Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Excellent raptor action at Strumpshaw Fen!

A very early start at the Fen was nor really rewarded until the Sun rose behind Strumpshaw Woods: the first arrivals in front of a very window Fen Hide were several Marsh Harriers, a Sparrowhawk and - best of all - a Water Pipit. In total, three of these delightful winter visitors flew through the pool without stopping, as did three Snipe. The resident Black Swan was in uber-aggressive mood, continually harassing a family of Mute Swans... Brian and I chatted to newcomer Frances, before walking round to Tower Hide. Here, the only birds of note were large groups of Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal and Mallard, which were periodically put up by a pair of Marsh Harriers.

Walking back along the river bank produced somewhat distant views of three Buzzards, at least one of which seemed, again, a good candidate for Rough-legged. In the woods the Hornets were still active around their head-height nest: what excellent creatures they are...

Last good bird was a Red Kite that was loitering near the level-crossing: it swooped down and took something: it could have been a young gamebird - or part of one!















Sunday, 21 October 2018

More habitat lost in Norwich and some Owl action on the Heath!

Every Sunday (unless it's raining!) Linda and I have an early breakfast and drive the short distance to the Harford Park & Ride Car boot sale. It really is a terrific place for a bargain: today's star buys included a Barn Owl nesting box and a vintage Alcock Aerialite centre pin reel. In the past I've bought guitars, amplifiers, books.... even fossils!

Learning from previous experience, I always take a camera with me: to the west of the Park & Ride is a belt of deciduous woodland that is a breeding site for several species of warbler, as well as both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers: Buzzards and Red Kites are common visitors and we've seen Oystercatchers, Little Egrets and Sparrowhawks fly overhead..

Today as we arrived a pair of Green Woodpeckers were flying over the trees, 'yaffling' continuously: the cause of their anxiety soon became apparent as the sound of chainsaws shattered the early-morning tranquility. By the time we left, several large trees had been felled: I fear the worst....

Last night was the peak of the Orionid meteor shower, so (arriving home from a dinner party at midnight!) I thought I'd watch out for a few. In the event I only managed a couple, but two Tawny Owls (both males) and a Barn Owl were calling close by for half an hour: Linda and I need to get the nest box up ASAP! The star cluster is the well-known Pleiades or 'Seven Sisters': they're a splendid sight at this time of year.




Saturday, 20 October 2018

Unusual female Stonechat at Cley

While we were waiting for the Short-eared Owl on Thursday, Norman called out a chat on a somewhat distant Gorse bush. I've only just looked at the single picture I took of it and it's quite odd! Although it's obviously a 'normal' female Stonechat, Saxicola torquata, it has a very pale throat. The lack of a dark crown and pale supercilium preclude it from being anything rare, but an interesting bird, nonetheless.

I add a few extra photos of the day: the previous post was already somewhat image-heavy!








Friday, 19 October 2018

The Moon and Mars

Last night the Moon and Mars were c lose together in the southern sky: they'll still be fairly close tonight... Starting tomorrow, the Orionid meteor shower could be worth looking out for: it generally runs from the 20th - 22nd October. The main point of interest here is that these meteors are pieces of debris from Halley's Comet!

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Stac Fada: a UK impact crater and our own personal murmuration

At dawn this morning, the garden was full of Starlings: a mixture of mature and immature birds, they squabbled in the trees and pushed each other away from the various feeders. There were several hundred birds present, none of which, sadly, was rose-coloured!

Tonight I'm attending a lecture at UEA about one of the three possible impact craters in the UK. Two of these are on the west coast of Scotland, on Skye and at Stac Fada, near Ullapool: the third is Silverpit,  a submarine feature in the North Sea. I sell samples of both of the Scottish impactites and of the very impressive Bristol Impact Layer, which contains ejecta from the Manicouagan Crater in Canada (Evidence, of course, that Europe and North America were once much closer together!)






Wednesday, 17 October 2018

North Coast in the mist...

Brian, Norman and I met early morning and headed north, arriving at Cley just as it started to drizzle! No sign of any Jack Snipe at Walsey Hills, but a Water Rail lurking in the gloom was some compensation.

A walk out to the sea added a few distant Bearded Tits but little else, so we moved round to Bishop's Hide. Just a few Black-tailed Godwits on the scrape so we decided to go and look for our own birds at Stiffkey. The walk out to the 'Whirligig' provided us with frustrating views of a Hen Harrier and a couple of Ring Ouzels: the many Goldcrests, Chaffinches and winter thrushes were slightly more obliging and we added Yellowhammer, Linnet and Reed Bunting to the list too. A dapper little Chiffchaff was worth a look (see comment below!)

Returning to Cley (for coffee!) we visited the Coastguards in time for distant views of a Short-eared Owl, a Brown Hare and a few Golden Plover, although the Snow Buntings somehow eluded us.

Last bird of note was a fine ring-tailed Hen Harrier flying parallel to the A140 at Hevingham.