Monday, 18 November 2013

Be careful.....

Another early start, this time to south Norfolk rather than north. Had a very optimistic plan which if it came off would have got me 5 year ticks all within a few miles of each other. Weather wasn't great, misty, drizzly, cold bot workable.
First stop was Caister for a rose-coloured starling. Directions were "beach road car park" and I got there about 8. Only problem was all the starlings, about 200 or so, not in the car park but on the roofs of the terraced houses behind it. Hence being careful - bloke with binoculars staring up at peoples roofs just as they are throwing back the bedroom curtains!! I tried to lurk around corners which probably made me even more suspicious. I certainly got some strange looks from ladies in a hairdressers and  man with a dog. The bird itself was quite easy to find - like a starling only with a very light rose-coloured breast. Would have given quite good photos but I didn't want to push my luck and point large lenses at ladies bedroom windows!! Nice bird, only my second ever so a good start.
After that I nipped along the coast to Winterton dunes where a Lapland bunting was reported. These are like a rarer cousin of our much commoner reed bunting and lurk around in sand dunes in winter. When I got there it was a very large area of dunes though and only me and one other birder around. Unless it flew over we didn't stand a chance. I gave it an hour but no luck so I cut my losses and moved on to Great Yarmouth.
Here, shore larks (or horned larks to some) have been on the beach by the pier for a week or so in some numbers. This time I was luckier - got pretty much straight onto the birds. They were reasonably confiding allowing me to get quite close for photos. Unfortunately it was almost dark, despite it being 11am, and raining. Hence the photos are a bit grainy as I was up to ISO2500!!

After this my luck changed. The next stop was Hamilton Dock in Lowestoft for a glaucous gull which had been shoeing well and coming to bread over the weekend. The weather was getting slowly worse, cold and misty/ drizzly. The dock is where he few remaining fishing boats dock to unload their catch, hence why it is popular with gulls  I had an Icelandic there 2 years ago). Over the next 3 hours me and a succession of about 5 other blokes (and even one lady!!) studied every blasted juvenile gull. We used up 2 loaves of bread and two of my cheese sandwiches but no show. Must have moved on over night. There was good number of turnstones and about 7 purple sandpipers on the rocks nearby and a couple of rock pipits kept us entertained. The highlight was a smooth hound swimming around below us. We figured it must have come off a fishing boat (thrown back for being too small?). For scale, it was about a foot long.

My last stop was only two miles away at Munton. On the way I checked out the Links road car park, which can be good for gulls, but it only yielded two med gulls in addition to the normal suspects. At Munton, firecrests were reported in the church.  Think very like our much commoner goldcrest but with a very marked balcn and white eye-stripe and more colouration on the head/ neck.This was nice, old building with lots of yews and hollies in the graveyard. As soon as I got out the car I could hear them calling, so I fired up the ipad and tormented them with a continuous burst of song. They all responded quite well and as with the shorelarks would have given me some half decent photos if it wasn't almost pitch black and I was up to ISO 3200 now!! They do show most of the features you need to look out for if you are comparing against goldcrest though. Still, a good if long day. Three of my target birds bagged taking me to 224 for the year.