What a smile!

If truth be told we are not very enamoured with our accommodation at the moment (we are moving on in the morning so no great problem) so we decided to go for another walk last evening and we were so pleased we did. We are on the route of the Avon valley path so we walked a little of it and enjoyed the evening light on the surrounding countryside. One of the first thing we saw was a buzzard perched up on a pylon, it was still there we when returned!

I am,  to say the least not very brave when it comes to encounters with four-legged creatures, but I found it easy to deal with these little sweeties!

 

Now any bravery I do have disappears if I have to walk through a field of horses  but fortunately this fella was behind a fence. First Ian said hello to him then…

 

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he said hello back, well either that or he was laughing at us, either way that is quite a smile don’t you think?

IMG_1184 he, he, he

Today we returned to Blashford Lakes and had a lovely day, this little Robin was helping to navigate us as we walked around most of the site and got an illusive Little gull which had been seen the last few days but not by us! We saw the fallow deer again but better views today. Blackcap were all in good voice, sitting up singing proudly.

Yesterday we were just looking at a Common sandpiper when the Red-rumped swallow showed and we were totally distracted so it was good to see it well today.

Talking about the swallow I forgot to tell you a funny story about it yesterday, when we were watching it a chap, obviously local and known to the other birders, came in to see it. He told us he had been in a local café with his wife having a cup of coffee when he had popped to the loo and his pager beeped. The message about the swallow caused him to rush out of the café unbeknown to his wife!!! As far as she knew he was still in the loo, she did phone him after a while causing laughter all around.

We are back in our rather basic room now but are checking out early in the morning as we are off in pursuit of a bird that will definitely be a life tick for us both,…watch this space!

 

Little gull takes us to 184

Plus we added a butterfly, a Speckled wood

The night I named a new born calf!

What a difference a day makes, this morning was the total opposite to the previous one. We drove to Acre Down and had an excellent walk and saw some lovely birds including my favourite, a Wheatear, always makes my day! Add to that not only hearing but seeing a Cuckoo (excuse the poor photo but I was pleased to get one at all!) followed by a beautifully calling Willow warbler! A little bronze beetle crossed my path, hopefully we will identify it when we get home. Not bad that was two more year ticks before coffee time, although I don’t think we ever did get coffee yesterday now I think about it!

Of course the New Forrest id famous for its ponies but it shares the space with cows (more about one of them later) and in places donkey too!

After our visit to Acre Down we moved on, to Blackwater arboretum, approached via what is laughingly called an ornamental drive, I could think of a different name for it I think! We had hoped to see Crossbills there but were not lucky with them, we did however see some super birds including a couple of Redstarts and a lovely Firecrest.

After lunch we decided to return to Blashford Lakes to check if they had caught any interesting moths and to see what birds were around. It had been an extremely cold night and they had caught but one moth and not a very interesting one at that, sounded like many nights back home! We had seen Common terns the previous day in flight but now they were perching, much easier to see! Of course the ever faithful Robin was present, it is easy to take such birds for granted but aren’t they beauties?

We returned to the cottage and had decided that we would go out for a walk behind ‘our home’ as a farewell as in the morning we are off to pastures new. What a treat we had and here we come to the reason for todays title. We came upon a cow that had just given birth, she was an English White and had a male calf. The farmers, a couple who had been farming for many years and had a herd of about 90 cows on the heath and this one had wondered away from the rest a couple of days ago looking for a peaceful place to calf. They loaded the Mum onto a vehicle to get her back to the farm for some attention and later picked up the calf to carry him off too. But first we had quite a long chat about meat rearing etc. and it sounds as though cows like theirs have a far better life than many and in fact the calf will have a longer life than many, they said they keep theirs for four years before the inevitable end whereas many farms keep them about 18 months. Next we got on to the topic of milk production…something else to give serious thought to!

Now meet Oliver as yes I was invited to name him! It needed to be an O name and that was the first that came to my mind, probably sounds daft but it was a real treat!

