Sunday, September 28, 2008

Languard, Trimley Marshes and Paxton Pits

Sunday we weren't quite so prompt - instead enjoying the 'all you can eat' continental breakfast at the Premier Inn, which was nice :) First stop Languard Point and the Nature Reserve. Judging by the conversations with the locals, there had been a 'fall' of Robins from France (how do they know they're from France !?!) and some of the more common warblers. My guess is this first bird is a juvenile Willow Warbler:

Languard has a long heritage of military history, but we were there for the birds. Finally, I managed to get a Lesser Whitethroat on film this year:

As well as the Lesser and Common Whitethroats, there was a good number of Blackcaps too, including this female:

Languard was good but we got the impression there were no real rarities about so decided to head next for Trimley Marshes, having been warned that 'it's a long walk' from the car park to the reserve. They weren't joking. When your back and arms are sore from the previous day's exertions 2.5 miles can seem a really long way carrying loads of kit, with just pigeons breaking the silence.

We entered the reserve and could just see the first hides, when we bumped into another local. This chap was really quite excited. He'd seen a Great Grey Shrike, and thanks to his spot, we did too, this is the best snap (again it was a long way away) but that was two in two days :)

We tried to track it as it flew but lost it almost immediately. Made the five miles hard labour worth it though the trip back up the hill was slow and laborious.

We did spot a hovering Kestrel:

and a female Wheatear running around in front of us at one snack and water stop:

From Trimley Marshes it was time to start heading home. This time we decided to stop in at Paxton Pits on our way home. The Pits were very quiet, with the birds of summer gone and the birds of winter still far to the north. Apparently there had been a pair of juvenile Spoonbill on the reserve, all we found at the Washout Pits however was this Grey Heron (I like the reflection and symmetry in this picture):

By now my arms were about to concede defeat, the weight of the kit beginning to really be too much. We made our last stop at the Kingfisher Hide on the way back to the car, and watched this Cormorant, sat atop a stick in the middle of the lake, drying itself:

As you can see by the next photo, the more he flapped his wings to dry, the further down the pole he slid. By the time we left he'd stopped flapping completely and was just clinging on :)

A fab weekend and, judging by the weather forecasts, well timed too as Autumn is coming fast, though frankly it reminds me a lot of Summer just a bit colder...

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Minsmere and Orford Ness

Autumn migration is upon us, however it's all been very quiet round by us. That and the pace of work for both of us suggested a weekend away to clear our heads. We picked Suffolk, as (a) it has Minsmere and (b) there's a Premier Inn not too far away so you get reliable accommodation, food, etc. at a sensible price and get there 'promptly' of a morning.

Minsmere an hour after dawn on an Autumn morning is a beautiful place. Very quiet, very still. I liked the way the light was picking through the woodland on the way to the Island Mere hide:

Just in that short walk we saw a large number of deer including Red Deer:

The sound of the Stags bellowing carried through the wood and added quite an eerie quality to the morning. The deer at Minsmere are very nervous though not as nervous as they are (necessarily so) in the rest of the country:

Basking in the first rays of the morning sun one of the many hundreds of rabbits in the fields alongside the path:

I like the way this looks like a 'spotlight' has been used. We got to the Island Hide and were delighted to see this Great White Egret perched on the Island, only the 2nd time we've seen one in this country:

It was enjoying a thorough preen in the early morning sun:

You can see in this picture (click on it for a closer view) the coloured rings on its leg, I don't know if that means it is an escapee or a wild bird that was ringed at the nest?

We headed back from the Island Hide towards the Bittern Hide. En -route I tried to capture a relatively bold Cetti's Warbler on film but he was too fast and I was too slow, a lethal combination. So I was greatly relieved to spot this male Redstart perched on the lower branches of an oak tree, hopping down to feed and then returning to the perch. It was being hassled by a Robin but stuck its ground:

He very kindly turned round to provide a profile image:

The Bittern Hide ponds are very over-grown at the moment so there was nothing to be seen. We headed back to the visitor centre and then out on a clock-wise loop of the hides around the scrape. On the causeway towards the sea small groups of Bearded Reedlings (Bearded Tits) were 'pinging' away and flying quite boldly close to the path. Fingers crossed.

The first image is of a female mostly obscured by the reeds, though frankly a view this good is unusual:

So I was absolutely chuffed with the series of images I captured of this male:

Chuffed to bits in fact:

I think I was shaking at the end of this sequence (have a closer look go on!)

And then another female made a brief appearance:

Magic. Half-yard smiles all round :) We proceeded to the East Hide and were trying to spot unusual waders when I noticed this Bittern flying above the distant trees:

Not a great shot, but definitely a Bittern :) Along the path were large numbers of Stonechats, including this female:

And loads and loads of Robins, this one clearly intent on holding a feeding territory:

We popped into the visitor centre to register our presence before having lunch, to hear a chap reporting a Great Grey Shrike in the 'North Bushes' so assumed a 'fast walking pace' to said location. It was indeed a Great Grey Shrike perched immobile on a dead bush but so far away it was scope and bins only, the camera registered about five pixels. Someone from the RPSB did arrive and confirm the bird, which was fab as we had a new bird for the weekend :)

From Minsmere we headed to Orford to catch the boat out to Orford Ness ( another unusual spot. It was relatively quiet (deserted according to the NT folks) but we did see quite a few species there, including Barn Owl, Wheatear, Bar-tailed Godwit, Goldcrest, Dunlin, Avocet some ducks, etc.

