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Monday 29 March 2010

Awesome day and a face from the past!!!!!

My friend Pete Snook had phoned me last night excitedly - ‘are you going’ - ‘shall we drive down together Pen?’ Anyway after working all day on Sunday I was physically and mentally too tired to possibly leave my house at 4.10am, which is what time Connor told me he was leaving - I will re-phrase that, HIS dad took him to Dereham to meet another birder to take him to Westleton! (good old dad!). Pete lives in Holt and I live in King’s Lynn, so both in the wrong place for meeting up - I decided that if I did go, I would drive to Holt and then Pete would drive us to Westleton and back to Holt. It would obviously have been quicker for me to go via A47 but it's more fun etc to go with someone else.

Woke up naturally about 7.40am - went downstairs - ‘missed call’ from Connor on my iphone and nothing on the pager yet - phoned Connor - ‘no news yet’. Got back in bed, felt shattered. Phoned Pete who sounded very sleepy - updated Pete - Connor rang simultanously ‘its showing, get down here now’ - Connor always seems to make me move faster than I sometimes want to - his enthusiasm and excitement over seeing a good bird is dangerously infectious at times! I should be at home doing all sorts of jobs and errands!!! Worked times out and said I would be at Pete’s by 9.30am!

Arrived Holt 10am!!! Transferred my stuff to Pete’s car and off we went.

Arrived on site at Westleton Heath at 12pm to join approx 50 others - dismal grey skies and low cloud and mist!!! Pete was not a happy bunny to begin with - he had forgotton his scope, which wasn’t funny as he has a Swaroski top range scope - much better than mine! The distant area the Lesser Kestrel had been seen in earlier was now heavily shrouded in mist - ‘you see the two white tapes’ said another birder ‘it was just over there’ - you could hardly see the tapes let alone a bird!!!! We hung around for a bit and then I suggested to Pete that maybe we should go and see the Pallid Swift at Kessingland being as Connor had just rung me to say he had seen it (Connor doesn’t miss much!). I had visions of staying for hours and dipping out on the kestrel and the swift, so thought it would be good to see the swift quickly first and then return to stay for the kestrel. Pete has seen Pallid Swift in Britain so was a bit reluctant to do this - I HAVE NOT seen Pallid Swift or LK in Britain!!! We got 3 miles down the road to just outside the village of Westleton and the pager bleeped up that the Lesser Kestrel was showing again - ‘STOP!!!!!!!!’ I said ‘turn round’........ lots of mutterings from Pete ‘I told you Pen’ ‘we shouldn’t have left........I’ll kill you if its gone’ .... worried Penny!!! Re-parked car and ran to top of the hill on the heath. Pete picked it up before me. Robin Abel was there and kindly let me look through his scope which was much too tall for me to look through, but just as he was lowering it for me, it went out of view again. Luckily it returned again and saw it through Richard’s (one of Pete’s friends) scope - it was perched on a dead tree giving good distant views in the now much brighter sky with sunshine! It flew about a bit and returned to the same tree twice - awesome!!! (1.30pm) Several other familiar faces there from Norfolk: Dave Holman, Phi Vines, Richard and Pat, Mike, Dave Foster etc etc. A face from the very distant past then turned up - a well-built, tall man, with grey beard and green wool hat came up to me and shook my hand ‘have not seen you since you were about so high’ - I stood mystified as to who this was - I had no idea........ ‘Big Jake’ he said. ‘Oh my goodness’ I almost screeched. Big Jake as he was known (and still is apparently) was a serious, hard core twitcher from years ago. I remember him very well when I worked at Holme Bird Observatory with father - he always wore a long black wool trench coat, black longish hair and a black wool hat - he would appear at Holme every time a rarity/mega turned up. Big Jake said to me ‘I recognised you instantly - you look exactly the same as you did when you were about what, 15?’ - ‘that was 30 years ago’ I said!!!!!! Lovely compliment! Jake then reminded me that he would regularly try and 'tick' a rare bird at Holme without buying a permit and how my father also regularly asked him to leave if he didn't buy a permit - I remember it well!!!

Also saw a sparrowhawk, poss. distant Common Buzzard in the heat haze and Pete heard a Woodlark here just before we left. Had a quick sandwich and coffee and then left.