Off for a good walk and views of the usual, Stonechats and Meadow pipits. We heard a Cuckoo call and almost immediately two flew in front of us, turned out to be a pretty good evening! Last trip outside the garden and a last look at the house in which our cottage stood.

Lack of internet means I have another day to add, I will then be caught us as this is todays report. Not many pictures but a few ticks! We left our cottage and said farewell to Ringwood and Blashford Lakes as we drove by and headed off to the pretty town of Fordingbridge and walked along by the river.

We saw a Grey wagtail but as neither of us had binoculars with us we were lucky to spot it, not till I looked at my photos did we realise there were a pair of them! Something flew out from the bank and to our delight it was a Sandpiper, we saw it several times and could see it was a Wood sandpiper, excellent another tick for our year. We were just about to go in for coffee when the pager alerted us to a Red-rumped swallow being at Blashford lakes, it would be a good tick for us both so we were off (I will be getting caffeine withdrawal symptoms soon!) On our arrival we discovered a lone birder had seen it and it had flown, agghhh! But wait, it was not too long before someone called it and indeed there it was, perched way out into the water but with scopes it was confirmed and all present go to see it that time. The warden was quickly fetched so he too could see it, I felt relieved for the chap who had first seen it as he was beginning to doubt himself! At the same place we also saw a Common sandpiper, our first Swift of the year and a distant group of Fallow deer.

As we were heading in Salisbury direction we decided to pay a fleeting visit to Stonehenge before going to our next place to stay. I feel it fair to say we are not quite so delighted to our present accommodation as our last!!! Maybe it will improve but as we are only here for two nights we will cope.IMG_1113 henge

Bird count now stands at 183

 

A day of two halves!

After saying our farewells at Godalming we decided to visit another WWT site this time at Arundel. Another beautiful day with blue skies and very warm, we were getting used to those conditions!IMG_0835

Arundel seemed to be a fairly small site compared to other WWT places we had been to previously but it was still a lovely place and had something to offer that the others hadn’t; a boat ride and it was included in the entrance price! It was definitely the highlight of the day we both enjoyed it so much we went on it twice. We got a year tick from the boat, not a bird but a snake! We saw something swimming in front of us and it turned out to be a small grass snake, first reptile of the year!

 

 

From the boat we had good views of a Peregrine falcon flying overhead along with several Buzzards and a Red kite. We saw nesting ducks, swans and geese as the boat went silently through the water. It also provided us with good views of Arundel castle looming in the background.

We’d had a lovely day as we set off for our next stop in the New Forrest a place neither Ian nor I have ever visited.

On our arrival we found a lovely little cottage set in a beautiful garden and at the bottom of the garden a gate led straight out into the ‘forest’ itself. A somewhat dramatic change in weather saw for day one saw rain, rain and more rain until about 6 o’clock when we ventured out for a brief walk. Ponies all around and yet more signs of spring.

Today has been a very mixed day and most of the morning is best forgotten! We did at one point put our destination into the satnav and were surprised when it announce that in a quarter of a mile we were to ‘board the ferry’ of well it made a change from driving!

The afternoon was spent at Blashford Lakes a wildlife trust site and what a lovely afternoon they provided! We added three ticks there, one bird, one mammal and one moth an excellent variety! Our first tick followed a chat with the warden about moths and he was able to show us our first Emperor moth, what a stunner, hope we get one of them in the garden one day.IMG_0873 Emperor moth
We visited one hide which was surrounded by bird feeders so gave good views of all the typical feeder visitors including Siskin and one I was particularly pleased to get a picture of, a Redpoll.

We decided next to go for a good walk around the place as we seemed to have done an awful lot of sitting still today. We got back to the beginning quicker than anticipated so went down another track and into one more hide and we were pleased we did. We got a lovely sight of a Kingfisher, saw up to about 150 Swallows swooping over the water, got two Common terns (a year tick) and a little Bank vole another year tick.

