Thursday, 25 October 2012

Norfolk Holiday Day 5-It all ends

Its the last day sadly, but in one sense, its the first day. The first day without fog! Finally, I will be able to do scans of reedbeds and seawatching. We decided to go to Tichwell because it has a big car park that might be able accommodate the caravan. We only intended to spend the morning at Tichwell, the afternoon at some aviation museum for my brother and traveling home.
  Since I would actually be pushed for time today I made the most of it, dashing out of the car to get straight on with it. I didn't bother with fen hide as I have never seen a single bird there, and  also missed out Island hide, since anything I can see there I can also see from Parrinder. I first went to the Parrinder that looked out over the Fresh water area of the reserve.
 There were god numbers of Brent Geese in Comparison to yesterday. They had probably arrived overnight due to the fog clearing. They were perched on the islands just from the hide. Other birds that were around included Gadwall, which was not seen by me yesterday and a number of other wildfowl species

-Brent Geese 
I had a quick scan of the islands, but there was nothing that was not here yesterday. The golden plover had all gone, and only one snipe flew in, and that was just as I left. There were however lovely numbers of winter wildfowl, and I got great views of teal, shoveler and wigeon.

I headed to the hide across to look over the tidal marsh. There was not much, much less than yesterday. I only spotted one knot, in fact I only spotted one wader that was not a redshank, the knot. I did however spend a bit of time in there, and as I waited a Grey Plover did fly in, but it was distant and only view able by scope,  which was a pity.
  I decided to go to the beach and do some seawatching. Sadly, the lack of fog had meant that the reserve was really busy, and this was maybe why there was so much less on the scrapes. The beach and sea were a good place to go to try and avoid the crowds.
  On the way to the beach I passed a pair of Black tailed godwits that were not visible from the hide due to a bar of grass. They were very close to the path, so I dutifully took loads of photos of them, probably the best photos of this species I have ever had.

-Black Tailed Godwit 
The beach was much quieter, but also much colder, winder and more unpleasant. I guess you can't have it all. I started by scanning the waters edge. The tide was well out sadly, but that meant that I could watch the shorebirds without spooking them. There were good numbers of Brent Geese, as well as oystercatchers. Other birds included Sanderling, Knot, Bar-Tailed Godwit and a few Grey Plover, all but one of which I have seen less than five times, so an impressive haul.

-Brent Geese
I next turned my attention to the sea. Actually being able to see what was out there was a luxury. It was all in vain though. I spotted two gannets, and one black duck. Sadly I couldn't get a decent view of the duck due to the wind shaking the scope. I took the scope down but then couldn't find it again, so it will forever remain a mystery.
  Walking back to the car after lunch, I noticed a group of hardcore birders looking out over the tidal marsh. Apparently there was a wood sandpiper around, just my look that I couldn't help look for it! Sadly that was the end of the Norfolk holiday, that has been incredible, but sadly rather short. Hopefully I will be able to come back some time before uni...

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Norfolk Holiday Day 4-return to tichwell

I woke up to fog, again. Since so far I had been to Cley everyday so far this holiday, today I decided to go to Tichwell. It was an hour and a half bus journey, but I made it for 11. The fog did mean that the reserve was not as busy as it has been previously, which was nice, but it also meant that seawatching would be difficult  and birds further than a few hundred meters would be out of sight.
  The day obviously started with a long bus journey, but it was a pretty bird filled bus journey as far as bus journeys go. Just outside wells, I noticed that there were hundreds, possibly thousands of geese going overhead through the fog. They were probably Brent geese but I couldn't tell for certain. either way it was interesting to see. Then it got better, as we were entering Burnham I casually glanced out of the window over a farm, and though I only got a brief view I immediately new that the bird flying around the farm was a swallow. I couldn't believe it. I didn't see it again to fully appreciate it, but either way, its the latest swallow I have ever had.
  Upon arrival I first headed to fen hide, which was a waste of time, as usual. I didn't see a single bird. So I didn't spend long there, and after around 10mins I headed back out to the main walkway. The first pool I came to on the saltmarsh had a few birds on it so I got out the scope and had a look. In the fog it was difficult to tell what they were, but after a bit I came to the conclusion that I had four little grebes, a new bird for the holiday.
  Through the fog everything seemed very atmospheric. A lone marsh harrier flew across the saltmarsh. It was difficult to tell anything other than its I.d but I think that its a male. Sadly it dissapeared into the fog before coming closer.

