Saturday, 13 May 2017

Lovers in the Fens

I always enjoy my all to infrequent visits to Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore. I had a small [very small] hand in the creation of both of these RSPB nature reserves and it is great to be able to look back at the amazing progress that the team there has made to the landscape, which they have through their work filled with birds.

As I crossed the county line from Norfolk into Lincolnshire and up the chicken run which is the A16, with fast cars zooming down the invisible third middle lane on this single carriageway road, I mused on what goodies might await me, BirdGuides had suggested that the site was having a relatively quiet couple of days. On arrival I bumped into one of the wardens who told me that a pair of Black Winged Stilts had arrived that morning, perhaps birds that had been seen earlier in the week on the Humber at Blacktoft Sands or maybe the pair that had been in residence for a while at Welney.

Black Winged Stilts feeding amongst the dead stems of last years Sunflowers
First things first and a useful business meeting back at the reserve office, before heading out for a brief site visit via the pair of Stilts. The site as ever was full of birds and the Stilts had chosen a lagoon which had been left fallow last year and sown with Sunflowers, the skeletal stalks of last years flowers sticking up from the shallow water.

Black Winged Stilts bum in air, but not mating just yet, heavily cropped
I didn't have my scope with me but grabbed handful of record shots one of which is above in a heavily cropped format. The Stilts were busily feeding whilst we watched them and were later prior to their departure from Frampton seen mating.

Whilst watching the Stilts a stunning bright yellow, Yellow Wagtail put in an appearance. Back by the Visitor Centre a Goldfinch perched on a post inches from the path.

A quick look at Freiston Shore was special for memories it brought back of the work we did to recreate saltmarsh here and of course the resident Tree Sparrows.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Photographing Quicksilver, a little time with Swifts

Sunday and with a decidedly chilly weather forecast we decide on a family walk along the landward side of the pines between Holkham and Burnham Overy Staithe. Part mobile football match, part birdwatch and part picnic we make our way along a surprisingly quiet path heading west from Lady Anne's Drive.
Female Wheatear, Burnham Overy Dunes
I didn't have any great birdy expectations apart from getting to add Spoonbill to my year list and sure enough we saw a number of these around the Cormorant colony as expected. The only other year tick was a Greenshank that I picked up as it called as it flew over whilst we had our picnic in the dunes.

Male Wheatear, Burnham Overy Dunes
The dunes didn't hold any Ring Ousels that I could find and in the cold northerly wind migrants were thin on the ground so two or three Wheatear's were nice to see and included a very tame female that allowed me to shuffle within a couple of metres of her.

Swift, Burham Overy Staithe
As we walked on the landward side of the seawall back towards Burnham Overy Staithe, large numbers of Swifts buzzed around our heads and I got sucked into one of my favourite summer pastimes trying to photograph Quicksilver aka as Swift photography. I really didn't have the right kit with me a ten year old EOS 400D body and an even older Canon  100 - 300 mm 1; 4.5-5.6 lens the auto focus on which wheezed slowly in and out far more slowly than the Swifts moved through the sky which made the already tricky task of photographing them much harder.

Swift, Burham Overy Staithe
Nonetheless I had a great time, Swifts are such charismatic birds and so unpredictable in flight, just when you think that you that you and your camera have finally focused on one, it does a sudden shimmy and is gone. One eagerly anticipated moment when photographing Swifts, never guaranteed and never predictable, is when one fly's so close to your face that you can hear the rush of air through its wings and for a second you wonder if its wing brushes against you, will slice your ear off.

Swift, Burham Overy Staithe
I took lots of shots, most were out of focus, but one or two were OK as record shots and I have shared a few here.

