Archive for Oct, 2014


Fighting their way in

Over the past week there have been small parties of Starlings coming in off the sea; some more exhausted than others. We’ve been picking them up through optics way out and following them in. Some are so tired they just crash onto the beach others look as if they could do it all again. One flock we saw were dipping lower and lower to the water. We waited with anticipation to see if they would make it … they did … but only just. There was a spontaneous applause from the group I was with in sheer appreciation of the effort. Nature and Naturalists at their best.

This morning it was the Thrushes turn. Even before I’d got out of bed I could hear the clucking of Blackbirds in the garden. I went to the window and counted thirty and that was only the ones I could see. There had been a fall. The Blackbirds were continental long dark billed wary birds. I was outside quickly. More Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Redwings and Fieldfare than I could count; in the garden, flying overhead and dropping from the sky. Then as soon as it started it stopped. Then another wave came in all fighting the south westerly. Some of the Blackbirds rested, fed and bathed in the garden pond before moving on southward towards Suffolk and no doubt beyond.

2014 10 28 Starling Trimmingham Norfolk_Z5A0185 2014 10 30 Blackbird Northrepps Norfolk_Z5A0368




Peeping out of a bush the other day was a lovely Red backed Shrike.

Everyone craves for the colourful males; and they are splendid. For me however, I like the tones and scalloped edges of the first year birds.

2014 10 22 Red backed Shrike Lowestoft Suffolk_Z5A9514



Grey Phal.

On several tours recently Grey Phalaropes have made an appearance. They always remind me of wind-up toys; some sort of clockwork spinning top. I particularly liked the one that spent a little time at Cley recently. We saw it on several tours and I enjoyed photographing it.

2014 10 17 Grey Phalarope Cley Norfolk_Z5A8714


A Whale of a time

You would think a very  very showy Cetti’s Warbler, a subtly marked beautiful female Ring Ouzel and sixty odd other species was enough for a mornings bird watching to throw at us? How wrong could I have been?

We were on our tour to Minsmere in Suffolk yesterday and my guests were already pleased with what they had seen. Little did we know there was so much more to come.

Our bird list for the day was escalating quickly but on reaching the sea I scanned the horizon only to find it disappointingly bereft of birds. I scanned again. Was that a dark shape I just saw? Studying the sea closely it reappeared and then went down below the waves again. Although it was a long way out it was definitely a cetacean; a large one at that. It was facing me and looked broad as it surfaced again. I know that shape well. A clear bushy blow discounted Minke. When it turned side on at the next surfacing the stubby fin confirmed we were watching a Humpback; Suffolk’s second ever. We watched it for quite a while and enjoyed the moment. Judging the appearances there may have been another cetacean nearby but of this I remain unsure.

The Stoat chasing a Rabbit almost around our feet during our picnic lunch was a delight to watch; the predator at least having the decency to despatch his quarry out of sight. The day was turning into a ‘mammal day’.

Perhaps for my guests the icing on the cake was the Otter we watched surfacing and surprising the Teal and Wigeon flock. For me … it had to be finding that long winged new-englander lounging offshore. It made my year!


Humpback Whale _MG_1574

Here’s one I photographed earlier!



Small giant

So small yet so tenuous; this small Goldcrest had no doubt flown the North Sea before refuelling in cliff top bushes. It never ceases to amaze me why birds, especially ones as small as this, put themselves at risk in such a big way.

2014 10 22 Goldcrest Waveney RC Norfolk_Z5A9115



crossing flightpaths

Sometimes the improbable comes when you least expect it.

We achieved a good number of scarce and rare birds on the Isles of Scilly Tour earlier this month. It has to be said so far it’s not been a classic year; although there was enough to keep us entertained. One moment however will linger a long time in the minds of those of us that witnessed it.

We were walking up Buzza Hill from Porthcressa Bay on St Marys. Having just seen a Brambling we were waiting for it to reappear below us when a Kingfisher flew at speed along the shore. Not an unusual sight on Scillies, we saw several while we were there. However, it was the demise of this particular Kingfisher that was unusual. From high above us we saw a Peregrine stooping. The two birds were destined to meet. In a flurry of feathers the Peregrine didn’t waver as it snatched the Kingfisher from the air and flew on with it’s colourful payload.

2014 10 06 Peregrine St Marys Isles of Scilly Cornwall_Z5A6522


Birds and Butterflies

On our way to Penzance for the Scillies Tour the other week we took a small detour to the Devon coast. Amid the coastal fields we easily found our target; Cirl Buntings. Perched in bushes and feeding on seed crops in the fields they were wonderful to watch. However, also amid the fields were something I didn’t expect, or at least not in the numbers that were present. Clouded Yellow Butterflies were everywhere. More than I have seen in one place before. Although they do breed within the UK they are primarily an immigrant and the majority of overwintering adults and larvae are killed off by our cold wet winters. To see them everywhere we looked was a real treat.

2014 10 02 Cirl Bunting Prawl Point Devon_Z5A5295

2014 10 02 Clouded Yellow Prawl Point Devon_Z5A5338



Everywhere but nowhere

I must type up that report.

My morning walk around the hill found just a single Yellow browed Warbler. Throughout Norfolk rare birds were being found all over … the best of which was a Red flanked Bluetail. I cracked. The report would have to wait.

On arrival at the Bluetail I saw it for 20 seconds and it promptly disappeared for an hour. Behaving very un-Bluetail like, taking jaunts in among the canopy rather than seeking low level perches, it proved extremely elusive. Even the nearby Long eared Owl played peek-a-boo from the hedgerow and a Great Grey Shrike with its mobbing entourage was always distant never near.

The following day I tried again but the Bluetail had moved on, as expectedly had the Long eared Owl. At nearby Wells the previous days Radde’s Warbler showed once and then took to ground. The only sighting of the accompanying Olive backed Pipit I got was as it vaporised over my shoulder at the speed of light.

It was only as I viewed my fourth Yellow browed Warbler of the day did a bird show on the right side of all the intervening vegetation.

Time to type up that report.

Red flanked Bluetail_Z5A8110

Great Grey Shrike_Z5A8355

Long eared Owl_Z5A8181

Yellow browed Warbler_Z5A8462a




A Bullet from a Gun

We were photographing Deer the other week when this little chap shot out from under our feet. We knew he was somewhere in the area as one of my guests had seen him amble behind trees earlier. As we continued to photograph the Deer he certainly managed to lay as flat as a sheet until we were almost on top of him when he sprang up and surprised us all. I managed to get this half reasonable shot of him as he sped for the nearest nettle patch.



Shrike a light

The Scillies tour, hospital appointments and visits to my daughter aside I today had chance to visit the Steppe Grey Shrike in North Norfolk; and what a cracker it is. Initially distant after an offering of a few meal worms it gave itself up in grand style. The last one I saw a few years ago in Lincolnshire was also very confiding. Given it’s probably the first time it has been in the company of humans it knew no fear.

2014 10 12 Steppe Grey Shrike Burnham Norton Norfolk_Z5A8005

2014 10 12 Steppe Grey Shrike Burnham Norton Norfolk_Z5A8064

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Oct 2014


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