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.


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.


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



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


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.


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.


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. 



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 


The Big Garden Bird Watch

This morning we carried out the big garden bird watch. Well more accurately your father carried out the bird watch whilst I enjoyed edited highlights.

(I have had my paper accepted for publication. The proofs came through on Thursday and had to be returned within three days. Consequently I spent this morning carefully checking the text and figures for errors and we posted the corrections back before midday.)

As you know we have been putting out mixed seed, fat balls, Niger seed, meal worms and sometimes fruit. We lay this on the ground as well as on the feeders. This has encouraged both more species to visit the garden in addition to greater numbers of each species. The ground feeding birds have particularly enjoyed our generosity.

Six wood pigeons have taken up residence around the garden waiting for free hand outs.


Whilst a pair of collared doves fed on the seed feeders balancing precariously on the platform.


As a result of all the free food on the path we had five blackbirds in the garden at once. The territorial rules have apparently been suspended  in the quest for food. A flock of nine goldfinches landed on the feeders and proceeded to feed. Over the course of the hour there was not a moment when there were not goldfinches on the Niger seed. However, since the dramatic decline in the numbers of Greenfinches  a few years ago, we rarely see these birds in the garden.


The chaffinches are prospering and we had seven of these on the seeds. They appear to prefer to feed on the ground, and, since we have spread seed on the path, the numbers of these birds has increased.


Likewise the pair of Dunnocks and the house sparrows have taken to visiting the garden daily.


The fat balls were host to a pair of blue tits and a pair of great tits. These birds also search the current bushes and roses looking for invertebrates to scoff. A wren was searching these bushes this morning. A magpie watched from the damson tree at the bottom of the garden.

A few days ago a coal tit was seen on the currant bushes, today it was on the apple tree. We have also seen the odd Goldcrest on the bushes.

Unfortunately the over-wintering male Blackcap did not visit during the alloted hour.


With so many of these birds in pairs I suspect that various species are already pairing up ready for the breeding season.  So one hour 12 species and good numbers of most of them. The only usual ones absent this morning were the robin, the goldcrest, the coal tit and the blackcap.

Most of the photos are from either the wikipedia website or the RSPB  and many thanks for these.

Tundra Bean goose and Whooper Swans

Dear Lads,

Well it is almost the end of the month and a twelfth of the year has nearly passed. I have not lost any of the extra kilos I gained over Christmas, the house is no tidier and I am struggling to keep up with everything ( i.e. the swimming, the reading, the languages, the housework as well as work and trying to slim).

Anyway we are healthy and not too badly off which is much better then many people in this world. Accordingly we decided after a morning of chores to head out to look for Whooper swans at Thumpton just off the A453 near the power station. We had distant views at first but having negotiated the back roads we found a whole flock of geese and swans in a field near Thrumpton.

There were four whooper swans  among over 23 Egyptian geese, approximately 35 mute swans Some were hiding in hollows a few Greylag geese and a few Canada geese.

Thank you to Clifton grove birds for this photo again  the birds were too distant to obtain a good clear image


We were very pleased when amongst them but out on its own we found a tundra Bean goose. a very obliging bird that gave us excellent views as we noted all its salient features.

Thanks to Sean Browne for this photograph it was too far away for us to photograph


Encouraged by our success we decided to Head for Attenborough where a starling murmuration had been reported. Unfortunately this is where our luck ran out as we exited the car the rain hurled down and we got soaked so no murmuration for us. The result of all this rain was that the car park cleared faster than usual the only busy place was the cafe where families sought to dry out and warm up with drinks and food. We had a very cheeky Egyptian goose approach us just above the sign advertising bird food. You can see how wet it was.


At the bottom of the ramp a pair of mandarin ducks were loitering in the hope of obtaining food. There were no rings on their legs nor were their wings clipped so I concluded that these were part of the increasing feral population of these ducks. Whilst we have seen female Mandarins here before we had never seen a male. As he was obviously strutting about to attract the female I wondered if this was why he had turned up at this location.


Before the telescopes and binoculars were full of water we decided to abandon the starling flock and return home.

We hope you are both well and happy. We had a very enjoyable weekend last weekend and we are eagerly anticipating another visit sometime. Please can you let me know dates when you will be free around Easter so we can plan a trip to see you.

