2 plus 1 before breakfast!

One advantage to our decision to get up for an early Minsmere trip before breakfast is that early really isn’t very early at all as the sun didn’t rise till gone 7am! So after a fairly good nights sleep we leapt into action and were in Island Mere Hide before the sun had made an appearance having seen a barn owl on our short journey and I was very pleased indeed. IMG_7773

The sunrise was beautiful and it was accompanied by a singing Cetti’s warbler (new for the year) and the sight of a group of Bewick swans leaving their overnight accommodation presumably to go and find a field to spend the day grazing in.

Marsh harriers were soon busying themselves and entertaining us and our fellow watchers. There was one particular bird I was hoping to see this morning and we knew they did often make an appearance there, Snipe. Suddenly Claire, one of the RSPB workers we had met yesterday, spotted a Snipe working its way along the edge of the water, another first for the year.

Two ticks before breakfast, not bad but it didn’t finish there. As we were closing up our windows in the hide someone spotted an Otter, brilliant although distant and swimming away from us. (We are going to Mull later this year and are really hoping to see Otter there.)

Back for breakfast then a return trip to Minsmere and another chance to look for the two Smew that we failed to find yesterday. After a bit of a hunt we found them and like so much they were very distant but seemed to be much nearer another hide across the water. Off we went and did indeed get better views but still some way away. We walked back the long way and saw several small birds including two small warblers that I am still not 100% sure what they were although they may turn out to simply be Chiffchaffs!

 

We had decided to spend dusk in Island hide again and hope for some more treats! The first thing we saw when we looked out was an empty expanse of water apart from two birds sitting in the distance, they were the Smew we had been hunting earlier! They were resting but later flew around and re landed before again taking off and leaving.  The evening light was beautiful and quite a few Bewick swans flew in presumably to spend the night.

I was delighted to see not one but two Snipe close in and feeding ferociously, just as the light was nearly gone a third Snipe joined them, a good day for Snipe and the end of another good day for us at Minsmere. Back to the Eel’s foot for something tasty to eat and hopefully a good night’s sleep, I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

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Our tally is now:

Birds 144

Mammals 9

Moths 6

 

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Round and round we went!

The past few days have been cold, wet and windy and not an encouragement to go out but a change was on the way. We decided to have a change of area and see what Minsmere had to offer so a quick look on the internet and we had booked a room for a couple of nights away. We had stayed at The Eels Foot before and were more than  happy to return and see if we still like it!

I checked RBA to see if anything was on our route that would be worth dropping in on. One stood out and that was a Glossy ibis at Hollesley Marshes RSPB it wasn’t much of a detour so off we went. We got so close to the site…several times in fact! Somehow we managed to drive round in circles and we were beginning to despair when we saw an RSPB sign but no they were the wrong marshes!

If we had known that it was by a prison I think we would have arrived earlier but eventually we found the site and the task of finding the bird proved to be, thankfully, much easier.

The Ibis was distant as the pictures show but it was good to see it alongside an egret and several herons. The weather had been a bit grim, rain for a lot of the journey but like our mood it improved whilst we were at Hollesley.

We may have seen a Yellow-legged gull but need to check some pictures. We did see an insect which I hope to Id but for now we can’t count it. On our way I spotted  a beautiful deer among the trees and unusually it waited for us to reverse and stood to have his picture taken.

 

We checked in at The Eels Foot Inn, left our bags there and went straight off to Minsmere as time was going by quickly.

It was gone three before we arrived at Minsmere and sat to eat some lunch, that was over seven hours since I had filled the food flasks and yes lunch was still good and hot! A Magpie kept us company while we ate and the Pheasants and rabbits were near the visitors centre.

We had a look for two female Smew that are on site but we couldn’t find them, we will try again tomorrow. We had been told the best place to be try to see harriers coming in to roost and sometimes but not always, that includes a Hen harrier. We were also told of nearer place we could put the car which would be easier to get to in the dark.

Hooray at last we saw a Greater spotted woodpecker, not sure how it has taken us this long but I suspect we will be seeing them all over the place now!

It was beautiful looking out over the marshes as the light faded and we were fortunate to see not only a Hen harrier but a Bittern flew right in front of the hide…brilliant, he was bird number 141. We met two charming young ladies in the hide who both work for the RSPB and it turned out are staying in the same place as us. Even they hadn’t heard of the RSPB site that we had struggled to find this morning!!!

Back to The Eels foot to get settled in and have something light to eat after our rather late lunch. We plan an early night in the hope that we will be up early tomorrow morning to return to the hide on Minsmere, before breakfast, as we hear that Otters sometime make an appearance there.

