Archive for Nov, 2020


Diving for cover

Took my car in for a service this week. Rather than walk home and then back again to pick up the car I thought I’d do a few hours sea watching. It wasn’t raining … ideal.

After an hour of the three hours I spent staring through a telescope at the North Sea I was conscious of a presence near to me. I looked sideways and there was a lady standing but a matter of inches from me.

“Would you mind please STEPPING BACK” said I. It took her a little by surprise. Why I don’t know but there does seem to be a wilful disregard for simple rules designed to keep us all safe. However, my volume had the desired effect and she stepped back.

I returned my eye to the scope … but after a silence I sensed she was brewing a comment.

“Can’t you find something more useful to do?” was the retort.

Now, if you know me you will know that for the most part I am a mild mannered man. However, I have been subject to so many people doing as they wish for so long this year quite frankly it is beginning to get on my tits. She and people like her are keeping me from seeing and hugging my daughter. I must admit at this point I saw red and she was the recipient of a polite but assertive dialogue.

“I am watching the sea to monitor marine mammals. The information I , and others like me, gather enables decisions to be taken by authorities and decision makers to protect both the environment and our native marine fauna for me, for you, your children and your children’s children for years to come. So, the next time you see me spending my spare time looking out to sea you may thank me, from a distance, and MOVE ON”

I didn’t make a friend that day but perhaps her silence thereafter indicates it will make her think a little about what matters if not to her, to others.

Had she been more respectful I may have shown her the Red throated Diver in the surf to which she was completely oblivious. Just one of three species of diver seen that morning.


I spy a Russian

On Beeston Common the other week friend Mark found a pale Chiffchaff. A Chiffchaff from the North. A Siberian Chiffchaff. These interlopers from afar call differently, look differently and even behave differently from the birds we all know.


A Desert thirst for birds

Not a lot around locally at the moment other than a smattering of Dusky Warblers and this little chap.

Normally Desert Wheatears manage to turn up in the country at this time of the autumn. I’m lucky in that this little lad turned up not more than a few miles away down the coast. Tania and I spent a little time watching him on Sunday last. His range was vast and getting close to him was near impossible. I went back on Monday to see if I could get a better photo of him. He had settled down quite a bit since the previous day and was less flighty; favouring the sandy parts of a small cliff out of the wind where Sand Martins nest in the summer. Although this may have been because others had put down one or two mealworms. I say ‘may’ because I saw the bird pull one from the sand but on closer inspection of the area, when the bird wasn’t present, I couldn’t see any more.

I’m not keen on feeding birds (or other wildlife) away from bird tables for several reasons. Although there are arguments the other way too. However overall I’m against it.

The bird was an adult male. Normally they are washed out juvenile/female types. This is the first adult male I can remember seeing and he was quite a dapper individual. A real stonker. There are apparently several races within the species range of North Africa East to Mongolia. Although exactly where this individual is from, according to Shirihai ‘Birds of Israel’ p448, is indeterminable from plumage features visible in the field.


Devious Dusky

After failing miserably to photograph the Dusky Warbler in Cot valley during the tour in Cornwall last month, I got a second bite at the cherry this week.

Friend Mark found one not but 800m up the road at Beeston Common. It was as furtive as the Cot valley bird. Sticks and twigs. Always, sticks and twigs. These birds love thick damp cover. I even visited again with Tania at the weekend in poring rain. The light was dreadful but it showed pretty well … for a nano-second after two hours of waiting

I heard of a Dusky Warbler at Muckleborough about five miles away (it’s been a good year for them) so we tried for that one on our Sunday walk. A ‘third bite’ at that proverbial cherry!. It was ‘tutting’ away in thick cover; and showed well for Tania … but not me.

I went again yesterday. It was good to stand with Bob and at last see it well. Showing just long enough for a couple of record shots that look something like a bird rather than a smudge. This species is a true skulker. i don’t think I’ve ever seen one that has given itself up easily.


A Yank in Norfolk

Some Americans couldn’t wait to get away from all the kerfuffle surrounding the presidential election.

This Lesser Yellowlegs occupied some small pools by a public footpath at Cley Reserves for a few days in October/November. It had zero fear of humans. Probably never having seen people before it was not at all phased by the presence of a steady stream of admirers. As a consequence it showed extremely well indeed; probably better than I have seen this species anywhere outside America itself.

I would guess the bird came across the Atlantic on a fast moving weather system; maybe making landfall further North and resuming it’s journey south on the ‘wrong side’ on the world it ended up here in Norfolk. Sporting it’s long distinctively coloured legs the bird looked magnificent in the bright sunshine.



On a ‘bespoke’ Cornish Tour last month we came across this little gem. A ferruginous duck. It’s origins were questionable as it was a little bit more approachable than I would have liked, but that didn’t take away anything from the excitement of coming across it.


Not so easy does it

The Cornish valleys hold secrets. They are enclaves for migrating birds as they travel through the Cornwall peninsula south to Iberia and ultimately Africa. A bespoke tour last week sought to disclose a few of those secrets.

We started out the day on Saturday in light rain. Our quest, a Rustic Bunting, lurking in the midst of Nanjizal. You have to love some of the names of the valleys; Nanquidno, Nanjulian, Porthgwarra Nanjizal to name just a few. Places where avian legends have been made. We were hoping the Rustic was still present from the previous day.

The logistics of parking around the Cornish coast are challenging to say the least. However, having squeezed our cars off the road we made the trek across field after muddy field. Signage at these places is lacking. Following footpaths became a brain teasing puzzle. It’s almost as if these Cornish fellows don’t want ‘outsiders’ to find these damn places. The rain increased. The wind got up. Cloaks of opaque air blew through the valley in wave after wave of relentless rain. We got wet … and when I say we got wet … I mean … we got WET. It was if someone had subjected us each to at least a dozen ice bucket challenges. We were cold and we were soddened through to the skin. Gortex coats and boots alike were no match against the Atlantic storm riding in from the sea. No self-respecting Rustic Bunting, or should it be Rusty Bunting, would be out in this lot. We gave it up as a bad job and sought solace in Cot valley.

Here we were in a different world. The clouds drifted away the blueness of the sky reflected itself in azure waters and the sun came out. It was now hot. Our bodies were being steam dried.

Our compensation came in the form of a Dusky Warbler. Dusky Warblers never give a feast of a showing but this one at least gave us a taster from time to time. It sat atop bushes and bracken when least expected before flitting away like some sort of spectre. Getting a photo in the time we had was never going to amount to anything special… and it didn’t. Eventually though, we all had good views. We were satisfied with that and we considered the day a success, if not a little challenging.

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Nov 2020


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