Saturday 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick post on here to wish everyone who has taken the time to follow, read and comment upon my Blog over the year, a very Merry Christmas.

I doubt I'll be able to get out over the Festive period itself, what with family commitments, but I still have a small mountain of images from recent weeks to process and air.

I plan to post an end of year review before 2011 is out, but until then, Cheers!

Monday 12 December 2011

Back To The Owls

I didn't really need to find an excuse to get back over to Northants to see the owls, but with a streaming cold and tickly cough, and a work's Christmas Party to attend on the evening, it was quite tempting to stay in at home, in the warm. I didn't though, and drugged up to my eyeballs with anti-cold tablets, I was soon parking up at the site, which was already busy.

Stuart and Ken had arrived moments earlier and were busy setting up, and Karen and Paul were already set up and sat in their car, eyeballing the field for movement. I stuck the heated seat on and stayed in my car - no point getting cold before I had to. I just sat watching the others and seeing more folks arrive. Then a familiar face appeared in my side-mirror. It's a funny thing, with the likes of Facebook, that you can know what someone looks like having never met them. And while I'd met his dad before (down at Hungerford with the glossy ibis), I'd never bumped into Craig Churchill himself, until now.

Not wanting to be rude, I got out and wandered over to say "Hello". Craig recognised me too and after a bit of a chat, informed me that he'd just got over a cold like mine, but it had taken 2 weeks to shift. Great. We all then wandered over to where Ken had set up, and waited. Didn't take long to spot an owl - they were flying about over the fields in the distance, so hopefully wouldn't be long before they stirred in the field by us.

With a break in the cloud and some decent light, it was great to see the owls take flight. Not in as many numbers as when I first visited, but still half a dozen or so, still chasing each other and the crows, and still occasionally catching prey.

I think the numbers of people, or more likely the vocal volume of some, kept the owls at more of a distance than before. That said, by the end of the "show", my lungs were at bursting point, my eyes streaming and I was having to eat cough sweets like there was no tomorrow, to hold back the fits. So I probably didn't help with the keeping quiet problem.

By then though, the owls had flown by several times, and while not as close as before, they still provided croppable shots.

Also, I'd managed to get some perched shots, as one of the owls likes a prickly perch out in the field, to sit and view from. Not very close, compared to the Worlaby bird, but pleasing to bag, seeing as everyone else seemed to have got a shot but not me!

As is normal for the site, as soon as the sun dropped below the hill behind, the light was hopeless and we all dragged ourselves away. That said, the warmth of the car was most welcome, and I was pushed for time to be back home, changed and out to work for the party.

Good to catch up with the owls though, and great to meet up with familiar faces, even if their predictions for my ill health are proving to be true. I hate coughs.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Desert Wheatear at Clee Hill

As much as I love watching and photographing short-eared owls, I was starting to yearn for a change of subject, and after another trip to the owls which ended up with no photos gained, I was pleased to see a text come through from Dave, about the desert wheatear on Clee Hill. He'd been up during the day, but the light was poor and wanted to return. 

We agreed to meet as soon as possible after the bird had been reported, and he rolled up moments after I'd almost been blown off the side of the hill, having opened the car door to get the gear out. Dave informed me then that it was less windy than the day before! Unlike before, the sun was out, and a small crowd of birders observing the bird made finding it very easy. 

Among the crowd were Chris and Bob, though I'm surprised I saw them at all, as both were clad from head to toe in camo gear! It was good to see them again, as it has been a few months since we last bumped into each other, and both are entertaining to talk to. 

The wheatear, meanwhile was feeding on the steep slopes around the corner from us, so it was a bit of waiting game. Made easier mind, by watching the movements of the birders, who would suddenly grab their gear and head in our direction, meaning the bird was on the move. 

Now Clee Hill is a great spot for wheatears in the summer, but obviously in the colder months they're somewhat missed. This made up for it, as it flew into view and started turning over small fragments of rocks, digging its beak into the soil and grabbing at insects and grubs uncovered.
Between feeding, it would perch on something raised up, perhaps a boulder or a pile of rubble.
I think it was slightly bemused by the shutters going off, everytime it stopped moving!
It came pretty close at times, but any movement seemed to spook it off, back to the slopes, and the waiting game commenced once more.
Whilst waiting we watched crows and ravens soar overhead, gliding on the breeze. An eagle-eyed birder then spotted a short-eared owl come in, from fairly high up, and it tried to land and settle on the top of the hill, but the corvids chased it up and over the top, to be lost from view. Plus we were treated to a brief fly-by from a female peregrine falcon. 

