Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Glossy Ibis at Salthouse and decent birds along the coast

Now that Linda has totally retired, she has become a full member of the Summer Wine Crew: I'll leave it to others to decide what her 'nom de guerre' might be! We headed north, arriving at Salthouse by 8.00am: following a few false starts, Linda and Brian located the Glossy Ibis poking its head above some distant rushes. After a spot of hide and seek, the bird obligingly took off and flew around for a minute or so before dropping out of sight again.

We moved westwards to Cley, where Bishop's Hide provided views of good numbers of waders, including Green Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits etc, which were scattered by a marauding Hobby. After coffee and scones at the reserve centre we carried on to Titchwell (memo to self: don't drive from Cley to Titchwell on the coast road in the Summer!)

As we were leaving the car park, Sue Bryan kindly told us that the Turtle Doves had been showing earlier. We scanned the indicated trees, but, despite hearing a bird purring loudly nearby, didn't manage to see one! To be honest, the pools weren't really worth the tedious drive from Cley, but we enjoyed our packed lunches while watching twelve Spoonbills and a Little Gull asleep on the freshwater pool.

Last stop was Choseley, where high winds made finding a Corn Bunting difficult - impossible, in fact! - so we called it a day and threaded our way through the hordes of ten mile-an-hour holiday makers in their Audis and beamers. Final good bird was a Red Kite at Stiffkey (Memories of watching one here with Bill Oddie about 25 years ago when they (and he!)were much more noteworthy!)

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Finally! Interesting waders at the Fen and lots of Water Rails!

Strumpshaw Fen is currently the best place I know to see and hear Water Rails and Kingfishers: lots of both today! Additionally, the muddy fringe in front of Tower Hide pulled in a pair of Black-tailed Godwits (albeit briefly)... now if only there were a muddy island further out!

Also present were several obliging Little Egrets and a Shoveler with a 'Blue-winged Teal' face pattern. I've seen this before on Eurasian Teal - perhaps it's some recessive gene. Lots of Migrant and Southern Hawkers as well as a late Norfolk Hawker by the new dipping Pool. This spot is fantastic for glimpsing a family of delightful Water Voles at the moment: just patience and a bit of quiet observation required!

Monday, 14 August 2017

Random Ali G reference!

Strange to relate, I'm a big fan of multi-talented, highly educated performer Sacha Baron Cohen. I readily accept that his output is often very close to the knuckle (or, let's be honest, way past some of the time) but he can be a refreshingly courageous iconoclast: his legendary interviews with people like Donald Trump, Buzz Aldrin and the Beckhams are, IMHO, really worth watching.

He once had some success in the music field with his recording of 'Me Julie', with US-Jamaican singer Shaggy. In this amusing offering, Ali G claims descent from Bob Marley, stating that his nan had a fling with the reggae legend '...round the back of the Crooked Billet, Iver Heath, behind the bins, during his world tour of Staines and Egham in '75' Here's the Youtube clip:

When Linda and I were staying in Maidenhead recently, we passed this landmark and just had to take a photo. I wonder if there's any reference to Ali G inside the pub?

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Perseids: worth looking out for!

The Perseids are one of the few genuinely reliable meteor spectacles: they are bright, slow and - unlike some 'showers' - frequent enough that a thirty minute skywatch will produce enough 'shooting stars' to make it worth staying up late for!

Last night started off cloudy here in East Norfolk, but about the time the GB mens' 100m relay team were winning their gold, the clouds parted for an hour or so. Linda and I are lucky, in that our patio has a northern aspect, so we could stand and look north east towards the W shape of the constellation Cassiopeia. (Meteor showers appear to originate from a certain point in the sky: this is called the radiant, and, in the case of the Perseids, is the constellation Perseus. Looking towards the instantly-findable Cassiopeia gets you in the right part of the sky)

In an hour we counted seventy or so bright meteors and numerous fainter ones: using our night vision scopes we could see hundreds that would have been invisible to the naked eye (as well as a surprising number of satellites!)

