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 !

Bundle !

21 - 27 April
It started off as a lovely calm day.
Mallard ducklings were going about their business, the Green Sandpiper was still present flying round the scrape, Egyptian Geese were floating about and the Shelduck were minding their own business. I settled in and allowed my mind to drift as there was little action and just the usual birds.
I counted nine ducklings and marvelled at how quickly they could move across the water (just as well). The Egyptian Goose moved from it's nest on the island and over towards the female Mallard . I noted how much bigger the Goose was and it's rather brash colouration compared to the dull, camouflaged appearance of the........
.hang on ....what's happening here ???
The Egyptian Goose made an unprovoked attack on the Mallard, or was it being frisky, either way the chicks dispersed and the beginning of world war three was about to begin......
The Mallard fought back and extracated itself, but the Goose wasn't giving up and launched for another attack.
Cue the arrival of two Shelduck who had previously just been on lookers, but had decided to get stuck in as well, this Goose needed dealing with !
By now it seemed every bird on the scrape was taking an interest and, as the fight continued, the Shelduck gained the upper hand. The Goose had cleared pecked of more than it could grind here and started the retreat.
But hormones were flowing and with the sudden arrival of two more Shelducks , the bundle took another turn, now it was Shelduck on Shelduck.
The intruding Shelduck soon left and as I had to look around the scrape I noticed the Goose coming back for some more, not for long, as the Shelduck launched itself again. all attention was back on the Goose. 
This was all too much. I put the camera down and watched the next five minutes of continued mayhem. And then I went off to work, a nervous wreck !

Monday, 19 April 2010

Snets is the pits

Monday 19 April
A day off, so decided to have a walk round Snettisham Pits, with recent sightings of Mediterranean Gulls and a few weeks ago Shorelarks. None of that to be seen today (by me), but a good walk next to the sea. Nice to see unusual species and perhaps the more exotic.????...try guessing what these belong to:
and rather disappointingly its this !
Egyptian Geese couldn't be less brash if they tried, still I guess fortyish years ago it was a rarity in the country with Norfolk being one of the best places to see one.

The Black-headed Gull colonies were in full and noisy swing, great places to watch endless tooing and frooing, accompanied by endless disputes. No Meds though, not that I could see anyway.

Out on the Wash and thousands of waders, mostly too far out for decent views as I was scopeless, but just occasionally a few birds would fly a little closer, here a bunch of Black-tailed Godwits.
There is now a circular walk round the Pits which makes it more fun and in desperation the only bird of note I could find was a Barnacle Goose, there has been one kicking about earlier in the year round Titchwell which was deemed to be genuine, could this have been it ? unlikely.
It was a grey old day but I decided to try my newly found (rather introduced to) pool.
It's a great place, limited access and all the permits have been issued so no further access is being granted - leave it alone ! Go to the coast, anywhere, far more birds elsewhere and this place is clearly infested with snakes.
With the skies getting greyer I had a half hour sit and views of Green Sandpiper.

Blurred and horrible but better than the ones taken from the back garden.

So finally back home, via a quick stop at Pentney lakes. Last week the lakes had Redstart and Little ringed Plover. The Plovers were there but no sign of the Redstart, not surprisingly. A look through the Swans first because they are big and easy, never anything of a surprise here of course,
and then hang on a minute there's a slightly smaller turns round and I'm staring at a Whooper Swan, only my second in Pentney.
Home for tea......possible Blue Rock Thrush on Lundy......Oh no......another goodie missed.

One step closer

Sunday 18 April
Not a step closer to Taiwan which is where I should have been this weekend (thank you Iceland) but one step closer to that picture of a Barn Owl I promised myself at the beginning of the year. I was lucky enough to be invited out with local wildlife photographer, Stephen Durrant. He was kind enough to take me to one of his stake outs, first thing. We settled in and waited for the Owls to appear. Now this for me is one of the best bits of birding, the anticipation and predicted sudden adrenalin rush when something happens. Steve's been watching these birds for years and as a consequence of his fieldcraft accurately predicted their arrival, adrenalin kicked in and the first few shots fired, all blurred due to the excitement, so we waited for a second pass, and here it came

two birds quartering the field for food and with any luck there may get closer, they did a bit, I was still very excited so a bit of a blurred image...
but as I settled down, they continued to hunt.
Steve had us tucked in so they didn't see us, and we didn't disturb them, but they did hear the shutter of the camera, such awesome hearing.
They spent a good half hour hunting and then left, as did we, and headed on to West Acre to see what was around there. I was really excited after this close encounter with the Owls, no hide work, no captive birds, not at the nest, just pure fieldcraft and countless hours of observation from Steve. Top morning.

At West Acre a Little Owl in the distance and some Shelducks, LapwingOystercatchers, Teal, Reed Bunting all accompanied by Willow Warbler song, on what was turning from a misty start to a beautiful day.

note the irregular shaped iris (apologies to harp on about this, see previous posts on this blog for more on that particular issue, and an Oystercatchers eye you can see).
the day was getting better and better, then a ripple in the water gave away a hunting Grass Snake as it made it's way across the pond to lie up on a small bank, in wait no doubt !

This stealth like approach was broken by the high pitched whistle of a Kingfisher as it flew past which had me all fingers and thumbs again with excitement.
Steve and I then parted company, I had chores to attend to (getting a refund from Eva Air), but it had been such a great morning I switched off the mobile and had a half hour walk along the Nar, in Narborough. Orange Tip, Peacock and Tortoiseshell, butterflies were everywhere and as I walked alongside the river I heard a rustle by the bank and then a small mammal emerged, to quickly plop into the was a Water Vole ! my first for absolutely ages. A bit further and the plop noise was replaced by a rustling, faintly, but sounded like something was slithering around by the bank. I crept closer to see........ more Grass Snakes. Not sure how many there were tangled up in this lot !
And so ended a great morning, except just for one thing, a pair of Buzzards being mobbed by another Buzzard, or was it, stringing a Honey would have been too much.......wouldn't it ?
....and this was my memory of a truly great morning's birding and company.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Pentney Rumblings..........

Saturday 17 April
Hmmmmmm......rumblings indeed. Today was glorious in the garden and I saw a Robin, but it wasn't a Mikado Pheasant, a Mallard in the pond behind, but it wasn't a Fairy Pitta Taiwan and a Hare but it wasn't a Taiwanese endemic mammal, due to a blooming Volcano in Iceland ! And I shouldn't have been in the garden, rather Taiwan !!!!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

All aboard the......

6 April 2010
Up early and at 5am in the dark first bird to be heard singing was, not surprisingly, a Robin. Work then intervened until at a little after 6 am the fast paced song of a Skylark broke my concentration. It was clearly nearby so time for a quick coffee as the light improved and then to the field over the road, and there he was....having a rest before taking to the air again, a sound that reminds me of Lundy.
So back to the house and in the hedge a bird that has only just started to visit the garden. It is a bit of a traitor this one preferring to spend it's time next door poking round the dog kennel and below their feeders, but this time it was out in the sun, in my garden, and nailed ! A cracking Yellowhammer.
I final look on the fields by the house and a Red-legged Partridge gave me a look.
So finally off to work and en route a quick stop at Choseley for the Corn Buntings, which duly obliged. A great start to the day.