Occasionally, when the wheatear took longer than usual to return, we'd go for a walk to try to locate it, but invariably we'd end up back where we'd left, to watch it fly in, hop around, feed and then zip off once more.
By mid afternoon, Dave had to leave to tend to his parrot (I kid you not!) and the wheatear dropped in moments later (as Dave said it would), for a last pose. 

We followed it down the hill a bit, but I was by then also clock-watching, so said goodbye to both Chris and Bob, and left them to chase the wheatear, while I relished the shelter from the wind in my car. 

A new tick for me, and pleasant change too.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Not Short Of Magic

Having enjoyed a wonderful session at a site in Northants, I was eager to return, and cashing in some owed time off from work, I persuaded Dad to accompany me again to the location. Not that he needed much persuasion! 

It was a fine sunny morning when we set off but by the time we had arrived, it had clouded over - though the weather was supposed to clear, and so it did over lunch. As before, there were flocks of fieldfare, larks and pipits around, but frustratingly, the owls refused to come out to play. 

By mid afternoon, I was beginning to think I'd made a mistake coming, but I wasn't alone, as several other cars had arrived and set up in anticipation. Probably to stop his legs from seizing up, Dad wandered along the track, and put an owl up! Didn't fly far, and dropped into the field. But I could then see it sat in the grass, and watched it as it preened, ruffled its feathers, looked all around, constantly and then finally, took flight.
Immediately, another flew at it, and it was like an alarm clock had sounded, and all the owls took off at the same time!
With the sun still out, the light was good, and we were treated to a very close flyby by a pair, one of which perched in a nearby tree. The view was slightly obscured, but the glare we got was almost scary!
Then for the next 90 mins or so, the owls flew around the fields in front and behind us, not bickering as much as before, but still calling and occasionally pouncing or swooping down for a catch.
At one point, which was a real buzz, one turned and flew directly down the field at me. I have to admit to panicking for a couple of seconds when the focus wouldn't lock on but when it did, I had time for a couple of shots before the owl changed direction and flew away again.
With the autumnal colours from the trees behind, and sunlight on the birds, I have to say I'm rather pleased with the resulting shots. Arguably my best yet in flight. 

Needless to say I returned again the following day, though the light never really materialised, and the owls came out even later. The highlight though, if you can call it that, was seeing one perched in a tree. It was almost dark though, but because I didn't have my converter on, I was able to open the lens up to F4, whack the ISO up to 1000 and bring the speed down to 1/100th, and hope.
It came out remarkably well and is close to a full frame shot in portrait format. I think I might have to go again... and again! For the non-owl-lovers, you might need to look elsewhere for a few blog entries!

Monday 14 November 2011

The Shorties Are Back!

After dipping on the short-eared owls in Northants a fortnight ago, and then having to host a firework party and hence lose the whole weekend to that, I was itching to get out again to catch up with these winter visitors. 

I had a choice, between a site north of Birmingham, which was closest, or another in Northants, which had more owls on offer. I chose the latter, mainly because a number of friends live locally, and were also going that way. 

So just after lunch on Saturday, I arrived earlier than planned, and decided to go for a walk around the area - better than waiting in the car! Proved to be a good move, as within 5 mins of wandering along a track, I spotted a short-eared owl out, already hunting over a field. 

Excellent. Getting close was a problem though, as there was no cover, so I had to wait for the bird to land, and try to creep a bit closer. Unfortunately, the bird chose to hunt a bit further away each time I did, so I ended up with some distant shots, though I did enjoy watching it successfully catch (and carry off) three voles.
After an hour's hunting, the shortie dropped into the grasses and failed to reappear, so I stood watching the flocks of fieldfare cackling as they flew over in their hundreds. Then another stroke of luck, as a local birder arrived, and I got chatting, and followed him round to another field, where he explained, the owls generally gathered.
And did they gather! By the time we'd walked to the "best spot", we could see 5 owls out, and within 30 mins of that, there were at least another 7 around. I've never seen so many, and it was wonderful. Most of my friends had now arrived, but favoured the other side (avoiding the long walk) but Karen and Paul had followed me round, and were treated to an awesome display by the owls.
They were hunting, fighting between each other and also being chased by resident birds, such as rooks.
For about an hour it looked like the skies would clear and bathe the area in sunlight, but a big bank of cloud arrived to spoil the party, and it quickly went dark, leaving us all wanting more. But it was Saturday, so Sunday's plans had already been booked! 

