Tuesday, 7 March 2017

2017 Catch Up

The year started with a trip down to Burwell Fen in search of Short-eared Owls. Several birds had been gathering in this Fen near to Wicken. I have always wanted to photograph these birds and up to now the only semi decent shots I had been able to get were of a bird at Holme back in 2014. This is it, always distant, great to see but I was disappointed I couldn't get close.
It was therefore with great excitement that I went to Burwell to get the job sorted. So on the 11th off I went with Oliver Reville and as we drove to Burwell the weather took a turn for the worse with darkening skies and very poor light. We did see owls but the appalling light meant iso levels were pushed to 3200 and that decent shot of a short-eared remained still elusive. The best of the day was a pic of two Roe Deer
Mid month saw a trip to Scotland and a re visit to Kilconquer Castle in Fife, the place of Sam and me getting married. Things had gone downhill a bit (at the accommodation) and we spent a few days in a Basil Faulty type experience (mis spelling deliberate), but it did allow for a little birding time. Best of the sightings were a couple of Surf Scoters, 70 Scaup and lots of velvet Scoter and Long-tailed Ducks. All at a distance.
A group of seven Waxwings were fairly local but best capture was probably Rock Pipit a bird I've never got that close to before, despite hours on Lundy creeping round the Landing Bay.

Returning from Scotland via Holy Island which was like a cross between The Scillies and Lundy and it was time for another crack at The Owls ! This time Oli and I had better conditions, bit more light but the owls still at a distance. Better than last time but some heavy cropping meant that corker of a shot was still eluding me. That said these are the best pictures of Short-eared Owls I've ever managed.

Very satisfied but looking forward to having another crack at these if they return next year.
And a nice Stonechat to round off the day

En route to the owls we stopped off in Bury St Edmunds at the local council offices car park as some Waxwings had been reported coming down to some sorbs trees. And indeed that did, and they did so in sunshine. So some decent results.

The month ended with a visit to Lakenheath for a crack at some Bearded Tits on a very windy day. Beards are renown for staying at the bottom of reeds in windy conditions so Oli I and I knew it would be a challenge. However we were treated to an hour of these delightful birds feeding and taking little notice of us. The only challenge was trying to focus on them as they swayed around in the breeze and  stop the camera from locking onto ever moving reed. 

Friday, 11 November 2016

Waxing Lyrical

Friday 11 November 2016
A return trip to Holt and the trees opposite Budgens car park and this time with sunshine. Result of course.... no Waxwings, though the Blackbirds were scoffing down the Rowan berries like no tomorrow.
Given the dull conditions yesterday I probably wouldn't have been able to contain myself if the Waxwings had turned up in this light. So after an hour of waiting and a bacon and cheese turnover from Budgens Oli and I decided we would try the Iron Road at Salthouse, a whim but you never know perhaps a Short-eared Owl ?? Silly talk really.
We photographed the obliging Turnstones in the old car park, now a shingle ridge following the storm surge a few years back. Have to say I really like Turnstones, not just because they are confiding, rather  due to all the subtle colouration of their plumage, so here we go..... a couple ofTurnstones from Salthouse;
We had a quick look round the marshy pools and put up a Jack Snipe and had a Lapland Bunting overhead, but our photographic time was spent with Stonechats (after I managed to fall quite spectacularly over a small wire fence- recovery was good and hopefully the whole incident was not fully observed ).

From here we headed to Holkham to look for the Shorelarks, but wait ... when at Wells we heard the Waxwings had re appeared at Holt - 'bout turn and back along the coast road. Sun shining and we were only 20 minutes out, surely this was it ? Hmmm on arrival the birders we had we'd earlier on said it was a false alarm and they hadn't seen anything. The downside of local twitching ! So back to plan and Holkham. We arrived and walked east... group of 57 Shorelarks were present with a dozen or so Twite. However at distance and it had clouded over:
We had visions of crawling out towards the flock but with other photographers and birders around decided against it. If we had we may have seen them this close ( taken at Spurn previous month )

Thursday 10 November 2016

I found myself just 3 miles from Holt this afternoon and was told some Waxwings had been frequenting the bushes opposite Budgens Carpark. Ok so it was as dull as it could be, even started drizzling, but hell it was only a few minutes away. I arrived at Budgens and walked over the road to where three other people were, and also where eight Waxwings were! The light was atrocious but the birds were close and very active. It certainly made for some challenging photography - ISO was around 2000 so rather grainy and when I reduced the ISO to around 500 there was too much blur as the shutter speed wasn't sufficient to freeze the action, and these birds were active. Managed the following:

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Correct Call this time

Sunday 23 October 2016
Had decided late last night to do a really early morning pre work trip to Burnham Overy Dunes. With my mate Tom nailed in Hunstanton I gave Oliver Revielle a call to see if he was up for a pre dawn trip to BOD. He was and we met in heavy rain at 7am . It was dark. The plan, to walk to The Dunes and get there for first birding light. The rain abated and we walked. Raid overnight = birds , we discussed possibilities on the way down ! Fantasies of course.

