth in its breeding range, thereby causing more individuals to stray.













In this third picture I tried manually adjusting the exposure, setting it a whole stop (3 x one-third) to limit any burn from the white plumage of the bird, so the non-white features should be more distinct (click the pics and let me know what you think).
















Onwards to the reserve proper, with another winter storm bearing down on us, we had to make haste to the hides. This group of Dunlin was browsing on the shoreline:















As the storm approached and the evening drew in, a flock of Dunlin took flight and headed for the roost in the lagoon:















It was amazing watching the flocks take off and then head into the lagoon. Each group seemed to have a life of their own, flowing along the shore then overland and pouring over the lip of the lagoon, then settling to roost. Some groups flew directly around us, which was great :)

We sat out the storm in the hide and watched the gulls settle on the water and go completely silent. We knew the storm was passing when they started to rise up, fly and call out again, something we'd not witnessed before. On one of the many man made islands were some Mediterranean Gulls, distinguished by their very black head plumage (as distinct from the Black-headed Gull which has chocolate brown plumage, of course!):















As dusk approached we headed back to the car park. Sitting on a fence, by the field in which the Ross's Goose had been resting we spotted this Barn Owl looking around for a meal, that's two Barn Owls out in daylight on successive days:

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