Sunday, April 10, 2005

A more serious workout & two more serious species

A more ambitious ride todayto Hickling Broad, I left home at 0730 and covered the 28 miles in an hour and half, (its funny how you never realise the wind was behind you until you cycle back with it straight in your face!). I knew this ride would be a good test for my knee which seemed to have almost recovered.

The target species was Red-Crested Pochard, with a careful examination of the area for Common Crane, and the hope of maybe Common Tern and a few other migrants.

On arriving at Stubb Mill I was delighted as within minutes Common Crane was on the list; a single and a pair were visible on the ground and far easier than I had anticipated. Jacky joined me and we took the NWT boat trip (“ran by an electric battery, which is charged via green energy from the local wind turbines” I was assured by the staff, and on this basis I felt within the rules – Simon?). Within 5 minutes I had located a pair of Red-Crested Pochard, that did actually behave like real wild birds, moving off with Tuftys and Pochard as soon as we headed towards them.

We saw lots of other nice stuff & stacks of Marsh Harriers, probably 20 individuals, but new migrants were still thin on the ground. En route home we tried the Greyhound Pub at Hickling, a pint of Adnams hit the spot, along with excellent food served within 15 minutes of ordering. This turned out to be more worthwhile than a speculative stop at Barton Broad, can anyone tell me if there is a decent viewing area for this Broad?

On arrival home the muscles were aching, but my knee was still okay – just a little stiffness, which was to be expected with 60 miles (97KM) on the clock, but the list moves on to 166.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Local knowledge ensures Willow Tit succumbs, and spring migrants continue to drip into Norfolk.

A reasonable early start, out at 0720 - my initial destination Hempton Marsh. A birding mate, Gary Elton had breeding Willow Tit in 2004, and sees Willow Tit fairly regularly in the area . The first interesting bird of the morning was a Grey Wagtail at Foulsham, not usually present here in April, I will pass this way regularly and vowed to myself to check to see if this could be a 5th pair of Grey Wagtails within a 10 mile radius of our house! The next surprise was as I stopped off en-route at Bintree Mill, having just checked the flood pool for Garganey – I was heading off when the fast quiet drumming from an alder above my head had me throwing the bike on the ground. A few seconds later, the distinctive pee- peeing call and then a superb male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker hopped into view, shame it was already on the NMYL, nut very nice all the same.

As I headed up through Sennowe, I added the first new bird Blackcap. At least 2 birds were heard singing and I didn’t bother to dismount, conscious of time. En route I had very nice views of
3 different Barn Owls.

I arrived at Gary’s at around 0830 and we headed down to Hempton Marsh, after an hour we had had some nice birds; Marsh Harrier, Willow Warbler, Grey Partridge, Blackcap, Bullfinch and a false alarm Marsh Tit. Also noted the first real flight of butterflies with, Small Tortoishell, Peacock, Comma & Holly Blue noted.

We were just discussing going to the adjacent Sculthorpe fen, when 2 Willow Tits appeared, brief views initially confirmed a pale wing panel, but a few seconds later the important and diagnostic “zaa, zaa, zaa” call. Brilliant, at last, this was my fourth attempt for these - thanks Gary.

I left for the coast at 1045, it was a scenic ride through Walsingham and Wighton and I arrived in Wells at 1135, where I grabbed food and some anti-inflammatory for the knee, which was standing up well and at this stage was feeling fine. I then went to Stiffkey pools on the south side of the road. These pools are rarely watched properly by birders as there is no where to park, on the bike it’s easy just wheel off down the path. The pools looked superb, and I vowed to myself to find a Garganey. Lots of birds to scan through 200 Teal, 30 Pintail, 50 Wigeon,50 Shoveler 6 Avocet, 50 Black-tailed Godwit but NO Garganey. The pager informed me a Crane was heading west along the coastlline I headed off to Stiffkey Fen, a good vantage point off the seawall, despite scanning I must have missed the Crane but scored with an adult and first summer Little Gull, both gracefully skimming over the water.

I then spent an hour at Blakeney freshmarsh firstly in the hope of Garganey and for the Short-eared Owl that has constantly eluded me, it continues to elude me!

I headed for Cley, and walked down the East Bank with Adam Rowlands. Arnolds Marsh produced the expected Sandwich Terns and steady searching also produced an overdue Greenshank. A quick look on the sea produced nothing!

It was time to head for home, at 40 miles or so the left knee was grumbling very slightly but nothing to painful, the nice easy ride through the day seemed to have paid dividends. I arrived home at 630PM, pleased with a good haul of birds and confident that my knee is well on the way to recovery.

50 miles and the list hit162 (For the sharp-eyed readers, I have made an adjustment to my list which had resulted in the loss of 1 species, therefore my total is now one less with 5 additions today).