Sunday, 22 November 2009

All the S’s…

Finally got the yearlist rolling again this weekend, with a couple of decent local birds.

I made a later-than-usual start yesterday morning – this was associated with the fact that I’ve just passed six years in my current job, and a small celebratory trip to the pub became a rather larger event than planned on Friday night… A few of us enjoyed a superb meal at The Don in the city – recommended for a special occasion.

Anyway, when my head had recovered sufficiently, I headed out to Abberton to see the Spotted Sandpiper in Peldon Bay. Everyone knows Abberton is pretty large, but this bird must have chosen just about the furthest point from any access – right out on the eastern edge. (Approx TL996184, c20 minutes walk clockwise around from the dam). The sandpiper is relatively skittish, but shows well from sensible distance – features noted included strikingly bright yellow legs, plain tertials, short tail barely extending past the primaries, and a pale pinkish base to the bill. Obviously this stunningly sharp photo shows all that and more…


After studying this for a while, I headed down to Rainham on a Serin hunt. In the last couple of hours of daylight, I couldn’t find one. Happily, though, a return visit this morning produced two birds, showing quite well at times. For anyone thinking of visiting, they’re frequenting the west end of the reserve, just around the NE side of the tip. More top quality photos illustrate the brighter of the two:

serin2 serin1 As is often the case with a decent bird at Rainham, it presented an opportunity to catch up with a few friends from around the area: I enjoyed chatting to Adrian, Steve and Tony, and then a gossip with Howard back at the visitor centre over a mean sausage sandwich!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Shore Larks, Holkham Bay

I made another return visit to Holkham on Sunday afternoon, since Dad hadn’t seen the ever-increasing Shore Lark flock yet. No great hardship – they’re cracking birds, and all the more welcome having been very scarce in the last couple of winters.

Photos are still not as good as I would like (i.e they’re not really sharp), but they’re heading in the right direction! The problem is getting there when there isn’t anyone else around – while taking these, I was sure I could get closer without disturbing the birds, but as soon as anyone else turns up, you can guarantee they’ll either:

a) Walk straight up to you and bellow “Any sign of the Shore Larks?” as they fly off into the distance, or

b) Set up a scope and tripod 300m away and make a series of loud remarks about “bloody photographers, always getting too close” while the larks amble around contentedly.

Anyway, enough of the ranting – here are some photos!

PS – since several people have asked me where these birds are… see the red circle on >this map<.

shorelark5 shorelark1 shorelark2 shorelark3 shorelark4

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Winter’s coming, but the year-ticks aren’t…

Shock, horror! That’s two weekends in a row with no new birds for the year list. Stuck fast on a measly 309, despite our best efforts today.

First stop was a look for the Dusky Warbler at Gunton on the edge of Lowestoft – we gave this about three hours before giving up, though suspecting the bird might still be lurking in the vicinity. A male Dartford Warbler showed pretty well, calling frequently. Some of the birders present could even hear it. Sadly, our suspicions were proved correct when the warbler was reported again about two hours after we’d left. “Bother!”… or words to that effect.

By the point of botheration we’d reached Holkham, where JL was oddly keen to see a white goose. We’d seen hundreds being fattened up for Christmas along the journey, but apparently these weren’t any good?! After we heard that the bird was still present, Mr L was out of the traps towards the Washington hide like a Whippet leaving me staggering under the weight of his hot drink supplies. Fortunately, when I caught up, the white morph Greater Snow Goose was still showing well. An escape, obviously. Unlike the one I saw the week before, which was clearly wild. Oh, who cares… it was pretty smart, and a few thousand wild geese are a superb sight and sound anyway.

Next stop, Holkham Bay, looking for Shore Larks. We’d both seen one a week or two earlier, but they’re great birds that have been in short supply in recent winters. We found eight pretty easily, on the saltings about 1/2 mile east of the gap, just south of the creek that runs east/west. Cracking birds, though less photogenic than the Snow Bunting, seen at Gunton earlier.

snowbunt shorelarks

Finally, we headed back east to Cley, hoping that the recent American Golden Plover would grace the reserve to roost at dusk. Sadly, this wasn’t to be, and late news of the bird from Blakeney harbour didn’t help. Still, I love this part of Norfolk on still autumn evenings as the sun goes down. At least three Marsh Harriers floated above the reedbed calling to each other, periodically spooking the massed duck and waders – hundreds of Teal, Wigeon, Lapwing. We helped a couple of people see Water Pipit, Spotted Redshank and, much to their delight, a ghostly Barn Owl hunting in the gloom pretty close to us.

Who cares about a ridiculous tick-list anyway?