IMG_0933 bank vole

 

I think it fair to say that our day did not begin perfectly but it certainly improved rapidly, I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

 

Family, friends and farewells

 

We left Norfolk in torrential rain and it continued like that until we reached Essex when the rain eased and by the time we reached London we were roasting as the sun was streaming through the car windows! Unfortunatly we had spoken too early about how easy the journey was as the North Circular became busier and busier and we were so near our first stop, The London Wetland Centre. This statue of Peter Scott greeted us on our first visit to the oasis in the midst of the bustle of London.

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If you have been travelling along with us this year it won’t surprise you to hear that coffee was the first stop then off to see what this WWT site had to offer. The first thing we saw was this rather unusual duck, I have a feeling it isn’t on the British list though so I had better not count it! A Little grebe was there, then in a flash or should I say splash, it was gone.

I was slightly amused by this sign in a hide and wondered if the pilots that fly overhead knew the rule.

We saw more Herons there than we have seen in Norfolk for weeks! At one point we were watching three around one piece of water and I was intrigued by the structure behind one of them. On investigation we discovered it to be a bat house! We also saw, at a distance, a Kingfisher and we hear that they are beginning to nest there.

The bird we were most pleased to see was the Ring-necked parakeet, one flew over us as were looking for warblers (we were pretty sure we heard a Willow warbler but haven’t counted it yet!) an excellent tick for the year. We later saw two sat in a tree, sadly partly obscured but never mind, we saw them!

I got my first butterfly picture of the year, a Peacock and also a spotless ladybird which I have never seen before. But no time linger it was to journey on to Surrey to spend a couple of nights with my brother Brian and his wife Margaret.

The journey was a pleasure after the North circular experience and we were soon being welcomed to their lovely home. It was great to catch up today we have been out and about having a smashing time. The day has included a trip around a pottery, a visit to my great niece Cariad, where I met her second son for the first time! Now Dylan has a brother Jesse and they seem to be every bit as gorgeous as each other!

We went to The devil’s punchbowl for lunch and a lovely walk, it really is a smashing place and amazing to think that until fairly recently the A3 ran through it! We had a very enjoyable walk with some birds thrown in for good measure.

We were a tad puzzled by this sign, were we not supposed to chat as we walked? At least the rabbits were quiet.

Back home and after an early meal we were out again this time in search of the place where many Parakeets roost, we saw lots but never quite connected with the tree they landed in. None the less it was a sight to see them fly over and we had an added bonus of seeing a fox which was a mammal tick for our year. Since moving to Norfolk they are a rare sight unlike whe  we lived in a town.

We have had a lovely stay, feeling very welcomed and enjoyed seeing samples of both of their art work, but tomorrow we must say farewell.

That does lead me to the one very sad part of our day, the news that a VERY dear friend has died. He has been unwell for a very long time and thankfully we saw him just a short while ago. He has lived a fantastic life, been loved by friends and family and was prepared for this day, God bless you Richard we will miss you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short and sweet

Short and sweet sums up our trip today, this blog and on a good day, me!

Sunday means church whenever feasible, today was no exception so we didn’t go out till nearly lunch time. We decided to pop to Titchwell R S P B reserve and see if there was anything new since our last visit.

A pair of Red-crested pochard were enjoying an almost empty lake outside Fen hide.

We walked around the Fen trail and we’re delighted to see several Blackcaps, flitting in and out of the trees behind the dragonfly pool.

We had seen one at Santon Downham but it was good to see them much clearer it was just a shame that they didn’t come closer! The Blackcaps were soon out shone by news of a Redstart and it wasn’t long before I got a brief view. High in a tree which was of course standing among many other trees so very tricky to point out, anyway it was gone in an instant! It soon returned and we both saw him, flying up from the tree and down again, each time into the back of the tree!

I have seen Redstarts before but I am not sure I have ever seen one in his beautiful summer plumage, it was stunning. I only wish I could have got better pictures of him but we felt extremely fortunate to see him and we were glad we had gone to Titchwell!

The red light on my camera was flashing warning me to change the battery, no problem I have two spares although I had mis-placed one the other day. Still no problem I had the other one in my pocket so I changed it and switched back on only to see the red light flashing again! Aggghhh how annoyed was I? Answer, VERY! The first thing I do when I get in each time is recharge any batteries that need it so I have no idea what had gone wrong this time.

