Saturday 30 June 2012

Alpine Swift

Me and Izzy had a bash at the Bempton Alpine Swift late afternoon as it had hung around all day. Each message got me twitchier and twitchier. Eventually I cracked and we headed out into the sun and showers without coats. We wandered along the cliff top at Bempton and our friends, Will and Graham were headed the other way admitting defeat when this baby came screaming past.

Not a bad record shot really considering my toddler was in tow, it was raining and the bird was blasting about. Great to see and really close - head height on the edge of the cliff. We watched it for a few minutes before it disappeared west towards Buckton. A Yorkshire tick as well!

Thursday 28 June 2012

Running - Stepping it up

I have been running for a while now - on and off since February. It hasnt impacted my waist size yet but it seems to be starting to take effect as I increase my distances. Due to working away I have been stuck at 5k for a few weeks now but I only have 5 1/2 weeks until Im running the Jane Tomlinson York 10k. Yikes. Plan is to run every other day, come rain or shine until then and try and get up to 8 or 9km before the big day. Adrenalin will have to find the extra distance for me. I ran last night after a week in Norfolk where I only did a single 2km run. It was hot and wheezy and I had to walk a few times. It was my 2nd quickest 5km but I went far too quick to start with (its all relative) and was broken by halfway round. I dug in and managed to get round but I was blowing big time. Thus the reason to step up the training - I cant have easy weeks now when I am away otherwise I will fail to do the 10km on race day and I have worked too hard already for that. The reason I am running is to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. I am pretty sure every one of you guys will have your own stories about how the BIG C has touched your lives but here is mine.

My father has always smoked. My essential memory of him during my childhood would be covered in oil trying to fix the dilapidated family car with a fag hanging at a jaunty angle out of his mouth. It just looked right. As I got older I realised that Dads habit would eventually kill him although he remained firmly in denial. A couple of christmas's ago dad had a prolonged chest infection and felt crappy but he soldiered on grimly. He and Mum joined myself and my wife and our 4 month old daughter on Speyside. It was -18 degrees outside and a winter wonderland but Dad wasnt enjoying himself. He had chest pain which forced him to turn round and drive 450 miles home. With a heart arrythmia caused by a massive tumour in his lung pressing on his heart. Dad was diagnosed with small cell Lung Cancer soon after which is terminal. Fatal. Dad underwent 3 months of chemo which shrunk the tumour and whilst he felt awful he soon recovered and the tumour was negligable. It will come back but he was effectively in remission. Great - but he was told that he should have radiotherapy on his brain to prevent a secondary there. So he did and it turned him into a different person, selfish, grumpy and balding. It took a further 7 months to get my Dad back from the personality transplant caused by irradiation of the brain. It cooked his circuits but gradually in the spring of 2011 he returned to normal except for a few memory issues. He has been in remission since then. My Dad back but I remember when it was touch and go in spring 2010. I remember when he was brain damaged by radiotherapy. I remember him in agony with his heart. I know it will kill him. Not tomorrow or the day after but one day not too far down the track. Dad is 59. My daughter will now remember my Dad thanks to the efforts of medical staff in caring for him. Dad will walk my sister down the aisle this autumn. Dad will meet my new child this summer. Dad will need Macmillan Nurses supporting him and Mum when he is dying. Next year? The year after? Who knows but I am grateful he is here now and that is why I am running - to raise money to make people suffering from cancers final weeks and months as comfortable as possible.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Summer Plumage Pacific Golden Plover

This morning I caught up with the super sexy summer plumage Pacific Golden Plover at Cley. It was supposed to be close to the beach car park in the Eye field but sadly it had commuted back to North Scrape by the time we arrived. Despite this we got nice views of the bird a bit distantly but feeding away in a mixed flock of waders. I got the following record shot/blur which doesnt show how cracking it really was. In fact the shot doesnt show much, lol.

its the big dark blob right of centre on the mud
Sadly the bird didnt come any closer but other bits and pieces were knocking about with 11 Spoonbills  including some young looking ones ;-) and a couple getting jiggy. There were plenty of Dunlin, Ringed Plover and some Continental Black-tailed Godwits all resplendent in summer plumage as were a couple of Spotted Redshanks gorgeous in black.

another quality capture
This week has been a bit on and off and has been typified by not a lot of birds aside from the residents. At sea the only things of note have been 20-30 Common Scoter which have been regularly seen plus a few Swifts (but no small ones). On a down day I wandered down to Swanton Novers but failed to connect with any Honey Buzzards. At the moment it is tazzing down so I am cowering in the cottage.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Ptychoptera contaminata

These beauties are part of a very decent hatch of Phantom Craneflies of the species Ptychoptera contaminata (I think) which has occured in the garden over the last couple of days. I suggest this species as it is one that I recorded last year.

