Those of you who aren't aware of Norfolk as a birding mecca must have been living on a different planet for a long while, it has tens of thousands of people flocking there from all over the country and it never fails to deliver something for everyone.
Weather wise it was pants this trip, save for the odd sunny spell the first two days and a rather prolonged spell of an hour or two on Wednesday. However did it still produce some excellent stuff? It sure did. Four lifetime firsts for me, Grey Plover, Shorelark, Eider Duck (in the wild), and Jack Snipe. It also added to my yearly total with Turnstone, Red Breasted Merganser, Brent goose, Egyptian Goose, Bar tailed Godwit, and Glaucous Gull.
The above picture was taken in the evening light on Titchwell RSPB reserve. It was the second location that we'd seen Grey Plover, the first time we'd seen one was during a heavy rain squall so I could not photograph it. Seeing this one and photographing him was a real bonus for me.
Photographically the weather gave me the opportunity to improve my skills, It was a case of upping ISO levels and trying different aperture settings. At Cley Marshes NWT reserve the Snipe were coming very close, but the light was absolutely appalling but I persevered and managed to get one or two shots which I was very pleased with, this shot is one such example.
The Jack Snipe I mentioned seeing was a real treat, I had obviously never seen one before other than in books, I knew it was smaller and had a shorter beak from what I'd read, but Chris and Mike assured me that once I'd seen one I would immediately know it, well they were completely right. It is so different, and if someone ever asked me now how I knew what I saw was a Jack Snipe and not a Common Snipe I would merely say it Jis, (it just is). It is one of those birds that couldn't be anything else, it couldn't be a common snipe, it is so different. Smaller, Shorter beak, more pronounced stripes on the back, constantly bobbing up and down, and it looks so different. We saw one twice on the same day, briefly and fleetingly in amongst reeds and watercress type plants I only managed a partial shot of it, but I think you can see the difference in beak size from this shot.
A truly cracking little bird.
We spent a short period of time on the Tuesday morning sea watching. It's something I've never bothered with before as I didn't realise just how much can be seen. It never occurred to me that stuff moves around our coastline all the time. But I am truly hooked now and would happily spend a few hours doing so at any given opportunity.
We saw, Ducks, Geese, Waders, Auks, and Gulls all within a short space of time. I saw wild Eider Duck swiming past, I saw Gannets fly past and when they were pointed out to me saw Red Breasted Merganser which I recognised. But there were also a lot of birds which I had no chance of identifying. Thanks though to Chris, Mike and a couple of other chaps who stood with us for a short period of time I saw quite a lot of other stuff, mostly Scoters and auks and a Bonx (skua). Now I am happy to add the Eider, and the Merganser to my yearly list because I could recognise them, however when it comes to the other stuff I could not honestly say I would recognise it if i saw it again, because I didn't see it for long enough or close enough. However I hope that one day I might become confident enough to do sea watching justice.
It was a very blustery day and one of our group decided a few pictures of the huge crashing waves might be nice so he walked down the beach to do just that, I don't want to dwell on it or cause him any embarassment but suffice to say, it pays to watch whats going on around you when you are stood next to an incoming tide. Unfortunately he didn't. Nuff said.
I am a simple man, I have no desire to acheive things in my life, other than to see my kids grow up as decent, well balanced human beings. I find great pleasure in the most simple things and kneeling on the beach at Titchwell, in the company of two very good friends, in the evening light, photographing some amazing birds gave me immense pleasure. I think I said outloud that if I died there and then I would have died extremely happy. It was just beautiful, words can't really do it justice, the golden light, the fresh salty smell of the sea, the high pitched calls of the Oystercatchers and Curlews, and the little birds and their scurrying around getting the bits of food from amongst the shells and pools were just overwhelming.
I know that Mike struggled with the walking, and chris was disappointed with the lack of light, but the occasion, for me was made all the better for their being there. Last year when I had my motorhome and I travelled and saw some great stuff, the thing I missed the most was not having people there to share the moments with me. I don't mean in a soppy lovey dovey way, just being able to have someone with whom you can share the moment makes it so much more enjoyable. Thanks Mike and Chris.
Bar tailed Godwit.
Hope you enjoy, as always click for bigger versions. More to follow in the next post.