I joined Tim, Chris and Trevor just after dawn at Titchwell in Island Hide where we admired the Fresh Marsh all covered in birds. Most of the Starling roost had already left taking the Rose-coloured Starling with them. I watched a Marsh Harrier leave the roost and fly off toward Holme. There were many Pied Wagtails flitting around the newly exposed mud. The marsh was covered in waders all enjoying the areas that the diggers have made. We watched Dunlin, Ruff, Avocet, Grey Plover feeding as well as two Little Stints. We watched Little Egrets and a Great White Egret before Chris noticed a lone House Martin flying over. Trevor called out two Mediterranean Gulls flying over towards the village before he had to go to work.
The other three of us decided to walk to the beach before the weather decided otherwise and we decamped to the Parrinder Hide where we watched four Ringed Plovers and a Meadow Pipit in the rain. A group of House Martins flew though with a Swallow. Luckily the rain did not last long and we made it to the beach where there were many Gannets flying around the wind farm. I picked out a couple of Great Crested Grebes on the sea and four Sandwich Terns were added to the ten (or were there eleven? ;-) )Sandwich Terns that Tim spotted on the beach. Walking back up the path Tim saw a Bittern in flight which Chris and I were too slow to see in time.
After my frenetic few weeks I had not found time to pick any blackberries this autumn and so John and I, with a need to stay somewhere local decided to go to Lynn Point where I have spent many hours picking blackberries, plums and apples in bygone years. Having not visited Lynn Point for some time I was aghast at how overgrown the track to the Babingley river outflow was, having been taken over by brambles where once we had driven down from the small car park at the end of the main track. It is obvious this lonely place is not as well visited as it once was by dog walkers and birders.
John and I set up our scopes and watched six different Marsh Harriers the other side of the sea bank as well as three Red Kites, a bird you would not have seen here a few years ago. John saw a lone Common Buzzard but I was looking for waders at the time and only saw a Redshank, two Curlews and two Turnstones. Geese also came in twos as a pair of Brent Geese and a pair of Egyptian Geese flew over the river. We counted seven Little Egrets before we focused on our blackberry picking. I was dismayed that the land that the apple tree was on has now been fenced off with owners on site with several camper vans present. A 'For Sale' sign had been taken down. The plums were all still available in the hedgerow but as I have very little room left in my freezer after all my produce from the garden is now safely gathered in I left them there.
Rose-coloured Starling (juv) with Common Starlings.
After a busy day at work welcoming many birders I joined several friends on the West Bank path for the evening myriad of birds that are presently descending upon Titchwell in the evenings joining the already abundance of birds. Hundreds of Golden Plovers were already present by the time I walked down the path, their wonderful plumage glistening in the evening light. A few groups of Starlings were already sitting on the new islands and were soon joined by other groups flying in from the pig fields. We watched a few Ruff and Dunlin as well as searching through the Golden Plover but it was soon apparent that the earlier present Dotterel had departed. However the Rose-coloured Starling arrived just after 6pm delighting the birders that had come to see it. It seems to like the front edge of the flock which gives photographic opportunities for those with big lenses. If you want to see an amazing Starling murmuration, Titchwell is the place to be!
It was still dark when I awoke this morning and I could hear the rain and wind raging outside. I had had a bad night missing most of my sleep with a bad migraine and it would have been easy to have snuggled back under the covers again but with a north-westerly wind and a day off from work, I needed to add a few Norfolk year ticks to my seawatching list and so got up and headed for Sheringham where I joined many friends already in position in the shelter over-looking the beach. The high tide was thrashing the sea up aginst the pebbles and they were making a loud noise drowning out most of our conversation. I was staggered at the number of Wigeon and Dunlin passing west as there seemed to be a constant group of 20 to 30 birds passing by almost all of the time in the morning. Juvenile Gannets were also in abundance out at the wind farm as we watched several Arctic Skuas chase gulls and terns. Three Bonxies flew east as we each tried to get others onto the birds. We kept losing sight of the wind farm as squalls of rain came through but when the squalls moved off, the light was generally good as we picked up a Sooty Shearwater going east. Another Sooty Shearwater followed it and I counted six Sooty Shearwaters by the end of the session. Two Eiders added themselves to my Norfolk yearlist as Paul picked up two Avocets flying west. Five Rock Pipits flew along the beach as the tide dropped. A Common Tern and three Sandwich Terns flew close by but I missed the Black Tern. A grebe sp was disputed and seemed to change species depending on who saw it!
