Monday, 29 November 2010

Sadness tinged with relief.

After a long, long wait the expected notification came earlier this evening when a phone call confirmed that PJB, one of my three younger brothers, had passed away peacefully and hopefully painlessly in hospital.

Over the past 4 months, his son, my parents and brothers have all waited more in hope, than expectation, that there might be some slim chance that PJB would regain some measure of cognitive response but in my heart I knew this was very unlikely.

Although resigned to the probable outcome the finality of this event may take some time for us all to accept.

What I am sure of is that this is a blessed relief for PJB as much as it is for those close to him.

Sweet dreams my dear brother ..... Remembered in fondness and never to be forgotten.   FAB

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Norfolk - More from Cley.

Continuing on from my previous post Norfolk Review (Part 2) Cley NWT. Tony and I followed the East Bank scanning either side for any new sightings.
 Greylag Geese feeding on the grazing marsh with Brent Geese and Wigeon in the distance.
 Little Egret gently creating ripples as it hunted for its prey.

 Black-tailed Godwit.


Two migrant species to look out for at this time of year are Shore Lark and Snow Buntings that often frequent the shingle seawall defences and we were not to be disappointed.
One of four Shore (Horned) Lark flitting about on the shingle.  (Regretfully I only managed a distant  record shot, heavily cropped, in very harsh sunlight!)

Both Tony and I did get to find at least 5 Snow Buntings but they were constantly feeding and hidden by a mound of vegetation so regretfully no pictures on this occasion so we trudged onwards across the pebbles to meet up with our other halves who were waiting at the beach car park.

 Pied Wagtail

During our walk back inland we added Canada Geese, Reed Bunting, Stonechat and Kestrel to the day list. As we we prepared to cross the road back to the car park I spotted a Barn Owl floating over the reeds.
I took this quick shot as it disappeared into the distance not expecting it to return, but I was wrong ... a few minutes later it returned and this time I was slightly better prepared to capture the following shots as the light began to fade.
What a glorious finale to an excellent few hours birding around the NWT reserve at Cley before heading off to Holkham to watch the Pink-footed Geese fly out to their night time roost.   FAB.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Norfolk Review (Part 2) Cley NWT

On day 2 of our Norfolk trip we headed along the coast to the Cley NWT Reserve. Whilst we had good light in the late morning most of the wildlife including LittleGrebe, Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Ruff, Mallard, Gadwall, Pintail, Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Wigeon and Marsh Harrier were too distant for the camera but I managed a few shots of those that came closer to the hide. 

 Male Teal showing off its breeding colours.


 Lapwing feeling the breeze from behind!

Common Snipe appeared briefly before promptly disappearing into the waterside vegetation.

Just after we left the hide a number of Dunlin dropped down onto the muddy margins of a small reed fringed pool so I had to stand on the highest grass tussock to get a view between the reeds as they probed for a meal.
Then it was time for them to have a wash and preen to get rid of all that sticky mud.

We then trudged off around the extensive reed beds towards the East Bank and the beach to see what else was in store.                                     To be continued ...........FAB.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Cold and Grey at Papercourt.

A much colder day today, so with the added protection of a thermal layer, I headed over to Papercourt. As usual the main inhabitants on the sailing lake were countless Coots, numerous Tufted Ducks, Mallard, one female Wigeon, four male Pochard, a Little Grebe doing its usual disappearing act every few seconds, the occassional fly past by a Cormorant, Black-headed Gulls, Moorhen and quite a few Mute Swans.
The only species that came close enough for the lens was this juvenile Mute Swan enjoying a wash and brush up.

I met a lady birder who was visiting this location for the first time so after a brief discusion on what we had both seen so far we joined forces and headed off across the fields towards the Tannery. Our sightings were somewhat sporadic but Robin, Dunnock, Crow, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Nuthatch, Song Thrush, Green Woodpeckers, plus lots of Blackbirds and Jays were noted. From the bridge over the Wey Navigation we added Mallard, Pied Wagtail, a single Fieldfare, Goldfinches, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and a few Siskins.
Along the towpath my companion spotted a Treecreeper. The lighting conditions, even under the depleted leaf canopy, were atrocious so I pumped the ISO up to 1600 and blasted off a few frames ... not the sharpest but in the left-hand image you can just make out the legs splayed out sideways with its claws attached to the bark to assist its movement upwards.

At Papercourt Lock we added a single Lapwing on the grazing marsh. A Wren called as it flitted between the pollared willows; a small party of House Sparrows dipped in and out of the hedgerow and a group of Parakeets called noisily from their distant perches. Not the ideal day for photography but a pleasant stroll in good company ...... thanks Shirley.    FAB. 

Berry Raiders.

During a late morning stroll at Epsom Common yesterday I didn't see much avian activity apart from a single Grey Heron on the main pond, the usual noisy Jays, Magpies and Crows. Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Wren and a Dunnock also made brief appearances. There were lots of Blackbirds around and I could hear the distant call of a Redwing so I wandered in the hope of maybe capturing an image of one feeding BUT was actually greeted by six Grey Squirrels enjoying a feast on the Hawthorn stocks.   
For once their need to consume this ready made larder was more important and they paid little attention to my presence. I did eventually catch up with a few Redwing but not with the camera this time.

