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Saturday, 1 September 2012

Holme Bird Observatory 50 Year Celebration!

I arrived at my parent's house early and tried to entice my father to come with me to H.B.O, but for a start he didn't look very well when I first arrived and seemed confused. I haven't really said on my blog, why father was taken ill back in April, but I now feel that maybe I should say, as I don't want people thinking that he should have been there today, without understanding the situation. My father suffered a Stroke on 13th April and very, very sadly it affected his cognition, his way of thinking, doing, speech, eyesight, well everything really. Also as is typical with stroke when someone is aphasic, he finds it difficult to name things. You see the object, you know what it is, but you can't say the name – as we call it at work 'word finding difficulties'. He wasn't your typical 85 year old at all pre stroke – he kept himself very active, busy doing things, writing, photographing etc, but can't do those things now. He was very determined initially and stubbonly went to the town on the bus with his one stick, when he should have been using a more stable walking aid, which the Stroke Community Team advised him to use. His speech has improved alot to how it was, but finds it difficult to hold a conversation. Recently his eye sight has decreased to the point where he knows that he is not safe to go out on his own now. I know I don't need to justify why my father didn't attend the 50 year celebration, but he simply isn't well enough to cope with lots of people in that situation. From my work on a stroke unit I find that stroke patients cannot tolerate more than a few people, when they are trying to speak or mobilise, depending on what type of stroke they have had. I really tried hard to get father to come with me, which really I shouldn't have, but I very selfishly wanted him to be there.

Anyway, mother decided she definately wanted to attend, but insisted on cycling down to the HBO seperately. Incidentally, anyone that doesn't know my mother, she is fiercely independent! My mother was almost as important a figure as my father when he was at the observatory. In fact thinking about it, she was as important, she was part of the team. Part of a team that dedicated their lives to H.B.O. She led a tough life bringing up three daughters, with a husband that worked 7 days a week and no car! I can remember clearly her walking with the silver-cross pram, with my youngest sister Vivien in the pram, Lucy sitting on the front edge of the pram and me walking alongside to Hunstanton to do grocery shopping on a regularly basis! When she considered me older enough to look after my little sisters, she cycled to the town several times a week to get groceries, which she still does today! She was and still is an excellent birder - she wasn't just the wife of a warden! She spent all the time that she could at the observatory, as we did as children. She had her first nature article published in 'The Times' at age 18, long before she met my father! I found her article via 'The Times' in a library once - don't know if I would be able to find it on the net, I will have to investigate this and link here if I can. I also worked as Assistant Warden along side my father in my teens which I am sure some of you will remember – I had a 'C' ringing permit up until I left home! Anyway I am waffling now!

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Arrived at the NOA carpark at about 8.30am. It was drizzling with rain - that isn't what they forecast! I walked up to the observatory in the rain with a tin of Roses chocolates, a small contribution for Sophie et al. Sophie and team had done an excellent job of erecting marquees and all kind of things. There was a display board with old newspaper cuttings from the past. Hot and cold drinks were on offer and nibbles etc. Raffle and second-hand books for sale. I was fascinated looking through the books as there were lots of old NOA reports here and also old Norfolk Bird & Mammal Reports. I found an 1976 NOA Report with a picture of me in - aged 11, I am sitting on a seat by the obs. wearing a furry hooded coat feeding 'Fred' the mallard as I affectionally called him - he came daily for bread! I have this report already (got the whole set), but bought it again along with several old Norfolk Bird & Mammal Reports which I don't have including one from 1962! Ray Roche and his wife were displaying/selling some of their son David's artworks who has developed into a brilliant artist (watercolour and pencil). The moth traps were opened at 11am but I missed the main start of this as I was birding round the back of the obs. I spent a long time round the pine trees behind obs as I discovered that after the rain stopped (just after 9ish) the place was dripping with goldcrests - I estimated there were at least 50+ along with at least 4 chiffchaffs, a common whitethroat, a few robins, 2 great tits, 2 blue tits, a coal tit (ringed), hedge sparrow, a party of 9 long tailed tits. It was buzzing - I felt quite excited, there had got to be something good here! I kept looking and felt very positive I was going to find a good bird to add to the celebrations! I didn't! I reported back to Connor about all the goldcrests etc. Anyway I crossed over to the NOA carpark seeing a green woodpecker on route. 13 Snipe flew west over the carpark. I walked a short way along the path to the NWT hides as this is a good spot for Barred Warbler, but none appeared! Went back to my car and spent ages trying to eat a banana (sore tooth). Bumped into a few people in the carpark. Rob Gordon was on carparking duties along with someone else. Walked back to the observatory and shortly after this my mother appeared with a pile of books she had donated to be sold along with biscuits etc. Connor kindly took a rare picture of mother and I together. 5 Greenshanks flew over west. My mother excitedly found a Volucella Zonaria (Hoverfly) on the plants around the pond – she sees this hoverfly regularly in her garden, but they were extremely rare in Norfolk until fairly recently. I think my mother would have liked to have stayed longer, but she was worried about leaving father too long. I left the same time as mother to go home to see if I could persuade father again. I had my lunch with them - well I had soup and mashed potato, couldn't tolerate anything else. Father quite simply didn't feel able to go. The telephone rang, it was Connor 'they have caught a BARRED WARBLER and they are releasing it in 10 minutes' - BOTHER! I knew there was something good there today, fabulous for the whole day and I am really pleased they caught that Barred Warbler, but incredibly annoying that I missed it!

I returned to the observatory to join several people standing looking for the Barred Warbler, but I didn't see it. A few people did catch a glimpse of it though I heard. I took a picture of Sophie and Gary (Warden and Assistant Warden). Later on I walked to the NWT Forestry to find nothing more than a couple of whitethroats on route. The pines that had held all the goldcrests earlier were now motionless. I passed Dave Holeman and his wife late afternoon, who also had been searching for the Barred Warbler in vain.

I spent the rest of my time alone at the observatory and I had the most wonderful evening. The sunset was stunning and the most magical spectacle occurred. Hundreds and hundreds of hirundines filled the air, all hurtling through the skies west - swallows, house martins and sand martins. Some settled on the bramble bushes on the Thornham Bank (now known as the East Bank) momentarily before continuing their journey west. There were so many it was though they were jostling for space to fly through - seriously! A wonderful sight indeed.

As I drove along the Firs Road I had a lovely surprise of a Tawny Owl, who was sitting on a post next to the River Hun, by Sandy Ridge (house) - it then relocated to the copse of trees adjacent to the house.

A wonderful day and congratulations to everyone that organised the event.

Note: Eddie found a Pectoral Sandpiper at Stiffkey Fen today - his second good bird found this week - what will the third be?

Also an Osprey flew west over Choseley Barns and the Suffolk SPANISH SPARROW has been seen again at Languard!!!! So it never left!


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