Three Nice Birds


Little Tern, Ferry Meadows CP, 26th April 2014

On Friday the weather forecast for yesterday was pretty poor, with the threat of almost continuous drizzle, so I rushed round like a mad thing and mowed the lawns – this resulted in a rare thing nowadays, a Saturday afternoon ‘off’ in the Peterborough area. As it turned out the weather was much better than predicted, so I decided to go and have a look at a small ‘trip’ of Dotterel that had been reported at a traditional ‘stop-over’ spot, just south of the city. When I arrived at Black Bush Fen there where a few folk looking over a vast freshly planted peat field. The Dotterel, two females and a male, were hunkered down in the furrows at the far end, making for acceptable telescope views but rendering photography of any form virtually pointless – still nice birds to see, particularly as we missed them on last years ‘Big Year’.

With time on my hands I decided to continue on to Ferry Meadows in search of the reported Black and Little Terns – the latter surprisingly being a Peterborough Bird Club (PBC) recording area tick for me. I took the back way into the country park and approached Gunwade Lake from the ‘wrong side’ – but still I managed to pick out, first the summer plumage Black Tern and then, fishing in front of the swanky new cafe, the Little Tern. I walked round to the boat club side and, in the company of a couple of other Peterborough birders, spent a happy hour watching the birds and catching up with events on my former ‘patch’. I did manage a few acceptable record shots.

First the adult summer Black Tern



This particular bird showed a striking ‘two-tone’ dark throat and belly – not something I’ve previously been aware of. I assume it’s to do with the stage of transition into summer plumage – or perhaps it’s that I’ve just not looked closely enough in the past!


I told you that photography was pointless – but just for the record, Dot.. terel, two females (unusually they are the brighter ones of the species) and a male


Last word (photo actually) goes to the Little Tern, a PBC ‘tick’


An excellent afternoon out on the ‘old patch’ and three nice birds into the bargain.

More Historic Norfolk Churches

I’d been thinking for some time that I must get back on my bike and do a few more Norfolk churches, when I bumped into a guy birdwatching at Cley, who coincidentally shared an interest in historic churches. He told me about a recent visit to Salle church, near Reapham – ‘the cathedral of the fields’ as he described it. That was more than enough of an incentive, so I set to and planned a route, taking in about twenty churches – only problem was that when I added up the distances, it was over fifty miles – um!  Having not been on the bike a great deal since the near-fatal ‘falling off a ladder’ incident last summer, I wasn’t too confident I could make it. I decided on a compromise, I’d cadge a lift with Jane to Holt, and get her to give me a lift back once I’d finished! Wednesday was my best ‘weather window’,  so by 10.00 I was peddling my way to the first church on my itinerary of 19 churches and two ruins, located roughly in the triangle between the A148 and the B1149, south west of Holt. As usual with these excursions  there was rather a ‘mixed bag’ of ecclesiastical offerings – but I did find some real hidden gems and the ‘cathedral of the fields’ was truly awesome!

The Route:

UK_runners__walkers_and_cyclists_-_map_your_routes   The Churches: St Lawrence Hunworth, St Mary Stody, All Saints Thornage, St Mary Sharrington, St Andrew Brinton, St Maurice Briningham, St Mary Burgh Parva, St Edmund Swanton Novers, St Mary Gunthorpe, St Mary Barney, Christ Church and St Mary Fulmodeston, St George (old and new) Hindolveston, St Peter Melton Constable, All Saints Briston, St Andrew Thurning, St Peter & chapel Guestwick, St Andrew Wood Dalling, St Peter & St Paul Salle and lastly, St Peter & St Paul Heydon.

The photos:

First of the churches, St Lawrence, Hunworth DSC06621 A long shot of St Mary, Stody DSC06623 Detail of the ‘clean’ roof timbers of St Mary, Stody DSC06631 Exterior of All Saints, Thornage DSC06634 Stained glass window detail, All Saints, Thornage DSC06640 St Mary, Sharrington DSC06644 Close-up of a carved stone corbel – widely acknowledged to be amongst the best preserved in England DSC06648 St Andrew – centre of the attractive Georgian village of Brinton DSC06650 The fine entrance door with a rustic sundial which pre-dates the porch DSC06652 Close-up of the sundial DSC06653 An example of some of the fine 16th century wood carving DSC06662 The entrance gate and Old Rectory garden approach to St Maurice, Briningham DSC06670 St Maurice, Briningham DSC06667 Window detail with Easter flowers St Maurice Briningham Ancient and modern – St Mary, Burgh Parva. The ‘tin’ church was erected as a temporary measure to accommodate the growing population of Melton Constable, following the arrival of the railway around 1903 St Mary's Burgh Parva Tucked away from the village, on this ancient site, St Edmund, Swanton Novers St Edmund's Swanton Nover St Mary, Gunthorpe St Mary Gunthorpe The parish church of Barney – St Mary DSC06690 The ‘not so ancient’ Christ Church, Fulmodeston which replaced the derelict St Mary’s St Mary the Virgin Barney DSC06697 Another ‘modern’ replacement church at Hindolveston – both churches dedicated to St George St George Hindolveston St Peter, the estate church of Melton Hall St Peter Melton Constable Interior detail of All Saints, Briston – note that the Chancel is at a noticeable angle to the Nave DSC06705 A three hundred year old metal cello, built by the local blacksmith, and played regularly for Sunday services DSC06706 The truly remarkable little church of Thurning. The elaborate wooden interior came from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1823, including a three-decker pulpit and a string of box pews, each designated to a particular local farm or house! St Andrew's Thurning DSC06709 St Peter, Guestwick St Peter's Guestwick Detail of a delightful contemporary stained glass window DSC06723 Viewed from across the village pond, St Andrew, Wood Dalling St Andrew Wood Dalling With it’s spacious yet sparse interior DSC06728 St Peter & St Paul, Salle – ‘the cathedral of the fields’ – a magnificent church set in a remote corner of Norfolk DSC06731 St Peter & St Paul Salle DSC06738 The vast interior, with detail of the painted rood screen DSC06742 Looking down the Nave to the great West door DSC06745 Another estate church and another St Peter & St Paul, this time it is in the picturesque village of Heydon St Peter & St Paul Heydon DSC06753 It was good to be back on the bike after such a long interval and seeking out more secrets of the historic churches of Norfolk. After such an exhilarating day in the saddle it felt rather inappropriate to call Jane for a lift home, so I cycled – a total distance of 78k!

