Archive for the 'birds' Category

05
Sep
21

One Day

It doesn’t often happen that a customer cancels a tour but occasionally everyone gets ill. So it was last Friday. The day was mine to do with as I wished.

I thought I’d have a go at the Red breasted Flycatcher that had been around Trimingham churchyard the previous day. Busmans holiday and all that. As soon as I arrived a Pied Flycatcher flipped into an eye level branch of a beautiful open Cherry tree. It stayed just long enough for me to un-clip the camera bag and get the camera out. It had vanished by the time I’d raised the camera to my eye. I waited another hour before I saw it again. It perched just above an old girl kneeling at a gravestone, whispering to herself or maybe her interned loved one. Rather than disturb her I went for a walk to the sea. The scene was grey. The wind was whipping in from the North off the water. There was a smell of rare bird in the air. It was palpable.

By the time I returned to the churchyard I had it to myself again. I heard the Pied call and followed the sound to a spreading oak, before seeing it in the canopy and firing off a few record shots. As I was watching the bird something caught my eye. It was a bat circling the church. A Natter’s Bat. I tried to take a few pictures but as soon as I’d altered the settings on the camera it disappeared under the church eves. Presumably it was late in from a night shift. I never did see the Red breasted despite assistance from Paul and Rose that popped in for a quick look, so I presume it had moved on. Curiously a good number of Speckled Wood butterflies were alighting on gravestones. Not sure why; absorbing salts maybe?

I used to visit this area a lot when I lived at Falcon Cottage. It’s grown up a little and the trees in the churchyard are now ideal habitat for migrant birds. The area suffers from an absence of parking. Something to consider if anything truly amazing turns up there. In fact when I returned to the vehicle I had a polite but lengthy note on my windscreen asking me to consider where I parked as they couldn’t reverse into their drive opposite when approaching from the main road. Well my lovie, if you couldn’t reverse into your drive given the space I’d left …. I think it’s about time to give up your licence. It did occur to me they could have rung me in the time it took to write the note, the mobile number is on the side of the car. I was only yards away. I’d have gladly come and moved the damn thing. I did think I’d leave a ‘counter-note’ where they could read it but thought better of it. Some of my friends still watch this area. I didn’t want to escalate anything that would reflect upon them when they visit. I resolved not to park there again.

Home for lunch and then I though I’d take a drive West to Cley. As I pulled away from Sheringham a beautiful green locomotive was steaming its way towards Holt. I got ahead of it and took some photos of the stately beast as it crossed the road. Steam engines still hold a thrill. I guess it comes from having a father who gave most of his life to British Rail.

A message on my phone regarding a Sykes’s Warbler was going to change my afternoon. This is a bird from the Middle East that winters in the Indian subcontinent. It’s occurrence here is accidental with less than twenty previous UK records. I missed the first one in Norfolk in August 2002. It would have felt churlish to ignore the second.

The bird acquired its name from William Henry Sykes, a naturalist serving with the British Army in India. He discovered fifty six species of bird new to science and several species, including the warbler, bear his name.

The bad news is this individual was on Blakeney Point; well half way up Blakeney Point to be exact. Another avian progeny of James McCallum and Kayn Forbes. I hate Blakeney Point. Three steps forward and two back. All that calf burning shingle. I took my time walking out there; a bit like a reluctant kid going to the barbers. Walking along the suaeda edge was no fun at all. The only passerine I saw in the two mile walk was a single Reed Bunting.

When I arrived at Halfway House the bird was still being watched at the end of ‘the runway’; a short turfed area amid the shingle and suaeda bushes where I’ve seen several rarities over the years. It was periodically being glimpsed by a line of optic toting admirers as it flew over the sea of fruticosa. I joined them and managed to watch from a high point and get one or two distant photos but I wanted to get a good look at the bird rather than photograph it. Over the years I’ve found in these instances it’s better to give the bird room and wait for it to show. Some in the crowd even voiced this … but it fell on deaf ears. Bush bashing, drive type twitching in my eyes is impatient bird watching and no longer appeals to me. I would rather the birds welfare came first. The bird needs to rest and should be left to show on its own terms. However, this sort of habitat, deep bootlace ripping growth, doesn’t promote the bird being seen without some intervention. I left slightly disappointed, with mixed feelings and perhaps earlier than I would have normally.

I dragged my feet walking back as I contemplated the day. Would it be better to make a ‘second plantation’ at Half Way House duplicating the area at the point to make observation a little easier for bird and birdwatcher alike? I don’t know.

I decided to make the return journey on the seaward side, along the beach; still shingle but maybe a little firmer and a bit of sea to look at too. It was good to have Ian’s company for part of the walk East. When Ian strode out ahead I was joined by a Grey Seal curious enough to follow me for a while; although she wasn’t up for much conversation

All in all … a mixed day.

23
Jul
21

Odds and Sods

A few photos from this spring and summer, taken on tours around the county and country, that I haven’t had time to post previously …

22
Jul
21

Brows and blows

After a busy few months Tania and I wanted to get away for a few days. So we made a plan. First stop Bempton to see the Black-browed Albatross. I’d seen the Sula Sgeir bird a decade or more ago but how could you say no to an Albatross in British waters. You just ‘have’ to go and see it. They are the bees knees of seabirds. A thought not shared by the Gannets who didn’t take to their larger cousin at all. He ousted a few off the cliffs to crash land among them. Tania had great views of the bird as she looked down on the bird circling below her.

