Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Aug 31st Strumpshaw Fen

Glossy Ibis
I was back at Tower Hide this morning (avoiding the walk along the Lackford Run and getting my feet soaked from dewy grass) to see if the glossy ibis was still around. It was and this time it was right in front of the hide. This bird has been here over two weeks now and seems happy enough probing the mud within and surrounding a pile of branches that had been set up as a refuge to attract fish and birds. It was a much clearer view of it than what I had last week, though the sun light was shining at its far side, causing shadowing on the side facing me. I think this is a juvenile bird or an adult out of its breeding plumage. This breeding plumage is what gives the bird its name as when it is at its best, the copper-brown feathers on the wings and neck produce a green and purple sheen. Also at the Tower Hide, I saw plenty of ruffs, a few herons, a couple of snipe and a little egrets.

Common Snipe
Carrion Crow
Black-tailed Skimmer

Great Crested Grebes
Orb-web Spider
Speckled Wood
Common Lizard

At Reception Hide, there were plenty of gadwalls with a few mallards, shovelers and teal on the broad this morning. They still look rather shabby and brown in their eclipse phase plumage with hints of their new breeding, winter colours coming through on some of them. A novice birder would have a hard time identifying each species at this time of year. To add to the mix (and the confusion), the keen-eyed birder would have lots of fun spotting the lone garganey and wigeon hiding amongst them all. The best way to tell them apart while they look the way they do now is to spot key features such as the bill or the speculum (a coloured patch on the wing of a duck, which is blue on a mallard and white on a gadwall).

Wigeon dabbling
Cobber the Black Swan
Cobber and a Grey Heron
Grey Heron
Other highlights at Reception Hide include a few sightings of kingfishers and bearded tits, but they weren't as photogenic this week. A hobby made a few swoops over the tree line and the reed beds at the back of the broad and I had one single sighting of a marsh harrier which attempted to catch a teal but failed.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Aug 29th Cley

This morning, I was searching for a wryneck that was reported at Weybourne with Mum. However, I was not lucky enough to see it. This was mainly due to a lack of directions to the bird's whereabouts and then I suffered a bit as nature called suddenly and unexpectedly when we eventually got to the location. Having a sudden case of the runs while out in the dunes on a busy bank holiday was not something I was expecting to experience. I only just managed to hold it in as we drove to a cafĂ© we liked at Kelling in time to use their toilet.
House Sparrow
Common Darter
Small Tortoiseshell

View from our first hide at Cley
Thankfully, I was feeling a little better after lunch and we decided to drive to Cley instead of going back to look for the wryneck again. We ended up having a better afternoon here than we had expected, This was surprising because when we first entered our first hide, the pools and islands seemed very dry and lacking in birdlife. But as we waited a while and scanned the landscape over and over, we started to see more and more things. Ruff, shelducks, eclipsed-phased ducks, godwits and lapwings were the obvious as they continued to feed in the mud out in the open. In the reed beds at the other side of the pools, a little egret, a grey heron and more of the same waders and wildfowl became noticeable. Then a marsh harrier flew over and made some of the wading birds to take to the air.
Black-tailed Godwit
Marsh Harrier

I then started to notice that there were curlews out on the far right of the pool, about five or six of them. These large waders with long curved bills were making their way closer to our hide, providing some good views of them at one point. We were enjoying these birds alone, just the two of us, mother and son, when suddenly the hide started to fill up with people and together, we found a few more species including a distant greenshank and a not so distant snipe. The snipe was so close, that it was only a few metres from the hide and had eluded us until a pair of amateur birders pointed it out. It was there for some time, having a drink from the ditch bordering the front of the hide before having a preening session.

Common Snipe
Grey Heron

We then moved on to the next hide, the middle one of the three at the centre of the reserve. The greenshank had also moved location as it was now at a different pool that was more visible from this hide. We watched it feeding along an island at the far side of the pool before flying to the front of the island closest to our hide, sheltering amongst a patch of long grass with only its head poking out of it now and then. As I waited for it to emerge into view, I was distracted by the call of an approaching kingfisher and I then saw it land on a post in the ditch metres from our hide. I pointed it out to Mum and we ended up watching both the kingfisher and the hiding spot of the greenshank.

Stock Dove

The kingfisher sat on the post for quite some time, occasionally launching into the water to grab a fish to eat. Its was successful after every four or five failed dives, bringing it back to the post to stun it against it and to swallow it after a bit of juggling into position with the bill. As it was so close, I could see every detail of it, including a patch of orange under the bill, which tells me it is a female. This patch is a very useful way to identify the sex of this species of bird. Its like a patch of lipstick that only females possess. A snipe then flew over her and scared her off, only to return minutes later. She became a bit flighty after that and kept flying around the hides and land back on to one of the three posts that were conveniently placed outside the hides for her to land on.

Look how close she was!!
We watching the kingfisher for so long that it was nearing time to head for home. However, as we were about to leave the hide, the greenshank came out from hiding and gave me the chance to get some better, much closer shots of it with my camera. It is a rather beautiful bird when you see it this close up and well worth the wait for the perfect shot. Leaving the hide behind and nearing the visitor centre, we made one last scan across the horizon. A marsh harrier was soaring above the pools joined by a sparrowhawk, which mobbed the harrier as waders and wildfowl launch themselves into the air in panic of the two predators. A fitting end to an eventful day.