Friday, August 31, 2012

More important things than birding

Phew, what an evening! Well it would have to be to warrant such an improbable blog title.

I was out watching the wader roost at dusk, and things were looking good, with a Purple and Curlew Sandpiper joining building numbers of Ringed Plovers and Dunlin. While looking through the scope I heard a distant 'pop', looked up and saw a red flare falling over to the East, a quick scan of the sea revealed an upside down boat with 2 people struggling desperately to hold on, one without a lifejacket. The sea was really messy too, with big swells and massive breakers hitting the beach, they were clearly in really bad trouble. I rang 999 for the first time in my life and got onto Great Yarmouth coastguard and relayed the situation, and they scrambled the Wells lifeboat. After that all I could do was watch and wait, I felt so helpless watching these two strangers in their distant battle between life and death, knowing there was absolutely nothing more I could do. I waved frantically in the hope that they would see me and know that help was on the way, but I doubt they noticed.
They were rapidly drifting East with the tide so I legged it down the beach, scope, tripod and camera flying about everywhere and got to a high spot on the dunes where I could see them well enough to relay information to the coastguard guys as they rang me for updates.

Pretty soon a RIB appeared out of Blakeney Harbour and was clearly looking for the boat. I was waving them over in the right direction from the shore, I don't know if they could see me or not, but the guys on the upturned RIB noticed them and fired off signal flare to mark their position. The rescue RIB saw this immediately and hooned over to them, going over some big old breakers at the harbour mouth. They soon had the 2 stricken crew into the their RIB and began taking them back to safety, just as the lifeboat turned up. After that it looked like the lifeboat went to have a go at salvaging the boat, but it was getting too dark to see much so I left them to it.

The stricken boat and the crew clinging on for dear life

The rescuers on the way

The flare being fired off

The rescue

The crew being taken back in, stopping to talk to the lifeboat guys.

Massive respect to the two blokes who came out of Blakeney in their RIB for the rescue, I have no idea who they are but hopefully will find out tomorrow so I can shake their hands. They did a great job getting through some difficult seas. Top marks too to the lifeboat for getting out so fast from Wells, even if they weren't needed for the rescue in the end, hopefully they got the boat back.

So back to birding, i'll keep it brief:

Early morning seawatching was noticeably slower than yesterday evening, just a few Arctic Skuas and Bonxies. 
The beach at dawn, with the high tide being pushed worryingly close to the dunes by the wind

Fortunately, later on a Barred Warbler turned up at the Long Hills and showed well in an Elder bush for a few minutes before disappearing out onto the saltmarsh, and probably to the mainland

 Curlew Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper

All photos Copyright to Joe Cockram

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Early morning seawatching was a predictable disappointment again today, but we didn't have to wait long for some excitement, as this juvenile flew low west over the harbour mid-morning, even hovering a few times, though it never actually dived.

By 13:00 the wind had gone around into the North and strengthened sufficiently to warrant a seawatch. It started nicely with a good few Arctic Skuas and Bonxies and 2 Poms, but soon the weather worsened. There's not a lot of shelter for sewatching on The Point, now that the Sea Hide has gone, and viewing became impossible for an hour or so with the rain so thick that the scope became as effective as a full milk bottle. As soon as the rain passed the lens caps were off and even more birds were moving. Conditions were still tough, with the salt spray being so bad that objective lenses needed cleaning literally every few minutes, and scopes were wobbling all over the show, but by 19:00 we had totals of 78 Arctic Skuas, 50 Bonxies and 4 Poms, 33 Manx Shearwaters and a Red-throated Diver. Not too shabby at all. Obviously photos aren't easy to come by on a seawatch, but a few Bonxies came close enough for some atmospheric shots.

 Passerine migrants were thin on the ground, or at least staying well hidden, tomorrow they might be more apparent....  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Peaceful day, and painful memories

After missing out on early morning Long-tailed Skuas and a Great Shearwater on the 26th, i've been seawatching from dawn every day since, and unsurprisingly given the south-westers, seen diddly squat. Still, you've got to be in it win it, and on the 26th I was most definitely out of it! I'll be out again tommorrow, but Friday morning is the interesting looking day if the forecast holds true, redemption time!

Even when you see nothing on an early seawatch it's usually worth the effort, sharing the beach at sunrise with no-one other than a baby Common Seal is a pretty special way to start the day.

It rained for most of the day and there were very few birds about, and with the daily jobs done I could almost feel boredom approaching this evening, so decided to take a look at The Point from a different angle and take the row boat for a spin around the saltmarsh as the tide came in. Drifting quietly up the creeks was certainly a change from the usual struggle on foot, trying to stay upright in the mud.

