Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Staying Out for the Summer

Or .....Who knows where the Thyme goes.  What will follow are a bundle of pics from the brief but sweet jaunts out birding over the summer.  I managed to see a couple of Purple Emperor including this one the Rothschild Bungalow at Woodwalton Fen back in July.

The last week of July was spent on the beach at Southwold.  A dawn visit to Minsmere was gorgeous with lots of waders including a strong posse of Spotted Redshank right in front of the hide with a supporting cast of Godwits. A flock of 30 Little Gulls moved through quickly but hung around just long enough to enjoy the range of plumages of this dainty Larid.
Icing on the cake of a brilliant morning at The Scrape was drinking in the adult Baird's Sandpiper that had been found the previous day, it was not showing for the first hour or so of daylight but then did just pop up in the Dunlin flock, a nice little adrenalin shot as I'd assumed it had probably moved on.



Butterflies were varied and at certain points abundant.   There were still some slightly jaded Silver-studded Blues on the heathland along with some iridescent Common Blue. A treat indeed was in store from the Canopy Hide, where it was possible to watch Purple Hairstreaks going about their business without neck contortion.  Their tussles with Grayling were a surprise, as they too were dashing around at canopy height.

The summer is wedding season and my cousin's called for an overnight stay in Derby.  This brightened up a little when, on parking in the multi-storey, the concrete cavern was resonating to a cacophony of Peregrine noise.  On inspection the rear of the car park overlooked Derby Cathedral where Peregrines have reared young for many years now.  When I opened the hotel curtains on the 6th floor the following morning the tiercel, shot past in clear pursuit.  Two minutes later he cruised by the window again.  This was eyeball to eyeball stuff as he cast me a look, passing within 10ft, a pigeon limp within his talons. 

Back on the Fens it was muggy and sleepy.  At Roswell Pits Willow Emeralds seemed very well established, the first county record of this colonising damselfly was at this site just 2 years ago. Another localised rarity is the White-spotted Pinion, a moth that has pitched up in the garden moth trap three years on the trot now.
 A rewarding trip to Welney yielded a family party of Cranes, a juvenile Temminck's Stint and a troupe of dozing Garganey amongst the moulting dabblers. 


If there needed to be any further reminder of the slipping of summer into the comforting tangle of the autumn, a Spotted Flycatcher took up a temporary residence at the front of the house on it's way south.

Although it won't be the last trip to the beach the first days of September certainly saw the last with any real warmth.  Just offshore another Hilary Burn plate from childhood formed as a dipping and diving procession of Terns - Arctic, Common, Sandwich and Black gathered in the sun.
Let's see what the East wind brings.......................... 

Saturday, 17 September 2016

once more unto the beach

On Wednesday we left Norfolk feeling that there was unfinished business, so on Friday we were back on the coast determined to find something good before the weather set in. We were fortunate that the rain held off for a while, and in that time we found the Wryneck that had been reported the day before, as well as a bushful of Garden Warblers and Willow Warblers, Redstarts, Spotted Flycatchers and Whinchat spread along the dunes. With the wind at our backs steadily strengthening, and despite the gloom, a Yellow-browed Warbler appeared.
In hindsight, we should have left it there, but we pushed on with the drizzle now getting worse, and the birds getting harder to find. Drizzle turned to rain, and, having reached the pines at Holkham we decided to take shelter in the Jordan hide for a while, but the misty scene before us was not the wildfowl filled extravaganza that Holkham is famous for. A few harriers, a Peregrine, Spoonbill and Great White Egret were about, and six Pinkfeet flew past, the vanguard of future spectacle.
It was clear that the rain wasn't going anywhere except on us, so, doing our best to string a couple of barely seen birds fleeing our attentions, we bedraggled our way back to the car.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

scarce pleasure

Hot you say. The seaside then. Almost. Rich and myself went up to Norfolk yesterday to see what the east wind had blown in, and at six o'clock in the morning it was already teeshirt weather at Wells. We strolled around a little patch of bushes and reeds and were just beginning to wonder where all the birds had gone when our attention was drawn to one bush in particular, a straggly hawthorn with no leaves that for some reason seemed to be the best place for a bird to be. Just one bush- but it was packed with Blackcaps ( at least ten) and a few other birds. A Lesser Whitethroat chased by a Common Whitethroat, a very tame Reed Warbler, Reed Buntings, Chiffchaff and even a Whinchat.
After a slow start it was turning quickly into a bird day, and we drove across to Burnham Overy to see what else we could find. Our first stop, at the end of a hedgerow, gave us the best action of the day- a bright eyed Sparrowhawk suddenly took off from a hundred yards away and approached rapidly, scattering Linnets from the top of a willow. Most of the twittering finches broke to the left, but one went right and was soon singled out by the hawk. The first lunge saw a puff of feathers float away on the breeze, but a fraction of a second later the cloak of death spread over the Linnet and the hawk flew back to the hedge with it's meal.

Down on the sea wall there was a vision of a different sort. A reed filled ditch came alive with the plinking of Bearded Tits, and soon we were watching a flock of over a dozen rise from cover, circle round and back again- the very definition of a babbling, a word I have literally just coined to describe the energetic hopping and flitting of these birds readying themselves for a big move.

Babblers may babble, but chats do not chat. In the dunes, once we'd got used to the constant appearance of Linnets, Reed Buntings and Meadow Pipits, without ever seeing anything rarer with them, we started uncovering the scarcer arrivals. Three Siskins were an anachronistic sight in the dune scrub, but a couple of Redstarts were more of an expected sight. Further along, two Whinchats and a Spotted Flycatcher sprang from bush to bush. We walked east over to the edge of Holkham Pines, and despite not finding anything major, we contented ourselves with more Whinchats- six or seven of them, a couple of Wheatears and a few Stonechats, as well as a Tree Pipit. We never did make it to the seaside as such, but a quick scan towards  the beach revealed a Peregrine eating something, and a distant Skua trying his best to eat something that the terns were catching.
A long hot walk back to the car was punctuated by a brief stop to watch two Red Kites tussling with each other. Not Bad at all.

Monday, 12 September 2016

titchwell afternoon.

Titchwell was a much more relaxed place than Frampton the other day, despite Dunc's two little scamps urging us onwards to the beach for a paddle. Needless to say I did not take my shoes of or go scrambling over the remains of the old pill box, but instead settled for watching the waders poking around just metres away from the path. All the usual early autumn species were there in small numbers, but that thankfully meant it was easier to take them all in rather than being swamped with the spectacle. 

Friday, 9 September 2016


I got a call from Lou this afternoon. The new stockman at Welney, Dave, had spotted an Osprey just south of the reserve. It landed in a stubble field and was still there when I arrived. A bit distant perhaps, but such a bold form and pattern stood out well, and I was able to do a bit of sketching before it took off and slowly sailed the breeze towards the back of Lady Fen.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

frampton comes alive. obvious.

I'd never been to Frampton Marsh. It's been visited by a large number of Curlew Sandpipers recently, a good excuse for a visit of my own. Of course I hadn't realised that, if there could be a hundred Curlew Sandpipers, there might be a lot more of the commoner species. The 360 hide was beseiged by a host of waders roosting and jittering about the exposed mudflats. They were everywhere in vast numbers, surrounding the hide in the high tide. I did some sketching, but mostly just sat and found new birds to look at everywhere I looked. Some picked along the muddy bank just outside the window, while others streamed low over the scrape in ever increasing numbers, alighting on a sandy bar then up again as the falling tide lured them out onto the wash beyond the sea wall. This is a place to return to.