Saturday, 9 May 2015

Butterfly Ball

Out of the wind there is a little warmth in the air, a treat in this cold Spring. The Cow Parsley has grown high to fill the space between the gravestones, their white flowers helping to show off clumps of bluebells.

Walking along one of the paths that winds its way along the edge of the hillside that Cemetery sits on is like walking down a woodland ride, there are clumps of Primroses and I can hear a Chiff Chaffs monotonous song.

A scrap of bright blue catches my eye as it fly's past, it could easily be a detached bluebell petal caught by the wind, but it purposefully gains height around a Holly Tree and is joined by another flying blue petal. They are Holly Blues and they dance around each other and the Holly, occasionally one will break off and disappear into the depths of the overgrown Cemetery, only for another blue scrap to appear and join in the dance, sometimes there are up to half a dozen taking part in this butterfly lek. Then when the sun goes behind a cloud and the temperature drops, they disappear, settled on a leaf, wings folded, blue hidden until the sun reappears, the temperature rises and the butterfly ball starts again.

Holly Blue taking time out from the Butterfly Ball

Sunday, 3 May 2015

March and April filling in the gaps

Marsh Harrier
Friday 6th March
Dusk visit to Lyndford Arboretum, no Hawfinches, but lots of calling Redwings flighting in to roost in conifers, and a Tawny Owl heard.

Saturday 7th March

A quick half hour at Holme Marsh, a female Marsh Harrier, one Barn Owl and boxing Hares

Sunday 8th March
Garganey 1 male, on Patsy's Pool, Red Crested Pochard 4 Pairs on Patsy's Pool, Marsh Harrier 1, Cetti's heard.

Choseley Barns
Single Corn Bunting on wires

Thursday 12th March
Snettisham village, a single Woodlark song-flighting over the office.

Ken Hill Wood lunchtime
Marsh Tit saw several, first in ages, each year I wonder if they have just been very quiet over the winter or are they spring migrants? Also a Peacock my first butterfly of year.

Sunday 15th March.

An evening walk at Holme north from toilet block and back down access road - cold! Marsh Harrier at least 4 including 1 stonkingly well plumaged male, Barn Owl 1, Pied wagtail 3, Fieldfare 11, no summer migrants.

Saturday 21st March
A cold evening visit to Titchwell Marsh in search of Hen Harrier's, saw a male east along dunes at 17.30, plus c 6 Marsh Harriers, one Kestrel, a single male Red Crested Pochard, and two singing Cetti's Warblers.

Stopped at Thornham Harbour on the way home for the rather impressive Starling murmuration.

Male Garganey

Red Crested Pochard
Sunday 22nd March
Titchwell Marsh, winter birds thinning out, spring birds absent, sunnier & a little warmer than last night. Managed single Kingfisher perched on reeds on edge of Betts Pool, plus one Marsh Harrier, one male Red Crested Pochard. Otherwise quiet lots of Brents bathing on Fresh Marsh "good numbers" of Common Gulls passing through.

On way home saw a single Merlin in a field north of Choseley drying Barns, south of Barns 10 - 20 Fieldfare.

Barn Owl
Wednesday 1st April
Dene Park wood, Kent, got out of car and immediately heard first Chiff Chaff of spring in song, by car park a rather lovely clump of Wood anemones.

Thursday 2nd April
Hadlow, Kent, a Brimstone in garden.

Sunday 5th April
Holme Dunes NWT, very quiet, a few Chiff Chaffs. four Marsh Harriers, a Barn Owl, and one White Wagtail in with 10 Pieds.

Monday 6th April
An evening drive "Owling" with no 1 son [age 5].
Drove coast road as far as Lady Annes Drive at Holkham, then looped back inland on Ringstead Road, at great success no1 son saw 3 Barn Owls and a Buzzard well, I also got 2 Little Owls. Best Barn Owl was on Ringstead to Heacham road perched on a post allowing great views

Wednesday 8th April
Brancaster village, sunny day with Peacock, Comma, small Tortoiseshell seen and Blackcap and Chiff Chaff heard.

