After a disappointing visit to Derby Fen with only a brief view of a Green Sandpiper flying away from me along the Gaywood River I returned home to make a start on all the splits on the recent IOC changes to my world list. My computer database is now 2 years out of date so this is going to take some time of research too. I have never had the time before now to sit down on a gloomy or wet day as I would much rather be out birding but at least I have made a start.
I had an early start for my walk today and enjoyed good views of a flock of feeding Crossbills at West Newton. There were at least 24 birds present in just a couple of trees plus another 6 birds flying over my head as I walked up the road. A couple of Treecreepers called and as I watched them a Goldcrest hunted for insects. Great Tits were busy calling and Egyptian and Greylag Geese were very noisy as they flew over. Seven Redwing were perched in a tree along with other birds before they all dropped to the ground and I made my way back.
After spending the morning sorting out my next pension I walked around my local patch where 60 Fieldfare flew around with 100+ Starlings. There were 20 Chaffinch sat in a tree as I admired 10 Redwing sat atop in another tree. Down by the wood yard a pair of Stonechat sat on thistle heads. I heard a distant chip of a Crossbill but did not see any today. A few Common Buzzards flew around with one of them keeping very low across the wood yard. I had some good news last night as the country that I am hoping to visit later in the year has said that they are going to open their borders to visitors if they have been vaccinated against the Covid virus. Now its fingers crossed that we can all get our second doses of the vaccines done in time!
After viewing a few special birds locally today John and I watched at least 11 Common Buzzards in the air together. It was a rather chilly experience to say the least.
After watching a few special birds on my local patch I heard a familiar call that I haven't heard since last summer. Up above my head a pair of Mediterranean Gulls were flying over. I spent some time along with a friend photographing some birds in amongst the hawthorn bushes and trees but the light levels were diabolical. Sixty Fieldfare flew over and twenty Redwings were very mobile as they flew from tree to tree. A party of 40 Siskins enjoyed feeding in the Alder trees. We watched a few Lesser Redpoll feeding too. Common Starlings always seemed to be around as we listened to nearby birds calling. Robins, Blue Tits , Great Tits came and went as well as a small flock of Chaffinch. Two male Bullfinch brightened up the day along with a female Bullfinch.
I am lucky to only live a few miles from the sea. I would hate to live far from the sea and am thankful that when we were locked down I wasn't stranded like so many were, miles and miles inland. It must have been purgatory for those that could not walk or cycle to the coast like I have been able to. After an initial grey start to the day the sun soon broke through and I headed to Snettisham and the inner seabank. The re-wilding project here is now well advanced, with fencing to contain pigs, cattle and beavers and the the wet areas of the Ken Hill estate is bursting with birds everywhere. Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler were everywhere and were joined by many Greylag Geese, Mute Swan, Coot, Moorhen and several big groups of Curlews. Lapwings were over at the back and were joined by a few Avocet and Redshank. I searched for other waders and could only find two Black-tailed Gotwits. The sun was very warm and I soon had to divest myself of my hat and undo my fleece. Common Buzzards and Marsh Harriers were all displaying and the male harriers were calling high up above me. Little Egrets and Grey Herons flew around as I listened to all the Chiffchaffs and Cetti's Warblers calling. Reed Buntings were sitting at the top of bushes as a Chiffchaff flitted around in front of me. I crossed over to the seabank.
The tide was in and it was a joy to hear and see the sea in the warmth of the sun. There were many Red-breasted Mergansers displaying out at sea as well as Common Scoters sitting on the sea. I could see a few Goldeneyes as gulls flew overhead. I stopped for a short while to take in the scenery. It was such a joy to be here with so many birds to look at. After making a short video clip for my grandchildren, I crossed back over to the inner seabank. A Barn Owl joined me and I spent much of my time walking back in its company as it hunted along the bank and in amongst the bushes. A bit later I enjoyed watching some Long-tailed Tits. They are such pretty little birds. What a beautiful day it had had been and I would have liked to have stayed longer but I needed to get back home to wash my car and get my lawn mowed.
A local walk with John produced 4 Jack Snipe and a Common Snipe. As we walked a rather brightly coloured Chiffchaff stopped to preen in a nearby bush as we watched a pair of Blue Tits being rather noisy. A Cetti's Warbler called close by us and for once decided to pop up and show itself. Later we watched a Barn Owl hunting but rain stopped play and so we headed home earlier than we had planned.