-Marsh Harrier 
The first hide I came to that I stopped off in was the Island Hide. Here there were quite a few teals showing very well indeed. The fog though meant that all the birds in front of Parrinder hide, which I could just make out were not really visible to identify, so After 10mins I left Island hide and wandered up to Parrinder hide.

-Male Teal
The fog was probably to blame for the lack of migrating geese at the site. However a few brent geese were around, and they flew over the saltmarsh and west bank.

-Brent Geese 
There were less migrants here than at Cley, but there continued to be plenty of thrushes and especially robins. I have never seen as many robins as I have on this holiday. There were no records of ring ouzel at Tichwell today, probably because the all landed at Cley, but upon arriving in Parrinder hide and setting up, a stunning male black redstart flew across the front of the hide, chased by a robin. I couldn't track down where it went, but in flight it was absolutely unmistakable. There were also a handful of goldcrests in the shrubbery next to the hide.
  In front of the hide there were mainly ducks, teal and shoveler. There were a couple of pipits flying around the hide too though, and I was hopeful of water pipit. when they eventually landed they turned out to be rock pipits, but they landed quite near the hide, so I was able to get some photos.

-Rock Pipit 
Out on the water there were a good number of gulls, though none were white winged. There was also a huge number of golden plover. Species that were not in abundance were black-Tailed godwits, of which only a couple were around, hiding within the golden plover flock. There was also a couple of snipe looking rather lovely. In front of one of the gulls was another plover that didn't seem quite golden, and through the scope I could tell that it was in fact a grey plover. The first time I came to Tichwell was the first time I saw grey plover, or so I thought, as I never look at one and though, "Oh, that's a grey plover", so I assumed that because they were about, I must have seen one. On that logic, this was probably the first Grey plover I have seen, and certainly the first I have seen and identified. However, when it came to record shots it was less straightforward because of the fog, and the bird was at some distance for my camera. You can make out the bird in the photos below, the furthest bird right in front of the gulls.

-Grey Plover
the fog also made photographing more obvious targets harder too, so it appeared when it came to taking a photo of the golden plover. Don't mind the pink strip on the bottom, that's due to uploading issues it would seem.

-Golden Plover 
Other notable birds on the freshwater side included wigeon, pintail, lapwing and shelduck.
  Next I headed across the Parrinder hide complex to the hide that overlooked the saline pools. The new hides had an interesting arrangement for opening the windows. They new were windows were clear plastic divided into 2 sections. The bottom section wound down by handle, but the top section opened outwards. I don't know who designed that, why on earth would a hide window open outwards? the rules are don't stick anything out of the hide as it may startle the birds.
  Anyway, rant over. There was much less going on in the side side of the hide, but there were more unusual species, mainly waders. The main waders were redshank and knot. But directly in front of the hide there was one Godwit and one curlew. The curlew was straightforward, but the Godwit was heavily streaked and this led me to the impression that it must be a bar-tailed godwit, only my second ever, and I was actually able to get some better photos as it was directly in front of the hide.


-Bar-Tailed Godwit 
I stayed in the hide for some time, allowing birds to move should there be any. There were a few more birds towards the back of the marsh. Including sanderling, also probably a first by the same logic of the grey plover, but it was way too distant for a record shot. However, the sense of pride you get from being able to tell a knot, sanderling and dunlin apart without the use of a book was immense. It is one of the hardest test for British birds.
  As I waited, the movement of birds had brought a lovely knot in front of the hide in range of my camera, so I took a few blurred photos of it.

As time went on, the number of birds seemed to increase somewhat, and the Grey plover from the other side came over, to a much more convenient position from where it had been. I only noticed it because I was asked to identify a bird for one of the newer birdwatchers, the bird was a godwit. Then they grey plover appeared, which was nice for the obviously newer birders.
  It was interesting to watch it feed, alongside the teals who had very different feeding mechanisms. They bird was now much closer so I managed to get a few respectable record shots.

