Wednesday, 17 June 2020

They're not birds,They're not even alive

A recent post by David Bryant (Birds of the Heath) about finding pre-historic stone tools has inspired me to write a brief non-binding post.

I have been lucky to find a flint arrow head but in all honesty don't know what I'm looking for, I've had much more luck with fossils. Growing up not far from the NE Norfolk Coast I'd often return with a few belemite and on rare occasions a sea urchin fossil. Last Spring with a more knowledgeable adult eye we also found a few other things, and a trip to the Jurassic Dorset Coast piqued an interest.

However it was after my father's death last October when I took to long beach walks that I started to notice the variety of fossils locally. For a month or so I walked a hour or so 3 or 4 times a week on the local beaches, finding it both rewarding and therapeutic. I found various echinoids (sea urchin), antler, corals, bivalves and plants, I am however most excited when I find bone, we all dreamed of finding dinosaurs as children. I have fragments of mammoth, deer and bison, and favourite hippo tusk. Although lest frequent I try to get a fossil walk in whenever we have favorable tide and winds, I will always return with something of interest.

Bird watching is a great way to escape the everyday troubles life throws at you, but fossil hunting and being at once with nature is just as relaxing and just as addictive.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

More New 'Ticks'

After you have been birding a few years your 'life' list's growth slows to a trickle, in my case British, Norfolk and Patch Lists.
However in the last week or so I added two Norfolk ticks and a life tick. This week surprisingly the run of birds continued. . . .

8th June - Roughton/ North Walsham

With my daughter back at nursery I planned to look for the Rosy Starling at Roughton after drop off but got called away. At 3pm waiting for pickup I checked the news feeds to see the Rosy Starling was still present but a Blyth's Reed Warbler had been found a mile from home on my patch! We hadn't got out of the car at Roughton when I saw the Rosy Starling on a roof top then in flight. I drove straight to Pigneys Wood rather than get out of the car and wait for the starling to reappear from a back garden. I've not taken a four year old to a twitch, especially not one where social distancing was expected so was slightly apprehensive. Luckily for me Agnes was good though did wonder off occasionally to look at flowers and insects but stayed her distance. I had just missed the Blyth's Reed Warbler showing well but after 10 minutes soon heard a delightful burst of song, my only previous BRW being a silent autumn bird. Brief restricted views followed over half hour, if I'd have been alone maybe i would have jostled for a better position, but i had seen the bird so we headed home for the promised ice cream pudding!

9th June - Swafield

After the nursery drop off I headed home via Trunch. I had forgotten flypaper on a recent shop and coincidenlty saw on the drive too nursery someone selling pitch plants from their driveway! Bargin Pitcher plant in hand (£3) I headed to work, but at Swafield I spotted the distinctive pink waist coat of Rosy Starling on the wires near the Church. A second patch tick in two days and a self find to boot. I could only stay a five minutes before work so I reported the bird and had to leave. After work I returned but couldn't relocate it.

As I write this I have been tempted to visit Thorpe to look for the Savi's Warbler a bird I have only heard but not seen once. But four early shifts means itll be mid-afternoon before I visit and I dont fancy my chances with heat haze, let's hope it stays a few days longer!

Sunday, 7 June 2020

The Last of 'Lock Down' Birding

As May progressed the restrictions on the amount of time we could spend out of the house doing exercise and the distances we have been allowed to travel have increased, effectively (as long as social distancing is observed) allowing us to bird watch anywhere we like again. Some reserves and car parks have remained closed but slowly reopening therefore from 18th May I effectively closed my lockdown list of birds seen walking and cycling from home, with most places accessible again.

16th May - Paston Cliffs

My last trip out under 'lockdown' restrictions was actually a drive in the car after having to drop of supplies to Mundesley, I took advantage to have a short walk on the edge of my patch by the holiday camp. Spring migration seems to be curtailing off with most migrants now in the summer haunts and getting ready to breed. Garden Warber, Whitethroat, Swallow, Sand Martin and Sandwich Tern all seen from or on the cliff tops. The only surprise bird and final addition to my lockdown list was a juv. type Eider lingeing off shore, lockdown species 95.

Maybe I could have gotten to 100 species with a cycle out to a bit of open water or the coast more than once, but with warmer weather I turned to doing the DIY that I have put off for ages, rather than a sweaty cycle ride. On the 20th while in the garden a Mistle Thrush flew over the garden but turned out not to be the garden tick i thought, having seen one in 2014.

19th/20th May - North Walsham

It had been ages since I've use my moth trap and after dusting it down ran it over two nights. I was hoping for something to show Agnes as during lock down and while off nursery we have been looking in the garden and locally for insects, flowers and anything nature. The first night was disappointing with only 3 moths of two species, Green Carpet and Muslin, although Agnes enjoyed the 14 Cockchafer Beetles I turned out. The second night was a little better with 10 moths of 8 species. A Clouded-boarded Brindle was new for the garden, but Agnes like the White Ermine and Lime Hawk-moth most of all.

