Sunday, 28 November 2010

West Acre Blues....

Found the missing card ! But having thought it was lost I had built up the image quality in my mind and sadly on finding the images I find they are not as good as I remembered them. Still it's a start, well a Kingfisher, and next time I may not be quite so shaky and excited. And next time it just might, it just might sit on that stick. However on this day it was in high speed mode with three circuits of the pool, a hover by the post and then it was off.

 making the first of three fly bys
Red in the bill makes it a female, males have an all black bill.

Other blues involved a couple of quiet please take note, as I've said before the place is best avoided !

Catching up....

Sunday 29 Novemeber
As Led Zeppelin would say,.... it's been a long time since the rock and roll...., but for me it's been a long time since I added anything to my blog. A summer of gardening took it's toll on the birding, and autumn daylight, or lack of it, and the onset of winter have also combined to reduce my activities.

So first thing this morning I decided to get into work early and go vis Thornham where the Northern Harrier was seen the day before. This bird has been around for a good few weeks with it's true identity unknown and it's been flying around as a "probable Northern Harrier" - I had'nt seen it fly past the shop or my garden ! so decided to make the effort, especially as it was nailed two days ago as a definite Northern Harrier, and there is a head of steam by some to split it from Hen Harrier, so what the hell I thought, haven't twitched anything for years and it's only two miles form the shop.

I left home, and, with it -6 degrees. Slow going as the roads were very slippery. These Grey Partridges at the side of the road looked pretty frozen.

An unpleasant experience - not the drive to the coast, not the -2 degrees on the coast, not the 25mph northerly wind, but part of the assembled crowd. To start I bumped into a couple of very nice local people, some birding and a couple of others wondering what the fuss was aboout. I told them about the Harrier and they seemed genuinely pleased and inrterested. So here I stood (near the crowd) and waited.
Not for long as it happened, as the bird emerged from the reeds and flew around, at distance for a good five minutes. I was at this point stood on my own and not with the crowd. I even managed a couple of snaps, the bird looked as though it was in Lincolnshire it was so far away.
And so I moved a bit and ended up near the Coal Barn with about five other people. Ten minutes later cars were turning up and disgorging rugged up birders. Some were difficult to see as they were "camoflagued up".
Up to now it had been quiet, cold and really quite nice. Then we were treated to the life and times of some bloke who'd just got back from the American Coot in Ireland it went on. I was reminded of why I don't do this sort of thing, twitching that is, not visiting Ireland. Another five minutes and I'd had enough of his opinions of the previous "Northern" being a better bird than this.... his year list of 330... what sort of pies he liked best etc etc - I left.

Found myself down by the creek and spent the next ten minutes with these chaps....
Balck-tailed Godwit
and a Little Egret - time ticking on so off to work.

Wednesday 17 November

Just leaving for work and heard a bird in the garden,  similar to a Robin's call, but more piercing. I knew it wasn't a Robin, knew I'd heard it before, but just couldn't remember what it was. But hang on it was coming from the top of the Silver Birch tree. And there it was a chunky finch....a Hawfinch ...Bloody hell I went nuclear ! Shouted for Sam and Tom, had another look the dashed to the car for my camera. Running back in I managed a brilliant flight shot as I saw it disappear overhead and towards the road. I gave chase but my slippers were taking on too much water, so gave up. I kept smiling all day. A great garden bird.
and here it is, clearly showing it's bulky body shape, massive triangular bill, big head and short tail. Epic !

It wasn't over yet and at Flitcham I found eleven Waxwings in the hedge. At last I wasn't the only person not to have seen one in Norfolk this year.

A couple of trips to West Acre scrape have yielded a Water Rail and Kingfisher, but currently lost the card I took those pictures on. It'll turn up...I hope.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Just back

Returned from a great week on Lundy ...more to follow........

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Other side of the pond

Currently on

and enjoying it !!!!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Same face, different amphibian......

Sunday 8 August 2010
Carrying on with the disgusting theme, another poke around the garden produced this ....... no idea why red hair was in that day but it was. Tom is becoming quite adept at catching animals now and this frog stood no chance.

The pond has been attracting quite a bit of wildlife recently and here is a Great Diving Beetle adult, just coming to the surface.
It has the most amazing green head and thorax when seen up close. Smooth wing case means it's a male. A fearsome pond predator and every tadpoles nightmare !

