Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Awash with waders

A ridiculously early start for Norfolk on Sunday and Jono, Henry L and Bradders and myself are on the way for what is promised to be a natural spectacle not to be missed. With thick fog all the way it looked like that spectacle would be mist!

The car park at Snettisham is full by the time we get there and the beach crowded with on lookers peering into the thick blanket that has enveloped much of East Anglia.  We position ourselves on a bit of shingle and wait.  A few birds can be seen on the opposite side of our creek, and one or two potter away on our side just yards from where we sit.  Bradders calls a Curlew Sand, I call a Spotted Redshank.  This could be easy if they all plonk themselves in front of us.  The murmur of voices and the movement of the tide are drowned out now then by the sound of an approaching train.  The train is of waders leaving the flooding mud and making their way to the pits behind us.

With the water now creeping up to our feet, we decide to make a move to the hides, as everyone else is doing, luckily they fill the nearest huts, and ours on the east side is relatively empty, so we get seats. Result.  The fog though is still so thick we can only just about see over to the other side. But clearly visible is the mass huddle of, mainly, Knot in front of us on a small island. On several occasions it looks like the fog is lifting only for it to roll back down.  Then finally the sun begins to burn through the fuggy blanket.  What I thought were tussocks or geographical features on the far side of the pit, I can now see are the massed ranks of Oystercatcher.

While the Knot favoured the islands, the Godwit were left to stand in the shallow water, a few Redshank pottered about, one or two Sanderling, more Curlew Sands, loads of Dunlin, a trio of Grey Plover and a handful of Spotted Redshank and Greenshank, still hungry, feed along the pit edges. But its mainly about Knot and Oystercatcher in their thousands.

The roost only holds together for about an hour before birds start drifting back to the mud as the tide recedes.  Time for us to make a move too.  Now with clear skies we get every flock as it zips over and around our heads.  Thousands of birds, great wooshes of wings, piping and the wheezy calls of Dunlin.  Noise everywhere.

Just when you thought that pit couldn't have held that many birds another huge flocks hurtle across the widening space between the land and the sea.  While further out on the wash clouds of Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit do avian acrobatics, white flshes against the blue sky. Absolutely magical. I can thoroughly recommend it, apart from the getting up really early part.

We decide to go for a quick tour of Titchwell where, for  the filthy listers, is the promise of Little Stint, Red-necked Grebe and the for the Norfolk listers (ooh me again!) Pec Sand.  Titchwell was crowded as it usually is on a sunny Sunday: with Dunlin being called as Curlew Sandpiper, Greenshank as Spotted Reds by the eager.  We had a look at the sea.  It was blue. Job done.  Not a lot on show, especially of the RNGrebe variety. A couple of scruffy eider and a bonxie way down the beach to the west giving a tern a hard time. So of course we left just before two Roseate Tern came and sat on the rocks.  Did get the Little Stint on the way back, looking glorious in the sun light, but with the evenings now rolling in quicker than the in coming tide we left for the final stop before driving home.

Lynford and the Two-bar Crossbill(s).  Henry needed it, I needed it.  Henry still needs it and I do too.

These twisty beak freaks are rapidly becoming my dipping nemesis and will soon overtake Penduline Tit as top time-waster.  I don't even bother trying to see them anymore.

An absolute cracker of a weekend.  Big thanks to the drivers who overcame sleep deficiency to get us home in one piece.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The last time I saw that much oily stuff on a skua, it was a kebab

A little Suffolk side step as there was very little happening on the flats to worry about and the promise of a Lesser Grey Shrike. Unfortunately it was put off being the friendly type by the bank of cameras waiting for it come closer.  Smart looking bird and my first on the mainland, ooh and a Suffolk tick.  When we realised it wasn't going to us any favours we decided  to go and pap an all together more accommodating Skua that had been loafing around the beach at Sizewell.

At first this bird didn't want to play up to its billing either.  After a moderate trek along the shingle it took one look at Jono's big un (lens) and sought sanctuary on the sea. After a few goes at the gulls, which immediately dropped whatever they might have had, it came back to the shore.