So first up the Isabelline Wheatear. After a short while watching it we decided to leave the crowd of some ten birders and walk towards the west point. Plenty of skulking Dunnocks on the way to keep us amused and then the pager sprung into life. Apparently there had been a Desert Wheatear at BOD yesterday, but only just identified from photographs. Crumbs, that added a skip to our walk. If the rain had kept the Isabelline Wheaear here, who knows perhaps the Desert was still lurking somewhere. We had good walk round, made all the nicer as we were the only people there apart from one other birder.

That other birder suddenly shouted "lads" (very generous of him to include me in that genre) ... and within a few seconds we were watching a Desert Wheatear. The three of us watched it for a good few minutes as it flew around the spit and back to the container area. Info was put out re the re location and we retreated with our two Wheatear day, me to work and Oli back to home.

Here some pics of the Desert Wheatear: it started quite a way off , a grey bird on a very grey background, then we were lucky enough to have it fly straight towards us and start to preen..

 Come on show us your tail
The Isabelline Wheatear on way back
 and a Little Egret landing in the Marsh, pretending to be an Eagle hunting fish

Wrong call

22 October 2016
Tom Bedford up in Norfolk from landlocked Oxford to see a few autumn migrants with a morning to spare, so where to go ? We decided on Burnham Overy Dunes, then with news of a Pallas's Warbler and a dead Fin Whale overnight I decided to avoid the crowds and "do" Warham Greens. As we drove past Burnham Overy Dunes BOD early next morning there were only two cars at the pull in , so no crowds, but sticking to plan (plan B) we headed to Warham.

A good time, with lots of Goldcrests, Brandlings and Thrushes. Nothing rare but a great walk and migrants a plenty if only common ones. The fantasy of tripping over a Siberian Rubythroat was of course just that. We started our return trip due to domestic time constraints and then the pager beeped a Mega. Where was it ? ... well at Burnham Overy Dunes of course, where we had decided to go before I changed the morning venue ... oops ... what was it ? an Isabelline Wheatear ..oops again  :(

So with just enough time to swerve into BOD and yomp down to see the Isi, we didn't really discuss how, if we'd stuck to plan A, we may have found that particular rarity. We arrived amid a fair few birders and saw the Isabelline Wheatear. Pics here:

Tom returned to Hunstanton and I tried the Paddocks at Holme, but very little was moving.
Then home. Evening wondering where to go the next day. Tom was nailed in Hunny but I started to lay plan for an early blast to BOD.....................

Friday, 21 October 2016

It may be a race ?

Thursday 20 October 2016

Met up with Oliver Reville at 8am for a walk down to Burnham Overy Dunes / Gun Hill. Winds had been west to north west but overnight had turned northerly, so while a good direction perhaps not been blowing long enough for something exciting, still it's Norfolk, it's October and it was northerlies - we left the pull in just east of B Staithe and began our walk.

It's always nice on such occasions when the car pull in area is empty as you know that at least for the first part of the walk you are the first birders there. Then you can hope that none are walking from the harbour so you really are the first to The Dunes. Today this was the case.

The newly surfaced path half way down is I'm sure very nice and even now but I do wonder about the numerous Devil's Coachorses I've seen on the old path, often standing guard over a meal - now I think it'll be too sterile for them. But given the Norfolk weather perhaps it'll soon return to it's former un splendour ! ( my apologies to The Environment Agency who I'm sure are doing good things ).

It was windy and a bit drizzly as we walked down. Not much to see en route apart from the usual Norfolk Filth of Egyptain Goose, but at least some real birds with a few Pink-feet in the fields.

A few Dunnocks, Linnets and a Blackcap at the bushes by the end of the Broadwalk. Oli suggested a look at the sea but we were soon turning back from crossing the dunes to search for possible migrants as without a scope between us we decided this was better use of our time. If we'd known a 40' Fin Whale had been washed ashore just 100m on we'd have probably continued.

But we continued west towards Gun Hill. We were distracted by many Redwings and Reed Buntings and then as we walked through the lower path alongside the sueda bushes I saw a Sylvia warbler fly up in front of me and disappear back into the cover. I alerted Oli and we spent the next 30 minutes trying to get decent views. We had quickly seen it was a Lesser Whitethroat but given the time of year we were keen to get good views to see if it was one of the eastern races. Well this individual was a complete pig to see ! it spent as much time running through the sueda as it did in the bushes. Eventually we managed to get some photos, all looking pretty poor in the back of the camera. So a Lesser Whitethroat with a pale sandy back. That's all we could see.

A quick look  at back of the camera pics and Garners book and we felt at first it looked quite good for Desert. We were a bit hooked up on the outer tail feathers until we turned to page 81 of Garners book and saw the nominate race had a similar show of white, with the thin line down the middle on T6
So it was possibly all down to colour and while our bird did show a pale sandy mantle the head was seemingly too grey...... in short we didn't know !

Time to get help... I e mailed a few people pics and asked for their thoughts. Blythi was the general feeling, esp as it's thought most first calendar birds in Uk are Blythi, but the pic was so similar to one of the Desert in Garners book we still held out a glimmer of hope for this. In essence  we don't know and await the comments of those that do....

here then a some of the pics I managed: poor light, windy, incredibly mobile bird that loved to hide and run (my excuse anyway)

Let's hope others see it and can shed some light.