Friday, 30 November 2018

"You shoulda been here five minutes ago"

The Safari had arranged to meet GB from the tram for a jaunt out with CR but before his tram arrived we had half an hour up n down the prom with Monty. The wind was a howlin and the drying sand was being whipped around the top of the sandbanks in a myriad of infinite ever changing patterns. We really like watching this, we find it mesmerising, could stand there for hours - not so pleasant to walk through though; unless you like your boots filling with sand that is.
From the top of the cliffs below us along the bottom of the cliff along the Lower Walk we saw a few Meadow Pipits, fewer than in recent visits when there have been over a dozen, less than half that today. A bit too far away and the wind was buffeting us all over the shop.
The tram arrived and GB alighted and off we went to pick up CR for the day's adventure to the south east.
An hour or so later we were dashing from the car to the first hide at Pennington Flash desperate to get under cover before the latest batch of weather landed.
It was rough out there!
Most of the wildlife was hunkering down out of the way of the ferocious squalls, a few Lapwings and a herd of Canada Geese stood out braving the weather as did three Herons although they did wimp out and tried to find some cover. 
It took a while but eventually the torrential rain  eased giving us enough time to dart round to the shelter of Bunting Hide and once there the rain started again. The place was heaving with most of the usual subjects, Blue and Great Tits, Moorhens and Magpies, Robins and Chaffinches, and a Grey Squirrel or two. A couple of pairs of Bullfinches dashed in and out, always good to see but there were no Long Tailed Tits, Wrens, Water Rails, Goldfinches or Greenfinches and only one Stock Dove.
Looks like it's worn the fur off its nose trying to stick its beak through the anti-squirrel mesh around the feeders
 A couple of Reed Buntings were around too.
The main event soon turned up, the site's speciality a couple of Willow Tits. Always good to see this sadly increasingly scarce bird and here is probably the best place there is especially outside the breeding now! This one had found a stash of food in a crack in the feeding 'slab'.
If there's a way of telling them apart from Marsh Tits from a photo here's a more typical view of a Willow Tit down a hole.
Again a gap in the weather allowed us to scarper quickly round the trail to the next hide hopefully escaping a drenching. 
Gadwall, Shoveler, a few more Canada Geese and a couple of Goosanders were on the next pool but we saw very little on the walk round there. GB spotted a bit of movement in the rough grass at the edge of the pool and closer inspection revealed a sleeping wisp of Snipe - are they a 'wisp' when they are on the ground or does the expression only apply when they are in flight?

Still not a Kingfisher to been seen on the conveniently placed posts and perches though. Time to high tail it round to the next hide. Very little there apart from a Heron and a couple of Teal but the wind was rattling uncomfortably through the windows bringing driving rain with it. Time to escape to the next hide where the wind was taking the rain over the top from behind us so it a good deal more comfortable. "You shoulda been here a few minutes ago, the Kingfisher was just there", said the lad we sat next to. "Don't worry, it'll be back, it's been back and forth several times this morning"
No we didn't see it - sat thee for well over half an hour - not a sniff of the little Bobby Dazzler. Half a dozen Herons lazed around doing very little, occasionally shifting position to another vantage point but not really doing  any fishing.
By now our butties were beckoning us back to the car park. We opened the car got our butties out and were just about to take a chomp out of our doorstep cheese n pickle when we saw the unmistakable translucent white wing tip of a Mediterranean Gull land about 100 yards away among a gaggle of Black Headed Gulls and Mallard ducks waiting for any punters to launch the tail end of their butties or a few chips from their car windows. Temporarily abandoning our butty and walking closer we found it in the middle of the group. What a beauty! as John Wilson would say. We were saddened to hear of his passing (even after our anti-fishing rant in our previous post) as we spent a lot of time (probably too much) in his shop in Norwich when we were at uni in the late 70s.
What a beaut!!! There's not a better bird in the book
We thought about edging closer to try to get a 'frame filler' and see if we could get some detail from the ring but a bloke got out of his car skirted carefully around the flock, he didn't disturb them but five yards from the bin he launch his bag of rubbish into the bin like a basketball player and flushed everything...dohhh.
There's that translucent white wingtip
Result though - wasn't expecting to find one of those.
After butties we were back out on the trails and went to the Bunting Hide again, this time it was deadly quiet, all the food had been eaten and didn't all the birds know it. CR tried chucking out some seed he'd brought but it only brought in a couple or three Magpies and a Grey Squirrel. We soon moved on. The Herons were now trying to see how deep they could wade without floating. There were two of them doing this for no apparent reason.
On a strategically placed perch but not a Kingfisher. Only pigeons can drink like this as no other birds can suck!

A flock of Long Tailed Tits flew in front of the window and in to the shrub on our left. Always a joy to see these tiny tots.
A couple came in and told us they'd been watching a Kingfisher not five minutes ago back at the first hide we visited. We had to go - - arriving a few minutes later after a scurry down the trail we got there; "you shoulda been here five minutes ago" greeted us as we came through the door. "It's been coming and going all afternoon". Nothing for it but to sit and wait. And then at last a flash of blue! There it was sitting on a conveniently placed branch right in front of us. Trouble was the wind was blowing the branch around like something off Strictly Come Dancing. Luckily Kingfishers have gyroscopic heads and it was stone dead still even though its body was wiggling around like a maggot on a hook. We totally missed the second bird that GB saw which made our bird fly off only moments after this pic as taken.
Not perfect but our best Kingfisher pic so far by far
We had a look at the gulls coming in to roost but the light was poor and against us. One stood out as being a Kodiak Grey Scale darker than the others no matter what angle it was at, so definitely darker than the others around it. Take your eye off it for a few minutes and look away and you re-find it very quickly again it was that different.
Not sure what it is, those little white primary tips (and is that a bit of the end of P6 or a worn tertial?) bill looks dull too so we're guessing at a sub-adult Herring Gull possibly with a more Northern lineage - any thoughts anyone.
The nearest buoy had a very pale headed gull sat on it. Again 'only' a Herring Gull judging by the speckly coverts.
And that was the end of the light. Time to head back to Base Camp - - and we didn't get wet all day - how did we manage that???.

A great day out on safari with great mates.

Where to next? Safari's will be very weather dependent this coming week. No doubt we'll be out somewhere sometime during the week but where we'll be is another question altogether.

In the meantime who's doing the Bobby Dazzling in your outback.

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