Another evening "Owling" no1 son. Started this time with a short walk at Holme then drove as far as Brancaster Staithe and the looped back inland. Highlights were 2 Barn Owls and No1 son getting brief views of a Little Owl, plus a couple of close Buzzards one of which was carrying a Leveret, and No 1 son learning to imitate a curlews call.

Saturday 11th April
Courtyard Farm with my wife and two small boys to collect pond water for our tank of Tadpoles, there were Common toads in the Whartons Belt pond, Blackcap and Chiff Chaff singing, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma flying.

Sunday 12th April, 8 - 9.30 am
Walked from Holme toilet block to conifers and back. Highlight was a male Ring Ousel, which was almost the first bird I saw as it flew out of cover on the golf course and landed for just long enough for me to get scope on it, then flew into top of bush by path before disappearing. Also had Chiff Chaffs didn't count these but heard 4 - 6 singing, A Cetti's by the NWT entrance gate. Swallow 3 singles west.

Titchwell Marsh
A quick half hour here with one male Red Crested Pochard on Patsys Pool, 2 - 4 Marsh Harriers, 2 Buzzards, a Sparrowhawk, Chiff Chaffs, and two Cetti's.
Little Bunting

Male Redstart

Tuesday 14th April
Stopped at Choseley Drying Barns on way to and from work, dipped on both visits on Dotterel, but did year tick Wheatear (5)

Thursday 23rd April
Two visits to Snettisham coastal park [lunch time and after work], scored Little Bunting, a rather smart male Redstart, heard a Cuckoo, heard / saw White throat, Lesser Whitethroat, Swallow, Yellow Wagtail, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Chiff Chaff, Cettis 2 - 3, Med Gull 2. Rather good!

Friday 24th April
River Yare in Norwich, small Pond by the Cow Tower a basking terrapin, suspect 3 present.
Subsequent correspondence with a Herpetologist friend
"I was not sure of the Turtle as it does not resemble the normal Red Ear  Trachemys scripta elegans or the Yellow bellied Slider Trachemys scripta scripta. The trouble is there are a lot of subspecies in the USA & Mexico and going down Central America plus some species in the West Indies but managed to find photos of a lot of these and nothing had the WIde yellow Y mark well away from the eye coupled with the thinner line of red together with radial yellow stripes on the shell. I did think of an intergrade or hybrid and sent the photos to an expert over in Denmark who wrote the main document on the species in Europe as an Invasive alien who has said he is certain that it is a hybrid between Trachemys scripta scrripta and Trachemys scripta elegans.

Saturday 25th April
Pensthorpe Natural Park for Wild About the Wensum with the family. An uncomfortably busy day but did manage to year tick Common Tern and a male Orangetip.

Sunday 26th April
Titchwell Marsh, a morning walk turned up a Spotted Redshank in summer plumage, two Little Ringed Plover, a Common Sandpiper, one adult Gannet and four Eider's offshore, a single Cettis seen well, plus Blackcap, Chiff Chaff, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, and a Grasshopper Warbler reeling from a small willow by Patsy's Pool.

Choseley Drying Barns
Finally connected with the Dotterel, two females and a male very distant views of them in a ploughed field.

Thursday 30th April
A walk to a meeting through St James's Park in London, picked up a Ring Necked Parakeet on call, feeding in London Plane tree very well camouflaged.

Ring necked Parakeet

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Sunset snaps

I live in Hunstanton and regularly see people taking pictures of the sunset over The Wash cameras, phones and tablets held in front of their faces in supplication and I suspect 99% of the time capturing the same snap shot of a ball of fire descending into the sea.

I am occasionally tempted to take a picture like this and below is one that I think works due to the very simplicity and symmetry of the composition.

