05/12

.Left the hotel and almost forgot my bins this afternoon, had an inkling this was some sort of sign! So news of a Lesser Yellowlegs in the general area had me scratching my head about where the ‘rocky pool’ and ‘Blakeney Channel’ could be. Decided that the Morston area would be the best bet and as I walked along the mussel beds, it was suddenly immediately obvious what ‘rocky pool’ was being elluded to. No Yellowlegs but absolutely delighted to see that the Spotted Redshank has yet again returned and was as usual giving stunning views. Another decent wader was added when I had a Whimbrel flying along the inside side of the main harbour. The tide was in so shanks were going to be few and far between, but this would mean it would be a good chance to scan for any kind of seabird in the harbour. Got a decent return too with a Great Crested Grebe and a single Guillemot, the later actually a patch tick, since auks flying offshore are generally too distant to ascribe to species.

Another look at the Spotted Redshank on the way back, roosting, with legs tall and close together and looking very stilt-like. What then followed was one of those incredibly lucky encounters that will last forever in the memory. As I slowly pedalled back along the coastal path, I caught sight of an Owl working its way along the bank towards me. I could see that there were two other birders on the bank who had presumably flushed it, hoping it was the now long absent Barn Owl, got it in the bins and could see that there was too much brown on it – great a Short-eared. At the same time slight panic because it was heading straight towards me. Ok, think fast Pom! I dropped my bike and ditched myself belly down on the other side of the bank, occasionally catching glimpses of it as it rose above the bank. I knew if this worked out there would be no need for bins. I slowly inched forward and then it happened, it hadn’t seen me at all and flew virtually within touching distance just the other side of the bank, hovering for a while when it drew level with me, every wonderful streak on its head visible. Over twenty years of birding and this is the best moment with a SEO I have ever had!

I then met up with the other birders and this was nice too, slowly walking back to the village talking about birdy stuff, the images I had just seen still alive in my head.

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Reflections

Ahem, ladies and gentleman can I have your attention, please. Ok, so I guess the discussion on the Western Sand has upped the interest on this blog a little so it may be time to gently introduce some ideas that over the last few years have transformed my thinking and the way I view life.

In a conventional sense I love reality and am constantly reassured by its concreteness. However, it is possible to introduce another perspective on reality which totally compliments the material world.

Perhaps the way we think is reflected in the way we view things with our sensory abilities. For instance, you are peacefully watching a Harbour scene, late afternoon, the sun is setting creating a wonderful sunset. The Harbour is teeming with birds but nothing rare, in yourself you feel relaxed, calm and at ease. But if you start viewing things from a deeper perspective perhaps what you are seeing is a reflection of your own peaceful state of mind manifesting into physical reality. The peacefulness of your thoughts mirror then give life to the peacefulness of the scene. Flip this over. Picture commuters on a tram, the world in which the tube passengers inhabit is jostling, a competitive fight for space, but again is this claustrophobia of a packed tram partly to do with the manifestation of their own thoughts? Flip it over again, you are viewing the Harbour which is teeming with birds, you are in essense privy to their cityscape, each day being a race for survival, where space and resources are in short supply. For me personally this kind of approach is incredibly helpful for my birding because it gives me a deeper perspective when the birdlife is quiet, when there isn’t much about.

So in some way could you say we actually create or own realities, like an artist working from a blank canvas – a process which is layered on top of the physical world that we perceive. It’s a big one and i’m taking forever to get my head round it, but i’ll dip back into these ideas at various times in the blog.

Peep Show

7am, Sunny, with rising light gradually bring out more of birds plumage features.

This is mainly notes gained from a conversation I had with RGM.

Semi P candidate that had been Ided two days ago intially picked up coming out of roost on Pats Pool then affording better views on Simmonds

Upperparts – generally pale grey and clearly in moult with remaining juvenile feathers apparent in patches, photos suggest there were more rufous tones on the lower scaps but photos suggest these are restricted to higher scaps!

