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Sunday 31 October 2010


at 9.10am in grey skies!

Twitching at it's best, excellent company and mega birds!!!
Spent the last 24 hours with 3 British Birders, 2 American Birds and scored twice!!!


Around midday on Saturday whilst out birding at Gun Hill, Andy Wilkinson sent me a text saying '1 place left in car 4 2nite, ring ...... to book!' Andy Wilkinson, Justin Lansdell and Chris Baker were going to Cornwall to see the American Bittern and Green Heron. After a rubbish week with work this was just what I needed to do, something completely crazy - or as Connor put it when I told him, 'Penny you are insane'. But as Justin mused later on 'I bet Connor would have also said 'is there room in the boot for me'!!!!

Got to my house just before 7pm on Saturday evening after dropping my sister Vivien off at the train station. Re-did flasks, made sandwiches, had a shower and left my house at 8.30pm

Arrived Andy's house at 9.30pm (as requested). I have got a terrible reputation (I don't know why!) for being late, so after parking up in Andy's drive I phoned him to say 'really sorry I am going to be about half an hour late' he immediately fell for it and started to say 'you're joking......' I replied 'yep I am outside your drive'. We then went to pick up Justin and Chris and left Norwich at 10.30pm. Stopped at a service station on route and eventually arrived at Truewey Common at Zennor, Cornwall at 5.15am (new time). Excellent driving etc from both Andy and Justin, they ought to start up their own Birding Tour Company!

There were a few other cars there already waiting for dawn, to see the American Bittern. On getting out of the car for air, we soon got back in - it was freezing cold with a howling wind, our surroundings felt like we were on a bleak moor!!! We snoozed for quite a while and then I highlighted that birders were walking past with scopes in the now semi-dusk, so we got ourselves together and joined others to stand and wait for the bittern to show. There were about 220 birders all lined up and waiting (I had actually counted everyone when I got bored!). We waited and waited. Got very bored and very, very cold and very hungry - no one had even thought of bringing food from the car as we just presumed we would see the bird fairly soon. Whilst waiting we saw a few flocks of golden plover, 4 long tailed tits, 2 goldcrests, a stonechat and a fly over lapland bunting (L.B. Justin only). We waited in the cold and grey, rain threatning skies for 4 hours!!!! The crowd was perfectly behaved and incredibly quiet, generally. Cows that had been grazing in the far field had moved closer and proceeded to go through the gorse bushes which were just behind the reed/pond area where the bird had been flying out from roost each morning. Jokes were cracked about naming and shaming each cow on for flushing the bird - people were losing the plot now, after standing here all this time! Everyone was really despondent and fed up. I don't agree with flushing birds at all, BUT...... suddenly a man did lose the plot and walked in a relaxed manner into the field amongst the cows and by the gorse bushes, the American Bittern immediately flew up and flew left (see picture) at 9.10am and the whole crowd cheered and clapped the man. Rubbish light and grey skies for photography! Yes I know birds shouldn't be flushed, BUT this bird had not been seen since early afternoon(ish) of the previous day, so its not as if it hadn't been allowed to feed etc - it had in fact been feeding for 4 hours this morning right in front of us, as we all stood there hungry!!! As someone else said - walking into that field was no different to a crow getting up from the road when you go past in the car. The man that walked in was also silent, he didn't make any pishing noises or sudden moves as I watched him the whole time. The crowd was now relaxed, smiling and chatting happily! The bird re-located to the small pine tree copse, but couldn't be seen. Had a lovely surpise when I bumped into Cornish birder Mark Warren who I first met on Fair Isle in 2005 when he was an Assistant Warden there. This year he was telling me, he was an AW on North Ronaldsay. The skies had brightened up and the sun was now out. Just as we were about to leave, Justin very excitedly said he could see the bittern perched up in the trees and although he gave a detailed description of where it was, I very frustratingly (as several people couldn't) could not see it - it then as he put it 'moved left out of sight' - that was soooo annoying as had I got on it - that potentially would have been the best photograph on the web!!!!!! Photographed 'Zena Quoit' which could be viewed in the distance from where our car was parked (see picture).

