Tuesday 2 July 2013

Starts, Shanks and Jars

With Polina away for a few weeks I had some free time last weekend. I took it easy on Friday evening and was up in good time to watch the 2nd test between Australia and the Lions on Saturday morning. The Wallabies spoiled the party a little and its all down to the last match this Saturday in Sydney. With the rugby out of the way by lunchtime, I pulled together a packed lunch and decided to head birding for the rest of the day.
I returned to East Wretham Heath to see how the Redstart situation was looking. Earlier on in the month there were a least two if not three male birds singing in the same general area and I had brief views of a female. This time there was no singing but I did have views from the path of both a male and female bird collecting food and bringing it somewhere. So the signs are that one pair has breed at least and are feeding young. Both birds were very busy and difficult to see well even though the male is obviously very striking. I watched them for a while and took a couple of record shots from the path before deciding it was best to move on. When I look at some of the stunning shots on BirdGuides of male Redstarts taken in Powys and other spots in Wales, I wonder how they are able to manage. I'm guessing you'd need a hide and a liberal amount of meal worms to start with.

Male Common Redstart, East Wretham Heath, Norfolk - June 2013
Female Common Redstart, East Wretham Heath, Norfolk - June 2013
With still a little time on my hands I headed over to the far side of Norwich to Strumpshaw fen. I wanted to try for the Swallowtail butterflys but the weather clouded over and the winds picked up. There was no sign at the garden so I wandered back to the hide at reception where I had distant views of Cuckoo and Common Tern.
Sunday afternoon, Nick and I headed for Cley to see if there was any early wader passage. From after 5pm the light was behind the hides and we enjoyed about two hours of nice light before departing. It's early yet but there were about seven Ruff, one summer plumaged Spotted Redshank, twenty or so Black-tailed Godwits and several Little Ringed Plover (including one juvenile bird).

Little Ringed Plover, Cley, Norfolk - June 2013

Ruff, Cley, Norfolk - June 2013
Several summer plumaged Common Redshanks entertained us by posing on the fence posts.

Common Redshank, Cley, Norfolk - June 2013
There were plenty of Avocets around although less chicks than a few weeks ago, possibly because now they are starting to look more like adults (?) or because the local Marsh Harriers are doing a job. I don't know which but every time a Marsh Harrier came near the scrape, all hell would break loose and the poor bird would be chased and harried away by the Avocets.

Hitching a ride - an Avocet hassles a local Marsh Harrier at Cley.

Marsh Harrier is seen off the premises by six angry Avocets
A quieter moment - taken from the same hide at Cley in early June

Sunday evening - an Avocet feeds in front of the hide at Cley
On the way back from Cley to Norwich I discussed suitable spots for Nightjars with Nick. He suggested Kelling Heath or Holt Country Park.
So, yesterday evening after work, with very little breeze and a warm evening I headed back up that direction around 8.45pm to look for Nightjars.
I didn't have exact details, but managed to locate a likely looking area near Holt Country Park. I parked up, gathered my gear together and set off on foot. I reached an area of open heath with short trees and gorse bushes. I scanned across the area and could see another birder about five hundred yards on the opposite side of the heath scanning too, so I figured I was in the right area. Seconds later a stunning male European Nightjar came into view hawking moths as glided over the tops of the gorse. The time was about 9.40pm, the light was still reasonable and although the bird was about one hundred yards away it was still possible to see some detail on its plumage such as the white feathers at the base of the outer primaries and on the outer tail feathers. They really stood out in the gloom. It wasn't alone and across the heath a couple more had started churring. On a still night the sound really carried. It was way too dark for photos but I did make the following recording of a bird churring as I scanned across the heath. Sorry for all the movement in the movie but hopefully, if you turn the sound up on your PC, you'll get a feel for how things were.

Sound of churring Nightjar

Bitten alive by midges and very satisfied with my views, I left the area at around 10.10pm and drove back to Norwich. This evening its dull and windy so I think I made the right call to go yesterday.

Dusk near Holt, Norfolk

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