short eared owl - Thorpe Marshes

short eared owl - Thorpe Marshes

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Family and Nature......A Perfect Combination!

 So a break from blogging about my  highlights of my Patch  ,  I thought I would write a piece on how my love for nature &  my family have combined together . 
  Well before my 2 beautiful children were born me & my wife Caterina would love to go for walks out in the country or along the Broads , Nature Reserves or simply walking in the Park, so when George & Sophia came along it was only natural that we continued this on.  Over the years we have pushed the Buggy over many Nature reserves, parks and national  trusts places but as they are now both at school  ( George 6 and Sophia 4yrs) I've now got them a note pad each and explorer kits and tried to get out at least one day of the weekend , somewhere outdoors and so far it's been the best thing ever !
  We have made visits to Icksworth and Sheringham among other national trusts sites usually with friends or grandparents , where the children have gone "bug hunting " and of course daddy's favorite "some birdwatching " or simply climbing a tree.  
Family fun with my brother Mike & his family and grandparents

We have gone to reserves like RSPB Strumpshaw Fen and Sculthorpe moor , both great for families . Thet also have great family friendly Bird hides and always a kids Bird spotting tick list on hand.  Easter hunt at both these places were superb last year, as are there Halloween trials . 
Ticking off the birds seen at RSPB Strumpshaw fen

Sculthorpe Moor

Sculthorpe Moor is very children friendly....and Buggy friendly!

Another love of me & my wife is walking in the countryside and probably one of the places closet to us that we enjoy is High Ash Farm , near Stoke Holy cross. It's a great place to go to for a  simple stroll and to enjoy the singing Sky larks over head or the feeding flocks of finches in the fields along with great mix of Trees and meadows to admire. 
 These places  ive mentioned don't cost much and in the last example nothing at all !( donations are gratefully accepted of course).  

High Ash Farm-Kids just love the simple pleasure of running through a meadow or a path of Daisies

  So why do we do it or why do I recommend it ..? Well I can only speak for myself and our family but it's a sense of freedom you get when u can run through a field , look and smell the wild flowers , listen to the birds singing or wildfowl splashing In  the water & of course in most cases hearing just the sound created from the wildlife surrounding you , without the sound of machines or noise from the towns & cities.  I think there's nothing better to me then seeing my children exerting themselves stretching there legs running and laughing as they make there way through a field, or finding something  new and  then finding out what it is later through the use of books we have.... It's an education and as I've said before ... It's Free! 

   Ok it's sometimes hard as a parent to find time with busy life's we leed and of course as I'm finding out now George & Sophia are both at school , birthday partys seem to be happening every weekend ! But  sometimes an hour or 2 is enough for the children and usually you don't have to  walk/drive that far to find a Field, Meadow , Broad or Reserve  .  
 Not long ago   I got chatting to Mary walker recently while watching a local Ring Ouzel ( local twitch!) and she mentioned she had a Tawny Owl breeding in a box she put up.  Before we knew it was in her garden and watching a resting adult bird outside on the box  . 
Tawny Owl

I knew I had to take my wife , George & Sophia here to see this beautiful ,not often seen nocturnal bird . I Arranged a date and got back a week later to see the young outside the box , it was amazing.   The kids loved using daddy's Scope to view the bird and we're excited to try find the 3rd baby owl which had Branched into a nearby tree. (baby Owls are  known as Owlets) .
George and Sophia looking through the scope to see the Tawny Owls.
Owlets on the box entrance

We can see yeh hiding!

 George and Sophia spoke about it in the car and George was keen to write it in he's birding note book and of course he's little sister had to do the same ! 
   Making notes , drawings of cutting out animals from the NWT or  RSPB magazines is something they love too on a rainy day , it's all learning and helping them gain a love for nature .
Writing, coloring in , making notes or simply cutting out pictures of there favorite Birds or animals .....its all learning and most importantly... its Fun!

   It's these moments that I personally will always remember and I like to think the children will too. 
I printed up the pictures and George took them to school with some information written down about the Tawny owls and  there breeding habits , and shared with the class. This was not only great fun but importantly Very Educational .
Me and my beautiful daughter Sophia after I visited her school, talking about my passion for Birds.
  I was lucky enough to be asked to come into my Daughters school and speak about my Hobby Birdwatching. It was a superb experience as the children were so excited to share with me there love for Birds and Nature.
 I really enjoyed every second of it and especially when we got to go outside and use the Binoculars & Scope that I had brought along with me. We managed to tick off plenty of different species over the 30 minute session outside and they were smiling the whole time as was I.  My daughter felt very proud of me she told me after and enjoyed being my special little helper that day.......That warmed my heart I must say!
   So there you go , a little bit about me and what I get up to on the weekends with my beautiful family when I'm not  birdwatching at my patch, NWT Thorpe St Andrews Broad/marsh . 
  Hope this was a good read and maybe I'll do it again in a few years time , when the kids are  a bit older ( goes so quick!) .
Seal Watching on Norfolk Coast
  Anyway,  as always.....
             Happy Birding!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Februarys Patch sightings ....NWT Thorpe St Andrews Broad /Marsh

  February started off cold, damp and ended with 3-4 foot of snow.

 Starting off with the broad  and noticeably the Shoveler numbers started to drop as the month went on. A count of 35 on the 2nd but by the 27th they were at just 13.
 Also the Pochard were at 40 by the middle of the month but down to 9 on 27th also.
 Gadwall numbers of 97 on the 7th and  at 71 on the 27th .
Tufted counts were 66 on the 2nd,  74 on the 16th  and as low as 19 on the 27th. 
Teal were around 25-28 on each visit ( plenty more hiding I'm sure though) 
Pair of Wigeon seen on the 7th and a count of 23 x Coots on the 19th of note.

I had 6x Common Snipe flushed from east marsh and a pleasing sight to see 3x Kingfishers seen on the 19th which equals my highest count here. 
 On the 27th it had snowed ( beast from the east finally arrived!) and I made sure a trip to the patch as these unpredictable weather changes can bring a few surprises or mis placed birds to any inland patch .  
The Gulls were starting gather and around 150+ Black Headed Gulls were  seen on the 27th with 39x Herring Gulls
 Of note was my earliest recorded Green sandpiper on the West of the Broads edge .

Record shot of my earliest Green Sandpiper
Also 2x Woodcock were seen taking to the air from the east marsh due to a dog flushing them. These being My first for the winter and always a good bird to see on any day.
 On the frozen dykes I saw Water rails slipping as they scrabbled away from my precent . Total of 3 birds were seen and all very showy.
 While I was watching the Water rails I picked up on my only 3rd patch record of a Stoat. It was running around in the snow and along the Pool edges.   It quickly spotted me and soon disappeared though . 
 My first Little Egret sighting of the year too was seen on this snowy , cold day ,as one flew over westwards just as I was taking a Digi scope picture of the wintering male Stonechat , which was still at its usual spot . 
Male Stonechat
   Now to bird no.123 for the patch!  I was alerted to a report from local  birder Gary white , who had found a Mandarin duck near the bridge on the New cut of the river.   I woke early in the 25th and set up on the green at the Rushcutters pub and within seconds picked it up right in front of me.

Mandarin duck viewed from Rushcutters pub
  It swam about for around 5 minutes and then back to the bridge to rest. Wasn't expecting a new bird species for the patch in February so was well chuffed!

Mandarin Duck-Bird Species no.123 for the Patch

 So as the month came to an end we were currently under 3-4 foot of snow and freezing temperatures, I wonder what March would have in store and the wildlife therefore.
Happy birding