Sunday, May 28, 2023

Year list. Bird 172. A lump of flint.

First trip this year to the Norfolk Coast, and with both Mike and David. Would we get a special bird for a special day?

First stop was North Point Pools to get our bearing and check Birdguides. Twenty Blackwits, Avocets, Redshank, Shelduck, a couple of Little Ringed Plovers and a Common Sandpiper. A wing-tagged Marsh Harrier and distantly a Cuckoo calling. A decent first stop. 

Titchwell seemed to be our best bet so we headed west. But first we stopped at Choseley Barns for the remaining Dotterel that had been reported that morning. We scanned with no luck but were saved when a birder found it sat down. We could just see a very peachy breast and a darker head but the heat haze made getting more detail difficult, but even in the heat haze I could see it turn its head.

With year tick 172 in the bag we went on to Titchwell. The three 1st year Little Gulls put on a decent display both on the ground and in flight. Our search for more birds was rudely interrupted by Mike who had found a Grey-Headed Wagtail on the bank. This bird had been seen yesterday but not so far today. We managed to get terrific views, even down to the gorget of dark feathers indicating its first year plumage. We managed to get a few others on to telescope views of this before it flew off over the reserve centre.

We got a few more birds - Mediterranean Gulls, Spoonbills, a couple of Little Terns on the tidal lagoon, Sanderlings on the beach, and then sat down on a bench by the reed bed; three old men on a day out, talking nonsense and pulling each others legs, and inbetween whiles we got first class views of Bearded Tit and Reed Warbler. So often birds ticked on sound not sight.

Just time to go back and check on the Dotterel. We decided that if it was still sat in the same place I would have to admit defeat. And there it was. Number 172. A lump of flint.

Phone scope pic of Grey Headed Wagtail

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Stellar Day at Frampton

We chose RSPB Frampton as our venue on the basis of a stellar list from the previous day. We arrived at a packed car park and saw the fantastic wader habitat that now stretches from the car park to the back of the reserve. We had two Wood Sandpipers on a small near-by pool before we'd even got out of the car, and went on to add a Spotted Redshank in dusky summer plumage, many Ruff, a pair of mating Little-Ringed Plovers (the first of five pairs on the reserve) and as we moved towards the centre added two Black-Winged Stilt in the corner. Frankly we could have gone home then more than happy. 

Down the path on the NW side we added Lesser Whitethroat singing, Cetti's and Sedge Warbler, then on the walk along the western edge we added Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper, a few Yellow Wagtails, many Whitethroats, along the sea-wall a few Mediterranean Gulls flying around, a line up of birders fruitlessly searching for the Blue-Winged Teal (see previous post), a few Pale-Bellied Brents amongst the thousand plus Dark-Bellied out on the marsh then along the road back to the centre we had about fifty Dunlin and a cracking Spoonbill feeding in a channel. 

Lunch then back for another go at the Teal which proved successful, and that was more or less our list for the day, but we had two further sightings of the kind that make birding a challenge not just wildlife tourism. The Temminck's Stint had been seen the previous day rom the road, and as we went through the Dunlin I picked up a likely candidate; nice pectoral band, spangly back, all white belly, and called a few people over as a likely. But on comparison with a Dunlin thats arrived it was the same size and had a longer curved bill than the Stint, so we had to write that one off as a Dunlin. 

Almost back at the centre and a large bumble bee appeared, a real whopper and all black. On checking this later it matches the black form of Bombus Ruderatus, the Large Garden or Ruderal Bee. I'm not going to claim it as I know from experience bees are tricky creatures and you have to get very good photos to be sure, but exciting to see this beast nevertheless. 

The lasting impression was not the list but the quantities. I haven't even mentioned the Shelduck, Shovelers, a few Wigeon, flocks of Black-Tailed Godwits, the many Avocets, the vast gull colony; the feeding Brents across the fields, and the 60+ Ruff, many males in splendid black and orange. One was so near even I could get some photos. Just imagine if these were taken by a decent photographer, or even someone with a basic knowledge of the settings

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Birding Etiquette Fail at Frampton

RSPB Frampton Marsh. A stellar list of birds (more of that in the next post) was topped by Blue-Winged Teal. It had been seen early somewhere on the vast expanse of channels and ditches that is Marsh Farm Grassland but by early afternoon despite many people looking (including myself and Mike) there was no further sign. 

So it was with some excitement that, on encountering the chap who had re-found it, we walked to the knot of birders on the sea wall staring through scopes at the target bird. And it was with some horror that as we and others were making our way to this group we saw them pick up their tripods and head off. 

We managed to get the last one off to try and help us locate it, but on that plane where everything looks the same, and with our only references being cows which were all moving, we were left cluelessly back at square one scanning the ditches in the vain hope of somehow reconnecting with a bird that had evaded birders for the most part of the day.

I was furious, loudly quietly complaining to anyone unfortunate enough to be near me. To me, when a rare bird which is not co-operating is pinned down, you don't walk away until you pass the location on. Particularly when you yourself have been given the location by someone else.

This state of Meldrewesque grumpiness continued unabated until, by sheer chance, the target duck appeared swimming in a channel, whereupon I was deeply grateful to the departing birders for giving me the opportunity to experience the excitement and joy of rediscovering the bird. Even at this considerable distance it was a cracker, all white blaze and white thigh spot. It gave distant but reasonable views as it swam around, flapped once, and waddled around on the bank. And the biggest pay-off for me, never having seen one outside of a collection before, is that given its behaviour and circumstances the bird is clearly unequivocally 100% wild. Fantastic.

Hello Old Friend

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