Waiting for the American Bittern to show.

Birders - at Truewey Common, Zennor - American Bittern.

American Bittern

Zena Quoit.

Lanyon Quoit.

Can't remember what time we left, but it was nice to see the scenery in day light! We stopped to see and take a picture of 'Lanyon Quoit'. Also saw a Common Buzzard on route. Saw St Michael's Mount by the bay at Penzance.

Continued our journey to the Lost Gardens of Heligan at Pentewan, St. Austell to search for the Green Heron. Approaching the village of Pentewan, the skies opened and it poured with rain for the rest of our time here. Paid our £10 to get into the gardens and proceeded through the gardens and down some seriously steep paths, deeper and deeper down into the Jungle Garden with the most beautiful pond and scenery I have ever seen! This pond was where the Green Heron was. On arrival the words ' it was right in front of the hide by the lily pads only 10 minutes ago' did not go down well at all! The hide was very small and only seated about 6 people max. At least 3 of the people in the hide had been sitting in there ALL day and didn't go out of the hide to allow others to sit in there, which I thought was a bit mean. We had good views of the Green Heron eventually at 1.15pm but it was far too distant at the back of the very large pond for my camera lens and combined with lashing rain, which doesn't really mix with over two and half grand's worth of camera gear, I very sadly only got seriously naff photos. It skulked along the pond edges looking incredibly well camoflaged most of the time against the autumnal vegetation or sat motionless behind overhanging branches. We also watched it catching a few fish. Even though it was pouring with rain, the whole scene here was so beautiful and combined with a magical Green Heron (my first) it was torture to leave. My closest shot was a complete behind view down a bank just before we had to leave. We also saw a kingfisher whilst here as well. The thought of walking back up all those very steep paths and in the pouring rain was a horrible thought, but brilliantly the lads had worked out a much quicker, flatter return journey to the Visitor Reception and carpark! Photographed a fantastic display of pumpkins, fruits etc in the reception centre. The Gardens were breath-taking and I will have to return, to look round properly - the jungle garden where the green heron was unbelievably stunning! The free map and brochure I picked up said it takes 2 days at least to explore the whole place - I could easily spend a week there!

The Lost Gardens of Heligan.

The Green Heron 'Pond' in the Jungle part of the gardens.


The Lost Gardens of Heligan.

Stunning video of the Green Heron by John Chapple on 30th October.

Harvest displays in the Visitor Reception.

We all piled into the car, completely soaked. My hair was dripping wet as I had got so hot walking round I couldn't put up with having my hoody/rain hood over my head. We left at 3.30pm.

On route back we stopped at Tewkesbury to buy chips etc and ate these in the car and continued home, arriving back in Norwich at 11.30pm. Andy and Justin had done a fantastic job of driving and getting us all home safely - THANK YOU. I left in my car for another hour's journey to get back to King's Lynn - this hour was extremely difficult and I had to sing badly with the window open and arrived home at 12.18am.

Saturday 30 October 2010

A potentially exciting day!!!!

Pink footed Geese, in off the sea.

Little Egret, Burnham Overy Dunes.

Very, very, short post as going out this evening - very rare for me!!!!! (this actually mean't going on a MEGA twitch, not a date!!!) See next post!

Went to Burnham Overy Dunes and walked all around Gun Hill area. Saw a distant view of one of the Rough legged Buzzards. Watched an oversized mistle thrush bomb out of bush near gun hill back across the marsh towards where the buzzards were - it wasn't a mistle thrush - god knows what it was!!!

Almost back to the car - I kindly receive two phone calls about an ALBATROSS sp. that has been seen by Nigel Mears and John fox at Salthouse going west. Raced to car and to Titchwell and stood with John Furse, Eddie Myers and others excitedly waiting, but sadly and very disappointingly no sign, but did see red breasted merganser, gannets, loads of starlings going west and lots of brents coming in.

