January round up

Well January has sped by and I have enjoyed every moment of it!

I confess that at the beginning of the month I felt a tad guilty having given ourselves a year off whilst others carried on working, but a bigger confession is how quickly I got over it!!! It’s a bit like being at school and all day being ‘play time’.

We have been out birding almost every day and eaten most lunches from our flasks, in fact I think we may have forgotten how to work the oven! I have concocted more variations on veggie casserole than I thought possible and discovered new ways to make pasta tasty. I don’t think I have seen a sandwich all year and all this thanks to the gift of food flasks!

The moth trap has been very quiet producing three moths and a wasp through the whole of January, just wait till the spring and summer that will be a different story!

We have been very lucky with the weather, some frosts and plenty of rain but rarely enough to keep us in. These are a few shots taken one very frosty morning.

Yesterday after trying to see the Golden pheasant we went on to Titchwell and Sculthorpe and saw four more new birds for the year, Fulmar, Merlin, Common and Velvet scoter.

We ended the month by doing the Big garden bird watch, this Blackbird was the first to find a fat ball that had been hanging for a while.IMG_0890

Lunch today was not from a flask but with some very good friends (still my oven takes a rest!) and was a smashing time catching up with them.

It has been unfortunate that this has been a time when Ian’s knee has been really troubling him and his heart playing up a bit too, so we are realy hoping that those things improve as the year goes on, but if plans have to be modified so be it. Ian and I have spent more time together these past few weeks than in a long time it has been lovely and we haven’t fallen out so that can’t be bad!!! This photo shows him battling the elements at Sheringham one day.IMG_6222

Reflecting on our month has it been what I hoped for and expected? Honestly I have enjoyed it considerably more than I ever anticipated, it has been brilliant and we have seen many more birds than I thought at this stage of our year. ( A full list appears at the end of this blog.) Have there been any negatives? Really the only one has been that in totally leaving ourselves free to go for any bird it has made arranging to see friends and family more difficult, but I will get better at it I am determined.

I include these pigs just for fun and to show them sharing ‘their’ farm with hundred of birds!

 

What will tomorrow bring? Maybe a rare bird will arrive, maybe a fox will run through the garden, maybe I will stop at home and do some housework (I doubt that!), or maybe new moths will come to the trap who knows?

Stranger of the month…I think this award goes to the elderly gentleman at Wells, (see Family came too) he had lived there all his life and loved it. I think he would have stayed and chatted all day, and into the night, if we had the time. He was a pleasure to meet!

Bird of the month…I want to pick two, the Serin and the Penduline tit but if I am harsh with myself and had to chose one I would go with the Serin. They were both life ticks but the Serin was slightly more cooperative and let me at least take a few snaps!

Read on to see the list of our sightings so far or stop here if you don’t like lists. Either way thank you for reading these blogs and I hope you will carry on with us through the year.