Unfortunately we could see it was quite heavily oiled, which might account for its unusual behaviour. Got to love capitalism and the short cuts to making a profit it makes people take, in this case cleaning their bilges at sea.

While we waited for it to in between its gull scaring antics, we did a bit of sea-watching.  A number of Little Gulls were feeding off shore, further out some Sandwich Tern, and an early flock of Brents moved north.  Not a lot else so our attention reverted to the oily Arctic.

We did get closer, but I got slightly bored and didn't really want to make it's life more of a misery, so I left and wandered off to find a couple of Black Redstarts that I'd been told were down the beach.

They were keeping company with two young Wheatear and after a bit of a run around allowed me to get in a few sneaky ones after I crept up on them.

After Sizewell we then nipped down for a quick nose around Thorpe Ness. Not a lot doing, but a place with a lot of potential when the weather is right.

Tomorrow another ridiculously early start and we're Snettisham bound, for one of the wonders of the natural world, waders getting pushed up the beach by the incoming tide.  Should be good.  Then perhaps a little jaunt round the north west coast of Norfolk.  Might even get a migrant or two.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

King of Snipe

Minding my own business I was.  On the flats.  When I was propositioned to go and see a big snipe. So I did, and did.

I was expecting something larger with the name "Great Snipe", but it is only just a wee bit bigger than the common or garden Snipe we have on the flats.  This however did not behave at all like one of our birds.  At one point it would have surely nestled itself in my lens hood if not for the crowd of strange admirers. Apparently this is not quite the norm for the species, and after pulling a few large worms out of someone's garden, snuffling up and down a little ditch for a bit, it fell asleep by some grass cuttings. Apparently what this one does.

I don't think I will ever get near a wader like this again. Absolutely magical.

Shame the shrike round the corner wasn't made of the same stuff.

Monday, 9 September 2013

A Rosefinch by any other name....


Pootling around the flats this morning, I was made aware, by text, or a certain Rosefinch being still present at the Scrubs.  Mr Lethbridge suggested I go to bestow my pointless London list with another notch towards respectability.  I had a day off and next day Keith, who had just found the Wryneck, said he would chum me there.  First time for both of us, and not the real arse to get to I had been making out in my mind.  A good looking patch with plenty of potential, so the sooner they build High Speed 2 on it the better.

As we arrived it started to drizzle and what with Birdguides' infallible grid reference to go by it would be a walk in the park.  Luckily we ignored Birdguides' infallible grid reference, which would have had us looking at the Linford Christie stadium, which I am sure is very nice and all, but wrong.

Luckily reason took hold of Keith and the railway embankment looked much better. There weren't that many buddleia and some actually had some birds in them.  Luckily too, Roger Morton, a Staines Ressy watcher, came just a the right time, with a speaker system with which to tape lure the bird.  Nearly deafened me, but did the trick, a few minutes later we are looking at a juvenile in all it's glory.  Yeah quite! They are not the most beautiful of birds.  It's the head.  The rest is fine, neat bars, streaky and nicely proportioned, but the head.  Brings back memories of beer goggles for some reason.

Anyway tick and run, and as it was now pissing down quite hard, I don't feel bad at all about this. Satisfactory though as I only got the Tottenham bird on call.

I decided to spend the rest of the day at Rainham, it looked good for river watching.  Indeed two of the regulars  were already in position on the balcony when I arrived.  Near perfect gloom and precipitation they agreed. No one had told this to any birds however.

After a couple of hours of looking at a rainy, grey river, we did a circuit of the reserve, which I think is the idea behind the place. Some Greenshank popped in for a bathe, a Snipe, among many slept through our intrusion - he had probably never seen humans before here; and some beardies called deep within the reeds.

Best bird a calling sandpiper over the Serin mound, didn't quite call like a Green Sand should have done, more like a Solitary Sand, but the big white rump dashed that hope.

Back to work tomorrow, but I am going to Shetland in about a month, so if I can avoid self harm till then....