Norfolk in February

Having both had the food poisoning a week ago, it took us all week to recover. However, I had booked a weekend in North Norfolk staying in Hunstanton. Again we didn’t set off until after half past seven. We miss you nagging us to get up early and get going.  We had an excellent drive to Norfolk and found ourselves at Titchwell RSPB just after 10 am.

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We had a wonderful walk down to the beach picking up waders right and left.

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Marsh harriers were new to us and most of the common waders. On the sea, we found great northern diver, red-breasted mergansers and both velvet and common scoters. There were hundreds of common scoter and about 70 velvet scoters.

 

Sanderlings, oystercatchers, curlews, and bar-tailed tailed godwits patrolled the edge of the beach. Linnets and other mixed finches flew about the salt marsh. It was a cold day with a stiff breeze but we were well wrapped up and in high spirits. We went to Choseley barns to look for yellowhammers and corn buntings. We found both grey and red-legged partridge and loads of hares dashing around the fields.

We headed to the digs had an early night and woke up refreshed. We had to wait until after 9am for breakfast so we were late to set off.

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We went to Holkham where we found spoonbills, over 200 white-fronted geese, Brent geese and Egyptian geese, great white egret. We found over 20 shore larks on the beach.

 

 

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We walked back to the car with five minutes to spare on the parking and drove to the watch point at the end of Holkham pines where we found a huge flock of pink-footed geese so having seen all the common geese, we headed back to Choseley barns. We were rewarded with a view of a male yellowhammer. So we had a lovely weekend with over 30 new species for the year, some lovely walks and good food and a lovely place to stay. We have found that these short breaks are as good as a small holiday.

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At Titchwell we found some snowdrops and two different species of fungi candle snuff and orange peel fungus.

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A Wintry walk on the wild side

Dear Sons,

As this week was half term we decided to travel North to Durham last weekend. As we are lazy it was after 7 o clock in the morning when we set off and arrived at Skinninggrove beach just South of Redcar, where an Eastern Black Redstart had been sighted.

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As we got out of the car the strength of the wind nearly blew us across the car park. The rain was so hard it stung our faces. We had wrapped up so well we resembled a Michelin man and could barely move our limbs. We slowly wobbled our way to the beach. Everywhere there were pied wagtails and numerous Rock pipits. Several small birds kept popping out from behind the rocks and after concentrating on finding one that stayed still long enough we found a male Stonechat. A really handsome bird, once we had seen one stonechat we kept seeing more of them.

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At the side of the beach, a number of small birds fluttered among the rocks. Some kind person had put down bird seed and it was not many minutes before the black redstart took advantage and perched up.

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Dunnocks, robins and pied wagtails competed with the black redstart and yet more stonechats. Here is the big model of a boat.

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In one corner there was a long concrete plinth with this picture on it I thought it was quite amusing. Especially considering one did not even have to breathe in the air merely opening the mouth was sufficient to obtain a lung full.

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Shivering we returned to the car and continued on to the beach at Redcar, where we hoped to find snow buntings. The beach was deserted this could have been due to the cold wind. Visibility was obscured due to the tears springing spontaneously from our eyes.

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Nevertheless, we are tough, so we struggled along the concrete path fighting the wind until we found several snow buntings crouching amongst the pebbles on the beach along with a few turnstones.

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Having been blown back towards the car we found a small cafe and stopped for lunch at Northern prices so very reasonable. We took the decision to see if we could get red and black grouse. After all on a day full of driving rain and fierce winds, where would one chose to be but on the Durham moors? We drove for about an hour and finally started to climb up the steep road towards the moors.  As the road grew steeper the rain turned to sleet and then to snow although it was not so heavy.

 

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We drove along the road at a magnificent 20 miles and hour. We passed only two other vehicles daft enough to be out in that weather. As we drove along we found lots of red grouse among the roadside. We saw a couple of female black grouse. The snow grew heavier and the visibility was decreasing and with the road becoming treacherous we decided to head back off the moor. As we were coming off the moor we were treated to the sight of a male black grouse standing framed on a farm gate. We stopped to see if there were any dippers but they had all gone elsewhere and I for one do not blame them.

Saturday evening I was very ill with food poisoning I think so Sunday we got up slowly and Drove to Hartlepool Headland. I pottered along the front. The wind had increased overnight. Again tears sprang to my eyes. The wind had whipped the sea into lots of foam and this blew over the sea walls coating everything with foam so that the edge of the water appeared as if it had been coated with fairy liquid.

