Tuesday, May 11, 2010
When I got up this morning, it was sunny out, and the forecast for the day was favorable.† I showered and got dressed, and when I went back out into the living room/kitchen, I noticed it was raining!† In fact, for a little while, it was hailing, then just raining quite hard.† Fortunately, it only lasted for a few minutes, but it was a surprise to me.† Obviously weather forecasting here is not an exact science, and the weather is very changeable.
I had breakfast (ham and cheese sandwich, yogurt, and a mandarin orange), and Dave and Alison picked me up at 8:30, as planned.† They had worked out an itinerary for the day that would give us a chance to see several of the species I hadnít seen yet.† Most were difficult ones, but they were prepared to try, and so was I.
First we went to some heathland, to look for Woodlark and Dartford Warbler.† I had seen Dartford Warbler last week at Westleton Heath, but better looks are always desired.† We came up empty on both of them, but had a nice walk on the heath.† We got rained on a little, but by the end of our little walk, the sun was coming out, and things were very pretty in the clear air and bright light.
Next we went to a place called Walsey Hills, near Cley Marsh, to look for Bullfinch and Cettiís Warbler.† Cettiís Warbler has a very loud call, but the bird is a real skulker, and everyone has been telling me that they are very difficult to actually see.† British birders count them when they hear them, because the call is so obvious, and they are seen so rarely.† I had heard them before, with other British birders, but we hadnít really even tried to actually see them, as it is considered so difficult.† Well, after a little walk in the woods, hoping to see Bullfinch, we heard a Cettiís very nearby, and looked around for it.† Dave spotted it moving through the undergrowth, and then it popped out into view!† I had a good binocular view of the bird, not ten feet away, for about 4 or 5 seconds.† Evidently that is about as good as it gets with a Cettiís, so I was very pleased.† I hadnít expected to see one at all, ever.† We looked some more for the Bullfinch, but that bird is one of the ones being saved for another day.† In other words, we dipped on it.
From there we went to an interesting place nearby called Natural Surroundings.† It is several acres of gardens, meadows, and woods.† They also sell plants, like a nursery would, and have a little tea room.† The attraction for us was that they have some bird feeders, and Marsh Tits come to them, a bird that is fairly uncommon.† They also have nesting Grey Wagtails near the property, and that was another of our target species for the day.† As we drove in, we stopped on a bridge over a little creek, and Alison spotted a male Grey Wagtail sitting on a weir gate.† It was on my side of the car, and I was able to get great looks at it out of my window, without even leaving the car.† I took a dozen or more †pictures of it from the car.† Unfortunately, the bird was preening, and I kept getting him with his head down.† The other problem was that he was living up to his name, and he was constantly wagging his tail up and down.† My favorite picture (see Photos08) shows him great, except his tail is a blur, as it was wagging away.
So, after that great introduction to the place, we went on in and got some coffee and tea, and we sat out in back, watching the feeders where the Marsh Tits had been feeding all morning.† We watched for 15 or 20 minutes, and lots of other birds came to the feeders, but no Marsh Tits.† We decided that maybe they were intimidated by our presence outside, so we went inside to watch for a few minutes, and a couple of them soon were coming to the feeder.† My third lifer of the day, and another bird I would never have seen on my own.† By this time, it was sunny most of the time, and had turned into a really beautiful day, although if you were out of the sun, it was still chilly, about 50 degrees F.
We stopped at Blakeney, a pretty town on the coast, to look for Grasshopper Warbler, but struck out on that one.† Again, it was a lovely walk on a beautiful day, so I didnít mind at all.† By that time we were getting hungry, so we drove down to a place called Holkham and walked for ten minutes through the woods to a hide and had our lunch there.† I had brought a thick roast beef and cheese sandwich and some snow peas in pods, along with a Diet Coke.† It was very pleasant to eat there, looking out over a very pretty valley.† We had excellent views of a pair of Marsh Harriers, a common raptor over here, but didnít see the Common Crane that has been reported to have been seen there recently, including earlier today.
By the time we left there, it was pushing 3 oíclock, and I wanted to be ďhomeĒ early, so I could do my laundry, catch up on Ramblings and Photos, and get myself organized to head out tomorrow.† Iíve done the laundry now, and I am catching up with my internet stuff.
Tomorrow my plan is to head north, to a small town called Lymm, in Cheshire, which is near Manchester.† I got in touch with a birder there a year ago, and he helped me a lot with my planning for the trip, and he offered way back then to take me out birding.† That is set up for Thursday, in two days.† It is about a 5 hour drive to get there, and there are several routes I could take.† I had picked out one that is somewhat scenic, and about 20 minutes longer than the shortest one.† But, with the aversion to the narrow roads here that I have developed now I am thinking I will just take the most direct route, which will involve mostly motorway driving, rather than a lot of two lane roads through countless villages and towns, with a number of turnoffs I would have to find.† Sitting at home, 5 hours of driving seemed like a cakewalk.† Now that I am here and have experienced the roads, 5 hours of driving sounds like hell to me, so I think I will take the motorway route, as that is much easier driving.† There are Service Areas all along the motorways, so I wonít have to be looking for rest rooms and places to get food and gas, etc if I go that way.† My only issue will be to keep from getting sleepy, but I can stop and doze in the car if I need to, at one or more of the Service Areas.† When I was younger, I used to drive for 18 hours straight, from L.A to Seattle, and in recent years I drive 8 or 9 hours with no problem, but 5 hours over here is going to be a long day, I think, even on the motorways.
So, my count is up to 137 species now, with the three lifers added today.† About 99 of those 137 are lifers.†† I am seeing more birds than I expected, and that is because I have had so much help from British birders.† It is really easy to make contact with local birders who are eager to help me find the birds I want to see.† I am spending much more time with local birders than I ever have on any of my Australia trips.† That is because there are so many more birders here, of course, and the birding sites are near where people live, whereas in Australia, the birding sites are out in the sticks, so there arenít many local birders who live near them.† It is really different traveling in a country with such a population density as Britain has.† There are pros and cons, I guess.† In one way, I prefer the feeling of birding in Australia, where it is so empty, but over here it is really a pleasure to be able to spend time with local birders, so it balances out.
I am coming up on the 2 week mark of the 6 week trip.† One-third of the way through it.† As I am out in a field or the woods somewhere, in the cold wind, I often ask myself what the heck Iím doing.† In some ways, it seems strange to be out here, looking for birds in a foreign land, but this is one of the things I do, and I am certainly enjoying it.† Some people hit a little white ball around a golf course, some people go to concerts and museums, and some people wander around in the outdoors looking for birds.† Life is a strange thing, or, as I usually put it ďWhat a life!Ē