Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Bad Weather. Bad Timing.

After last May's successful birding trip to East Anglia Bun and I returned there  for a couple of days this weekend. The weather was atrocious from the minute we arrived at dawn on Sunday morning. Our first stop was at a site on the Cambridgeshire Fens, where we were hoping to see Corncrake. It was raining and really cold for May but we could hear a Corncrake calling distantly from in the car ( we were in the car not the Corncrake obviously). When the rain cleared away we ventured out onto the fen and although we didn't see any Corncrakes one individual continued to call. Like Grasshopper Warblers they have that weird ability to sound much closer to you than they really are. Out on the fen we saw several species of breeding waders and best of all lots of drumming Snipe, neither of us had seen or heard this before, very entertaining it was too. Next stop was Welney just over the border in Norfolk where we were really hoping to see the Bluethroat (a lifer for me). The rain had stopped by now but had been replaced with near gale-force winds, the hides were literally shaking and birds were understandably reluctant to venture out of cover. We spent a long while searching and waiting for the bird to show but there were a few other good birds around to keep us entertained. A couple of drake Garganey were as gorgeous as ever and the Avocet chicks were simply adorable, first ones I've ever seen. A flyover Red Kite caused a bit of excitement, more so amongst the Avocets than the assembled birders. A couple of plucky Avocets actually mobbed the Kite as it flew over, as superbly portrayed  in this stunning action shot.
The smaller black and white blob is the Avocet.

After four very long hours of waiting and searching the Welney Bluethroat made it onto my list...
What a stunner!!!

When I say made it onto my list. I mean made it onto my list.....of ENEMIES!!! It was showing well on the previous day and again on the day after we were there. I hate it! Not as much as Bun does though. I hear he dipped it again today! :-(

We had been hoping to see Swallowtail on the Broads and although the weather had become quite sunny by the afternoon there were heavy thundery showers in  the Broadland area and no butterflies whatsoever. Well there was one, this rather cold looking Orange Tip which totally ignored my advances with the camera.
Orange Tip.

Monday morning we made our way to Lakenheath  in Suffolk, where again it was windy, cold and drizzly, and so different from last year. We didn't see an awful lot but that didn't really matter because we had  great views of a male Golden Oriole, worth the five hour journey on its own. It was a bit of a shame that the Orioles weren't anywhere near as vociferous as they were last year; down to the weather I suppose. Our next stop didn't depend on the weather at all, which was good coz it was still crap! Why not? Because it was an Orchid site. What it did depend on however was the date. The Rex Graham Reserve is only open to the public one day a year, May bank holiday Monday. The orchid which grows here is called the Military Orchid ( for some whimsical Victorian reason I suppose) and only grows at this site and a couple of others in the UK. I got a few photos of these, as they didn't seem very active, must have been down to the poor weather ;-)

The Rex Graham Reserve. 
The fenced off path and boardwalk reminded me of one of those queueing areas at Alton Towers and the like.
Military Orchid and Common Twayblade.
A Wood Ant adds a bit of 'extra interest' on this one. 
Not that it needs any! ;-)
Individual flowers are supposed to resemble soldiers. 
Everyone knows all soldiers wear pink!

Adjacent to where we parked the car at the reserve there is an area of heathland with breeding *****s . While scanning for these I noticed a large bird flying straight towards us, it was an absolutely stunning male Honey Buzzard, beautifully marked, really stripy. It flew almost directly overhead and powered on ever northward. Definitely the bird of the trip for me. I only wish I'd spent more time admiring it instead of foolishly trying to take a photo. By the time I'd got my camera out it had gained some height and the grey conditions meant it was never going to work anyway. See...

After this our timing became very unfortunate indeed. There was little to see in the area, the pager had been really quiet and we decided to start making our way home via the Red-footed Falcon near Tring in Hertfordshire. When we were at Wilstone Reservoir news came through of the Trunpeter Finch at Cley Marshes. We were three hours away from Cley and three and a half hours away from home. I was far too tired to drive the eight and a half hours it would take to get to the bird and then back home. So we 'let it go' and got on with enjoying superb views of the Red-footed Falcon hawking for insects along with five Hobbies. A great bird and my only lifer of the trip. ( I can't count Corncrake, got to see one first). Obviously I'm feeling very gripped that the bird is still there and showing well, and that Bun and Joe and Nick all went to see it today. I had to console myself with looking at some  locally occurring rare and interesting plants, well scarce anyway. Both of these grow in the Branscombe to Beer undercliff

Nottingham Catchfly, 
 Sole food plant of the nationally scarce moth, the White Spot, an example of which Steve caught in his moth trap a while back.

Th second only grows at one spot but in profusion.
Purple Gromwell. 
The plant version of litmus paper. The flowers start off red due to acidic cell fluid and as this becomes more alkaline the flowers change to blue.Very nice, but not as nice as a Trumpeter Finch,  I'll bet. No where near! :(

1 comment:

Wilma said...

Great photos (except for that honey buzzard ;-(). I really like the pink soldier.