Tuesday, 6 February 2007

4th February - Frozen Gonads - Part II

Well after a marginally better nights sleep in the car, I stepped out of the car and did a few star jumps to help thaw out my balls! After a toilet stop I and a brush of my teeth I was ready for another days birding! First stop was Titchwell, hoping for Black Brant. On arrival there was no sign of the Brants, but plenty of other birds to see. The pick of the waders were Avocet, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit and Spotted Redshank. A nice Marsh Harrier gave some good views. A brief seawatch produced three drake Long-tailed ducks.....nice! The Cetti's Warbler gave a burst of song (note I say The, like there is only one, or I know him personally - I think his name is Cedric, though I am not really sure as I think the conversations I thought I had with him were in my sleep deprived head). I met a birder who had travelled down from the North East, though there was no sign of the Little Gull (hmm)! We got nice views of a Brambling on some nuts (not mine) by the visitor centre.

After some scran, we made our way to Thornham again to get more spondicious views of the Lesser Yellowlegs.

Next up was the long trudge to the pumping station at Snettisham. I estimated it was about a 375000 mile walk, as I wore out four pairs of boots and one pair of knees by the time we got to the pumping station. The long walk was worth it (sort of) as we got amazing (ly distant) views of the long staying Black-eared Kite!

After more views of the Kite we decided to head back towards Cley to look for Black Brant. I had been reliably informed by super birding information service Birdnet that there had been regular Black Brant on the Pitch 'n' Putt course at Wells. On arrival there were no geese on the course, however a quick scarper up the banking revealed that there was a largish flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese on the saltmarsh. We begin scanning through them to try and locate the Black Brant. Before we could check them all, the flock took flight and they landed on the pitch 'n' putt course. It was not long before Craig picked out the Black Brant amongst the flock. We got excellent views of the bird and a good opportunity to get some half decent pictures! This was an excellent finish to our birding for the trip, all that was left was the journey back home!

Monday, 5 February 2007

3rd February - Frozen Gonads - Part I

After a freezing night trying to sleep in the car I got up defrosted my balls and we headed up to Chosley drying barns. Here we had nice views of at least 50 Corn Buntings, plus a few Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and a single Brambling! Next up was a trip to Thornham to look for the long staying 1st winter Lesser Yellowlegs.

On arrival there was no sign of the Lesser Yellowlegs in the areas that the bird had been favouring. However a flock of c30 Twite was quite good, until some numpty with a long lens flushed them! We checked the flooded fields nearby for the Lesser Yellowlegs, most of the floods were frozen and there was still no sign of the bird. The high tide had probably pushed the bird into some creeks on the salt marsh out of view. I decided to go back to the car for some grub and then decided to check the creek next to the road. After a few minutes I heard a wader calling not to dissimilar to a Greenshank, the bird landed in the creek just 10 yards or so from me, it was the Lesser Yellowlegs. The bird showed exceptionally well in the creeks both sides of the road, allowing some really great photographic opportunities! Also in the area was a sizable flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese.

After we had watched the bird for some time, we headed off to Titchwell. Here we saw the usual assortment of waders, including Black-tailed Godwits and Ruff. We also had nice views of Marsh Harrier and Little Egret. On the sea there was a small group of Common Scoter. On the passerine side there was a singing Cetti's Warbler, Siskin and Long-tailed Tits along with the commoner species. A flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese came into the pools, but there was no sign of the two Black Brants that had been frequenting the reserve. The bonus was when Craig picked out a 1st winter Little Gull!

We then headed along the coast and visited a few sites, including Saltholme where we got some nice views of c30 Snow Bunting!

To round off what had been an excellent days birding we went back to Thornham for another look at the Lesser Yellowlegs!

A nice meal in the Lifeboat Inn and a couple of pints before heading back to the car for a nights sleep was a very pleasant end to the day!

2nd February - Pacific Diver

Kath dropped me off at Craig's just after 0745hrs and we soon left and were on our way to Penrith. We had a quick stop off at Penrith and were then on our way to Farnham Gravel Pits near Knaresborough. It was a tense drive until around 0930hrs when news on my pager confirmed that the Pacific Diver was still present. TFFT! After a fairly traumatic drive through Harrogate we found the car park at the Gravel Pits, paid our tenner and legged it to the waters edge. There was a fair few birders present, and it was not long before we were watching the UK's first (and possibly the Western Palearctic) Pacific Diver. Again TFFT!

I was quite amazed how distinctive this bird was. It was a very small diver, appearing not much bigger than the Great Crested Grebes that were also present on the Gravel Pits!

We got excellent views of this bird as it ranged all around the gravel pit, the bird would show to 10ft or so at times. I managed to see all of the distinguishing features on this bird including the vent strap!

This bird was great to watch, I even managed some reasonable record shots with my digiscope set up!

Aside from the bird in question, it was nice to see some familiar faces, that I had not seen for a while! We continued watching the bird until about 1600hrs. Amazingly we had been watching the bird for over five hours! Well we got our moneys worth that's for sure!
We were on our way south to Norfolk for the weekend, hoping for some more rares to feed our rarity obsessed mental condition!
We arrived at Holme in Norfolk just after 1900hrs, Craig set his tent up on the luxury camp site (well a field with a small shed in it anyway!). We then found a pub for some food!
The pub was the Lifeboat Inn at Thornham. The food was excellent and the beer went down well too!