Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Lakenheath at dusk

Last stop en route from Norfolk to Poole, there was just time to stop at Lakenheath RSPB for the last couple of hours of daylight. Reed Buntings were numerous around the visitor centre feeders. Cranes were apparently present but not seen by me. A few pairs each of Marsh Harrier and Egyptian Goose were around, and as the light was fading two Barn Owls came into view. This one headed off with its kill to a nest in a derelict building.

Cliff-top Buntings

An overnight stay in Cromer enabled an early morning visit to West Runton where Lapland Buntings are regular in the clifftop fields. Two birds were present in good light along with Skylarks, Linnets and a lone Ringed Plover.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Up with the Larks

Shorelark is a bird I have never managed to photograph well, so after an overnight stay at Wells I stopped at Cley to look for the birds reported the previous day before heading off to work in Cromer. After a careful approach, simply standing still in the shingle was enough to gain the confidence of four of these charming birds which were close enough for me to hear their soft contact calls.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Titchwell waders

I watched the old Parrinder Hide being bulldozed during my last visit to Titchwell RSPB in summer 2009. I returned today to find it had been replaced by a pretty major structure with sleek rooflines, swish glass windows and funky stools instead of benches. This is all part of the RSPB's response to coastal change in the area, accepting the inevitability of erosion and rising sea levels and rolling back inland to a new line of defence - a serious piece of engineering.

Human visitors have different views on this change - but this Avocet (top), photographed from the path, and Ruff (below), seen from the hide, seemed to be taking it all in their stride.

Last of the Pink-feet

This apparently injured bird was one of only two Pink-footed Geese I saw on the North Norfolk coast today. Plenty of Brents still around, and resident Greylags, but the many thousands of wintering Pink-feet and White-fronts had presumably headed off to their breeding grounds.

Garden birds. But not mine.

Steve Akers' superb display of garden birds made up for the disappointment of dipping on the Oriental Turtle Dove (see previous post). We have lived in a garden-less house for the last 2 years and our star bird was undoubtedly the Black Redstart which spent a day outside the kitchen window in our small shared courtyard just after we moved in.

Blackcap, Bullfinch (top), Brambling (middle) and Great Spotted Woodpecker pictured here were the highlights from Chipping Norton. The Brambling was one of about 6, the Bullfinch one of a pair, accompanied by large numbers of commoner garden birds.

The most famous bird table in Britain... probably this one in Steve Akers garden in Oxfordshire. Heading north to Norfolk today, I reasoned it was a short 'birders detour' via Chipping Norton to take another look at the Oriental Turtle Dove and improve on my awful photos of it without the crowds this time. Observing the pager requests to not park at The Leys or arrive before 07:30, I got there at 07:36 to be ushered in immediately by Steve. He kindly sent me to the front of the small crowd to see the bird which had been present since 07:10. It had just walked out of view unfortunately - and didn't come back. The last sighting that morning was on the chippings which can be seen just behind this fellow (right). There was, however, a happy ending in as much as the bird was present later in the week, so the cat must have gone hungry.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Morden Bog in March

A singing Woodlark at Morden Bog today provided further evidence of spring's arrival. This bird sang from the top of a pine and then came surprisingly close after dropping to the ground. With family waiting in the car I was unable to locate the Great Grey Shrike reported near the Decoy Pond from some distance in a brief search. A Dartford Warbler was singing, and male Stonechat were also very vocal. We returned to Poole via Knoll Beach, where winter-plumaged Slavonian Grebes, summer-plumaged Black-Necked Grebes and a pair of Velvet Scoter were present. Taking the short cut home through Poole Park we saw the Ring-billed Gull close the road and couldn't resist a few more pictures in the evening light.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Hatch Pond Bitterns

After this morning's success adding new birds to the list of species I have seen within walking distance of home, I decided to push my luck a bit further and carry on to Hatch Pond.

This seems such a short drive from home but on foot, once you leave the sweep of Holes Bay, it is a fairly thankless trudge past McDonalds, PC World, the Premier Inn and Lidl. When you smell the sewage treatment works and see the bright lights of Burger King you know you are getting closer.

Immediately on arrival the small crowd gathered pointed out a Bittern in the reedbed immediately below the viewpoint. Two more showed further out even though it was still only four o'clock. A Cetti's Warbler also sat up in the reeds - 2 excellent species for the 'walked from home' list! Water Rail heard but not seen would have been a good hat-trick...

Holes Bay Sunday

No car today so a good opportunity to add to my list of birds seen within walking distance of home. Living on Poole Quay, woodland birds are not exactly on the doorstep. Although Upton Country Park is easily walkable, I realised I hadn't actually done it yet, so headed there first to add Green Woodpecker (right), Nuthatch and Treecreeper to said list.

A single Spotted Redshank (right) was also in Holes Bay with good numbers of Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank further out.

Wigeon were noticeably fewer in number today, but plenty of Teal (right) and a few Red-breasted Merganser were busy pairing up.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Last of the Lyme light

Finishing work in Charmouth late this afternoon allowed for a quick detour to Lyme Regis before heading home. A Dipper (above) on the River Lym was my first in Dorset, and gave much better views than the one which treated me to a whirring fly-past in Scotland last week. Down on the Cobb, Herring Gulls were gathering and half a dozen Purple Sandpiper (above) were catching the last few rays of the sun.