Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Warming up, first Blackcap and lots of Chiff Chaffs

A pretty standard last ten days or so with a mix o work and family time and bird sightings woven into these.
Chiff Chaff, Rosary Cemetery, Norwich
Last Thursday the 27th of March saw me at Titchwell for a meeting that was enlivened by a female Brambling on the feeders outside the office. The following day I helped a friend out with some jobs at Snettisham at lunchtime and was rewarded with great views of five Mediterranean Gulls on one of the islands.

A lovely early spring morning on Saturday saw me taking the kids for a walk around Ken Hill Woods where several Chiff Chaffs could be heard singing and we saw numerous butterflies including 8 - 10 Brimstone's nearly as many Small Tortoiseshell's and a couple of Peacocks. Then in the afternoon I had a quick walk along Lovers Lane at the back of Hunstanton and enjoyed a Common Buzzard, lots of Hares, drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers and 10 to 20 Yellowhammers, walking back up Downs road a flock of c 40 House Sparrows was great to see and hear.

Sunday and I bumped into a Stoat and Little Owl on the Ringstead to Choseley road in the morning and a Buzzard and Hen Harrier on a back road near Stanhoe in the afternoon.

Spring blossom, Rosary Cemetery, Norwich
Today [Tuesday 1 April] I had a wonderful twenty minutes at lunchtime in the Rosary Cemetery in Norwich, real warm short sleeves weather and I was able to watch a sun bathing Grey Squirrel and see and hear my first Blackcap of the Spring as well as singing Chiff Chaffs, Stock Doves, Great Tits and Blackbirds and a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker. Plus a couple of Peacock butterflies and loads of Primroses.

Primroses, Rosary Cemetery, Norwich

Monday, 24 March 2014

Redwing's out, Wheatear's in

From mid February until about a week ago life went on hold as we cared for our two little boys who too it in turn to be ill with Chicken Pox and a nice range of other bugs. Fortunately other than both having colds both are well again and so I am able to update this blog with details of the few birds I've stumbled across since early March.
Boats in the Spring sunshine at low tide, Burnham Overy Staithe

Work took me out to Great Missenden on the edge of the Chilterns and just beyond the reach of the Metropolitan line.  Walking to Marylebone station to get the overland train I picked out a pair of Mandarin Duck in flight over a garden square. Out of the train window I saw three Red Kites and there were often Kites and Common Buzzards over the conference centre and a pair of Grey Wagtails feeding on the lawn.

Sunday the 16th was a quiet family Sunday with a visit to Grand dads in Brancaster, standing outside in the garden there was a light passage of Redwing's heading west and that evening I heard more Redwing's calling over Hunstanton.

On Monday 17th I was I Minsmere for a meeting and managed a very short walk on the reserve after the meeting during which I heard my first Cetti's Warblers and Chiff Chaffs for the year and watched a couple of Marsh Harriers quarter the reedbed from Bittern Hide.

A lunchtime walk in Ken Hill Wood on Friday 21st was enlivened by all five resident Tit species [Marsh, Great, Coal, Blue and Long Tailed] and I picked up on call and then saw a pair of Bullfinches, rather embarrassingly these were a year tick.

On Saturday 22nd I found a nice flock of Redwings up by Choesley drying barns and a male Wheatear in a ploughed field at Courtyard Farm.  I took the time on this day to check through flocks of Turnstones at Hunstanton and Brancaster Staithe and couldn't find any colour ringed birds which suggest that the flocks of Turnstones I was seeing earlier in the winter have moved on taking the marked birds with them. 

Yesterday the 23rd I managed ten minutes in Brancaster Staithe Harbour photographing Black Tailed Godwits in poor light but it was so good to see some of these moulting into their lovely red breeding plumage it was worth the effort.
Black Tailed Godwit, Brancaster Staithe

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Firecrest and other stuff on the move

In some small way its felt has if my birding mojo has started to return this past fortnight. Having spent the winter not seeing very much at all I've managed to find a couple of OK birds and had a general sense that some movement was happening and in my own small way I was connecting with it.

