This evening at Holme
Dawn 'til Dusk!
Its a long time since I got out of the house that early – I managed to get to Holme by 4.30am! Parked by the scrub/buckthorn near the 5-bar gate along the Firs Road. There was only one other car here and I think these might have been the three birders I met last night, who said they were going to kip in the car. It started to rain heavily, so I opted to snooze for a while. Reclined the seat back and closed my eyes. It was lovely being in the car and listening to the rain on the windows. At 5am a Turtle Dove was purring right next to my car – but I couldn't see it and decided not to get out of the car as it would have flown. I snuggled up again under my coat and with my feather pillow! The rain continued, then a short break and then it persistently carried on. The next thing I knew it was 7am!!! Oh dear! I had had more than a snooze! I was cross with myself for falling asleep, got out of the car and had a coffee and marmelade sandwich to wake myself up.
This morning – centre of picture at the back!
Knot flying off east towards Titchwell this morning
Knot flying off east towards Titchwell this morning
Made my way across the beach – several birders were walking back. There were only two people watching the Great Knot when I arrived on the beach. Fabulous views, but still no good for SLR photography. A few more birders turned up. I noticed the channel was filling pretty quickly this morning, which bascially cuts you off if you're not on the ball! Everyone left and relocated to the other side of the channel. I stood here alone. As the tide swept around the Knot flock, they ran towards me, another wave and another mass run and so on. I kept looking behind me and realised I hadn't got long left before I also needed to move. I started to get excited as the flock were getting closer and closer to me and the Great Knot was now less obscured – still a bit too far for my camera though. I looked behind me again and was alarmed to see the water from the channel and sea were now one and I was now on an island of sand!!! It was incredibly frustrating, that I now had to quickly turn and go, when the flock was getting closer and closer to me. But I had to move – I turned round and made my way through the water and ended up with partially wet socks. When I reached a safe area of sand, I turned just in time to see the entire flock get up from their sandy island, which had almost disappeared and managed to get some shots of the entire flock as they headed strongly east towards Titchwell.
I continued to walk along the beach east – it was beautiful now and the sun was out. I could only see one dog with owner on the beach, which is rare at this time of the year. I could see a couple of Ringed Plovers on the beach and Little Terns were flying past. I headed south over the dunes to Post 10 – this was the tenth section of my father's nature trail, that doesn't exist now and is by the big area of bushes/scrub by the coastal path, that overlooks the broad water – there is a new seat here now. I then walked west along the footpath and down to Holme Bird Observatory. As I descended down the wire covered ramp, I went flying – literally! I landed in an awkward position and on my right knee. You know when you fall and you daren't move for a moment! Sophie (warden) rushed out to my aid and I started to laugh. I don't know why I did – you feel silly don't you! I knew I had scraped my knee, but I was more concerned about my very dodgy left ankle (had no end of accidents with this) – but I soon realised I had saved the ankle, but when I inspected my knee, it was deeply grazed and bleeding, but I could walk, so wasn't too bad. Sat in the observatory to recover and had a good catch up with Sophie.
Andy Brown turned up and we all went to look at the moth traps. There was a fabulous Privet Hawk Moth in the trap, but I wasn't much help to them, as I'm very rusty with my moth ID nowadays – I used to be pretty good as a youngster, as I helped father with two moth traps every morning. From the NOA website: "In the moth traps a good catch of 58 species included Willow and Mottled Beauty, Shoulder-striped Wainscot, Shore Wainscot, Campion, Common Emerald, a female Ghost Swift, and a Privet Hawk Moth." The flowers and grasses on the short turf in front of the observatory were fabulous, with Viper's Bugloss adorned with Small Skippers, Common Blues and bees etc. I walked back via The Firs House and popped in the shop for a nose, but wasn't tempted by anything. There were children playing football on the short turf by the big sycamore tree – this would never have been allowed years ago – this area of turf is excellent feeding ground for many birds – how things have changed.
Walked back to my car via the NWT Forestry and bumped into Mat S. who kindly pointed out where a Turtle Dove was. I stalked it carefully and did see it, but only obtained a rubbish picture, as it was distant and half hidden in a bush. Mat had also seen an Arctic Skua close in shore this morning – very nice. Lovely orchids in the long grasses, which were a delight to see. Back at my car, I got rid of some layers and cleaned up my knee properly with sterile wipes from my first aid kit. I then headed to my Mother's house – I tried to persuade her to go to Titchwell with me, but she didn't feel up to it – in fact, neither did I to be honest – I was shattered. Ate a ploughman's roll and then went for another snooze on father's bed with the cat again (as yesterday!). I planned to to return to Gore Point for another round with the Great Knot later this afternoon.
After my snooze I headed back to Gore Point again. There were lots of cars already parked by the 5-bar gate by the time I got there, so obviously people hoped the Great Knot would return again, as it did last night. The lady in the NWT pay hut told me that someone leaving, had seen the Great Knot on the beach again. Nothing on my pager yet. Headed out to the beach to find a good number of birders out there scanning the mussel beds and rock pools and were watching the Great Knot, but no one had put news out, so I did. There was a heat haze and viewing was not ideal from where I was standing. Several birders had walked west and closer to the water's edge with the sun behind them for clearer viewing. I decided to stay put in hope that the Great Knot flew towards me!
Birders watching the Great Knot at Holme
Later on, people started to leave and then the Knot flock dispersed and headed a long way east. Apart from a couple of bait diggers, I was the only one left! I headed east to search for the Great Knot – this was an ideal opportunity – it had to be here somewhere. As I scanned with the scope, I could see several small flocks and one massive flock of Knot distantly, just past the line of groynes which is nearly opposite the Firs House. I kept walking and continued to check and re-check all the smaller flocks, before heading to the large flock feeding amongst the seaweed covered rocks. I felt excited as I got closer and closer – I just knew it was here. Suddenly, I found it! I was so pleased my efforts had paid off. I looked round and one couple were on the beach and heading my way. The tide was coming in fast now. It was quite windy and my phone-scoped video I took was very shakey. The couple I had seen earlier, joined me and were readers of my blog – lovely to meet you both. The rock pools were disappearing and the knot were being pushed off quite quickly. The Great Knot was not far away from me at all now, it was so exciting. I quickly walked away to put my scope and camera bag higher up on the beach and returned with only my camera and bins.
This evening at Holme
What happened next was just incredible. Having been moved off from the tide, the Great Knot along with Knot flew towards me and landed on a small sea weed covered area to continue feeding – it was now only approximately 50 yards away! As I stood here, reeling off picture after picture, I could feel the sea had surrounded me, but I didn't care. I remained here, photographing this awesome bird until the tide covered its feeding area and then flew off – I continued shooting as it took off and flew west along the shore. I just knew I had just got my dream shots and I felt elated to say the least. I was in water up to my knees and I had to walk extremely carefully back to the shore – with camera in hand, it could have gone badly wrong, had I slipped for the second time today, but I was lucky! Very lucky! I almost wanted to have a little dance once I reached the sand, on realising what I had just witnessed! I chatted excitedly with the couple I had just met and we walked west a little way to join a handful of birders that had suddenly appeared. The Great Knot had not flown away, but was still walking along the water's edge, along with other Knot, much to the joy of the birders watching. Shortly after this, the entire flock headed west a long way along the beach, beyond where they were earlier this evening.
This evening at Holme
It started to rain as I headed back to my car, but then I was already dripping wet from knees downwards, so it didn't really make much difference! Went back to my mother's, to show her my pictures and then headed home. Spent a long time washing my walking boots – it will take a long time to dry them out I think. What a day!