Plan of the new Hide Complex at Titchwell RSPB
(in the same place as Parrinder hide)

Twitchers: a Very British Obsession


Monday 01 November
9:00pm -

This wry film follows competitive bird watchers chasing new ticks on their lists. The governor is Lee Evans (not the comic) who is also birding's policeman. "It's like putting Dracula in charge of the National Blood Transfusion Service," comments a rival. It's a small world. There's been an attempt to stop Mya-Rose Craig legitimately listing 310 birds for the year. She goes with her mum and dad. He's obsessive; she's fixated and Mya is, well, seven. But for every new tick on the list, the motorway mileage increases. Entertaining and revealing, the film deserves a tick, too.

Radio Times reviewer - Geoff Ellis

VIDEO Plus+: 8707555

Subtitled, Widescreen

Directed by: Lucy Leveugle

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Spectacular, Lucky Morning!

Waxwings, just leaving, too quick for me to capture them on camera properly!

Well I achieved what I wanted this morning - I jammed in on 8 Waxwings at Holme and photographed them!

Arrived at Holme and parked by the toilet block opposite the village carpark at just before 9am and watched 8 Waxwings fly over our heads at 9.15am (Ray Roche and his wife and also HBO AW) and land in the tallest poplar tree behind the toilet block - they landed briefly and took off almost immediately giving me time to take a picture - BUT it was one of the most naff pictures I have ever taken!!! Basically I took rubbish shots as the last 3 waxwings were taking off! But I was so lucky to have seen them and so quickly. I only had a hour and a half before I had to leave! Beautiful sunny day today and I very much would have liked to carry on birding! Walked all round by the public footpath behind the caravan site, adjacent to the River Hun bridge to find more waxwings, but no luck. Good movement of birds noted this morning though including several large flocks of starlings going west. Walked across the village carpark and had spectacular views of 4 Bullfinches flying over my head in the sunshine. Also several greenfinches about and blackbirds.

Mistle Thrush in 'Beach House' Garden, Holme.

Goldfinch on wires, Holme.

Little Egret, Holme.

A Goosander was re-located on the pools on the Saltings over the ridge next to the 5-bar gate, half way down the Firs Road at 10.30am. A birder earlier on had told me he had seen a goosander here.

Goosander on the Saltings, Holme.

Walked around the NWT Forestry area but no sign of any more bluetails or anything else exciting!

Ended up leaving at 11am which was really pushing things as I had to be on the ward at 12pm. The traffic was diabolical going back to King's Lynn and temporary traffic lights near to my house didn't help either!

Arty Farty stuff by me!

Green Woodpecker by Penny Clarke 1982.

A coloured pencil drawing on a card I created for someone on 31st October 1982, aged 17 and when I had just started Great Yarmouth College of Art and Design!

Just took this picture with the iphone, so not exactly sharp and colours look a bit funny!

Waxwing Invasion!

See Hugh Harrop's pictures of Waxwings and recordings!

Loads of Waxwings all over Norfolk. It would be cool if I actually saw some too!!!
Just submitted my possible race of Spotted Flycatcher "Musciapa s neumanni" to Dave and Jacquie Bridges (Norfolk bird recorders).

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Bumper autumn for birds at Blakeney - News - Eastern Daily Press

Bumper autumn for birds at Blakeney - News - Eastern Daily Press

Photographer reveals secret 'unseen' Michael Jackson pics

Hot Bird News and Gossip!

Sorry, forgot to say yesterday, my mother had 25 Waxwings by the Glebe School, Hunstanton yesterday (Monday) morning.

Doing a late shift at work tomorrow (12pm start) so I can go birding in the morning!!!:t::t:

John Furse kindly highlighted the following on:

Lee Evans VERY kindly posted on his blog 25th October: "Top bird photographer Penny Clarke snapped this beauty at Waxham - one of five individuals to reach Norfolk this autumn (see many more images of this bird and other Norfolk Bluetails at Penny's highly enjoyable website)." THANKS LEE! X

Definately don't class myself as a top photographer, but am working on it! Just wish I could do photography full time - now that would be awesome! Need to find myself a sugar daddy to look after me financially, so I can do photography every day, get back to my art and create some masterpieces (went to Art College many, many years ago), write, travel etc............. dreaming again! BUT any sugar daddy's out there will be considered!!!!!!