First part of the plan completed we thought we’d carry on North and visit Kinghorn. Now this is the second time this year I’ve called at this pretty village just over the Forth from Edinburgh. I paid a visit at the end of May. The idea then was to see if the guests on the UK Mammal Tour could add Sei Whale to their lists. Despite it’s rarity in UK waters there had been one kicking around in the Firth of Forth for a few weeks. Sadly it wasn’t to be as the whale didn’t play ball. However, Tania and I thought it would be worth a revisit this week as the Sei Whale was still being seen with some regularity. It took some time, but eventually the third largest animal on the planet graced us with a ‘swim-past’. In fact two; once going up river and then a second as it returned East. Thanks to Ronnie Mackie for his invaluable help and great company in seeking out this addition to our British mammal list. The last time I saw one of these creatures it was amid the clear waters of a Chilean Fjord on the day Tania and I first met; a long way from a small seaside town on the East coast of Scotland.

18
Jul
21

New Life

New (sleepy) life on the marsh.

14
Jul
21

A speeding swift

For the second time this year I have managed to photograph an Alpine Swift in Norfolk last week. Thanks to friend Ben who found it among a flock of Common Swifts over the golf course in Cromer Tania and I braved the busy Cromer traffic to see it before it disappeared to the West around lunch time.

Flying high and fast it was never going to provide as good a subject photographically as the last individual but it was good to see it all the same. No doubt the swifts had been attracted in by the myriad of hatching flies. I think I ate more flies than lunch that day.

Alpine Swift
20
Jun
21

Making a difference

This last few days Tania and I were transported 200 years into the past. We spent a few days at Knepp.

Back-to-back Nightingale territories, Turtle Doves purring from every bush; a songbird density the like I have never seen in the UK and more woodpeckers than a cider carnival were all on offer. In addition, throw in a few attractive, big, eye-catching species like nesting White Storks, Beavers and you have an area that emulates what some of our countryside was like in years gone by. Achieved by incorporating old English longhorn Cattle, Exmoor Ponies, Tamworth pigs, Roe, Red and Fallow Deer the former 350 acre West Sussex farm is prevented from reverting into woodland. The resulting scrubland enables species to thrive.

We were impressed. We were very impressed.

I won the trip in a photographic competition some years ago; but it wasn’t until now that it was practical to cash in the gift certificate. We stayed in a Shepherd’s hut. No electricity and, no bathroom couldn’t really be said to be our scene. Another 200 year throwback. However, over the couple of days we were there this basic form of ‘glamping’, getting up with the sun and going to bed after sunset, became appealing. A slower life. As close as we can perhaps get to sustenance living. Showering under the sky and using communal washrooms wasn’t our cup of tea. However, we found oddly we didn’t want to leave. Maybe it was the cacophony of beautiful birdsong surrounding us as we woke in the mornings or the lulling evensong that put us to sleep; I don’t know, but this simpler life we found appealing.

Would I pay £110 a night to stay in a garden shed with a bed in it? Well, I find it incredible I’m saying it … but maybe yes, I would.

I know some of you will be interested in the White Storks. A number of introduction methods have been used. There are 7 nests this year. We saw around a dozen birds and saw three nests. These are non-migrating mainly rehabilitated birds, although at least one bird is thought to have arrived under its own ‘steam’ as it were. Next year will be the first year that birds will (hopefully) return that may be thought of as being truly wild. These birds were encouraged, by the way they were introduced, to migrated away with a view to them returning after at least two years maturing on the dark continent.

Normally, I’m not a big reintroduction fan. I believe if you get the land and its use right, if you get the foundation of the pyramid nice and solid, life will find its own way there. In this instance however ‘I get it’. Something big and bold reintroduced to eye-catch and bring in the punters was required. Although don’t be surprised if village rooftop nesting storks hit the headlines in the non-too distant future and the ‘householder-noise’ it creates is not all positive. However, there would be no objection from me if a bill clapping White Stork nested on my roof! What an alarm clock!

(female Banded Demoiselle, Scarce Chaser showing mating marks, Club tailed Dragonfly photographed close to Knepp, Fallow deer, Tamworth sow with piglets, Beautiful Demoiselle, Exmoor ponies, Red Deer, White Stork, Common spotted Orchid, The Tamworth hut where we stayed and ground turned over by the pigs.

27
May
21

Redbreast

Not a Robin. A Linnet. I couldn’t resist photographing this cock Linnet. he looked like he’d been hit in the chest with a cricket bat. What a colour!

20
May
21

A Morning to Remember

This morning was a ‘red letter’ visible migration day. Stood at what is fast becoming the UK’s Golden Oriole corridor I had arrived to ridicule. I had missed the first good bird of the day; an Oriole had made it’s way west at stupid o’clock in the morning.

‘It’s all quiet’, ‘not much about’ and ‘should have been here earlier’ were the phrases cast my way. However, the day had an air of ‘rare’ in the wind. This little corner of Norfolk had high misty coverings but no rain. The cooling wind swung around to Southerly, perhaps with a touch of East and ‘BANG’ stuff started to move. An Osprey picked up by Ian at incredible distance slowly worked its way towards us moving up and ever westward it eventually passed us 2Km out to sea. A cuckoo moving west dropped into trees and later leapfrogged into the paddocks. A smattering of Yellow Wagtails, a Couple of Marsh Harriers and Hobbies with a suspect pair of Barnacle Geese was set against an ever increasing number of Swifts and Hirrundines.

Then the icing on the cake. Again Ian called it first. A large swift coming in low over the fields. When I saw front on those languid wings generating a breakneck speed I knew it could be nothing other than an Alpine. It passed in a few seconds and was later picked up at various points further West before it left Norfolk at Hunstanton.

Now where’s that Collared Pratincole up the coast at Blakeney?

18
May
21

Migration

A few migrants were making themselves known on the coast this last week. Seeing the Lesser Whitethroat was particularly nice.

12
May
21

Pairing

This pair of Little Ringed Plover were in spring mode last week … eggs next.




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