Sunday 2 February 2014

Third time lucky with GY Shorelarks

So with January over and the 'foot-it' challenge done until next year, this morning it was back to a more normal routine. This meant checking the web to see what was around and then deciding what to go for. I hadn't gotten the camera out since Christmas so I was keen to take some photos. The weather was bang on for that this morning, good winter sunshine, dry and only a little wind. I had seen regular reports on RBA of the two Shorelarks at Great Yarmouth and although I had tried twice without success for these pair, the 'gen' seemed a little bit more specific this time, so I elected for third time lucky.
I arrived at the appointed spot around 9.30am, 50 meters along the beach, north of the Imperial Hotel. However, it seemed like it would be like the previous two occasions once more. I chatted to three other birders who had been searching without luck for about an hour, when a walker alerted us to the presence of the two birds just in front of her. Although the person was not a birder, she seemed to know what they were when her dog flushed them!!  This time I didn't complain. We all got good views as the birds fed about one hundred meters in front of us. In time they came close but not enough for decent shots. For no apparent reason they took flight, they passed over my head and disappeared once more into the small sand dunes a little closer to the Britannia pier.
While I had the chance, I returned to the car to drop off my tripod and retrieve a bean-bag and frying pan. I felt this approach might work a little better if I wanted close shots. Fortunately I managed to relocate the pair quite rapidly and this time I found that the frying pan technique worked really well. If you don't know what this means, it involves placing the bean-bag into an old frying pan, sitting the camera and lens on top of the bean-bag, lying on your belly on the sand and pushing the whole lot along in front of you. The birds don't see it as a human shape and tend to allow closer access.

Shorelark, Great Yarmouth Beach, Norfolk - 2nd February 2014
This is only the second time I've seen this species. I could see them a hundred times more and I still wouldn't grow tired of them. What belting birds they are.
Happy enough with my shots, once the birds moved off, I got up and headed back to the car.
I decided to head back towards Norwich via Strumpshaw fen, but en route I checked for the Common Cranes between Acle bridge and Billocksby, but had no joy there.
At Strumpshaw fen, the feeders near the first hide were busy but no Bramblings or Marsh Tit were present oddly enough.
However, along the woodland trail they have located a feeding station on two old tree stumps. A couple of Nuthatches and several Marsh Tits (along with many more commoner species), were coming in to feed and presenting some decent photographic opportunities. I didn't give it that long there but will come back soon to try for some more Nuthatch shots.

Nuthatch, Strumpshaw fen RSPB, Norfolk - 2nd February 2014
I checked the fen hide briefly but needed to call time on my birding as Ireland versus Scotland beckoned!

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