Tuesday, 26 January 2016

December 2015

December 2015

Sunday 6 December 2015Docking, Brancaster and Snettisham, Norfolk

We drove west around the back of Burnham Market checking fields and hedges. A flock of Dark-bellied Brent's held nothing out of the ordinary and a few Common Buzzard were seen. Just before Docking we turned towards Brancaster Staithe and soon found a field full of Pink-footed Geese, 2,500 or so. I checked them carefully as others arrived from other fields but found nothing odd among them. 

Next stop was Brancaster Harbour where the Red-necked Grebe showed well briefly in the channel. We changed position but the bird vanished. 

We drove on to Snettisham and walked south through the fishing pools and along the beach. The tide was rising and huge numbers of Knot and other waders were concentrated on the last exposed mud. Every now and then the whole flock would take flight murmurating across the mudflats. A female Goldeneye flew along the pits. 

At the southern end of the RSPB reserve a small group of birders was gathered. We watched and waited seeing at least 2 Barn Owl, 5 Marsh Harrier, a Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhaw, 2 ringtail Hen Harrier and a Peregrine successfully hunting waders before eventually the juvenile male Pallid Harrier flew out of the saltMarsh and over the sea wall. Another too brief sighting. As we walked back flocks of Pink-footed Geese came flying in to roost totalling easily 10,000 birds; the damp air filled with cackling and honking. Awesome place and wonderful spectacles.

Sunday 13 December 2015Blakeney Point, Norfolk

After a full days decorating on a very wet and windy Saturday the forecast for Sunday was calm, cloudy with some possible early brightness. Finally our chance to do the Grey Seal colony on Blakeney Point. We got up early and arrived at sunrise, 08:01. We walked up the point on the shingle as the tide was high - hard going but beautifully peaceful in the still early morning air. Several flocks of Brent Geese flew towards Cley and a couple of Red-throated Diver flew past over the calm seas. 

The first Seal, a huge male, was hauled out before Halfway House. It allowed a really close approach and me to test out the camera settings. A second male lay stretched out on the beach and barely turned an eye as we walked close. Further along we encountered the first mother and pup before we reached the area before the fence, which was alive with seals including several pups including a new born. 

We spent some time photographing these beasts and watching the activity around the edge of the colony. Then it was the long walk back, along the beach. A couple more Red-throated Diver and a very dark headed argentatus Herring Gull. A flock of 200 Pink-footed Geese flew in to Blakeney freshmarsh as we arrived back. 

Mist rising off the beach
Later we drove over to Snettisham, parked just after 12:30 and walked out towards the RSPB reserve. As we reached the bank across the pools by the chalets two Waxwing were sitting in a close bush, calling constantly. A nice and unexpected treat. 


As we watched them the juvenile male Pallid Harrier suddenly appeared hunting around the reedy corner of the northern pool. Nice views in flight and perched. A male Peregrine chased Knot over the mud. The Waxwings took flight and headed strongly south, lost to view over the southern pit. The harrier flew south and I decided to follow. We stopped in Shore Hide for some lunch and to sit out a shower, before continuing to the salt marsh area at the southern end of the reserve. A Spoonbill was sleeping out on the salt marsh and soon took flight. Several Little Egrets and Marsh Harriers were seen. 

The Pallid Harrier perches in a bush
Almost immediately the Pallid Harrier reappeared dropping briefly into the long grass where it's pale collar was still evident. It soon flew up onto a nearby bush where it sat in full view for over 40 minutes. Eventually it flew and began hunting, almost immediately catching a small wader, possibly a Snipe, In the marsh. However a female Marsh Harrier saw the action and moved in, quickly flushing the smaller raptor from its prey and getting an easy meal. The Pallid flew towards and over the sea wall hoping to secure a quieter meal. We returned to the car as the drizzle worsened happy with the views.

19 December 2015Dungeness, Kent

I spent a day at Dungeness catching up on some of the interesting wintering birds. The beach produced two superb 1st winter Caspian Gulls, which both allowed an approach for some photos. The first, in the main lighthouse roost, showed a distinctive pale tip to its bill. 

The second bird was the very tame bird that had been frequenting the fishing boats. It allowed ridiculously close approach and some more images. 

I spent some time on the RSPB reserve where the resident Long-eared Owl was showing well behind the dipping pool, two redhead Smew showed well and a Kingfisher and Water Rail gave great views in front of the hide. A Great White Egret was roosting on the new excavations near Christmas Dell hide.

Roosting Long-eared Owl
Water Rail

I stopped on the return for more looks at the Long-eared Owl. As I turned to leave a Great White Egret flew over Burrowes Pit, turned and flew directly over my head.

Great White Egret