Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Long-tailed Duck: best bird of a breezy day out!

After the usual 7.30 pick-up, Brian, Norman and I headed north to Cley, parking at the beach car park. Despite a walk right round the reserve, all we came across were a few Ringed Plovers, seals and Brent Geese - no Snow Buntings or white-winged gulls.

A move along the coast to Brancaster Staithe was instantly more rewarding, resulting in excellent  views of the recently-present Long-tailed Duck. Following lunch at Burnham Deepdale we spent an hour at Titchwell (Norman had to be back in Norwich early afternoon) Apart from a few waders and the ever-present Water Rail, nothing much else to report. A great day out, though, with over eight miles walked and the lawn mowed when I returned home!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Strumpshaw Fen: few people or birds today!

Tuesday morning has been the traditional meet up day at the Fen: I knew Brian and Norman were busy, but I was surprised that none of the regulars were out and about: just Brendan O in Fen Hide. To be fair, they weren't bad judges, since there weren't many birds around either! Still: I managed a pure white Pheasant to add to my list of local colour oddities, as well as Kingfisher (two by the new dipping pool!) Bullfinch, Stonechat, Water Rail (obscured by reeds) and half a dozen Marsh Harriers, two of which had wing-tags.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Feeding a multitude!

It's been a very busy few days - anniversary celebrations, of course, as well as lots of pre-Christmas orders to make up and post out. Hopefully I might get out and look at some birds over the next few days, but the Heathlands performance is looming, as well as the Beer Festival, at which I'll be playing on Thursday night.

The garden is absolutely full of Pheasants and Partridges at the moment (as well as our funny little chicken!) They don't even go far when Linda or I go outside! I expect they feel safe from the local guns while they're with us...

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Anniversary dinner!

Tomorrow is Linda and my 23rd anniversary: significant, because we've now been married to each other longer than we were to our first partners!

We decided to share the occasion with our closest friends: Sue and Peter and Penny and Paul. It's always slightly intimidating cooking for Penny, who (notwithstanding the fact that I'm a trained Chef and once ran my own hotel!) is, by a long way, the best cook I know. For this reason I'm cooking a Chinese 'feast' with five separate dishes: the added bonus is that the whole meal is low calorie, apart from the obligatory cheese board!

Peter, of course, knows more about wine than anyone I know, so I'm in between a rock and a hard place! I've chosen some decent 'fizz' with Piquepoul, Chablis and Croze Hermitage to follow.

I've just finished laying the table and am about to start the hoisin 'duck' in pancakes....

Friday, 17 November 2017

Oops, I did it again!

I only took the Strat into Cooke's to have a new jack socket fitted - I came out with this absolutely lush Tele! When I finished playing full-time in a band, I sold my Fender Super 60 and Fender Twin amps, as well as my back-up guitars and Shure mikes. I kept the Strat because it has sentimental value and have added two Fender semi's to the inventory. But since I seem to be playing a lot more regularly, I thought I'd splash out on this Squier Telecaster (by Fender, of course!) as a standby. I gave it a good work out once I got home: fabulous! With this, the Strat repair / set-up, a new Shure and stand, this 'charity' gig is costing me a fortune!

Leonid meteor shower

With clear, dark skies at the moment, it's a great time to look out for Leonid meteors. The peak of this shower will be tonight, the best time being after midnight (although I saw quite a few before dawn this morning)

Meteor showers are named for the part of the sky from which they appear to originate: this is called the radiant. The Leonids, not surprisingly, are most abundant around the constellation of Leo, which is easily recognised by its reverse question mark 'head'. Leo is just to the east of the fabulous winter constellation, Orion: find the Hunter and you'll find the Lion!


Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Shorelarks - the movie!

Just a short clip....

Shorelarks and Fieldfares with a bonus Purple Sandpiper!

Brian and Norman hadn't yet seen the Happisburgh Shorelarks, so we arranged to meet at my house at 7.30. As they arrived it started to rain, but we thought we might as well persevere, so headed north through Wroxham. I suggested a detour to St Benets to look for owls until the rain eased off: in the event we didn't find any, but there were lots of delightful Fieldfares, as well as Brian and Ann Shreeve!

By the time we reached Happisburgh it had started to drizzle again. I volunteered to go for a scout around and quickly found a group of half a dozen Shorelarks feeding on the path - I returned to the car to fetch the other three and eventually we all enjoyed decent views despite the weather.

A move to Walcott failed to reveal any Purple Sandpipers, so we carried on to Sheringham, where a single PS was feeding distantly on the rocks (it being low tide!) We enjoyed the friendly Turnstones for a while, before carrying on to Cley for coffee. As we drove towards the Beach Carpark a Woodcock flew right in front of the car: terrific! The weather had deteriorated once more and a close scrutiny of the huge flock of Brents failed to turn up the Brant. This seemed a good time to head home, stopping once more on the way at Ludham Marshes.

Still no owls, but we were treated to the sight of at least a thousand Cormorants heading westwards: flock after flock passed us, presumably on their way to roost at Ranworth.


Field Vole

I happened to glance from the office window just as it was getting dark: I had heard a Wren shouting away at something. To my delight there was a tiny Field Vole scuttling about at the back of the garden pond. Although this is thought to be the most common British wild mammal, you don't often see them for a sustained period.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Some fantastic raptor action at Strumpshaw Fen!

Not a great day for a walk: at 7.00am it was cold and damp - drizzling, even - but I felt the need for a walk, so I threaded my way through the ridiculous road closures, parked and walked out to Fen Hide. On the way a decent flock (20+) of Siskins was feeding high in the canopy (so not great for photos!) while a few Bullfinches were calling along Sandy Path.

Just Brian S and Adrian in the hide, but we were soon joined by Brian T, Ben and an Australian couple on holiday. For a long while there was virtually nothing for to see, but then a pair of Stonechats appeared, followed by half a dozen Marsh Harriers. These alternately chased corvids and each other! I picked up a distant raptor over near Tower Hide: initially it looked good for a Rough-leg or something else really interesting - I'd glimpsed a very pale underneath and rump. As the bird came closer, it seemed to be merely an extraordinarily marked Common Buzzard. Ben L also gave the bird a good examination, before concurring with the I/d. With Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk also chasing around, it had been one of the Fen's 'raptor mornings'.