With little else to keep me occupied I headed over to Headley Common in search of the large Redpoll flock that has been present for a few days. By pure chance I headed in the right direction and intially found around 16 Lesser Redpoll feeding in the top of a birch together with one Mealy (another addition to the year list). Over the following hour I watched numerous small flocks (a total of about 80 birds) flitting high overhead but rarely perching long enough or low enough to enable a detailed view through the lens. 
These birds weren't as obliging as the Squirrels so the best I could do was to point the 70-300 lens at specks feeding around 80 feet overhead. Original image is heavily cropped.  FAB.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Duplicate Dunlin.

During our recent trip to Norfolk I was fortunate, at long last, to get a reasonably close shot of a Dunlin (Calidris alpina) plus the added bonus of its own reflection as it rested briefly in a reed fringed pool.  

For more Watery Wednesday images, please click this link.  

I have also submitted this post for a new meme World Bird Wednesday hosted by Springman over at
Pine River Review so please check it out and join in the fun.    FAB. 

Monday, 22 November 2010

A Very Grey Day.

As the morning slipped by the light was not really conducive for photography but undaunted I drove to Riverside Country Park for a stroll along the towpath and this was the scene that greeted me ... dull and overcast.
 However it wasn't all a lost cause as there was some wildlife to test the camera and the 'watcher' ....
 Egyptian Goose.
 Grey Heron hoping the reeds would hide him from any prey.
Tinkling sounds very high above in the waterside Alders alerted me to a flock of 20+ Goldfinches feeding together with a few Siskins who regretfully alluded the lens.
 A Jay also perched high above only permitted an undercarriage shot!
Four Little Grebes were seen on the river and tested my patience to get some reasonable shots as they constanty dived underwater leaving me to guess where they would resurface.
Other species seen were Canada Geese (40), Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Green Woodpecker, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Blackbird, Wren, Coot, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Teal, Shoveller (20), Black-headed Gulls, Magpie, Woodpigeon, Crow, Starling, Mute Swans and Pied Wagtails.
  Robin Redbreast is also hoping that the weather improves very soon.   FAB. 

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Norfolk Review (Part 1).

For those who may have wondered about my recent blogging absence I can assure you that all is well in the Early Birder household. A mixture of family commitments, poor weather and hence a lack of photo opportunities plus a great deal of laziness on my part (early winter blues maybe!) led me to take an break from posting so regularly.

A week ago we travelled to the North Norfolk Coast to spend three days birdwatching with two of our closest friends. We initially meet up at Welney WWT and spent a cosy hour watching the wildlife from the heated observatory with masses of Wigeon, Teal, Pochard and Lapwings; a few Whooper Swans plus  distant views of 2 Marsh Harriers, Pintail, Shovellers and Black-tailed Godwits. Kestrel and Peregrine were also observed but regretfully no sign of the Glossy Ibis that had been present for a few days which had probably relocated somewhere nearby after everything was flushed earlier in the day by the Peregrine.   
Continuing our journey we headed to the Titchwell RSPB reserve and as usual the first encounter was a very friendly Robin waiting for a handout along the pathway to the reserve centre. 
The new Parrinder Hide is still under construction (completion due by the end of this month hopefully). Apart from Avocet, Lapwing, a few Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank and Ruff plus a single Snipe there were very few waders to be found on the main pools. I did however locate a single Spotted Redshank on a tiny pool on the grazing marsh together with Little Egret and Curlew. A flock of Golden Plover flew over but didn't stop for a rest. During a subsequent visit we did locate a single Smew (Red-head) and a sizeable flock of Twite. With just an hour of daylight left we headed towards the beach.     
 Brent Geese flying off towards Thornham.
 Black-headed Gull.
 Herring Gull lazing about on the brackish lagoon.
A quick scan across the sea produced a number of small flotillas of Common Scoter a long way offshore. Along the retreating tideline we watched Oystercatchers, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwits, Turnstones and Dunlin feeding but too far away for any photos.
Just before we decided to head inland I did manage to capture a couple of images of Sanderling feeding hide up on the sandy beach.
I actually walked nearly a 100 yards to get ahead of a small group as they stopped briefly to search for a meal but every time I settled down to take aim their little legs went into overdrive as they skitted on past me!

The final highlight after logging 7 Marsh Harriers coming into roost was the gathering waves of Starlings wheeling back and forth over the reedbed; the numbers growing minute by minute until eventually they all dropped out of the sky and disappeared into their night-time home.
With the light fading fast and the temperature dropping to nearly freezing point we headed back to the cars for the short journey to our local hotel. The forecast for the next day was better than expected so during our tasty evening meal we decided on a visit to Cley ..... to be continued.    FAB.  


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