Birdwatching...the new Rock 'n' Roll


BirdBeards on the run - the birding mission continues...

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Yank that Duck!

Posted by birdbeards2010 on March 3, 2012 at 12:55 PM Comments comments (0)

After a week of lurgified illness and sleepless nights in the BirdBeard household, I popped out for a bit of fresh air to Marlingford - the new mecca of Norfolk birding. Whilst there I had a chat with a friendly Geordie, saw a lively Little Egret and gazed for a while at an American Wigeon. It was a very nice looking duck from across the pond.

On the way home I stopped off at Ffobbs (sic ed.) Nursery and picked up 2 Bay Trees for a bargain £2 a piece. Tidy.

ps. the bay trees were my belated Valentine's pressie from WG.

Nye's First Beach List

Posted by birdbeards2010 on February 28, 2012 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Still revelling in the Welsh Triple Crown glory (I'll admit, I have (been) turned as far as it goes with rugby. My passion and my boy's is with Cymru) we decided to take Nye for his first outing to the beach, and where better to start than Winterton? Delightful in every way for a family fun trip, with the added bonus of being a bird magnet and having a cafe without equal.

En route, however, I managed to persuade the Welsh Girl that we needed to take a quick diversion via the Acle Straight swan flock (or is it herd?). Having got the gen off Le Hatt we ended up in an unsalubrious and noisy layby, with me scanning the marsh on the westside to the delight of a few tooting passersby. They were, I may add, all heading towards Yarmouth so I'm not too worried about any intellectually superior pisstake horn-blowing. If you're heading to Yarmouth the rest really does speak for itself.

Before I managed to connect with any tarty swans a large raptor caught my eye, leisurely surveying the marshes next to a windmill. Once locked on, I caught sight of her distinctive ringtail and realised I was on to a female Hen Harrier. Tidy! It took me ages to see my first one and still now they give me a special thrill. Acers!

having logged the Hen, I turned my concentration to the Swans and quickly picked up 2 Bewick's and 4 Whoopers. Job done. Some swans at distance in a heat haze, but not your every day swans at all, so very pleasing.

From there it was out to Winterton and the cafe was our first stop. Excellent sausage and egg baguettes and Nye remained sound asleep in his cosy little bear suit. After our lunch, WG returned to the car to attempt to feed my boy, which gave me an exceelent window to get the scope out. Numerous Red Throated Divers flew west, occasionally dropping down on the water to dive. A single and then multiple groups of Gannet then did the same and I picked up a group of 5 Common Scoter paddling around, as is their wont. The odd seal bobbed or surfed close in, and then I got the call that Nye was still sound asleep and so it was time to take him for a stroll on the beach - his first ever.

The sunshine was glorious and the sound of the waves lapping the shore retained its uniquecalming effect (at least it did once WG had got the papoose adjusted to her satisfaction!) The boy still did not wake. A flash of white and black soon got me pumped, though, as 3 Sanderling whipped their way up along the edge of the surf. The boy still slept on. Then the resident pair of Ringed Plover made it 7 new listers for the day. Wowsers!

We got home, carrying the boy inside in his car seat. He was as asleep as he had been ever since we left the house.

Nectar points for Linnets

Posted by birdbeards2010 on February 24, 2012 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (0)

As another week draws to an end I managed to scrape a new lister whilst picking up the essentials (fruit, veg, beer and wine) in Sainsbury's, Longwater Lane. Packing my wares into the boot I noticed 3 fork-tailed passerines in the tree overlooking my car. Luckily I had my school bins in the boot and so checked quickly in the fading light, confirming my suspicions: 3 winter plumed Linnets. Tidy. They then flew off noisily. I was well chuffed. Not a rare bird by any standards, but an opportunistic and satisfying addition to the Norfolk List 2012.

In other news, Le Hatt has been getting out and about and picking up some tasty numbers to boost his impressive list (it's strictly non-competitive this year, honest). Whilst he didn't manage the White Tailed Eagle or the mini-flock of Glossy Ibis, he did whallop a Whooper Swan or two and no fewer than 3 Velvet Scoter out Yarboo way. Good birding my friend. Rumour has it (well done to the gorgeously curvy Adele, by the way) that the BirdBeards will be on the run ensemble next weekend for a seawatch! Let's hope it's as impressive as the return of the mighty Humble in this week's Winterwatch. As fit and as knowledgeable as ever and knocking the rather disappointing Strachan into space.

