Wednesday, 28 April 2010

I AM a Norfolk Birder!

This morning I went off to Horsey Gap to see what I could find.  I had only been there for 10 minutes when a Ring Tail came gliding over the dunes right in front of me.  It was one of those 'just me and the bird' moments.  As if the rest of the world had slipped away and it was just me and her left.  I watched for ages, there was something really special about the way she was moving.  It did cross my mind was it a Monty's but after checking my guide I decided that there was not a black bar on the wing so it was a Hen Harrier.  The bird was wing tagged, green on the right and yellow on the left which should really have rung more alarm bells than it did.  Typically about an hour later another birder asked me 'did you see the Monty's'  Grrrr one day I will get the hang of Harriers!

I really liked it at Horsey Gap but had to get home as I had someone coming to quote me for a carpet.  I was hoping to go back later in the afternoon and have another look around, especially for the Ring Ouzel someone said they had seen.  That was until I looked on Birdguides and saw that there was Woodchat Shrike at Winterton!  A bird I have never been able to even go for let alone see.  The timing was always wrong until now!  I was out of that door just as soon as the carpet lady had gone and totally overexcited.  My first Norfolk twitch.  To be honest I was so happy to be going on a proper twitch I didn't even really care if I got the bird or not.  No actually that's a lie because I would have been gutted if it had gone! 

I got onto the bird really quickly after reaching the spot and was well happy, it was really smart.  Then I got talking to a couple of Norfolk birders.  Until today I was seriously doubting if they actually existed.  I am proud to say that the asked me to join the Great Yarmouth Bird Club and told me I am now accepted as a Norfolk Birder.  I think it was all said tongue in cheek.  Well I hope it was!  I was able to ask all those daft questions you have about an area that only a local birder can tell you.  I learnt more in half an hour than I have in the whole time I have lived here!

While watching the Shrike it came on someones pager that there was Whinchat a little further along the dunes so I set off in search of a nice year tick.  While searching for that I met up with another bunch of local birders who put me onto a Ring Ouzel.  We never did find the Whinchat but the Ring Ouzel was enough to make me happy, I will save the other bird for tomorrow ;o) 

So a very successful day.  One right out of a lovely daydream.  I would love to imagine all the birds tomorrow will bring but I know I will be spending the day putting the furniture back into our newly painted study.  Bo-ring!! 

Pinch me!

I've had a really lovely couple of days here in Norfolk.  Sometimes it's hard to believe that it is real and I do actually live here!  Yesterday I went to Waxham and had a wonderful time wandering the dunes in the sunshine.  I love the smell of the marram grass in the sun.  It reminds me of summer holidays as a child.  We always went to Waxham Sands campsite and I was allowed to roam about the dunes as I pleased.  I loved the feel of the grass brushing against me as I passed it.  Wandering those dunes brought it all right back to me.

I went to the part by the bungalow known as Shangri-la which I have seen mentioned in many bird reports.  I had expected to find a track through the trees along the base of the dunes but there did not seem anyway through so I made do with walking along the dunes.  Hardship eh?  There were loads of Swallows zipping around overhead.  I am sure I saw several Red Rumped ones...I wish.  A pair or Eider on the sea was a bit of excitement for me.  Where I have not been out and about much for so long I have not seen Eider in ages so I watched them for a while.

The real highlight for me was two seals playing in the sea.  They were rolling over and over and really having a good time.  There was loads of splashing and back flippers out of the water.  It reminded me of children playing in the swimming pool.  Totally carefree.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Fornicating Pheasents and other dramas

Well the wildlife in my garden has really been playing me up this week.  Some friends came to visit (Yay our first visitors) and typically there was not a Pheasent, Mallard or Muntjac in sight.  I am sure they were all hiding behind the trees and laughing at me.  We had a little stroll in the woods and did manage to see a Sika Deer which was a result because I did not know we had them in there.