On the river some winter plumage Grey Plover:

And finally, toward the end of a long walk around an interesting island (with, we suspect, a not entirely open account of current activities), a Grey Heron in for the kill:

A fantastic day, with about eight miles with full photographic kit, best shots of Bearded Reedlings and Redstart, second sightings of a Great White Egret and Bittern and a new bird, a Great Grey Shrike :)

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Staying local

Another sunny weekend! Helen's sister stayed with us for the weekend so we wanted to take her to some unfamiliar places and combine the walking and birding. We decided to start Saturday at Titchmarsh LNR in the North-East of the county.

The first thing we noticed was how much more nervous all the wildfowl are again. Sigh.

Anyway it was a lovely morning, quickly warming up and Titchmarsh is a lovely spot, a truly pleasant walk. The most surprising thing of the morning was the numbers of dragonflies and butterflies, there were loads. I snapped this Small Tortoiseshell:

and this Comma:

We also saw Small Coppers and Red Admirals.

The reserve itself was quite quiet, however we were over-flown by a flock of House Martins, moving through, and did see singles of both Hobby and Yellow Wagtail, albeit briefly. Halfway around there's patch of young trees which seems to hold the majority of the warblers. We heard or saw Cetti's, ChiffChaff, Blackcap and Willow Warblers.

From Titchmarsh we headed for a cuppa and a picnic at Stanwick Lakes, where we were surprised to hear a Cetti's Warbler trying to out compete the screaming kids in the playground, it was singing from a bush just behind the cafe. We also spotted a pair of Sedge Warblers moving around close to the Cetti's.

Next stop along the Nene River Valley for us was Summer Leys. The reserve has been significantly disturbed by improvement work, including a new scrape and hide, the flip-side being many more members of the public using the extended and surfaced path around the reserve - that being part of the deal that secured the funding. In theory in a few years time it'll be 'busy' with birds again, through right now it's very quiet and the other downside, litter, lots and lots of litter all the way around the reserve. Going to have to clear-up after the lazy scumbags on our next walk around.

We did spot a single Meadow Pipit on the walk around:

And stopping at the feeding station we were entertained by this Wren, which was hopping around looking for food:

Sunday again started with a beautiful morning, so we headed out to feed the ducks at Ravensthorpe, their numbers are already greatly diminished, then on to walk around Holowell. No waders to be seen there but there was juvenile/1st winter Arctic Tern plunge diving around the reservoir, though to a back-drop of constant gunfire. Once round the reservoir we drove to Upper Harlestone, which is a very picturesque village, for a short walk on footpaths and bridleways through and around the village before heading home for a late lunch.

We walked lots, had fabulous weather, great company and thoroughly enjoyed the weekend.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

New Camera :)

Unbelievable - a weekend without rain forecast - what to do - so many choices? We settled on starting with a trip to Rutland Water and an early start to beat the rush. The numbers of migrant waders has reduced over the last couple of weeks.

At the reserve office they weren't ready for visitors but we have a permit so went ahead and walked on to the reserve. In the first hide, called 'Redshank' we saw a Dunlin and this Greenshank, I like the way it's craning its neck:

I decided that whilst sat in the hide I should get my new camera (Canon EOS 1) ready and attach it to the lens. Whilst I was doing so, two Kingfishers flew past the hide close-by, with one settling on a log just outside the hide, for about thirty seconds, just after it flew off I was ready! Oh well. We headed on, stopping briefly outside the hide to photograph this dragonfly, taking a breather after what looked like quite a fight with another dragonfly:

No idea what species it is.

Our next stop was the Shoveller hide at the far end of the reserve (there used to be a hide further on but there's a huge amount of work going on at the reserve, creating new wetland habitat). From this hide we had excellent views of a Water Rail in the reeds but with the low light and it's relative obscurity I didn't manage a decent picture. We were fortunate however that there was a pair of Green Sandpipers in view, here's one:

These picture were taken at between 5 and 10 metres distance. I'm delighted how well they have come out, it really does confirm that a decent camera can make a big difference to distant subjects (click on the image to see more detail especially the plumage):

I like this shot as I whilst I was focusing on the wading bird the other Green Sandpiper buzzed it:

you can see he wasn't impressed:

The final shot is against a more colourful background, though more distant, the light was just improving so the plumage shows best in this picture.

From Rutland we tried both Summer Leys and Hollowell in Northants but they were both remarkably quiet. Oh well. Great to get out and about so fingers crossed for a great weekend next weekend.

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