Sunday brought fog first thing, but by the time I'd collected Dad to take him along, it was sunny and looking promising. When I arrived on site, some of my friends were already there (keen!) and Ian soon joined us too. 

Unlike Saturday though, we had a longer wait for the stars to appear, possibly because they'd eaten well the day before (Friday was very wet, so they would have been hungry on Saturday).
And when they did come out to play, they favoured the middle of the field, though on odd occasions they ventured a bit closer. Also noticeable was that fewer hunted at the same time. Not that they stopped squabbling! Was fantastic to watch them chase each other, sometimes forcing one to land, and then swooping down low, divebombing the grounded bird.
As before, the light faded quickly, and took with it our chances of more shots, but no-one was unhappy after a weekend like that. Needless to say, I will be going back, whenever I can to watch and photograph these magical birds. 

Great to have them in the Midlands, and saves me driving miles up north to see them.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Birds To Beat October Blues

Into November already, not that I'm upset to see the back of October. I never really like the month as it sees the end of summer time, meaning I rarely see the daylight, aside from the office window, or a brief stroll to the sandwich shop at lunch, and usually means weekends are wet, windy, cold or foggy, or a mixture of some of the above. 

Combine that with the 18th being Mum's Birthday and just over a week later, the anniversary of her death, and I'm not one for smiling much in October. So November might start to bring some more cheer, maybe. 

October wasn't bad as far as birding went though, with the red kites recently, I actually managed to see a kingfisher for a few moments at Marsh Lane of all places, and then this last weekend, which yielded a couple of gems. 

There seems to be a decent influx of short-eared owls currently, with many familiar places reporting them. One of the closer spots is in Northants, and as Ian lives local to it, I arranged to meet with him in the afternoon. 

Before heading to the spot, I opted to divert to take a look around Harrington Airfield, which also has a couple of SEOs apparently, and a great grey shrike. Last time we'd been there, I'd made the mistake of carrying my huge camera bag (which weighs a tonne alone) and the walk to and from the car nearly killed me. I swear I was about an inch shorter in height when I got home. Add to that the weather - freezing and blowing a gale, and with no birds seen, it was one to forget. 

Airfields tend to be breezy, so that wasn't a surprise this time, but it was a southwesterly, so warm for the time of year. And I'd found somewhere closer to park, so getting to the bunkers was less tiresome too. Finding something point the camera at wasn't so easy. No sign of the shrike, and it was too late / too early to see any owls. 

A lone kestrel and a few yellowhammers were all that I saw, until a small flock of golden plover caught my eye. They were down in a dip in the field, so with no cover to use to hide my approach, it was never going to be any good. 

Was amusing though, in that every time I approached, they would watch, shuffle about and then scurry a bit further away. Unlike the ones on Shetland, which came over to see me! 

Ah well, I have a few pics of them already, and in better plumage. The breeze was starting to dry out my contact lenses, so I scuttled back to my car for a break, a bite to eat and then the short drive over to meet up with Ian. 

Parking up, I scanned the fields for any owls but it was really quiet, and save for a few crows and pigeons, there wasn't much to watch at all. Behind me, on a barn, a pair of pied wagtails called out, and flicked their tails as they chased flies. No sign of Ian either, so I sat back into the car. 

It was then that I saw something that wasn't expected. It was near the wagtails, but wasn't one. I did a double take before it dawned on me. A black redstart!! Fantastic.
Ok, so it wasn't as accommodating as the one from Coleshill some years back, and it was a juvenile, so not as good looking, but even so, what a great little bird to see. It seemed to favour perching on the top of the barn, which meant shots weren't going to be easy, and as seems to be norm these days, whenever the sun came out, the redstart hid!
It came fairly close on a couple of occasions though, flicking its tail, showing off that orange / red rear.
Ian arrived, and the redstart hid from him. Typical! So he sat in the field and watched for owls. Alas it wasn't to be our day. With only a fly-by from a sparrowhawk and no camera to attempt a shot, we left when the light faded. Not to worry though, as there ought to be plenty more chances for SEOs before the winter is out. 

