Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Stoatel Mayhem

1 December 2013
So off to work as usual, then a call from Sam at home to say all hell had broken loose .... screaming and  screeching noises from a Rabbit running into the garden with a Stoat on it's back ! Apparently the entire street could hear the screams from the Rabbit, not Sam. Clearly an event was happening so I turned back and headed home.
On arrival I expected a "gone happening" however Sam told me the Rabbit and Stoat had disappeared into the bushes. I stalked it, the bush ! And to my amazement the beasts were still within. Thereafter an event followed which I have to say wasn't pleasant, but was red in tooth and claw as they say.

So Mr Stoat......

Sadly the principal character..... this animal above, had half dragged and been dragged by the Rabbit down through the garden. There then ensued a fight, the Rabbit hunkering down to the ground to stop the Stoat from getting to it's underside. The Stoat was frantic in it's attack and kept trying to get underneath the Rabbit. As I was watching I was tempted to intervene, but for so many reasons I restrained, though I have to say it was fairly upsetting. The Rabbit seemed to know it's fate yet fought in it's way to the end. Here the Stoat pausing for it's next attack.
 and finally going in for the kill around the neck.
All in all pretty unpleasant to watch as the Rabbit seemed so helpless. But amazing for another animal so much smaller, to be the top predator. The finale was the Stoat dragging off the Rabbit - job done.

I returned to work hoping that the unfortunate Rabbit would keep the Stoat going for quite a while. I recall seeing this many years ago and found it equally fascinating and upsetting.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

I feel like a twitch

Tuesday 19 November 2013
News of a group of up to 12 Parrot Crossbills at Holt over the last few weeks and the forecast of a sunny day had me travelling to Holt Country Park this morning. I haven't twitched for a while, preferring the quiet of normal birding, but I did have a desire to see something more unusual. I felt that as the birds had been around a fair while and it being a weekday I would turn up and have to find them  myself, a challenge I was looking forward to.

Well I turned up to a near full car park and some 70 or so birdspotters all looking directly up into the top of some Larch trees. No surprises what they were looking at, but I had been warned that Common Crossbills were also present and caution was required. I made my way to "the spot" and before I could get my tripod up I was offered views through two other people's 'scopes. Now this really was very kind of them as they genuinely wanted me/any new arrival to see the bird quickly first, in case it flew off. It was extremely kind, but somehow the whole experience just lacked what I was looking for, not the Parrot Crossbill of which there were at least three, just how it all happened. I only have myself to blame for going I guess, and to be fair I too was a part of the group.

I managed a few snaps but the birds were quite far off at the top of the tree and all the prime spots were taken with massive lenses and the machine gun fire of shutters. I hung back and took a few pics. Then to the sound of bleeping pagers and tales of far distant birds seen on overseas trips as people chatted while leaving, I left.

I then went to the beach car park at Salthouse and arrived amid a school trip ! It just wasn't going to be my morning. Bitterly cold but I ventured along the beach to look for Snow Buntings, but to no avail. The ever present Turnstones by the car park did however oblige.
 This was more like it, no one else around just me and the Turnstones
The sun came out and I started to creep into a better position. At my age I need to stand up ever now and again so before going in for the kill I had a stretch. This signalled to the couple next to me who had just emerged from their car that I was having a break from photography. They came over and politely asked me what the little birds were. I told them and we had a brief chat about their habits and occurrence (the birds that is). Lovely, nice quiet interaction after the mass of Holt. I decided to move a few yards to the side to best catch the light. My friendly couple, zipped up their coats, pulled out their trekking poles and marched straight through the flock directly in front of me ! Give me twitchers any day ........................

Friday, 8 November 2013

Mornings like these

Week beginning 4 November 2013
Morning walks down at Deepdale Marsh with the hound have allowed me to reflect on why I love Norfolk so much which is as well due to a recent exposure to the second home set. It seems every time we have been out we've been sat next to groups of retired bankers all boasting that they have "bought in Brancaster"and other such places. Great for business ? well probably not those people..... anyhow that led me to think that the coast was changing just too much and maybe it was time to live elsewhere.

In an attempt to bring Teasel, the mutt, to some form of discipline I have been doing one and a half hours walks first thing, and on these walks I have met a few people, sensible nice local people, and have hence reformed my opinions. There are great places away from RSPB Titchwell and the Summer Sailing Set's haunts along the coast - quite different to the out of season types. So this week - delighted to live in Norfolk.

Here a few pics from yesterday morning's stroll. 19 Rock Pipits were nice, along with these fine Brent Geese.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Continuing the theme

Tuesday 15 October 2013
Continuing the theme...... of rubbish pictures that is. An hour off afforded me a lightening strike to somewhere on the coast, so into the car and heading North. Down the unsurfaced road towards the shop and a covey of Red-legged Partridges shot over the hedge, not sure if there is a maximum to how many in a covey but there were more birds than you could shake a twelve bore at. Two of them actually hit the side of the car (only gently Sam, don't panic about the mini) and bounced off. Quite a fright for me and I guess them as well.