Red-rumped Swallow surprise


Red-rumped Swallow, Felbrigg, 12th April 2014

Our good friends Neil & Eunice are back in the UK for three weeks and are staying with us for a few days – they arrived yesterday tea-time, along with the first bit of sunshine we’d seen all day. After a welcome cup of tea I suggested we go for a walk to Felbrigg before dinner, Jane and Eunice decide to wait for the bread to come out of the oven ( a good decision!) and so Neil and I set off. We did the usual thing, stroll down the lane, through the ‘back gate’ and follow the new path through the woods to the lake – nothing of great interest on the way just a couple of Chiffchaffs, Nuthatch and an Egyptian Goose. As we enter the Alder carr, by the edge of the lake, we can see Sand Martins low over the water – I lift my bins and almost immediately a Red-rumped Swallow flies through my tree-obscured vision! We both get confirmatory views before the bird is lost in the trees. We hastily re-locate to the dam end, where we get cracking views of the bird amongst the swarm of Sand Martins, in the evening sunlight. A quick call to a few locals and to Jane, asking her to post it on Birdguides,  ‘job done’ – we then have that agonising wait for the first birders to arrive, hoping that it doesn’t decide to fly off. Fortunately it stays – Jane & Eunice arrive with my camera and I manage to get a few shots before we all head back for a celebratory glass of Rioja.

An adult, showing a distinct white spot in the centre of it’s back – something I’ve noticed in other birds in Europe





A very nice Felbrigg ‘tick’, only my second in Norfolk and a promising start to the birding long weekend.


Whiter shade of ‘pale phase’


Common Buzzard, pale phase, Brecks – April 2014

Last week, on our way over to Pat’s birthday party, we stopped off in the Brecks to look for Goshawk. After about half an hour of scanning the skyline and only seeing Common Buzzard, Red Kite and Sparrowhawk, a young Goshawk appeared over the trees in the company of a couple of buzzards. It soon landed in the trees and apart from one further brief encounter, it was lost from view, the Common Buzzards however remained. In amongst the Common Buzzards was a particularly pale ‘pale phase’ bird which, at a glance, showed a number of plumage features similar to Rough-legged Buzzard – pale head, white upper tail coverts, etc. Interestingly there was a report of a ‘possible RLB’ in the same location, on the bird information services, the day before.

Here are a couple more distant shots of this interesting bird:

With a ‘regular’ Common Buzzard, showing a distinctive dark ‘tux’ band on it’s belly


A couple of shots showing the white upper tail, white head and pale fore wing

IMG_1961 IMG_1950

and this shot, showing an almost complete lack of carpal patches


Check out the illustration in the 2nd ed. Collins of the ‘juv. Light bird’ – ‘extremely pale variants (mainly N Germany-S Sweden) are very odd looking..’

Post Script. A minor landmark was reached this week, following the publication of my ‘Pied-billed Beauty’ blog – my 15,000th view! Thank you one and all, keeping viewing. 

Pied-billed Beauty


Pied-billed Grebe, Rutland Water, 9th April, 2014

We were at grandson Patrick’s third birthday party when the news came through about a Pied-billed Grebe on Rutland Water. PBG is a 3* rarity from North America, with only a couple seen on average each year in Britain  – I’ve only seen a handful of them down the years. Party festivities concluded, with the finale being a sit in uncle Josh’s police car (he wasn’t under caution you understand!), we head off to the yacht club at Edith Weston, park up and walk the 200 yds or so to the edge of Rutland Water, where the bird is showing nicely in open water. In practically full summer plumage, it looked a real beauty with it’s black chin, bone coloured eye-ring and…pied bill of course! Although the light was fading quickly I did mange a few digipics before it eventually swam into dense cover by the bank.

DSC06571 DSC06577 DSC06554

… like London Buses!


Baikal Teal, Fen Drayton RSPB, April 2014

Baikal Teal which, as the name suggests, originates from north east Siberia, has only been recorded in Britain as a genuine vagrant on a handful of occasions – until recently that is. Then, just like London buses, they come along in ‘threes’! First there was the ‘for one day only’ bird at Flamborough last April, next there was the much watched mid-winter bird at Crossen’s Outer Marsh, Lancashire (see my blog, 6 December – ‘Banks Baikal Bonus’) and then last Saturday another turned up at Fen Drayton RSPB. We had a spare hour or so on Friday afternoon so decided to go and look at it. Although rather distant it was a gorgeous looking thing – complete with black ‘side-burns’ this time, and which added to it’s wild credentials by disappearing over night! It was later relocated elsewhere on the vast net-work of lakes that are part of the Ouse Washes ‘Living Landscape’. Of course it’s just possible that these are either escaped collection birds and/or the same bird (certainly in the case of the last two records) – but with the arrival of another bird in Belgium at the same time as the Fen Drayton bird, who knows? We’ll just have to wait now whilst the relevant rarities people adjudicate on their authenticity.