While we were watching the Blackcaps a little bird flew through the reed and called, Sedge warbler, bird 174

When we got home today the lost battery was found, in the back of the car and now is recharged, the second charging as I type, I won’t make that mistake again!

We saw several butterflies out today, no new ones but deffinately a good sign of Spring.

Redstart was number 175 for our year.

Just a tad breezy!

The weather forecast was consulted and the decision made, we would go out early so as to catch the good weather in the morning. Alarm set and we were true to our word, up and out and we were arrived at Salthouse fairly bright and early! As we got out of the car we realised it was considerably colder than recent days. Now we knew it would be a bit colder but we really were not expecting the wind!

Off we set, heading for Gramborough hill and we before long I spied a couple of Ringed plovers but were they Little ones I wondered? Even through the binoculars it was hard to see as they were, of course fairly distant and on the move a lot, but yes indeed they were Little ringed plovers.

It was good to be able to watch them for a while scurrying around.Battling cold and wind we moved on  Linnets were flying past in groups, making occasional stop offs.IMG_0555 Linnet (Custom)

We walked around the hill but couldn’t find anything else of interest, so we set off for Little eye. The walk along the shingle bank was a bit of a battle against the wind it amazes me that birds can still fly on such days!

I have said before that Little eye, Salthouse is one of my favourite placed and that Wheatears are my favourite birds so it doesn’t take much imagination to work out that Wheatears on Little eye are a real treat! The weather didn’t feel a bit like it but seeing Wheatears there made it feel like spring!

We saw a couple of Stonechats and plenty of Skylarks and Meadow pipits like the one here.IMG_0566 (Custom)

We left Salthouse for a coffee stop at Cley and to see what else was in the area before deciding where to go next. There had been a Whimbrel seen from the East bank at Cley a day or so ago so we decided to try our luck at that. No luck, in fact it was very quiet there and the rain was slowly arriving. We saw this single Ruff before heading for cover and decided to call it a day.

I was home for several hours and a couple of hot drinks before I started to defrost! I think the past few outings have spoiled me somewhat when it come to weather. A few days ago the temperature peaked at 16 degree today it managed a meagre 7 degrees but at least the birds are still showing up!

 

 

What green shed?!

We were having a quiet day in, Peter and little Daniel were visiting and over lunch several messages came in reporting Ring ouzels. They are arriving over the sea but mostly seem to land and take off pretty soon afterwards, we failed to connect with one at the weekend. Peter suggested we went to Snettisham coastal park and I asked if they might join us. Daniel isn’t the keenest birder but yes he was up for the idea of going so off we went.

We started off walking among shrubs  which is definitely an area we will return to later on looking for warbles etc. We had a good walk looking for a green shed which seemed vital in identifying the location where they had been seen along with a Redstart. Father and son looking out for birds! IMG_0521 (Custom)

We went along one bank seeing a House martin on the way…tick! A little up and downing was involved in our hunt for the illusive green shed. We got good views of Sanderlings on the shoreline along with  Oyster catchers, Shell duck and later a pair of Egyptian geese flew over. We crossed to a different path and went on a little further seeing Sand martins…tick!

Daniel was a start although the promise of a shoulder carry for some of the homeward trek helped him to keep going and there was time for  a quick breather.IMG_0528 (Custom)

No matter where we looked we didn’t see the green shed nor indeed a Redstart. We were almost back to the car when we saw not one Ring ouzel but three! Two males and one female, they were too far for a proper photo but I got this one distant snap!IMG_0529 (Custom)

Ring ouzel is one of  very few birds that I life ticked in our own garden and that was when we were living in Hertfordshire! I remember seeing it and commenting on the strange looking Blackbird! I didn’t think then that the day would come when I would be chasing around Norfolk looking for one.

We saw this rather mixed up goose, I suspect a Greylag had been consorting with a farmyard goose!

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A word about moth, the numbers are definitely picking up now, today we had about 45 including the two below!