What a depressing place to be - well it would have been better if the skies had been prettier, but standing by a sewage works with grey skies, rain and NO sign of the Pallid Swift was not exactly exciting stuff. But did see two Grey Wagtails, 1 White Wagtail and loads of Pied Wagtails flitting about. Feeding around on the grass and surrounding fields were goldfinches, meadow pipits, hedge sparrows, 1 song thrush and in the trees several chiffchaffs flicking about. Stayed here until about 5.45pm (I think) and left Birdforum member Birdboybowley and two others to carry on in hope.

Got back to Holt and had vege burger and chips in the fish ‘n’ chip shop. Swopped stuff over in cars and I arrived back in King’s Lynn at 8.30pm. As I pulled into my drive I could see Sapphire sitting on the windowsill, who turned to look at me with a very disapproving face - a face that said 'WHERE have you been ALL day!!!!!'

Thanks to Pete for driving and to Connor for updates.

Lesser Kestrel bagged!!!!!!!

1.20pm Lesser Kestrel bagged!!!!! Update later

Sunday 28 March 2010

Lesser Kestrel at Minsmere!!!!

After an 11 hour shift in the hospital I really don't feel like getting up in the middle of the night to be at Minsmere/Westleton at first light - BUT I would really like to see a male Lesser Kestrel!!!!!!! See awesome picture on:

Saturday 27 March 2010

An excellent day with two self-finds! until.......

After dropping off shopping and papers off at my parent's house I arrived at Hunstanton Lighthouse at approx 7.45am. The Alpine Swift could not be located in the skies around the cliffs, but did have my first Swallow of the year. I decided to amble along the chalet/buckthorn area towards Holme to relocate the black redstarts seen yesterday. On route I passed a couple of birders who had already 'done' the chalets and found nothing. Grey horrible skies still, no sun. Big movements of chaffinches, greenfinches, goldfinches, linnets and meadow pipits, but sorry didn't count them! No sign of the black redstarts or any wheatears either, which surprised me, especially as I almost reached Holme main beach gap - this area along here is almost guaranteed a wheatear. A barn owl was seen and a reed bunting sitting on buckthorn and a few goldfinches sitting about, but not alot else.

Made my way back up the cliffs - talk about perfect timing - as I reached the lighthouse area, two birders were standing to my right - the second I stopped next to them, one of them picked up the Alpine Swift above the roof tops (9.30am) - it made its way over the narrow belt of pines and I last saw it over the A149 by the very sharp corner in the road in Old Hunstanton. The skies were still dull and the views were no where near as good at the Holme one I had and photographed in 2008, BUT I shouldn't grumble as several birders dipped out, as they had been in the chalet area looking for black redstarts. I stayed on the cliffs chatting to a couple of birders about the old days, as you do and the skies brightened up - blue skies and sunshine! so I stayed longer in hope the swift would return for my camera, but alas it didn't and my blackcurrent jam roll beckoned! Walked back to car and enjoyed jam roll and coffee.

Old Hunstanton Church Yard - Beautiful weather now - the churchyard looked lovely with lots of primroses and daffodils out and birds zipping about all over the place. I have seen grey wagtails here before on the church roof, but not today. 3 Pied wagtails on the church roof. Several blackbirds and at least 3 Chiffchaffs flitting about fly catching. Long tailed tits collected nesting material, great and blue tits in the hawthorn hedge. 2 Jays by 'Park House'. Note: Old Hunstanton Park which is owned by the Le Strange Arms Estate is adjacent to the church and can be visited by the public on Thursday's only if anyone is interested - I have seen some good birds in there in the past including Spotted Flycatchers, pied flys and Common Buzzards, nuthatches etc.