-Grey Plover 
Somehow I had built up something of a reputation among the birders in the hide, so when another guy asked what his bird was, the guy who I had helped out originally said, "I don't know,but that man will be able to". Talk about putting the pressure on.
  The bird in question had just disappeared into the taller grass and it took us a while to find it again. I was at an advantage as I had a scope. When the bird did appear, It was not as difficult as I had thought, it was a dunlin, but it still had the relic of its black stomach from the breeding season, which was a massive help when identifying it. Its another new bird for the holiday, adding to the incredible list of birds seen this holiday.
  While I was checking out the dunlin, another knot came and joined the one already in front of the hide, and they had begun feeding in the nearest channel, which allowed me to get a few more quick shots.

before I left Parrinder I had a quick look back over the side where the fresh water was. Not much had changed, but there were a few wildfowl in front of the hide, so I was able to get some photos of shoveler and teal.


While I was walking up to the beach at around half one, high tide being at 3.00,  I walked alongside the saline marsh where I had been a few moments ago. There I spotted a Black-Tailed Godwit within photo range just. It also caught some of the more regular species that I had not bothered to take a photo of.

-L to R; Redshank, Black Tailed Godwit, Shelduck 
The sea was very foggy, and the beach was cold and windy. That meant that seawatching would be pretty pointless, and indeed it was. I diddnt see a single bird on the sea.
  The beach on the other hand was far more interesting. Scanning the waters edge provided great view through the scope of Sanderling, Godwits and oystercatchers. Up on the stand line, where I had set up the scope there were good numbers of Oystercatchers and Turnstones, as well as a couple of sanderlings. As I waited the sanderlings came much closer as did the turnstones, so I was able to get some reasonable photos of them both, especially the turnstones.


I gave up Seawatching about half an hour before high tide, because it was beginning to get really pointless, looking at fog. On the way up I asked the only other birder looking out to sea if he had anything, which he had not. I then asked him if anything else had turned up, to which he said that there was an Arctic warbler at Burnham Statite. Since it was on the way home, and would leave me more time than an hour at Cley I decided it might be a bird to go for.
  On the way back to the visitor center I passed the saline pool again, and this time the black-tailed godwit had been joined by an avocet, which is always a lovely bird to see.

-L to R; Black-Tailed Godwit, Avocet 
I was just about to leave the marsh when a flash of blue shot in front of me, and I realised that I had just seen a brief kingfisher, which was pretty lovely, though like I say, brief. Its still another great species to add to my holiday list.
  Back at the shop, I asked for directions on how to get the arctic warbler. Apparently it was not showing very well, which would not be helpful to me. I went and waited for the bus, as I had worked it out so that I was at the bus stop just in time for the bus.
  Upon arriving in Burnham Staithe it took me a few moments to work out where I was, and then i found some birders who directed me to the site. As I approached the sight I was able to see the crowd that had developed for the bird.

-Arctic Warbler Twitch 
I set up at the side of the group and then began looking where everyone else was. I caught the dark form of the bird moving quickly through the trees. I raised my binoculars to try and get a view, but it had already gone. This was the pattern for the next five minuets before the bird dissapeared. And that guys is how to dip on Arctic Warbler.
  I spent the next hour looking for the bird, but it failed to show and I eventually had to leave for my bus. It was disappointing, and a bit of a let down after such a good day. Never mind.
  On the way home I spotted a massive flock of Geese, probably brent, probably around 5000 birds, there were so many. It was a nice sight, and a good ending to what had been a mixed day.
Anyway, Today's species list;
Tichwell Marsh RSPB: Fieldfare, Robin, Blackbird, Little Grebe, Teal, Marsh Harrier, Black-Headed Gull, Mallard, Moorhen, Shelduck, Wigeon, Pintail, Brent Geese, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Black-Tailed Godwit, Bar-Tailed Godwit, Avocet, Curlew, Knot, Snipe, Dunlin, Sanderling, Shoveler, Black Redstart, Song Thrush, Herring Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Rock Pipit, Little Egret, Goldcrest, Carrion Crow, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Kingfisher, Dunnock, Woodpigeon, Skylark, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Pheasant, Goldfinch.
Brancaster Staithe Harbour: Goldcrest, Brent Geese, Curlew, Redshank, Robin, Fieldfare, Black-Headed Gull
Bus Journey: Swallow, Brent Geese (~5000)