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We found some eider on the sea and a shag flew past. Finally, we found some purple sandpipers cowering amongst the seaweed and rock pipits hid in the rocks. We found a curlew or two and some redshanks and yet more turnstones.

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In the fish quay, red-breasted mergansers swam about and a red-throated diver fished.

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We saw at least two seals who come up to take a look at us. I couldn’t stop shivering so we cut the time short and went to Saltholme RSPB. I was too ill to walk around the reserve but we did see some lovely wigeon, teal and shoveler from the main hide. They have a huge population of tree sparrows and numbers of goldfinches and greenfinches. As we drove away we found a large flock of Barnacle geese grazing in a field and a massive flock of golden plovers on the marsh.

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I am sure there were more species that we missed but I was just too ill to enjoy it so we came home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lovers of Amhurst, Someone from a distance, A cat, a hat and a piece of string

Well with a huge pile of books beside my bed I have been attempting to read them before they are due back at the library. The only problem is, that as I return them to the library, I find other books to take their place.

The Lovers of Amhurst

As I returned “The Lovers of Amhurst” a story about the adulterous relationship between the brother of Emily Dickenson and the wife of a college professor, allegedly based on truth. The book takes the side of the lovers and is very unkind towards the wife and children who are hurt by the affair. The great nature of their love is supposed to excuse the deceit and unkindness towards his family. I have to say I was not convinced and I found the descriptions of their ‘spiritual’ connection uncomfortable. I once had a friend who disapproved of divorce and was very vehement on the subject, until she fell for a divorced man, upon which, she spent her time finding arguments in favour of divorce. I am not commenting on divorce, but the practice that people have, of finding arguments to excuse their behaviour once they are emotionally involved, whether they previously espoused these ideas or not.

So it was while returning this somewhat disappointing novel, I found a Joanne Harris book of short stories A Cat A Hat And A Piece Of String, naturally who could resist a title like that and the book duly came home with me.  The next book due back was published by Persephone Books a publisher recommended by Dovegreyreaderscribbles who is currently working her way through this publisher’s books.

Someone At A Distance

The book is a fairly thick tome by Dorothy Whipple and concerns an old lady who is feeling neglected (despite having plenty of money, a comfortable house and a loving family) she feels unappreciated, so she hires a French companion/maid. The maid has just had a disastrous relationship and been dumped and she is out to get as much for herself as possible. Anyway, the old woman leaves a lot of money to this companion when she dies and the girl arrives to collect her money after probate. While she is waiting, she stays with the family of the old lady where she seduces the son and wrecks the family. I found the book hard going I liked the wife she was straightforward, very hardworking and loved her family. The husband was selfish and failed to notice how much his wife did to make a lovely home for them all. He was also weak failing to take responsibility for his actions.

The temptress is jealous, shallow, unkind and just plain nasty. She doesn’t even care for the husband and she makes everyone miserable. She manages to hurt everyone she comes into contact with. I have rarely met anyone so petty and shallow, mean and nasty in fiction. I nearly threw the book across the room in frustration at one stage something I am not in the habit of doing. The uplifting factor for me is the recovery of the wife once her marriage has broken down and she has lost her house. She finds a job and somewhere to live her children rally around and she is better cared for then when her supposedly devoted husband was there.

A Cat A Hat And A Piece Of String

From this turgid and overwrought plot, I turned to the short stories of Joanne Harris she of “Chocolat” fame. It was as lovely as a warm bath and fresh sheets on a cold night.

The story of the woman who falls in love with a tree was delightful. The story of the greasy spoon cafe at the railway station run by the muses was inspirational. They were parables, modern fairy tales and I lapped them up seeing layers of meaning in each small gem.

They are like a series of delicious starters filling and wholesome perfect in their way. Perhaps reading them all at once could induce a form of reading indigestion in the same way that reading a number of Father Brown stories can also be too much at any one time but interspersed with the self seeking Madamoiselle Larnier the world was not such a bleak place in these stories. Next time I have to read The Priory  wish me luck….

Sea ducks in the centre of the country

Sunday Morning dawned clear and cold with a surprisingly light breeze. We drove up to Stoke Bardolph in the bright winter sunshine. Turning beside the sewage works we drove towards the village and finally found ourselves beside the river. In the bright light, everything appeared more vivid than usual and the whole scene had the air of a dream or a story with the slow winding river, the fringes of trees and the fields on either side. Among these trees were nearly a hundred fieldfares and redwings feeding on the fields.