Typically within half an hour of the guests leaving Esmerelda was quacking away at the back door for her tea.  She is getting very bold and comes almost up to the back step now.  The males are nowhere near as brave as her.  They sit under the feeding station and wait for her.  If I throw them food they just ignore it if she's not here.  Sometimes they get their timing wrong and arrive after her which means they just sit there for ages looking miserable and get no breakfast. 

Another recent highlight was when my elder grandson (aged 5) said 'Nanny there's a snake'  I looked all around expecting to see a bit of discarded hosepipe when he pointed to my feet.  I was almost standing on a small grass snake who was sunning himself in my front garden.  I called my son to see it and he  swore blind it was a dog poo and insisted on poking at it with a twig.  It was a feisty little snake and hissed at him much to the amusement of the kids.  I wonder what their teachers will think when they go to school saying there was a snake in Nanny's garden and we fed the ducks from the back door.

There was scandal last night with shocking behaviour from a Rogue male Pheasent who flew in and molested one of the females in our regular little group.  Fornicating Pheasents in the garden whatever next!  Good job the kids were not here to see that one or I can imagine the tales the teacher would have been told!! 

We seem to have a very healthy crop of gnats in the garden.  When the Swifts arrive it should be like The Battle of Britain out there, I hope.  The downside is ...a garden full of gnats!  It makes me itch just looking at them.  They seem worse late afternoon.  If I leave the washing on the line after 4pm it is smothered in them.  I think I had better stock up on Citronella candles. 

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Boom time

Yesterday was another gorgeous day so I decided to go back to Hickling and see what migrants I could find.  It is really doing my Id skills the power of good going round alone and picking up calls and then finding out who is making them.  When I arrived they told me that there was loads of stuff around so after last time when they told me there was nothing and I found tons I thought I was in for a magic time.  Wrong!  Typically it went in reverse and there was naff all about!  They told me to listen out for Sedge Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler but there was not even a Reed Warbler about!  There were none of the Cranes they mentioned and it was not until I was halfway round that I even saw a Marsh Harrier.  Mind you they were lovely views of three quartering over the reedbeds.  One was a gorgeous male, so gorgeous that I even asked for his phone number, well if I had been a female Marsh Harrier I would have!  The only high point of the morning was hearing a very distant Bittern booming.  So distant in fact that the couple close to me who were admiring Canada Geese did not even notice it.

Today I was not able to get any birding done due to Sunday Lunch duty.  Mind you one good thing about cooking is that I get to keep watch out of my kitchen window.  I do love that window.  I was standing there peeling sprouts when my ears pricked up to a different sound.  I grabbed the bins and hung out of the window for a better view of a Blackcap.  A new garden tick.  I still struggle with Blackcaps calls but its nice that I can pick up 'something different' and then go on to match the call to the bird. 

Our Squirrel population grew by one today.  For the first time I had three squirrels.  One of them had his head down my squirrel proof feeder of black sunflower seeds.  Keep this up matey and I will take up the gamekeepers offer and have you for dinner! 

No Muntjac sightings today.  There is a little dead one at the side of the road not far from our house.  I think it might be the youngster.  He is much darker than the others and this poor thing looks the same colour.  I keep looking out for them and hoping to see him.  Its so sad when something so full of life is suddenly lying motionless at the side of the road. 

The Phesants have been sneaking right up to the back door these past few days.  I have bought some chicken seed which I have been feeding the ducks with and the Phesants are clearing up the leftovers.  They are not as bold as the ducks and run away when I appear at the window.  It really amuses me that they run rather than fly.  They are such dopey birds that I find it hard to understand how anyone can call shooting them sport.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Ducks and tractors

Another gorgeous day here on The Broads.  I started the day feeding the ducks with my 3 year old Grandson.  He was very surprised to find himself in his jammies feeding 5 male Mallards on Nanny's back doorstep.  Luckily he did not witness them gang raping poor Esmarelda the female later on in the day, also just outside my back door! 

