Hannah, Sue, Kathryn and Lucy
I have spent the last few days looking after my daughter and granddaughters. What a joy a new baby brings to a family. Lucy is a wonderful baby and I have enjoyed the many cuddles that we have enjoyed together. She becomes my seventh grandchild. Hannah and I have been on adventure walks, mainly taking snails for walks!!!! We have watched Red Kites and listened to Yellowhammers singing as well as searching for snails. Today is Kathryn's birthday and I made her a cake so that she could blow out some candles. However, Hannah had other ideas! Happy birthday Kathryn xx
After a lovely few days with my family I am now back at home with a garden that needs attention. I have had wonderful crops of Broad Beans and Raspberries this year as well as some lovely flowers and wild flowers on my 'no mow May' lawn area. I decided to sort out my pond which now looks lovely and trim some hedges and trees. However after making good progress the weather let me down with constant showers and so I decided to make better use of my time.
I took part in the Turtle Dove survey this year run by leading organisations and after my visits to Hillington Hall and Flitcham sadly found no occupied territories. I did find some of the species I was also asked to look out for though. Now I needed to upload my results to the online form using their mapping tool and forms. Unhinging my location data from my photos taken on my iphone meant several uploads to One Drive to transfer them to my laptop suitable for the online submission. It took a bit longer than I was expecting!
With a pause in the rain showers I took a quick trip to Flitcham where the hide currently overlooks a field full of Ragwort. There was no sign of any Little Owls but I did see a Red Kite and a Red Admiral perched on the car park wall.
I have also heard that my BA graduation ceremony will now take place in Oxford after all this time of waiting. It will be fantastic to meet up with my fellow graduates once again. We are planning a big party too! It has been a long time since my last graduation! I had a knock at the door. It was the postman delivering my gown, hood and mortarboard. Wooo hoo....let the dressing up begin! ;-)
Alan Schpot and I had a quick visit to Pott Row this morning where the White Stork had moved to from Leziate. It seemed quite happy feeding amongst the cows present. Later John and I attended Sculthorpe Moor's open day where we went to see the new hide overlooking a pool where a Little Egret was feeding whilst Migrant Hawkers flew around. There were many butterflies and dragonflies present including Banded Demoiselles and Brown Hawkers as well as Large Skippers, Red Admirals, Peacocks and Silver-washed Fritillaries.
John and I had a special meal out last night to celebrate his birthday. It is not often that you have a meal where all components are perfect but tonight I congratulated the chef on his abilities as the meal was absolutely delicious!
I started the day wishing John a happy birthday although it was tinged with disappointment as we were meant to be far away in a far-off land enjoying one of the remotest parts of the world. The pandemic altered our plans dramatically and it was not to be. Such a shame for both of us as we had both been looking forward to the trip that Chris Lotz had worked so hard for us getting the plans all in place. We both enjoy our foreign birding and have found it very hard not to keep travelling and being confined to such a small island such as ours. Still it we keep pushing the boundaries and hope we can resurrect our plans soon.
After spending the morning sorting out other travel plans we enjoyed a few hours down at Snettisham where the sun was shining. After watching many Dunlin, Curlew and Shelduck out on The Wash we joined Keith in the hide and watched 7 Spotted Redshanks hunkering down with the Cormorants. Many Common Terns were still bringing in small fish for their youngsters.
With an extremely busy day ahead of me I was up very early to join Jim Scott, James McCullum and Nick Parsons down at Snettisham. The tide was almost at its peak as I walked down to Shore Hide watching a Turtle Dove on the beach and listening to another purring in a nearby bush. Two Common Sandpipers flew by me as I admired several Turnstones feeding on the tide line. As I approached the others Jim waved me forward beckoning me to hurry. I quickened my step and he soon had me looking down his scope as James had just found a Red-necked Phalarope sitting out on the mud amongst the terns and Knot. What a piece of luck! I noted many more Little Terns than some of my recent visits and lots of Common Terns and Sandwich Terns. Jim said there was a juvenile Black Tern out on the mud too at the back. I hurriedly took a few phone-scope photos of the phalarope but was eager to see the Black Tern as I haven't seen one this year yet. I had a quick peek through Jim's scope before taking a few photos of the Black Tern too through my own scope. Later we all watched an adult Black Tern too.
Five Yellow Wagtails flew over us as we were watching two Green Sandpipers out on the mud. The tide began to fall and we could admire the thousands of Knot and Dunlin present. Huge numbers of Black-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher and Curlew were present as Shelduck were scattered across the mud. Jim went to join Chis Kelly as I stood and admired all the shapes that the waders were now making in the air. No matter how many times I watch this I am always impressed and realise that I could never live far from the coast. We eventually re-grouped and Chris and James kept Jim and I entertained by their tales of birding in remotest Russia on an exploratory expedition.
