Got up about half seven, had some breakfast, a large coffee, loaded up BBC weather and Birdguides and
suddenly realised that something amazing was happening. Legged it out
the house and as fast as possible to the Hills, only to find JG's car
already there. Phone flashes, he's just found a female RBS. Bastard.
Why did I not get my act together earlier?! I headed out and joined
him, quickly scored my first EH shrike then we scrutinised the rest of
the arc. A few Willow Warbler then JG heard something singing, almost
chat-like. Getting closer we both heard it and realised it was actually
a Hippo or an Acro. It was ultra-difficult, shutting up whenever we got
within a hundred metres and we only ever saw it for milliseconds at a
time. After scratching and sniffing the brambles to reveal a male Ring
Ousel, Garden Warbler, a couple of Pied Flys and a few more Willows we
returned and got some better noise, concluding it was almost certainly
Marsh Warbler. JG later did some Remembird analysis to confirm it
wasn't rarer. Most of the time it was singing very fast and chattering
a lot, and giving sub-song. When it did do it properly however it was
pretty classic Marsh, with lots of Willow Warbler, Blue Tit, Swallow
and generally western species in the mimic mix. A genuinely exciting day, who would have thought this was Norfolk in Spring? Brilliant.
perambulation along the Strid, Bolton Abbey. Seems like there are more
nests in the north, with occupied Pied Fly, Blackcap, 2 Great Tit,
Jackdaw and Blue Tit nests found in about quarter of a mile. Also
ridiculously close Nuthatches and close Wood Warbler singing away.
extreme today, back up to the great expanses of sand, mud, muddy sand
and pine around the Warham marshes. JG and AL were tardy so I left them
to wander with the Sanderling while I investigated the pines. Little
going on here, however a Spotted Flycatcher calling in the sycamores
was at least a migrant, and two Wren broods had popped out of their
nests. With a trip up to see K's family this weekend I had to curtail
birding fun for the day at that point.
extreme work CBC at Tilbury and Abberton (with singing Black Redstart
at the former and over a thousand registrations in 2 days at the
latter) my decision to take the last week and a bit of May as holiday
proved to be an excellent one. Easing myself back into the idea of
looking at birds for 'pleasure' I rolled down to Buckenham. A gentle
stroll provided evidence that birds are nice, especially a sum plum
Wood Sand and 2 drake Garganey. Numerous wader babies were also
pleasing. Encouraged I decided to go to Rush Hill, forgetting
momentarily that a certain youth from the Channel had found a
Bonaparte's Gull there recently. Inevitably the hide was filled with a
hopeful man with pager, Colin's and pocket detritus spread all around.
"This is the sixth time I've tried for this. Can you have a look at
this one?" A Black-head. Adult. Snoozing on the mud. The scrape only
had 35 Ringos and half-a-dozen Dunlin for entertainment, though a
Greenshank flew through on the way towards Coots. Fortuitously a 1st
summer Bonaparte's Gull flew through as I was extracting myself from a
conversation about having to try 35-40 times before seeing the 1st year
American Wigeon at Buckenham earlier this year, so I made a break for
JG (walking boots, gore-tex jacket, lightweight ultimate survival trousers, camera bag on head)
AL, (walking boots, cream baseball cap, tight black jeans, freshly ironed white shirt, black tie and black dinner jacket) ,
RMa (all-leather loafers, Harris tweed country jacket, leather waistcoat, white shirt, paper trousers)
Despite an outrageous amount of effort no actual success that anyone can even pretend to have enjoyed. Notable was JG's Anthus sp. orbiting somewhere close to Venus, (call only) and a totally accurate Purple Heron prediction which was actually seen by AL through some mind-cracking spatio-temporal realignment from Cley Coastguards. I recall the events something like this:
JG (gazing lovingly over the beautiful soft colours of the teeming marshes at Cley, (AVOCET SOUND): "How long would we have to wait for a Purple Heron?"
RM (crouched, removing exhaust from motorbike): "22 minutes"
JG (Turning, then pushing the motorbike into a ditch): "Too long. Get down the point."
AL (looking intensely west from Coastguards, steely gaze, close up): "Did you see that? Big, thing flapping, miles away, must be over Kelling or something".
JG (SCREAMING PIHA SOUND): “Purple Heron”
AL (smashes window of blue Fiat Punto) : “Nah, kinda looked greyish”
JG (punches AL in face): “No, text from Gholden, Purple Heron at Kelling.”AL: “Cock”.
Thursday 10th - Friday 11th
at Abberton Reservoir, 3 Black-necked Grebe still around, still the
longest CBC transect possible. Only 890 registrations in the two days
to the River Nene mouth to survey breeding waders on the saltmarsh. We
didn't get this part of the work last year, because some chumps
reckoned they could do it on the cheap. They couldn't, and so I'm back
clearing up the Redshanks. Nothing else doing however.