So a very enjoyable day, lovely to be out with three of my favourite fellas. Three more ticks bring our bird total to 173, not bad!

 

Spring has sprung!

April 1st felt more like a summers day than early spring but we weren’t complaining! On the first of the month we didn’t venture far (having trekked the coast all day yesterday) so stayed pretty local. We did however have a lovely walk on a beautiful sunny day and get our first tick of the month so we were well pleased!

We went back to the private hide; having now got a second permit for Ian and there we were treated to plenty of little visitors. We had taken seed and nuts with us and I trampled through the mud to position them so as to entice the small birds in. I felt rejected for some time as no-one came, but later once one came and the word spread so along came many!

The little Wren was probably my favourite, if I couldn’t see it I could hear it and it was soon back flitting around again.

Blue and Great tits enjoyed the food we offered as did a lovely pair of Chaffinches.

A Dunnock was happily feeding on the earth until another one landed on the log, where I had placed some food, he was up there in a shot chasing the other one away. Honestly there was plenty for them both but the idea of sharing obviously hadn’t reach the bird world yet! Of course a beautiful, though noisy, Pheasant was a frequent visitor.

There were plenty of geese on the water and they, like the Dunnock, seemed to be in feisty mood. The moment another one appeared on the water anywhere near them they would chase them off, I assumed it was a male seeing off a rival but I don’t know for sure!

Here we come to the tick part of the day! The sky really was beautiful and we were treated to views of Kestral, Buzzards and a Red kite but the best moment of the day was when three, yes you heard correctly three Swallows flew over! A year tick and one that is always lovely to see, I know one Swallow doesn’t make a summer but three together make a jolly nice spring! I am including the only snap I got as these birds flitted and swooped around. There will be plenty more to come and I am sure later one will pose on a wire for me!

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Just one of three!

On Saturday we headed to the coast again keen to find some migrants, we had more luck than our last visit! The day felt as though birds should be arriving for the summer, the temperature peaked at 16 degrees which to be honest is warm enough for me at any time of year!

 

Having mentioned Ian’s health previously I am happy to say that I think he is getting a bit better, the tablets are indeed working, phew! Walking seems to be getting a little easier and whilst I know he is still not his usual self it is a relief to think he is getting there and once the next lot of tablets kick in as well who knows!!!

We began at Titchwell and were lucky to see a pair of Little ringed plovers, distant but clear enough to ID. We walked along to the sea (which was looking far stiller than on our last visit) where some Scoters were sitting on the water and some people were spotting Terns in the far distance but we couldn’t see them, never mind.

We moved on to Cley and instead of the main reserve we first went to the sea and on Eye field we found the bird we had been waiting for, my favourite bird a Wheatear. If you have ever visited my home you will find confirmation of my fondness for them !

 

We were also pleased to see a Sandwhich tern flying over the sea, summer is on the way the birds are returning, fabulous! There was no shortage of Black-headed gulls but however common they are they really are looking smart now and as usual this one was very vocal!

So that is four ticks for April, a good beginning I feel and our bird total is now 170

Also moths are picking up in both number and variety so I thought I would show you just two recent ones. A brindled pug and an oak beauty, both new for us and now our moth total for the year is 17. We also got another butterfly yesterday, a peacock. in fact Peter was in our garden and I got a phone message saying there was a Peacock in the garden, took a moment before I realised he meant butterfly!

To celebrate Ian’ birthday we had a family lunch yesterday and it is quite tricky trying to plan a surprise lunch when the other person is around all the time! I did persuade him out to golf one day so I did some rapid cooking which thankfully Peter ‘hid’ in his freezer!

Below you will see him with the fantastic cake made by our daughter Ruth aka Roo! Ian has Cornflakes for breakfast every day, yes honestly every day, so you can see what a great design choice the cake was! Thank you to all who celebrated with us, (including our son,  Andrew in USA via FaceTime) or sent him greetings.IMG_0461 Ian cake (Custom)

April should be a good month for us with birds returning and us planning to visit places further afield soon, I am very optimistic!