On to Sunday, and an extra hour in bed. Well, it would have been, had I not been woken by my phone ringing. Steve Seal on the line, asking why I wasn't at Cannock for the shrike? I said I'd consider it, but as it was raining outside, I really didn't think I would bother. But, what else was there to do, other than perhaps house work? I was out the door like a shot! 

Finding the spot wasn't easy, but thankfully Stuart's directions guided me to them, where I found not only Steve and Stuart, but also Ken and Dave, all enjoying fine views of the great grey shrike, and no rain either! It was perching on the tops of trees, and favoured a holly tree in front of us.
After dipping on the one at Harrington the day before, this was a good turnaround of fortune, and I was soon snapping away.
Wasps were the dish of the day, and it was very good at catching and then consuming them, without being stung. If only pubs would employ these birds to keep the blighters away from pints of ale during the summer!
While it didn't come as close as the one at Napton, it was on better, natural perches, and was also eating the prey in full view of us.
Strangely, when Steve and Dave headed off, the bird refused to play ball anymore, and didn't return to its normal perch, favouring more distant trees. I must find out what aftershave they use! 

A good few hours out though, and definitely worth losing the hour in bed for.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Making An Effort

The thing with trips like Mull and Norfolk is that afterwards, local sites seem a bit quiet. Add to that car trouble, and it's an effort to get out and about to take photos. 

Not that the local sites fail to yield results - waiting in the "spider" hide at the Moors I watched in some amazement as a water rail, normally famed for their skulking nature, climbed up a reed to stand in the sunshine to preen!
A family of wrens at Whitacre Heath's feeding station hide entertained me one morning, with their acrobatic antics in search of food.
And splashing about in the small pool, albeit covered in algae currently, made for a challenging shot, when it was so dark all around. Thank goodness for the 7D's noise management!
Seeing a good forecast for the weekend, I set my alarm for 6am, to force myself out to do something. There was a decision too, between going for a spoonbill that had been showing to folks at Draycote Water while I was stuck in work, or trying for a short-eared owl near Brandon Marsh. Knowing my luck with rarities at Draycote, and also the size of area to search, I put my faith in others reporting it, and headed for the owl. 

Turned out I could have maybe seen the spoonbill, as it flew off at about 9:30am, though I'm not sure if it was posing as it had done... and I saw no sign of the owl whatsoever. Was it going to be one of those gloriously sunny days when I see almost nothing? 

It could have been, but the day before on a work trip to Heathrow, I'd seen the usual flocks of red kites near the M40, so the temptation to try for some of these fantastic birds of prey dangled a carrot in front of me, and I was soon tootling down the motorway towards Stokenchurch. 

Didn't take long to see them. Almost as soon as I drove into Stokenchurch, I clocked one circling at roof-height over the houses. Not sure what the residents thought of me screeching to a halt, and jumping out with a bazooka-lens, but I've failed to curb my enthusiasm over the last 5 years or so, and it's not going to happen any time soon.
Moving into the centre of the village I was amazed to see these large birds of prey, flying around at the sort of height you'd normally see pigeons or blackbirds, around here. Must give you a bit of a surprise if you aren't used to them! 

I parked up beside a pub on the Common, where another 'tog was already enjoying the action. After a while, I wanted to try elsewhere, as my aim was to get shots of some perched. I saw one perched up in a tree behind some posh houses, but the light was wrong and there was no route to get to where it would be more acceptable. 

So, off on another magical mystery tour of the area, picking random roads, and hoping to stumble on to something good. And did I ever! A cottage, where the owner was obviously enjoying feeding the birds, and there were masses of them taking advantage of the free lunch. To add to it, was the sunlight behind me, clean blue skies behind the birds, and no wing-tags to worry about.
Diving, swooping, twisting and turning, snatching food off the ground or from one another, the entertainment from these birds was relentless and thrilling. In the strong sunlight, the colours and markings of the feathers were really amplified, and showed off how vibrant red kites are.
Also noticeable were the number of juveniles in the flock, with tan-coloured heads and orange eyes, compared to the grey heads and yellow eyes of the adults.
And it was great to listen to the calls too. I could have stood there for hours. I did, actually! Taking hundreds of shots. I know my neck and back are sore from contorting myself to get shots above me, and when the tripod-mounted camera could reach no higher (or more accurately my neck couldn't bend back any further), I switched to my 50D and 100-400mm lens, for some good old hand-held shooting. 