Holme Reserves - Parked on the right just before the Firs road entrance and had a sandwich and 40 winks. 'Rocked' down the Firs road in the car - the pot holes are almost as bad as they were when I was a teenager!!! In fact it felt like I was on the The Good Shepherd!!! Parked half way down by the 5-bar gate and walked to the NWT Forestry. The flat area to right of board walk had a good number of meadow pipits feeding, along with a lovely female Wheatear. A Swallow flew through and there were several goldfinches in the elders. Continued through the Forestry area hoping to see a Ring Ouzel maybe but no luck, BUT as I almost reached the last track an owl appeared from what appeared to be the sea side of the dunes - a beautiful Short eared Owl!!!!! 1.30pm, which I photographed as well!!! The SEO veered off right as if going towards the Firs Road - on further investigation it had completely vanished and no one else saw it but me (smug face!) Walked back to car and watched the wheatear again on route and drove down to the NOA carpark.

Walked up to the bird observatory - real sun trap here - felt like summer, lovely. Had a chat with Jed and Sophie who hadn't really had very much today. New seat on the main bank in memory of Ian Burrows. Scrub clearance being going on and another pond adjoining the existing one in front of obs. Walked across to the beach where it was now high tide, but no birds of note. Two young ladies in bikinis who were swimming/sunbathing on beach obviously thought it was summer - they must have been freezing! Made my way back along the beach and through the pines, passing the back of the NWT entrance track and over the dunes towards the NOA carpark. The narrow path which follows the buckthorn area opp. the carpark has a small area cut out/set back - I stood here and squeaked my Audobon birdcall and after a few seconds a stunning male Firecrest appeared, flitting about amongst the lime green branches in the sunshine!!!!!!! 3.44pm. Annoyingly though I was not able to photograph it - I sat for ages in hope it would come out again, but it retreated further into the buckthorn. A couple of red legged partridge emerged from the road side by the carpark.

Drove back down the road and stopped by the pay hut to stand on the Hunn Bridge to watch 4 Chiffchaffs flitting about.

Redwell Marsh Reserve - 2 Water Voles following each other across the river (left side of bridge to hide). From the hide: loads of noisy Black headed gulls pairing up, a Ruddy Duck ducking and diving, shoveler, tufted ducks, two Little Grebes, mallards, Shelducks and Canada Geese and Greylags on the far bank.

4 Pied Wagtails in the one of the last piece of grass/garden at end of Firs Road.

Hunstanton Cliffs again 6.10pm - No sign of the Alpine Swift, but a beautiful sunset.

Fish 'n' chip shop - Hunstanton - collected chips for parents and I - mother cooking fried eggs..... Drove to Holme and after the twisty bend (just before the crossroads) just after the "Holme" sign with a 30 underneath was a lovely policeman with a speedgun (b*stard - sorry but I want to add a whole string of nasty swear words here!!!!!) who 'got me' with his speed gun - how dare he!!! AND in MY village - I am fuming - ok, ok I know I was obviously doing more than 30 as I went over the hill, but I am always doing 30 by the time I get to the crossroads where the 'flashing 30' is - how bl**dy frustrating!!!!! Crap end to the day.

Migrants arriving!!!!!

Very frustrating being at work with Alpine
Swifts, black redstarts, black kite etc etc arriving in Norfolk!?

Sandwiches packed and will be leaving the house early in the morning - hopefully will be lucky enough to see the Alpine Swift!!?

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Birding at Cley

Day's holiday and decided to go to Cley - have not been birding up this end of the coast for ages.

Beautiful sunny day until rain at 3.30pm.

Tawny Owl calling in the wood by Little Thornage Ford.

Walsey Hills - my goodness the landscape has certainly changed!!!! I like the new steps, but I don't like the stripped hillside!!!! it looks very barren. Cettis Warbler and 2 Chiffchaffs singing here, but not alot else apart from hedge sparrows and chaffinches by the feeders. The dug out pond that was created last year still remains waterless. Toads mating on the bottom path. No sign of any Adders yet.

Was going to walk the East Bank, but changed my mind and instead parked at Coastguards where I had a chat with local birders and then walked up to North Hide - several meadow pipits flitting about. Not too much from the hide apart from avocet, shoveler, gadwall, redshank, few brents etc.

Whilst photographing a turnstone by the 'seawatching' shelter back at Coastguards 'Dave' (with black labrador) shouted across 'can you ID that Penny?' to which I replied with a very unlady-like V-sign. Whilst Dave and a couple of other birders were discussing Walsey Hills a Wheatear flew over the ridge by the Blakeney Point information board.