John and I had grumbling stomachs by lunchtime and so de-camped to our favourite little cafe where we enjoyed a full English breakfast with all the trimmings. It was good to get warm before we wandered down on the seafront and watched the Turnstones on the groynes.
I spent the afternoon sorting out visa photos ready for our next trip, hopefully somewhere hot and sunny!
After a morning of chores I drove to Holme for a wander around as it was such a beautiful warm sunny day. Here I met Tim and we walked down through the forestry area where we watched a Stonechat and very little else! A Cetti's Warbler called as we searched the bushes. At the back of The Firs a few Goldfinches were spooked by a Kestrel before flying off. We continued along the coastal path and looked over Holme marsh where we failed to find the reported Whinchat but admired all the Pink-footed Geese and a lone Marsh Harrier. Gadwall, Mallard and Little Grebes were on the pool as the sun disappeared as we turned around and headed back.
There was some excellent news this evening as the Government has reduced the 'Red List' of countries down to seven. It looks as if our booked trip to Africa will go ahead next month. It is going to be a scrabble to get everything organised in time! Wooo hooo!
After a very enjoyable meal out with friends this evening, news on the pager came through that a Long-toed Stint had been seen at St. Aidan's, Swillington Ings. This would be a British tick for me but I had an appointment to keep in the morning and so it was nail-biting night!
Sue by the Aire and Calder Canal
With news that our planned African tour could go ahead very soon, John and I had an appointment in Norwich to sort some hastily arranged flights out to get us there to join the tour. It was not at all easy as with having to arrange Covid tests that would not expire within the 72 hours time frame with our various connections and Covid restrictions that the various countries impose. Some mental energy was expended by us and our very patient travel operator as we twisted and turned to meet all the necessary requirements meaning that some routes were simply not possible within the time frame allowed. It was so frustrating and our time was slipping away.
Eventually we found a suitable route and after booking the flights we headed north and joined many birders at St Aidan's, Swillington Ings in Yorkshire. Although we have been birding here before BirdGuides' directions took us to a nearer parking area where we didn't have to walk very far to join the other birders watching the Long-toed Stint. What a delight it was to see this little wader that I last saw at Mai Po, Hong Kong back in the 90s.
We celebrated with a delicious apple pie and a proper chai latte from a narrow boat moored along the Aire and Calder canal. Heavenly!
Fly Algaric (Almanita muscaria)
Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus)
It looked as if the fairies had been out and about this morning as some of the more active members of the NarVOS bird club took part in the WeBS count of Nar Valley Fisheries. As our leader was poorly (get better soon Alan) I was chief in charge of the clipboard! We followed our usual route around the fisheries and counted all the wetland birds as well as listening out for other birds too. It was huge relief to find that most of the geese had found pastures new and we could concentrate on ducks and other birds on the water. A few Wigeon had arrived as well as counting Gadwall, Pochard, Teal, Shoveler and Mallard. Twelve Common Snipe was a good count with one Jack Snipe that flushed from right underneath my foot. Sadly I never got a photograph of the ever-present Little Owl as it disappeared back into its hole. We all admired the fungi this morning though!
With a few days off from work and after a fraught time trying to obtain some accommodation I headed down to Penzance and caught a flight to St. Mary's on the Scilliy Isles. It has been a few years since I was last here and it was good to catch up with many friends already on the island. The weather has been amazing with wall to wall sunshine. I had an early morning flight and after putting my luggage in the flat I was soon joining friends and watching the Serin sitting on a telegraph wire and then in the hedge where I managed a quick photograph of it.
I walked up to Longstones cafe where I enjoyed a cream tea with clotted cream and strawberry jam before joining Carl Chapman standing where a Rustic Bunting had been seen earlier. It was now very hot and we were all over-dressed for the weather. The Isles of Scilly WhatsApp group sprung into life on my phone which said that there was a Red-throated Pipit at Parting Carn. I walked quickly back to join Ron and Sue who told me that they too had a arrived a few minutes too late as the Meadow Pipit flock had just been spooked by a Merlin. Grrrr....... I went back to have a snooze at the Rustic Bunting site as I had lost most of my sleep last night getting to Penzance after work to catch my early-morning flight.
After my doze I stopped off at Lower Moors where my fellow birders and I watched Grey Heron fight with an Eel which it consumed twice!!!!! It took about half and hour in its deliberations but eventually, after several escape attempts by the Eel it managed to swallow it. Two Common Snipe were also present here.