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Norfolk Holiday Day 3; Part 2-Return to Cley

I got off the bus at Cley visitor center to see what had been seen. It was the same as yesterday, except without my additions of little gull and mealy red poll. I headed up the beach road to the shingle bar so that I could watch the migrants. I stopped off at a bench overlooking a field for lunch, but there was not much going on there, a handful of graylag geese feeding and a few mallards too.
  After lunch I headed up the coast road to see what there was. On the base of the road I heard a bearded reedling from the reeds, but was unable to track it down. There continued to be ample thrushes, all varieties with the exception of ring ouzel, as the wire where I got it yesterday was empty today. The fog had lifted slightly, so I could at least see my hand in front of my face. I also meant I could see into the ponds in the saltmarsh on the not reserve side of the road. In one of the nearest pools I spotted this little egret, fishing seeming unbothered by my presence.

-Little Egret
I continued to wander up the path, and arrived at the sluice gate where yesterday I had black redstart. I was just thinking that, when one flew down and landed on the path in front of me. I got out the scope and was able to get great views of it. It then flew down to the cattle pens, and so I followed it and found another. Today's were much less flighty than yesterdays and so I was able to get great views and photos of them, especially the second bird which was a very photogenic bird. I followed it for a bit, finally getting some great photos of these really lovely birds.

-Black Redstart 
I sadly lost the black redstart into the field next to the pen, where there were again plenty of thrushes, including more redwings and fieldfares. You got smashing views of them, as the incredible landfall continued.

I reached the car park and met the birder that gave me directions to the bluetail earlier. he was part of a group who were watching maybe 4 black redstarts on the car park fence. They were not as easy to see as the others at the sluice gate, but still cracking birds.
  We started  chatting about twitching, and how different bird watching on the coast was to bird watching inland. While we were chatting, he pointed out a thrush and said that it was a ring ouzel. I mentioned that I had only had my first ring ouzel yesterday and he said that he had never seen a passage like it for ouzel.

-Black Redstarts 
I moved on, around the car park to a shrubby area where there were some goldcrests feeding. A guy told me that there was a yellow-browed warbler in among st them, so I spent around an hour looking for that. While I waited, a flock of maybe 100 brambling landed in the field behind the shrubby patch. They were difficult to make out when landed, but when they flew off you got to really appreciate the numbers.

While we waited the fog lifted and the sun actually came out. I was able to see out to sea and look upon blue sky, for the first time this holiday. It did mean though that when a flock of brent geese flew over I was able to get some photos of them, sort of flying in formation, but it was difficult with only five geese.

-Brent Geese
you could still see the fog inland, and as I looked across the field, I noticed a huge number of Golden plover that had been resting on the ridge, but just looked like tufts of grass. There were probably about 150, but it was the first group I had seen this holiday, so I was pretty impressed.

-Golden Plover
Brent geese continued to fly overhead. This time there were some bigger skeins, though they were still not huge numbers. It is likely that the fog was holding large numbers up in other areas of the country

-Brent Geese
Then the yellow Browed Warbler chase got more exciting as a small warbler appeared on the fence on the other side of the pool. A few of us began to watch it, but nobody got a clear view. The guy who had seen it originally managed to get a handful of photos. The guy he was speaking to had a look, and his verdict was that it was in fact a chiff-chaff. I had a look at the photos too, after the bird had gone...It was almost certainly a Chiff Chaff.
  I set of along the shingle bar to try and get some more migrants. I managed to find plenty more robins, a species seemingly not in short supply this passage. There were also a few brambling  I saw their white rumps disappear ahead of me. There was however, much less than yesterday, perhaps testament to the fact that the fog had lifted slightly.
  There were very few birds on the pools over the shingle. The Water pipit that had been reported earlier seemed to have disappeared. I did however watch as a brown bird landed next to one of the pools. Immediately my hopes raised that it may be an obscure wader, or some other obscure bird. However, when it came to it, it was a skylark, which was lovely to see, especially since they had been singing all day for some bizarre reason.

