Thursday, 17 June 2010

Norfolk holiday round-up

With any holiday, you are likely to get new species of many types, even commoner ones. But the Holiday to Norfolk had a new record of 11 new species of which I managed to photograph 10. That is quite incredible. In Scotland 2 years ago I struggled to get even one and on recall I cant remember if I did even get one. Every new species you see the next one becomes harder so this is really a phenomenal achievement when I have 200 birds already ticked. Here is a list of the birds and animals I managed to catch up with during the 5 days plus their accompanying photos.
(do the maths and it comes down to 2.2 species a day)

Trumpeter finch
obviously there is no better bird to start with that this. The eight ever record of a trumpeter finch in the UK and a lucky find really. I almost dipped out but luck was on my side and unlike those I met my first attempt I was given a second chance and boy did it show. for a first twitch, a mega and a mega in style.

red backed shrike

first told about to me by the warden at tichwell, a stunning bird and a real surprise to me size-wise. I was expecting a magpie sized bird rather than a blackbird sized bird. A stunning adult male as feature on springwatch. 2 hours was a worthy wait to see this little cracker

swallowtail butterfly
The whole reason for coming to Norfolk at this time of year. I thought that I might end up dipping out but luckily the weather held out for about 10mins for me to get this photo and this sighting. Its really great to see and without a doubt the most beautiful British butterfly.

Bearded tit
after years of torment from little cheeps from within the reeds I finally saw the little hiders and managed to break their cruel hearts. After I saw one there were loads of them and I saw at least one every day of the holiday. A great way to settle that score!

red crested pochard
sadly the photo is not as good as my other record shots but you can still make out the red crest amongst the mallards. It is great to see one of these birds that we can be sure is not a pet escape as these birds are from Holland. Beautiful ducks although a little closer would have been nice

spotted redshank
not much to say on this one because I lost it almost straight away. No photo as it was so far away and when I tried to get closer I lost it. A pity really as it was a full summer adult male so it was a real cracker in black.

Chinese water deer
A great bold little animal. You can really see the fangs that make this the most interesting of all the introduced deers. Great to see that it had no fear for people and was happy to let me watch it.

cettis warbler
One of the best birds of the holiday, not least because of its explosive call. When it first sung I though my ears had exploded. It was great to be able to take a photo of it because they are notoriously hard to take a photo of because of their skulky behavior. Personally I was really pleased with the tick but to take a photo as well, that was really something

red eyed damselfly
not as major as the others but still a great new species to see. Its eyes are blood red and its back even glows red in the sun. What a special animal.

black tailed skimmer
great to eventually get a new dragonfly over the holiday and in the nick of time too. It took some waiting for but it eventually settled and allowed me to take some photos. Its only a baby so its not as stunning as it would be but at least I have seen one.

Banded demoiselle
a really stunning animal and possible the most beautiful animal of the whole holiday. The colors at least make it a stunning with the most beautiful shades of blue. There were so many and their flight was so pretty, a real delight to see.

Friday, 4 June 2010

day 5-last day in norfolk and pensthorpe

Last Day of possibly the best holiday ever. The day was a scorcher and so we decided to go to pensthorpe, having said that, we had already decided to go pensthorpe. We wrapped up early so that we could get there before the crowds. Despite getting lost we did eventually manage to arrive. It was clear to see that the proprietors had not lost their sense of humour since last time as the "ruff road, slow down" sign was still there.

it was already quite busy and we did have to queue. As soon as we were in I went straight through to the reserve forgetting the pet zoo. It would be nice to end the holiday with a new dragonfly species and the weather was just right. It wasn't dragonflys that were showing however as there were hundreds of damselflys everywhere. It soon became apparent that the damselflys, however were all common blue. However by the river I spotted a dragonfly sp. but the darn thing wouldn't stay still which is generally a must have factor when watching dragonflys.

around half way through the reserve It became apparent that the damselflys were probably the only thing here worth watching besides lots of pet barnacle geese and mallards. Then I was about to exit the wildflower meadow when I spotted this thing in the sky. The fact that its neck is straight ahead tells enough and that this was a crane. I'm not sure If this counts, but I have already seen wild cranes at hickling broad last time but this seals it with a record shot.