Lynford Lifers

Posted by birdbeards2010 on February 22, 2012 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Friday of half-term saw the first weekly BirdBeards Family Fun Day Out (here's hoping). Baby Nye, Welsh Girl and I crammed into the Dragon Wagon and headed out Breckland way to meet up with Le Hatt, Hells Bells (with Le Hatt - the next generation- in tow) and Evie. Our aim was to clinch a couple of tasty birds that have eluded me in my last 5 arboretum visits.

The sight of 5 circling Buzzards on our approach to the woods boded well. In fact, I'm sure that's my highest ever Buteo Buteo group count in our fine county. As we pulled into the car park we turned down the volume on Mahler's 5th and were amazed to see Le Hatt & family already unpacking their car. Incroyable, seeing as Hells Bells is actually as bad as the ginger one himself when it comes to getting ready and out of the house. So, as the skies cleared to a beautiful blue, the future of birding was born - BirdBeards and families kitted out for a rarity outing and ready to roll (minus Le Hatt's sarnies, that he'd left on the kitchen unit!) This surely is the way forward and the girls and my wee man were visibly excited.

With the Zoom (that's the pram) erected and Nye installed we headed straight through the glorious arboretum towards the paddock, in search of our elusive but spectacular target birds. A safari group were searching the hornbeams and we decided to pull up in our own little space and see if our luck was in. For several minutes nothing stirred and the Welsh Girl was soon dismissing our chances - to be fair I've dragged her around the place enough times!

But then, out of nowhere, Le Hatt noticed a small group of birds swoop into the zone. Within seconds great excitement errupted, as it became clear that the longed for Hawfinches had arrived. Five of the bulbous billed beauties perched in the hornbeam closest to the lake and we all looked on in awe and admiration at their beauty. It's as simple as that really, isn't it?! A Hawfinch - exquisite.

Get in! A complete lifer for me, Nye, Welsh Girl, Evie and Hells Bells.

Bon - jour!

It had taken me a long time to nail this species and so I was understandably gleeful as we did the circuit of the paddock. More excitement ensued as we got further views of small groups and then a flock of 9 Hawfinches in flight and in the top of the big pines. Su-bloody-perb!

It was then a lesson in ensuring we are able to get out birding again. The lesson was given by Mr Clennell (aka BirdBeard). It was quite simple really - find the posh hall hotel and take the girls for tea & scones, sitting in the plush leather sofas with portraits of Nelson & Wellington looking down from the sumptuous surrounds. Then pay the bill. Tidy.

Being fully refreshed, we set off on the walk back round the lake, with hopes of a Redpoll or two. Better than that; far, far better, was to come. Whilst Le Hatt dawdled behind, the rest of us found ourselves stuck with the pram at the gate. With no Le Hatt to help with the pram lift I had a look about. And into the dead tree opposite flew a pair of instantly recognisable Crossbills! Get the duck in! A UK lifer for me and, when he managed to catch up, a complete lifer for Ginge. We got great views of them plucking at the lichen growing on the trunk, but they were too quick for my camera skills. Goldcrests and Marsh Tits topped off our visit and it truly was happy days when we got back to the car park - which was alive with tits and crests. Here's to many more family fun days to follow!

As if making Norfolk List 2012 birds 100 and 101 Hawfinch and Crossbill wasn't good enough, on Sunday I manged to track down and get great flight and fishing views of the Great White Egret for my number 103, on the River Yare between Bawburgh and Marlingford. Cheers muchly to the other bearded birder who let me have a look through his scope as I had dashed out with just my bins, in between changing nappies and planning lessons. A very good few days for the ultimate Norfolk Birders.

Twite right, my friend!

Posted by birdbeards2010 on February 19, 2012 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

An early start on Thursday morning saw the BirdBeards back out on the run together and hot on the heels of some more fine Norfolk birds. Le Hatt has become rather fond of Breydon Water, a place that I find unrepentingly bleak and depressing, so it was to there that we headed first off. Despite the bitter wind and still Cold War-style surrounds, it was to be a decision we did not live to regret.

