Saturday, 9 February 2013

Kerb-crawling in Norfolk!

Just had a flying visit to Thetford, Norfolk to attend a training course at BTO H.Q. in the Nunnery. Naturally this meant some opportunistic birding during my 3 day visit. On the first morning whilst walking from the hotel to the course venue I was lucky enough to get great views of an otter. A short while later in crisp, still air I enjoyed a few minutes with the long-staying black-bellied dipper- just minutes from the BTO H.Q.

black-bellied dipper, Thetford

Over the next two days despite being indoors for most of the time I managed a few year ticks- jay, green woodpecker, lesser black-backed gull, red-legged partridge and marsh tit being the highlights- all these birds being practically impossible to get in the NW Highlands of Scotland! Incredible as it may sound the marsh tits were my first record of this species in nearly two decades! Sadly, although heard calling, I failed to see any nuthatch- another bird not seen by me in years.

Having completed the course on Friday, I planned to finally get to Wolferton on Saturday to catch up with a much needed lifer- Golden pheasant. I was on site at about 08:40 and drove slowly around 'the triangle'. This was pretty bizarre birding and soon felt a tad stressful- constantly checking the roadside verges, whilst also watching the rear-view mirror for fast moving cars. I made 4 or 5 slow circuits, each time having to negotiate pulling back onto the main 'A' road to get to the other side of the woodland. My initial euphoria quickly evaporated as no birds were seen and the whole place seemed incredibly busy with 'non birders' who looked at me as if I was a criminal as they drove past. I made one last circuit before thinking that a major dip was on the cards- a country gentleman walked along the verge towards me with two black labs that appeared to take great delight in putting their noses in to every patch of undergrowth. I pulled into a small muddy lay-by where I could watch a good length of verge and also partially view a small woodland clearing. 

Wolferton triangle
A couple of birders pulled up behind me and quickly informed me that it was too busy and that I was wasting my time. I couldn't be bothered to ask them why they were still looking if I was wasting my time! They drove off after 10 minutes or so. I sat and waited and tormented myself with the idea of walking through the woods. I know from speaking to plenty of other birders and from site reports that this is a major no no, so at 10:30 I reluctantly gave up and drove over to Holt to visit Cley spy to buy a bit of birding kit and cheer myself up. Having bought my new binocular strap I decided to head back towards Thetford. Plan B was to look for a caspian gull. On a whim I decided to re-try for the goldies so headed back to the excitement of the muddy lay-by. By now I couldn't be bothered with more kerb crawling so just sat on the bonnet with bins and camera and intently watched the sunlit verge ahead of me. After only two minutes or so a common pheasant walked across the road. Things were looking up. As a car came up the road the pheasant disappeared into the thicket. This happened twice more in the next 30 minutes or so. A car came slowly towards me and stopped alongside. Following a brief discussion with the two occupant birders about having seen nothing of interest they informed me that I should have been here 'this morning' as two male goldies were on the verge at the 'other end' at 08:15.......grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. I gave it another 10 minutes and realised I was getting close to going crazy and running through the woodland like a loony. I decide to admit defeat so got in the car to drive to the village of Wolferton- 30 seconds later a stunning male goldie trotted out of the undergrowth about 50 metres ahead of me!! What a bird!! I checked the mirror, saw a car coming up behind, pulled into the verge and shot off a couple of frames through the car windscreen. As the car came rushing up behind me, the bird bolted into the undergrowth and was gone. My photos are dreadful but who cares?- a much needed lifer and 20 seconds of birding joy made the whole day so worthwhile! 

footnote: having been told that the 'universal binocular strap' fits all, I found out on my return to Thetford that it does not fit my beloved opticron DBA oasis bins! The joys of birding...... 

fuzzy golden pheasant!

blurry golden pheasant

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