Wash sunset
But I like to try and get something a little more interesting and a few evenings back I went for a walk at dusk along Hunstanton Beach with my binoculars and little compact camera [a Panasonic Lumix TZ30], as much to stretch my legs and back as anything and with perhaps a vague hope of hearing and maybe seeing a newly arrived Sandwich Tern offshore.

As I filled the void left by the completely absent terns I played with my camera wondering how to make the setting sun part of a more interesting composition than just the cliched ball of fire setting into the sea. And then I saw this family strung out in a line and trudging homewards. I liked the fact there were three of them and how at the end of the day Dad was leading the way and followed by mum and child with their tired heads bowed, or at least that's what I read into the picture. Also liked the simple composition with lines of colour. And yes I know that the horizon isn't quite straight.

Home from the beach

Sunday, 19 April 2015

A brief visit to South Essex

Spent a couple of days for work in south Essex on the 15th and 16th of April, managed to see a few birds along the way.

A hot Wednesday afternoon was spent walking the seawall at Wallasea Island a real feel of summer with the odd Swallow hawking over the approach road and a smattering of citrus bright Yellow Wagtails. As ever the hugeness of this site hits you straight between the yes as you walk down footpath along the edge of the Crouch estuary and view the island being transformed before your eyes.

Bird-wise we heard then saw two or three Med Gulls and a number of Little Egrets and lost of sky larks and singing Corn Buntings. But perhaps the highlight of the visit were the two Short Eared Owls hunting the rank grass by the side of the road.

Black Winged Stilts caught in the act at Bowers Marsh
On Thursday a walk and talk around Bowers Marsh was enlivened by the presence of a pair of Black Winged Stilts part of an influx in the K this spring as this species continues to show signs of colonising. Whilst watching the Stilts and Avocet's we also managed to pick out an unexpected Glaucous Gull. Half a dozen Swallows were the most I have seen together this year. I tried my hand at digiscoping through my old Nikon ED and got the "best" results using my Panasonic Lumix TZ30 Macro Zoom setting.

Glaucous Gull at Bowers Marsh
Finished the tour at Wat Tyler Country Park where the first bird I saw and heard was a Cuckoo, pretty quickly followed by the explosive song of a Cettis Warbler.

Decaying boat at Wat Tyler Country Park

Sunday, 1 March 2015

February brief update

Monday 9th February
Nice to see a flock of Whoopers from the train as I headed south across the Fens from Kings Lynn. Walking from the guided Busway stop in Swavesey to my meeting in the village I saw a Water Rail in a roadside ditch and a Sparrowhawk flew over carrying prey. Later on my way back to the Busway I had a nice Great Spotted Woodpecker perched up.

Roadside Water Rail

Thursday 12th
A meeting at Minsmere ended with a short blast of fresh air before the drive home, not a great deal seen in the gloom but always nice to see a few Marsh Harriers over the reedbed and a perched Kingfisher and Bullfinch. Lots of Muntjac's.
Minsmere Muntjac

Minsmere, Landscape art, I liked this
A family stroll around the boardwalk along the edge of the saltmarsh in Brancaster was enlivened by a male Peregrine "having a go" at a Lapwing. After this I managed a short visit to Titchwell where I finally added Spotted Redshank and Bearded Tit to my year list.
Marsh Harriers displaying over Brancaster saltings
Sunday 22nd, 
I made a brief stop at the "Wolferton Triangle" on my way home from visiting my mum in hospital in Kent. Had brief views of a nice male Golden Pheasant.

Wednesday 25th
A day of meetings at the Lodge in Bedfordshire, I factored in time to walk up from Sandy station across the nature reserve and was rewarded by two Ravens flying over calling.

Saturday 28th
Another flying visit to see my mum in hospital in Kent and this time I came home via Thetford Forest, I stopped at Lyndford Arboretum mainly for a walk and some fresh air but also in the hope of connecting with a Hawfinch, I didn't do this, but did add Siskin and Marsh Tit to my year list which stands at an OK for me 122, so 10 months to find the 78 species needed to hit my target of 200 for the year.
Heavily cropped Marsh Tit

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Mid January to early February catch up

Been a busy few weeks, so time for a quick catch up.

