Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Honeys and High Rollers

And the odd Wobbler.

European Roller, Aldbrough, East Yorkshire - 11th June 2012

I just returned from an ace family holiday in East Anglia, which turned into a minor tick-fest. There were three new birds for Britain for me, bookending a great nature-filled holiday with the kids.

On the way down from West Yorkshire to Cambridge we called into the Welbeck Raptor Watchpoint, near Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire. I’ve heard that Honey Buzzards show here in warm weather (it was mild, but overcast, on the day we visited), but even then long waits are required between appearances. I was very lucky, then, to arrive when one was showing, high over the trees in the distance. The same one (probably) showed again a few times over the next 40 minutes.

A second bird showed better for around five minutes, slowly circling higher then moving off to the west, giving me the opportunity to really appreciate its attributes. Rather helpfully, a Common Buzzard joined it for a minute, allowing a direct comparison of structure and flight characteristics. The Honey Buzzard appeared smaller-headed, yet longer necked. It had a large, long, fanned tail, and appeared generally darker below, but with pale “armpits”. The clincher really was the soaring style – flat wings with long, slightly drooping outer primaries.

We spent the spent the first half of the week around the north Norfolk coast, based at The George at Cley. All the hours of fun and work getting my daughter into nature is paying off now she’s 7 year’s old. We went out on to the marshes on one evening and she found an impressive list of birds all by herself, many of which I had to wait years to see! Barn Owl, Little Egret, Avocet, Spoonbill, Marsh Harrier…

Rowan watching a Barn Owl at Cley Marshes

Rowan's impressive list of species at Cley from her notebook

The kids enjoyed so much we went back the next day; but this visit was cut short thanks to my 3-year-old son falling into the sea. No harm done though…

Luke watching Avocets from the East Bank at Cley

Later we went to Titchwell RSPB – a brilliant reserve for kids, families, and hardened twitchers alike. One highlight was a group of Little Gulls roosting with Black-headed Gulls on an island on the freshmarsh close to the path, allowing good comparisons. The kids enjoyed the beach, bringing back razor clam shells and the odd dead starfish, and my daughter found a recently fledged Robin on a twig right by the path – I remember the excitement of being so close to wild birds when I was kid.

I started the next day with a pre-breakfast walk around the marsh beside Cley windmill. The Barn Owl was hunting again, and among the Reed and Sedge Warblers I found a bird looking and sounding suspiciously like a Marsh Warbler. I only saw my first of these the week before, so I’m not claiming the record; but that sighting has made me grill each Acrocephalus more than I would have previously.

Seal watching at Blakeney Point, Norfolk

We went seal watching around Blakeney point, then on to Southwold, Suffolk, for a few days of extreme-weather camping, Before we finally gathered up the shattered tent poles and flailing guy-ropes three days later, we had a great time exploring the coast south of Southwold.

Walberswick Marshes, Suffolk

Drinker Moth Catepillar Philudoria potatoria - Walberwick Marshes

Rowan and I watching Stone Curlews at Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk

Luke starts his minibeast survey at Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk
Luke examines the bumblebee he found

Back to Norfolk for a couple of decent nights sleep in Cromer. Luckily for me someone found a Blyth’s Reed Warbler at Warham Greens on our last afternoon. Excellent. I bribed Mrs Indiebirder with some child-free time as I took the kids on the Poppy Line. This bought me 90 minutes listening and watching the BRW while the kids snoozed with mum in the car.

Anyone fancy waiting for a Blyth's Reed Warbler to show?

As I walked down to the marsh path at Warham Greens, all the birders who were leaving told me how long I’d likely have to wait for a good view – “give it a couple of hours and you might get a glimpse” was the gist of it. But, sometimes, it’s my turn to be a jammy get, and that time was today. The bird showed well soon after I arrived, and luckily I was stood where I could see it well. The views were brief but clear, long enough to see a slim bird moving along an elder branch, with grey/brown uppers (much duller than Reed Warbler and shade paler than Marsh Warbler), a three-quarters supercilium (across the lores and stopping just after the eye), and a slightly flicked-up tail. Result!

That night I was again the designated driver, so my wife could booze. All building up brownie points… I cashed them in the following day as we made our way back home. A quick(?!) two-and-a-hour diversion to see the European Roller at Aldbrough, East Yorkshire. What a corker! No point me describing this, just look at the pictures (loads of better ones on the internet, of course, by proper photographers with proper gear. These are just my lo-res digiscioped efforts with a Samsung NV15 point’n’click).

A great vacation - Norfolk never fails. All this brings my 2012 year list to an unlikely 247 (previous best: 216 in 2011), with some glaring gaps still to be filled in. My British life list is now 316. I wonder what 317 will be...

1 comment:

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