Thursday 29 December 2011

Wallet and grimace

My one, totally free, no commitments, do-anything-you-want-to-do day of the festive period was shared with The Admiral and JD, on a jaunt to the north Norfolk coast.

Our breakfast stop produced an anxious moment for JD, as his wallet was missing (not THAT old story!). A quick phone call back to Our Lass at Tense Towers, confirmed that it was comparatively safe, as long as she didn't embark on some opportunistic retail therapy.

After watching a gorgeous sun rise during the journey, we arrived at RSPB Snettisham just as it started to rain. I kept my camera in its bag to keep it dry, which was rather unfortunate, as the first water body we encountered contained a pristine, breeding-plumaged male Red-breasted Merganser, Mergus serrator.

By the time we climbed up onto the sea wall, to look out across The Wash and into the teeth of a gusting wind, we were cold and damp. High tide had peaked about an hour before our arrival, so our eyes beheld an ever-increasing landscape of mud. This was filled with an abundance of waders (USA - shorebirds) and ducks, though none were particularly close. The buffeting wind made binocular use a very haphazard pastime, so I sheepishly relied on the running commentary from JD and The Admiral as to the identity of the assembled birdage.

For a bit of respite from the weather, we decamped to a hide behind the sea wall, which looked across a series of freshwater ponds. Here we watched several male Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula, displaying to impress the girls and ward off the competition.

This head flinging action is accompanied by an excellent comedy duck noise!
Back out on the sea wall, during a sunny spell, an unseen raptor spooked the flocks of waders into taking to the air. Though I was using Very Wrong Len and could not capture the fluid nature of the aerial flocks, the image below conveys something of the numbers involved.

Golden Plover, Lapwing and Grey Plover, to name but a few
On the mud flats, a few braver birds were even within range of my ID skills. Here's a Grey Plover, Pluvialis squatarola, (USA - Black-bellied Plover).

Returning to the car, we then proceeded to take the scenic route to RSPB Titchwell Marsh. By the time we parked there, we were very hungry, but JD had matters under control. The Admiral and I were handed container after container of fillings for our wraps: grated cheese, home made salsa, rocket salad, chopped green peppers, chopped onions, home made houmous. And very tasty it was, too.

As we walked across the marshes (fresh, brackish, salt water), the light was pretty good, though the strong wind was chillier than ever. A Little Egret, Egretta garzetta was fishing close by the pathway, which allowed us an opportunity for a photo or two.

Down on the beach, at the water's edge, a veritable throng of waders and gulls were making the most of the last hour of daylight. Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Dunlin and Sanderling were all feeding together, in a thin band of feathered foraging that stretched as far as the eye could see.

Bar-tailed Godwit, Limosa lapponica
On the return journey, the sky was clear, affording good views of Venus and Jupiter, as well as an unexpected pass by the International Space Station.


Katie (Nature ID) said...

Graeme, I've really enjoyed your nature posts from the UK. It's been fun to see the same birds (as in the USA) or slightly different birds. JD sounds like someone I'd like to have on a hike. Somehow, without words, one person in a group provides victuals worth eating... and begrudgingly it's become me most of the time. I'd rather have food over a wallet anytime. Best wishes!

Imperfect and Tense said...

Thank you, Katie, I can only mirror your comments back at you. It is enriching to be able to sample the nature of another part of the world from the comfort of home. Yeah, JD is a bit awesome in the culinary department. We're waiting for him to open a natural history-themed restaurant! ;o) Wishing you a fantastic 2012!