Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lodge gardens

The sun came out this lunchtime so I thought I'd better make the most of it while it lasted...

Crocuses



Daffodils

Honeysuckle

Bramble leaves...

Woodpecker hole

I think this (Great Spotted Woodpecker) hole must be quite recent. The edges look fairly fresh (there are even a few downy feathers snagged on the rough wood) and there's sap oozing from around the hole.

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Gardening

'Might lift up the turf', I said yesterday.

Using two tent-pegs and some string, I measured out a 4m x 4m patch as the first phase of my veg patch. Having made an incision with a spade all the way round the edge, I commenced taking up the grass.

I did one edge, one spade's width, and gave up. The soil is so clayey that you could probably make pots from it. And the grass is really long, and the ground really wet.

Think I'll try again in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Veg update

Finally got this year's vegetable-growing effort underway today. Visited the local garden centre and bought the seeds, seed potatoes, artichokes and garlic and onion sets that we've decided we want to have a go at growing.

I spent much of this afternoon in the garage (my substitute potting shed) sowing seeds in pots and trays. I did broccoli, capsicums, coriander, chives and basil. All are now sitting on various windowsills, waiting to germinate.

Fingers crossed.

Now we need to create a veg patch in the garden to put these things in eventually. It's all lawn at the moment but I've tentatively marked out a possible patch using branches which fell off the ash tree during the gales. Might lift up the turf tomorrow if it's not raining.

I also bought some lavender plants and a globe thistle which I know will be really popular with insects.

Brown Argus on globe thistle

Where did he come from?

It's been fairly quiet in the garden lately.

This morning, Darren saw something we'd been expecting for a while - a ringed bird. It was a male Chaffinch.

I guess the likelihood is that he was ringed by Mark, our friend who lives in the next village, but there's no way of telling unless we get to read that ring number. Unfortunately it's too small to do that without catching the bird!

It's also possible that the bird was ringed by someone in Scandinavia, for instance, as that's where lots of Chaffinches come from to spend the mild British winter.

You can read more about ringing here, on the BTO website.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Norfolk - again...

Saturday was very enjoyable, and it turned out that Sunday was, too. Good job, because it's Darren's birthday!

Started off with a pre-breakfast walk around Hickling. Not terribly productive, but saw Barn Owl hunting and heard [invisible] Marsh Harrier displaying and Bearded Tit 'pinging'.

Next stop, Caistor



The flock of 60 Snow Buntings reported at the north end of town yesterday had increased to 85 this morning.

Many of these birds were colour-ringed. Having looked on the http://www.cr-birding.be website, it looks likely that they were ringed at Caistor itself but of course I'll submit the combinations to the BTO so it's all official.





A short hop down the coast into Great Yarmouth found 20 Mediterranean Gulls on the beach between the piers.

Decided to go home the long way, round the coast road. Stopped at Salthouse, where the first-winter Glaucous Gull had been seen (saw it at Cley last weekend), but I spotted a guy digiscoping something on the shingle and went to investigate. Eventually, through the heat-haze (!), a flock of Snow Buntings appeared.

To start with, I was watching the bloke and thinking, 'wish I had my digiscoping kit with me' (I was just carrying the new camera, and my bins). The birds were a bit too far away for DSLR-action. Then, someone walking along the shingle bank flushed them and they wheeled round and landed right in front of me! Bingo! My lucky day...






These birds were stupendously tame. I was pleased when they first flew in, but they kept coming closer and closer. Eventually, the closest birds got to within about four feet of me! To be honest, they were a bit too close for photography, but it was a fantastic experience.

The reason they came so close was because someone had baited the area with wheat. While the Snow Buntings flew off for a while, a gaggle of Turnstones flew in from behind me and landed in the same spot as the buntings had!

I really like Turnstones. They're very characterful. While the flock (of about 10 birds) pecked away, I listened to their conversational chattering to each other and the sound of the pebbles being flipped over.


You can see its bill is curved to one side for stone-turning, and there's a pebble in mid-air just next to it!

By this stage, I felt a bit like the Bird Lady from Mary Poppins (not good; I was made to sing it in a gangshow when I was about 11 and have never quite recovered).