Scapulars – so fieldguides (two of which we had in the hide and proved almost immediately useless!) talk about concave and convex scaps to separate Semi P from Western but what does this mean? If the centre of the scapular represent the shape of an anchor then the ‘hooks’ of the anchor are either indented (on Semi P) or curved (on Western). I’d go deeper and say Western is not completely concave with a slight undulation while Semi P is concave to the extent of uneveness  and irregularity within the sets of scapulars. Steve Gantletts photos seem to show a convex undulation. Bird was too distant to note these features in the field.

Body shape – Richard pointed out that it was very ‘egg shaped’ and didn’t have the compactness of Semi P. Rule of thumb in the States is that Western resembles a small Dunlin while Semi P a small compact Little Stint. Definitely got more of a Dunlin impression.

Supercilium. Seemed more Semi P like with a distinct notch or kink behind the eye.

Crown. Did not appear dark capped and although darker in the field than in photos crown seemed quite faded out.

Ear coverts – not overly prominent, possibly faded out in the same way the crown was.

Appeared quite long legged, with substantial ‘leg’ above the knee, did not give it a hunched squatting impression.

And finally the bill – Reference to online photos suggests that the length exceeds in the longest billed Semi P, typical Semi Ps usually having shorter bills than Little Stints. Richard noted a slight blob near the tip, I couldn’t see this. The overall impression given by the head and bill gave it quite a ‘horsey’ look similar to online photos of Western, Semi Ps look cuter.

The other bird – A lot of features suggested Semi ! No primary projection, very blunt ended, but apparently no palmations noted, but these are very difficult to pick out in the field.

29/11

So a rare bird on the patch yesterday and since i’d switched my attention to other stuff, (in ascending order the female of the species, playing The Game, Existentialism, Crow Country, funny stuff and a nine day shift) I hadn’t the foggiest it was there. To tell the truth I just enjoy manifesting my own birds and creating personal experiences on this patch, so I may have just forsaken a big twitch but well done to the people who relocated the bird in the harbour – at a guess I’m thinking a Stoddart/Joiner combo.

But obviously it snapped me out of non-birding limbo and today got out of work early and bowled along Blakeney Bank to the lookout post. Walking along the outer bank firstly noticed that the work done by the National Trust that I had got so hett up about in a previous post now looks much better than I orginally perceived it be. Recently have been told that the strimming was carried out because excess vegetation would have weakened the bank so all totally justified. Was also able to see how far the sea came up to on the big Sunday tide. The level the water came up to on Sunday on the West side of the bank (judging by all the new natural flotsam) far exceeds the level of the Freshes, had the tide breached the seawall the reedbeds and grazing marsh would have been completely swamped but the tide had in fact fallen a couple of feet short.

Plonked myself down in my usual spot and had a decent hour. Dunlin were distant and only came closer in flight, but clearly no webfoots amongst them, however two male Goosander shot along offshore and there had been a build up of Pintail in the Harbour. A little later a few clear notes from an incoming Goose caught my ear and although it was difficult to pick up high in the sky with my scope a few decent views revealed a Tundra Bean Goose and got the impression this bird had just come in off rather than being one of the birds from further along the coast.

The real highlight though was a magnificent male Marsh Harrier making its way towards the Point. It was flying into the wind, wings pinned back. It dipped up and under the shingle line, wafting along, the pale blue on the flight feathers matching the weak azure of the seasky as it broke the horizon. It then would slip back down under, suaeda silhouetted, the rich deep brown elements of the plumage merging into the subtler green woodiness of the late autumn vegetation.

27/11 Large sea swell

Extract from a Birdforum post;-

Origins and direction in play.
What I have just witnessed though while at work is the highest tides I’ve encountered since living in Blakeney. It came completely up over the road and half way up the carpark. One of the hotel rooms flooded. Was higher than than Nov ’07 although the strong Northerlies caused all the damage on that occasion. If it had been light i’m sure that there wouldn’t have been an vegetation visible from the village to the Point, just one huge lake. I’ll check the Freshes in the morning, it may have breached the seawall although I don’t think so will have certainly got onto Cley though.
http://magicseaweed.com/UK-Ireland-M…s/1/?type=wind

So pretty seismic activity around Pom. Is this the start of something big?