A Shag at sunset
Tuesday 18th saw me back under the cliffs in Hunstanton this time with a DSLR and a big lens but unfortunately I couldn''t find the previous evenings Peregrine, I did though again manage to see four Shags. Earlier that day a family walk in Ken Hill Woods turned up three Marsh Tits my first of the year there.

On the 21st I found a flock of 50 - 100 Fieldfare at Courtyard Farm and a couple of days later a similar sized flock feeding in another roadside field. Whilst a train journey south across the Fens from King's Lynn on the 24th was notable for the flocks of Redwings, Fieldfares and Starlings in the fields and maybe the last wild swans I'll see on this journey this winter, what I took for a herd of Whoopers.


A drive on the 22nd to get our two year boy to sleep was enlivened by a flock of around 30 Bramblings in the fields and hedgerows between Choseley drying barns and Choseley hamlet. Earlier that morning a family walk along the boardwalk on the edge of the marshes at Brancaster had turned up my first butterfly of the year a Small Tortoiseshell in a marsh side garden sitting on a snowdrop.

The 26th saw me taking a lunchtime walk around Ken Hill Wood and although pleasant was pretty uneventful bird wise until I came to leave the wood in Common Road, I noticed a Long Tailed Tit that seemed to be accompanied by a Chiff Chaff. Raising my binoculars I quickly realised it wasn't a Chiff Chaff but a Crest and for a moment I was non-plussed by the socking great white supercilium on the bird and the realisation that I had lucked into a Firecrest. I spent the next 20 minutes or so trying to get a picture with my little compact Panasonic Lumix TZ30. The picture below is heavily cropped and was the best of the bunch taken at 3200 ISO. 

Ken Hill Firecrest

Ken Hill continued to produce the goods with three flyover Crossbills on the 28th and nice views of a Siskin on the 29th a species which has been thin on the ground there this winter.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Sap starting to rise: Monday 10 to Monday 17 February

A relatively quiet first part of the week with the highlight perhaps being a Barn Owl in my headlights near Heacham, as I returned home from Norwich one evening.
Common Buzzard

A drive around the back roads on Sunday 16th was enlivened by two Common Buzzards drifting low over the car whilst no 2 son took his afternoon nap in the back. But the highlight of this drive was a couple of Brown Hare's that I spotted in a roadside field, normally these would have run off the moment I stopped the car but they had their minds on other things and I had a great five minutes watching them chase and box around the field, the sun even came out for a short while. You can see a few more pictures from this session on my Flickr page.

Another feature of the weekend was noticing for the first time in ages Skylarks in full song, a great sign that as the days draw out we are inexorably moving towards Spring.

Boxing Brown Hares

Today was taken up with a family outing to Wells Beach, all very quiet for birds although it was nice to hear a Little Grebe 'laughing' on the boating Lake where a male Goldeneye was great to see.

Shags on Hunstanton Cliffs at dusk

This evening I managed a walk at dusk under Hunstanton Cliffs, highlights were a pair of Red Breasted Merganser on the sea, c 350 Brent Geese over, lots of Fulmars on the cliffs, plus four Shags sitting on the sea that one by one took off into the wind and circled round over the sea before landing on the Cliffs to roost. As I headed home , in a bit of a hurry kids to bath, I flushed Peregrine which landed on a rocky bluff and allowed me to take some very grainy and distant pictures with the compact camera I had in my pocket. A nice end to the day.

Grainy, distant, slightly blurry shot of a Peregrine on Hunstanton Cliffs

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Muntjac & Shag

Muntjac, Ken Hill Wood
A very quiet week with little time for lunchtime walks and a weekend dominated by children's parties on Saturday and a sick child on Sunday. Having said that I did manage a couple of 20 minute walks around Ken Hill Wood on Thursday and Friday lunchtimes. These walks started with the song of a Mistle Thrush singing from the top of an old Oak in some horse paddocks by the office. The wood's themselves were pretty quiet bird wise but on both occasions I saw the tell tale rear end of a Muntjac disappearing into cover and this one turned to stare at me.