Birds seen in January (those in bold have been added since last list) 129

  1. Mute Swan
  2. Bewick Swan
  3. Whooper Swan
  4. Pink-footed Goose
  5. White-fronted Goose
  6. Greylag Goose
  7. Canada Goose
  8. Barnacle Goose
  9. Brent Goose
  10. Egyptian Goose
  11. Common Shelduck
  12. Mandarin Duck
  13. Eurasian Wigeon
  14. Gadwall
  15. Eurasian Teal
  16. Mallard
  17. Pintail
  18. Shoveler
  19. Red-crested Pochard
  20. Common Pochard
  21. Tufted duck
  22. Greater Scaup
  23. Common Scoter
  24. Velvet Scoter
  25. Goldeneye
  26. Goosander
  27. Red-legged Partridge
  28. Common Pheasant
  29. Little Grebe
  30. Great Crested Grebe
  31. Red-necked Grebe
  32. Fulmar
  33. Cormorant
  34. Shag
  35. Little Egret
  36. Great Egret
  37. Grey Heron
  38. Red Kite
  39. Marsh Harrier
  40. Eurasian Sparrowhawk
  41. Common Buzzard
  42. Rough-legged Buzzard
  43. Kestrel
  44. Merlin
  45. Peregrine Falcon
  46. Moorhen
  47. Coot
  48. Oystercatcher
  49. Pied Avocet
  50. Ringed Plover
  51. European Golden Plover
  52. Grey Plover
  53. Lapwing
  54. Knot
  55. Sanderling
  56. Dunlin
  57. Ruff
  58. Black-tailed Godwit
  59. Bar-tailed Godwit
  60. Curlew
  61. Spotted Redshank
  62. Common Redshank
  63. Common Greenshank
  64. Lesser Yellowlegs
  65. Ruddy Turnstone
  66. Grey Phalarope
  67. Mediterranean Gull
  68. Black-headed Gull
  69. Common Gull
  70. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  71. Herring Gull
  72. Glaucous Gull
  73. Great Black-backed Gull
  74. Rock Pigeon
  75. Stock Pigeon
  76. Wood Pigeon
  77. Collared Dove
  78. Barn Owl
  79. Tawny Owl
  80. Short-eared Owl
  81. Green Woodpecker
  82. Shore Lark (horned lark)
  83. Meadow Pipit
  84. Rock Pipit
  85. Water Pipit
  86. Pied Wagtail
  87. Wren
  88. Dunnock
  89. Robin
  90. Black Redstart
  91. Stonechat
  92. Blackbird
  93. Fieldfare
  94. Song Thrush
  95. Redwing
  96. Mistle Thrush
  97. Common Chiffchaff
  98. Goldcrest
  99. Penduline tit
  100. Long-tailed Tit
  101. Marsh Tit
  102. Coal Tit
  103. Blue Tit
  104. Great Tit
  105. Nuthatch
  106. Treecreeper
  107. Great Grey Shrike
  108. Jay
  109. Magpie
  110. Jackdaw
  111. Rook
  112. Crow
  113. Starling
  114. House Sparrow
  115. Tree Sparrow
  116. Chaffinch
  117. Brambling
  118. Serin
  119. Greenfinch
  120. Goldfinch
  121. Siskin
  122. Linnet
  123. Twite
  124. Lesser Redpoll
  125. Mealy Redpoll
  126. Bullfinch
  127. Snow Bunting
  128. Reed Bunting
  129. Corn bunting
Moths     3
Winter moth
Mottled umber
Pale brindled beauty
Other insects.  2
Wasp
Lacewing
Animals ( or What no wings! )  7
Rabbit
Stoat
Hare
Grey squirrel
Grey seal
Roe deer
Muntjac deer
Grand total
141

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Slimbridge in the sun!

Thursday was a beautiful day in all ways. It began with getting a much appreciated life tick, the Penduline tit and continued with a trip to Slimbridge a WWT reserve. We live not too far from Welney another WWT site and visit there fairly regularly but rarely go to Slimbridge. A

It is a mixed reserve as it holds captive, non native birds as well as providing space for wild birds to thrive. We were only really interested in the wild birds and were soon out enjoying the Bewick swans and numerous other wildfowl which were showing beautifully in the sunshine. We had heard that there were two female Scaup and eventually found them. Of course they were as far across the pool as they could be and were hidden amongst lots of tufted ducks but that just adds to the challenge!

I love Pintails and was thrilled to see this pair so well, we later discovered there are over 1,000 there at the moment so I guess I hadn’t made much of a find!

Shell ducks and Shovelers were also plentiful and in the brightness of the day everything looked splendid. We met a couple that had earlier been at the Penduline tit site, they were arriving as we were leaving but they had not been as fortunate as us.

Like Welney, Slimbridge is know for the swans that visit during the winter. Seeing them flying was a regular occurrence and a beautiful sight, they are so graceful. Unlike Welney there were no Whoopers but a good number of Bewicks although we were told there were fare fewer than expected.

