31 August 2009

About the Broads

A family holiday in the Norfolk Broads provided a few opportunities to slip out birding - and turned up little when I was expecting it, plenty when I wasn't.

Oulton Broads is on the southern edge of the Broads, virtually on the border of Suffolk and Norfolk. With several members of the family having hired the Albion for the week (a traditional Broads wherry), we got ourselves a chalet nearby and headed down.

The area is beautiful, the weather was fine, and around and about us I saw several Hobbies flying over and heard Bearded Tits 'pinging' in the reeds near the Albion's mooring (sadly it was too windy for a chance to see them).

A trip to Minsmere was more than a little disappointing - conservation work in progress meant virtually nothing on the main scrapes (why don't they close for a day a week like they used to?). I did manage to find a few things including a dozen Black-tailed Godwits flying over, but overall the trip was the poorest I've yet made to this normally great reserve.

Which made the next day at Snape Maltings so much the better. Initially a family / shopping trip, it transpired that the RSPB has bought land there and is planning on managing it for nature. I joined the guided tour and was thrilled to find a pair of Whinchat, my first for a long long time, and easily my best views. Unexpected birding is always the best.

Bird of the week: Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra), a lovely little upright perching bird with a broad creamy stripe above the eye - definitely don't see enough of them round my way!

5 August 2009

Brandon by bike (again)

Another fantastic Sunday morning cycling to Brandon Marsh. There was plenty to enjoy on both legs of the journey - Buzzards calling, Yellowhammer song, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Greenfinches all around, and various unidentified forms of fungi and flora.

Once at Brandon I braved the onslaught of shutter noise in Carlton, in an ultimately fruitless wait for a Hobby to turn up (still none this year). Better luck as I left the hide though, as a female Sparrowhawk made a low, showy pass. It was probably her partner who put the Lapwings to flight shortly afterwards on East Marsh Pool, in turn allowing me to notice the Black-tailed Godwit which had been feeding among them. How does a wader that large hide for so long.

And along with that very satisfactory birding (also including Sand Martins, Common Terns, Oystercatchers, Redshanks, Green Sandpipers etc), the place was alive with butterlies - these photos of a Painted Lady, a Comma and a Peacock being just three of the lovelier specimens on show.

Bird of the day: Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa), a tall, long-billed wader with a distinctive red body and striking white wing bars and rump when in flight. Shouldn't have taken me half an hour to find really.