Straight up we were onto lots of birds, catching the tide nicely low. Dunlin and a pair of neat Shelduck were added to my list and then Le Hatt put me onto a distant, hunting Barn Owl. A group of Brent Geese had us desperately trying to get an out of the water peek at the belly of one pale-looking individual, but these geese were too kenn on swimming and so we couldn't make a definite call for Le Hatt. Lots of Black Tailed Godwit and Redshank were making the most of the tidal larder and a few Avocet were scattered about the mud. The wind really was cutting through and it took the distraction of an exciting looking raptor to take our attention off our discomfort. Sitting on the far bank it was large and very interestingly marked, with a pale face, throat and shoulder. I think we both wanted it to be a Rough Leg MoFo, but, having regurgitated something nasty, it took flight and proved to be a mere female Marsh Harrier. Still a nice bird, but our hopes were dashed like those of a man discovering the identity of a ladyboy.

I was keen to get out of the place and head off to Haddiscoe, but we decided to take a stroll along the bank in the hope of finding something a bit tasty. Just 50 yards along the track and up popped 5 small passerines. I called them and they landed and proved to be exactly what we were after - Twite. Only my second Norfolk sighting and a fricking good bird for the list. High 10s. I even mangaged this shite shot of one of them as the scuttled around with another splendid number - a Rock Pipit. Get the frig in, BirdBeards!

A Reed Bunting chiruuping from atop a reed, funnily enough, boosted the list even more and then it was back to the warmth of the car and off in search of rare raptors at a new spot for us, Haddiscoe Marshes/Island.

We crossed the second bridge, parked up and made our way along the path to what we had read was a punishing and bleak habitat. I found it to be bleakly beautiful, the huge skies and rolling reed beds a treu picture of broadland splendour. But enough with the poetic shit already. I picked up 3 Stock Doves fluttering around, a bird I have a fondness of, despite it being a pigeon. Our raptor hopes were boosted by a hunting Kestrel and then we got typically over-excited by a morphing perched Cormorant which we had down as both a Peregrine and a Short Eared Owl initially.

Le Hatt thought we were in the wrong place and so we crossed back over the bridge, re-parked and explored the other side - I believe it is the Haddiscoe Island. Now, there are regularly tens of dozens of SEOs reported daily from here. All I can say is that they are bloody good at hiding!

The next thing of interest was further evidence that cottaging is rife at Norfolk's top birding hotspots. Voila.

All (except the underpants!) was not lost, however. The sky was full of Skylarks, more than I've ever seen at this time of year, and then the keen eye of the BirdBeard was hot onto a beautiful pair of darkly marked Stonechat. Lovely. Hares bounded around and then Le Hatt said, 'Listen, it's one of those...' he'd forgotten their name, but the ping was accompanied by a long flight view of a male Bearded Tit - a highly appropriate end to a top notch BirdBeards morning out on the run. T to the I to the D to the Y.

An Eye for a Redhead

Posted by birdbeards2010 on February 15, 2012 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Fatherhood exhaustion has started to catch up with me. The boy is a very contented little chap and actually allows us a very reasonable amount of sleep. There are just so many new things to learn and an endless amount of things to do. Just how did I waste all that spare time I had before this exciting new chapter began?

I did manage to get out for a couple of very productive hours this afternoon, in an attempt, more than anything else, to blow the cobwebs out of my weary head. And blowy it was down at Whits. An unplanned diversion through the city had thrown up a lovely Sparrowhawk, swooping low in front of the car and into the old Norfolk and Norwich hospital to terrorise the pigeons. Once at Whits I had a good scan around the island in search of the female Scaup that had been reported the day before. No joy there, but very soon up popped a lovely redhead Goosander, giving ace views fairly close to the bank. I even manged to pull off a half crap photo in the blustery conditions.

I had a good birding chat with a friendly moustachioed dude and then worked my way up to have a look at Thorpe Broad and check for Redpolls in the woods. Now I'm not an expert on these things, but I would put honest money on there being a bit of what they call 'cottaging' going on on the premises. A couple of sneaky looking fellas kept walking up and down the path behaving strangely and texting, before disappearing off into the woods. I checked that I wasn't wearing my Choose Life t-shirt before moving swiftly on.