We were pleased to see a group of Barnacle geese grazing alongside Canada geese and Greenland White-fronts. As you may imagine we saw numerous waders including Lapwing, Golden plovers, Redshank, Dunlin but we didn’t see a Little Stint that had been seen a bit earlier.

We had visited every hide and nearly walked past a blind without noticing it. We thought we would peep through, not expecting much and knowing it would be hard to see as the sun was shining directly at it. We were rewarded with a super male Mandarin duck, they really are stunning. I reckon if you asked an imaginative child to create a duck they might come up with such a design but it is fantastic that they really exist! Then of course there was the usual smattering of more humble birds.

After a well earned cuppa we decided to stay and watch the swan feed. Although when the feed began there were only two Bewicks on the pool, the ducks took full advantage and they were gradually joined by more swans. We had a nice rainbow behind the pool just before the feed began, but unfortunately the sun chose this time to disappear.

Slimbridge got our seal of approval and we were pleased that Peter Scott’s father, Scott of the Antarctic, encouraged his wife to “Make him interested in natural history” in his last letter home and she obviously did a good job!

We had a really good day, beginning with a life tick and adding six year ticks too. I suspect we will be returning to Gloucestershire soon.

Birds 125

Moths 3

Mammals 7

Should we, would we, did we?

One bird I really hoped to see (a life tick) this year was a Penduline tit and we had half a chance to do that this week. Two had arrived in Gloucestershire and remained for several days but if we travelled to try to see them would they still be there? One of the beauties of this year off was so we could take advantage of such opportunities so it seemed daft not to go for this one. We couldn’t go straight away but were warming with the idea of going on Wednesday and staying a couple of nights. Unfortunately we couldn’t tie it in with catching up with some relatives that live nearby but that gives us an excuse to go again soon!

We booked a hotel but would you believe it all day Tuesday no one saw the birds same applied to Wednesday but in fairness the weather was foul! Too late the room was booked and we were excited at the thought so we went anyway. Tuesday night and I had the worst nights sleep I have had for a very long time due I think to feelings of excitement that I might see the bird and also feeling we were being daft, wasting time and money travelling for a bird (or two) that may well have gone and for all I know might be flying to Norfolk! Most of the journey was through rain and we did have times of wondering why we were travelling over four hours but at other moments we were just plain excited at the thought of this special life tick we were hoping for.

Before going to our hotel we decided to find the site and as the weather had cheered up a bit we decided to try our luck. We spent an hour or so watching the place they had last been seen, we were watching goldfinches, reed buntings, meadow pipits but no Penduline tit. Locals seemed to think they may still be in the area just keeping low to try to keep out of the weather so we were still feeling optimistic. We were freezing so decided we would get out of the weather too and call it a day.

It is a nice site and very easy to access, well once you have fought your way through the mud but that applies to almost everywhere we go lately! We decided to make an early start on Thursday morning and we did just that. As we got out of the car we saw a pair of Chiffchaff (the one pictured on this page is one I took some while ago in our garden) When we arrived one other person was there before us and as we met up with her she told us excitedly that she had just seen one! Phew it had all been worth it, sure enough up popped the Penduline tit and thankfully Ian got it in his telescope and we both saw it, just the one.

Moments later it went down in the reeds and we didn’t see it again, but we had seen it, fantastic!!! Would I have liked it to stay? Yes! Was I hoping to get photographs of it? Yes! But never mind it was the first one I have ever seen and with a little bit of luck it won’t be my last. To my knowledge neither of them have been seen since so I cant help but think how fortunate we were. Thank goodness we made an early start and thank goodness too that the other birder (Katrina) had just spotted it.

So should we, would we, did we? YES!

Were we right to go? 100% yes, but were we right to wait the number of days we did, probably not, so next time maybe we will act more quickly.

We remained there for nearly two more hours hoping to see it again but then decided to go and see what Slimbridge had to offer, but I am going to post that separately later tonight

Lunch with one of my brothers, sister-in-law and nephew on the way home was a real bonus to the trip.