 As I was at a loose end I thought I would go and investigate How Hill NNR.  I have been there a few times before but always by boat and always in October.  I had a rough idea of where it was but banged the postcode into my Satnav just incase.  Big mistake.  I started off following it thinking it was going to show me a quick new way into Ludham.  Of course it did not.  It took me down every single track road it could think of.  At last I found myself in 'How Hill Road' and thought oh good almost there.  I even saw one tiny arrow directing me straight on.  When I came to the end of the road I realised things were not as they should be.  At one point I drove past a village hall with a poster advertising a play called 'Wild Goose Chase'  I had a mutter to myself that this was sooo true!  I got out my trusty Norfolk A-Z but sadly that particular area was too rural to be shown large scale.  Not to be defeated I turned the car around and headed back up the road.  Luckily a kindly postie in his van stopped to help me.  Actually he did not have much choice because I was blocking the road!  He directed me and I found it within minutes.  I had driven right past it earlier but had not known because the sign was only visible from one direction.  Good planning on the part of The Broads Authority, how to loose 50% of your visitors!

So after I finally arrived safely I went to buy my ticket for the trail in 'Toad Cottage'  The guy behind the desk was the same man I had been chatting to last October and gave me advice about local flooding risks.  Amazingly he recognised me instantly I walked in the door.  I did not think I was that noticable!  So anyway we had a nice chat about migrants and I set off on my walk round the reserve.

It was a really enjoyable couple of hours.  It's not that big but I walked slowly and stopped several times to examine tit flocks (apologies to any non birders reading this, that is not a perverted phrase, honest!)  I was really pleased to find my first Chiffchaff of the year and also my first Blackcap of spring.  I had already seen an overwintering one in my old garden last January so it was not a year tick.  There were tons of Willow Warblers and Coal Tit so I was able to work hard on my bird song recognition too.  I am now no longer rated useless - hopeless but hopeless - bad!  I will get there eventually!

In the afternoon I went for a little walk in 'my wood'  It really is massive, I had a decent walk just sticking to the paths and wandering round the edge of the blackcurrant fields.  There were a couple of Muntjac.  I think I saw the mother and juvenile but as they were running away as fast as they could it was hard to tell.  I honestly feel I am the luckiest person alive right now, having all this on my doorstep.  There seems to be nothing exceptionaly in the wood but its just so great to have it there outside my back door.

Little Leo's day was rounded off with a ride on the tractor lawnmower with Grandad.  His face was a picture.  What more could a 3 year old want, ducks at breakfast and tractors at suppertime!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Hickling NWT

Today I went off for my first birding trip since moving here.  I chose Hickling Broad NWT because it has a decent chance of having some birds there.  Also a loo which is always a bonus!  I can't beleive this is the first chance I have had!

Anyway on arriving I had a chat with the volunteers in the little visitors centre.  It's nothing like Rainham but then what could be??  They were very nice and helpful but told me there was basically naff all about.  Typical, the story of my life etc!  I joined the NWT so that I don't have to pay £3.50 each time I go there which as its only 10 mins up the road will hopefully be a lot.

The reserve was quiet as I was told but I was so happy to hear my first Reed Warbler of the year.  I know I saw one yesterday but somehow hearing them makes it really spring.  Them and Skylark just me such a thrill to hear.  I had a nice walk along the boardwalk, seeing Marsh Harrier and Reed Bunting as I went.  Also a lovely Kestrel which I watched for a while.  The hides were disappointing, just overlooking a deserted pool.  Well apart from a couple of Greylag and a coot.  No offence to them of course but they are not that exciting.

About half way round, right where I saw a Bittern fly over my head last time I was there I noticed that there were a lot of little birds in the trees.  I stood there for about half an hour in the end just watching them flitting about.  If there had been a bench I think I would have sat for ages.  There are never benches when you need them!  I was rewarded with a gorgeous pair of Bullfinch.  Not something I see everyday so they were very welcome.  I also saw several Willow Tit.  It took me a while to work them out, I had to wait till they started singing.  Then I was sure because a Chiffchaff which does not go Chiff Chaff is a Willow Tit in my book!  I spoke to a man a little further on who told me they had only just arrived today so that was nice.