If anybody has any better ideas over ID let me know. I also managed some other flies which were pretty cool including a Long-legged Fly of the family Dolichopodidae.

Dolichopodidae species

Last night I cracked 5k for the first time in my training for a 10k race in August. Seems to be going well although I run very slowly - the fact I run at all is pretty good as Im not particularly svelte! On my run I got a garden 2nd with 2 Oystercatchers overhead plus the Curlew, Grasshopper Warbler and plenty of thrushes. I also managed an owl treble with Little Owl, Tawny OwlBarn Owl all heard. I am running for Macmillan as my Dad has terminal lung cancer. If anyone would like to support me I would be grateful.

The link to my page is

Saturday 9 June 2012

No Orioles, No Cranes but loads of Rain

I was weathered off yesterday and as such took advantage of the pissing sideways rain to head to RSPB Lakenheath. A false start getting to Fakenham without my bins meant that ~I didnt actually arrive until midday. I will claim that its a tactical move as it meant that I missed the worst of the rain although this is relative. I didnt have high hopes but I reasoned that I definietely wouldnt see anything in the holiday cottage and the north coats has been relatively dead.

On arrival a coffee allowed a squal to pass and I headed along the trail. Reed Buntings were everywhere and a Jay made a sortee to the feeders. As I walked past the first plantation a Lesser Whitethroat emerged from the nettles with a faecal sack. Breeding within a few feet of the path (turns out the reserve staff were unaware and were quite keen on this record). I got to New Fen viewpoint and settled down before the next shower arrived. Swifts were feeding low over the reeds. Pretty quickly a Bittern took off from close by and traversed the entire fen before dropping in the far corner. This was quickly followed by a Cuckoo following a similar track.

By now an RSPB group were turning up in numbers so I moved up the path. No orioles in the plantation but I soon had a pair of Marsh Harriers food passing by the path. A Bittern struck up booming not far away as well. Reed and Sedge Warblers were heard well and glimpsed in the drenched vegetation. As I stalked up I became aware of more Marsh Harriers over Joist Fen. 9 in the air at once and I think across the reserve somewhere in the region of 15-18 birds were seen. I settled down at the Joist Fen viewpoint but was joined by the RSPB group pretty quickly. I wasnt leaving this time as the weather had hit new lows with showers scudding through every few minutes. I picked up a Hobby screaming through which the dudes were plenty pleased to see. Slowly the other 20 or so people drifted away but I stayed and was rewarded with another flight view of a Bittern leaving the reedbed and heading to New Fen.

Soon I took advantage of another break in the weather to head down the riverside walk and get some cover from the poplar plantation. Common Terns were fishing over the river. Soon a sci-shape was intensely bothering the hirundines and swifts and it was joined by another. A pair of Hobbies. They didnt catch but boy did they give them hell. In the past I have only seen the Lakenheath birds cruising in circles picking up dragonflies so it was a privelege to see this behaviour. They soon gave up and went back into the plantation to roost. I checked and checked the most sheltered areas of plantation but no flashes of yellow and black emerged from the gloom.

As I wended my way back to the visitor centre a Cetti's Warbler flew across the river giving brief views in the vegetation. It was time to head back to the car - wet but quite satisfied.

Monday 4 June 2012

Stone the Crows

Im back in Norfolk tracking terns this week. 'On my way' I called in at a place and what should be there but my biggest tart. UK tick 333. Triple Nelson. Making headway. Stone Curlew. I have seen plenty before in Spain but in this country I havent been so lucky, dipping at Weeting Heath and at Flamborough (when a member of the BOURC flushed it after I lumped my girl a mile round the head to see it). It was pretty chilled out and went from being too distant for photos to close enough for a record shot. I watched for 15 minutes before I needed to hit the road noting a couple of Woodlarks singing and a Green Woodpecker anting. Oddly there were hundreds of Mistle Thrushes about as well.

It looks like I am going to sea tomorrow which is cool. Otherwise I have been largely chilling with a spot of ringing on saturday. We managed a couple of unstreaked acros which we grilled for Marsh Warbler but could only turn into Reed Warbler plus a retrap Treecreeper and a Garden Warbler. The full catch is on the tophill ringing site in the blog links.

Friday 1 June 2012

Cheesy Euro-pop

A drive by at the Old Fall Steps gave me my second eastern European songster in two days. Unlike the operatic grandeur of a Marsh Warbler I had the pleasure of listening to a slice of disposible euro disco in the form of a male Icterine Warbler. This is the second that I have heard, squeaky toys and all but it is the first I have seen. I got the wing panel but sadly I only saw the head in flight. What a cool song though. This was Yorkshire tick 4 in 4 days (cant see 5 in 5!). No photos Im afraid and not a lot else to add other than it takes me to 292 for Yorkshire! Woo.

How birds and brains become mutually exclusive

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