Lots of love

Your mother



Going to Kent

Well I thought I would update you on our summer travels. This year I decided we would visit Kent. I have never been to Kent before and I thought it would be an adventure to visit somewhere new. It took most of the day to arrive. The traffic on the M25 is already notorious so the least said about it the better. I slept for most of the way with my usual narcolepsy.

The Hotel is almost on the beach literally adjacent to the beach. It had been built in the 1930s so looked a bit like a Poirot set from the outside.



It looked a lot better in the sunshine.



Inside it was alright not too much of the modern minimalism but a bit pseudo Elizabethan downstairs wooden beams heavy doors etc. we were on the second floor the stairs were narrow and twisted so we opted for the lift. The lift could barely contain a single person so the pair of us with cases was challenging. In the end it was like playing an impromptu game of twister especially when we tried to reach the lift controls.

Our room more than made up for the rest with a balcony two huge windows and lots of light we overlooked the beach and the road.






The beach is shingle but with a concrete path to the side. This makes walking a great deal easier. The only birds visible were a few house sparrows and the occasional flock of starlings. Herring gulls patrolled the beach looking for a meal and we did spot a lesser black backed gull.

Along the edge of the beach four brave/foolhardy blokes were attempting to swim in the sea. A short distance away a group of herring gulls watched them avidly. I am almost sure I saw one of the gulls nudge his companion as he singled out a particularly cold looking individual as his next meal. I reckon these vulture/ herring gulls were just waiting for hypothermia to set in, before they attacked. One of the men appeared to have turned blue from the waist down, although that could have just been his shorts. Unfortunately the predatory gulls put me off swimming in the sea. After all my carcass could feed considerably more gulls, for a long time. Besides the Japanese are still carrying out whaling, so, swimming could put me in considerable danger. This is what the beach looks like but in the interests of not bringing the human form into disrepute I have omitted the hypothermia victims.




Well that is all the news for today.

I will tell you more tomorrow!

Read the rest of this entry »

American widgeon and little ringed plover


This Saturday was forecast as heavy winds and rain showers. When we awoke it was raining heavily the water running down the window panes and the sky a uniform grey.

We celebrated the beginning of our holiday with a cup of tea in bed. Cora came to join us and insisted on lying on top of your father thus rendering him unable to move. After doing some housework we both went to the library me to write and him to work on his laptop. By the time we left the weather was bright if blustery sunshine. We called at Birds for buns and a cake, and, after a salad lunch,decided to venture to Holme Pierrepont to look for the American Widgeon on the A52 pit.  Leaving the house David saw a buff tailed bumblebee Bombus terrestris. I thought I saw a common carder bee Bombus pascorum on the rosemary plant, however it flew off before I could get a definitive view. Your father alledges it is too early for this species and claims it was probably the gloriously named hairy footed flower bee. We pulled up on the verge and set up telescopes we were the only birders there. Last time we were there, a pair of long tailed tits were building a nest, now the nest is finished, a carefully constructed ball of moss and lichen. It is wonderfully camouflaged to look like trapped debris in the fork of a bush, unless you look closer, when the small aperture at the top marks it out as a nest.

The main pond was quite turbulent; consequently most of the water birds were in the calmer bay. Two little egrets were beside the bank on the opposite shore.  A ruff was busy searching the grass for invertebrates. On the water great crested grebes, all now in summer plumage, swam and dived for fish, whilst moorhens and coots chugged up and down carrying trails of weeds in their bills. Tufted ducks in the centre of the pond had their crests blown forward over their heads or blown vertical, giving them a punk appearance.

On the grass nearly a hundred widgeon were grazing. We commenced scanning them for the alien widgeon. This was not as easy as it sounds. Widgeon feed with their heads down in the grass and their bottoms in the air and this flock were feeding for dear life. Presumably their aim was to fatten up ready for the flight north to the breeding grounds. The distinguishing feature of the American Widgeon is a white blaze down the centre of the forehead instead of a cream patch and a dark greenish patch on the side of its head. The flank is a slightly different colour being more russet and less plum that the other wigeon but the colour discernment is somewhat subjective. The white and black delineation before the tail is very pronounced. However yet again widgeon possess the same characteristic, so it is not that obvious amongst a hundred other birds. These characteristics are hard to discern when all you can see of the bird is its bottom in the air. Added to these problems widgeon don’t exactly feed in a straight line but rather a clump and they tend to move to a better looking bit of grass constantly.

