Saturday, 27 August 2016

Too wet even for ducks

We've had a lot of rain, some lightening and a little thunder here in west Norfolk this afternoon. I spent a pleasant 45 minutes in Island Hide at Titchwell late afternoon and watched the first wave of bad weather pass through from the shelter of the hide ruefully looking at my old metal tripod and the lightening outside. Later I was in the Jolly Sailors in Brancaster Staithe when a really heavy storm came on, black sky's, lightening and torrential rain with an aftermath of flooded roads requiring the fire service to come and pump out a number of properties.

Juvenile Shelduck in rain storm.
No1 and No2 sons [age 4 and 7] thought all of this was terribly exciting and enjoyed watching the storm out of the pub windows and found the drive home along a very wet A149 exhilarating.

During my brief visit to Titchwell I saw a single Spoonbill circle the Fresh Marsh looking almost grey in the storm light, a couple of Marsh Harriers and some distant Curlew Sandpipers. After the storm 20 - 30 Common and Sandwich Terns hawked over the Fresh Marsh. An Avocet swept past in the shallows feeding and looked splendid with its reflection in the black water.

Avocet and reflection
Whilst it rained heavily it was interesting  to watch the ducks sky pointing, aligning their bodies into the rain presumably to minimise the impact of the rain on their feathers. Quite a spectacular afternoon.

Teal Sky Pointing in rain

Friday, 26 August 2016

Gannet action at Bempton

A place where the sound of birds rises above and dominates the east coast wind, where the fishy smell generated by tens of thousands of defecating birds pervades the air, and where a line of white cliffs cuts out into the blue of the North Sea. The RSPB's nature reserve at Bempton Cliffs is all of these things and the most easily accessible large seabird colony in England. Each year I try and make a visit to take in the spectacle of the colony in full flow and this year I was lucky enough to spend a few hours there at the end of July.

Part of RSPB Bempton Cliffs
Tree Sparrows bounced around the bushes surrounding the new Visitor Centre where I was able to grab a welcome coffee and slice of cake. I see Tree Sparrows every year but I am not aware of anywhere in Norfolk where I live where they are so easily seen around bird feeders in and in such good numbers. I love their rich chestnut caps and the black beauty spot on their cheeks.

Tree Sparrow
Caffeinated we set off down the well made path to the cliffs, normally I visit earlier in the Spring and there was a noticeable difference in the birds on view compared to my normal mid April visits. I had to work hard to see Guillemots and Razorbills, apparently the majority of these two species of Auks had finished breeding and left the cliffs the week before, Shags too were thin on the ground. But Puffins were everywhere, on the sea, flying in front of the cliffs and perched below the viewpoints. Apparently late July is just about the best time to see Puffins at Bempton.

Bempton Puffins

But the undoubted stars of the show were the Gannets, many with well grown fluffy chicks on the rocky cliff ledges below the viewpoints, these majestic Persil white seabirds would drift along the cliff tops a few metres away from you. My travelling companion was quite overwhelmed and wanted to add the use of the sens of touch ti that of hearing, smell and sight by reaching out to hold one. Perhaps the most entertaining Gannet action was on a grassy slope near the top of the cliffs where a constant succession of birds came in and landed to grab beak fulls of grass to start the process of making next years nests.

Bempton Gannet and nesting material
All along the cliff top trail were well presented and informative hand drawn chalk boards with key facts about the seabirds. At the southernmost viewpoint I spotted one of the resident peregrines high overhead a great bird to end our walk with.
Peregrine at Bempton

Back at the Visitor Centre I graduated from my morning coffee to a afternoon Ice Cream and then the long drive home.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

A couple of visits to Titchwell

I've had the last week as leave from work and have packed a lot into the ten or so days out of the office including a couple of visits to the RSPB's Titchwell Marsh nature reserve. Unusually for me these were not rushed visits and I had time to properly "bird" the site.

Titchwell at dusk
The Fresh Marsh is alive with birds at the moment, last night I counted 21 Spoonbills here, some doing what Spoonbills do best standing around sleeping, others wading through the shallows feeding. Alongside the Spoonbills were 35 Little Egrets [an under estimate].

Common Tern at Titchwell
Wader diversity hasn't been at it's highest but even so between my two visits I saw large numbers of Avocets and Black Tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Spotted Redshank, Dunlin, Little STint, Common Sandpiper, Lapwing, Golden Plover Oystercatcher, Ruff, Curlew, Whimbrel, Little Ringed Plover.

Black Tailed Godwit at Titchwell
A Hobby dashed through chasing a small wader high up into the sky over the Fresh Marsh before the waders determination to save its life saw it tire out the Falcon and then escape.

Ruff at Titchwell
Bearded Tits can be easily heard at the moment and smalls flocks of juveniles are much in evidence.

Juvenile Bearded Tits at Titchwell