Sunday 18th January
I took the kids for a walk on Holme Beach, fun for them and it meant that I was able to connect with the flock of c 30 Snow Buntings that have been feeding on the saltmarsh here. Also added Sanderling and Red Breasted Merganser to the year list.

Snow Buntings at Holme
Monday 19th 
A lunchtime walk around Thorpe Marshes Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve in Norwich. Pretty quiet so I counted the ducks, with amongst others 64 Gadwall, 27 Teal [massive under count I expect] 20 Tufted Duck and 1 Pochard and single Snipe.

Thursday 22nd
Car Park opposite Hunstanton Tesco
With 2 Waxwings reported feeding in trees around the edge of the car park and drinking in puddles, I paused briefly on the school run to see one of these birds, probably spent less than a minute paused and looking. Had thought I'd be able to come back at leisure but these birds proved elusive and that was to be my lot.

Also added Grey Partridge to the year list today with a small Covey by the side of the A149 bringing up 100 species for the year.

Friday 23rd
A lunchtime walk around Ken Hill Wood was pretty average with a nice mixed flock of Long Tailed, Coal, Blue and Great Tits, plus Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker and Common Buzzard.
Saturday 24th
A quick hour at Titchwell 
2 - 3 Marsh Harriers, a single Woodcock from Meadow Trail which I'd of gotten a better picture of if I'd not been busy helping an old girl get onto it only for her to hell her son that she couldn't use scopes. Barn Owl was a nice bonus.

Crap picture of Woodcock

Tuesday 27th
My commute between Hunstanton and Norwich today was enlivened by single Barn Owls on the morning and evening and a Little Owl on the morning drive. 

Wednesday 28th
River Yare in Norwich at Thorpe St Andrew
Tipped off by a friend I spent ten minutes looking for and another ten minutes photographing a first winter Mediterranean Gull in amongst the Black Headed Gulls on the riverbank here.

First Winter Med Gull
Friday 30th
Left the office in Norwich a little early and in the twilight I saw at least 2 and maybe 3 Tawny Owls perched by the side of the road.

Saturday 31st
Regents Park London, took the kids to London Zoo and the first birds we heard on arrival and the last on departure were feral Ring Necked Parakeets.

Sunday 8th February 
Titchwell Marsh, lovely couple of hours on a bright winters day with several year ticks including Kingfisher [saw two birds together twice], Water Pipit, Water Rail, Common Scoter and a distant Long Tailed Duck. Also good to see Stonechat and Marsh Harrier and the ducks looked great today. Yellowhammer on the drive home brought the year list to 115.

Black Tailed Godwit
Spotters one of whom never seemed to pause for breath

Friday, 16 January 2015

Lunchtime Peregrine

I've taken lunchtime walks in and around Norwichs' Rosary cemetery and surrounding residential streets at least once a week for the last ten years or so. Some of these walks are real stomps to clear my head between meetings, some pass in a daze as I think about challenges at work and others [my favourites] are when I pause to take pictures and do a spot of birding with out binoculars.

Crap picture of a Peregrine over Norwich last week
During the week one walk started as a stomp, but as I walked up a side street with my head down against the wind a movement caught my eye and I instinctively looked up to see the distinctive low flying shape of a Peregrine as it flew past me and over the cemetery fence. Now I'm used to seeing Peregrines but the unexpected context and brief views left me doubting the sighting and keen for better views. So my stomp turned to a measured stroll as I walked downhill through the cemetery, constantly looking at the window of sky framed by the mature trees that grow here.

Just as I was about to walk out the cemetery gate into Rosary road I picked out the peregrine it's distinctive silhouette high above the cemetery.  As I walked down the road back to the office the bird drifted towards me and I took a few shots with my compact camera. Then it peeled away to half heartedly chase a gull, before giving up, at this point a woodpigeon flew over the office roof and did a sharp U turn when it saw the peregrine, which them drifted away to the south.