Every so often, for no discernable reason whatever, they have a tendency to take off en masse and land on the water. Here they undertake a little feather maintenance and have a drink, before making their way to the shore to clamber out in a rather ungainly fashion, their short legs are not designed for clambering up muddy banks. I sympathise having the same problem, however I digress.


To summarise we were looking for a slightly different widgeon amongst a group of a hundred or so other nearly identical birds all waddling about and feeding with their bottoms in the air, whilst the characteristics that would identify the rare bird for us are located on the head of said bird. It took us a good twenty minutes to find the bird. With this we were greatly assisted when a commoner widgeon, possibly jealous of all the attention that its American counterpart had received, pecked the bottom of the rarer American widgeon. The bird shot its head up in outrage and promptly waddled off to a different portion of the field, thankfully at the front of the flock, where we could watch it feeding undisturbed. A redshank moved amongst the flock of ducks, searching in the wet grassland with its beak.


Having had really close views and discussed the merits of the bird we headed for Attenborough suitably impressed. We had a look in the centre which is ten years old. There was a range of photos David Attenborough was prominent amongst them, he had a lovely face.


Anyway the sand martin hide and rear of the centre was closed off due to the high winds, so we made our way to the wheatear field. Despite the gusts of winds and cold, a Cetti’s warbler was singing from the reed bed next to the nature centre. The two male red crested pochards we had viewed last time we visited, have been joined by two female birds.


The usual swans, geese and ducks including the common  daffyus hybrids and an extremely ugly Muscovy sitting on the path were also present.


In the middle of the wheatear field was a little ringed plover, in pristine plumage, showing very clearly. We set up telescopes and viewed it for a at least 20 minutes, noticing the flesh coloured legs, golden eye ring and white patch above the bill. As the weather worsened, the bird merely hunkered down against the vegetation. This cannot have afforded it much protection against the elements.

little ringer plover attenborough

We shared our view with others, as we were watching a buzzard flew over tween pond causing us to gaze skywards in time to observe three sand martins swerving across the darkening sky before disappearing from view behind a line of willows. I wanted to check my prediction that the blackthorn (sloes) were in blossom and I was correct. I took some photos for you from my phone.


The clouds grew increasingly black and the wind speed accelerated, therefore not wishing to get our equipment wet we headed back to the car park.


I found white dead nettle, ground ivy and dandelion in flower. I photographed them for you.




In the garden the daffodils are in flower, the hyacinths are also blooming as is the muscari and spring squill. The hellebores are magnificent and the tulips are in bud. The buds on the pear tree are breaking and I am hoping that you will be home in time to enjoy them later this week.

 Since Saturday the weather has been very wet and windy keeping us busy indoors. I went on a quilting workshop on Sunday and visited a friend today. I am hoping the weather improves for your visit so we can have some walks and the odd trip out Looking forward to seeing you

All my love

Your mother


A wet day in Norfolk

We woke to the sound of the wind driving rain against the windows. Although some birders are brave enough to venture out in such conditions I find getting cold and wet unpleasant and I find my optics don’t work well in heavy rain. After a disasterous day on South Stacks some years back, the details of which I have tried to block out of my memory I try to avoid seriously bad weather. Anyway several games of scrabble and cards later, we decided we needed a bit of a drive and some fresh air so we went for a drive to Wolferton triangle which is next to Dersingham Bog. We Drove round in a desultory fashion looking for Golden Phesant which we had seen there before but not for a few years. We found a field near Friar Marcus Stud where there were a number of birds a couple of Grey Partridge another species I had not seen this year, Phesants, a Golden Plover in summer plummage and about 30 each of Fieldfare and Redwings. A male Ring Ouzel was hopping amongst them as were any number of rabbits. Two in two days is rather special.  In the trees we found a Roe Deer. We called in to be blown along the beach at Hunstanton the redeeming features were Fulmars on their nest and sanderling along the beach and a hare we spotted running through a field.