I sat for a while in The Bittern Hide hopefully but did not manage to see one.  One had been seen today, I was even shown a photo of it.  No doubt it waited till I had left to come out tap dancing.  Cranes had also been seen from that hide today but I was not lucky, I have never seen a Crane at Hickling.  I did meet a guy who gave me his card, claiming to be a local expert on just about anything wildlife who tells me he can find me anything so who knows I may see them there!  My intention is to chat to any local birder I can to find out as much info as possible.  It never hurts to get your face known.

Not much going on in the garden today but then I have been out for most of the day so probably missed all the action...Cranes flying over, bitterns on the feeders that type of thing.  Fat Boy the Pheasent and his wives are still hoovering up anything they can find and the Mallards are getting more and more forcefull with their demands for food at my back window.  I even noticed one tapping on the conservatory door yesterday.  He obviously does not know we don't use it yet.  We heard a Woodpecker drumming yesterday evening but could not pick it up in the bins.  I am assuming it was a Great Spot but one can dream........

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

New Beginnings

What an amazing day.  It started with a visit from the Gamekeeper.  A very nice young lady who told me all about the woods surrounding our house and the animals and birds on them.  I am allowed to walk through the woods so long as I keep to the paths and don't disturb the Pheasants.  Result!

So I went for my first stroll in MY woods!  It was a gorgeous summers day and there were birds singing everywhere, not that I could spot any of them hiding in the trees, woodland birding has never been my strong point!  There are some nice paths and one point where you get a limited and distant view of The Broad.  What I had hoped for was somewhere I could set up my scope and sit and scan for a while.  Never mind.

The Mallards are back again today. There was just the pair this morning but tonight there are three males and Esmerelda the female.  Poor girl is going to be harrassed again I fear.  They now come up to my kitchen window and create a racket wanting food whenever they see me.  I will have to get over to Lathams again tomorrow and buy some more seed for them.  They seem to like it and it has to be better for them than sliced white.

We went over to Horsey today for the first time.  We were driving along and I saw some suspicious shapes in the field.  I tried to say 'could you try and stop a moment please' in a quiet calm voice to hubby so as not to make him think there was an emergency.  Sadly I did not manage this and was not terribly popular.  Never mind I was able to get out at the next layby and get my bins onto two lovely Common Cranes.  The first for me this year and the first I have found on my own.  Was I excited?  Yes you bet!

Then on to Horsey Gap where we took the little dog on her first ever visit to the beach.  Poor dog is 7 years old and has never seen the sea before.  She took it all in her stride and was not scared of the sea which I thought she might be.  There were loads of seals in the sea, sitting really close in watching us, three even looked as if they were going to get out of the water but in the end they just paced us along the shoreline about three feet out.

Another thing which caused me great excitement (yes and jumping up and down and generally showing myself up!) was my first swallow of the year.  Flying over the dunes full of the joys of spring.  I love all those firsts of the year and the swallow has to be one of the best.  Also on the beach were a couple of Turnstone and Ringed Plover.  I read on a noticeboard that Ringed Plover nest on the beach so I will have to keep an eye out later on.

Then home for more excitement!  I year ticked my first Reed Warbler IN MY GARDEN!  How cool is that???  It was climbing up and down the bog grass at the bottom of the garden.  I had to think twice about what it was because of where I was seeing it!  Madness, Reed Warbler garden ticked!

Butterfly the squirrel is still on the rampage trying to empty my feeders.  He has only trashed one so far but his favourite trick is to knock the nut feeders down and roll them about till the nuts come out.  I just think that he could become very expensive later on.  The gamekeeper said if he becomes a nuisance she will shoot him for me but thats not really on my agenda!  Mind you the Landlady of our local pub tells me they have lovely sweet meat. 

So an exciting day in Norfolk today.  I am hoping the weather is reasonable tomorrow so I can get out and about to Hickling.  It will be my first chance for some proper birding.  If its bucketing I will have to go and investigate Yarmouth shopping centre instead.  Not really the same.....