After taking some more photos of my local birds I headed down to Snettisham where Tim had alerted me to a Shag that was on the first pit. It swam around before eventually settling on the side by the chalets for a rest. Many Heinz varieties of Mallard Duck were present before I headed back home to do some tidying up of my garden and to plant out some more rockery plants in the vain hope that the ravenous chickens will not eat them. It would seem that I have become very popular once again with them. After giving my car yet another wash I settled down on the hammock pleased with my gardening efforts to read a book listening to a pair of Buzzards calling to each other overhead as well as watching a Red Kite soaring in the sun. The Goldfinch were twittering away. The only thing missing was the butler with my Pimms!
As I have been busy in the garden dodging the showers I have seen very little in the way of birds. However it was nice to see a Red Kite drifting over. I have spent my evenings going through an African list as we have had a rather tempting trip put forward to us for later in the year, if Covid will let us travel. It would certainly add a few more ticks to my list, get one of my target species left on my 'to see' list and will offer better birding than in the UK at this time of year. Fingers crossed!
Whilst I was out giving one of my garden bushes a serious hair-cut a Black-headed Gull was being raucous above my head. A Common Buzzard was taking some bullying from the gull and did its best to avoid the onslaught. The postman arrived with 3 brightly-coloured parcels just after a delivery man had also arrived with a parcel. What a lucky mummy I am! I can't wait to open some of the boxes! It's such a shame though that I cannot be with any of my children for Mothering Sunday.
The intrepid Nar Valley WeBS counters all met this morning with permission in line with Government guidelines to perform the monthly wildfowl count at Nar Valley Fisheries. John and I enjoyed a morning of banter with Allan and Alan as we busily counted all the ducks and geese present. We also enjoyed watching the other birds on offer and saw a Red Kite almost as soon as we got out of the cars. It was very cold and windy today as we watched a couple of Siskins hanging on for dear life as the trees swayed in the wind. A Chiffchaff was singing loudly as the bailiff challenged our right to be there. All of a sudden a Cetti's Warbler burst into song but I only had a very brief view of it as it dived for cover. We counted all the Tufted Ducks, Mute Swans and Greylag Geese as well as Great Crested Grebes and Coots. I got out of the car to take a few photos of a Great Crested Grebe that was trying its best to swallow a Roach. Two other Grebes surrounded it in the hope that it would drop it. We drove to the other end of the lakes and watched a Common Buzzard soaring above us. A Great White Egret flew over us as I heard a Reed Bunting call. John was not amused as I found a Goldeneye and luckily Alan had too. Much banter followed as John could not see it. It was made worse as I then found a female Goldeneye too, which John also failed to see and caused further banter!
At the furthest lake I counted the Canada Geese whilst Allan counted the Gadwall and Wigeon and John the Shoveler and Tufted Duck. A Little Egret and a Grey Heron stood like sentries watching us. I walked along the promontory and flushed three Common Snipe and a Jack Snipe. Luckily for John the Goldeneye then took off and flew which caused even more banter between us all. A bit later we watched ten Common Snipe flying above our heads before we made our way up onto Wormegay High Bridge. Here we saw a few Lapwings and Black-headed Gulls.
Great Crested Grebe swallowing a Roach
Great Crested Grebes showing off their hairdos!
After updating my Sat Nav which a kind man from the garage talked me through, after a new download from their website John and I tried it out to navigate our way to Snettisham. We arrived at the correct location. Result! We walked along the inner seabank and watched all the usual ducks, Mallard, Teal, Pochard, Teal, Wigeon, Pintail, Shelduck and Shoveler before turning our attention to the waders. Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank and Golden Plover were all present as 100+ Black-tailed Godwits flew over our heads.
A Muntjac stood and watched us as a Barn Owl flew along the bank in front of us. Out at sea the tide was falling and we watched Dunlin, Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers fly down in front of us. Over Ken Hill Woods, a Goshawk put on a wonderful swish-back display along with many Common Buzzards. A Marsh Harrier called high above us as another flew in the distance. Meadow Pipits abounded as several Stonechats sat up high on brambles. It was a glorious day to be out and about and it was nice to see some sun!
