Saturday, 27 June 2015


I don't think that I have many annual rituals, but each summer I like to try and find the time to do two things. Swim in the sea between the dunes on Brancaster beach and Scolt Head Island and lie on my back listening to the Terns as they fly overhead. And spending at least one Summers evening down on Dersingham Bog as the sun sets and the light fades from the sky to look for Nightjars and listen to their Churring and buzzing song and wing clapping displays.

Nightjar, Dersingham Bog
Like most landscapes be they the London parks I used to birdwatch in as a kid, or the Norfolk coast and countryside that I live in now, Dersingham Bog takes on a wilder more natural air as darkness descends and people fade out of the landscape.

As I pull up and park in my usual spot and notice that the cars thermometer says it is still 17.5 C at. 9pm, I expect it will be midgy and quietly regret my lack of insect repellent.

The walk down onto the bog takes me through a tunnel of conifers and Rhododendrons, then along the edge of an ancient cliff with a view over the top of a carpet of conifers out to The Wash. I can see a couple hanging around the boardwalk and another trio of birders further along the path. Figuring that I might have to wait up to an hour for the Nightjars to appear I decide to make use of the time and walk out along the undulating and twisting sandy path that skirts the edge of the bog. At 9.37 I hear my first churring Nightjar its song carrying to me from the far side of the bog. Then a Gropper starts to reel away out of view but much closer to me. The distant Nightjar goes quiet and I enjoy another  ten minutes strolling further out across the Bog. Then at about ten to ten they start in earnest, I hear wing clapping and churring and a couple of birds fly over my head chasing each other. The churring to my left is really loud and I eventually pick out a Nightjar on a horizontal pine branch maybe twenty feet away.

Nightjars, Dersingham Bog
The light is fading fast now and I crank up my camera too its highest ISO setting. The flight shots aren't great but I get some OK images of a perched bird. A different call draws my attention to a couple of Woodcock flying over the trees.

Heading back the way I came I try and figure how many Nightjars I've seen or heard and guess somewhere between 10 and 15 birds, as I chew on this pleasing thought, a Tawny Owl starts to call from the edge of the Woods. A quick loop of the Boardwalk yields a brace of bright green Glowworm bums. Back up the hill to the sound of Nightjars and the scent coming off the bracken leaves seems more intense in the dark. Back in my car I give the Midge bites around my neck a good scratch and head home.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

A brief encounter with the cemetery Sparrowhawks

Male Sparrowhawk, Rosary Cemetery, Norwich
The cemetery is at its leafy overgrown best as I walk up the hill through a green tunnel and past the terraced rows of Victorian gravestones many now draped in Ivy and surrounded by Bramble patches. The leafy green is now losing its early spring freshness and even the Ox eye Daisy's look a little tired today.

An insistent screeching call alerts me to the presence of the local Sparrowhawks and I pause to take stock. I've seen them in this corner of the cemetery before and have often suspected that they have a nest here. Excitedly my mind quickly goes over the possibility that they have nested here and if I am hearing recently fledged young soliciting food from their parents.

I stand still and scan the large Copper Beech and Oak in front of me. Then there she is a female Sparrowhawk flies out of the Oak and out of sight and yet still the insistent screeching call continues. I squint through the gently swaying branches and there he is a male Sparrowhawk standing on a thick horizontal oak bough and clasping a unidentifiable prey item in his talons, presumably to entice the female to come and see him should his calling not be enough to do the job.

A Jay squawks from a near by tree and then its pink purple shape flies across the ride pursued by the female Sparrowhawk, who once again disappears from view into the dense green summer canopy and still the male bird sits on his bough, grasping his prey item calling to her.

I'm a little amazed by this, normally if you can see a Sparrowhawk it means they have already seen you and are flying away from you, so to get prolonged and close views like this is a rare treat.

I take some pictures and video of the male with my little compact camera, a Panasonic Lumix TZ30 about the size of a fag packet and a very handy little toy to keep in my pocket for occasions like this. The female briefly joins the male on the bough. And then its over and the spell is broken by another lunchtime walker passing under the male sparrowhawks Oak tree, causing the hawk to fall silent and disappear from view. 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

May catch up

It's been a busy month, so in short and sweet fashion, here are a few sightings for you.

Wed 12th May
Stopped off in Thornham Harbour en route to a meeting at Titchwell, two Wheatear's whilst I drank my coffee were nice. A morning walk and talk around Titchwell was quiet but a single Little Gull was pleasant. Drove over to Frampton for another meeting, not much time for spotting but always good to see the Yellow Wagtails in the roadside fields here. Back at Titchwell I had a more leisurely look at the reserve and saw 2 Little gulls, heard Bittern and Bearded Tit and saw my first Sand and House Martins of the year along with a single Common Sandpiper.

Crap digiscoping - Little Gulls at Titchwell
Thursday 14th
An evening walk and talk around Strumpshaw Fen with friends was quiet but 3 rather smart Marsh Harriers were good to see.

Friday 15th
A brief stop on the way south at NWT Weeting Heath, didn't see a Stone Curlew but did manage a Stoat and Buzzard.
Stoat at Abbey Farm
Friday 15th
A walk along the River Medway in Kent south of Hadlow produced to "purring" Turtle Dove's, a Bullfinch, 
Grey wagtail and singing Blackcap, Chiff Chaff, Whitethroat, willow warbler, and my first Banded Demoisselle of the year. In the evening a Fox crossed the road in front of me in Hadlow.

Saturday 16th
Stopped on my way north at NWT Weeting Heath. Did see a Stone Curlew in the heat haze, notable how many Lapwings had chicks. A Firecrest in the pines by the hide was an added bonus.

Wednesday 20th
Titchwell in the evening, the Red Necked Phalarope along with the Little Gulls which had been present all day were scared off the marsh by a bird scarer half an hour before I got there. But it was a lovely evening with a rising tide being fished by Little Terns as the sun set over the salt marsh. 11 Red Crested Pochard were, I guess, a sign of the times. Best bird was a distant Short Eared Owl.

Friday 22nd
A work visit to Minsmere the walk around produced Bittern 2, Hobby 3, lots of Garden warblers, a very distant Red Necked Phalarope but no Nightingales
Crap digiscoping - Garden Warbler at Minsmere
Sun 24th and Thursday 28th
Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire
Family visits as ever a great place to be and I managed to see Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Dippers, Common Sandpiper, Mandarin, Common Buzzard, Willow Warbler, Chiff Chaff, Nuthatch, and the Bluebells, Wild Garlic and Water Avens were all out
Crap digiscoping - Dipper at Bolton Abbey

Wild Garlic at Bolton Abbey
Evening of the 28th
A walk down to Bronte Falls near Haworth
Curlews over moors and Red Grouse heard in the distance, willow warblers singing in the trees by the falls.

Bronte Bridge near Haworth

Lapwing near Haworth
Wednesday 27th
Kilnsea Yorkshire Dales National Park
Visited the trout farm and walked up the hill to see the "captive" Lady's Slipper Orchids.
"Captive" Lady's Slipper Orchid, Kilnsea
Blue and Rainbow Trout, Kilnsea