Pink and Purple – Top the Bill

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Purple Sandpiper, Sheringham beach, 31st August 2014

Today was spent in the company of Bob & Sue, our long-time birding buddies, attempting to replicate our achievements over the bank holiday, when we amassed a total of 104 species in Norfolk in a single day. We got off to a reasonable start by seeing forty different birds in the Felbrigg estate before breakfast! Yesterday most of the scarce birding action was on the coast, at Winterton dunes – birds included Greenish Warbler, Wryneck, Red-backed Shrike, Pied Flycatcher and Redstart. Suffice it to say that this morning we managed to see none of the aforementioned! A short coffee break, back at base, and on to Cley NWT – from here on the birding got better and better. From Dauke’s hide we saw a good selection of waders including five Little Stint, adult moulting Curlew Sandpiper, Greenshank and Green Sandpiper. Down at the beach, more Curlew Sandpipers, Wheatear, Spoonbill and, out at sea, Great and Arctic Skua, Guillemot and Black Tern – up to nine, including the four roosting on Arnold’s.

However, the best was still to come. A late afternoon return visit to the play-park at Weybourne to look for the reported Rose-coloured Starling was quickly rewarded when the adult ‘Pink Stink’ flew straight across the park and on to a nearby TV ariel! On to Sheringham for a final sea watch. With absolute 100% visibility and only a weak on-shore breeze the prospects were poor but the day ended in style with a rather unseasonal and very approachable Purple Sandpiper feeding unconcerned amongst the holiday makers!

Some photos:

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Ninety odd birds, some of real quality, made for another great Norfolk birding day out.

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Bonxie on the beach

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Great Skua (Bonxie), Salthouse, 29th August 2014

I was  just on my way over to Peterborough when the pager announced that there was a Great Skua on the sea pool at Salthouse. Although I’ve done the odd bit of sea watching this autumn I’d not yet caught up with this – the largest species of Skua in the Western Paleartic, so the minor detour seemed worth the gamble. As I drove down Beach Road I could see a couple of guys looking east through scopes. I parked up and scanned the pool – nothing. Then there it was, a rather pale and slightly dishevelled adult Bonxie, sat on the shingle ridge. This very approachable individual gave prolonged views before finally flying off towards Cley, chasing a gull. It was reported later in the morning flying over North Scrape.

A couple more shots of this interesting and approachable bird:

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Bank Holiday Hundred

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Migrant Wheatear, Gun Hill, Norfolk, 24th August, 2014

Yesterday Jake and I had a day out birding. As things have been a bit quiet of late on the Norfolk birding front, we decided to set ourselves the challenge of seeing a hundred different species during the day. We started at Titchwell, where the highlights were Spoonbill, Peregrine, Spotted Redshank, Arctic Skua, Whinchat, Common Swift and Eider. Next stop was Choseley Barns where we added Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer, then on to Gun Hill for a long flog round in search of migrants – nothing particularly special but we did see a couple of Wheatear, several Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and a Whimbrel.  A brief stop-off at Holkham Hall provided Nuthatch, Goldcrest and, rather surprisingly, Marsh Tit. Our final stop was Cley NWT, where we added Little Ringed Plover, Wigeon, Greenshank and Yellow Wagtail – making a grand total of 104. Not bad for a rather unpromising late summer birding Bank Holiday!

There were plenty of common waders along the coast, including Dunlin

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This was my first autumn flock of Golden Plover for the year

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Kestrel, feeding on a rabbit carcass, Gun Hill

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One of several Lesser Whitethroat seen

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Reed Warbler, in the legendary apple tree at Gun hill

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As autumn draws ever closer here’s hoping for additional quality as well as quantity!

‘Weird Wader’ (with update)

Following a busy weekend participating in the Three Peaks Challenge, which incidentally the guys managed to complete in 23 hours and 24 minutes despite the appalling weather, it was ‘business as usual’ for my ‘duty day’ at Cley NWT on Monday. Nothing particularly stunning, but eighteen species of wader on Simmonds Scrape during the morning was pretty good. Here are a couple of digiscope record shots, from the last couple of weeks, to make up for the lack of posts – partly due to continuing internet difficulties:

Grey Plover in near summer plumage

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Juvenile Little Stint – Simmonds Scrape

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Seen the previous week on Sea Pool – Curlew Sandpiper

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Finally an odd looking Dunlin seen on Simmond’s Scrape this week, with noticeably (symmetrical) apricot-coloured flank patches. Couldn’t decide at first if this bird was stained in some way, had been colour-marked at some point or was just an aberrant individual – interesting all the same. Grateful for any comments.

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Update: The bird was still present on 25th., although the flank coloration appears to be fading, presumably as it’s moult progresses

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Hopefully, with working internet and autumn approaching, we should be back on track with more regular posts.

 

 

 

Three Peaks Challenge

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Ben Nevis – first climb of the amazing Three Peaks Challenge

This coming weekend we’re doing the Three Peaks challenge – climbing the three tallest mountains in Scotland, England & Wales, all in 24 hours! Well, when I say ‘we’ I mean three of our sons Matt, Josh and Jake, with their cousin Jack – in aid of a truly worthy charity, Marie Curie. My small part in this heroic venture is to act as driver, cook, first aider and general dog’s body! The itinerary goes roughly like this:

Friday night, drive to our Lancashire ‘base camp’. Saturday 10.00 am depart for Scotland, arriving at Fort William for around 4.30 pm. Ascent of the first peak, Ben Nevis, 4409ft, begins at five in the evening – they should be safely off the mountain by night-fall. Over-night drive to Wasdale Head, in the Lake District, ready for the climb of Scafell Pike, 3209ft, starting at 4.00am. Five hours later we should be on the road heading for Llanberis and the final ascent –  Snowdon, 3560ft,. If all goes to plan they should be up and back in four hours, inside the time limit of 24 hours!

Please do visit their giving site at http://www.sponsorme.co.uk/joshwilliams/3-brothers,-3-peaks,-24-hours!.aspx and support this noble cause.

TalkTalk -walk, walk!

After ten days of no internet, we finally got our service restored at lunchtime today. How have we become so dependant on  something we understand so little about (I’m speaking for myself here of course) and have even less control over?? It’s a long story, which I won’t bore you with, but it was only when we demanded the code to change provider that TalkTalk finally got their act together, stopped blaming everyone else and fixed the problem – in two hours!

Anyway, enough of the whinging, here is a catch-up blog of birding stuff over the past week. On Friday we called in at Titchwell in the hope of ‘ticking up’ the Spotted Crake that had been there for several days and which was showing well, if only occasionally. It was the usual story, we arrived about ten minutes after it had been seen, I glimpsed the bird very briefly heading into the reeds and then it was two hours before the thing showed itself again! After a much appreciated late lunch we headed towards Cley/Salthouse, where a Purple Heron had been reported earlier in the day. We dropped into the NWT Centre to ask for an update and were told that it was last reported in a ditch, south of Arnold’s Marsh. We parked up and yomped down East Bank, where the couple of birders present said they hadn’t seen it. I turned and looked over towards the coast road to see a group of distant birders looking intently through their scopes at something in the vicinity of Pope’s Marsh! I’d just started yomping back towards the road again when the bird obligingly flew up, across the marsh, along the single bank and dropped down in the reed bed between North Scrape and Pat’s Pool. Brief, but very acceptable views of a quite rufous looking juvenile.

Spotted Crake, heads for cover

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‘ Excuse me Ma’am, have you seen the Purple Heron?’ – ‘Yes, it’s behind you..!’

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