So following that distraction and I was nearing the coast, I decided on Holme, the small car park by the toilet block which had previously been good for Pied Fly, and maybe if time allowed a walk down the Holme road, everyone drives this and never walks it so whom knows. The toilet block car park held a few Continental Robins but that was it. I still had some time so started walking the road. Nothing very unusual apart from loads of Starlings swooping round, a Green Snadpiper calling from somewhere over on the marsh that I couldn't see. A little further down the track and a few Sycamores (where the Collared Fly had been a few years previous) with tons of Goldcrests in it, and a few Chiffchaffs. Collective name for Goldcrests ? a "rush" .....

and then in the middle of the Sycamore was this little chap, a  Yellow-browed Warbler. It stayed mostly hidden from the lens !
It showed occasionally but only as the sky clouded over ready for rain, the bird was particularly well marked I thought, oh for sunshine and it getting closer ( don't worry Mr Bedford it didn't ).
 It did have two wings and although this was a poor shot it did show the majority of ID features rather well, greyish green uppers, long prominent supercilium with dark eye-stripe. Broad yellowish white wing bar on tips of median coverts and a shorter less conspicuous wing-bar on the greater coverts enhanced by dark surround on the wing. Tertials dark centred and edged whitish - Sounds just like the  Collins Field Guide, 2nd Edition large format on offer in the shop for just £29, reduced from £50 - a bargain ! Can't really remember from my ringing days but think the pointed outer tail feathers mean something about it being a first or second year bird ???? Anyhow the pics are slowly improving !

Monday, 14 October 2013

Forget the Camera !

Monday 14 October 2013
A very grey and wet start saw me in the shop am, then just after midday I managed to sneak out for a few hours birding before picking up Tom from school. A Red-flanked Bluetail was showing at Warham Greens so I decided to avoid the crowds and try out Burnham Overy Dunes. The track down to the dunes was deserted, everyone at the Bluetail I concluded, but there were huge numbers of Redwings piling through, and loads of Continental Robins. A few showy Robins and then glimpses of many more, greyer backed and duller red-breasted cousins, from Scandinavia. Also they were incredibly difficult to see, let alone photograph. This was the beginning of "why bother to take pictures on a day like this! "
As I wandered down the track, grateful for my solitude, but equally slightly wondering if I should have gone to Warham despite the crowds, I saw more Redwings piling into the hedgerow and then more Robins. It was quite exciting as the numbers increased, then overhead I first heard then saw a Hawfinch, flying quite low and off to the east - fantastic, Wareham could keep it's Bluetail, I was already made up. Not far down the track due to the sheer number of birds and in the bushes I saw a couple of Chiffchaffs, some twenty or so Blackcaps and two Garden Warblers. Looking across to a small Sycamore and a small bird flitting around and suddenly I was watching a Yellow-browed Warbler - brilliant.  It left as quickly as it came, also to the east, into and over a hedgerow and gone.

I had only got about a hundred yards down the track and had been already well rewarded, more Redwings, Robins and Blackcaps. Then the Yellow-browed was back, but hang on solid dark eyestripe, crown stripe and then a blast of it's rump, bugger me I was watching a Pallas's Warbler ! I was alone and euphoric.
I raised the camera and got some truely fantastic shots.......... it's in the middle
Then a combination of poor light and excitement produced these award winners.
 What a rump !
By now I was beside myself, just as well as no one else was around. I spent another half hour trying to photograph the bird but in vain. Robins, Redwings and Blackcaps also managed to avoid the lens.

Then just for a few seconds a Blackcap, Robin and Bullfinch appeared all together and the thing that immediately struck me was the size of the Bullfinch - was it a Northern Bullfinch ? - sadly after a fair bit of searching I didn't relocate it.

So off to Wells to pick Tom up from school but luckily a good hour in hand. On arrival a few people were scoping something by the caravan site, a quick stop to ask what they were looking at and I was viewing a Siberean Stonechat - nice ! Only ones I had ever seen before were Lundy and Portland. So with a bit of time left it was a stroll round Wells Woods. Plenty of Chiffchaffs, Siskins, Goldcrests, single Redpoll and this squirrel feeding kept the enthusiasm going...
Creeping round the Dell and I saw a few people watching a Sycamore, I spied Oli and his mates so went over to see what was occurring. Well another Pallas's and Yellow-browed, that's what was occuring ! Both birds showing well but out of range of photos.. but in keeping with the day's photographic disasters I grabbed some shots. More award winning snaps to add to the collection !
Clearly visible here the pale rump, double wing bar and yellow front to the supercilium - considering this one for Bird photograph of the year
 So I picked up Tom, back to shop and started to re arrange the bird food section with a new display panel that had arrived, Sam joined me to help but we were soon in disagreement on how best to display the feeders so I was banished down the Marsh, in drizzle and poor light, to talk the dog for a walk. After about ten minutes and with several groups of mixed Thrushes, straight overhead one and probably two Ring Ouzels! They belted into the nearby wood and that was that, oh apart from the Tawny Owl behind the shop and finally on the way home in the dark a Little Owl in the headlights.
WHAT A DAY - can't remember too many four hour purple patches like that.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

We can see you

Snipe hiding on local walk, but then emerged as it started to rain.