Hunstanton Beach on a 'small' high tide
This afternoon I managed a 90 minute walk under the cliffs and back up Chapel Bank, the shot above was taken at high tide. It was disappointing not to see any waders perhaps they had taken shelter from the strong wind or been flushed by Sunday afternoon walkers.  However a pleasant surprise was a single shag roosting on the cliffs and it's always nice to see the Fulmar's gliding around the cliffs and over the sea in between bouts of chattering away to each other. 

Fulmar, Hunstanton

Shag, Hunstanton Cliffs
Chapel Bank was pleasantly sheltered form the wind but again pretty unexciting with the best birds being a pair of Grey Partridge.

All pictures above taken with my compact camera a Panasonic Lumix TZ30.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

On reflection not a bad week, I had to spend 4 days working in Norwich and had very little time for lunch time walks. On the one brisk walk between meetings that I did manage I grabbed the shot below of a Grey Squirrel in the Rosary Cemetery, this was one of 3 or 4 animals feeding close together and occasionally chasing each other around the Gravestones and trees.

Grey Squirrel, Rosary Cemetery, Norwich
The commute to Norwich sometimes goes by in a daze of Radio 4 or music on a CD, this week I did manage a sighting of a Barn Owl near Docking and a Muntjac.

Friday saw me taking a few hours off work and I chose to spend them walking around Harlem, I dipped on the Short Eared Owl and Snow Buntings, but did see 45 species including Peregrine, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and Common Buzzard which was nice.

On Saturday I grabbed a couple of hours in the cold wind under the cliffs in Hunstanton and spent most of this trying to photograph Bar Tailed Godwit's, the shot below is my favourite image of this session.

Bar Tailed Godwits, Hunstanton, The Wash

Sanderling, Hunstanton, The Wash
Sunday morning was taken up with a nice family walk along the boardwalk on the edge of the Marshes in Brancaster, followed by a lunch of some rather nice takeaway Pizza's from the Jolly Sailors in Brancaster Staithe. The shot below is of cropped shot from my compact camera of a Long Tailed Tit on my father in laws bird feeders. After lunch I took number two son for a drive to get him to sleep and spent the last part of this parked in Brancaster Staithe harbour photographing feeding Bar Tailed Godiwt's. All in all not a bad week.

Long Tailed Tit, Brancaster

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Swans from a train and other random sightings

Wild Swans from the train , The Fens.
A busy week with train journey's down to London and also across to Bedfordshire and very little time for birding or photography.

For a while now I have kept a list of birds seen on my regular train journeys from King's Lynn to King's Cross and also from Lynn to Sandy. This week I thought I'd try grabbing a shot of some Wild Swans as the train sped past them feeding in a track side Fenland field. Just managed two shots with the Panasonic Lumix TZ30 of which this is the 'best'. I think that it is possible to make out one Mute Swan to the right of the image and that the rest are Bewick's, based on size and neck / head comparisons with the Mute Swan.

Dead leaf on log, Sandy, Beds
On my visit to the Lodge, I had time to walk up from Sandy Station through the Lodge reserve to the Lodge buildings, very foggy and pretty bird less but I paused for a moment to take this picture of a slowly decaying but still whole brown leaf on a trail side log, a nice moment before going into a long day of meetings.

Coot, St James's Park lake
A couple of days later and I was down in London for a meeting, my route from Green Park tube taking me first across Green Park and then cutting through one end of St James's Park. Lots of Grey Squirrels running between the tourists feet and a couple of the famous White Pelican's swam past me and some presumably wild Tufted Ducks. Also lots of Coots like the one above which in a month or two's time will be nesting on the lake.

Fallow Deer, Ken Hill Wood
At the end of the week I managed a lunchtime walk in Ken Hill Woods, Snettisham, whilst 'phishing' a mixed Tit flock I noticed a movement in the woods and saw a group of five Fallow Deer inspecting me from behind a broken curtain of branches. Today as I drove past these woods I saw five Buzzards in the air together over them.