Saturday, 29 November 2014

Great Grey Shrike at Roydon Common

Great Grey Shrike, Roydon Common
 I can remember the last Great Grey Shrike I saw at Roydon Common a few winters back. It was a crisp sunny day and we watched the Shrike catching Lizards. Today it was cold and grey when no 1 son (aged 5 1/2) and I parked up in a rutted car park, two thirds puddles to one third slippery orange mud. 

Fieldfares, Roydon Common
Heading south away from the car a flock of 50+ thrushes rose from a puddle in the middle of the path in front of us where they had been bathing and drinking. Their calls gave them away as mainly being Fieldfares with a few Redwings and Blackbirds thrown in. We paused for a moment and I set up the scope so that no 1 son could have a go at watching birds through it.

Great Grey Shrike, Roydon Common
The path veered round to the left and skirted the edge of the wet boggy heath. A quick scan of some distant saplings gave me my first view of the Great Grey Shrike.

After being passed by an old couple and their small rat like dog and I scanned again for the Shrike which has now crossed the path and is now perched on top of a bare tree on the crest of the hill to our right. From here it seems to be "flycatching" sallying forth into the heather at regular intervals before returning to the tree presumably not with a lizard in this cold weather.

One sally took the Shrike away over the low rise of the heather clad hill and into the top of another small tree. This time we were able to get a little closer and no1 son was able to get a look at his first Great Grey Shrike through my old Nikon ED Spotting Scope.

After a quick snack, we followed the Shrike back in the direction of the car park and left it perched in the same distant tree we'd seen it in earlier.

As we walked to the car park discussing how far we'd walked and the name of the Common and of the bird, a couple of elderly female birders paused to say hallo and point out to us the Thrush flock we'd seen earlier. Having exchanged pleasantries and ascertained that they were after "our" Shrike no 1 son left them with the wise parting advice that should not try to get too close to the Shrike in case they disturbed it.

Back at the car we get out of our wellies and try and zig zag a route out of the car parkaround th pot holes and back onto the tarmac.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Scoters and a Rough Leg

The normally bustling car park at Lady Anne's Drive is empty save a few early morning dog walkers 4x4's. Even the wild geese that normally throng the fields either side of the drive are absent. Heading north through the pines I hear the calls of newly arrived Redwings.  Holkham Bay is empty and I trudge across the sand and out through the broad gap in the dunes to the sea. Here I set up my scope and set about scanning for my quarry the flock of Common and Velvet Scoter which I am hoping will contain a Surf Scoter that has been reported here.

Empty early morning Holkham Bay
The flock is a way offshore and even using my telescope I have to concentrate hard to pick out the less common Velvet Scoters in amongst the Commons. Other birds come and go in my peripheral vision as I try and remain focused on the search for the Surf Scoter, Great Crested Grebes  and Cormorants appear and then disappear as they dive under the grey waves. Some indistinct white shapes that had been bobbing around in the distance beyond the Scoter flock take form and are revealed to be Gannets, a splendid male Goldeneye joins the flock just as two male Eiders fly by and a female Red Breasted Merganser bobs on the waves.

A male Velvet Scoter has me going for a moment but as soon as I look at him properly I realise my mistake. I scan to the west where more Scoter as sitting on the sea too far away for me to be able to see them well enough to tell which species they are. As I pan the scope a grebe comes into my field of view and is instantly recognisable as a rather smart winter plumage Slavonian Grebe.

Cold and hungry with my £3 for two hours car parking nearly up I have one last scan and head back to the car.

Just east of Burnham Overy Staithe I pull to the side of the A149 and join another birder who is scanning intently through his scope. I ask if he's "had any joy" and he understand my question and let's me look through his scope so that I can get a line on a rather drab Rough Legged Buzzard. I set up and the bird relocates to a more distant small tree. After about 10 minutes it fly's low and fast over the ground, pounces on something in the grass and returns to its perch. In the distance over the belt of pines that lie between us and the north sea four distant Common Buzzards tangle with a passing Red Kite.

Holkham Marsh, squint really hard and there is a wet Rough Legged Buzzard in the middle of this picture, honest
Taking one last look at the Rough Leg and a couple of Barnacle Geese that are mixed in with the Pink Feet I pack my scope away and head for home.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Woodpecker and Sparrowhawk encounter

Autumn leaves going from gold to brown

The single note call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker cuts through the quiet of the winter woodland, I don't bother to lift my binoculars but scan for the bird with my eyes. As I do so I pick up on a fast moving form sliding with barely a wing beat through the tangle of bare branches in the canopy, its broad winged arrow coalesces before me as a monochrome winter silhouette, its small size and shape give it away as a male Sparrowhawk that, no sooner have I identified it, than it has gone, down the slope weaving its way through the tops of the trees. The Woodpecker stops calling and the wood falls quiet again.