Friday, 21 November 2014

A Quick Visit to Welney on the way Home

2nd November 2014

It is now the end of our short break in Norfolk and we are homeward bound, so why don't we pop into Welney on the way past? I eventually managed to get my lovely wife Jenny out of the gift shop and we were soon crossing the bridge over the river to the centrally heated main hide, although the heating has not been required so far this year.

The swans have been a bit late returning this year due to the mild weather and the latest count this morning was 1620 Whoopers and just 10 Bewicks, the latter sticking to the far end of the reserve. Even the duck numbers were low. The only ducks close to the hide were Pochard and Mallard. Normally, most of the Pochard are males but this year there were a couple of females to keep them company

The Lapwing flock was spooked a couple of times raising the hopes for a Marsh or Hen harrier, but the only raptor today was a Sparrowhawk which flew low across the marsh on a couple of occasions.

Feeding time today was at 3.30pm and birds flew in from far and wide to get in on the action.

The Mute Swans look beautiful in the afternoon sun and one pair in particular were indulging in some amorous advances perhaps thinking ahead to next year's breeding season.

But the stars of the show as always were the Whooper Swans which paraded up and down and posed for the camera. A visit to Welney is a must every winter.

Monday, 17 November 2014

A detour to Titchwell whilst on would be rude not to!

1st November 2014

We were in Norfolk for a family catch-up weekend when my lovely wife Jenny suggested a trip to Titchwell. would be rude not to accept, and within ten minutes we were there. I had not planned any more trips to Titchwell this year and was wondering whether there would be much left to photograph. I shouldn't has worried. We weren't going to have time to go all the way to the beach, but it didn't matter because the footpath and the Parinder Hide were packed with goodies.

Not surprisingly there were lots of Brent Geese commuting from the freshmarsh to the salt marsh, all uttering their amazing gutteral call note. Black-tailed Godwits were also on duty close in to the footpath and, although I have taken 100s of shots of these superb birds, I can never resist taking a few more.

A lone Redshank was also feeding nearby, but the biggest surprise of all was a Curlew which was feeding within 30 yards, which is most unusual. Normally they are fairly obscured at long distance on the salt marsh or miles away on a spit on the freshmarsh. So this particular individual, although disappearing down creeks occasionally, was an added bonus. Along the footpath a Reed Bunting  suddenly flipped into view and perched on a Phragmites head in a beautiful natural pose.

A quick visit to the Parinder Hide produced some great opportunities for some shots of Shoveler and Snipe, but the medals today must go to the Teal and Wigeon which were both looking resplendent in the autumn afternoon sun.

What a fantastic day, and a great thank you to Jenny for insisting we go to Titchwell to buy yet another "I've Been To Titchwell" badge.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

A day that was not quite what I expected.

27th October 2014

The original plan was to go to Lynford Arboretum to see if any Crossbills or Hawfinches were about. After an hour walk around the site all I can say is that it was the quietest visit to this normally fantastic site that I have ever experienced, with not even a Goldcrest, Crossbill or Nuthatch calling. Even putting seed on the concrete pillar of the bridge by the lake only produced a rather reluctant Robin.

Time therefore to move on and the nearest site is Lakenheath Fen. Lakenheath is also likely to be quiet at this time of the year, but there is always the chance of some harriers, Bearded Tits and Bitterns. However, due to the unseasonably mild weather, most of the action was from the insect life with plenty of Small Tortoiseshells and Common Darters.

As I was walking back past New Fen a Bittern flew noisily from the reed bed uttering its low gutteral call suggesting that it had been disturbed, and judging by the Coot squealing in the same area might suggest the presence of an Otter which do occur here. But at that point the female of the pair of Marsh Harriers which seem to be based on New Fen rose out of the reeds and gave a few passes allowing the best shots of the day.

Not quite the sort of day that I expected when I set out this morning, but a superb day nevertheless.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Abberton and East Mersea in Late Autumn/Early Winter

25th October 2014

Today I set off with the objective of showing chum and fellow photographer Graham Canny the joys of Essex, and what better places to start than Abberton and East Mersea. In accordance with the regulations the first stop was the Layer Breton causeway for some breakfast and a cup of tea. However, before we even had a chance to open the picnic hamper our attention was drawn to a nearby egret feeding close in to the east of the causeway - a Great White Egret. We hurriedly retrieved the cameras from the boot but to no avail as by then it was wafting its way to the far bank and only giving up a glimpse for a record shot.

On the other side of the causeway a female Red-crested Pochard was consorting with the random collection of tame ducks, geese and hybrids but gave a pleasing reflection in the flat-calm water. At the Layer de la Haye causeway a couple of Great Crested Grebes were sporting their less flamboyant winter plumage, but the surprise here was a couple of cracking drake Pintail which were unnaturally close.

Now on to Cudmore Grove where the grazing fields are already flooded with 1000+ Black-tailed Godwits roosting there at high tide. Most were in the water or on the edge of the islands but three birds decided that they would waste no time and started feeding on the grass close to the path. Some birds were still flying in from the ever-decreasing mud on the beach and this trio gave an unexpected fly-past in a vertical line-abreast formation.

Out on The Point a lone Rock Pipit was keeping its distance as is often the case. They do seem to be attracted to this small creek by the steps, but are frequently disturbed by dog walkers. Out on Pyefleet Channel a superb red-sailed boat was making its way slowly out to sea under full sail. This is the Essex fishing smack CK18 which was built in 1886, but was derelict by 1942. It was restored and relaunched in 2003 and is now a regular feature of the Colne Estuary.

Round by the Oyster Fishery hundreds of Brent Geese were feeding at the water's edge affording some opportunities for some close-up and flight shots. However, what was was unusual was this winter plumage Grey Plover which which perched on a post by the jetty. Grey Plovers are normally quite hard to get close to but this particular individual didn't seem that bothered but was clearly keeping an eye on us.

But the surprise of the day was this Common Tern which was fishing just off the fishery and then rather obligingly came and sat on a nearby post for some photographs. The 25th October is very late for a Common Tern, but what made this find even more unusual was that it was in wing moult indicating an adult bird.