Black Tern (juv)
White-rumped Sandpiper with a Turnstone
After a day of gardening and picking the first of my Runner Beans, I picked Jim up and together we drove to Snettisham where we were joined by Ryan and Nathan. We located 2 Black Terns amongst the Common Terns, Sandwich Terns and Little Terns sat out on the mud. A Spoonbill wandered in front of us feeding as it went. We studied the waders and I picked out the White-rumped Sandpiper which I managed to show Jim before the bird flew with the tide racing in. Luckily Nathan managed to pick the bird up a couple of more times as I located a Little Stint amongst the Dunlins and Ringed Plovers. There were thousands of Red Knot, Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlews and Oystercatchers with a sprinkling of Sanderling.
The water was racing in as Lizzie joined us from work. She managed to relocate the White-rumped Sandpiper a bit closer and I managed a few phone-scoped images. The bird flew once again affording us good views of its white rump. Nathan picked out a Curlew Sandpiper as we stood in awe at the shapes that the flocks were making against the setting sun. It was an absolute stunning sunset as we all enjoyed the banter between us. Lots of laughter was good for the soul as we enjoyed our enduring hobby together in the most magical of places. The wine was good with our meal afterwards was good too!
Some of the Titchwell team, Lizzie, Sue and Ryan enjoying an evening's birding at Snettisham.
The whirling waders at a Snettisham sunset
As John and I loaded up the car a Red Kite flew over our heads looking down at what we were doing. It circled over us before deciding that no food was on offer. What a wonderful start to the day!
We headed to the Welbeck watch point and joined several other birders who had been present for several hours with only sightings of Common Buzzards for their efforts. It did not take me long to locate a Honey Buzzard that was much higher in the sky but it was going to be a challenge to get the other birders onto it without taking my eye away from the scope and losing the bird. Luckily with a few instructions I managed to get John and the birders next to me onto it but sadly not all the birders present ,as the bird flew further and further away until I lost it from view.
John and I headed for the pub and enjoyed a pub lunch before heading back to the watch point where we only had more Common Buzzards and a few Great Crested Grebes on the lake.
Having travelled north to Scotland over the last few days, John and I drove over the Skye Bridge today and visited the Sleat Peninsula where we watched 3 Golden Eagles. I would like to be able to say my photos of them were stunning but they weren't ! We watched all 3 birds in the air together as they flew majestically over the mountains. We had many common birds in support along the lochs but the number of Hooded Crows were notable as were the Ravens as they sat around on the fence posts. We were kept amused by a Shag that posed for its phot as it stretched its neck out in curiosity.
Hirta, St Kilda
Another bucket list dream was completed today as
John and I got up early and drove to Stein jetty on the Isle of Skye to board a
12 seater ferry to St. Kilda, an island 85 miles west of the Isle of Skye out
in the Atlantic ocean.
Besides my birding destinations there are a few other things on my bucket list that I never seemed to get the time to achieve but today was one of those days I had time to cross one off my list and so with great trepidation, skin patches and sea-sickness tablets, we boarded the boat along with Ed and Kirsty and donned our life jackets feeling like trussed up turkeys as we set sail.
For the first hour and a half as we motored through Lewis and North Uist all was well but then the seas changed and it wasn't long before Kirsty fell victim to the first passenger that re-saw her breakfast!
Manx Shearwaters, European Storm Petrels and a lone Leach's Petrel were seen before the waves buffeted us about so much and I was forced inside as I felt very unsafe outside. Three points of
contact were almost impossible as we swayed about. For the next few hours
more passengers came inside and John reached for a sick bag. I forced some oat
biscuits down him and luckily it saved the day. The bouncy conditions did not
make for a good passage and we were all pleased to see rocks approaching.
Boreray was covered in Gannets and Puffins swam on the surface of the water as Fulmars wheeled around us. Bonxies pirated other birds and stood as sentinels on the rocks but try as I might the swell was just too much for photographs.
We were all relieved as we came into the bay at Hirta, the main island of St. Kilda as the waves calmed down and we could all stand again without holding on. The cloudy weather with intermittent light rain was a bit of a nuisance but once ashore I asked to see one of the rangers who kindly pointed out where John and I could see the Snowy Owl and search for the St. Kilda Wren. The Snowy Owl took a bit of a climb up the hillside but what a beast of an owl it was as we hid behind a cleit (a stone-built storage area for food) to take some photos of it as it looked down upon us.
The St. Kilda Wren took us hours to find as there were none around the ruined village or walls despite our best efforts and assurances as the spot for them. The boatman had suggested a place down on the beach and with determination I managed to find two of them.
We played tourist for a while and visited the ruined cottages along the only street as well as visiting the little museum. The island is currently playing host to field workers studying the Soay sheep on the island as a welcome piece of cake baked by one of the workers was gratefully received.
What a day it had been and after 4 hours on the island we set sail for the return journey which luckily was not as rough as the outward journey. We saw 2 Sooty Shearwaters and many Short-beaked Common Dolphins which rode the bow wave before once again I retreated inside the cabin. We were all very tired but what a day it had been!