From the Nar Valley Website:

"Today, Tuesday 26th October 2010, at 8-45am a single Raven just to the north of Flitcham Village, map reference O/S landranger sheet 132 TF 729267, being harrased by Crows and Rooks........"

Garry Bagnell has highlighted on facebook "Tomorrow morning at 7:25am and 8:40am I will talking on Local Radio (BBC Sussex & BBC Surrey) at 104.5 FM about Birdwatching and Twitching."

Also available on iplayer

Also a reminder: Garry is featured on the up and coming documentary "Twitchers A Very British Obsession" for BBC4 on 1st November.
See and to be broadcast on Monday 1st November at 9pm on BBC Four and Tuesday 2nd November at 3am on BBC Four.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Rough-legged Buzzard and loads of Poms!

Rough-legged Buzzard, Warham Greens.

Another late start today!

Had a look around Burnham Thorpe to attempt to find the reported Great Grey Shrike yesterday, but to no avail.

Warham Greens

Parked by the central Warham track (where the recent Pallas's Warbler was) and walked all the way down to the marsh, nothing of note. Photographed the field of ox-eye daisies east of the track on the way down. Walked west to 'The Pit' where all I found were a few redwings, blackbirds and a flock of chaffinches. Just before I walked through the gate to go back up the track I saw a ring tail Hen Harrier at 1.25pm going west across the marsh. Back up the track I decided to walk the other side of the hedge and alongside the ox-eye daisy field - this proved to be a very good move. Suddenly I realised there was a large pale headed bird sitting in the far hedge - OMG it looked like a Rough-legged Buzzard! Scrambled to get dustbin bag off camera which I had tied round, as it had been raining - when I next looked up the bird was flying and hmmm.... this bird was most definately a ring tail Hen Harrier, very odd I thought as the bird I saw had a pale head and I'm sure looked bigger etc - I then realised that the bird I had seen sitting in the hedge was STILL sitting in the hedge and was indeed a Rough-legged Buzzard!!! 1.43pm The Hen harrier had floated across it as I was unwrapping the SLR! WOW!!! In the sunshine, on my own and there I was with stunning views of both a Rough-legged Buzzard and a Hen harrier! Phoned through to RBA and phoned a couple of people as well. The buzzard flew around (see pictures) and then decided to settle amongst the daisies and then took off and relocated the other side of the A149 giving John Furse, myself and other birders, distant views a bit later on.

Rough-legged Buzzard, Warham Greens.

Rough-legged Buzzard and Hen Harrier, Warham.

Ring tail Hen Harrier, Warham.

Ox-eye Daisies, Warham.

Very late lunch of tomato soup and bread. Went to the NWT Cley Visitor Centre, to buy my 2009 Norfolk Bird and Mammal Report which is now out, broke diet and bought a bar of chocolate from Sue (thanks!) and then had a look round Walsey Hills where all I saw was a Sparrowhawk.

Brent Geese feeding alongside Beach Road, Cley.

Cley Coastguards 5.10pm until 6pm

With Eddie Myers and Andy Johnson - 8 Pom Skuas going east at 5.10pm, Kittiwakes going west in batches of 1, 4, 9, and 16+ totalling 30 Kittiwakes in all.

A much better day then yesterday!

More soup and cruise home. - Home of the Daily and Sunday Express | Express Yourself :: Birdwatching: Twitching has taken over our whole lives - Home of the Daily and Sunday Express | Express Yourself :: Birdwatching: Twitching has taken over our whole lives

Saturday 23 October 2010

A very chilled day!

Cormorant on the boating lake, Wells-next-Sea.

A very chilled day indeed, or put another way - a crap day!

How very different from a week ago!

Got up seriously late and had eggs and beans on toast with a cup of tea around 11.30am and didn't leave the house until 1pm!!!

