Wednesday, 29 March 2017

March 29th Strumpshaw Fen

Song Thrush
Overcast and slightly dull this morning with the odd drops of rain, but blue skies and sunlight did promise to open up the thick layer of clouds as the day wore on. Blossom and new leaf growth is now filling up the bare branches of the canopy along the woodland trail. The blackcaps have returned and it was nice to hear them add their voice to the chorus of song thrushes, wrens, chiffchaffs and other woodland birds. I even saw a pair of chiffchaffs by the new pond bringing nesting material into the undergrowth between the pond and the start of the Sandy Wall path. Redwings were also still about today, though they were rather flighty as I passed by.

Chiffchaff with nesting material
Long-tailed Tit
Marsh Harriers sky dancing
The sky dancing of the marsh harriers have intensified this week. I watched from Fen Hide as harrier after harrier performed their aerobatics, calling all the while. I counted at least 5 or 6 of them circling high and low over the reserve, though there could easily be more than I could actually see. Males and females were starting to pair up and the dances were becoming like an aerial version of Strictly (but even better). Rival males were also diving in, trying to break up the dance. The sky became part dance floor and part battlefield with dogfights between males occasionally happening.

Chinese Water Deer
Chinese water deer were another reoccurring feature of this morning for me. At Fen Hide, I was watching one feeding in the open clearings between sections of reed beds (as well as watching the harriers), when I heard some splashing close to the hide as if something large was wading around in the water. I looked down and there was a second deer walking past just a few metres from the hide. I made a burst of short bird-like whistles to get its attention for a few photos. It did the trick as it looked back towards me. It's teddy-bear-like eyes stared right into my own before slowly moving into a thick section of reed bed. At Reception Hide, I saw yet another deer feeding in the clearing at the back of the broad. This one was minding its own business when a marsh harrier made a dive at it talons out. It was like a bit of a surprise for the deer, but it continued to graze as if unfazed by it at all.
Jack Snipe
Apart from that incident with the harrier and the deer, it was pretty quiet from Reception Hide. Yes, the jack snipe was in front of the hide as usual as well as a common snipe. Sure, I love the challenge of finding these birds and I can't deny, the bobbing movements amuse me, however, I feel like these little guys are never going to leave anytime soon. At least this jack snipe was very showy and did something I've never seen one do before; swim! It was a very quick swimmer too as I missed out on getting a photo as I was slow on reaching for the camera!
Common Snipe

Also about today were greylags, mute swans, a few pochards, teal, shovelers, gadwall and mallards, a couple of passing shelducks, a dozen or so black-headed gulls, reed buntings, a pied wagtail and I could hear bearded tits pinging somewhere close by. There was also an amusing moment when a pheasant almost walked inside the hide to join us. It took two steps inside the doorway before it saw me sitting on a bench a tier above it and decided it wasn't worth it and left. It would've been the strangest visitor I'd ever greeted that's for sure.

Pied Wagtail
Reed Bunting
Mute Swan

Monday, 27 March 2017

March 27th Titchwell

This morning, Mum and I travelled to Cley for our monthly visit. However, we weren't there for very long. It was a bit foggy and from what we could see from the visitor centre, not a lot out on the pools. So after a bacon butty, we decided to drive all the way along the north Norfolk coastline to Titchwell. A red-flanked bluetail had been reported there over the weekend and I was considering going in the first place. The only reason I decided to go to Cley was because my history with so called 'mega birds' like red-flanked bluetails is full of frustration and disappointment. I didn't want history to repeat itself. But as Cley seemed like a waste of time, our decision to find this mega was final.

Red-flanked Bluetail watching!
Once we arrived at Titchwell, we found out that the bird was still around somewhere along the meadow trail (which is more of a woodland if you asked me). Of course, we weren't the only ones looking for it (another reason why I wanted to avoid this reserve originally). A large crowd lined up the whole length of the trail and around the pond at the other end. Plenty of eyes to help me find it, though the bird had other ideas and was nowhere to be seen. No bluetail, but at least there were chiffchaffs, Cetti's warblers, long-tailed tits and robins to keep us occupied while waiting for it to hopefully turn up.

The crowd continues further beyond this path too!
Goat Willow Catkin

Bearded Tit
After a lunch break, I had another quick scan, but still no sign. A walk along the Sea Wall trail was a lot more productive and satisfying. A flock of bearded tits kept us entertained as I tried my best to keep up with them as I attempted to get some shots of them. This was not an easy task to do as they were moving to quick for me. My struggle just amused everyone around me, including my mum. I had so many directions given to me of each individual bird's whereabouts at once whenever one pops out from within the reeds. Gradually, I managed to get the hang of things and I eventually got some good photos of them.

From the hides overlooking the pools, we saw avocets, knots, ruffs, brent geese, oystercatchers, redshanks, shelducks, a curlew, teal, shovelers, gadwalls, Canada geese, greylag geese, mallards, herring gulls and black-headed gulls.

Brent Goose
Oystercatcher with a muddy bill
Knot and Teal
We were making our way back from the hides, when a volunteer told us that he had been informed via his radio that the bluetail was now showing well at the pond at the other end of the meadow trail. I made my way over there as fast as I could walk and when I got there... it was gone again! The crowd around the pond was massive than it was earlier. Some of them told me they saw it just five minutes ago and that it was still around, though deep within some willow trees. We waited with the crowd for about 5-10 more minutes before it finally showed up and I had a few good views of it between its movements from branch to branch.

What a bird! You can clearly see that blue tail and the orange-red patches on it's flanks that give the bird its name. It looks very robin-like but more exotic. This is a species that breeds in Siberia and winters in South-east Asia, though occasionally the odd one flies in the wrong direction and ends up here in the UK now and then. Just a couple of years ago, I tried to locate the one that appeared at Wells Woods, but it was not a successful search and it actually made me feel like I should never twitch for mega birds ever again. So to see this one here has put a smile on my face and I can finally put those memories of two years ago behind me.