Still another species for the year and 25 species of bird seen total 137

birdwatching Sheringham Cley and lady Anne’s Drive Holkham

We decided to make use of the dry weather whilst it lasted and therefore we were out bright and early Before we had left the flat we had seen a Greater Spotted woodpecker in the garden and 4 Jays. There was also a Black Phesant probably just a colour morph but very distinctive. We headed for a walk at the end of Lady Annes Drive and were there by 8 am. On the lake by the path were a pair of Little Grebes calling to each other. A spoonbill flew over us and on the marshes a mottley collection of geese consisting of Greylags, Canadas, a pair of Egyptian Geese together with a Mute Swan were busily feeding. In the field beside the drive were Wigeon and Teal both quite close to us and very colourful. A male Ring Ouzel was feeding with the blackbirds at the end of the drive. This was a lovely surprise as it is a few years since I had seen one of these birds. Early migrants were everywhere, Chiffchaffs appeared to sing from every possible bush or small tree Robins, Wrens, Dunnocks. Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Long Tailed Tits were abundant.  A Goldcrest darted about an ivy covered tree. A stoat ran in front of the hide whilst we were sat there and a muntjac was seen lurking in the hedgerow. As we made our way back to the car a Red Kite flew over us and we managed to see a total of 4 Marsh Harriers some came very close to the hide.

Having started the day and just seen a Sparrowhawk  fly in front of us, we pressed on towards Cley nature reserve where we immediately saw Brent Geese feeding on the marsh. Two Spoonbills were engrossed in sleeping on a lagoon in front of North hide. We found two bright male Pintail ducks. We also picked up Shoveler, Pochard, Mallard, Gadwell and Tufted Ducks. We found 4 adult Mediterranean Gulls on lagoons in the centre of the reserve. Outside on the boardwalk we stopped and waited and found serveral Bearded Tits and heard a Cetti’s Warbler.

Our waders included Oystercatchers, Avocets, Golden Plover 3 summer plummage adults were on the eye field with a group of Lapwing, a Snipe was lurking in the edge of the reeds whilst Black Godwits, Redshank and Curlew fed in the ditches. On the sea we saw small groups of Sandwich Terns passing through. On the Eyefield we found 2 Wheatears a sure sign of spring alongside some Linnets and Meadow Pipits. Suitably refreshed and happy we drove on towards Sheringham for a bit of seawatching.  On the front were crowds of people with picnics and ice creams and cycles, scooters, pushchairs. nevertheless we settled down to watch and soon saw a few Turnstones amongst the rocks  we had picked out most of the common gull species  ( Black Headed, Herring, Common, Lesser black Backed and Greater Black Backes and were just getting weary when another star bird a first winter Glaucous Gull can close to the shore and settled on the sea where we could all easily see it. The colour of a milky cappuchino with streaks it was another lovely surprise. So another successful day with  77 species of bird seen and 6 new species seen for the year making the total at 136.

Birdwatching in Norfolk Titchwell and Hunstanton 2nd April 2012

It was a chilly morning as we breakfasted, loaded up the car and set out for Norfolk. It had an ominous sky that promised rain and we were suitably sober as a result. Birding in heavy rain is a miserable experience. However, by the time we had reached Norfolk, pausing at The Farm Shop for tea and stickies, the weather though still cold, looked decidedly more promising. On the way we had seen most of the Corvids Carrion Crows, Rooks, Jackdaws, Magpies most of the pigeons and several hares.

I have noticed that often although it is raining and wet inland it can be quite bright and sunny on this coast. We were not due to arrive at the flat we had rented till late afternoon se we had the day to amuse ourselves. we therefore started at Titchwell RSPB site of much of our birdwatching on this coast. We found several Marsh Harriers in the air before we had left the car park. They were joined by a Red Kite and a Buzzard a common one but where can you see three species of raptor in the visitor car park?

On the bird feeders we found the usual suspects Long Tailed Tits,Blue Tits, Great Tits,  many Chaffinches,  Greenfinch and Goldfinch and abundant House Sparrows. On the reed beds we saw a number of Reed Buntings and Linnets flew over our heads and settled on the salt marsh. In the trees around the visitors centre there were a number of Chiff Chaff singing loudly, several Dunnocks were lurking in the vegetation, a blackbird was turning over leaf litter looking for food and a songthrush was seen on a shrub. A Robin was giving star performances by taking food from the visitors, whereas a wren just chided us for getting too close.

