Monday 20 February 2012

Common Yellowthroat Twitch and A Good Day on Patch

I wasn't going to go for the Common Yellowthroat, I'm made of sterner stuff than that I thought. I'm not! I cracked on Saturday evening when I heard from Bun that we'd been offered a lift up there with ( a Devon birder*). We met up near Exeter early next day and arrived at the twitch around mid-morning to the news that the bird had been showing very well earlier. So even though it had become a bit more elusive we were very hopeful. We waited a good while for our first views ( well mine and (Devon birder's) Bun had already been on day one (obviously! ;-)). My first view of it was when it flew out of the hedge it was hiding in and across the field. It's flight-path took it directly over my head, very low too, watching it in bins I nearly ducked!! We had several superb views while it was in the next hedge with it periodically popping out and foraging in the long grass. I thought its behaviour was more akin to that of a Dunnock than a warbler. What a stunning little bird though, really has the wow factor!! No photos of the bird because it never stayed in view for long enough while we were there (Bun suggested that was a good thing because I'd be able to do one of my superb paintings of it instead). A few photos of the twitch though.... A great day out, a great bird, and good company who could want more!

The scene that met us on arrival. The bird had gone to ground. 
I'm not surprised as some people seemed to be getting a bit close.
Not difficult to guess which bush it was last seen in is it?

The bird relocated to the hedge in the right of this shot, most people kept a sensible distance and it showed intermittently. As you can see near the top of the hill, some people just have to get closer than everyone else. I wonder if they all have anything in common?  Let's see shall we?....

Crop of the previous photo. Speaks for itself I'd say ;-)

Luckily I noticed a 'journo' striding over towards us, Bun and me made a hasty retreat (see our abandoned scopes) but (Devon birder) agreed to answer her questions.  Perhaps he's never had dealings with the press before? Oh well, he'll learn!....

OMG!! More 'journos'... 
He can't get enough of them! Oh well, he will learn! ;-)
See article here
They've got the WRONG species of bird ( Yellow-throated Warbler) and (Devon birder) did you really say it would have got lost while migrating in the WINTER!!? Thought not! :-)

And now by popular demand....

Common Yellowthroat.
I couldn't find my paints after the move so I had to have a stab at it on the computer.
It looked exactly like this..obviously! 

Today is the first real chance I've had to spend a good few hours out on the patch. I have popped out now and again over the last couple of months and mostly dipped stuff. Especially the overwintering Woodlarks at 'site x', which I think I've dipped six times so far. Admittedly I haven't given it long enough or put in nearly enough effort, so this morning I did just that and after about 30 minutes searching found them. They are incredibly difficult to spot in the manured field, they blend in beautifully.

After getting cracking views of these little beauties I felt calm and relaxed enough to pop down the Post Office and merrily hand over £917 to pay for all our final utilities bills from our old house. It seems we hadn't paid for any electricity since last May! I mean if they don't send you a bill you don't really notice do you? After the reality of how much I'd just spent sank in  had to have a lie down in a darkened room for a bit. That didn't really work though, what I needed was more patch scarcity therapy. Oh boy did I get some! My first stroll along the Coly for an absolute age and there it is, a Dipper, and not just a Dipper.... a singing Dipper! I even managed to point a camera at him before he noticed me. Once he had though, he did that typical Dipper thing of always staying about 100 meters in front me as I walked along. 

One of my all time favourites...I could watch one for hours....given the chance!

I got up at 4am this morning to do a spot of stargazing. It's really awe inspiring to sit out under the stars in the wee small hours now that the street-lighting is turned off. Saturn is showing really well at the moment and I had a stab at digiscoping it but it isn't as easy as Jupiter being much smaller and fainter. It looks absolutely stunning through the scope though.

