Monday, 4 August 2014

Titchwell and Ouse Washes

After the last few trips which were rather on the hot side, it was nice o go out on Saturday in cooler and fresher conditions, though as it turned out, the weather eventually let us down.
I did not expect it to be a good butterfly or dragonfly weekend, so as the first autumn birds have been moving through, we decided to visit the Norfolk coast, starting at Titchwell and seeing how things panned out. Also with indifferent weather, maybe the area would be less crowded.
We left reasonably early {for us} and arrived just after eight encouraged by the empty car park. Got set up pretty quickly and headed directly to the fresh marsh where the small group were watching the Spotted Crake. Used to see them on a regular basis here on an almost annual basis but the mud adjacent to the hide seems to have gone off the boil recently. At least for once the bird showed extremely well-unlike many of the others. While watching it feed on the reed bed edge, we were entertained by juvenile Sedge Warblers-some looking rather 'Aquatic' like, Reed Warblers and Bearded Tits. A nice moulting Spotted Redshank, and several orange Black Tailed Godwits posed well.

A scan of the marsh for scarce waders proved fruitless-like many I was searching for Stints and Curlew Sandpipers among the hordes of Dunlin, Godwits and Ruff. No interesting Gulls either-so I thought.
The walk to the sea produced family parties of Pied Wagtails and three juvenile Little Ringed Plovers.

The sea was rather empty, not surprising with the off-shore winds and the lack of visibility. Eider were the only birds on the sea, and there were lots of Sandwich Terns and a few Gannets passing through. Flocks of Sand Martins were feeding over the dunes, and up towards Thornham Point we found some Sanderling. One Arctic Skua was lurking off the point harassing the Terns, and on the other side of the shore, six Spoonbill were sleeping.

The walk back to the car via the Fen Trail loop did not add a great deal, apart from a moulting adult Mediterranean Gull that reserve volunteer Ray Tipper had found.

With little else happening on the coast, the report of the Black Winged Pratincole on the Ouse Washes again was tempting and we got there fairly quickly on the roads by 1330.  Unfortunately the Pratincole was at the far northern end right by the railway viaduct 2.5 miles from the car park and the sun had come out and it was getting rather warm.  It was a bit of a slog done mainly by switching off and walking on automatic but several Clouded Yellows,Painted Ladies, Emeralds and Common Darters were distracting. Tried to find Ruddy Darters and variable Damsels without much success.
Bad news when we got to the last two hides-the Pratincole had flown south about half an hour earlier. Needed a rest anyway so we spent some time in the last hide, but apart from a flock of Ruff, a Marsh Harrier and aHobby there was not much to see. After about half an hour someone on a bike popped in-he had been checking the pools right by the bridge without success for some time, so Colin and I decided to go back to the car checking some of the hides on the way. Two other groups headed up to the bridge pools and I kept an eye on them as we headed south.
About 2/3rds of the way back we stopped off at Stockdale hide where was plenty of suitable areas to check, and the guy on the bike decided to go back and check the bridge pools again. Inevitably, the Pratincole was back up there and he put it out on the pager. After some serious discussion, Colin and I decided to go back despite it being another hard slog. Yet again, I got to the last hide to be told it had flown off this time towards the far bank. i got the impression that it did not show at all well for some of the half dozen there and one only got very brief views.
So we returned to start the 2.5 mile trudge back to the car. Luckily the Sun had gone in, so it was a bit cooler. Unfortunately this was because it was chucking it down and of course we got soaked. It got rather surreal though when two figures approached, and because it was so out of context it took a while to register that they were guys I used to work with-Dave Asquith and Graham Stevens back in the days of Marconi. Had no idea that they were into birding, and as they were going for the Pratincole and a Little Stint our conversation was rather brief. Dont think it was reported at all that evening so no idea if they got it, but the Stint was.
Absolutely shattered when i got home. Must have done eight miles going up and down the Washes in the heat and rain with  nothing to show for it.

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