The hide in the reed beds was very quiet indeed the whole reserve was very quiet in terms of visitors. We heard Bearded Tits but we only caught a glimpse of them flying. We found a male Blackcap in the woodland near the centre and a Cetti’s warbler sang from just outside the reed bed hide.  A phesant called from the reeds somewhere.

On the water we found Mute Swan,  Shellduck, Egyptian Geese, Canada Geese, Tufted Ducks, male and female Gadwell, Widgeon and Teal, Shoveler and Pochard. A lovely surprise was a pair of Red Crested Pochard on the Freshwater lagoon. An elusive male Goldeneye kept disppearing as he dived for food at the back of the lagoon and several females were also found. We found a rather sulky Grey Heron fishing in the reeds. On the marsh a Little Egret was conspicuous as only a white bird on a salt marsh can be. Oystercatchers were making amorous advances on the salt marsh and a Kestrel just hung in the air above the reeds.  Skylarks were displaying over the marsh a group of approximately 30 Brent Geese lingered obviously not that eager to fly to their breeding grounds.

As for waders we found Avocets displaying, Ringed Plovers, 10 Grey Plover, Lapwings, 10 to 15 Ruff a group of 10 Dunlin, Redshank. A Curlew flew over and a snipe was found trying to hide amongst some vegetation on the freshwater lagoon. the tide was high so there were about 30 Black Tailed Godwits roosting on a muddy island in the lagoon.

A large group of gulls contained Black Headed Gulls, Common gulls herring Gulls and Lesser Black backed Gulls

All of this whetted our appetite for when we arrived atthe beach. We met a bired who assured us that nothing was on the water. Thankfully he was mistaken,  we found 3 Scoter species and though we waited for an age to see them move so that we could determine if they were the velvet Scoter that had been reported no luck so they were just down as Scoter sp. Just out from the beach a line of 9 ducks gave us excellent views and turned out to be Long Tailed Ducks, a drake was amongst them we could distinguish their facial markings.  On the beach sanderlings were running towards the sea and back again like some sort of wind up toy, Turnstones were also busy on the beach. A couple of Blackheaded Gulls kept coming closer and closer to us in the hope of some food probably. We found great Crested Grebes on the sea. On the return walk we noted a number of Meadow Pipits and a flock of Linnets that flew between the salt marsh and the brackish lagoon. After another hot drink and snack we decided to go for a walk at Hunstanton. the weather was becoming decidedly colder and windy. we walked along the base of the cliffs finding Fulmars on their nests and several Stock doves freezing hiding in crevices on the cliffs. A common seal watched us for a while from just off the beach and we found a pair of Red Breasted Mergansers on the sea. It was starting to rain so we headed for the digs. Around the flat were quite a few rabbits. Finally in the tree near to the house we found a Willow Tit. we had seen 75 seperate species of bird and 3 species that I hadn’t yet seen in 2012 an excellent start to the holiday.


Attenborough 1st April 2012

On the First of April, with a weeks holiday before us we started birdwatching with a new zeal. The day was sunny and clear if a little breezy, the previous week had been very hot and sunny and we had all chafed at the restrictions imposed by earning a living. Even though it was not yet 10am the car park was very full indicating how popular this reserve has become.

By the visitors centre we had soon notched up the usual quote of ducks and geese. Great Crested Grebes are present here in such large numbers that it has become a notable site for these birds. Coot were already on a nest by the visitors centre. Cormorants are also present in large numbers drawn by the fish and disliked by the fishermen for the same reason. Grey herons used to nest in large numbers in the woods on the opposite bank of the river Trent but many have now moved to nest near to Attenborough village and they nest earlier than many species. Greylag and Canada geese were plentiful and several pairs of Egyptian geese originally introduced as ornamental wildfowl and now a feral self sustaining population. A pair of Red Crested Pochard swam around the visitors centre looking for any free handouts of food. I feel somewhat suspicious of the genuine wild status of a bird that comes to collect custard cream biscuits from the hand, consequently this pair are definitely suspect, despite having bred here for several years.  Oh and just to round off this motley crew, a cape shellduck stood sunning itself beside the visitors centre. Call me suspicious, but the thought that this plump well fed and apparently tame bird had flown thousands of miles is rather too difficult to believe and it was noted as an escapee. Alongside all these were the usual range of interbred ducks and geese some definitely with a great deal of farmyard in their phenotype.