After going through the bird and mammal list that John and I had compiled for one of our trips that we are still hoping will take place later in the year (covid-allowing), I spent some time sorting out my phone-scope adapter which sadly had fallen to bits after an upgrade on my iphone. Having bought another case I managed to butcher the old case and re-stick the adapter to the case. I just hope it works! I actually use this method of photography quite a bit, especially for birds that are more distant.
I was keeping an eye on the weather which was cold and dank but was eager to get some exercise. As soon as it brightened up I went for a walk on Roydon Common where the Skylarks were in full song above my head. I stopped to talk to friends who had told me what they had seen. A Common Buzzard flew over and perched on a fence post but most birds were being disturbed by a dog off the lead despite signs everywhere telling owners to keep dogs on a lead. NWT have spent a lot of money on signs telling dog owners about ground-nesting birds. Until there are a lot more prosecutions I cannot see an end to this problem. It makes my blood boil! So many irresponsible people have bought dogs during the pandemic because they are at home. Goodness knows what is going to happen when all these people go back to work and they get cruelly abandoned in a house when the people are at work. There are simply far too many dogs now. I scanned the area of short grass where wheatears usually run around in spring but none have arrived yet. With northerly winds I suspect that they will be later than usual.
I had an early morning start today to my local patch to give me enough time to do some work on my project. Twenty Lesser Redpoll were sitting on one small bush as I watched a Common Buzzard overhead. A Song Thrush was singing but I could not locate it. I walked along the track as another Common Buzzard flew over. A Skylark was singing its heart out over the field full of sheep as I turned around. I could hear distant Crossbill and luckily they flew towards me and landed in the tree next to me. The light was awful and I needed to adjust my camera. I realised that they would only be silhouettes at best which was a shame as there were some bright red males amongst them. I waited patiently and was rewarded when they flew across the road giving me slightly better light conditions. I counted 29 Crossbills in one tree but knew there were a few more calling that I could not see.
Having been set a project to do by my eldest grandchildren, the poor weather today seemed an ideal day to spend a day processing some of the photographs involved to do the project. This meant that the only bird of note that I have seen today was a Red Kite circling over my house. However the Great tits are continuing to take moss into one of my nest boxes and the Blue Tits seem to be going in and out underneath a dislodged roof tile. My feeders are still as busy as ever with mainly Blue Tits and Great Tits visiting them.
I listened to a whistle stop tour talk of the wildlife of Norfolk given by Nick Acheson this evening on zoom. It was well attended by members of Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society and Nar Valley Ornithological Society members plus a few others. It was good to see the active members that fully participate and share our news.
The sun was shining as I left home this morning for West Newton where I met Trevor. A Sparrowhawk flew out of a hedge as we made our way down the track where we saw 2 Mediterranean Gulls in with many Black-headed Gulls. Together we watched numerous Common Buzzards soaring over the woods in all directions. Three Marsh Harriers were also airborne. Trevor picked out a Red Kite above some Common Buzzards before we both watched a Goshawk displaying. We could hear a distant Mistle Thrush singing as skylarks joined in too. Along the lane I watched a Marsh Tit calling along with many Siskin as a Pied Wagtail flew over my head.
After gardening all morning, John and I went for a walk at West Newton where we watched the Little Owl and Grey Wagtail showing well. We walked alongside the River Babingley where a Red Kite flew in the distance along with four Common Buzzards. On the flooded field we counted seventeen Common Snipe and two Green Sandpipers. Two Shelduck flew in as the two Green Sandpipers flew off. Back at the mill, nine Siskin were in the trees along with two Jackdaws.
John and I set out early to West Newton where we watched six Crossbills fly overhead and on to a tree not far from the mill. West Norfolk birders have been following my website and since lockdown when we cannot go more than a few miles from home it has become quite a popular little spot to go birding. I have enjoyed the camaraderie that we have all managed to achieve here. The birds have been amazing and have put on a good show for us. We have had to supress a few sightings for obvious reasons, which ordinarily I would have shared but I am sure everyone will understand the reasons why. Today the Little Owl was playing hard to get and although John and I saw it well it didn't show for a few others that were also birding here. Siskins were in their usual spot by the mill as John and I showed a few others where they could watch Goshawk from. A female Goshawk flew over the trees as John and I made our way to the flooded field where the lapwings were flying up and down displaying. Three Common Snipe were still present from yesterday but the Green Sandpipers had gone.
