29 September 2005

A 'Rouzel' for Breakfast and Cley for the day

We finished our Norfolk weekend with a trip to Cley, one of the most famous birding hotspots in the world.

It was not Cley, however, which produced our first thrill of the day. Instead it was breakfast in Hunstanton - no, not the sausages, but a young male Ring Ouzel in the back garden of our B&B.

This was the first 'rouzel' I'd ever seen, and it was clearly identifiable by the pale cresent on its chest (otherwise, to all intents and purposes, this thrush is identical in appearance to a Blackbird). I was delighted (and thus made a berk of myself by 'shouting' it to a room full of disinterested breakfasters - ho hum).

A great start to the day then, and Cley did not disappoint.

The grey weather soon cleared and we were into a good array of migrant birds - a Whimbrel, Wheatear, Whinchat and more Spotted Redshank being among the highlights (plus the Common Redshank in the photo, above left). Half-a-dozen Egyptian Geese were a nice find (above right), as was the Marsh Harrier flying low over the reeds - a magnificent sight of which one could never get bored.

24 September 2005

Red-Necked Phalarope and other Norfolk delights

Norfolk in September is reckoned to be about as good as it gets in birding terms, so I've been looking forward to this weekend for quite some time.

We arrived Friiday lunchtime and headed straight to the RSPB reserve at Titchwell. Bang - straight into my first Red-Necked Phalarope and the weekend's off to a flier!

Along with this very rare wader there was also a Temminck's Stint, some Curlew Sandpiper, a Marsh Harrier, Golden and Grey Plover, six female Pintail and two Little Egret. A lifer, some reasonably rare waders and an assortment of other favourites. Could the day get any better?

Well yes, it did. We popped into the Mariner pub for a pint on the way back to teh B&B, only to find a Barn Owl patrolling the field opposite. I even managed a rushed photograph as a record.

Thank you, birding gods. Dinner certainly went down well last night.

Today (Saturday) was still better in once sense at least - the weather was glorious. We headed off to a couple of places we'd never visited before - Wells Woods and then Holme. Wells was a lovely walk, but nothing too exciting on the birding front. Loads of Goldcrest (sadly no Firecrest or Yellow Browed Warbers among them), more Jays than I'd ever previously seen in one place, Chiffchaff, Willow Warblers, Long-tailed and Coal Tits and a Great Spotted Woodpecker represented the highlights of the morning.

So off we headed to the Holme reserve. We were expecting a lot, but to be honest, the less said about the birding here the better. I've rarely encountered fewer birds.

So it was back to Titchwell to round the day off with something a little more interesting. This we acheived with Spotted Redshank, Greenshank and a long spell watching a Sparrowhawk flap-flap-glide high over the pools.

Time for a well-deserved curry.

18 September 2005

The spectacular Blue Tit

Just because the Blue Tit is one of our most common garden birds, it doesn't make it any less stunning. Good looks, interesting behavious and bags of personality all add up to make the Blue Tit a fabulous creature in anyone's book - and I am well chuffed with this photo.

11 September 2005

Missed yellow brow, Curlew and Pec Sand at Draycote!

Started late at Draycote, and after a slow start on a chilly and grey autumnal morning I found some nice, if unspectacular birds. Plenty of Yellow Wagtails, my first county Greenshank of the year, the first returning Wigeon, and a couple of Common Sandpipers for example. Plenty to keep me interested at least.

Then I met an acquaintance who advised me of a Yellow Browed Warbler he'd just found on the opposite side of the reservoir, plus Curlew Sandpiper and Ruff. Later I browsed the internet to discover that a Pectoral Sandpiper had been added to the day list. Good job I'm not competitive - talk about missing out!

8 September 2005

Going, going, gone?

As expected, the Swallows and House Martins now seem to have left the village and surrounding fields.

Ironically, for the first time this summer a pair of Hobby flew through last night - no doubt wondering where their favourite prey items had gone. Just too late fellas!

Footnote: It's now Friday 9th September, and the Swallows and martins were high over the garden again this morning, chattering furiously as they fed. One last hurrah for the summer?

Footnote 2: It's now Friday, 16th September, and with the temperature starting to drop, they're still around - albeit in much smaller numbers. The House Martins are still near their nests at the far end of the village, a handful flying around the houses this afternoon. You can also still find the occasional Swallow in the village, but these are likely to be birds moving down from the north, rather than our original 'village' birds.

Footnote 3: OK, so this is getting silly. Wednesday, 21st September and the last few House Martins in the village are still here. Presumably a late, or second, brood must be about to fledge and move on - otherwise they are leaving it very late indeed.

5 September 2005

Goodbye to the hirundines

Awoke this morning to find more than 50 House Martins feeding frantically over my house. Yesterday I arrived home to find 20 or so Swallows chattering furiously on the telegraph wires outside the front of the house.

Both are signs that the birds (both from the hirundine family) are gathering in numbers to feed, build up strength and prepare for their long journey home - the House Martins to north west Africa and the Swallows all the way to South Africa.

4 September 2005

A morning in Leam Valley

A trip to my local patch this morning turned up a few nice birds.

There were Green Woodpeckers, skies full of Swallows and House Martins gathering food and strength for their long flight home to Africa, Chiffchaff, a male Blackcap, three Kingfishers (great views of one as close as 10 metres), and five Moorhen (including one youngster).

A Common Sandpiper was only my second for the area, so too a Little Egret, seemingly hooked up with a young Grey Heron for company.

And the highlight of the morning? A Grey Wagtail, my first for the patch. Replendent in is grey and yellow plumage, it preened and stretched for a minute or so, sitting on a discarded piece of metal in a nearly-dried muddy pool not far from the river.