BBS square somewhere in southeast mid-nowhere Norfolk. First visit, some arable and some woodland patches so obviously first bird on the recording sheet was Ruddy Shelduck. Stunna. Embarassingly a single singing Garden Warbler was my first this year. Right, now I can say I've contributed to the knowledge base that the bto say will save the world (or something, I never read the things that fall out of bto news, or bto news, or anything published about Britain since I was born...) so I'm off to join the big twitch at Horsey http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/norfolk/6630103.stm and have some fun. It can't be suppression if it's on the beeb.
Oystercatcher over the house while painting the back door some more. Door installation time so far: 32 days
Back into the sueda/pine exchange zone without much joy. Additions to the site year to date were Common Sand, Swift, Sand Martin, Little and Sandwich Tern, all before I fell asleep with boredom.
Does anyone really know what happened in April? Coffee folowed by Chaffinch, then some R., LW, W., some more coffee, cake and Nightingales followed by coffee and steak. I love CBC. Ornithological highlight: absent.
Possibly as exciting as March in Norfolk can get. Early joy provided by the beautious form of a whole Canada Goose flying out over the marsh shortly after I entered the zone. No more than 10 minutes later a Red Kite appeared over the marsh passing fast through the site to the east, at 0814. The real excitement was saved for later, when wandering through the pines the over familiar sound of Great Tits drifted over. Unexpected, as this is also a site tick for me, with no resident tits at all out here. More unexpected when I tracked them down and found 5, all really cold greyish eastern looking birds. 3 piled off over the channel to take their chances with the 'grin and the sprawks. 2, a pair remained and hung around with 1 Chiffchaff, some Goldcrest and a steady stream of Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Linnet. The Red Kite reappeared at 1000, going west this time over the channel. 2 Red-breasted Geese were then reported at Wells, so I spent a while trying to look down the channel and only found an adult Brant. On the way back I finally picked up the Red-breasted Geese in flight. Back on the mainland I got some excellent views in stunning light.
Time for the resolution of the hardest id puzzle of 2007: despite giving me the run around the trees the bird eventually gave itself up on the beach...
What, it's over? You could have told me and then I'd have done something about it. Anyway, I'm in mourning. Surfbirds. All that time I trusted them with information I wouldn't tell my bank, and they held up for others to envy. My old friends, they are gone. Shot in the back by shady characters too cowardly to list. After all, you can't list without surfbirds, can you? Hold on, that's exactly what I wanted, the destruction of the listing game once I couldn't be bothered to do it. Nice work hacker chumps. Can't have it getting too popular now, can we?
Arrived back at Portland by 0900, really can't stay away at the moment. Within a few minutes of being on site I heard a Woodlark, the closest thing to a migrant so far this year. I picked it up at a couple of hundred metres range perched on the security razor-wire fence at the top of the cliffs above. After about 10mins it got bored and cleared off west. The Peregrines were distracted from their carnal exploits today due to continual bombardment by four burly Raven, upholding the wholesome image of the area through violence.
Went to Portland and stayed with a nice man at Bill house he was called Martin and he said @*&(k($$ bird report, I'm off outside and why haven't you found a Wheatear yet? B)+^&5d*ng Guernsey, I hate Guernsey, stealing our Wheatears.
Well, he might have said that if he was some kind of crass foul-mouthed wierdo but he's actually really nice, despite still being a birder. Anyway, I didn't find anything amazing, did watch some Peregrines having sex and filmed them, and did see a couple of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps which weren't migrants. Portland Harbour had some winter type birds in it, including a Black-throated Diver, some GNDs, Slavs and the Velvet Scoter that's hanging around trying it on with some R & b Mergansers.
Holding on, just, as it all passes by faster than the shed roof. Time was never on our side. We could dance all night. Oh, sorry, that's not true, the plane's leaving and I need a new country. This one's gone mushy. Someone left the gas on. A short fuse and a broken lighter. Well, piss off then. I can't make it work for you, you're on your own along with 6x107 others. Can you get me some biscuits while your out?
The patch gets a bit bigger. Left the Unthank a bit after midnight when we realised that the nice people behind the bar weren't going to stop giving us alcohol and we badly needed some sleep. By 02:38 James, Rich and myself were collected once more in Alex's car, in various states of inebriation. 02:43: Stopped by the police before even getting past the ring road. It's o.k., Alex is sober, he just can't understand road markings (it's different in Brasil). We arrived at Stansted at some time with no further legal infringements recorded. Hopped on the nearest plane, turns out it was going to Finland. Fortunately that was where we wanted to go, deep down. I had some chicken cup-a-soup. It was clearly made of particularly high grade petroleum product with added carrot. They always add carrot. It was brilliant.
Tampere looked too exciting. Cold (ish, only actually zero C), white and various shades of grey and green with coniferous interspersed with barns. I was expected at least 3 Great Greys before we'd even landed. After some difficulty locating the budget chappie, during which time a Hooded Crow and some Magpies entertained us (poorly, I thought: no tricks, rope swinging or letting the tyres down on the tourist buses) our vehicle was revealed to us. Magnificent is a word. Yaris is not.
