Thursday, 23 April 2009

Wagtail on the roof

Pied Wagtail, Titchwell

Yesterday was beautiful sunny day and a so week after he was born, we took our new son on an outing to the coast to see his Grandad who lives in Titchwell.

As I walked down the West Bank path on the reserve at Titchwell, there was a lovely spring feel to the afternoon. Peacock butterfly's flitted by the side of the path and in the sky high above the reedbed Marsh Harriers did their roller coaster sky dance. A Sedge Warbler sat up in a clump of Bramble on the edge of the reedbed giving its discordant jazzy song and a male Red Crested Pochard loafed in the pool in the middle of the reedbed, it's ginger head and bright red bill standing out even at a distance. A Little Gull hawking for insects over the far side of the Fresh Marsh was the most interesting bird I could locate there.

On the way back to my car I noticed this Pied Wagtail feeding on the roof of the Visitor Centre.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Flicker of a Redstart

At tea time today the sun at last started to chisel through the layer of low cloud that has sat over 'Sunny Hunny' this weekend. I decided to enjoy this break in the weather with a quick trip to Titchwell. On arrival in the car park I bump into Trevor, who told me that a male Redstart had been showing well all day along the Meadow Trail, so I thought that I would focus my visit there.

By the end of my second circuit of the Meadow Trail I had almost decided to cut my losses and have a look at the Fresh Marsh, when a passing birder pointed out the bush he had seen the Redstart feeding in the middle of. Patience was going to be needed. Still it was a pleasant wait as I could hear singing Chiff-Chaff, Willow, Sedge and Cetti's Warblers.

At last I caught a flicker of movement deep in the Sallows and it was a cracking if elusive male Redstart, this then flew across the meadow and into another bigger clump of scrub. By now I had been joined by a trio of birders one of whom had a very big lens and announced that he was determined to 'zap' the Redstart with it. Not sure if he got his wish as after 10 - 15 minutes during which I had a series of brief but good views, I headed off for a quick look at the Fresh Marsh before going home for tea.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Pheasant on the Picnic Table

All I've had time for today has been a quick shoot down the coast road this evening to Titchwell. Often of an evening this can be an idyllic spot. With the sun setting behind you as you look out over the lagoons, the light is great and most of the crowds that throng the place during the day have left. However this evening the low grey cloud that has sat over this corner of Norfolk all Bank Holiday weekend, kept the sun at bay and the temperature down.

Still the relatively low temperature of 10C hadn't stopped a hatch of insects that a flock of c 100 Swallows [with a few Sand and House Martins mixed in] were feeding on over the Fresh Marsh. Here a range of dabbling ducks could be seen sifting for food in the shallows, in particular Shoveler and Teal, whilst in the distance a pair of Red Crested Pochard snoozed by an island.

As I headed back to the car this male Pheasant posed on top of a picnic table and provided the only real photo opportunity of a light less dusk.

Groppers and other early migrants

Spent most of a grey Easter Saturday with the family, so by about 5.30 pm I was ready for a fix of fresh air and birds. As I was going to pass Snettisham on my way back from King's Lynn, I gave my mate Jim a call to see if he fancied coming out to play for an hour. He couldn't, but he did say he'd had a few good birds down the Coastal Park recently including an Alpine Swift earlier in the week.

The large car park was almost empty when I arrived just a few dog walkers braving the chilly grey evening. Heading into the scrub almost the first bird I heard was a Grasshopper Warbler reeling away from an area of reed and brambles. Standing here for a few minutes I was also able to hear Chiff-Chaff, Willow Warbler and Sedge Warbler. Great, but where were they, hard as I tried even the Sedge Warbler normally a bit of an exhibitionist kept its head down and carried on its improvised Jazz routine from deep in the cover of a clump of Brambles.

Walking on skeins of Pink Footed Geese numbering perhaps a couple of hundred birds flew overhead and onto Ken Hill Marshes on the other side of the river and a second Gropper sang from a patch of scrub in the middle of a wet reedy area.