Swift, Burham Overy Staithe
Whilst waiting for the Swifts this male Kestrel worked its way down the sea bank and for a moment or two was almost directly overhead an din good light. A very pleasant twenty minutes.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Full Sum Plum - Male RB Fly at Holme

I noticed on the Birdguides Norfolk page yesterday that there had been a Red Breasted Flycatcher at Holme and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was still present today. After a morning spent in the home office catching up on important and all to frequently prevaricated bits of personal admin, I set off early afternoon for the short drive along the coast to Holme Dunes.

A typical view of a bright bird on a grey day, Red Breasted Flycatcher, Holme
As I drove down the bumpy access track I stopped to talk to my friend Trevor who was just leaving and had seen the bird who assured me it was pretty straightforward as it was showing in the car park to a small crowd. He also told me that there were some Wheatear's, a male Redstart and a Whinchat in one of the paddocks.
Red Breasted Flycatcher, Holme
Having parked a car I walked the twenty or so yards to the assembled birding gallery and very quickly had the bird in my binoculars and managed some very poor record shots. At this point it flew off high into some pines and I decided to head to the paddock where I quickly had scope views of a couple of Wheatears, a Whinchat and lovely Male Redstart. 

Back to the NWT car park where the male Red Breasted Flycatcher had returned and with patience I managed some slightly better if still record only quality shots [all the images in this blog are heavily cropped] as it busily moved through the trees occasionally sitting still for a few seconds, often with it s back turned before continuing its restless feeding. 

Red Breasted Flycatcher, Holme
It really was in great plumage red throated and silver faced. As the afternoon progressed a steady turnover of folk and one or two friends unexpectedly put in appearances which turned this mini twitch into a pleasant social occasion too.
Full frontal, Red Breasted Flycatcher, Holme

Monday, 1 May 2017

Choseley Red Footed Falcon

Its not often that time off work, a gap in family duties, nice weather and a good bird all come together, but that's what happened this morning. I'd mentioned last night to the wife that the forecast looked good for migrants this morning and that I might try and grab a couple of hours spotting and then take the kids swimming in the afternoon.

Female Red Footed Falcon, Choseley
A much later start than anticipated meant that I was aware of a report or a Red Footed Falcon at Choseley and whilst part of me wondered if this was a mis-identified Hobby, I decided to give it a go before dropping down to Titchwell.

Female Red Footed Falcon, Choseley
I arrived at the drying Barns only to be pointed down the hill to the bend in the road where half a dozen cars were squeezed into a small parking space. It was clear that better views could be had from the south side of this giant field and I jumped back in the car for the short drive and a tight verge side parking place.

Red Footed Falcon Gallery
From here the bird gave great scope views as it hovered over the field and then sat on clods of earth in the ploughed field. It really was immaculate with its grey back, apricot brown undersides and highway man mask. I couldn't see what it was catching but there seemed to be plenty of prey to keep it occupied. It would do a regular circuit although never coming to close to the small knot of birders. Having grabbed some crop-able shots I walked back down the lane to a hole in the hedge and was able to get some closer shots.

I'm not that happy with the way the Canon 100 - 400 lens and 5D MK2 performed as many shots are not as sharp as I'd like, may be a combination of the age of the lens and the distance I was working at. I suspect that I could have got some crippling shot with my compact Panasonic TZ30 digi-scoped through the Kowa but that camera needs a trip to the menders.

Female Red Footed Falcon, Choseley
After a while the Red Foot was joined by a male Kestrel which caused a momentary panic as the cry went up "are there two of them?". A very pale Common Buzzard perched in a distant Oak and a Red Kite drifted by. A couple of Wheatears added to the early May Bank holiday migration feel.

Female Red Footed Falcon, Choseley
After about 90 minutes with the Falcon it disappeared when I had my eye off it and I don't think it was seen again.
Female Red Footed Falcon, Choseley

Female Red Footed Falcon, Choseley
I dropped down to Titchwell Marsh for a quick 20 minute look at the Fresh Marsh and was rewarded with  a sleeping male Garganey, three male Red Crested  Pochard's and a couple of cranes in the distance as they flew over Thornham, all in all a great morning.