Penduline tit was bird number 120

We have also had both roe and muntjac deer in the past week.

A life tick but no picture to show!

 

As we were heading to Yarmouth we made an early start, hoping the very grey day would, like yesterday, brighten up, it did eventually but not until mid afternoon! We went hoping to see the Glaucous gull in Yarmouth and the Lesser yellowlegs at Breydon water. These photos show we did make it to Yarmouth and indeed there were gulls also the football ground were we caught up with the gull.

What  they don’t show is the Glaucous gull because although we saw it we only had a short sighting of it and no photo opportunity! None the less for me it was a life tick which is always good although to be honest I rarely get excited about gulls!

We moved on to Breydon water waiting for the tide to go out and reveal the mud hoping the Lesser yellowlegs would fly in. We were entertained by a Short eared owl flying in the distance, he went up several times, beautiful! A small group of eager birders were stood waiting when a message came over saying the Yellowlegs had arrived, sadly in a different place to us! Never mind we jumped in the car and moved on hoping it would wait for us to arrive. I guess I should say we were lucky as we did see the bird although I prefer to call today’s one a lesser yellow dot as that was what we saw!!! Better than nothing but again not a hope of a picture. Instead I have decided to include pictures of a Lesser yellowlegs I saw several years ago that was considerably more obliging.

Maybe another time we may get a better sighting but for today we will make do with a distant glimpse and hope you will make do with my old pictures of a similar bird.

We moved on to Stumpshaw Fen looking for Bean geese on the way but we were not lucky. Strumpshaw is an RSPB reserve and we enjoyed an hour on so there chatting with Lee the RSPB worker and looking over the reserve as the daylight began to fade. A resident black swan (that must have escaped from a collection long ago) was just outside the hide. There was a small selection of ducks including a pair of Gadwall.

Marsh harriers were flying in the distance some times up to eight at a time! The light faded quite quickly but did look beautiful over the water, sadly my pictures don’t really capture it.

Another day birding comes to an end and four more birds are adding bring us to 119

 

Bad knee at Welney

Things have been rather quiet this week as both the car and Ian have been in need of attention! The car has been off for a service and it has returned unrecognisably clean, it won’t last long but it does look good for now.

Ian has been a bit trickier to sort out! His knee has been very troublesome and more importantly his heart has been playing up a bit. This has meant doctors visits and a few quiet days while medication kicks in, hopefully he will get the all clear on Tuesday.IMG_6676

So having been in for a few days we ventured out to Welney, lots to see but not lots of walking involved, onour way we saw our first Corn bunting of the year.

You can see the visitors’ centre from some distance and attached to it is the bridge which crosses the river Great Ouse.

We were pleasantly surprised by how bright the day was when we arrived, we had anticipated cloud all day!

Just outside the main building are several feeders much loved by Goldfinches and Reed buntings. The only way to get to the hides is across the bridge and very often, like today, a Pied wagtail lurks on the bridge! So after a coffee off we went!

The water level was a lot lower than when we visited a couple of weeks ago, today the warden who went out to do the swan feed could walk easily along the concrete edging.

The swans, Mute and Whooper were joined by numerous Pochards, Mallards, Tufted ducks and more, they all joined in the feeding frenzy!

I had a feeling these ducks were trying to express an opinion, what do you think?IMG_0766

We enjoyed the wildfowl and the waders more distant on the spit and every now and then some would take to flight including these Lapwings. We also saw a very distant Peregrine falcon, unfortunately far to distant for a picture.

Time to leave Welney, fortunately Ian survived the day without incident! As so often a Robin was in the car park to send us on our way. On our way home we had another first of the year, Roe deer!

Serindipity!

Before you tell me I know that the title is a mis spelling but I thought it fitted today, read on to find out why.

