Monday, May 10, 2010


This should be a short one.  Today was my day for rambling around Norfolk on my own.  I was up and out of here by about 8:45, I think, and I headed along the coast to a very well known reserve called Titchwell Marsh.  I had a list of several species I might see there, furnished by the guy who is going to take me out tomorrow.  Tom (in Bury St Edmunds) had filled me in on the reserve, too, which helped a lot.  There have been a couple of uncommon birds there recently, a Garganey drake and three Red-crested Pochards.  Those are both duck species.  In addition, there were possibilities of other species.


I got to Titchwell about 9:30; travel here is really slow, with all the villages and the narrow roads.  It was again windy and cold, high 40’s F.  I lugged my scope out the path to the sea, stopping at the hide along the way, to look for the ducks.  I didn’t see them there, so I continued out toward the sea.  I had heard someone say that the Garganey had been hanging out along a bank of dirt that serves as a sea wall, so I stopped a couple of places and scanned with my scope.  No joy, but a little farther along, I ran into a guy who had actually been looking at the Garganey.  As he was telling me where he had seen it, in the distance, it suddenly flew, and it flew around and landed almost right out in front of us.  I had really great scope views of it, both on the bank and in the water.  I even took some pictures, but it was a bit far away for them to be any good.  Still, it is an uncommon (and very pretty) bird, and the pictures are “record” quality – that is, they prove I actually saw the bird, which is easily identifiable in the pics.  I’ll post one or two of them in the next Photos, probably tomorrow night.


After that, I continued on out to the end of the path, and looked out over the sea.  I was looking for three species of sea ducks, in particular, and I saw one of them, the Common Scoter.  Very common over here, but a lifer for this old rambler.


There were also some waders (shorebirds) along the water, down the beach, and some of them looked small enough to be interesting.  I walked out on the beach (the tide was out fairly far), and got closer looks at them.  Sure enough, there were 3 or 4 Sanderlings there, a little sandpiper type bird that I see in California in the winter, but a new one for my Britain list.  It helped that I was already familiar with the species.  In California, they are always in their non-breeding (winter) plumage, but one of these was in its breeding (summer) plumage, which was nice to see.  It verified that they were Sanderlings and not a similar species of the same size, Dunlin.


After that, I made my way back to my car, dropped off my scope, and went back to the little snack bar at the visitors’ centre, where I had a ham and cheese “toastie” (toasted sandwich), along with about 4 ounces of Waitrose grilled chicken breast, to get the protein level up to what I needed.  It had been sprinkling on me, off and on, while out on the reserve, but it was sort of sunny by this time.  Still plenty damn cold, though.  I ate outside, watching the bird feeders, with the common birds visiting them.


After my repast, I took some pictures of birds, then I walked out to the Fen hide.  It looks out on a reed bed and a little patch of water, and there was very little to be seen.  I was mostly just sitting down, out of the wind, and enjoying the view of reed beds and bushes.  The point of going to the Fen hide, mainly, is to hope to see a Bittern, a heron that is very uncommon and very difficult to see.  I had no hope of seeing one, but I enjoyed sitting there for a while.


All of a sudden, a large golden brown bird came flying across the area in front of the hide, being harassed by a smaller bird.  I thought it was a raptor of some kind, but it was stockier than a raptor, and the color was wrong for any British raptor I knew of.  It was also quite large.  I only saw it for about 4 or 5 seconds, and it wasn’t until it was gone that I suddenly realized it was something really unusual.   I still didn’t really tumble that it was a Bittern, because our bittern species in America, the American Bittern, is dark brown, almost black, and this bird was a much lighter color of golden brown, streaked with black.  I looked in my book, though, and the description said “golden brown”, just as I had seen.  Pictures confirmed it.  It was a Great Bittern, although I didn’t realize it until a minute or two after the fact.   I hadn’t expected to see one, and today I did.  I have been very lucky on this trip, in terms of seeing uncommon birds.  I dipped on the Red-crested Pochards, though; that is, I didn’t see them.


From Titchwell, I continued on down the road to a place called Hunstanton, which my Bury St Edmunds buddy, Tom, had told me about.  I saw Northern Fulmars there, another lifer.  They nest on the cliffs, and fly along the tops of the cliffs.  I tried to take some pictures of them, but getting good pictures of flying birds is tricky, and I didn’t succeed.


After some time there, I made my way back “home”, arriving here about 4 o’clock.  Along the way, I stopped at a supermarket and got some more ham for sandwiches, and some cheese sticks.  I have been doing computer stuff, drinking, reading, and eating my dinner since getting back.


Tomorrow I am booked to go out birding with another local couple.  There are so few birds I haven’t seen that I don’t have any particular expectations to see any new ones tomorrow, but it will still be fun to look, and it will be fun to spend time with local birders.  I hope to see a couple of new species, but we will see.  Also, they will pick me up and do the driving, which is a huge bonus for me, as I am really not liking the driving over here at all.   I have given the reasons I dislike it in earlier Ramblings, I think, but the narrowness of the roads is my biggest single complaint.  I love to drive in the States, and I don’t mind it at all in Australia, but I really am developing an aversion to it here.  I have a whole lot more miles to go still, too, so I will just have to deal with it.


My trip count now is 134 species, with about 96 of them being lifers.  I just glanced through my spreadsheet, and my current guess as to my total species count by the end of the trip is about 170, which would leave 36 to go.  That is no certainty, by any means, but is my best guess at this point.  That is just over one new species per day for the rest of the trip, although a lot of days will be driving days, with none seen.  Any day I see two or more new ones is going to be considered a success from now on, although there are a couple of places where I ought to see more than that in a day.


I am 12 days into a 44 day trip, and it seems like I might have allowed too much time.  On the other hand, I expect to be rained out a number of times still, and that is one reason I planned it like I did.  I am hoping the driving doesn’t bother me as much when I get up north, where the population density is much less, but maybe that is wishful thinking.


Interesting note.  I have had a TV in every place I have stayed, but I have only turned it on once, and there was nothing I wanted to watch, so it was turned off within minutes.  Maybe I will start watching TV when I get rained out someday.  So far, the only two really rainy days were days I was traveling anyway, so it didn’t really matter.  There have been brief showers other times, or sprinkles, like today, but only two really rainy days.


So, that is my story for tonight.  Soon it will be time to settle on down for the night.  I have been sleeping quite well, which is nice.  Much better than when I am at home, but that is a whole other story, not to be told now.


Life rolls on…