On Clifton pond Wigeon, Gadwell, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Goldeneye were busily feeding. This is an excellent assemblage of species for this time of the year especially after such gloriuos weather the previous week. A pair of Ruddy Ducks were swimming at the back of the pond. Ruddy Ducks have been hunted to ‘protect’ the White Headed Duck with whom they can interbreed, justified on the basis that the Ruddy Duck is a North American bird. A bit of distasteful avian ethnic cleansing  that has reduced Ruddy Duck numbers over the last few years. However I love seeing them as it supports my subversive sense of humour, good for you I think. A Buzzard flew from the woods at Barton in Fabis and all the seagulls flew up to defend their patches. A Kestrel was hunting over the field and pheasants were calling. The usual assortment of Blue Tits, Great Tits, Dunnocks and Chaffinches were busy on the feeders alongside the resident Tree Sparrows. A pair of Oystercatchers were on one of the Islands but apart from the Lapwings and a solitary Snipe these were the only waders we saw. Waders are rather few in this part of the county.

We decided to move on and head for Tower hide.  Beside the path a number of short trees, Hawthorn, Blackthorn and Elder had been planted and as we got to Tower hide we found a very unusual small warbler at the base of one of these shrubby trees. We watched it for a few moments before deciding this was a Cetti’s Warbler, which was confirmed when we heard the bird sing. Such an volume from this tiny bird is amazing. Chiff Chaffs were everywhere and later we found a male Blackcap also very vocal. At the edge of the pond are posts which were used to fence off the reedbed so the geese would not eat the young reeds before they could become established. On one of this posts sat a Common Tern another new species for the year. At the end of this path is a sunny spot loved by a number of butterfly species, so it was that we headed there after Tower hide. We saw more Reed Buntings than one might usually see all year. The pair of Long Tailed Tits were busy nest building, Greenfinches were singing from the tops of the trees and we saw several species of butterfly. Brimstones the first butterflies of the year were present, Orange Tip males were about, Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells were abundant and a pristine Speckled Wood butterfly came through. We all managed to find a Comma butterfly at some point during the day.  Beside the path from the Tower hide to main pond there were a number of plants flowering that normally do not flower simultaneously. We saw Coltsfoot an early spring flower and White Violets, but we also saw Pink Campion which usually flowers later and Ground Ivy was everywhere, Lesser Celandines were very conspicuous and as usual Dandelions were capitalising on the warm weather .

We walked beside the River to the Bund and then came all the way back as the path though the village was closed not that there was any notification until we actually went to use this path. The last encounter we had was of a female Scaup on church pond looking very like a Tufted Duck but with the characteristic white patch above the bill and a less distinctive break between the colours on the body, when seen next to a female tufted it is glaringly obvious.

We saw more of the same species and heard a Willow Warbler.  Although we missed the Bittern that we discovered had been seen earlier in the day and a Curlew we had seen 54 species and I had now seen 129 species this year. We had also spent 4 hours walking a distance we could have covered in an hour. To anyone who does not understand the attraction of birdwatching it is so hard to explain. Time ceases to matter, we are fully associated, we reside in the moment without the worry of work, chores or conscience. There is always the uncertainty of what will we find today and the search for  an encounter sometimes we see very little sometimes an unexpected delight,  a particular long encounter, or a previously unobserved behaviour. If there is little to see there are always plants, lichens and things that don’t run or fly away.

Insects such as butterflies and dragonflies are even more elusive. they live as adults for only a short time. A cold spell or a rainy summer can severely reduce numbers. There are reluctant to fly unless it is sunny and some are confined to specific areas of the country. In addition we have to earn a living, so we are not available except at weekends. These are severe constraints on any encounter. How often are our summers sunny and consistently warm? Many summer holidays have been ruined by wet cold weather and the resultant lack of dragonflies or butterflies, at least birds are still present in cold wet weather and plants stay still whilst being photographed and allow themselves to be closely examined to verify identification and note any interesting details.  On the second of April we were due to travel to Norfolk staying in Hunstanton for  five days of holiday.

I was however exhausted and worried at how unfit I appeared to be. Surely all the swimming and exercise I regularly undertook four or five times a week should have meant I was much fitter than this. It was only as the week developed that I came to realise that I was ill and the tiredness was a major symptom of this.

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