I had descended from the path to try and get a good view of the skylark, and on my way back up I noticed something moving above it on the shingle ridge. It took me a few moments to work out what was going on, but when I got it it was a stoat carrying a vole off to its lair, so I rushed for the camera. sadly, the only photos worth putting up were those from the when the animal had stopped moving, so I didn't have to move the camera to catch up with it.

The rest of the walk along the shingle passed with only ample robins to report, though at the turn off down to the road I had brambling and chaffinch, which were nice birds to see. Walking down the path to the road I spotted an obscure bird flying towards me. Only when it flew overhead did I realise that I had just seen the resident sacred ibis which was apparently about. It was curious to see, and weather or not it counts on my list of species or not. either way, I only managed one quick photo of it.

-Sacred Ibis
I made it to the bus stop for half four, but decided not to catch that bus, even though it drove past me as I decided two seconds before not to catch it. I decided instead that time could be better spent birding, so I headed towards the hides to try and boost my species list for the day with some wildfowl and waders. I settled down in the middle hide and waited to see what would appear. The first bird to catch my attention away from the gulls and ducks was a chiff-chaff that settled just in front of the hide happily hunting for insects and other things.

-Chiff Chaff
It was while I was watching the chiff chaff that I noticed a hare appear on the grass ridge in front of me, which sat rather obligingly all things considered, but only for a few shots, as the camera click seemed to disturb it, as it had done rather too many things in its time.

-Brown Hare
Out on "Pat's Pool" I began to check the edges of the mud through the scope. This way I managed to find the ruff from yesterday (or probably the same one). Its a long way away from the hide for my camera so I was difficult to get a photo. It was however much better than yesterdays effort since there was less fog today. Other unusual birds on the pool included a lone avocet near the back and a lone pochard near the front.

It was approaching 5 o'clock, and the birds were starting to settle down and disappear. I was watching "Simmond's Scrape" casually, killing time really as I had seen pretty much everything that was still around, when a cream colored bird began to appear over the reeds at the back. Lines to remember; "that's a scruffy little egret!". It took me a moment to realise that I was actually looking at a barn own, and immediately reached for the camera to take some record shots of only my second ever Barn Owl. I was able to watch it hunt and fly loopingly over the reeds through the camera.
  Perhaps it was the fact I was not expecting it, or perhaps it was the fact I was the one that had seen it, I felt more amazed at seeing this barn owl than the Bluetail this morning. I felt a sense of pride at being able to watch this unusual bird that had just appeared in front of me.

-Barn Owl
So it was another exceptionally rewarding day, especially with smashing views of Black Redstarts, a Barn Owl and of course the Blue tail. Here comes today's species list anyway:
Stiffkey Woods: -Red-Flanked Bluetail, -Long-Tailed Tit, -Goldcrest, -Fieldfare, -Redshank, -Little Egret, -Great Tit, -Blue Tit, -Robin, -Blackbird, -Song Thrush
Cley Marshes NWT: -Black Redstart (7), -Brent Geese, -Ring Ouzel, -Golden Plover, -Sacred Ibis (escape), -Goldcrest, -Little Egret, -Gannet, -Skylark, -Chaffinch, -Brambling, -Goldfinch, -Blackbird, -Song Thrush, -Mistle Thrush, -Redwing, -Fieldfare, -Cormorant, -Starling, -Avocet, -Herring Gull, -Lesser Black-Backed Gull, -Greater Black Backed Gull, -Black-Headed Gull, -Common Gull, -Mute Swan, -Shoveler, -Teal, -Wigeon, -Shelduck, -Mallard, -Graylag Goose, -Coot, -Moorhen, -Lapwing, -Ruff, -Redshank, -Curlew, -Marsh Harrier, -Black-Tailed Godwit, -Pochard, -Willow Warbler, -Chiff Chaff, -Pied Wagtail, -Blue Tit, -Great Tit, -Dunnock, -Woodpigeon, -Robin, -Barn Owl, -Pheasant,