Thursday, 24 February 2011

Snow Buntings and Shorelarks

Snow Bunting, Salthouse Beach Car Park

At last a day that more resembled early Spring than the depths of Winter, an air temperature of 13 - 14 C and some sunshine, made it a pleasure to be out and about today.

Started out at Salthouse Beach car park with a very pleasant 45 minute session photographing Snow Buntings and Turnstones at the baited spot at the east end of the car park.

Spent the late morning at Cley Marshes NWT reserve, hadn't been here for a while and today was relatively quiet bird wise with the highlight being a single Shorelark on the shingle bank.
Next to Holkham Park where a walk in the woods in the hope of connecting with a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker ended in disappointment.

Finished the day at Holme Marsh a favourite spot for just sitting and watching, seeing what pops out of the woodwork, today that included a Sparrowhawk flying fast past the hide carrying prey, single Barn Owl, Marsh Harrier and Green Woodpecker and slightly incongruously Long Tailed Tits impersonating Penduline Tits by feeding on the Typha heads.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

In the rain at the Sealife Centre & Titchwell

Wolf-fish Hunstanton Sealife Centre

Twite at Titchwell Marsh

Bewicks Swan at Titchwell Marsh

Hunstanton Sealife Centre
Spent just over an hour this morning at the Hunstanton Sealife Centre, my first visit for many years. First impressions were how expensive it was [£12.80ish for adults] and bemusement that they had their admission price in bold and then 2 columns for the VAT on this and then the price you had to pay, a touch of the Ryanair approach to advertising costs I thought.

The place was busy which was not surprising on a wet half term morning in Hunstanton, but I don't think there were vast numbers of people present and as it was it felt uncomfortably crowded in places. The exhibits were fine and on a quieter day I think we would have got more out of the live interpreters, touch pools etc.

The seal feed at 11 o'clock was very popular and as a consequence for children difficult to see.

Having said all this our toddler, once he had got used to this new and exciting place, enjoyed himself and had a fun morning. On balance I'd go again, but not often and not in school holidays. It would be good value at half the admission price.

Titchwell Marsh
Afternoon visit on my own to Titchwell in the wet. Highlights were the wintering Twite flock and a single Bewick's Swan feeding in the company of ferla Greylag, Canada and Egyptian Geese in a roadside field at the east end of the reserve,

Friday, 18 February 2011

Shorelarks in the Bay

Shorelarks in Holkham Bay today

Bullfinch in Wells Woods today

A real treat today, just me and the wife out for a walk together whilst our little lad enjoyed playing with his friends at nursery. We walked from Lady Anne's Drive east to Wells on the south side of the conifer belt and then back west on the landward side of the dunes.

The walk along the edge of the conifers was very quiet but at Wells the soft piping calls and then flashing white rumps got us onto five Bullfinches. Even though they didn't cooperate with having their picture taken these are great birds to spend time watching.

Holkham Bay was wonderfully empty of the usual mix of dog walkers, horse riders, kite flyer's and birders. We found the small flock of seven Shorelarks feeding at the eastern edge of the low saltmarsh vegetation that covers the area landward of the dune system. There were also Skylarks and Rock Pipits feeding here.

After our two and a bit hour walk we stopped off at the White Horse in Brancaster Staithe for some lunch. This was very nice although in common with many of the gastro pubs that litter the north Norfolk coast the plate of food was a little lacking in carbohydrates.

A nice morning.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Snowdrop walk at Walsingham

Walkers on Walsingham's Snowdrop walk today.

Its as much o fixture of the Norfolk social calendar as the county show. Every year around about Valentine's day Snowdrop walks are held across the county. One of the best known is held at Walsingham where I'd guess on a busy Sunday hundreds of people will plod around the paths leading through the woods surrounded by tens of thousands of Snowdrops and Aconites.