A Stock Dove was messing around on the shingle, but nowt else of interest until I got back almost to the car park and had a final scan for anything tasty. There, at the back of the broad were another pair of fine-looking redheads - Smew this time. Tidy! I even managed some pics of them and a surprise Goosander/Smew Playboy centrefold shot - a surprise because I only saw the Goosander when I put the pics on the puter. Oh, that beats an evening in with Nicole Kidman any day of the week. No it doesn't.

Wag a surprise!

Posted by birdbeards2010 on February 12, 2012 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

While round at Ma's for a full family get together, with the Nicks, the Gibbos et al, we watched Wales storm to a typical 'crap for 30 mins, then storming in tries for the rest' 6 nations victory. We also toasted Nye's arrival in this world with some fine House of Lords pink champagne and ate enough of Ma's lush food to sink a hide full of twatchers. Then, in the final minute and play of the match a bird on the roof of the house opposite caught my eye. Pale on its underside and with a flash of yellow in its belly it wagged its oversized tail like some kind of berserker, hopped around for a bit and then snuck somewhere in the roof to roost. A very surprising Grey Wagtail! Almost as good as when the Red Kite flew past her back garden. Another great Hethersett bird for the list.

That'll Smew nicely!

Posted by birdbeards2010 on February 10, 2012 at 12:50 PM Comments comments (0)

An early (5am) start watching fishing programmes on Shed with the boy, was the beginning of a very successful day in the dorkosphere. I was at B & Q before 8am to pick up my sparkling new wheelbarrow and a boot load of other gardening stuff, plus nest boxes, feeders and 15kg of bird seed for school. A day spent avoiding any meaningful work and a nice Gardening Club session planting some early Heritage Seed Library cucumbers and then it was off to Whits to at last get the scope out of its fatherhood retirement.

A beautiful bright afternoon meant that scanning the waterfowl and gull flocks was a joy, with the light showing the birds off wonderfully. After several sweeps of the birds in the ice-free patch near the island I decided to escape the grannies (who almost had cardiacs when I mentioned a Great White Egret had been seen earlier) and take a look further along the Broad. Having stopped and scanned at a different spot a faint voice kept repeating something that sounded like 'Smew'. With my hood up to stop my ears actually falling off, I almost missed the kindly advice proffered from a nice old birding dude with a familiar face, who was kind of loud whispering from up on the road. With his gen I hurtled along the ice to the far end and soon picked up the delightful redhead Smew chilling out on the far side by the reeds. I managed to not get a digiscope photo of it as the sun was glaring up off the snow and making a shot impossible. It was a great looking bird (a bit like my wife!) though. Another kindly birder with an ancient looking scope and rather theatrical clothing and specs soon joined in my appreciation of it and also fell completely in love with my Swarovski. Well in milk-bottle glasses dude.

Working my way back I picked out a nice young male Goldeneye and then struck gold - or yellow - with a successful identification (confirmed by the amazing photo I took) of a Yellow Legged Gull (1st winter I think!). This was a Whits tick and a good gull to have on the list at this stage. Bra-bloody-vo! It was great to get out in the field again, for the first time as a Dad-birder, and great too to get back to my little Birdbeard family.

Mainly Mustard Poo

Posted by birdbeards2010 on January 29, 2012 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Well, the last 2 weeks and my precious paternity leave have absolutely zipped by in a haze of broken sleep, mustard coloured poo and gorgeous cwtching times. Perspectives certainly have changed and there is so much excitement for the present and the future. I would recommend it to anyone.

BirdBeard-wise, Le Hatt and I missed the Ferruginous Duck at Whitlingham in icy gale-force winds. I then missed it again, a couple of days later, despite seeing something possibly ferruginous for a wee while in the scope before losing it.

My RSPB Gardenwatch was disappointingly quiet. 12 species, 3 squirrels and a cheeky little mouse, with the highlight being a pair of Redwings.

Le Hatt has managed to get out and bag some nice Bewicks and a Redpoll, but the latter half of this month has been about a bit more than birding. Must get back on the list some point...soon...ish.

...and then there were 3!

Posted by birdbeards2010 on January 18, 2012 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

After yesterday's momentous entry to the world, today officially saw the first gathering of the new BirdBeards line-up when Le Hatt visited us in Blakeney Ward. No coincidence that the future of UK birding is enjoying the first days of his life in a ward named after one of the world's premium birdwatching sites. So here we are: BirdBeard, Le Hatt & BirdBeard Jr.