With the light going and no sign of the setting sun being able to break through the blanket of grey cloud I headed back to the car skirting the piles of dog turds as I went.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Magic of Wallcreeper's

Something a wrote a while ago. Picture is of the rock face at Gabardito

Sunday 21 May 2006

Why is Wallcreeper the most sought after bird on every trip I have led to the Spanish Pyrenees, the bird that seems to sum up these wild mountains. The species that on the first day of the holiday we take the group in search of under the towering rock face of Gabardito, so that we have time to try again here later in the week should we fail?

Wallcreeper the bird that each year without fail members of the party will sidle up to me in the departure hall at Stansted, and ask in a whisper “Its not that I’m a twitcher or anything, but I’d really like to see a Wallcreeper. What chance have we got?”

I feel that part of this birds appeal must lie in its association with high, wild, inaccessible places like the Pyrenees. To have seen one means that you have joined a small select club of birdwatchers.

The walk to Gabardito starts in a small car park next to a Refugio, on the edge of an alpine meadow ringed by mountain peaks that are over flown by Griffon Vultures and the occasional Lammergeir. From here it is an uphill walk along a narrow side valley, gaining height as we pass through Beech woods and Pine clad rocky slopes. The surface of the path is a little uneven in places and has a steep drop on one side. Choughs fly overhead their metallic calls echoing around us. Different members of the group handle this ascent in their own way. For some it is an easy uphill walk, others describe it as ‘hard’ as much for the overwhelming and unfamiliar mountain scenery as the physical exertion involved.

Even when you are in the right place you have no certainty of success and again even when the bird has been spotted you, the individual who has been guided to this time and place, have to work hard to follow the directions across the almost featureless rock-face so that you can spot a small, well camouflaged and distant bird. To have done this gives you not only a buzz but also a sense of ownership of the sighting a sense of satisfaction of having worked for your bird.

So after all the exertion of the climb, the giddying drops to the side of the path, the wait whilst you and the guide scan the vast rock face for this small well camouflaged bird, followed by the anxious moments whilst you try and find the bird in your binoculars. Then you get onto it and can enjoy the moment, watching a small purple, black and grey bird with scimitar beak and butterfly wings, the shared excitement with your fellow travellers and of course the anticipation of being able to tell friends back home of your successful journey into the Wallcreeper’s mountain home.

Yet after all this I am often surprised, that when it comes to the end of a week full of wonderful wildlife and landscape experiences in this amazing corner of Wild Spain, and I ask the group for their bird of trip or Champagne moment, Wallcreeper will often not feature on either list despite having been seen by everyone. Is this because this unique bird’s legend out does the reality of its appearance, or is it because in the guests hearts they expect to see one and it is the unexpected surprises that really etch themselves onto folks memories?
For a picture of a Wallcreeper see my earlier post

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Singing Robin

The 'tame' Robin's in the car park at Titchwell are as much a part of the birding experience as the Avocet's on the lagoons. Pull up, open your door and wait for them to land on your wing mirrors. Or as has happened to me wait, for one to investigate your cars foot well. If you are feeling generous you can buy a tub of meal worms in the visitor centre to take back to the car park to feed the Robins with.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Titchwell Teal

With the sun setting behind you the light at Titchwell is always at its best in the evening. Yesterday I had a hour in the Parrinder Hide mostly with good light. A small flock of half a dozen Sand Martins hawked for insects over the west bank path and an adult Mediterranean Gull rubbed shoulders with the Black Headed Gulls on the Fresh Marsh. A Common Snipe fed right below the hide a few feet from my camera lens but as I have recently shown pictures of bird doing just this I thought I would post a couple of shots of a male teal.

With one's attention drawn to the first flush of spring migrants, it can be easy to forget how splendid wildfowl can look at this time of year. The Teal at Titchwell glowed in the evening light and when not busy feeding the males would occasionally fight.