25th May - East Ruston

The DIY kept me at home until Agnes, Laura and myself all had a day together (our anniversary). I decided to have a walk around East Ruston, exploring the variety of wet and dry heath land to look for snakes/lizards and other things to show Agnes. In the event we saw just two lizards that made very sharp exits on out approach but Agnes saw both. Bird life was very limited probably due to the growing heat of the day but find of the day was a Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth that sadly didn't want its photo to appear on my blog! I was suitability impressed by the management work here to return soon, having previously only explored the wetter areas.

27th May - Cley

Cley proved to be an impromptu stop for a short walk after a food shop in Sheringham (we needed something only Tesco seems to have). Knowing a Red-footed Falcon was in the area I was dropped off near the East Bank car park and walked back to the village while Laura and Agnes acquired some nice 'anniversary' treats from the deli. Despite seeing 2/3 Red-footed Falcon and their regular appearance I had failed to connect with one in Norfolk, so was delighted to see the bird over the reserve if not getting the best views.

31st May - Bayfield

Returning from work Sunday and with plans for extensive DIY on Monday, Laura persuaded me to go out and look for the Squacco Heron at Bayfield Hall, not leaving the house until 6.30pm I was hoping the bird didn't decide to go to roost early. I only found 3 birders on site at Bayfield and was soon advised the Squacco Heron was still present but out of view. After only 10 minute a brief flight view were gained as it moved a few meters. A fellow birder wandered down stream a bit trying to find a better angled view and was soon waving to the few of us left patiently staring int the reeds. After clear views of the birds distinctive head, I headed home with my second new 'Norfolk tick' in a few days. I called in at three Nightingale sites on the way home without success, I do hope this special bird has not been lost in North Norfolk.

7th June - Potter Heigham

After morning shift at work and regular heavy showers I sat down to a cup of tea to discover a Caspian Tern had been found at Potter Heigham, like last weeks Squacco Heron this is a bird I had previously dipped twice in recent times. Needing some mesh for the chicken run and gardening equipment i convinced myself a duel purpose trip to Latham's was required. Arriving the rain had eased and I gambled on the path to the east of the marsh. I soon found myself looking at a 'Carrot billed beast of a tern' not only a Norfolk, but a Life tick. I spent some time admiring the bird with only one other birder nearby, I managed a couple of record shots using my phone before walking back to Latham's after a squally shower passed through. Despite the less than pleasant weather this short walk gave up over 50 species with a Mediterranean Gull and Common Sandpiper worth note.

095 - Lockdown Total

179 - Norfolk Year Total
179 - Britain Year Total

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Still Birding from home

This last week with Laura at home some days I've managed to go for a walk either before or after my shift at work. The effects of 'lockdown', not being able to go far, continuous childcare, generally not being able to get much done and the cancelling of at least one holiday has started to catch up with me, so these couple of walks from home have given me some much needed alone time.

2nd May - Pigneys Wood (walk)

Pigneys Wood is probably my closest accessible area of marsh albeit not that large, and with a pleasant walk along the old railway line makes for a nice walk. The old Canal is this area has been further opened up and is now part of a larger circular walk from the town and unsurprisingly it was rather busy, most people stayed their distance but the amount of dogs of leads was frustrating. I picked up the expected resident birds on the edge of town and alone the old line. A pair of Marsh Tit the highlight, detracted collecting food allowed me to approach quite close. On the reserve it was by the reed bed that i heard then saw my first Reed Warbler of the year. It was joining in a chorus with Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler and Cetti's Warbler. Walking home past the water sports activity lake I saw Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Blackcap a birds I've surprisingly not seen much of yet.

3rd May - Spa Common - Ebridge (cycle/walk)

This is another area of the Old North Walsham and Dilham Canal with increased access. I decided to cycle to Spa Common and walk from there rather than recover previous days ground. I stopped off at North Walsham Sewage Works, it was all rather quiet with only a few Gulls, the probable reason being two Buzzard perched by the edge of one of the beds. Down by the Canal I first checked near the bridge for Grey Wagtail, I fear that the increased people walking here my have disturbed their nesting site of recent years. Walking towards Ebridge I heard my second Cuckoo of the year and so located it perched high above the marsh. Despite the overcast conditions a small group of c20 Swallow and House Martin swirled above Ebridge Mill Pool. Segde Warbler, Reed Warbler and a Cetti's Warbler sang from the reeds, and joining the Willow Warbler song from the scrub was the distinctive reel of a Grasshopper Warbler, although I couldn't see it a new 'lockdown' bird. This swiftly followed by a Swift and Grey Wagtail as new 'lockdown' ticks. From the Mill I cycled home seeing nothing else of note.

