Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nipped to Norfolk Sunday

Sunday promised a humid but dry start followed by torrential rain. Classic British Summer then, after a single sunny day :)

We started at Cley NWT, parking up and heading for the hide from which we'd watched so many waders the previous evening. En-route we heard this tremendous 'pinging' noise. A flock of Bearded Reedlings (Bearded Tits) flew across the path - there must have been between 30 to 40 birds. They were making a fantastic racket though not hanging around. Despite many attempts, this snap of a juvenile was the best I managed:

It's out of focus but you get the general idea.

We tried the hide but the birds were on the other side of the scrape, so headed back out and around and down the East Bank towards the beach. Again lots of 'pinging' but the Bearded Reedlings were bashful, unlike this adult Reed Warbler:

Along the shore line we flushed a small group of Rock Pipits:

Even at ten in the morning it was very hot and very 'close' with the humidity building, We stopped off at the far head before heading on to complete the circuit.

Helen heard it first (I was jabbering) a double 'bang' - 'bang'. Then I heard it too, so did all the waders, the sounds of collective fear as they all took to the air is quite a traumatising experience. Then the ducks followed (that's how they get to kill so many whilst the birds figure out what the disturbance is) then the geese. Within ten shots all of the birds on the whole nature reserve were airborne. We hoped it was just a farmer shooting rabbits but the building noise of continuous gunfire reminded me that for some reason, when birds are still breeding and raising young it's suddenly legal to shoot them again, en masse. So we had to trudge back to the car whilst listening to a massacre.

We'd already planned to stop at Welney for lunch, and headed off expecting to find ourselves under a major thunderstorm (they do good tea and grub there!) so were very pleased on arrival to find the odd heavy cloud passing but not a drop of rain. We were even more pleased by the bird reports, including both a Common Crane and a pair of Spoonbill on the reserve. Having left the long lens in the car I had to beat a hasty retreat to collect it before settling down in the hide alongside the main observatory (and I'm pleased to report no gunfire!).

Visible from the hide again were large numbers of waders, including this Spotted Redshank:

A Wood Sandpiper (one of four there):

And an adult Ruff, again present in large numbers on the reserve:

There had bee reports of a Common Crane, which we spotted in a distant field (funny as we'd not been looking for one and had spent fruitless hours on our last two trips up to East Anglia and there was one mooching around in a field, just like that!), and Spoonbills, but it became apparent they had flown in the hour before we arrived.

One surprise though was a Yellow Wagtail, feeding a juvenile on the rook of the observatory hide:

The juvenile then flew in front of the hide and spent time looking at itself in the water and searching for food:

The visitor centre at Welney is literally teeming with life with hundreds of House Martins and Barn Swallows buzzing around, and zooming over the pond. A couple of Swallows made it into the cafe and were helped out having slammed into a few of the windows, dazed but alive.

We stopped on our way down into the cafe to snap a juvenile House Martin stopped on the roof:

And finally this pair of House Martins:

The visit to Welney really lifted our spirits after the distressing experience at Cley and helped to ensure the weekend was memorable. The highlight for me being that flock of Bearded Reedlings pinging away to each other as we walked into Cley NWT on Sunday morning.

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Nipped to Norfolk Saturday

We're both working our socks off at the moment and needed to get away a bit to clear our heads. Where better for a short break than Norfolk? At least the forecast for Saturday was promising, in fact the BBC even threatened sunshine! Hah!

First stop Titchwell RSPB, which has just announced a decision to allow the sea to encroach on the outer-most lagoon. Shame - that'll be the rising sea levels due to climate change due to human activity. And this is just the start...

We aimed to get to Titchwell promptly - but then I'd got the accommodation wrong by booking in Cromer (too far and too expensive) so we had an hour trip to get there - still, we beat the mid-morning rush. The hides were still relatively quiet, and in the early morning light the ducks and waders fed undisturbed:

The first bird I didn't recognise, and that had me scrambling for the field guide, is this juvenile Ruff:

Ruff are supposed to be relatively scarce but wherever we went this weekend, they were present in good numbers. We saw at least one hundred all told. Here's another juvenile, which was feeding less then 10 yards from the footpath:

From the next hide, the bird we'd really been hoping to see this weekend, a pair of Spoonbill:

They remained distant whilst we were there, but they were also frisky, allopreening and building a nest - at the end of August! I took loads of shots of this pair, they'd started sat together before the juvenile Grey Heron had disturbed them, but even at 840x they remained too far away for anything other than record shots.

From the other side of the hide, a small group of Grey Plover were roaming around and feeding:

This is an adult in full breeding plumage, a very striking bird:

We walked out to the shore and along to the right, looking for different species. A number of gulls of different types were clustered along the shore, together with more waders, including this Oystercatcher:

A Greenshank:

seen here with a Redshank for comparison:

Curlew, in good numbers and making a lot of noise :)

From Titchwell we headed, 'perfectly planned' to high tide at Snettisham. Only I'd goofed. In fact it was just after a very low tide when arrived (when we got home I realised it was 30 August 2009 that high tide is 3pm, 30 August 2008 was around 6:30 in the morning - doh!). So rather than teeming with birds, it was very very very quiet. Oh well. There was a flock of Dunlin roosting on the mud, a Common Buzzard flying overhead and a few other bits and bobs. This juvenile Knot confused me, due to the length of the bill, but Ken and Mike identified it:

All along the shore at Snettisham were Horned Poppies:

From Snettisham, and feeling sheepish, we headed to the NWT reserve at Cley, for our last stop of the day.

Just along the path toward the first hides, an adult and a juvenile Little Grebe were feeding together, this is the juvenile:

We identify them by their 'tennis knickers', as well as their comparative size, etc.

