Sunday, 8 April 2018

Marsh Harriers Mating at Cley

I like visiting the Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Cley Marshes nature reserve in part because it has become an occasional treat rather than somewhere I would visit at least monthly before children came along and limited my birding time.

The weather forecast yesterday looked pretty good and so we piled the kids into the car and headed east along the A149.
Male Bearded Tit, Cley
After coffee and cake in the Visitor Centre we walked out to the group of three hides in the middle of the reedbed. This was a quintessentially Norfolk scene behind us Cley Windmill and the Church,  in the reeds the pinging of Bearded Tits and the occasional explosive burst of Cetti's Warbler song. Once in the hide the sound of Avocet's "Klooting" calls hit us as we opened the windows.

Avocet's, Cley
A very pale female Marsh Harrier flew in and landed on the grassy bank on the far side of the lagoon and I got the scope on this for the kids to have a look at this "top predator". As we were admiring the bird a male Marsh Harrier flew in and mounted the female for a few seconds and then flew off. this was the first time I have ever seen Marsh Harriers mating and I managed a few hand held digi-scoped pictures with my little Panasonic Lumix hand held to my Kowa scope eyepiece.

Female Marsh Harrier, Cley
Marsh Harrier mating, Cley

Marsh Harrier mating, Cley

Marsh Harrier mating, Cley

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Spring out of the Bottle

Spring is late this year, the Beast from the East and its various pale imitation successors have delayed the arrival of early Summer migrants and to be honest it just hasn't felt that nice out. But with the Easter Bank Holiday weekend safely out of the way the weather took a turn for the better and on Tuesday afternoon I had a walk around Holme Dunes in 12 degrees and with a warm breeze blowing.
Chiff Chaff, Holme Dunes
I knew that there had been a male Black Redstart seen and as I lifted my binoculars to scan a familiar out of focus deep blue shape flitted across my line of sight, a Swallow, soon to be followed by half a dozen others, marvellous. A short walk and I found some Chiff Chaffs feeding in the scrub and there seemed to have been an increase in Stonechat's with at least four present. But best of all were two box fresh totally immaculate male Wheatear's feeding on some short turf.

Wheatear, Holme Dunes
 Still no sign of the Black Redstart and I had almost given up when a movement in the distance caught my eye and I had a brief glimpse of it on a fence wire perhaps 50 metres from where it had last been reported. I walked round for a better view and managed a couple of shaky handheld digi-scoped shots before what proved to be a very skittish bird moved off.

Black Redstart, Holme Dunes
Then the light left the sky and it started to spit a cold rain, this rapidly increased in volume and size of rain drops and I took partial shelter under the pines whilst a heavy cold squall passed through.

This morning I managed a couple of hours out using the car as a mobile hide on the local back roads. It was slow going at first but for the last half hour before I needed to get home to look after the kids, the sun came out and the wildlife action hotted up. Highlights were large numbers of summer plumage Brambling's in the hedgerows, a Bran Owl flying into a hole in an old oak tree presumably its nest site? and a Little Owl standing sentry by a break in an Oak branch, another nest site?

Brown Hares
A Marsh Harrier quartering a field close to the road watched by a wary Hare was the final bird before I had to make a speedy drive home.

Marsh Harrier