By the time I was back to the landing ridge the rain had stopped and the sun was out, the harbour looking an absolute picture as always, though as usual, my non-existent landscape photography skills do it no justice at all.

The casual bird photography highlights of the day:

Hobby chasing pipits around the saltmarsh

                                                                     Mutant Knot (look closely)

                                                                   Normal Knot

The day we had the Greenish I also came across this Little Egret feeding in Pinchen's Creek at Low Tide, this is the first time since then that i've found the time to put the photos up. Not particularly sharp or anything, but birds like this provide the aesthetics for themselves.

I often feel that we take Little Egrets for granted now that they're such a frequent sight in the UK, but take a second to stop and watch one, and remind yourself what absolute stunners they are.

In stark contrast to the grace of the above bird, this one was shot down in front of me on Malta last autumn

The hunter had scarpered by the time that the under-resourced police arrived, and we later found out the bird died on it's way to the vets. Join BirdLife Malta to help stop this sort of shit

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


A month or so ago I posted that I had seen a colour ringed Sanderling on The Point, I recently heard back that it had been ringed in February this year at Seixal in Portugal. A quick look at Google Earth reveals it to be a nice, but somewhat over developed place for a Sanderling to spend the winter.
Today I saw two more blinged up birds, it'll be interesting to see where they've come from

These un-decorated birds were no less delightful

With the Sanderling were a few Dunlin and Ringed Plover

 And a seal decided to join in the fun too 

Back on dry land, the Greenish Warbler was still in the plantation, along with 2 Pied Flycatchers

This group pf Snipe went over early this morning, interestingly, I had 8 go exactly the same route at the same time yesterday, highly unlikely to be the same birds, but quite a co-incidence, as those have been the only sightings lately?!

Monday, August 27, 2012

24 Shades of Greenish

The Greenish Warbler was still showing well in the brambles this morning, but soon moved into the plaantation, where it was much less showy. Apparently this is the 24th record for The Point, which must make it the best single site in the UK for Greenish. Does anyone know any better?

Like yesterday, there were very few other migrants around, 1 Pied Fly, 1 Whinchat, 2 Yellow Wags and 2 Willow Warblers were all I could find, plus my first Sooty Shearwater of the year this afternoon.

Whinchat in the morning sun

Willow Warbler

Yellow Wagtail

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Greenish Warbler

Today got off to a disastrous start as I got up too late for any good seawatching (Rookie move, I won't be caught out like that again this Autumn), but was rescued in fine style.
While checking Near Point late in the morning, a warbler popped it's head out of the suaeda, showing a bloody big supercillium and a large pale bill. That was enough to set the pulse racing as we had high hopes after seeing news of Greenish Warblers arriving further North. It soon jumped out fully to reveal a whacking great wing-bar and seal the deal. Greenish Warbler has been a bit of a bogey-bird for me, i've never seen one in the UK even after spending seasons at places like The Farnes (which scored today I see) and The Point, so I was on cloud 9. The bird was however being a right little shite and a nightmare to see in the suaeda so we left it be. An hour or so later I went for another look and was delighted to find that it had moved to some nearby bramble bushes, where it showed excellently for the rest of the afternoon, in front of an admiring crowd. 

There were hardly any other migrants on The Point today, which is somewhat typical of Greenish Warbler days here, 'The biggy travels alone' as they say!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dotterel and Roseate Tern

For the past week or so i've been making a daily sleck out to the end of the beach to check up out the wader roost. So far i've enjoyed good counts of our common waders, up to 800 Oystercatchers, 300 Ringed Plover, 100 Dunlin etc., but with none of the hoped for goodies. The reward came today as I was scanning through and came upon this juvenile Dotterel, in all its scaly, peachey loveliness. It showed nicely as it roosted and fed on the shingle, before it was flushed by a bunch of wankers walkers.

This was the first Dotterel i've seen since this one, being used as a lure bird in Malta last September, and as I watched todays bird, I couldn't help but worry for it with such perils to come on its migration. Do your bit to help it avoid such a sorry end by joining Birdlife Malta here.

 As we watched the Dotterel, the call of a Roseate Tern alerted us to this adult, and a juvenile feeding offshore. This was the first time i've watched Roseates feeding, and I was amazed at how different from the other terns they are. Rather than flying along fairly slowly, stopping to hover and then dive, the adult was pelting along at full speed, and suddenly pulling a J-turn and making low angle dives at great speed. After catching something, it would toss and catch it's prey in mid-air, call to the young bird which would settle on the water, and then fly down and feed it on the surface before repeating the procedure. Unfortunately most of this happened too far away for photos, but it looked great through the scope. The adult did come just about close enough for a record shot:

Very little passerine movement today, just a couple of Pied Flycatchers including this one in the rain on our washing line.

A nice tame Turnstone