Cruised around the back roads looking for a snow goose. Drove through Amner and found a big flock of grey partridges feeding with loads of collared doves and wood pigeons on the wide grass verges before you reach the village. Found a very distant Common Buzzard sitting in a tree by a field near Fring. Weaved my way around the villages, Sherbourne, Docking, Brancaster and then on to Burnham Overy to park the car in the layby to join John Furse, Eddie Myers and others scoping for the Rough-legged Buzzard over the marshes. First class banter from them both - in fact this was the highlight of the day! The buzzard didn't show in the dismal, rain filled skies. Re-located to Wells woods with John and searched everywhere for a good bird for the day, but sadly in vain. We did have at least 3 treecreepers though, along with two fly over Redpolls (I only heard one though) a few goldcrests flitting about, long tailed, great and coal tit, a blackcap, several blackbirds and hedge sparrows and that was about it, oh and a cormorant on the boating lake by the carpark. There were as many dogs as there were birds!

Eddie Myers and John Furse, Burnham Overy.

Drove to parents. My father had bought mother her first digital camera - god help me! Spent the evening trying to explain how it all worked. I can see several phone calls coming up over the next few days, weeks, months!!!! HELPPPPPP!!!!!
Now watching the Mobo Awards - absolutely brilliant - another late night!

Friday 22 October 2010

Watching a really weird Thriller "The Event" on Channel 4.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Third Red-flanked Bluetail this week!!!!!!!!

Red-flanked Bluetail


Found by Dick Newell

I was soooo lucky to get this shot!
Taken at 6.05pm with Canon 7D and 300mm f4 lens. f4, 5/1, ISO 3200

when almost everyone had gone, it posed briefly for me!
3 more shots below, although this was the sharpest,
which considering the light I was very pleased about!

An AWESOME last day to my holiday!!!!!!!!

Cley Coastguards

Arrived at 7.30am and it was pouring with rain and very cold. When I saw Eddie's car there in the carpark, but no Eddie seawatching, I just knew nothing much was happening on the sea! Spoke to the only birder watching the sea and he had had very little. Could see some common scoter but it all looked lifeless so got back in car. Now lashing down with rain, took picture of a complete rainbow! Still raining, decided to have a snooze, well there's no point in getting unnecessarily wet is there! I sat in the car with my gloves on and I was STILL cold! When the rain stopped I relocated to Walsey Hills.

Sunrise from Cley Coastguards.

Cley Coasthguards at 8.10am.

Walsey Hills NOA

Apart from the usual tits, chaffinches, hedge sparrows etc at bird feeders I only saw a few chiffchaffs and goldcrests in here. No sign of any bramblings today. Chatted to two lovely people who were manning the centre now at weekends - Sundays only at the moment. I told them how I remember climbing down the steps of the hatch into the building before the front of building was dug away and exposed.

Sarbury Hill

Nothing here apart from redwings and blackbirds. Walked from where my car was parked out across the marsh to the shingle bank/beach. Very annoyed as it came up on the RBA website that a Little Auk had been seen off Coastguards - my own fault I should have stuck it out, well I didn't even really try really did I! Then the Grey Phalarope decided to fly east from Salthouse where it had been found earlier - I bet thats gone to Kelling I thought to myself. Feeling really fed up and despondent now, also due to the fact, this was the last day of my holiday. Did have good close views of a little egret (see pic) and a barn owl (see pic) sitting on a post and a grey heron (see pic) though. Message on RBA website: 'Grey Phalarope, Kelling Meadows...'!!!

Little Egret flying over Arnold's Marsh, Cley.

Barn Owl enjoying the sunshine, Cley.

Grey Heron eyeing up his mid morning snack.

Kelling Water Meadows

Had early lunch by the car and then went to Kelling Water Meadows to look at the Grey Phalarope and joined up with Pete Snook and Graham - we all took some tiny distant shots and then I suggested we go to Muckleborough to find our own 'bluetail'.

Grey Phalarope, Kelling Water Meadows.

My very good friends Pete Snook and Graham Reffin.

