Sunday 31 December 2017

3rd Expedition to North Norfolk

28th December 2017
For the last few days of the Christmas Holidays, I decided to spend a weekend in the wildlife-rich county of Norfolk. It was a tiring, three hour drive from London to my first reserve, Wolferton Triangle, which is very famous for its Golden Pheasants (the 'Triangle' is a patch of greenery between two roads). Due to my bad planning, and not reading the most important line from the Birds of Norfolk website ('Switch off your engine and wait: they usually graze by the road'), I left immediately, without seeing a single bird.

I went straight to a much better reserve, RSPB Titchwell Marsh, where I saw hundreds of waders and wildfowl:

Two Marsh Harriers in the distance- there were five in total

Migrant Brent Geese settling on the main lake

Pink-footed Geese, (I call them 'Pinkfeet') coming in to roost


More Pinkfeet!

Probably my best photo from this trip: a Black-tailed Godwit

A Curlew in the sunset

A Turnstone on the beach- the next few photos are from what some of the other birders called 'A hell of a spectacle'

Mixed flock of gulls

Sanderlings and a Turnstone

Black Headed Gulls 

Sanderlings up close

These starfish reminded me of Patrick from SpongeBob!

Little Grebe in winter plumage

Shelduck feeding

29th December 2017
This day was a very bad day for birding, as it rained heavily throughout the day. Even the weather forecast was very unpredictable, as it said it would stop raining at 11:00, then 12:00, and eventually stopped at 5:00. Nevertheless, I made an attempted pilgrimage to the great Cley Marshes, a reserve famed for it frequent rarities (sounds ironic, doesn't it?). For half an hour, I gazed out from the Visitor Centre at the vast expanse of reedbeds, saline pools and lakes, where the only birds I saw were Mallards, Gulls and Curlews. 

As soon as I set foot on the reserve, I realised that it was 12:00- and still raining. I picked up my pace and headed towards the sea because I heard of reports of all three species of divers and Snow Buntings, but realised that it was too far to walk in those weather conditions. Instead, I ran hurriedly to a hide which I forgot the name of, where I met a local photographer, who had travelled from RSPB Minsmere in Suffolk to Cley, and not taken a single photo. We chatted for a bit, and I took some shots of the lake in the rain:

A Shelduck, some Avocets and a Black Headed Gull

Male Shoveler

Another terrible photo of Gulls and Wildfowl

Back at the Visitor Centre, I found the photographer again, who showed me his first photo of the week. He told me that as soon as I left the hide, a Water Rail came! I quickly got over my disappointment, bought a signed copy of Bill Oddie's Tales of a Ludicrous Bird Gardener and saw thirteen Marsh Harriers from the Centre's huge windows! I quickly visited Cley Beach, only to find many Black Headed Gulls. Fortunately, as I was heading out of Cley, a Merlin swooped over my head!

Just like last time, I briefly visited Holkham National Nature Reserve, specifically Lady Ann's Road, for a  rarity, the Black Brant. Sadly, I did not see it, nor did I see the vast flocks of Pinkfeet that are usually there.

30th August 2017
This was the day I was to leave for London, but since today was a much better day than yesterday, I set off on a proper pilgrimage back to Cley. This time, I walked all that way to the sea, and visited the Bishop's Hide, where another birder helped me spot a Snipe!


Wigeons grazing


Shelducks grazing in in a saline pool

Greenshank wading in the distance

Assorted Gulls at sea

Mallards and...wait a minute, why is there a domestic duck there???

