Sunday, 25 September 2016

Turnstone Action

I'm lucky I live about five minutes walk from Hunstanton beach which means that if ever I have an hour spare I can take my binoculars and camera for a walk and enjoy some great wildlife. I have developed a couple of mild photographic obsessions based around the beach. The first is the nesting Fulmars who provide lots of opportunities to practice my flight photography and I am slowly getting some better quality images of these great birds.
Turnstone, Hunstanton Beach
The second are the Turnstones that live up to their name flicking over the pebbles on the beach and squabbling over scraps of food.

Today I saw from the weather forecast that there was a good chance that the sun would break through the cloud at about 5pm and I managed my day around getting away for a hour or so late afternoon.

When I got to the beach I noticed that the area under the seawall was free of walkers and also had lots of Herring Gulls and Turnstones feeding there. I quickly found the colour ringed Turnstone I was hoping to record [more about them another time] and realised that I could use the Groyne as a makeshift hide allowing me to crouch within six feet of the feeding Turnstones.

Turnstone and Juvenile Herring Gull, Hunstanton Beach
As I watched the birds feed using their beaks and necks to flick over pebbles, grabbing open mussels and teasing out the contents, I realised that there seemed to be a conflict avoidance behaviour going on. Birds would shrilly call at other birds that came to close, normally enough for one bird to then back off, but occasionally there would be a flurry of wings as two birds jousted for food.

Turnstones arguing over food, Hunstanton Beach
It did seem a little odd that there should be any fighting as there seemed to be no shortage of open mussel shells for both the Turnstones and the Herring Gulls present to feed upon.

Turnstones arguing over food, Hunstanton Beach
I had a great hour and a bit with these birds, the light was more miss than hit with just a few moments of golden light. But now I have discovered by Groyne Hide I will be back again trying to get better shots.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Weekend Birds

Late Swallow brood
Saturday was wet here in north west Norfolk. I needed to visit the garage in Brancaster and took advantage of the opportunity afterwards to sit in my car in the harbour for an hour watching the tide slowly rise and the rain drops pit the surface of the water. Almost the first birds that I saw and heard on arrival were a couple of Greenshank's manically feeding around the edges of the harbour, every few minutes taking flight and landing in a new feeding location where they resumed their buy scything of the shallow water before taking flight again.

A Little Egret fed reasonably close inshore catching small fish that seemed from my perspective to be barely worth the effort that it had to put into catching them. As the rain eased a number of Swallows flew west and Spoonbill circled over the saltmarsh to the east.

Little Egret
Sunday and the sun was back out and we went to our beach hut in the sand dunes to the east of Brancaster beach. Here a late brood of swallows sat spilling out of their nest in the eaves of neighbours beach hut whose decking sported a large pile of swallow crap. Next door a Common Lizard sunned itself. In the scrub a Willow Warbler shared a bush with the local House Sparrows and Wheatear sat up in a gable end.

Willow Warbler
The  sea was still relatively warm and the visibility was the best I've ever known it. Off shore there were still Sandwich Terns albeit in reduced numbers and solitary Great Crested Grebe, Red Breasted Merganser and Guillemot.

Its weekends like this that remind me of why I choose to live where I do, the opportunity it affords me to raise my children by the sea, spend quality time with them in great locations and to live in a bird rich and dynamic part of the world.