St. Kilda Wren
Sue kneeling at the cleit to photograph the Snowy Owl
Hirta harbour, St. Kilda
Jonathan and Sue
After a late return from Scotland yesterday there was no time to breathe as I had to be up early to drive to Nottingham to attend the international hockey event taking place at the Nottingham hockey centre. I was a very proud mum today as my son Jonathan led out the over 35s England Hockey team as captain to play against Scotland in Nottingham. England won 8-1. How I wish my mother could have been there as she too played for England and would have been so proud of him too.
Jonathan leads out the over 35s England hockey team
Jonathan in action
I have been staggered at the number of people that have liked my photo of the Snowy Owl and St Kilda Wren that I posted on Twitter and sent me messages. Thank you all so much .............all 552 of you!
Great Crested Grebe
I rushed home to watch the TV as my son Jonathan was captaining the o35s England Hockey Team playing an international match in Nottingham. It was a thrilling match ending in a 2-2 draw with the opposing team scoring an equalizer in the last few seconds. So unfortunate for the England team. Wouldn't it be good if it were match of the day tonight instead of some boring club football game! Hockey is a much more skillful game.
My son Jonathan captaining the o35s England Hockey Team
Jonathan in the number 7 shirt and wearing the captain's arm band for the England's over 35s Hockey Team
After a day at work I joined Chris and Tim and together we looked at the alterations happening to the freshmarsh. Two amphibious diggers are currently putting bunds in the freshmarsh so that we can have 3 compartments to the freshmarsh allowing more water level control and allowing a rotation of vegetation to grow and then flooded again. Hopefully this will provide more food for the waders.
The marsh was covered in waders including, Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Redshank and a Little Stint. Two Spoonbills flew over as well as a few Swallows and Sand Martins.
Down at the sea we watched several Sandwich Terns as Arctic Skuas chased them. A Bonxie was also seen.
I joined the Titchwell team for our 6 o'clock start around the bushes in the newly-resurfaced car park. There were many Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps present as well as several Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits, Dunnocks, Robins, Bullfinch and a Lesser Whitethroat.
Down at the beach some of us watched a lone Bonxie and Sandwich Terns over the sea whilst Dunlin, Sanderling and Turnstones fed along the shoreline. There were many Oystercatchers, Turnstones and Grey Plovers on the pools as well as a lone Greenshank.
I had a lovely morning out at Gramborough Hill, Salthouse with some exceptionally pleasant company watching a Red-backed Shrike as it flew from bush to bush catching bees. After forgetting the card for my camera I resorted to phone-scoping the shrike. Luckily the light was good! After a while a search was undertaken in Wells Wood for a reported Wood Warbler which was not seen. However a young Tawny Owl sat very still trying to obtain some sleep in The Dell oblivious to all the tourists not far away.
Phew! What a day! My day started at Cley with many Norfolk stalwarts sea-watching at Cley. I had seen a few Arctic Skuas, Bonxies and a Balearic Shearwater when Dave Holman's mega alert went off on his pager. 'What is it? we all enquired......half expecting it to be news of the Black-browed Albatross that has dominated the news for the last few weeks.............I could see White-tailed Lapwing appearing on his screen.........................Blacktoft Sands it said. I packed up my scope and was in the car within minutes. A few hours later after a tormented drive behind every tractor that Linconshire possesses decided to appear on the A17 and A15 I was watching a White-tailed Plover right in front of the hide at Blacktoft Sands RSPB.
After watching the White-tailed Plover for a few minutes it suddenly took off and flew away. Luckily it had only gone to another pool and so we all had to do a quick march to another hide where the views were even better as the White-tailed Plover fed right in front of the hide. I was thrilled to see this bird as it lays to rest the dip I had back in 2007 at Caerlaverock when thick fog meant that I saw absolutely nothing out of the hide after a long drive to see it.
With huge thanks to the staff and volunteers at the Blacktoft Sands RSPB for the excellent organisation to ensure that we all saw the bird we had good views as it fed in the mud in front of the hide along with Lapwings, Snipe and Greenshank.
I spent the day at home today trying my best to catch up with myself.....I shall meet myself coming the other way soon! After lots of admin and trying to prevent pigeons stripping my Pyracantha by enclosing it with chicken wire I watched a Buzzard circling overhead but saw very few other garden birds today. Now back inside I am blown away by all the reactions to my photos of the White-tailed Plover on social media, over 100 'likes' on Twitter and another 100 on Facebook. Thank you all.
With the arrival of my family for the Bank Holiday weekend it was surely going to be a busy one with very little birding done. However what fun we had in the play parks. I am lucky enough to live near Sandringham where over the lockdown the estate have re-newed the adventure playground which is ideal for the children to play and also ideal for walks where the children can take their little bikes and run and cycle in safety. One of the twins loves watching the birds but we only watched Black-headed Gulls and Woodpigeons. We will have to do better next time!
George, Sarah, Hettie, Sue and Teddy at Sandringham
Jonathan enjoying the slide as much as twins, Teddy and George