Restored barn, Thornham

Ended the day at Holme Dunes NNR. While Darren watched the sea, I pottered around looking for photo opportunities. This flock of Knot (with Dunlin and Ringed Plover hangers-on) was about all there was.

Knot, led by Ringed Plover

Mussel shell

rippled sand, Holme Dunes NNR

Walking back to the car park, D muttered 'all we need now is a Jack Snipe and a Short-eared Owl'. Not sure why he mentioned those two species, but as we walked along the edge of one of the pools, a Lapland Bunting flew up!

Not a bad end to the day.
photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM, Extender EF 1.4x II

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Norfolk - some more

It's a whole six days since we were last in Norfolk, so time for another visit, this time centred around the Broads.

Went to twitch the American Wigeon which is at Buckenham Marshes. The Yankee showed only distantly, but a flock of Euro Wigeons were the most confiding I've ever seen. They looked fat and glossy in the sunshine.

Wigeon feeling frisky

Strange 'white-eared' female Wigeon, Buckenham Marshes (another 'white-eared' bird here)

Wigeon in flight (spooked by Marsh Harrier)

Rook cawing

Blackthorn blossom

Catkins

Guelder rose berries

Snowdrops, Strumpshaw Fen

Special birds: Cranes coming in to roost [relatively] near the Stubb Mill watchpoint (though that's Horsey Mill in view):

22 came in; we also saw 16+ Marsh Harriers

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM, Extender EF 1.4x II

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lodge birds



Some more rather predictable shots of birds at The Lodge. There's not much else showing at the moment...

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM, Extender EF 1.4x II

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Starlings!

This beautiful male was one of the first three Starlings to set foot in our garden since we moved in.

The trio flew in this morning and descended on the fat blocks (which are going to run out in the next few days). Then they left as suddenly as they'd appeared.

Wonder where they came from. I've seen sizeable flocks of Starlings flying around along the hedgerows nearby, presumably foraging for berries. So they've been around for some time. More broadly, it's possible that these Starlings originated in Russia and migrated to the UK for our 'warm' winter (well, everything is relative, I suppose).

Norfolk

Decided to head to Norfolk today, starting at Cley. When we left home, the weather was bright and sunny, but on the coast it was decidedly overcast and starting to rain. With the promise of Shorelarks on the shingle bank, we pressed on regardless.

The nine larks were in exactly the same place where Darren had seen his first a few years ago. They fed among the pebbles and weeds and were pretty confiding, and the sun came out.
The first-winter Glaucous Gull also appeared on the sea not far out. Which was great but I'd left my camera in the car, not wanting to get it wet. C'est la vie...



Waxwings

These Waxwings were in a hedge by the A149 (coast road), just east of Holkham. They were also quite showy but the road got in the way. The sun was still out and the birds did a bit of insect-catching as well as berry-gobbling.


Fulmar

Herring Gull

Black-headed Gull

On the way home, we stopped at Hunstanton with the express intention of photographing the Fulmars that nest on the cliffs there! The skies were clear and the sun was in the right direction, so it was fun trying to get shots of the birds in flight.

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM, Extender EF 1.4x II

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Footprints in the snow

We had about two inches (5cm) of snow on Thursday morning. At 7.15am, I dutifully went out to feed the birds (I'm very dedicated) and found a load of footprints in the snow. There were Pheasant-sized prints, Blackbird-sized prints and some Fox prints.

I suspected we'd had a Fox in the garden a few weeks ago when a strange looking bit of poo was found. The snow provided the evidence needed to confirm my suspicions - it all became beautifully clear.

Unfortunately, it was too dark and time was too short to take photos before I went to work. Mr Fox had had a good sniff around the bird feeders before heading off into next-door's garden. Nice.

This morning, I had a quick look out the window in the gloom and a Fox trotted across the field at the back. A few minutes later, a Hare went in the other direction.

A friend of mine currently has Badgers visiting his garden, though I don't think we'll ever be able to beat that...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Surprise of the century

BBC News: 'The bird flu outbreak at a Bernard Matthews' farm in Suffolk may be linked to imports from the firm's plant in Hungary, the government has said.'

Really? You don't say!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Lodge thrushes

Progress is a bit slow, with few birds that are close enough, and not enough time to sneak up on those that are not!

Redwing

Robin

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM, Extender EF 1.4x II