Sunday 21 July 2013

Decisions, decisions!

I can't decide what to call this blog entry. In the same way yesterday I couldn't decide between Cley or East Wretham??? I pondered over this and having been to Cley twice in the last few weekends I decided on East my later regret.
I wanted to see if the Redstarts had fledged any young, so sometime after lunch time I arrived at East Wretham Heath Reserve. Between the car park and the Langmere Plantation I was treated to a wonderful spectacle as two Hobbys attempted to catch some House Martins. The House Martins survived this time but those Hobbys sure could shift. I'd not seen them hunt Hirundines before, only Dragonflys, obviously the hunting style is completely different and the Hobbys really showed off their flying skills as they pursued the hapless House Martins. Difficult to see against the light but it seemed like one adult bird and one juvenile. On one I could see the russet trousers and some moulted flight feathers and the other was clean and fresh looking. At the same time I got speaking to another birder, he said that he had seen several Common Redstarts around by the hide and that according to the warden, six pairs had bred this year at the reserve. I don't know how that compares to other years but it sounds like a good number. He also gave me details to find a Little Owl so with that information I headed off to look. His directions were spot on and I had found the bird within a couple of minutes. I'm glad I met the guy as there's no way you'd know the bird was there if you weren't told. The shot below was taken at 700mm and without cropping it you can just about make out the face of a Little Owl poking from the hawthorn.

Uncropped at 700mm - you can just about make out the Little Owl in there.
Here is the same shot cropped.

Little Owl - East Wretham Heath - 20th July2013
So that was another tick for my slowly expanding British list. I only hope this little chap has not dined on too many young Redstarts.
I headed further up the path into the woods to see if I could pick out any Redstarts, I could hear them calling but couldn't see any. Just as I reached a likely spot I got a text from Nick which said "2B Xbill Cley now". 2B Xbill, I had to think for a minute and then I coped on, Two-barred Crossbill! Hells bells! Pity I hadn't gone to Cley. I turned on my heels and I headed back to the car park. I made it to Cley in one hour and ten minutes, going via Watton and Dereham. As I pulled into the car park at Cley the signs looked ominous. I could see groups of birders milling around chatting but no sign of any assembled group out on the reserve. I ambled over to one of the groups and they told me the bird had flown from its original position over an hour ago into the area around the three hides and hadn't been relocated. Birders were out looking but it didn't sound good. They said it had been giving itself up and there would be no need for a long lens. Drat and double drat! Rather than wait in the car park for news I decided to head over to the three hides and have a look myself. If I couldn't find it, at least I could stop in the hides, grab some lunch and see what would be out on the scrapes.
Well, as expected I didn't stumble across the 2B Xbill. From the hide I had Spotted Redshank (two or three), Ruff (numbers up on last week - maybe fifteen plus), a Spoonbill in flight and a Green Sand (which adds to my British list).
En route home I checked Kelling Heath for Turtle Dove and or Dartford Warblers but the sea fog rolled in, the drizzle became persistent and so it was time to call it a day.
It seems like there was a mini-irruption of 2B Xbills into Suffolk and Norfolk yesterday, one is reported from Lynford Arboretum today so I may check that out after work tomorrow.  All is not lost!
Sunday was an even later start but I did want to see the Redstarts at EWH. This time I wasn't distracted by any Hobbys or Little Owls and soon located a male and at least two fledglings feeding amongst the bracken. As you would expect they stayed a little distant for shots, I elected to walk around the reserve in the off chance that I might come across some others which were a little more obliging. It wasn't to be, but it was a fine evening and there were plenty of butterflys hanging around the ferns. Including several Comma butterflys. I've always thought these look like a very interesting insect. One of those "does not occur in Ireland" species. When I was first into birds and butterflys, all the very best species in the field guides always had the moniker  "does not occur in Ireland". I always felt a little cheated by that. I mean all the good stuff, Firecrest, Golden Oriole, Woodpeckers, Redstarts, Commas...........and lots more, do not occur in Ireland! We were left with the ordinary stuff as far as I was concerned! So I'd never seen a Comma and was more than pleased to finally catch up with one. Very handsome indeed.

Comma - East Wretham Heath - 20th July2013
I have totally the wrong lens for shooting Butterflys so please forgive these efforts. I also snapped one of these, I think its a Skipper of some sort, but am not sure so suggestions welcome please!

Skipper spp, - East Wretham Heath - 20th July2013
I did a full circuit and ended up back with the Redstarts. The male was working very hard, finding food for the young 'uns, calling them and dishing it out. He'd sit up on the bracken from time to time but was still a little distant for photos.

Common Redstart - East Wretham Heath - 20th July2013
He may not look quite as pristine as a few weeks ago but I guess that's what raising kids does to you. Nonetheless, in my opinion, is there a more handsome bird than male Common Redstart?

Common Redstart - East Wretham Heath - 20th July2013

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