Thursday, 21 September 2017

The moral high ground!

It's really amusing to read the various blogs and tweets of some of the people who joined the crowds at Burnham Overy in an attempt to see the recent Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler. I should imagine most of those present behaved very well and kept to the public footpath - some may even have seen the bird from this vantage point. But quite a large number (judging by the discussions on BF) crossed a barbed wire fence and ditch in order to a) get closer b) take part in an organised flush.

My experience of rare locustellas is confined to a single Lancie and a single River Warbler. The River Warbler happily sat on top of a bush and reeled away for hours: the Lanceolated Warbler was a different kettle of fish! Initially found by Martin Reed, Bob Walker, Linda and I, the bird would disappear in the grass at our feet for minutes at a time, before reappearing within inches of where we'd last seen it. At one point it ran between Linda's trainers!

This experience was part of the reason Linda and I elected not to join the PGW twitch, even 'though we were just ten minutes away: we just weren't sanguine about seeing the bird. Even more at the front of our thinking was the inevitability of the twitch turning into an unpleasant experience. These fears were vindicated by the well-viewed Youtube video of a couple of Holkham Rangers being verbally abused by some twitchers and by the knowledge that actual damage and trespass had taken place on numerous occasions.

I've seen this before: I walked away from the Golden-winged Warbler without seeing the bird when I witnessed people breaking down garden fences, and from an Isabelline Shrike, where an elder statesman of Norfolk birding was shoved and abused by an over-zealous photographer.

What's fascinating is how many bloggers / tweeters / BF posters are now trying to re-attain the moral high ground by making retrospective apologies for their actions: you and I know that many of these will, at future twitches, be banging on about their conclusive two second flight view with not a trace of remorse!

Let's be honest: birding, twitching, bird photography are all hunting type activities: we try to sneak as close as we can with our bins / 'scopes / cameras to obtain our trophy, either in the form of a memory or a photograph. For some (especially, it has to be said, for those whose prime motivation is membership of an elite group of 500+ listers) there is a huge element of competition and desperation added to the mix. But saying sorry and then repeating your actions at the next big twitch is a trifle cynical, IMHO!

Great Spotted delight!

A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers have recently become frequent visitors to the garden: they rarely come to the feeding stations, but often peck away at the large oak and sycamore trees I can see from my office. The female spent half an hour headbanging in the oak: you can see two large areas that she excavated!

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Red-necked Phalarope at Minsmere and other delightful bits and pieces...

Since 'Cleggy' is still in Bavaria, it was just Norman and me who drove south east for a day's birding in Suffolk. First stop was Minsmere's East Hide, where -  eventually, and with the aid of visiting birder Kim, we located the long-staying juvenile Red-necked Phalarope lurking behind an island. After a while it deigned to show itself and - although a little distant - it was fascinating to watch. Other birds in this part of the reserve included Little Stint and Spotted Redshank, while the walk to and past the Sluice added Stonechat and Kingfisher to the tally.

As we approached South Hide, a family party of Bearded Tits allowed closer views than we'd earlier 'enjoyed' from the Sandy Wall: still a degree of patience was required due to the stiff breeze.

A walk out to Island Mere was unproductive, as was a slog around the Blyth Estuary from the White Hart to the hide: just a mixed flock of Knot, Redshank and both Godwits. As we were climbing back into the car, a group of  raptors rose up from a distant belt of woodland: Buzzard and Marsh Harriers were certainly present, but what about the whopper in the grainy photo? Big enough to be a White-tailed Eagle?

Fascinating Phalarope!

There is something totally fascinating about the feeding strategy of the Phalaropes: I'm assuming they spin fast enough to create a vortex that draws invertebrates in from the surrounding surface film and - possibly - up from the bed of the pool. This Red-necked Phalarope was absolutely tireless: it never stopped during the forty minutes Norman and I watched it...


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Water Vole and hovering Kingfishers at Strumpshaw!

I guess most birders have watched a Kingfisher hovering, but - to non-birders - it's quite a surprise to see just how well and for how long they can do it! I timed this one (using exif data) at 32 seconds!

I had a short spell at the Fen this morning, starting at 7.00am and finishing at 10.00. The usual Mötley Crüe were there, hoping for Bearded Tits - but they failed to appear! Apart from the Kingfishers (three!) and the regular Water Rail it was fairly quiet: the Water Vole showed well, while Mistle Thrush, a pair of displaying Sparrowhawks and three Buzzards were best of the rest. Still lots of Willow Emeralds about!

Monday, 18 September 2017

Arctic Warbler at Wells Woods

Linda and I were up and out before six thirty and seawatching from the shelters at Sheringham half an hour later. Despite the brisk northerly winds and rain squalls, all we saw were hundreds of Teal, Wigeon and Gadwall, with a few Pintail and Scoter for luck! There were, of course, lots of Gannets, but no Shearwaters or Skuas...

We made a move to Cley and trudged out to the Centre Hides: Bernard Bishop chatted to us through the shutters, but his presence didn't seem to worry the waders: a flock of Dunlin, Little Stints (4+) and a Curlew Sandpiper came close enough for photography. No sign of the Grey Phalarope, however..

Last throw of the dice was a speedy visit to Wells Woods: we'd already decided not to join what seemed likely to be a bunfight at Burnham Overy. A short walk and very brief wait and we soon located yesterday's Arctic Warbler. This beautiful little sprite (a new bird for Linda!) was thoughtful enough to pop up for photos of its long, pale supercilium. Nice to meet old friend Bob Walker, looking no different from when he was my best man twenty-odd years ago!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Buckenham RSPB: five species of raptor in ten minutes!

I grabbed a quick session at Buckenham Marshes just before lunch (I wanted to be home in time to watch Lewis Hamilton win in Singapore - not disappointed!) Too much water and too many dog-walkers for anything on the deck, but, while chatting with local patcher Mike, five species of raptor were hunting over the marshes: Hobby, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard and Kestrel!

I stopped off very briefly at the Fen on my way home, but still managed to see the resident Water Vole and half a dozen Willow Emeralds!