A Marsh Harrier flew up high overhead as a lonely Egyptian Goose stood sentry in another field. A male Mute Swan looked lonely too and I wondered if its mate was nesting somewhere. Two Sparrowhawks were displaying over the woods towards Hillington also doing a swishback performance.
After wishing my son a happy birthday I watched a Brambling on my front lawn feeding underneath my feeders. Siskins and Greenfinch have been regular attendees just lately. As the sun was shining I joined a few other birders down at West Newton where we listened to Crossbills flying overhead. Down the track I watched 3 Lesser Redpoll alight in a nearby tree as I watched a Yellowhammer singing at the top of another tree. After bidding farewell to Trevor and Dave I wandered down to the woodpile where the Little Owl was perched. The sun disappeared and the temperature plummeted and so I made my way back home before driving to John's where we went for a local walk and watched a Common Snipe.
Our evening was spent watching a zoom presentation given by Nick Watmough about birding in Kuwait for Great Yarmouth bird club. The photos taken in such good light were amazing. I always enjoy GYBC's zoom presentations as they tend to mainly focus on foreign destinations which I enjoy and as it is a small club we can have more discussions between us all making it much more friendly. They are such knowledgeable birders too.
John and I went for local walk where we admired many ducks including Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, Shelduck and Mallard. Moorhen and Coot were also present. Overhead we watched Skylarks singing, a sure sign that spring is on its way. We watched a Water Pipit on one of the flooded fields which was a nice surprise. Two pairs of Marsh Tits kept us entertained as we listened to one of the birds drumming away like a woodpecker on the dead tree. A Grey Heron was close as it watched intently for its lunch. Later a Marsh Harrier flew overhead as John and I sat down for a rest in the sun. What a glorious day to be out and about.
A reflection of the last 12 months.
A year ago today we were experiencing our first day of lockdown, an imposed condition put upon us all by our government in order to prevent the spread of a deadly virus that we got to know as Covid-19. It was an order that none of us had ever experienced before. It meant that we had to stay at home unless we were a key worker. Many of us were furloughed from our work, a word that none of us had heard of before and weren't too sure what it meant when we first heard it. We were not allowed to drive, except for getting our weekly food supplies or attending a doctor's appointment. None of us had any idea when we would see our friends and families again or had any idea of the impact of lack of social contact would have on us. We were only allowed out from our homes to exercise. Many new features became a way of life. We all had to wear face masks in shops, social distance from each other of at least 2 metres and at the start of the pandemic, panic buying meant that there were no toilet rolls, flour or pasta on the supermarket shelves. It was indeed a strange world. However we were blessed with some excellent weather that many of us enjoyed as we all got to know our neighbours rather better than we had ever known them before. The evenings were dominated by zoom meetings and some excellent quizzes (in my case Norfolk bird quizzes that prominent birders in Norfolk put on for us all)
I was rather lucky as I have an all consuming hobby that takes up a large majority of my life, besides my children and grandchildren, who would always come first and I saw it as an opportunity to enjoy it even further. At first I think we all spring-cleaned our homes, made our gardens look superb and did all those tasks that we had long-promised ourselves we would do if only we had the time. I have always believed in making the most of opportunities that come my way as we only live once. I embraced the time that I had been given whilst still being paid and along with a few friends that lived locally made the most of my exercise allowance time. Today's world is dominated by technology and social media. The birders that I live close to formed a WhatsApp group and we decided that we would do a 'lockdown list' with the aim of seeing how many bird species we could see with the idea that we would all help each other to get a good list.
I had bought a bike two year's previously that I was very thankful for, as over a period of time I got fit and could cycle to some good bird watching spots where I often saw the other local birders as they too were exercising. I think we were all amazed at the birds that we saw all close to our homes that in the past I have travelled miles to see. Who would have thought that I would find nesting Goshawks so close to home, Cranes within a mile of home, Common Redstart and Black Redstart within a short cycle ride and as for having Roydon Common all to myself one day in the glorious sun with so many Ring Ouzels running around my feet as I sat and enjoyed my lunch is a memory that I shall never forget.
As lockdown measures were eased, John and I had a wonderful summer and enjoyed holidays to Scotland, Wales and Dorset as my quest to see all the British butterflies and dragonflies continued. I think we were amazed at how well this went as the weather continued to be good. We certainly made the most of the 'eat-out to help out' scheme which the government were encouraging us to do. I have always enjoyed eating out, especially somewhere new to me. Of course all our trips were done within the rules in force at the relevant time and as most wildlife-watching is done in remote areas we were keen to keep ourselves safe.