* The name (Devon birder) used as per the formula on (Devon birder's ) Blog  Okay Tom? :-)

Monday 6 February 2012

Weekend in Norfolk

After having finally finished the house move what better way to unwind than with a nice weekend's birding in Norfolk. Fortunately I'd got a week booked off from work at just the right time too. Bun and I left in the early hours of Friday morning and we were being joined by Nick later on Saturday. For  many weeks there have been three potential lifers for me in Norfolk but one of them, the Western Sandpiper, hadn't been seen for a while, and with freezing conditions at Cley wasn't very likely to be anytime soon. That left the Lesser White-fronted Goose (also a Lifer for Bun) and the  Coue's Arctic Redpoll.  On the Friday we spent over four hours looking for the goose, mainly because on arriving at Buckenham Marshes we were told that the goose flock were on the Cantely side and would be easier to see from there. We drove around to Cantley and they were miles away! Shimmering specks in the low sun and 'heat' haze. We didn't realize that you can get to the riverside path from Cantley Marshes so we returned to Buckenham and walked the mile or so down the river to view them. You could say 'a bit of a wild goose chase then' only the geese weren't moving! By the time we were eventually viewing the flock, at least the weather had changed in our favour and in the cloudier conditions the views were good, if a bit distant. Although there were about 130 White-fronts on the marshes the Lesser White-front always stuck with the Taiga Bean Geese so was easy to locate.

Can you see it? 
White-fronted Geese in the foreground Bean Geese behind with the Lesser White-fronted Goose.

You can even see the eye-ring if you enlarge this photo.

By the time we'd driven up to the north coast there wasn't enough daylight left to see anything else so we shared some chips with the very fat Mallards on Wells Quay before checking in at our usual haunt, The Cobblers B&B.

Saturday morning we decided to get to Titchwell nice and early to beat the inevitable weekend crowds. When we arrived another birder was already looking at the Arctic Redpoll, so that was nice and easy and thank goodness! Why? Because before you could say 'dude' the place was absolutely choc-a bloc. We did hear our 'amusing quote of the trip' here though. A woman, on looking at the Arctic Redpoll through someone's scope said " Oh, yes I can see it! Is it supposed to have that red on it?"  Obviously had no idea what any Redpoll looked like.... the clues are there in the name surely! Still, I got good views and even managed a couple of dodgy photos before 'the masses' descended. I think we arrived there at about  9.30, by 10.15 the feeding station area looked like this!

Time to leave I think...

 Coue's Arctic Redpoll

Before the crowds arrived I also managed to get my first ever shots of a Water Rail, because the ditches we're all frozen this bird was digging around in the leaf litter....

Next stop was Holkham, where we were hoping to see the four Shore Larks that have been wintering there. Holkham was just as busy as Titchwell  but at least there's plenty of room for everyone. We soon spotted the Shore Larks as two flew in to join two others already on the ground. They were all on a patch of sand enjoying a good dust bath, yes, the salt marsh was that dry! I took a bit of video of them digging and bathing and a few photos but they were always pretty distant. On this occasion at least... 

Here's the video...Turn the sound down it was windy!

Distant Shore Lark

Holkham Gap.... Saturday. Soon to look very different!

Later in the afternoon we stopped off at Salthouse Beach carpark, it was getting very cold and windy now and almost dark. There was a very mobile flock of Snow Buntings here ( we'd seen a couple of flocks at Holkham too) and plenty of waders and gulls. I found some of yesterday's uneaten sandwiches in the boot of the car and decided to test if any of the birds were in fact 'plastic' ...Yes, all the Black-headed Gulls, a juvenile Herring Gull, a Common Gull and about 50 Turnstones all tucked in.

Common Gull

 Bread-eating Turnstones

Back at the B&B  we met up with Nick who had spent all day doing the Buckenham/Cantley goose marathon, and hadn't got a positive Id on it before it got too dark. He saw a White-fronted Goose sp. with the Taiga Bean Geese before the White-fronted Goose flock flew in, but didn't see it well enough. I'd have ticked it myself :-) At 8pm the snow started falling. It fell all night and in the morning around five inches had accumulated.Very pretty, but it was going to make the journey home 'interesting'.

The Cobblers B&B highly recommended for a birding holiday.
 Here Bun can be seen leaving his own private wing of the building.

After breakfast we went back to Holkham Gap, as Nick wanted to see the Shore Larks. Not surprisingly there was hardly anyone there, much, much better! The scenery in the snow was stunning.

Bun and Nick enjoying the view....

Holkham Gap as I've never seen it before!

I've never seen so much virgin snow

Just four other birders were present and we got superb views of two of the Shore Larks

Bun's such a legendary twitcher that others are often seen to kneel down in his presence.

The Shore Larks were much more approachable...
and then they flew over to near where I was standing and I grabbed my chance...

A bit out of focus but it shows the horns really well, they could only be seen at certain angles.

I couldn't believe my luck!