Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Any More) - The Walker Brothers

There are by no means the usual numbers of birds in Norfolk as there have been on many previous winter visits. For starters, on my last visit there were estimated to be 100,000 Pink-footed Geese, just on the North Norfolk Coast alone, along with numerous rare, scarce and less common birds. Locals have told me that such species as Snow Bunting and Shore Lark did arrive, but the recent gale force winds, heavy rain and Tidal surge seem to have put them to flight. Anyroad, you can only make a bid for what is here so today efforts were made to locate some of the less frequent visitors. However, before setting off it is thought worth while to let you know that I am once again staying in the
Wooden Chalets in the back garden of Pip and Alison Weston here in Blakeney which are superb. It would be difficult to believe that I would stay anywhere else during any visit to Norfolk. Let their Web-Page tell the rest of the story.
If asked to describe today's adventure in a 'single word', it would have to be 'bloody frustrating'! Not down to the bird at all, but what Every other person on the move today was out to enjoy. The declination of a Winter Sun is low and additionally today Ultra-Bright which no matter the direction I was facing the damn thing was dogging my vision. Unable to see sign posts, Sat Nav, road atlas or even oncoming traffic let alone the birds my New Years Wish is that it doesn't rise again tomorrow. Bring on that lovely wind and rain! So, despite this having been the WORST day of the year thus far it did start on a high note (literally) as I didn't even have to get out of the bunk this morning to add another species to the New Year List
was in full voice right outside the cabin window = 75.
It's a 20 minute drive to Edgefield via Holt where there were a potential 2 addition to the list, one 'scarce' and the other 'rare' and with no difficulty finding either site (close to each other) it had to be 'game on'? Now, I could ask any 'Birder' in the whole world to complete the following paragraph and stake my life on it as I parked in the designated field and asked the first person I met "are the Parrot Crossbills showing"? Now it's your turn - "they were but have just flown off purposefully to the north". My turn again - B*S*A*DS!!!! Working on the theory there is a good side to any adventure it was decided to head in that direction and give it a hour or so. En-route JAY and COMMON CROSSBILL were both seen and this was also where I met the first of 2 Characters. Francis Buckle who is a gentleman of senior years, was during that period a 'long time' Dorset 'birder', mentioned the name of Steve Smith and announced he is a Blog reader - so he's the one. No sign of the Crossbill so onward to the Edgefield Council Tip and the 'first winter' Glaucous Gull - no sign of that so far either. Thins were not going particularly well.
On the way to the almost redundant Airfield at Ludham
(just a few private aircraft these days)
joined the List and once there things changed very much for the better.
Several 10's of both
were seen at quiet a distance but adequately through the telescope.
This chart would be easier than an epistle on Swan Identification.
No need for any optics at all for the attendant
 let's hope there are a couple in Dorset when we get back!
Although SKYLARK and
have already featured, advantage was taken of today's close
encounters, c6 covies of Red-leg alone. This was where Character
No2 appeared. Bold as brass
84 years old JEFF RANSOME approached and after introducing himself ask which way I was going when I left the Airfield. It was plain by his demeanour that the answer was not the one he was hoping for, but I pursued it. He told me this was his 'local patch', loved birds, had access to the adjacent farmland but had walked about 8 miles from home and felt unable to walk back. He started to remind me of someone I know well before he continued by asking if I was interested in seeing Brambling, which I was. Snugly tucked in the back seat of the car (front full of junk) we made off for his private little site, courtesy of the farmer. There, the hedges were well trimmed and pristine and bedecked by 'bird feeders' alongside which was a field of Millet left for our feathered friends.
was picked up immediately on 'call' along with Meadow Pipits and Yellowhammer. As if by way of a bonus a Sparrowhawk, which likely had its sights set on a meal flew over. Having adopted a similar stance to Jeff to get myself from A to B all over the World, could I possibly leave him stood there? Of course i could, and expect he's just about arriving home by now!
On the way to the next site I happened upon this church in the same village
and simply couldn't resist the temptation.
 Ancient Wall Painting
Dropping Jeff at his front door I was then off to
where an American Vagrant Duck was on offer.
The following 2 images are 'borrowed' from Wiki for illustration.
a resident of the Americas has a 'vertical' white stripe on the flanks.
has a similar white stripe only 'horizontal'.
I'm not even going to mention the SUN and if it hadn't been for a fellow
birder allowing a look through his 'scope I wouldn't have seen it at all.
There were bonuses here too as across the Broad a
Was 'flycatching', a
flew over the hide while both Redwing and Fieldfare were stealing
berries from nearby hedgerows.
Another chance encounter then had me scurrying the few miles to Winterton on Sea where I quickly found the reported 100 or so
 on an extremely crowded (people and dogs) making the birds
very flighty.
 Also along that stretch
were logged bringing the Year Total to a modest 91.
 On the way back time was taken to admire, not for the first time
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