Also finding refuge in the pond was this Grass Snake which stayed for most of the day, though it was difficult to creep up on and would rapidly move away into the aquatic vegetation if it saw movement.
....and here it is, sliding away. Occasionally we would see it's head poke up through the elodea as it waited for it's prey........

it's prey being......hang on a's prey were my newts !! Red in tooth and tongue I suppose, so I left it to hoover up the pond of any unfortunates...Perhaps it was just cooling down? No not with that face.
In the garage brood number two of the Swallows had just fledged, well most of them, some were still a little reluctant to come out.
Four birds were practicing their first flights but keeping close to the nest.
By the evening all but two were out of the nest and using the roof of the car as their toilet .

Further afield, I encountered this Mole scurrying across a road. It then tried to get down into the earth but had problems burrowing which may be due to the very hard earth where is was. It did manage to disappear but only after about five minutes. And yes this is a live mole not a posed dead one.
While I was trying to get a photo of this a Grey Partridge called in the field next to me so I stuck my camera through the hedged and managed a very quick snap.

The garden has been a heaving mass of young birds feeding away, nothing too unusual though we did have fly overs of Hobby, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard all in the same day. I look forward to late August when a little more time should allow the camera to be swung back properly into action. But for the time being must keep checking the Harvestile Farm Swallows.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Disgusting !

23 July 2010
Some would say this is a really horrible creature, but then he did find this Toad by the compost heap, so I am pleased he is searching for wildlife in the garden. My own activities have been curtailed in the last six weeks with pressures of work, the loss of my Dad, and battles with the County Council and the English School System.
The garden continues to be filled with families of the usual common birds, plus Siskins. And it does seem to be a good year for Bullfinches as they are becoming much more regular here, even in the back garden now, but forever wary and hiding behind vegetation. The local Coal Tits have become the most vocal while young Blackbirds and I'm pleased to say a Song Thrush add to the summery sounds of food begging. End of July and you'd expect a few waders, but sadly the wet patch in the field behind has been drained so no chance of any Green Sandpipers this autumn. Common Terns are still regularly visiting the pond behind, but the reduction in reeds had resulted in an absence of Sedge Warblers this summer.

Locally the Lakes are flooded with tons of biomass in the shape of young Grey Lag and Egyptian Geese, I'm not sure which is worse. Not a single Turtle Dove in the village this year, what has happened to these wonderful birds ? Last year there were three pairs and in previous years they were bringing their young into the garden. I have seen only one bird all year and that was on Lundy ! Still loads of Whitethroats so lets keep positive, and the Little Owl has been active and calling in the evening.

I am now dusting off the camera and re entering the arena ! More to follow soon.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

There be dragons.....

Thursday 3 June
My enforced early return from Poland due to flooding, and my village being put on an evacuation order, allowed me some days in the garden in truly beautiful weather. There was quite a bit of activity in the pond and this Broad-bodied Chaser Dragonfly had taken up an aggressive territorial perching place. It chased (excuse the pun) off another male and then mated with a female.
Unfortunately the female later fell in the pond somehow and by the time I realised, had been attacked by Water Boatmen. I will spare the pictures of that! There were also six of these delicate Common Blue Damselflies, egg laying and flying in tandem (male and female). Most laid eggs on the Canadian Pondweed and some on plant stems. Occasionally they would split up but the males always hung around to protect the female during this activity.

and some red ones, which I think are Large Red Damselflies. Beetles were also on the hunt and this Soldier Beetle was particularly active. They are also know as "The Bloodsucker" due to their reddish colour, and are quite voracious predators, I watched this one consume at least four other smaller beetles and numerous flies.
I popped back inside for a minute and this male Blackbird arrived to do some sunbathing.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Bloody hell !!!

25 May 2010
Further afield but just returned from some extreme bird ringing in Sweden. Watched some ringers getting to grips with Ural Owls.

Quite simple really, just put a ladder up a tree and go to the nest box to take out the chicks and ring them. This incidentally really does provide invaluable data on what is happening to these rare owls. Mummy Owl watches as a man goes to her home and starts on the kids !

Bird ringer sees the mummy owl and gets stick for self defense. This sensible man has a helmet on. His colleague who warns him if the Owl attacks doesn't.

The Ural Owl now looks a lot more aggressive.