I was pretty tired from standing so I sat down on the edge of the pool at the end of the wild flower meadow to have a rest. the damselflys were still plenty and so I decided to try and take some pictures. Some came out pretty well but then I spotted something fly off in the distance- something I failed at a shot of yesterday, a banded demoiselle. I followed it into a small in-let dyke to the main pool where it rested and, although it involved some leaving the path, manged to get some great record shots

I then returned to the bench I had been sat at and recorded all the damselflys I could find. Below is a concise list of every damselyfly species seen today although one of them was not taken at the site I described above.

common blue damselfly

red eyed damselfly

blue tailed damselfly-form rufescens-obsoleta

blue tailed damselfly

azure damselfly

The blue tailed Damselfly was not seen at the site above. The azure was just lucky really. There were so many blue damselflys that there simply had to be an azure amongst them. I therefore took hundreds of pictures in case one turned out to be an azure. as it so happens, one did.

I went to springwatches legendary scrape but to be frank there was nothing there. I managed to spot 1 avocet and 2 brown smudges which I assumed were little ringed plovers but I was a little too far away to be sure. A little egret flew in and offered some entertainment by fishing.

as I walked round the reserve in search of my illusive new dragonfly I had a brief view of a jay but that was all in the way of birdlife. I did see a dragonfly in the air but like so many before it failed to land in a suitable position (top of very tall tree)

As I walked around the reserve on one of the less obvious paths I found another family of barnacle geese with two chicks. I wanted to get a photo of the adults hissing face-on with the camera, I know that it would be a cheat of a photo because these are not strictly wild birds.

However what actually happened was a real shock. The first bird was not in the mood for a photo and wandered away towards its mate. Its mate was much more obliging but as I was setting the camera The adult goose Ran at me, wings flailing and crashed into my leg. I was so shocked, that I left them too it, still without a shot. It just goes to show the amount of devotion put in to their chicks

I had carelessly left my phone in the car and so I knew nothing of when my parents had any intention of leaving and so I decided to take up a bench near the exit and wait for them. There was a family of barnacle geese heading towards me so I headed down towards the waters edge for safety's sake.

As I did this I spotted a dragonfly flying in an area clear of reedbed right in front of me. I looked at it and it appeared to be a chaser of unknown affinity. I tried to take a photo of it but it didn't land and it kept moving when I managed To get the camera in focus. Eventually it flew of without giving its identity away.

I waited a little longer on the bench overlooking the water and saw a great crested grebe and 2 dabchicks but the water was a little empty. I looked up for no apparent reason and then I saw the dragonfly again heading towards some low shrubs. I did a runner to try and keep up with it but It soon landed where I expected. I crept up and found it where I took these photos

Later analysis showed that it was infact a young male black-tailed skimmer which is a first for me and well worth the wait and chase. The shrubbery made the photos quite difficult but you can easily tell what it is.

Then my family found me and we went into the avairy where they keep the british waders. this is my favourite bird enclosure in the whole world. British birds in a walk in enclosure. What made it even more special were the male ruffs that were constantly displaying. I have never seen a ruff in full summer plumage like these but they were really beautiful. A couple of the below pictures are of a male displaying but I'm not sure they have come out well.

The birds are really special here and the skimmer only added to this great place. This is the last stop on our norfolk holiday and so of we set home!!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Day 4-2 ticks in style at cley

Take 2 at trumpeter finch!!
my family were going to spend the day on the trains at sheringham. They offered to drop me off at cley on the way there and after yesterdays failure I had no objections. There was also a report of a red-backed shrike in the area which laso had my eybrows raised. I was dropped off at the same place as yesterday with the scope, camera and bins. As yesterday I asked the first person I saw whether it was still around and as yesterday he replied "oh yes, its still there and showing well". I raced up to the shingle beach where it was, same as yesterday. I got up to where it was and asked somebody where it was "Oh" he said, "they just lost it, some photographer spooked it and now its lost"
I walked up to where the majority of people were looking for it, heading up the beach towards towards salthouse. three of their company were walking at the bottom of the single bank but most were on the top looking over towards salthouse. The one of the guys at the bottom got himself in a tis and raced up to the top of the sea defense and ran off. we all followed. When everyone stopped I heard cries off "there it is" I failed too see it because as I found out the scope had condensed up from the rain at tichwell yesterday. Damn-it.
the bird flew off before I could see it. I speed walked further to front of the bunch of twitchers and eventually made it to the second front with two birdwatchers way out in front. The bird did a loop de-loop and came back around. Here is where I saw it see below picture