Muckleborough Hill

We didn't find a 'bluetail' of course BUT Pete heard and then we saw a Yellow-browed Warbler at 2pm - well done Pete! It was about 100 yards along the right hand path from the gate by the main road, on the right hand side - there is a big dead, white coloured tree, behind this is a sloeberry bush and behind this a huge sycamore tree, it was feeding in the lower part of the tree. Graham was especially pleased as this was his third new 'year tick' today - 'Mr Graham' as we affectionately call him is a serious lister! Year lists, county lists, garden lists, telly lists etc etc bless him!!! (He'll kill me for saying this on here, but I might get away with it, hopefully!) As we were leaving 3 birders came to look at the YBW and I pointed them in the right direction (they did re-find it, I found out later, when I saw them at Holme).

Walsey Hills

Decided to have a second look in Walsey Hills with Pete and Graham, when a familiar car with the Acro King (alias Mr John Furse) in, shouted across urgently "Red-flanked Bluetail, Holme!!!!!!!!!" OMG!!!!!!!!

Bye Pete, bye Graham........... Pete and Graham are much more sensible than me and stayed at Walsey - both having seen an RFB before, but I wanted a 4th one! (my first one being the Thorpeness one a few years back).

First for Holme


(my third this week and fourth in all!)

The traffic was absolutely horrendous. For ages I followed 3 cars in front, the front one was crawling along doing 30mph in a 60mph all the bl**dy way, I lost patience and overtook all 3 at Warham!!! The same thing happened again later, ANOTHER 3 cars in front with the front one again crawling along, overtook another 3 cars on the straight bit of road at Titchwell, for goodness sake!!!!!! Crawled along the bumpy Firs road to park to see the bird. At the pay hut an INCREDIBLY annoying person was arguing with Robert W. about paying!!!!!! Its quite simple, if you are an NWT or NOA member you don't have to pay, if you're not YOU DO!!! How bl**dy selfish to hold up loads of others cars and birders quibbling about paying!!! Anyway parked up by the 5-bar gate and walked along with Irene Boston to The NWT Forestry. Loads of people there already and it took me ages before I could see the bird - it was very elusive (saw it around 5.10pm). One of its favourite places I heard, was perched up on some lichen coloured dead trees - I was behind loads of people, some with big hats (take them off!) and I couldn't see even a gap to look through hardly. Eddie M. and Mark G. were there too and Mark picked up Four Shorelark flying over us! Anyway I got crafty later, when the bird flew off to its other favourite bush, everyone left the other favoured spot, so I got myself in there right at the front, tripod and camera set up, I felt happier! - I waited and waited. It did return to somewhere in the bushes in front of me and I felt quite smug sitting there now in front of everyone else instead of at the back! BUT it didn't show, well ok it did briefly for a split nanno of a second on the grass, only spotted by about 2 people and none of the photographers including myself got on it, HOW frustrating! I desperately wanted that bird on my camera. A First for Holme aswell! Anyway, time went on and the bird tormented us all by flying back and forth every now and then but NOT once did it perch up on the lichen covered dead trees which is what my camera was set up for. Light started to go, getting colder and eventually everyone left except for two other ladies and myself. We walked no more than a couple of feet forward from where I had been sitting all that time and I could not believe my luck, out it came to investigate us and perched on a stem right in front of us - camera clicked away on F4 and I got my shot!!!!!! Well one good one (ish) and a few others. It won't win any prizes but I don't think anyone else got any shots, so as Connor said this evening, I may be the only person to get the First for Holme Bluetail (if its gone in the morning). Although I am sure Gary H. and the finder etc has some pictures, I would be surprised if they didn't. Although I phoned RBA to say I was still watching it at 6.05pm and it had probably gone to roost - in fact it hadn't - I continued to watch it flicking about amongst the dead trees until around 6.20pm along with two other birders who had returned for another look! I just couldn't believe my luck that I had actually got a picture - flew round to my parents and showed them the picture - father said 'where's the blue tail' - I explained that I was lucky to get the bird at all, never mind the blue tail!

One of the best holiday's I have had, and all in Norfolk! - clocked up just under 800 miles this week.

Thank you to Dick Newell, VERY, VERY much for making the last day of my holiday very special indeed!

Red-flanked Bluetail