Rich took to the snowy roads with aplomb and we stormed off towards some part of Tampere. Having realised the Dusky Thrush was a no go (no chance) we'd fortuitously received gen that the Hawk Owl seen ages ago in Tampere was still there. James' immaculate directional sense landed us on top of the site. A swarthy Finn with the largest gun stock camera rest and camera thus far noted was strolling casually around as we jumped out , fresh-faced with excitement and eagerness. 'it's there, under the magpie nest' he said, and it was. It should have been great. Hawk Owl. It's just one of those species that you dream of finding perched up on the pine in the plantation on Blakeney Point, looking outrageously exciting. But it was too static, too fluffy, too sleepy, and actually a tad dull. Too easy.
Anyway, it's a big score and it was easy to appreciate as a very attractive and cute owl. I didn't think I'd say that about it. Cute. That's the problem. I wanted it to be a bit psycho, not a bit simple.
The rest of daylight reminded us that we should be grateful for all that we actually twitch. A search of the Ural Owl site revealed borealis Tit, nominate Treecreeper and nominate Bullfinch but no owl. Further attempts at owl score led to large amounts of driving with limited success with finding sites and no success with finding GGO. With just a couple of Raven added to the triplist by dusk Rich spun the car northwards at full speed. I took over just north of Tampere and we headed endlessly on along roads I couldn't see. 470Km, some fanni and a bottle of Morgan's Spiced Rum later we found our Eden, well Oulu. Parking the car outside a hotel we showed bare flesh to local girls in return for the best gen of the trip. 'Club Hot is just down there, but I don't think you want to go there. You want to go to Onnela.'
Two hundred and forty-seven approaches later, Rich's address book in meltdown and Alex already contacting estate agents we got back to the accomadation (again, for luxurious recall Yaris) at sometime after 4.
Half-nine interrupted my jarred vision, glowering at me from the LCD in the infinite depths of the Toyota's display. Struggling out of sleeping bags we got back into suitable clothes for the increasingly penetrating cold, and gently rolled the car to Jatari. Not actually sure how we found the twitch, just took some turns and found a steaming pile of snow-covered excrement, crawling with Finn-sticks and their owners.
Initial signs were poor. A Glaucous Gull flew by with some Herring and caused far too much excitement for my liking. Some billions of Waxwings swirled around, and a brief glance at the Redpoll flock behind us revealed at least one exilipes among a Mealy mass. But no sign of the main prize. Clearly if it was here these ultra-mega Finn-sticks would find it long before our rubbish hand-held techniques. Then, Alex exploded next to me: “It's there!”. And it was. Azure Tit, truly brilliant. A bird that actually exceeds any plate or photo that I've seen through some fabulous inner dynamism. The Finns threw down their sticks in amazement. Maybe in range you could take them for granted after a bit, but like a pro it left us wanting more. It left as it had appeared, suddenly and at distance.
Shortly after a group of caudatus appeared for a couple of minutes and we all mused on how great tits really are. Shortly afterwards we left the site and examined the suburbs nearby. Struggling to find even one Grosbeak after Piner had reported them in road-blocking numbers just a couple of weeks ago, but while wandering around a Nuthatch appeared on a lampost between Rich and myself. Big white super, with frosty whiteness under revealing it to be 'asiatica'. Unfortunately Rich was watching a feeder with his back to me and the 'tatch cleared off.
Guessing that there must be some beast-finch somewhere round Oulu we tried to find the uni but were stopped short by an outrageous shout from James of Pine Grosbeak in a rowan tucked down a side street by the river. Quick u-turning plonked us underneath them as they munched the gooey berries while pleasantly twittering away. Surprisingly good value.
James conceded that we had enough time to go and attempt Sibe Tit at Hietasaari although professed to have no idea of how to get there except that it was distance away. 2Km later we found it by just driving in a direction we hadn't gone yet and wandered around the site. James in his excited state slipped out of the reach of gravity and managed to land on his face from standing “I'm not doing any sliding, that's just asking for pain. Arrgh!” (thump). Heroically carrying on with 4 cracked ribs and no eyes it was only a short time before I picked out a fluffy Siberian Tit slowly working around a spruce. James located a second bird and later it appeared that three were in the immediate vicinity, unless one had moved really fast. Another species that was more entertaining than I expected, moving slowly and methodically through the trees. With darkness and another 480km approaching we bade farewell to the magical city of Oulu and made for the south. Feeling the effects of the driving I handed over to Alex for the long stretch and slept noisily in the back. Skilfully negotiating blizzard conditions he got us safely back to Tampere some time in the evening via a much appreciated Hesburger MegaburgerTM.
The flight back provided another opportunity for Alex to add to his overflowing contacts book, usefully adding an 18 year-old girl who lives in Kuusamo. Breeding RfB plus more Finn-sticking in spring? maybe...
AL's final act was the completion of the Stansted-Norwich run in less time than it really ought to take, and I gratefully accepted the extra 17 minutes of sleep before having to get up for work four hours later.