Not only do these small white flowers lay on quite a visual spectacle to draw the crowds, they also I think pull folk in for another more important reason. By mid February winter feels like it has been going on for a very long time and we are all ready to start clutching at any sign that Spring is coming. Whether that be a Mistle Thrush in full song, the first frogs back in our garden pond or just the inexorable lengthening of the days. The display of Snowdrops and Aconites I think plays to that yearning for longer days and a warm sun and offers us real proof that spring really isn't now too far off.

If you plan on going the coast is £3.50 per adult, the paths are of a mixed standard and a little muddy in places, the loos are basic outdoor affairs. We had a light lunch at The Old Bake House in Walsingham, reasonably priced, friendly service and a child seat willingly provided, the food was OK but a little uninspiring.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Sanderling Time

Sanderling, Titchwell Beach today
I had the luxury of not only a couple of spare hours to myself this afternoon, but also for three quarters of an hour or so some great light. Even better this coincided with me being on the beach at Titchwell and able to photograph some of the Sanderling to be found here.
Tactics for photographing these energetic little waders are pretty straightforward, work out which way they are moving along the beach, crouch down and stay still and hope that they come towards you, which as you can see this bird did. The crouching bit is important, not only does it seem to reassure the birds but it also changes the angle at which you take the picture and improves the final image.
Sanderling feed along the line of the breaking surf so you do need to keep an eye on where the next wave is going tow ash up. They are very busy birds and I wonder if I could sell the idea to Duracell of using them to advertise their batteries?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Spring is out of the traps

Crocuses, Rosary Cemetery, Norwich

Butterburr, Rosary Cemetery, Norwich

Aconite, Rosary Cemetery, Norwich

Snowdrop, Rosary Cemetery, Norwich
I knew that Spring was limbering up by the starting blocks a few weeks back, when on a blue sky day I heard a Mistle Thrush in full song. Today though there was no denying that the season of growth and renewal has begun to muscle its way in on winter. The Rosary Cemetery in Norwich is home to one of the county's best natural spectacles, the sight of thousands of naturalised Crocuses carpeting the cemetery floor in a great show of life amongst the trappings of death.
Today the spectacle was a little looted under a grey and gloomy sky but there was no denying that it had begun in earnest. Interestingly most years the Butterburr comes out ahead of the Crocuses, this year, perhaps because of the cold winter weather they are coming into flower together.
Expect to see more snaps from the cemetery in the coming weeks or if you are really keen take a pick at my Rosary Cemetery set on Flickr at

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Swans in the gloom

Strong blustery winds and a grey sky today saw us taking the road south and across the Fens to WWT Welney for a family outing to see the 3.30 pm swan feed.
As usual the area in front of The Observatory [WWT's centrally heated, double glazed, showpiece 'hide'] was dominated by Mute and Whooper Swans and a pack of male Pochard.
Careful scanning did reveal a couple of the smaller Bewick's Swans, a single Pink Footed Goose and a pair of Ruddy Ducks. More unexpected was a single Long Tailed Duck, a long way from its usual maritime haunts.
A winter visit to Welney always offers a reliable spectacle and nice lazy [and hesitate to use the term] birding. What is lacks in leg stretching, wind in your hair, rain on your glasses it makes up for as a chance to see some truly wild birds up close. This is why on an average winter Sunday 400 - 500 people pay to watch this spectacle.
For the adults in our party it worked well, and for our toddler the easy spectacle outside the hide window held his attention for as long as we could have hoped before he turned his attention to 'posting' pebbles in the collection cairn and running up and down the ramp.
The Visitor Centre had a nice clean baby changing room that was accessible to parents of either sex. The cafe was a bit of a disappointment, expensive [all but 5p for a average slice of cake] and only served hot food at lunchtime, I think Welney could learn something from the catering operations at Titchwell or Minsmere on that score at least. That aside we had a great time and will be back.

Both pictures taken at Welney today, top is a Whooper Swan, bottom the Long Tailed Duck.