In the autumn I returned back to work for a few weeks but still had holiday allowance to take. This meant that I could continue to go birding and made the most of it until we got locked down again shortly into the new year. As before I was lucky to live in such a bird-rich area, close to the coast but have stayed the majority of my time within two miles of my home, keen to see what I could find on my local patch. Local birders have been brilliant as we have kept one another informed and enjoyed the camaraderie. We have had to keep a few sightings to ourselves which I would not usually do but because of the pandemic we thought were prudent to do so.
So here we are a year to the day of the Prime Minister's announcement and still 'locked-down'. I know many people have suffered a great deal during the pandemic and my heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones. I am just grateful that my family have all survived, my grandchildren thrived and I am eternally grateful that I have had such a wonderful hobby that I have enjoyed immensely this last year. I have missed my foreign travel (having been lucky to have birded/visited 21 countries over the last 5 years) and will admit I cannot wait for that to resume as I have so much more wildlife that I want to see but if it's not to be this year, as you can imagine plans have been laid to do a few 'bucket list' visits all within the UK this year and I suspect we shall enjoy them too!
Stay safe everyone...............and good bird/wildlife watching to you all!
Needing some exercise I decided to walk the length of Snettisham coastal park down to Heacham and back this morning. Ken Hill marshes were packed with birds and several local birders were watching them as I arrived. We studied a Common Buzzard that had unusual face markings the Pat had found sat in a distant tree as Marsh Harriers flew around. There were still many Wigeon present as well as many Teal. Mallard, Shoveler, Greylag and Canada Geese were also in good numbers. Avocet numbers seemed to have increased as I watched Redshank probing the mud. We watched a Great White Egret which eventually flew off towards Sandringham. I could hear Curlew calling as Reed Buntings and Meadow Pipits called as I walked up the inner seabank. Chiffchaff were in full song as a few Cetti's Warblers sang too. Moorhen and Coot were around the river as Tufted Duck caught my eye. I looked at the Mute Swans before following the pair of Stonechats down towards Heacham. I turned around and retraced my steps but now had the wind to face. I found a sheltered spot to sit and eat my lunch after talking to Phil who was taking photographs ready for the RSPB's Ringed Plover project this year. It was a much harder walk back to my car than my journey up to Heacham!
It was good to see a Brambling in the garden this morning before I went out to meet up with a friend.
Skylark collecting nest material
Waking up with a bad migraine I didn't feel like walking far today so John and I hatched a plan for just a short walk and where on such a cold, grey, blustery day we could use the car for some bird watching. We managed to see a Garganey amongst many Teal alongside a flooded field. There were also many Wigeon present as well as Mute Swans and Coot. A couple of Roe Deer stood and watched us before running off.
So after months of being furloughed it was back to work today. How wonderful it was to be able to walk down the path at lunchtime and after work in the sun to watch hundreds of Sand Martins feeding over the reedbed whilst Bearded Tits hopped around the reed stems. A Red-crested Pochard swam along one of the recently cut channels as I made my way down to the Fresh Marsh where newly arrived Sandwich Terns were resting. A couple of Swallows flew over my head as I walked back up the path and shared some jokes with a few friends. The Marsh Harriers were stunning to watch as usual. Gosh how I have missed this place.
West Bank path, Titchwell
Parrider Hide and the Fresh Marsh, Titchwell.
Another glorious day at work. I certainly work at an awesome place, I just wish I was a bit younger and fitter as I seemed to spend much of my day running up and down the West bank path showing visitors and talking about the White-tailed Eagle that was flying over the reserve above my head. Many Red Kites, Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzards and Kestrels added to the raptorfest that was on show at Titchwell today. I had another run down the path to try and see the Common Cranes that were flying our way from Brancaster. Our visitors were delighted at the scene as they joined in the excitement of the regular birders and staff present. Bearded Tits and Cetti's Warblers were all calling. Our visitors were delighted as they all came back up the path having had such a wonderful time on the reserve in the warm spring sun and wanted to share their stories with me.
I was asked if I wanted to join the new Norfolk Bird News WhatsApp group which will be an aid to all of the regular Norfolk birders. The Northwest Norfolk WhatsApp group has worked very well over the last year so I wish it every success.
American Herring Gull
Sue at Newlyn Harbour