4th May - Swafield - Bradfield (walk)

Looking for a different route around the local 'Quiet Lanes, I first walked to Swafield, then followed the back roads to Bradfield and back to North Walsham. The road from Swafield to Bradfield is lined with paddocked so I hoped mayb for a Yellow Wagtail, in the event this section of the walk was very quiet with only a Goldcrest of any note. Near Bradfield Beck is a lovely area of damp woodland full of Bluebells and Wild Garlic, the smell was amazing and combine with the song of the the birds i could have forgotten we where amidst a pandemic. Among this woodland chatter was the call of another new 'lockdown' bird, a Nuthatch briefly seen in the canopy. Near the edge of Bradfield village I investigated a roadside Badger sett and noted 3 male Blackcap in a short length of hedge. A pair of Greenfinch are a rare sight so nice to see. Looking at some unusual flowers in the margin of a field of beans, i noticed a distant dark raptor, assuming it was one of the numerous local Buzzard i paid it little attention photoing the flowers. It was almost above me when I again looked at the bird, it was a Black Kite, most probably the bird that has been seen around Norfolk in recent weeks, but still totally unexpected. The walk home saw me use a regular walked section of the 'Quite Lanes' seeing more Blackcap, a Garden Warbler and hearing a Cuckoo for the second day in a row. The plants turned out to be Crimson Clover and Blue Tansy, often planted as part of cover or pollinator crops.

5th May - Happisburgh (cycle)

After an emergency trip to the opticians, Agnes and I went on an intended short bike ride, the plan visit East Ruston Heath to look for Snakes and Lizards. Heading out of town i decided we could call at another area of heath en route at Crostwright. The was a rather cool NE wind blowing which made cycling rather hard work, in the cooler conditions we didn't see any basking Adders and i only saw two lizard cutting of fin a hurry. Taking a wrong turn we were not far from my brother's house near Happisburgh, so we had a quick (distanced) catch up in the garden along with refreshing drink before cycling home. Two Grey Partridge in the fields near East Ruston were a rare sight, unlike the small covey of Red-legged Partridge further along the road. Finally at East Ruston Heath I contented myself looking at he large pool and reedbed rather than the heathland as I had already been out much longer than intended. A massive mixed group of Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin and Swift wheeled away overhead and a lone Tufted Duck was the only wild fowl seen. Near Meeting Hill I heard my forth Cuckoo of the week.

094 - Lockdown Total

174 - Norfolk Year Total
174 - Britain Year Total

Sunday, 26 April 2020

More 'Lockdown' Birds

24rd April - Quiet Lanes (walk)

After being well behaved on previous walked I decided to extend Jaspers normal short daily walk and do the Quiet Lanes loop again. There seemed to be lots more people walking dogs or walking alone, many frustratingly not bothering to social distance. Dispite this distraction we managed 40 species, most unexpected was a Little Gull seen off Bradfield Road with other resting gulls. My second Ring Ouzel of the week was this time closer to home in the horse paddocks near the railway bridge and a Garden Warbler was heard but not seen near Bradfield Chapel. Another 'lockdown' tick was a Kingfisher seen through the tree on Antingham Pond.

25th April - Quite Lanes (walk)

After I returned from work Laura, Agnes and myself decided we would all take Jasper for his walk, Agnes want to continue to the Llama Paddock and we eventually completed the Quiet Lanes loop, although I didn't bother to view Antingham Pond. Being mid-afternoon we didn't see as many species as my earlier walks and again it was busy with other walkers. No new 'lockdown' ticks but we did see my first Sparrowhawk, Coal Tit and Whitethroat on the 'Loop walk'. 9 Buzzard were also circling together over Bradfield Road near Mill House.

26th April - Mundesley (cycle)

Laura wanted to get out on her new bike so we decided on a family bike ride to Mundesley as our daily lockdown exercise. We took a winding route through the back roads to Trunch and across Mundesley Golf Course before pausing on the cliff top for refreshment. There were lots of Whitethoat in the roadside hedges but few birds of note, however we did see out first orchids with several spikes of Early Purple Orchid and Common Spotted Orchid seen along Brick Kiln Road Trunch. (James I'm sure your'll correct my ID if its wrong!)

During our brief cliff top stop 2 Sand Martin were new for the year as were 3 Sandwich Tern offshore. A Fulmar was a new 'lockdown' tick and a few Swallow headed West. Cycling home a 'very pale' looking Buzzard peeked my interest enough to stop for a better look but turned out just to be a pale Buzzard. Arriving home I grabbed a beer and spent a good hour in the garden reading a book by my favored local naturalist, Arthur Patterson.

087 - Lockdown Total

170 - Norfolk Year Total
170 - Britain Year Total