Day one of our Suffolk trip has gone well and I am looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings!

 

 

A sad giant

IMG_7337Today I am beginning in the middle and will go back to the start later! Hunstanton has been known for its cliffs but sadly the past few weeks it is become famous for a number of Sperm whales that are becoming beached and sadly dying. Today whilst birding some way along the coast we heard of another whale that had been beached and initially it said it was dead. We didn’t want to go and see a dead whale but then reports came out saying it was alive so off we went leaving behind the Purple sandpipers at Sheringham.

It was quite a hike to get to the whale which was by then back in the water, a much better way to see such a majestic animal. It was approximately 46 feet long and weighed approaching 30 tonnes! We watched him in the sea but sadly the chance of him getting back to deeper waters where he should be are, unlike him, slim.

I really didn’t expect to be adding a whale to our list of animals, certainly not this early in the year, he was our eighth mammal. We were glad we went to see him but it is very sad to think he probably won’t make it. We left hoping that somehow he could be saved but although by then he was fully in the sea I suspect that when the tide turns again he may well get washed ashore again.

We went to Brancater Staithe to watch the birds in the harbour whilst eating lunch, we hoped to see the Red-necked grebe and try to get some photos. We finished lunch watching the usual waders and I was just going for a stroll when Ian spotted the grebe in the channel right by our car! Brilliant!

I followed him along snapping as I went and then a boat went almost on top of him so I thought he would swim right away but no. As the water settled up he popped again and along side him was a female Red-breasted merganser swimming to catch up with her mate.

An excellent lunch stop and in fact it was by then mid afternoon! We decided next to make a brief visit to Titchwell to see if anything interesting had flown in. We hoped to see a Woodcok but we didn’t we also hoped to get a Water rail and with that we were lucky. We took a slow drive home and found a pair of Grey partridge a bird that seems to be harder to see than a few years ago.

I end this as it began with a sad giant!

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We had added four more birds to our year list bringing it to 137 and our mammals to 8 February seems to be as productive as January! Oh and I forgot to say we had a lovely view of a barn owl early on today and another equally good on our way home.

 

 

 

Another distant duck

We ventured out of county today, all the way to Suffolk! It was our first visit to Lackford lakes, a Suffolk Wildlife trust site and very nice it was too.IMG_7273 crop

We knew there was a female Long-tailed duck there so set off seeking her. We had a good walk around the site and thankfully found the duck. Like the Ferruginous duck yesterday it was right on the far side of the lake but at least we saw her.

Evidently the duck has been there since before Christmas so we have been rather slow discovering it!  Walking around the site takes you through wooded areas between the hides and I imagine in spring and summer it would be lovely.

We got one sight of a Kingfisher that flew across the lake but didn’t return. There are several pieces of wood that have presumably been placed as perches for the Kingfisher but it didn’t make use of them today.

There were Mute swans, plenty of geese (especially Canada geese), ducks mainly Teal but a complete lack of waders.

The wooded section was alive with small birds including of course Robins! We spent several happy hours there and are certain to return but for today we were homeward bound.

 

 

A first on the first!

 

January was brilliant but what would February bring? Today we expected nothing as we were going to stay home but news of a Ferruginous duck tempted us out after lunch. It was reported as being at Holkham hall and would be a first for us both. We thought we had seen one before but no, it turned out to be a hybrid. We got to Holkham and walked across the field to the lake battling strong winds. Holkham has a herd of red deer and fallow deer (can’t count them of course!) and is a beautiful place to walk.

On reaching the lake we quickly found the duck, of course it was on the far side as distant as possible but I am getting used to that! We saw it through the  scope and are happy it really is a Ferruginous (fudge) duck. Anyway I am counting it quickly before anyone disagrees!!!

There are plenty of other ducks on the water and a good few geese but I was especially taken with these Egyptian geese. I am not sure if this pair are late or early in their breeding programme.

The three of them swam along together until the very young gosling decided it was time to get out. The parents did their best to call it back in but to no avail and they had to climb out and bring it back in person.

We decided to detour from our route home to try again for the Golden pheasant. The light was already fading when we arrived but we waited a while. We had just decided to give up for the day, started the engine and out he popped. He made the briefest of appearances but as he is so striking he is impossible to miss. It is thought he is the last of his kind in that area near to Sandringham which is a shame.

We may well try to see him again and if lucky get a picture but it certainly made a golden end to the first day of our second month.

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Bird count…131