It landed right in front of the two birdwatchers ahead of me and I imagine that if I had been on the sea side of the sea defense I might Have seen it but I wasn't. I made sure I was not in anybodies way and crept up to the top of the sea defense. The two birdwatchers at the front could practically stand on it. Then they left and the bird began to come closer. and closer. and closer until it was right in front of me. only eight trumpeter finches have ever occurred in Britain and now here I was closest person to one of them. This was really good because my camera could take photos of the bird from this distance.

as you can see, this was a bright pink adult male. what a corker, just stunning. The bottom picture I took is the bird making sure I see it "oi, over here". Eventually it spotted us and flew off. It was probably about 20 degrees then and I was too hot and exhausted to go and run after it again and so I made my way to the west bank where the red-backed shrike was supposed to be.
I was really happy to have seen the finch. No I was extatic about seeing the finch. and it was even better talking to the other people there waiting for it.
As I walked through the reserve I decided to go the hide on that way. I spotted a bearded tit outside, a bird I had new this holiday yet have seen everyday.
in the hide it was empty. White mist was evapourting of the pool. In front of the hide was a gadwall pair which I manged to take some pctures off. I was not aware that gadwall summered in britian but here at cley and at tichwell too there were plenty of them. In fact, at cley there were more gadwall than mallards.
There was also some shelduck kung-fu outside the hide which I manged to get some photos off

On to the west bank to try and find a shrike. I didnt really know where abouts the shrike was so I waited on the bridge for somebody to come along forme to ask. Luckily the first people that came Were also on their way there so I accompanied them talking about birds and holidays etc etc.
When we got the shrike spot Some body told us that the bird had left 1 hour ago. However I am a professinal at dipping-out so I was hardly surprised. Heres a photo of the crowd That wa there, also waiting for the shrike.
I waited 2 hours in the sun for the shrike, which gave me a great oppertunity to eat my lunch!! eventually most of the orignal people left and some new people came. These peolle were very intersted in my camera so I told tem about the cost etc. Then some serious twitchers came. About 7 of them in an astra. They took one look asked some questions about the bird-where did it go. got quite cross about the fact that nobody had been round to see and then left. then we waited again. In the end I waited about 2 hours for the bird to come. 2 hours stood up in the sun with only a handful of birds including 2 avocets 3 linnets 1 egret 5 mipits and a lapwing. Then one of the birdwatchers spotted the serious twitchers on the other bank waving at us.
One guy offered me a lift to the far side of cley and I took it. When we got there we had about a kilometer to walk to get to the spot where they had found it. We waited about 5 mins and then found where they were pointing. right in front of us, on the fence posts was a small bird which was easily idetifiable as a male red-backed shrike. What a bird. It was much smaller than I expected it to be and much more active. We spent about 1 hour watching it eating bugs. Through the scope I could see it mash up a dung beetle and get mobbed by a sedge warbler and a mipit. eventually it came close neough more me to get a picture.

after that I went back to cley reserve through cley next to sea. As I enetred the car park I spotted a banded demoisel damselfly there, a new tick and tried to take a phto only the card ws full. It flew of by the time the card was ready.
at cley I went to the three hides same as sunday. I went into the middle hide where there was a young boy watching the birds. The only thing worth watching in the hide was a avocet chasing a godwit and a gadwall having a wash in front of the hide. Then the young boy said "please can I have your help". "sure" I replied. He pointed to one of the godwits and said "Please could you tell me if that is an oystercatcher or a sand-dipper" interesting options I must admit but I told him what it was. We were all like that once.

the gadwalls from the hide
I was then picked up by my parents who asked if I had seen it and so I told them. My mum was really not happy when I mentioned the lift from a stranger but hey, it was worth it.