Monday, March 31, 2008

(not) Spring 08 holiday, day 6

Day six and the holiday is entering its second-half, which is a little sad but that's the way it goes when you only get 20 days annual leave a year!

We decided to have a walk at Blicking Hall (National Trust). Always a good idea to arrive at the time the property opens, as invariably you get to park close to the entrance, no queues and you can be off and walking/running before the mob descends...

The first birds were these Egyptian Geese getting Spring fighty/flighty despite the snow lingering:

A little way on, still not past the end of the lake in front of the house and, guess what, another Barn Owl:

What is it about Barn Owls in Norfolk? We've seen these birds throughout the day, albeit different birds in different spots. We walked into the woodland and were delighted with the sound of Nuthatches, an unmistakable song and a real delight to hear :)

This individual has a nut:

This one is grubbing in the top of this snapped tree:

Blickling gardens may have thousands of Spring bulbs but Winter was resolutely hanging on, despite it being after Easter and after the Spring equinox.... bah humbug! Anyway, the Crocuses were very pretty:

From Blickling we headed to Hickling Broad to see what was about. In short the reserve was very quiet, almost holding its breath, until the migrants arrive. We did get to hear a few Cetti's Warblers, unmistakable and probably louder gram for gram than the Wren! The only bird of note seen from the reserve, and a new bird for us as well, representatives of a small but crucial population for our Island, the Common Crane! A group of three high above, spotted by Helen who spotted every single one of the new birds on this holiday:

these birds are soaring specialists:

You'll have to click to see some plumage and colouration detail. Try, as indeed we did, on a number of occasions, this was our only fleeting sighting of these magnificent birds.

My next contribution was to suggest we stood watch at Stubb Mill for the raptor and Crane roost. We arrived at 4pm, a touch early considering dusk was around 18:30 ish. By five we were frozen solid, with the continual breeze, failing sunlight and very low temperatures combining to drain any heat away, despite being wrapped in full winter-wear for the sixth straight day. By 17:30 morale was flagging, we'd seen no sign of the Cranes, around ten Marsh Harriers and nothing else of note. By 17:45 with all extremities frozen solid we trudged back to the car. Note to self: raptor roost most populous in January, and an hour before dusk is optimal!

I did manage a single decent photograph of a Male Marsh Harrier during our vigil:

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