Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Hi Arctic

Wednesday 20 September
In the last couple of days some rather rare birds from the north and east have arrived on the Norfolk coast. Although working during this period I have managed a quick dash to look for an Arctic Warbler and a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler.

The Arctic was successful and I managed some good views of this long travelling migrant, which breeds high up in Fenno-Scandia and winters down in south-east Asia. True to it's habit of spending much of it's time high up in tree crowns, this individual was no exception and the first five minutes were spent looking directly up at it and seeing only it's under tail coverts ! By standing back a way I was eventually able to get some good views of the bird and see it's characteristic supercilium and faint wing bar. Photography was a real challenge, it was dark and windy,  I only got one picture of it that was in focus and not totally hidden by leaves.
The next quest wasn't so easy. Two trips before and after work saw me at Burnham Overy Staithe sea bank in search of a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler which had shown brilliantly the evening before to a handful of people, but now had decided to revert to type and skulk like a mouse. I didn't see it. However on the walk back to the car a Barn Owl put in an appearance to save the day.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

A stealthy approach

I decided to have a go at photographing some Little Owls after work yesterday so armed with my camera and a good degree of determination I set off. On approach I saw a couple of Little Owls some way off so very slowly drove the car towards them, stopped, turned off the engine and looked through the camera, all very slowly and without making any noise.

But I was just slightly obscured so needed to inch forward another few feet. OK here goes and hopefully the car starting again won't spook them. I started the engine, bird still present....then three seconds later the radio blasted out some news story....rapidly moving my arm I managed to silence it but then the car had moved quite close to some vegetation.... off went the "your getting too close to the vehicle in front" alarm...where's the button to turn it off ? after fumbling around the dashboard I found it, silenced it and then moved back to grab the camera and stuck my elbow on the horn !

What a twit ! But luckily the Little Owl hadn't moved. So I grabbed some pictures. I swear at one stage I saw it quietly laughing.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017


23 May 2017
House Martins have started trying to build a nest in the eaves of our house. They attempted last year but gave up. Previously they have always nested on an identical house next door, Martlett House, so have presumably been doing that for ages.

Just a very small row of mud and given the previously dry conditions I guess they may fail again this year. There appear to be six birds trying. With this in mind between the school run and work I decided to hunt out some muddy pools on the coast where I expected to find Martins gathering mud. First two sites I tried and nothing despite there being some pools. I decided to try a final site before work and bingo ! some thirty House Martins and a handful of Swallows :

In and Out

22 May 2017
Red Kites on the way into work this morning at Deepdale behind the shop were showing well and with the sun behind them for a change.
and then an added bonus with an obliging Barn Owl just outside Docking which suffered passing traffic
 usually they fly off but this bird stayed put for nearly a minute

Saturday, 1 April 2017

First week of March

The beginning of March was mostly confined to back garden bird watching and a trip out to the Brecks. In the garden the feeders were constantly full of House Sparrows but still no sign of the Tree Sparrows which had been absent for several months.
 But thenon the 3rd and a pair of Tree Sparrows hung around for a few days, to then disappear again and not be seen for the rest of the month. This could be it for the summer. They must be using other gardens perhaps closer to where they breed ( as I write this I have found out where they are going to - more of that later ! ).
 Another frequent visitor to the feeders were a couple of Bramblings.
Over the back fields and Buzzards were becoming very active with one particularly pale pair. This below a typical plumaged bird.
and this the best of the visiting Bramblings
A trip out the Lynford Arboretum to look for Hawfinches was unsuccessful but some of the commoner woodland birds performed for "the lens" Here a Marsh Tit
 Small cup fungus I have yet to look up

and lots of Siskins as ever feeding in the Alders
 A quick call in at Cockley Cley to see the Great Grey Shrike

Friday, 31 March 2017

February 2017

Mostly dominated by our trip to Gambia. One day out at Titchwell beforehand to photograph some waders. As usual Titchwell RSPB reserve itself was quite busy due to the large numbers of sea ducks offshore, Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Ducks and some Divers. But walk away from the crowds at the end of the board walk and you find yourself alone, well not in the company of people. So a chance to creep along the shoreline and photograph some waders.

A Black Redstart was frequenting Wells and spending much of it's time by the sailing club. I tried for it one dark morning after the school run. It was starting to sleet, bitterly cold and dark as hell. A rather quick search of the roof tops by the sailing club revealed no Redstart just a few Gulls. Even though I'd only been looking for a few minutes the east wind was biting through my ill prepared cloths so I turned to get back in the car and out ran the Black Redstart from under the car to start feeding on the pavement. Near impossible to photograph in the conditions but managed this record shot:
And then it was time for The Gambia---- a family holiday arranged by Sam. I was granted leave of absence during the day time but expected to dine with Sam and Tom in the evenings. Scarce believing this generosity I spent the first two days birding in the hotels grounds and hired a guide for the next three days. We visited  a friend Colin Cross at Kartong Bird Observatory and had a truly wonderful time. Evenings were spent haggling with restaurants, mostly done by Tom and daytimes for Sam and Tom involved a few trips out and some poolside relaxation. All livened up by a heavy military presence following the recent election of the new president, which had nearly cancelled our trip due to the Foreign Office's advice not to travel. Tom awarded the trip ten out of ten and I had to agree.
A few pics:

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.