I joined several friends at Juliet's Gardens for a delightful evening meal over-looking Porthloo beach as the sun set in the warm evening sun. There is nothing as nice, sitting with friends, over-looking the bays on St. Mary's as the sun sets with a glass of wine in the hand after a wonderful day!
Grey Heron and Eel
The flat I am staying in whilst on St. Mary's Isles of Scilly is located in the centre of Hugh Town and even before I had my trainers on for my day's adventures there was a shout to get to Porthcressa beach where Dick Filby had a Cattle Egret lined up in his scope that was sitting at the top of a tree on The Garrison. Luckily the bird sat just long enough for me to get a photograph. As can happen on Scilly the birders started running as a Dusky Warbler was reported up on The Garrison too. I ran up the steps to Sally Port which is up a steep passage way built in the thick walls of The Garrison. I am too old for this kind of scamper now! I missed the Dusky Warbler and the Common Rosefinch that sat for a few moments on a tree top but did see two Black Redstarts for my troubles. I had to walk back down to the flat to collect my belongings so that I could catch the first boat of the day to Tresco.
The boat trip across to Tresco was absolutely beautiful under the stunningly blue sky and warm sunshine. After landing I walked around Tresco Great Pool where I saw 4 Redshank, 5 Greenshank, Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, Pochard, Coot, Moorhen and 2 Pink-footed Geese. Continuing on round the edge of the pool I watched Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Siskin and a Blue Tit. At the Abbey gardens I enjoyed a pasty whilst watching a Red Squirrel. Back at the Great Pool after watching a few Stonechats I saw a Spotted Redshank.
Soon it was time to get back at the quayside as a Red-rumped Swallow had been reported back at Porth Hellick on St. Mary's which I was keen to see. The Sapphire turned up and took me to Bryher which was looking wonderful in the sun. I have never seen the sea look so blue here as it looked here today. Soon it was time to head back to St. Mary's and as soon as I could I walked to Porth Hellick and joined many other birders all looking in different directions.....always a bad sign that the bird has flown away! After a while a group of hirundines reappeared and the Red-rumped Swallow was amongst Swallows, House Martins and a lone Sand Martin. Result! A glass of wine or two tonight methinks as I walked back with friends to the flat.
St Mary's, Isles of Scilly from the twin Otter plane.
I was very late to bed last night after sorting out a visa application after my return from the Isles of Scilly which also meant I had an early morning start in order to get to the post office before work to get the visa application tracked and paid for. Upon arrival at work I soon realised that I was going to be in for another very busy day. It was like a tsunami of birders arriving, many of which were on holiday and many arriving to see the Grey Phalarope that was giving superb views on the Freshmarsh. I was envious that the birders had time to go and watch the bird whilst I worked like a trojan!
However after my assistant arrived I walked down the West Bank path during my lunch break and Alan Schpot and I admired the bird from afar. Why is it a near bird flies half-way across the marsh as soon as I arrive? Grrrr.............. I only had a few minutes to photograph the bird as I was needed back at our Welcome Hub.
After a very bad spell crippled by a migraine I joined John and welcomed Chris and Megan Lotz to dinner to see how they were settling in and to discuss our forthcoming foreign trips set against a background of covid restrictions. It has been a nightmare sorting out future dates and also problematic to keep everyone happy given that many trips have had to be rolled over for several years. We had a very enjoyable evening and good to see the other side of how a tour company manages to keep going, as we want all the staff and eco-lodges to survive!
This evening was spent with friends from my bird club as the club was invited to Pensthorpe to see how the Curlew project was going. As the population of Eurasian Curlew is in serious decline it is rather sad to learn that Curlew often breed on airfields where they pose a danger to aircraft and nests have to be removed under licence. Pensthorpe Natural Park have been involved in taking eggs under licence from nests where they pose a risk on airfields and hatching them in incubators and rearing them in pens safe from predators before releasing them on the Ken Hill estate and the Sandringham estate. It was a very well attended evening and the cakes were absolutely delicious!
I spent today in the east of the county at Winterton where John, Stew, Justin and other friends spent the day sea-watching. We were rather shocked at the loss of much of the car park over the cliff edge and the loss of the beach-front cafe as the sandy cliffs are continually eroded. A little Wood Mouse kept us entertained for much of the day as it ran around my feet. It quite clearly enjoyed my home-baked bran loaf!