The view from the lone hide was frankly amazing. Loads and loads of waders, as close as 10 metres, including this Dunlin (left) and Snipe (right):

You can see the Snipe below, apparently 'snorkeling':

before preening:

The Snipe were in a group of four birds (we've only seen two together before). There were plenty of other waders outside the hide, including this juvenile Ringed Plover:

A juvenile Dunlin (one of many):

Juvenile Black-tailed Godwits:

they were the biggest waders of the evening:

Beautiful birds and really good to see so many juveniles, which suggests a good breeding season. I hope so:

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Staying local

August Bank Holiday weekend is usually the 'great escape' so a weekend to avoid travelling too far! We had a busy weekend so only a Saturday morning walk was possible, so back to Pitsford, which is definitely now our 'local patch', we're getting to know the place better and hopefully will learn more of the birds and the cycle of the seasons as we spend more time there.

First stop the car park, to watch some folk feeding the waiting birds, one gull caught my eye in the crowd of Black-headed Gulls, a Common Gull:

Of course they're not as common as the name suggests... you can see a Black-headed Gull on the left-hand side for comparison.

Pitsford was quite quiet, except for the flocks of tits, which seemed to be everywhere. The numbers of Terns present has decreased quite notably but we were chuffed to see this Arctic Tern stop-off for a feed:

Another bird present in good numbers was the Willow Warbler, this juvenile was inquisitive and as you can see quite brightly coloured (for a warbler):

Now I know I've said in the past I don't really do butterflies, it occurred to me there'd be no harm in trying to identify those we do see, so here's a few more, starting with a Meadow brown:

A Speckled wood:

A Common blue (which wouldn't open its wings):

A Brimstone:

and the last one of the day, a Small white:

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Sunday, August 17, 2008


Autumn draws closer and with it the promise of the migration from North to South, reports of waders at Hollowell and a break in the rain prompted us to get up and out on Saturday morning.

The first bird that caught my eye was this juvenile Common Tern, perched on a buoy and making a real racket:

As you can tell from the picture, it wasn't raining, but that big yellow thing sometimes seen at this time of year was proving to be very shy.

There were in fact a good number of Common Terns, we counted approximately 20, though there was one dead but uneaten one on the causeway. As we round the corner on our anti-clockwise walk, I snapped this adult flying past:

There were large numbers of Swallows buzzing around, some getting very close, but with little light, fast moving birds and a big lens I didn't manage a snap. Also around on the corner of the causeway and the bank, by the water run-off, this Grey Wagtail, which had quite an orangey chest so I presume was a juvenile:

And it appeared to have been 'adopted' by this adult Pied Wagtail, certainly they stayed close together when they moved about:

Up by the inlet we spotted some waders, the target of our walk. This one is a juvenile Wood Sandpiper:

That's a new bird for us :) We did briefly glimpse some other waders but couldn't get sufficiently close to photograph them. This chap took about 10 minutes to get. As we walked on around the reservoir, the Wood Sandpipers (there were 2) flew along the bank in the direction of the car-park, so we headed beyond them, accessed the edge of the water and then turned back to try and get another photo:

This one shows the prominent supercilium and bill, with the yellow-legs.

The last snap of the day, a Comma on the buddleia in the garden, not really a butterfly chap but this one was worth looking-up, for the shape of the wings alone:

I think I may be excited about the onset of winter for the first time, amazing what this birding lark can do to you :)

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Family holiday in Cornwall

A week in sunny Cornwall (hah! actually one sunny day the rest at best grey with plenty of rain) for a family holiday. Not the usual fare of birding and walking. How will we cope?

We'd booked a chalet close to the beach in Hayle. On arrival we were greeted by the locals:

This adult Herring Gull stared down at us as we opened the chalet door and then bombarded us as we unloaded the car. We soon found out why, as this juvenile Herring Gull spent ages looking at itself in the reflection from our windscreen:

We managed a few walks, including a walk around Loe Pool. A small group of waders scuttled along the shoreline, including this adult Dunlin:

There's a juvenile Ringed Plover in amongst the group, which I assume are juvenile Dunlin, though they don't match the pictures in my field guide...? (update - thank you Simon - they are Sanderling, moulting from Summer to Winter plumage)

I got a better shot of one of the mystery birds:

Then got too close and the group took flight:

On a separate trip we headed to Kynance Cove on the Lizard peninsula. Here you can see some of the flora on the headland, I particularly like the burnt orange colour:

As we headed down the path into the cove the sun threatened a brief appearance:

It was really trying, creating some dramatic lighting effects:

and here:

by the time we got to the cafe though it had started raining again... sigh.

After a week of cold chalets, rain coats and disappointment at the lack of outdoor and walking time (I'll stop complaining soon - at least we didn't fly all the way from the USA for this holiday unlike some family members for whom we feel truly sorry as they're still in Cornwall and it is still raining) we headed to Devon, passing through a number of showers, but at least the rains lifted for half a day, which gave us an opportunity to get up on to the moors.

We saw quite a surprising number of different species on this our second visit, certainly many more than a couple of years back but maybe that's due to our ability to differentiate between species more. We encountered good numbers of Linnets:

Some (Northern) Wheatears, including this juvenile:

Good numbers of Meadow Pipits, this one stopped to pause with food, no doubt not wishing to show us where its nest was located:

We also saw Common Buzzards, House Martins and Swallows and a single male Pied Flycatcher which we really weren't expecting.

The sun threatened briefly again whilst we were out on the moor but we were lucky not to get completely drenched, the heavens opened as we got into our car to head home.

A good walk, a good holiday thanks to the time we spent with family but miserable weather. Roll on autumn migration and fingers crossed for some good weather.

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