Poland Dash

26 - 29 September 2013
A hastily arranged quick zip over to Poland, only two full days but had sights set on two full days of birding just fingers crossed for the weather. We arrived mid afternoon and just made it to the reserve at dusk. In time to see some 2000 Cranes fly over us and go to roost. This was accompanied by thousands of Swallows streaming through the reserve and 14 Goosander.
 The next day and the weather was kind, no rain. Outside the house a Pied Flycatcher was calling and our Gluchowo Black Redstart was on the barn roof. An early morning walk at the reserve concrete road was brisk and sharp but added White-tailed Eagle, Blue-headed Wagtail, at least 100 Great White Egrets (below) as notables.
Into Kostryn for a coffee to warm up and a quick look at the fishermans walk on the way. Here and en route we saw an Osprey with fish, Marsh Harrier, Black Kite a group of 150 Spotted Redshanks, Ruff and Water Rail.
Then a drive past the pumping station and along the raised bank back to Gluchowo. Fieldfares, tons of Chaffinches on migration, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and a single White Stork, quite why this one hadn't left with the rest was a mystery as it wasn't injured.
A large Tit flock caught our eye and while watching both Willow and Marsh Tit we heard some Long-tailed Tits calling, and there they were caudatus the Eastern race looking more like Snow Buntings.

About 20 birds in all, in varying states of full white heads. Time for the second raised bank and on that drive we saw Great Grey Shrike and Red-backed Shrike, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Red Kite and White-fronted Goose.
The next day started misty so did a woodland walk. We were rewarded with 50 plus Hawfinches, more caudutus Long-tailed Tits, Golden Oriole and loads of Nuthatches. On route to the northern part of the reserve we saw large flocks of Spotted Redshanks again and Ruff.
A walk near somewhere I can't spell gave us our best Raptor views with Lesser Spotted Eagle, at least 4 White-tailed Eagles, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Goshawk and Osprey. Recovering from that we then sat and watched a family group of Penduline Tits.
A raised bank drive on the way home and a look at an area that is good for Black Woodpecker. Heard it calling then seen flying through the trees. Greta but even better was a second bird seemingly stuck to the side of a tree !
View from the raised bank over towards Gluchowo.
 and finally for the day a Sparrowhawk.
The final morning and a flock of some 3000 Chaffinches had just six Brambling.
All this birding was to the backdrop of thousands of Grey Lag Geese, Tundra Bean Geese, more Grey Herons and Great White Egrets than you can shake a stick at, Cranes everywhere and the ever present White-tailed Eagles.

If you fancy a quick weekend away, it's cheap with flights at about £50 return and this house is available !!! Also cheap......

Sunday, 1 September 2013

after hours weekend

1 September 2013
Not much time off from work this weekend just a quick snatch of time after work to go to beach, and look at the garden. Here some images....... Seriously thinking of returning this dog as it looks more like a bloody Wolverine

 Tom and his new best mate

 Launch the dogs of war !!
 Sam and Teasel going for a run
 Bent tail - how does it do that ? and is it on purpose
 Two moving, Blackbird and Mistle Thrush, two Statues
 Reed Bunting at Thornham with cricket
Small Copper at West Acre

Friday, 26 July 2013


26 July 2013
I vividly recall pawing through bird books when I was young and drooling and dreaming over certain exotic rarities such as Siberean Rubythroat, Pallas's Warbler, Collared Pratincole and Black-shouldered Kite, all birds I fantasised about seeing but never really thought I would. Well now in 2013 all those dreams have been realised, and my recent foray back into moths presents me with similar thoughts. As a teenager I did some mothing in Kent when I was sixteen, nothing heavy, just a white sheet , mercury vapour lamp and I am ashamed to say in retrospect a killing jar and setting board. I now understand, along with many others the error of such actions and much prefer to catch these great animals on film, or rather sensor/SD card. The fantasy goals being such individuals as Lobster Moth, Puss Moth and dare I say it Death's Head Hawkmoth...... Hmmm. So moth trap set last night and a new moth in the form of Ghost Moth was an excitement (please remember I am just a novice at this)....
So off to work quite pleased... and then to my amazement on the wall outside the shop.....
Bloody Puss Moth !!!! I couldn't believe it, equivalent to a Rubythroat as far as I was concerned, not that rare but one of those things you look at over and over again in the book and think I'll never see that in the flesh/feather/scale... Listed as common... but a belter all the same :)

And also a Plain Golden Y (possibly)
and the diminutive but rather beautiful Ruby Tiger
The rest of the garden was full of Moorhens, or so it felt, our three chicks playing on the lawn.
There it is then, a common moth, and I'm made up. Great stuff really. Lovely being a novice sometimes.