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On the left-hand side of the river, a wind turbine was visible high above the hedges and fields.

I have always found these beautiful, especially when compared to electricity pylons and this one was turning steadily. The power lines hummed and crackled as we walked beneath them. On the river, to our right-hand side, a flotilla of tufted ducks drifted in the current. It took only a moment before we picked out the female scaup with the huge white blaze above the bill the lack of the crest and the greater size.

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A photographer attempting to get a closer shot drove the flock across the river but they gradually returned. In the meantime, a flash of yellow flew across the path and I cursed having missed a possible gray wagtail. A few minutes later the gray wagtail appeared beside the outflow balancing on a railing and showing itself to great advantage.

Image is courtesy of the wildlife trusts many thanks

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I obtained excellent views and was looking forward to investigation the swans I could see further down the river, but as we stood there the mist came down and the whole scene was engulfed, the view obliterated and even the turbine was obscured. What could we do but drive home? We found a whole flock of geese further along the road and stopped to photograph them and search for any rarer species. On the way home, we decided to call at Long Eaton Meadows to look for this common scoter reputed to be present on the gravel pits. It was damp and dull by the time we arrived and parked on a sodden and muddy lane. We both searched for a few minutes over a cold lake, with a piercing wind blowing directly at us before we found the common scoter. Image is courtesy of Nottinghamshire Birdwatchers Many thanks

Image is courtesy of Nottinghamshire Birdwatchers Many thanks

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Again we had an excellent view as it dived and swam about. Usually, these ducks are obscured by the waves and breakers, but on a flat gravel pit it presented an excellent view and we were able to fully appreciate the plumage for possibly the first time. We watched the bird for some twenty minutes until the rain commenced in earnest and sleet particles began to trickle down our necks. Still, three new species were seen and excellent views of all three obtained.

Once again hope you enjoyed hearing about our adventures. Kind regards Mum

A Foretaste of Spring

This morning we made a supreme effort and managed to drag our weary bodies out of bed early. After a brief breakfast, we headed off to Rufford Abbey and country park.

 

All week there have been up to ten hawfinches in the trees surrounding the car park and we wanted to see these birds. We crossed the city in record time and found ourselves getting out of the car less than 45 minutes after we had set out. Following the know of birdwatchers in the car park gave us directions to nine hawfinches obligingly perched high in a tree.

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They remained in full view for approximately 15 minutes. It was the best view of hawfinches I have ever had. Around us, blue tits great tits nuthatches and chaffinches all sang at the top of their voices. We had limited time due to an appointment at 11am so we headed for the lake. 

Although the weather was cold four degrees it was bright and sunny and we found our first snowdrops in flower. You may not be able to feel spring is around the corner. You may not be able to see it but these small signs are the foretastes and promises of the spring and they always make me happy.

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Hazel trees were full of catkins and we saw wild arum just poking above the soil. Great tits, robins, and blackbirds have been shouting all week about how sexy they are and proclaiming territory. Indeed earlier this week a blackbird was still singing well after dark just near the library

Our diligence was rewarded with four goosanders two males and two females on the lake. Some species of birds were obviously accustomed to being fed regularly by visitors. A crowd of robins followed us hopefully whilst blue tits and great tits hovered nearby. At a bridge, we were treated to sights of a coal tit a few feet away from us great tits and blue tits were everywhere as were dunnocks robins and an occasional wren. A goldcrest hovered at the edge of a yew completely oblivious to our presence.

 

 

Our pleasure was increased by a flock of approximately fifty siskins who flew into the trees at the edge of the lake. One of two of us were sure there was redpoll amongst them but your father refuses to be convinced. None of those I saw had the red forehead but they did have the streaky pattern and buff wing bars of immature redpolls. 

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We headed back to the car seeing treecreeper, nuthatch and two great spotted woodpeckers on the way. We missed the brief flash of a kingfisher as it shot past. However, despite this disappointment, we saw three new species for the year Hawfinch, siskin and treecreeper. The drive home took twice as long as the early morning drive. For a short trip, we picked up four new species for the year, had wonderful views and had a lovely walk in the sunshine. A really lovely morning. As you can see the close-up shots of birds courtesy of Nottinghamshire birdwatchers are far superior to anything our camera can achieve. Hope everything is going well.

Love Mum