Snipe at Bishop's Hide

Pied Wagtail

My best Lapwing photo ever

Gulls and Avocets

Little Egret up close


Marsh Harrier

After walking around the reserve, I visited the gallery, where there was a free exhibition called 'Reflections of Birds'. The gallery was inside one of Cley next the Sea's very own chain of optics shops, CleySpy. When I saw a couple of Opticron scopes fixed to a table, onlooking the reserve, one word came to mind: digiscoping. Digiscoping is a modern technique used by birders, where they put the camera of their phone against the eyepiece of their scope, and take a photo through it. With practice, it can be very rewarding, so I decided to try it out:

A painting from the exhibition of a Short-toed Eagle

Painting of a Bittern

Some Lapwings and Teals

A view of most of the reserve

Great Black-backed Gull with Black Headed Gulls

Different wildfowl sharing one island- can't humans do the same with the world?

Although I did not see a rarity, I am extremely happy that I can say I have been to arguably the greatest reserve in Norfolk, if not Britain. I have seen some beautiful birds, seen wonderful landscapes and met brilliant birders.

Tuesday 26 December 2017

Camley Street Natural Park & Regent's Canal

24th December 2017
While walking through the Christmas Eve rush in King's Cross, I kept thinking that Camley Street Natural Park, an urban reserve home to many woodland and wetland birds, was nearby. I did not know how to prove it, until I saw a huge banner that read, 'London Wildlife Trust'. As soon as I saw a huge clump of trees and a familiar canal (and a Peregrine) I rushed across the road, and stood on its banks for about twenty minutes. Unfortunately, due to me having other plans, I did not go inside the woodland area of the reserve, but I did take some shots by the Regent's Canal:

The edge of Camley Street, with the canal snaking around

A Herring Gull flies overhead


Flock of Black Headed Gulls

Camley Street Natural Park is within a development called King's Cross Central, which will provide homes and offices for many Londoners. In my opinion, this is a very good idea, as Camley Street will be a local nature reserve to a massive amount of people, and this means that everyone in King's Cross can enjoy their local wildlife.

Thursday 21 December 2017

A Day Out in Clapham

(Dedicated to my wonderful little cousin)

21st December 2017
Today was spent with my little cousin brother (see my October post, '6th Trip to Barnes'), in the bustling town of Clapham. I spent lots of time with him today, trying to help him pursue his growing interest in birds. For a large part of the day, I visited Clapham Common with him, a huge park filled with birds: a great place to start. 

He told me to show all of the birds to him, so I did, and when I showed him an Egyptian Goose, I taught him the noise it makes ('honk honk'). He learned all this information very quickly, and started pointing at birds and exclaiming their names, such as 'crow' and 'goose'.  Afterwards, we enjoyed a ferris wheel ride at Winter Wonderland's alternative park, and admired beautiful views of the city. I feel very proud that I am already teaching the basics of bird identification to someone younger.

Greylag Goose grazing

Grey Squirrel

1 of 3 Egyptian Geese sighted

Battersea Power Station


Tuesday 19 December 2017

Tate Birding

19th December 2017
No, the Tate have not opened a new gallery dedicated to birds, but I stood on the viewing platform at the Tate Modern, and birdwatched. Doesn't sound very exciting does it, watching pigeons and gulls fly about in central London? Actually, all who think that are wrong. Back in September, the RSPB had a pop-up shop outside the art gallery (I bought lots of pin badges from there), and volunteers were armed with scopes and binoculars, all facing the top of the Tate Modern's chimney. They were all waiting for one bird: the Peregrine Falcon.

For many years, Peregrines have done well in London, nesting on skyscrapers and making a meal out of the passing Sparrows, but recently, they have frequented the Tate's chimney, and when I visited the gallery today, my first thought was "The Peregrines!". When I eventually visited the viewing platform today, I heard harsh, wild mewing call: a Peregrine was frantically flapping around the chimney. That gave me the chance to take this disgraceful shot (even when I edited it, it didn't look any better). If only I had focused the camera!

The Peregrine. For now, my photos of birds in flight are unlikely to improve

However, I also saw a dozen Black Headed Gulls, two juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls in their 2nd winter plumage and a Cormorant. I took some wonderful shots of some of the Black Headed Gulls:

By Blackfriars Bridge

In Gabriel's Wharf

In Southbank

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