Another drive around the lanes failed to provide any perched birds, but it did show me the number of attractive pubs in the area... must make a note to visit again, perhaps with someone in tow, to discuss kites over a pint of local ale... 

So while the day failed to deliver the shots I wanted, it did provide many other fine images, and reminded me that you get nothing without putting in a bit of effort. Roll on the next weekend!

Monday 26 September 2011


After being too busy with work at the start of the year to get over to the east coast, an invite from good friends to stay a few days proved impossible to resist, and having blagged some more time off, I dragged Dad along with me for the trip. Working through my lunch allowed me to finish a bit earlier than usual, and by 8pm I was trundling towards Hunstanton, to the caravan site where Steve (Seal) and Ann were staying. 

A cup of tea and baggage drop later, and we headed to the Lifeboat Inn at Thornham for a bite to eat and pint. I was pretty knackered so we didn't stay out late, and besides, we had been promised one of Ann's cooked breakfasts in the morning! 

The first morning brought calm conditions, with a bit of sunshine, so Dad and I zoomed over to Cley, to see if any of the bearded tits were around. Last year I'd seen flocks of 20+ birds, but this time we hardly saw any. That said, a bit of patience yielded some sightings, and I managed a few half decent shots, especially when one male climbed up a reed right next to the path!
As usual, the marsh harriers refused to fly anywhere near us, and my distant shots taken in blind enthusiasm shall end up in the bin. Unlike shots of a little egret that was fishing in one of the small pools behind the shingle beach. Without the sun to blow the whites (or make it hard not to), getting nicely exposed shots was easy, and so were ones with a reflection, as the pool was like a mirror.
A scan of the sea over the brow of the shingle hill revealed a diver, and not miles out. Unfortunately with the (now) dull conditions, we couldn't make out whether it was a red or black throated one. Later inspection showed it was the former, so another set of images for the bin! Also around were Arctic skuas (good to see after Shetland), gannets, terns (little and sandwich), various small flocks of waders and a common scoter. 

Titchwell was next on the menu, where I hoped to get some shots of the curlew sandpipers and little stints Steve had bagged earlier that week. As is often the case, the subjects I wanted didn't come close, so I ended up photographing dunlins, ringed plovers and godwits. Not bad though.
Steve was very keen to get shots of a grey plover and this meant a trip down the path to the beach. Was worthwhile, as whilst scanning the flocks of waders, we clocked a grey plover in partial summer plumage. Unfortunately, getting to it was nigh on impossible, with mud and water in the way, and the bird kept retreating further away when we moved. 

Cloud greeted us on the next morning, so after a trudge around Thornham and then Salthouse, I treated Dad to a ticket to Cley Marshes. I had hoped the hides would yield waders galore and perhaps a sight of a spoonbill, but alas, all we did see was a very distant grey phalarope and lots of wildfowl. Disappointing, and as before, the marsh harriers kept their distance from the hide!
A brief stop off at Thornham was actually quite productive, albeit accidental. Dad had seen a redshank feeding near the bridge, and was taking some shots. I opted to join him, and we commented that the way it was feeding seemed unusual. That'd be because it wasn't a normal redshank! No, it was a spotted redshank, as was discovered later when looking at pics from the trip!
The day ended waiting and eventually watching a barn owl at a familiar location, though there was more action from the local marsh harriers. But with rubbish light, it was never going to yield anything special. 

Saturday was forecast to be good weather and so it proved. Hardly a cloud in sight, and it took us all to the beach at Titchwell once more, to try to track down the grey plover seen before. Steve headed off in one direction, and me another. While he was taking fabulous shots of waders in flight, I'd tracked down the plover, and after creeping over to it, managed some reasonable shots.
Steve soon joined me, but we never managed to get close to it again, and were about to give up when we saw one elsewhere on the shore, but in full summer plumage! What a gorgeous little wader, although Dad did comment on its resemblance to a judge. Problem was, as before, between us and the bird was a load of water and deep, slimey mud. 

Try as we might, there just didn't seem to be a route to it, and eventually Steve said he'd leave it for another day. I was in agreement, but part of me nagged, reminding me that it might not be there another day, or the weather might deteriorate. I had also by now already got wet feet (leaky boots) so I said to Steve that I was going for it, and splodged off through the mud, across a very gooey mussel bed, towards the bird. Steve encouraged me onwards (probably laughing at me sinking in the mud) but it paid off, when I found the bird not to be flighty at all, and just like the golden variety seen on Shetland, this black and white version inquisitively and slightly cautiously, approached me!
I couldn't believe my luck, and took a hatful of shots of this unusual wader. At times, I had to switch to portrait mode to give the bird enough space in the picture.
The problem (perhaps just with me?) is when I'm getting such shots, I feel guilty that people with me aren't, so I was chuffed to look over to my left and see Steve, who had found a less muddy way to the bird, and was busy getting as many different images of it as he could.
In the end, we walked off to leave the bird where it was feeding, both of us grinning from ear to ear with the images achieved. I was less pleased when the coldness and dampness of my boots registered on the hike back, but they started to dry out when we watched the barn owl again on the evening, and the gas fire in the caravan dried them in time for the next day. 

Another bright start on Sunday tempted me back to the beach, to try to emulate the sort of fantastic flight shots Steve had managed whilst I was messing about in the mud after plovers, though the weather wasn't quite so good, as typically, the birds wouldn't perform as they had done for Steve. Wrong aftershave perhaps?
The grey plover was around again, though even less accessible than before, so I took a few shots, only when it ventured close to a channel of water, so I got reflections. Persistance paid off though, and I managed some flight shots of curlew, oystercatchers and small flocks of waders as they flew past me. 

The day ended as brightly as it had begun, and whilst waiting for the barn owl to show, a young marsh harrier kindly circled above us, as it banked, catching the amber sunshine of the sunset.
I was more pleased with this than the barn owl shots later, I think!
Norfolk and September were being very kind to us, as Monday brought yet more sunshine. It also brought us a very, very long wait for the tide to retreat, so we were waiting around on the beach for hours, hoping the flocks of waders would move and start to feed. Occasionally we'd get a small band of sanderlings scurry by, or the occasional flock of other waders go by, but mainly it was rather quiet. I can't say dull, as being stood on Titchwell beach in fine weather is fab, even without anything to photo.
And after a brief meeting the afternoon before, Di Stone had joined us, so was pottering around the beach with us, hoping for some waders to approach, and like us, trying to avoid looking at the moon...
Eventually the feeding grounds were revealed, and the birds came over in their hundred. Sadly by now, the clouds had also decided to make an entrance, so getting shots of flying subjects was trickier than usual. Still, managed a few and occasionally in sunshine too. Once more, the day ended stood looking for owls, but the windy conditions meant the owl didn't come out to play, and we left with just a few shots of a low-flying typhoon. 

Suddenly Tuesday was upon us, our last day. A visit to Thornham failed to provide any close shots of the grey partridges Steve and Ann had seen before, and I was between minds whether to head home in the gloomy conditions. Steve suggested Stiffkey marshes, an area I'd not been to before. Technically I had, as it is along the coast from Wells, and I'd walked into it years ago on a hike with my 100-400mm lens. Anyway, the area looked barren, apart from some very, very distant seals on a sand-bar. I thought it was worth a walk through the marshes anyway, and it didn't take much persuasion to get the others to tag along. By the time we had reached the shore, Steve had got it in his head that it was worth waiting for the tide to go out, to see if we could get any closer to the seals. 

Ann and Dad chose to head back to the shelter of the car and a nice warm cup of coffee, whilst us two idiots stood in the shallow water watching the water move away from us, providing a sand bank to approach the small seal colony. It took ages, but was very worthwhile. We spotted another bar of sand exposed, and by walking round on that, got us close enough for some half decent shots, though we were being watched by a couple of the parent seals, from the channel of water between us.
They were mostly youngsters and looked so relaxed on the sand, despite the gale and cloud. The sun made a brief appearance, allowing us to get some more colourful shots, before Di arrived too, to join in the fun, though it was short-lived, as the seals opted to go for a swim, probably knowing what weather was approaching... we saw it too, but were about a mile away from the cars! Once again, I managed to soak my boots and feet, so the hike back was rather vile. 

As is always the case with breaks, we didn't want to leave, but with work again in the morning, I had to. Steve and Ann had been wonderful hosts, keeping us both amused with their antics and humour, not to mention well fed with the cracking breakfasts. And Norfolk hadn't been unkind with its wildlife stars either!