If tonight is clear (and it's supposed to be) it's well worth having a look around eleven o' clock.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Baird's Sandpiper and other odds and ends at Potter Heigham.

Having blogged about this terrific new reserve earlier on today, I had the chance to whip across first thing: not having had much of a chance for a walk recently, I parked in the village and did the whole circuit, collecting Migrant Hawker on the way. No other birders were looking for the Baird's, which was perhaps a little surprising: in the event, it was comparatively easy to pick out, with its short, fine bill and 'weetabix' plumage. It was loosely associating with Dunlin and Ringed Plovers on the first large muddy pool, but allowed only one record shot before it (and the other waders) were scattered by a Hobby.

A pair of Green Sandpipers were feeding just past the tin hut and a Wood Sand flew through. I decided to follow it eastwards, but failed to relocate it. However, the 'Stilt Pool' held three dozy Spoonbills and dozens of Little Egrets: always good to see. The wires over the path had so many Swallows and Martins on them that they resembled a musical stave: if I'd had my guitar, I could have played them!

Linda and I had to return to Potter later in the day and were pleased to see a second Hobby hawking over the road near Oby.


Potter Heigham Marshes

Like many people, I first became aware of PHM in the early months of 2017 when a Great White Egret and several Spoonbills were reported from the site by various Twitter users. I already knew the area pretty well, being a frequent visitor to the Weavers' Way Hide: over the years I've seen Serin, Caspian Tern, Savi's Warbler, Pec Sand and many other birds from the raised bank overlooking Rush Hills. A long time ago (when they were still rare!) Linda and I watched a Great (White) Egret feeding in the fields that were excavated to create the PHM reserve.

It wasn't until the Black-winged Stilts dropped in and decided to breed, however, that most of us realised that the Environment Agency and NWT had added a truly wonderful birding resource to Norfolk's already enviable portfolio. As well as providing a safe haven for the Stilts to successfully fledge all four young, the reed beds, shallow pools and islands have also turned up an incredible list of scarce or unusual species: Baird's Sandpiper, Night Heron, Wryneck, Cattle Egret, Crane, Black Tern, Med Gull: on my first visit in May I counted seven species of wader on just one pool!

What're interesting, though, are the conflicting stories one hears about the future of the reserve. Almost everyone I've met there (and the majority of tweets about the marshes) claim that the whole area was created as a refuge for Bitterns and Marsh Harriers, anticipating the impending flooding of North Norfolk as global warming kicks in. Hmmmm. I have my own views on that subject, but that's for another day! The generally stated view is that the NWT and EA are intending that the whole area will revert to reed swamp to encourage Bitterns and Harriers to breed, and that the open pools that have proven so attractive to waders will soon disappear.

Side-stepping the issue of whether or not other reserves' attempts to attract Bitterns have been particularly successful, a glance through the NWT's webpage about PHM suggests that this is not actually the case. Although it seems that the shallow muddy scrapes to the east of the 'Anglers' Track' (favoured by the recent Baird's) are intended to develop into further reed bed, the deeper pools along Weavers' Way are scheduled to remain as open water.

It's tantalising to conjecture just what other species will visit - or even breed - at this amazing reserve.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Disappointing seawatch at Sheringham...

...but a few nice bits and pieces at Cley! An early start found Linda and me in the famous shelters by 7.30am: just three other birders present, with nothing to report after an hour's watching. Apart from a few Kittiwakes, terns and lots of Gannets, we failed to emulate yesterday's excellent reported totals - perhaps the strong northerly needed some rain to bring the birds inshore.

A move to Cley was more productive, with adult and juvenile Little Egrets, a couple of Spoonbills and another apparent Yellow-legged Gull. A good passage of House and Sand Martins was taking place and a Wall Brown on the path was good to see. Linda bought a new pair of binoculars at Cley Spy (Opticron) and then we dashed into Norwich to deliver some more books to Jarrolds, City Books and Waterstones. Since there's an obvious demand, it beats me why both the RSPB and the NWT haven't taken a few....

Back home to mow the lawn and enjoy the antics of our resident Hummer!