The bird watching crowd were soon fully employed checking out every passing Red-throated Diver and adding Pomarine Skuas and Great Skuas to the day list. Razorbills and Guillemots were sat on the sea as we located the 3 Velvet Scoters present. I counted 56 Common Scoters in one of the scoter flocks present. Justin picked up 5 passerines flying in and we watched 5 Snow Buntings fly over the sea and land in the dunes. A Manx Shearwater flew north when Stuart spotted a Little Auk flying north shortly afterwards. A Liitle Gull flew north whilst 2 Kittiwakes flew south. There were many Mediterranean Gulls present but we were surprised at a late Sandwich Tern and a late Common Tern. Another Little Auk was sat on the sea as we watched 4 Brambling fly in over the sea. A great Crested Grebe and a few Sanderling were added as a hybrid Hooded Crow came and sat on the sea in front of us. It was a lovely day shared with some great company and it would have been rude not to have finished off with a delighful pub evening meal all washed dowm with a good glass of cider.
Hybrid Hooded Crow
I had a ridiculous busy day at work today processing all the visitors at work. Staycation has a lot to answer for but it was nice to know that so many people are engaging with nature. Several friends called in too so it was nice to see them. The only bird of note that I saw, was a Whooper Swan feeding in the field opposite the entrance to Titchwell.
A flock of Siskin landed in the trees as the Titchwell team were meeting this morning. It was another busy day at work in which we were highly successful.
My evening was spent with the Great Yarmouth Bird Club where we listened to a talk about birding in Bolivia. There were some lovely photos reminding me of a trip that I did there a few years ago. We also listened to a member who had just returned from a birding trip to Gabon.....................now there's an idea !!!!!!!! I can't wait to get some proper birding trips abroad again!
John and I set out for Waxham this morning stopping before Horsey to see 3 Common Cranes feeding in a field just before the windmill. We continued to the start of Money Lane in Waxham where I spotted the Great Grey Shrike in flight as we pulled up and parked the car. After waiting a minute or two we soon had the shrike posing at the top of a Hawthorn bush across the field. Having seen it so quickly we did some sea-watching off Waxham and watched Red-throared Divers, Guillemots, Razorbills and Mediterranean Gulls. As we left we spotted a herd of Red Deer in one of the fields, the most I have ever seen here.
Great Grey Shrike
This evening was spent at the NarVOS bird club meeting where is was nice to get back to a foreign bird talk. John gave an excellent talk about a birding trip to Tibet. The scenery was stunning and reminded me so much of my visit to the Tibetan plateau when I was in Sichuan. Many of the excellent photos of the birds I also saw in Sichuan. The remoteness of the region certainly had our mouths watering as we were entertained.
Gill chaired the meeting and we were sad to hear of the news about Allan. It was good to see some long-standing members of the club there this evening as we have been an excellent club over the years with so much cameraderie and friendship so that we could share our birding hobby together.
With Titchwell providing much of the birding action in Norfolk this year I had a busman's holiday and decided to go birding here today. I would have loved to have taken up an offer to go to Orkney to see the Varied Thrush but I had a hospital appointment and another commitment which rendered it impossible this time. Grrrrrrrrr After speaking with my colleagues I walked down the West Bank path with Kathryn and Gwynn and joined Chris to do some sea-watching. Red-throated Divers were in abundance or so it seemed along with many Great Crested Grebes and Razorbills and Guillemots. I watched four Snow Buntings fly from the ruins and fly to the dunes where they quickly ran along the dune edge.
The Freshmarsh was coevred in Golden Plovers. There must have been at least 800 birds. They made a pretty sight.
I had a short walk at West Newton where if it hadn't been for the Woodpigeons and corvids, with the exception of a Blue Tit, Coal Tit and a couple of Buzzards I would not have seen anything! Where have all our birds gone? It was very windy though!
After a morning filling in an on-line government recommended lateral flow day 2 request in order to obtain a passenger locator reference, John and I met with family for a sumptious meal at a favourite restaurant. Luckily the weather had turned sunny and we then made our way to West Runton where we had quite a battle with a car park machine that did not want coins, card or a contactless recognition of my phone for payment. I would have left it had it not been for the number plate recognition factor that friends have been fined for not paying before! At the seventh attempt it took some coins and we were just in time to see the Short-toed Lark that was associating with Skylarks in the newly-ploughed field. Well done Andrew Duff for the excellent find from your bedroom window!