....and launches an attack, man with helmet is flattened as his colleague warns of the attack BUT, he also gets an attack and doesn't have a helmet - they retreat, and I start to fill my pants as the Owl starts looking at the photographer - that's me - and it feels as if it's staring straight at me ! ... more of this Swedish story in due course, with link to separate blog. It'll be a few weeks.
Great trip which included Great Grey Owl, Moose and Beaver, among some 103 species of bird in just a long weekend.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Pond alert !

17 May 2010
This morning started with a bang, "what's that funny duck on the pond?" said Sam - well not that funny but a Pentney garden rarity. I found myself looking at a pair of Tufted Ducks (female hidden by reeds). They didn't stay long as the bully Geese arrived.

 I hasten to add this isn't our pond, rather the one our garden at the back of the house overlooks. It is also home to a pair of Mallards and regular visits from Common Terns. Whitethroats were in full song and our Swallows were making regular sorties in and out of the garage, repairing their nest. More pooh splattered cars this summer. Unfortunately the House Martins have shown no interest in our special House Martin nesting cups.

The trip to Lundy recently taken resulted in two good finds, Bluethroat and Nightjar, with a fly over Pipit which I was later able to identify as Tawny after listening to a CD of flight calls. More on this trip in due course.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Tis even more bootiful now

Monday 3 May
This is I think better quality than before, but I won't know till I upload it, so it's a bit of a gamble.
Yup I think it is, so here is his mate, again.
Perhaps I just thought they were better than they really were ! but I do detect a slight improvement.

Tis a bootiful bird

1 May 2010 - problem uploading these pics means they are a bit fuzzy, not just out of focus !
I'm sure that if these were rarities we would be going bonkers about them. The riot colours and the patterning on their backs and wings is really fantastic, and this is what occupied my viewing on this particualr morning.
but then the whole bird is pretty impressive
and then as it is in nature, the female is so much duller (generally)
but her role is for camoflague, not the showy fisticuffs of male Pheasants.
The scrape was reasonably quiet and my time strictly limited (Tom had acquired two new baby rabbits and needed help with the new hutch) though this Moorhen wandered past
and a Black-headed Gull flew in and out.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Sex and the Scrapy

30 April 2010
A nice morning found me back at the West Acre scrape. In contrast with the previous visit, which turned into a maelstrom of destruction, akin to something out of Fight Club, it was the opposite today. Tranquil and the Lapwings were getting very frisky.
One bird started to fly around the pool and after a few circuits landed, but did so in rather flashy fashion.
Clearly wanting to attract the attention of the other bird it strutted around for a while and then, did what all frisky Lapwings do, and shove it's cloaca up in the air!
I didn't know where to look, and neither did the other bird, as this panty posing had no effect and resulted in both birds flying off to the nearby warren where they carried out a spectacular aerial display. With considerably less finesse and looking something akin to a B52 landing, in flew Mr Greylag.
It looked like a cross between Chicken Run and Bernard Matthews.
The Green Sandpiper was still present, but over the back of the pool, and sadly very few Mallard ducklings were around, perhaps they had been predated ? A small ripple broke the surface of the water and I found myself looking at a Grass Snake.
It swam closer to where I was
stopped for a few minutes and then carried on to almost circumnavigate the entire pool.
These are really great animals, but I must warn anyone who thinks this would be a good place to go and see these creatures, that this one was at least eighty foot long and could have easily swallowed any newcomer to the area, so I repeat my warning to make sure that you stay away from this reserve.

I had a quick look in at Titchwell RSPB and saw a Reed Warbler with lots of white in it's head. Apparently this is it's second year at the reserve and it has become a bit of a celebrity. I was quite unaware of this when I took the photo, and was delighted when Dave Hawkins asked if I would send it to the Titchwell  blog. Which I did, and they put it on ! - fame at last.
A good day and I returned home just in time to flush this Red-legged Partridge from the garden.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

White Ghost

21 - 27 April part 2
During this period of watching the West Acre scrape, one day a Barn Owl was present hunting round the fields. Still not quite that picture, but good enough for the blog.

all very peaceful and serene, but the silence was broken by the sound of aircraft once again, after the no fly period, and this Tristar (I think) headed for RAF Marham.
Oh yes and don't forget, West Acre scrape has no birds and is an awful waste of time, permits have gone up to £500 annually and none are presently available, so just a reminder to leave this place to me and the other priveleaged locals !