After a fairly quiet weekend we have had a fantastic day today! When planning this year we decided to blow caution to the wind and sign up to Rare bird alert (RBA) and we have not been disappointed. It means we know far more about what birds are around and has helped us head in the right direction. This morning was no exception and we went off seeking out a Serin which would be a life tick for both of us. It wasn’t long before the little gem showed itself, fantastic. It is a flighty little bird which didn’t make for good pictures but to be honest I was pleased to get even record shots!

Seeing any bird for the first time is always special so we were both very chuffed, as the only other time we had tried for a Serin we had dipped.

We headed up to the coast in optimistic mood feeling that today if we went for a bird we would see it! That didn’t quite pan out but we did have a lovely day even when we were not spotting what we had hoped for.

we went to Blakeney and went for a good walk hoping to catch the Lapland buntings which had been in the area for a little while, we didn’t get them but  the walk was not in vain. On our way out we saw a lovely little Grey plover which although distant it did provide some nice shots.

On our way back we were looking for a pair of Stonechats that we had just been told were near by. We saw the male very briefly and we’re still looking for him when I turned round and saw this fella instead!

He sat a while then slid himself back into the water and off he went. Good to have another mammal to add to our list.

A little further on and we spotted the male Stonechat again closely followed by the female, a smashing pair!

So we dipped the Lapland buntings we had gone for but we considered the trip a success!  Yesterday we knew a Phalarope had been in the Cley area but seemed rather mobile and there had been no talk of it today until we reached the car wondering about a trip to Sherringham. The message came that the Grey phalarope was back at Cley and showing well, no guarantee it would wait for us but we thought we would give it a try, this is the result!

These are super rather amusing birds and always remind me of a clockwork toy. They are constantly turning around and dipping (I will call him DIpity) This one was very cooperative feeding busily just outside the hide windows!

The Redshanks was feeding in a similar area so I couldn’t resist just a few shots of him.

I was explaining recently to my granddaughter that they are called Redshanks as shanks means legs, her response was to ask why they don’t just call them red legs then? Hard to know the answer to that really!

By the time we returned to the car the light was beginning to fade so it was deffinately time to head home for a cuppa (the first of the day!) it really was a brilliant day. So we began with Serin and ended with Dipity I hope the title makes sense now!

Whoever had the idea to take this year out to go in pursuit of wings and other things certainly needs a pat on the back!

Bird total: 113

Mammal: 5

Stuck in the mud!

An early start to the day today as we were determined to catch sight of the Pallid harrier which we have already tried and failed to see three times, today was sure to be the day…please. It was very cold here this morning so having de-iced the car, filled the flasks ready for lunch and gathered extra layers of clothing we were off. We were not quite the first people there but we’re pleased not to have missed the early morning flight that was usually seen.

imageLook at the picture above, the stubble field where it has been regularly seen, can you see it? Look again, more carefully…no we didn’t see it either 😂😂😂

We waited until we felt our fingers and noses were just too frozen so for the fourth time we had dipped the harrier, never mind the year is yet young. We were pleased with a large flock of Linnets that kept flying up, around then back down into the stubble.

image

We made brief visits to a couple of sites just to see what we might find, we passed a group of Red legged partridge on the way.

 

I think this Curlew was watching me just as much as I was watching him!

image

We nearly got blown away at Sherringham! The sea was very lively and there were loads of stones from the beach that had been thrown up onto the promenade by last nights strong wind at high tide.

Back to today’s title, stuck in the mud. We made a brief visit to Holkham just to make sure no rare geese had arrived and no one had noticed! We parked for a short while but when we went to drive away we discovered our mistake, we were stuck in the mud! However much Ian tried the only movement was the wheels as they kept spinning in the mud.

When Ian suggested  I swap into the drivers seat and he would try pushing us out I didn’t argue! Thankfully it worked, there was quite a bit  mud splashing around and our car is now even more in need of a clean but I am pleased to say Ian was not covered as I had feared he might be.

So not one of our best days with too much mud and not enough harriers but still we had fun!

bird total now 110