Monday, March 31, 2008

(not) Spring 08 holiday, day 5, part 1

Day five and the BBC weather forecast says sunshine, all day, with only the possibility of wintry showers and no wind!! We decided to make the most of this break in the weather and got up and out before the hotel had even started preparing breakfast. First stop the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve at Cley. It was early so the light was strong but very 'angular'. We were the wrong side of this Pink-footed Goose to get a really good identification photograph but I love the way it's stretching out its wings and the impression of power this gives as well as the overall form in the photograph:

We decided to walk the perimeter first as Jake had told me about the Shore Larks (also known as Horned Larks) present just off the top of East Bank. It turns out East Bank is the raised walkway between the NWT and NT reserves. We did encounter some small birds along the walkway itself, Meadow Pipits, including this individual:

We headed out into the NT area first but the wind was howling (so much for the forecast) and pretty quickly it became deeply uncomfortable (to warm loving softies like us anyway) so we headed back to the NWT section of beach. About halfway along Helen spotted a small group of three birds, moving along one section of the shingle barrier, and bingo! Shore Larks:

Very 'cute' looking birds, with the yellow and black facial plumage:

This photograph illustrates their characteristic low crouch, as they 'waddle' their way along the shingle, searching for food:

Great little birds. I'd have taken better photos but the wind was truly howling along the coast and some muppet (me) had somehow managed to turn-off the image stabiliser in the lens... which I discovered about 45 minutes later... Also a small milestone passed whilst photographing these birds - 10,000 images taken with my Canon 400d!

Anyway, as you can see the sea was consequentially very rough:

We headed back on to the reserve itself to see what was about. Again a lone Black Swan, no doubt the same individual we saw at Cley two years back. Swans shouldn't be alone, but as this Swan's native home range is Australia and New Zealand the chances of finding a mate are slim...

Also about, plenty of Lapwing, including this individual photographed from within a hide. I don't know what the 'knobbly bits' are on its beak and face - mud?

Finally a female Stonechat. I really like the 'pose' in this picture:

We ambushed the staff in the visitor centre for breakfast when it opened at 10am and managed to extract tea, coffee and cake from them!

From Cley we headed to where we understood the White-crowned Sparrow remained, but alas he has moved on... we did notice something unusual however on the feeder he was renowned to visit. Clue - not the Dunnock:

Following directions from a birder we'd met at Titchwell and again at Wells we located this Little Owl on a tree near Titchwell. I got too close and disturbed it, which I very much regret, we left it be and moved on quickly. Fantastic bird to see in daylight though:

Next stop Titchwell again, we spotted Woodcock and Water Rail from the path to the visitor centre but under too much cover to photograph. This male Brambling was one of many on the feeders:

On the path to the reserve a Wren popped up and had a real shout at us - this is the only photograph I took where the bill isn't blurred:

As we entered the second hide, a couple were watching a Snipe, really close to the window. You can tell how close it was as this is all I could fit into the frame at 840x:

I fumbled about removing the teleconverter to reduce the zoom to 600x, meanwhile the bird moved a little further out:

I said to Helen afterwards that I'd probably never get to take a better photograph of a snipe. Please click on the picture, the plumage is truly stunning.

The wind was really blowing strongly across the reserve, you can see the various tactics deployed by the Black-tailed Godwits in dealing with it here:

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