22/11

Out on the patch for the few time in a few days. A classically murky downtempo day. An overwhelming stillness and silence out on the marsh. The few birds that emerged out of the gloam seemed plotted against a vast emptiness. Two Stonechats sallied about along the reed fringe, male perched on a single stem gentle pulsing against its weight, a small swirl of Linnets disappearing in and out of the grey, an invisible Lapland Bunting barely giving itself away with a fleeting call, Geese cackling deep out in the marsh highlighting their distance and vagueness.

But this romanticism was broken by distinct changes breaching my daily routine. The vegetation along the inside of Blakeney Bank has been battered into submission and the entre stretch is now a uneven brillo pad of split branches and yellowing vegetation. A Weasel seemed completely perplexed by this mini-apocalypse and bounded along with us for a while in apparent total confusion. The bank has been bulldozed to such an extent that the solitary developing bush that has harboured Whinchat, Chiffchaff, Wheatear and Restart in the past has also been completely flattened. The habitat will grow back and I’m sure the National Turst has good reasons for making these alterations but right now I’m not sure I get it!

As if in a statement of protest many of the visiting Geese have moved on, there are now 15 White-fronts and 20 Barnacles and I couldn’t see ‘Limey’. We were also in search of Barn Owls and although the conditions were not ideal for hunting, there was no sign either on the Freshes or during a scan from Wiveton Bridge. They seen to be much reduced in numbers at the moment and seem to be seeing only single birds when I’m out all day. Perhaps just as there seems to have been a boom in vole numbers on the continent producing big numbers Owls, there has been a slump over here and it just illustrates the constant ebb and flow in the numbers of predatory birds, but this is one of the iconic birds of the North Coast and it is worrying to see them currently struggling.

For we are such things as dreams are made of

Two days off and two days full of contrast. Yesterday was misty and dreary until a mellow evening with a weak sun finally appearing. My Geese seem nice and settled now and hopefully will pull some other stuff in throughout the Winter, there was also a big increase in Canadas yesterday. However the day will be remembered for a classic bit of funny. I’m a bit of a bird dream connoisseur and probably had my greatest ever birding dream last yesterday. I was knackered from work and slept at a funny time and thats probably why I came up with this, but managed to get it down in writing before it all faded away

‘ I had been birding my local patch but ended up at Salthouse but there was a huge Gothic Chateau there. I was chatting with someone and there were quite a lot of birders about suddenly someone shouted out White-winged Lark, I rushed over and started scanning the walls of the Castle but got momentarily distracted by about four Kestrels but they appeared to have sealed themselves into the walls of the building and the crumbling part of the wall was like a coccoon around them but they looked amazing. I then saw another Ketrel but was directed further down to the right but was having real difficulty focussing my binoculars (currently I am using a loan pair and finding focussing difficult) Eventually I got on the autumn plumaged WWL very briefly – IDed by white  and rufous wing patches.

All the time birders were rushing in but they all looked like those old ’70’s hippy birders with flares, huge billowing manes and lots of facial hair.

It then flew and everyone rushed after it but they were all queuing in a big open field in single file packed very close together a bit like how penguins walk off to the sea. I came across a man but it was one of those real pompous learned types and he said, ‘ah yes Melanocorypha leucoptera, another unusual visitor, another one for the list’.

I tried to recognise some of the twitchers but the only one was David Lindo but he was huge like a ten foot giant. More hippy birders turned up and we were now on the top of the chateau but there was a far bit of scaffolding. I saw two Green Beeaters on the ground and wondered why noone was interested in them but realised they were actually model decoys but then they came alive turned into Carmine Beeeaters and flew off toward an area with palm trees. Finally I sat down on a bench and suddenly saw a Jack Snipe on the wall of the chateau but it was acting like a Wallcreeper. A girl who was looking for the Lark sat next to me and we commented on the Snipe I said ‘all the time i’ve been looking for it in marshes and typical habitat and I should have been looking on castle walls’

I’ve ticked off Cerulean Warbler, Purple Heron and ‘Nautilus Owl’ before but this takes some beating. In terms of interpretation its about the patch, about how its an impressive ‘structure’ but sometimes hard to infilrate, also about valuing common over rare and freedom over conformity.