Drove to the NWT centre to have a look round and had a very welcome reception from Pat which was very sweet. Bought a cheese scone and sat in the car to eat it along with cup of tea and then 40 winks! Went back to the centre to buy chocolate - oh dear diet slipped again!!! Raining now.

Friary Hills - felt very tired now, could not be bothered to get out of the car, dull, rainy weather - did some car birding and watched several goldfinches and very bright greenfinches flitting about in the hawthorns. Josh had a quick chat with me before heading off towards Friary Hills - no doubt he saw something exciting, which will serve me right for being lazy!

Had chips at Wells - diet blown now so might as well finish the day off with more high calerie food! Masses of Brent Geese flew into the channel - never seen so many!

Just after the Mill at Burnham Over Staithe I watched 3 Marsh Harriers together in the semi dusk.

Saturday 20 March 2010

Out birding at last!!!

Rain and sun all afternoon, but it was lovely to be out again - have not been birding very much over the last few weeks - have been in a very low mood. Soooooo glad I am not year listing this year with the price of petrol as it is!!!

Hunstanton Cliff Top - 19 Turnstones feeding with starlings and black headed gulls.

Field east of the A149 between Old Hunstanton and Holme 17 Curlews, 31 Lapwings and at least 127 Golden Plovers.

Parked the car at Holme by the public toilet block and walked west along the outskirts of the golf course towards the beach huts at Old Hunstanton and had my first Wheatear of the year at 1.50pm along with 1 male and 2 Female Stonechats. The area I was walking has been a public footpath for as long as I can remember, but now apparently it says 'Private land' and the path has been diverted along the dune ridge - well I WILL continue walking along my usual path unless someone physically stops me!!!!! There is a rumour that the golf course is going to be extended over this area which would be terrible as this valley between the current fence line of the golf course and the dunes is very rich in plant life and birds etc etc.

Holme Marsh Reserve - Pair of Bullfinch flew across the path to the first hide (still with holes in roof - been like this for over 3 months now). From the first hide tufted duck and mallards. Walked to hide 2 and had my first Sand Martin at 3.40pm and another 3 Sand Martins later on at 4pm with another couple who had joined me in the hide - also several coot here. Tried to imagine a Penduline Tit on the bull rushes - lovely thought.

Titchwell RSPB - As soon as I got out of the car in the first carpark I saw a Chiffchaff (4.30pm) flitting about in the trees by the information hut! A few people were looking for the Firecrest. I walked along the path to the shop and had lovely views of a Woodcock standing on a bright green mossy log through the trees on the right. Found out from someone else that the Chiffchaff had been seen yesterday aswell. A Wheatear had also been seen on the grazing marsh at Titchwell. On the way back to the carpark I had brilliant views of the Firecrest flitting about until it poured with rain - dived into the car and waited for rain to stop and I continued watching the Firecrest until 5.15pm and obtained a very bad record picture!

Sunday 7 March 2010

Beautiful sunny day

At work all day but have Monday booked off as holiday, so hope to go birding tomorrow.

Saturday 6 March 2010

Who's Bad Music at the Corn Exchange, King's Lynn

Awesome night - brilliant performers - it was like watching Michael in concert again. I was third row from the front, centre and of course in full MJ attire!!! See Their energy, spirit, passion and dedication was second to no other than the KING himself. Got my flyer, ticket and poster signed by them after the show and photo with them as well!!!!

Sapphire ill

On returning home from work on Thursday I discovered Sapphire (my cat) was most definately not her normal self: listless, disinterested etc -took her to vets and an anti biotic injection was given in hope that it was just a water infection and to bring her back if still not well in 24 hours. I was very upset as I love my cat VERY much and yes she is getting old (she will be 14 in July) but I adore her and she is my only companion at home - lost my dear Tiger (also a Persian) 3 years ago which devastated me and it will be hell to have to go through it all again. Sapphire will be my last cat as I can't take the emotion of losing them.

Anyway I was massively relieved to see that Sapphire seemed her old self the next day!

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Michael Jackson tribute band this Friday!!!

Looking forward to this Friday when I dress in full MJ attire to go to watch 'The ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute band - Who's Bad from the USA - 8 UK tour dates only, starting with King's Lynn this week!!!!! See: