Monday 31 December 2012

Dismal Days

So another year has almost gone by, seemingly in a river of rain water. Dismal days summed up the wettest year on record with a band of rain following me up and down the country, with the only real exception being a few days in March spent in St Ives, when we were treated to some unseasonable warmth and glorious Cornish sunshine. 

December has been particularly dull, and after booking off a few days over the festive period, I've spent most of them sat in the house, looking out at the rain. Such a waste of valuable time off. I have popped out a couple of days though, when the clouds have stopped shedding their load. With such short days, travelling far afield is a bit pointless, so I've found myself camping out in the new hide at the Moors pools, at Upton Warren. 

On both visits I waited until dusk to see the bittern, though it only showed one afternoon, and for about 5 seconds. Not quite the majestic views had down on the levels, or even a couple of winters ago on the North Moors pool. Still, there are other subjects to point the lens at. 

Finches - green, chaff and bull varieties frequent the feeders, in good numbers too. I often overlook more common species like the greenfinch and chaffinch, so when they posed on something interesting, I took a shot. 

I do love the colours on these birds - enough to brighten up a dull day. 

But the bullfinches steal the show every time. They have a glow to them and really stand out in the darkness of hedges. 

The family of rats still seem to be enjoying the free food on offer, and show their ability to climb when they fancy a nibble on suet. Or just sit looking rather plump, munching on the ground. 

Every so often the unmistakeable call of long-tailed tits chirrups out and over they come, in their small flock, bobbing and flowing, taking it in turns to feed on whatever takes their fancy, usually the suet. 

Such fluffy looking birds with those distinctive stripes over their heads. 

Occasionally the secretive water rails would break cover, usually scuttling across the channels, or swimming at pace. 

So while perhaps the one star of the show failed to show, another resident put in a couple of appearances, and brought a smile to many of the folks I was sharing the hide with. 

A kingfisher, which tried fishing from all manner of perches, though I didn't see it make a successful catch. 

The "man-made" perches provided the closest views, though when it chose natural ones, like reed maces, the shots were arguably more attractive. 

Thanks to everyone who has read, followed and commented on this blog over the year, and let's hope 2013 brings less rain, more bright weather and loads of great subjects for me to photo and share on this Blog. Cheers!

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Yellow Wax And Green Wood

With the days being as short as they are at this time of year, I try to minimise any driving, to maximise time photographing during the daytime. So unless a mega rarity crops up that really takes my fancy, I see what's around locally. 

Whilst out at a Christmas meal with family on Friday, I missed a call from Bob, who kindly left a message to say that the waxwings were back at Hartlebury Trading Estate, and as they were feeding on yellow berries, it might make a nice change. That answered my question of where to go on Saturday! 

On the way I chose to try out the SatNav feature on my iPhone for a change to my normal one, and found the American voice rather comical, though the occasional delay with it instructing me at junctions, and its terms for routes (though it pronounced that word the British way) slightly confusing. Still, it's a Beta apparently and I soon found myself driving down towards a small crowd of togs standing near a tree, laden with yellow berries. So it works fine! 

The birds were around, and as is typical with waxwings, they were feeding, then flying off to a higher perch on another tree to digest the berries taken. 

Despite the weather being supposedly decent, after the first half an hour or so, clouds drifted across and made the shots of the waxwings rather dull. And as usual, whenever the sun did make an appearance, the waxwings were elsewhere. 

This didn't stop me from taking shots of other birds though, and I was pleased to see both redwings and fieldfares also taking the berries. 

The redwings tended to remain in the middle of the tree, which didn't make for quite so pretty shots, though one could say that they're pretty enough by themselves to warrant a photo. 

Learning from the waxwings on how to reach the berries at the ends of branches, one blackbird balanced down the thin stems to reach them, and in a rare moment of sunshine positively glowed in doing so. Undoubtedly the best blackbird pics I've ever taken, as they're a bird often overlooked, or found poking around amongst shrubs, and not in the clear. 

During the day, the waxwings started to fly off away from view, so we wondered where they were off to. John (Starkey) opted to have a look around the estate, and while he failed to find them, he did spot a green woodpecker. Later on, when the waxwings had been AWOL for some time, we both headed off to look for the woodie, but it had gone too. Fairly typical with my luck, ignoring last week's fluke. 

All the smiles from seeing the birds during the day vanished when one of the togs failed to secure his camera and 500mm lens on the tripod head properly, and it fell - in apparent slow motion to all us horrified onlookers - down to the concrete, where it bounced a couple of times, and rolled into a puddle. No-one said anything for a second. The camera was broken along with the converter which wouldn't come off, but Bob tested the lens with his Nikon, and that miraculously worked fine. All insured, but we all felt so awful. I shudder thinking about it now. 

On the way home, with Bob's advice, I called in to a local Christmas tree centre and picked up one for home. Barely fit in the car and various obscenities were uttered when decorating it, as the needles spiked my hands! Still, the odour from it lifts my spirits every time I enter the room. 

With no mega-interesting birds appearing, I thought I would perhaps try again on Sunday. Waking up, I peered out of the curtains to see fog. Great. I chose to have a bit of a lie in. Was soon bored of that idea and went out anyway, only to discover that it was just Birmingham under the mist, and beyond the Lickey Hills, glorious sunshine awaited. Back down at the trading estate I was greeted with rather annoyed looking faces. Not at me, but at a ringer who had just left, having caught a couple of the waxwings and scared the rest off. 

Brilliant, especially when the birds were already flighty before. After a chat with friends, I chose to drive off around the estate to see if I could work out where they'd gone to hide. I tried all the roads I could see and probably raised the suspicions of the local security guards as I tootled around peering out of the screen. No sign of the waxwings anywhere, but I did see a green woodpecker. It was initially in a tree, but flew off (of course) when I lined the camera up at it. 

On my drive around, I'd seen an area of ground I considered perfect for such woodpeckers, so drove back over there, parked up and waited. I was in contact with Ken back at the waxwing site, in case they showed up, but I could see blackbirds, robins, goldfinches, greenfinches, rooks, magpies, the occasional raven, gulls, redwings, jays and then, at a distance, a green woodpecker appeared. 

It was a distance too, and my view was obscured by a thin wire mesh fence. But with nothing in the waxwing tree, I stayed put and hoped. It took a while, but eventually the woodie came within reasonable range for some shots, and with me in my car, it didn't fly off either, even when it heard the shutter going. 

Add to the mix a bit of sunshine, and I took a load of shots. I wasn't sure if they'd come out what with shooting through the fence, but having seen them on the PC now, I was pleased I did. 

The majority of the time I was photographing a female (black patches under the eyes) as she fed on the ground, or when spooked, perched on a post or tree. 

But there was a male around - maybe a juvenile too, as can be seen from the shots - the male has a red patch under the eye. He was more vigorous with his digging, and hence mucky around the face. Dirty boy! Both seemed to find a great deal to eat on the ground though. 

Then a call came in - the waxwings were back. Dilemma. Should I stay or should I go? Without breaking into a song, I stayed. I have hundreds of photos of waxwings, and hardly any of green woodpeckers. And as there were two birds edging closer, I crossed my fingers of some better shots. 

Suddenly I heard the gulls going mad, cast a glance down the road and saw them chasing a buzzard. The peckers, which had been playing statues for most unusual sounds they heard, chose to abandon that idea and fly off, cackling loudly as they did. The light had also all but gone, and I headed back to see the waxwings (and friends) before heading home. 

As a footnote to this blog, an image of a fieldfare I had taken on the Saturday has been chosen by the BBC as the banner image on their Facebook Springwatch group page, for the forthcoming Winterwatch programmes. I am chuffed to bits, to put it mildly, especially as they have included a credit on the main image.

Monday 10 December 2012

A Waxwing And Winter Thrushes

About time I added something to this blog! With Christmas rapidly approaching, free time is getting harder to find, especially when the weather can so often ruin any chance to go out with the camera. I have spent a few evenings going through old sets of images, processing those which were shelved or too similar at the time to air, including a few from Northants, when we were treated to some wonderful afternoons photographing short-eared owls. 

But on Saturday it was supposed to be sunny and not too cold. A scan of the rare birds on various sites showed little of interest within a sensible distance, so I headed down to Wychbold, or precisely the garden centre opposite Upton Warren's sailing centre (by the Flashes). After there had been 46 waxwings present during the week, when I arrived there was just a lone bird helping itself to the berries on the trees lining the fence. Of course, as soon as I wandered over and set up, it flew off, to a poplar tree behind the sailing centre. 

That gave me a brief chance to natter to some friends who were already there. It wasn't long through before it returned to feed, and I set myself up hoping to get some shots of it against a blue sky backdrop. 

Kindly the waxwing hopped down from the top and out along a branch to reach some of the berries on the edge of the tree. Then it was a case of timing the shots to when the bird had grabbed a berry, and hoping it would play catch with it, before eating it... or more often than not, dropping it! 

With only a light breeze, the branches remained still, so getting sharp shots was a doddle, and I had time to switch between landscape and portrait for shots, depending on how the waxwing was positioned. 

It would occasionally fly off for a while, to digest the berries, before returning, and continuing its quest to strip them from the trees. 

It wasn't long before the majority of togs and birders left, but I was soon joined by Keith, and then later by Bob, in his freezer suit. He'd already bagged a fair few delightful shots of the flock down at Hartlebury trading estate, but is never one to refuse further opportunities. 

Eventually, just after lunchtime the bird flew off and didn't come back immediately. A birder wandering along mentioned he'd seen one around the back of the truck stop, so we strolled over, and sure enough, this was where the bird had been vanishing to, and was sat in a bramble / berry bush, almost invisible if you hadn't heard it calling. Photos were impossible as it didn't stray, until that is, it flew back to where we'd just been! 

Bob opted to stay for more pics - I chose to head elsewhere. I wanted to see some other thrushes, maybe get pics of redwings and fieldfares. With nothing particular in mind for a location, it was a magical mystery tour, following my nose wherever it wanted to go. We (that's me and my nose) went over to Holt, past Grimley and then out into the sticks from there, where we eventually came upon a grassy meadow, with dozens of the birds feeding. Well done that nose.

The light by then was low, so getting shots of the birds trickier than I'd hoped, and the flock often relocated when vehicles or cyclists went by. I stuck at it, and got a few shots. 

Then, from out of the woods nearby flew a green woodpecker, which landed on a tree pretty close! Unfortunately there were a couple of branches blocking a clean view, and rather than climb further up the trunk for me, it chose to fly off to the ground slightly further off, to feed. 

I hardly ever seem to get shots of these, so I grabbed a few, even if the light was mostly gone. 

When that flew off, I thought it was best to head back, and perhaps try the same spot again, should another weekend soon be blessed with bright conditions and free time...

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Waxwings, Always Welcome!

I think my last blog entry was a tad on the epic side for a week's stint in Norfolk, so I'll try to keep this one a bit shorter! 

As with a lot of my trips, Saturday's was very much last minute. I had no idea where to head on Friday night, and still hadn't decided until after breakfast the next morning. One word lingered in my mind. Allestree. You see, some years ago, I'm fairly sure Steve Seal and Dave Hutton lead me over there in search of a waxwing on an estate, and as is often the case with those two, the photographic rewards were fantastic and memorable. Back then there was just one bird to look at, but this time, over 50 of them had been reported. 

It was cloudy, but the forecast was for it to brighten up, so the course was set and just over an hour later I arrived in the housing estate near Derby, quickly spotting a few togs with their lenses pointed skywards, to the top of a tree. Sat there, were about a dozen waxwings. Super! 

I took a couple of shots initially, in the gloomy conditions, in case they all flew off, which they did several times, as there was a sparrowhawk patrolling the area. Thankfully, each time they'd gather again in one of the taller trees nearby, returning to the berry-laden rowan trees we were staking out. 

Though they weren't just making the most of the berries on offer, as they'd often launch off at speed, returning seconds later with an insect, caught on the wing. 

They are also incredibly agile, taking berries from the very ends of the thinnest branches. 

Sometimes a bit too thin! 

Aside from the posing these birds do, their calls are lovely, like a soft trill phone. But the best thing about them, is seeing them in sunlight, and after a while, the clouds parted and bathed the area, the trees and the waxwings in sunshine, transforming the scene. 

With the faint breeze catching their fluffy crest, the birds seemed to enjoy the warmth of the sunshine as they posed on the top of the tree, but they looked just as fine when feeding from the clumps of berries - the combination of colours was a real sight for sore eyes after the gloomy weather on a lot of recent trips, and throughout the summer full stop! 

As usual with these birds, they quite often pick berries that are too big to eat, and play catch with them... 

Or drop them completely! 

It was quite still that afternoon, so we were able to get good sharp shots as they fed and posed, and at the end of the day, when the golden setting sun cast its glow across us, there were some lovely images to be had, and I took full advantage. 

The day had been fun, especially finally meeting with Kev Joynes and bumping into Darren Chapman again, though I did feel sorry for Kate who had wanted to come along, but had been let down by someone who had arranged to meet her. I suggested to her that we could try again Sunday... 

Which we did. Forecast to be clear and sunny, and after a few tweets, text messages and emails in response to my photos from Saturday, I guessed there might be a few more folks around! 

While the light was fab, the birds were less accommodating, and didn't feed much from the trees we were watching. That didn't quell Kate's joy at seeing them for the first time, as she plonked herself down on the pavement below the tree to get close enough for a 400mm. 

When they did come down to feed, as before, they generally fed from the middle of the tree where the light was lacking, or from the back, where it was impossible to see them clearly. I had by now dug out my 100-400mm and was attempting to catch the waxwings in flight. Not easy as the 50D isn't great at locking on, and the birds' flight is undulating and they change direction in the blink of an eye. 

With it being a Sunday, I had to leave early to meet with family to head to the pub, so I left mid-afternoon. I hoped the others would have more luck with the shots they wanted, but it appears the birds remained awkward. I did see a small flock on another tree some distance from the road we had been camped on, so perhaps they were feeding there. The light wasn't so good down there though! 

A good weekend in fine weather, with better company photographing one of Winter's most colourful attractions. Not a bad result for a very late decision!

Monday 29 October 2012


I seem to be a creature of habit and as the summer fades away I find the lure of the east coast irresistible, and it usually also serves as a reminder that England can provide great things to photograph when suffering a hangover from the joys of Mull. 

Of course I'd already been down to Somerset, twice, but only for weekends which never really allow you to settle into a place. With a week booked for Norfolk, based in my favourite spot (Wells-next-the-Sea), I could absorb what the area has to offer, and be pretty central to most places, should a rarity arrive. 

With Dad in tow, we met up with Ian on the Saturday at RSPB Titchwell Marsh, and after one of their excellent breakfast rolls, wandered down to the hides along the path to the beach. Not that we've enjoyed much of a summer, the lack of warmth along the path in the breeze across the marshes was apparent, and we were glad of the shelter that the hide provided. 

The pool had masses of golden plover around, plus distant avocets, waders and a pair of spoonbills, but the only birds close to us were teals. Eventually a few of the ruff around, pottered over and despite the gloomy conditions, we managed a few brighter shots of these birds. 

Off to the new large hide, we entertained ourselves with trying to get shots of the godwits feeding, which was harder than it looked, as they seem to permanently duck their heads underwater to probe in the mud beneath. With the light the wrong way, we didn't enjoy much success, so with a short while to kill before the owls might be out, we headed over to Brancaster Harbour. The tide was well out and only a handful of turnstones scurried around. 

Friends of mine (Steve and Ann) had been on a break in Norfolk only weeks before we arrived and let me know of a barn owl site they'd enjoyed success at, but when I tried, there seemed to be building work going on and sadly no sign of the owl. So we returned to the usual spot and waited. The light was poor and it became a case of simply hoping to see one, which we did when Hawkeye (Ian) spotted one breaking cover from some trees nearby. 

They're fantastic to watch as they float across the fields, silently hunting. I took some shots but all distant and none were worth doing anything with. It was getting dark now and Ian opted to return home, leaving us to locate the digs for the week. Great instructions from the cottage agency and we were soon pottering round the bungalow, nodding and making strange "hmm" noises of appreciation of it all. 

Alas Ian couldn't spend any more time with us, but Kate (WildlifeKate) had said she'd try to come over for a few days later in the week, and that she really wanted to see a barn owl. As such, I was up with the birds and over to the barn owl sites in the hope that I'd see some morning action. 

I tried both sites, but no owls. I did see some muntjac deer, a hare, a sprawk (sat in the tree next to me, but I failed to see it), several marsh harriers and a great spotted woodpecker. I was also pleased to see a few redwings around, battling the local song thrushes and blackbirds for the berries in the hedges. 

Before returning, I diverted to Brancaster Harbour, as it had turned into a rather lovely morning, and set about taking pics of the godwits and turnstones feeding as the mud was exposed by the retreating tide. 

Guilt got the better of me soon though and I had to return to get Dad, and we zoomed over to Titchwell again, as with a bright morning, I thought the beach might be a good bet. It was, but the tide had gone way out and most of the waders were a fair distance off. Still, we saw a few knot around, feeding on the mud and bathing. 

And occasionally a grey plover would stray close enough for a shot too. Not in breeding plumage like last year, sadly. 

Strolling back through the reserve we spotted some brent geese taking off and noticed something. Often, at least one of the flock seems to, how shall I put it, empty out, as it flies off, which now makes me very wary of any flocks I see going overhead!

As became tradition, we spent the late afternoon watching and hoping the barn owl would show. It didn't, but we did get to see a few marsh harriers come in to roost, which was entertaining, how they chase one another before dropping down for the night. I took some shots, mainly out of desperation after the owls not showing, but as you can see, the results were barely worth the effort. The original image was sooooo dark! 

A trip to Norfolk wouldn't feel right without a visit to Cley, with my favoured spot being the East Bank, which runs along the edge of the NWT reserve, up to the shingle beach. Luckily we managed to find some bearded tits quite quickly, though the males didn't come close enough when the light was good. 

The females behaved far better though! 

The pools behind the beach seem to be attractive to little egrets and sure enough one was poking about for food, waving its marigolds around under the water to see what was spooked out of its hiding place. Clambering down to eye-level with the bird I tried to get shots as it juggled with the small fish, and eventually I timed one right.

Back to Brancaster and we watched more little egrets fishing in the channels, plus turnstones, redshanks, ringed plovers and curlews. It really is a lovely spot, being parked there watching the world go by. 

Owls again and at last one came out. It was however, very dull by then and after thinking I'd bagged some reasonable shots, I was annoyed when checking later that they were a bit soft. Should have upped the ISO and shutter speed. Muppet. Ah well, there's always another go... And I wasn't alone. Dad had the owl fly right past him and he messed up his shots too, though he's less experienced and his gear isn't as good. He was livid at himself, cursing all the way home! 

Up early again the next morning, I shot down to Brancaster again, knowing the tide would be in, so would catch the waders up close. I was right, and parking close by, I had fabulous views of the ringed plover and dunlin, as they huddled on the shore, waiting for their breakfast to be revealed. It was funny as the wind was gusty and the dunlin tried to snooze, but were being blown over at times! 

As soon as the water dropped away, the feast began and I picked off individuals for pictures in the morning sunshine. 

I have masses of shots of all the birds, but they're so lovely, I can't resist more! 

Back to pick Dad up and we returned for a while longer, until the clouds rolled in and the light went awol. I did manage to spot a hen harrier flying over the marshes, which was good. Only record shots mind... 

Up the coast and we parked up at another favourite location, Thornham Harbour. With the wind very gusty now and the threat of showers, I opted to stay in the comfort of my car, though Dad battled with the elements to light his pipe. Eventually he gave up and got back in the car, just as I was peering at a pair of spotted redshanks through my bins. I was trying to make out if there were two, or one was a normal redshank when behind them loomed a white bird. I have to admit, a few naughty words escaped my mouth as I realised it was a spoonbill! Fantastic, and I was out of the car in a shot, with Dad actually leading the way for once!

From behind the boathouse, we managed a few shots as the spoonbill swung its bill left and right through the water in search of food, but the bird was heading upstream and away from us. Time for me to brave the elements and the slippery mud, as I scampered across the harbour to one of the jetties closer, and peered over the wooden rail at where I thought the bird might be. It was closer than I'd guessed and I couldn't fit it in the picture! 

The spoonbill itself seemed oblivious to my presence, though I did think it might be spooked when a pair of mallards spotted me and took flight. Then an RAF Tornado stormed over at no height at all, and that spooked it. Spooked me too! Didn't fly off far though, and I persuaded Dad to come over too. The bird returned to the same spot for a few moments, and Dad was overjoyed to get some full-frame shots too. 

Then the redshanks returned, saw us, let off the warning cries and that sent the spoonbill into flight. Thankfully I took advantage and caught it in flight as it took off, and headed deeper into the marshes. A great afternoon's work though! 

With gaps the cloud forming, it looked like it might brighten up again, and with the spotted redshanks around, we caught up with them further down the harbour. They're elegant birds, and quite different to normal redshanks when you see them, both in appearance and feeding habits.

The wind started to ease by the time we had arrived at the barn owl site, and the clouds were dispersing too. With the fields bathed in that golden light at the end of the day, one of the owls came out to play, and boy did it put on a display! 

Choosing to hunt in the field right beside where we were stood, it hovered, swooped, quartered and pounced, catching prey and hunting some more. 

It came pretty close at times too, but without a doubt was the best I've ever had at that spot. 

I know I tend to swamp these blog posts with images, but you'll have to forgive me for this one (again!). 

The light faded eventually and the owl headed away, but by then I'd filled an entire memory card on it, and ought to have a few owl shots to keep me amused for weeks. 

My only regret was that it was the day before Kate joined us, so she'd missed such a performance. Even so, the Wherry that night tasted extra special! 

It was midweek already, but the guest of honour was arriving, and as I cleared my head beside the quay at Wells, my phone rang. Kate was somewhere near the bungalow, but not quite sure where it was. Within moments I was helping unload her car and getting a brew on; much needed after a long drive. 

I had tried to plan out what we could do, and as the day promised brightness, I thought Brancaster might be a good starting point, only to discover a huge crane blocking our path - they were dry-docking some of the boats. So I headed to Titchwell instead, and after parking up, remembered that the volunteers were cutting back vegetation on the pools. No point trailing miles, I suggested the beach might be worth a go. It was windy but bright and sunny. 

Before we reached it, a godwit, little egret and a most welcome greenshank were close by in one of the pools, and provided some immediate photo ops for the three of us.

I used the trip to try out a new jacket Kate had lent me from Ridgeline - the Monsoon Smock, which is a rather nice jacket to be honest, though almost impossible to get in and out of. Fitted me well enough, and kept the wind out which was handy on the beach. The large hood also acted as a windbreak to keep my contact lenses from drying out. Still prefer my Paramo though, as it's easier to wear and more adjustable to conditions. But this isn't a review site, so back to the birds. 

Speaking of which, Kate was really enjoying a break from the never ending work she has to do back home, and was crouched down on some rather prickly seaweed / rocks trying to get shots of the waders around her. She'd borrowed her dad's 300 F2.8 coupled with a 1.4TC, a fantastic combination. I'm not sure she'll ever return it after seeing the results! 

Unlike before, there seemed to be more sanderlings around this time, though not hurtling along the shore so much, more feeding in the pools. 

Oystercatchers seemed to be loving the bright breezy conditions, flying up and down the shoreline, which amused me for a while, trying for shots. 

The wind finally got the better of us and we strolled back to the relative shelter of the main reserve, again finding the godwits close to the path, and again Kate was tempted to creep down the embankment a little, to get some lower angled shots. 

Thornham was next, with the hope of seeing the spoonbill and redshanks again. No such luck, though we did see a red kite hunting the back of the marshes near the houses. And then of course the barn owl. Would it grace us as it had the night before? 

Of course not. No, it waited until all the sunlight had gone before making a very brief appearance, and heading off to hunt miles away. Got some shots, but compared to the day before they've not been considered for processing. While Kate was disappointed not to have got similar shots, she had managed some, and just seeing one of these wonderful birds brought a smile to her face. 

Cley again - target bearded tits. It took a while but eventually a few ping-pings called out, and we tracked them down. As is typical with these birds, photographing them really isn't easy, as reeds move in their way, they move around themselves a lot and they rarely choose perches strong enough for their meagre weight. As with the barn owl, Kate was chuffed to have seen them, but still wanted some decent shots. 

As before, little egrets patrolled the pools, but despite searching, I couldn't see any snow buntings yet. Linnets, yes, though further off than at Dunster recently. On the sea though, were divers, and after approaching as carefully as I could down the beach, I got a few shots before it headed out, swimming further along the shore. 

After seeing them in summer plumage, they do look a little drab like this. All the walking had built up an appetite and the Dun Cow provided a welcome retreat, not to mention a very tasty sandwich. 

The owls were starting to annoy me later. It was a nice afternoon, calm and sunny, yet they didn't come out until dusk, and stayed miles off. I guess that's wildlife for you - unpredictable. I did manage to grab a decent marsh harrier shot, as it banked in the sky, catching the last light on the underside of its wings. 

A lovely meal in the Lifeboat at Thornham ended the day well though, with Kate demolishing a towering pudding (Eton Mess) with glee! 

Our last full day, and it was gloomy. Thornham seemed like a good bet after seeing relatively nothing at Brancaster. Standing on the point beyond the car park, we photo-ed a few waders as they mooched around. The light was horrid, though Kate's lens combo handled it without any problems, and she captured some lovely shots of curlew, grey plover and redshank beside the water. 

After taking some shots of another little egret, I turned the camera on Kate, although I chose to use the macro lens instead, and as it turns out, it's a good bit of kit for such shots. You can see the results on her website. 

Driving up the coast to Snettisham, we found it very miserable there, and expensive to park at the beach for a quick look around, so back we came, calling into Holme reserve, where we were glad of the soft suspension of the Yeti. The potholed, speed-bumped track through it is something to behold. If you have brittle bones, avoid the place!! 

Not a great deal around, though I did get some pics of grey partridges. Nothing special though. And we gave up on seeing the owls when the heavens opened. Not to be. Such a shame.

While Dad and I headed to the pub again for the last night, Kate chose to chill out in the bungalow, probably mulling over a comment I'd made before we left. She was planning to leave early-ish, to get back in good time. I had said that the forecast was good and that we were going to go to Cley for another go at the beardies... I knew she'd get the green eyes on, and delay leaving... 

We packed up and left the bungalow, which had been a fantastic base for the week, and headed to Cley again, Kate following; the temptation too much! Again on the east bank, we wandered up and down, before eventually, and it took a while, we heard the laser-battle sounds rise from the reeds, and a few small flocks started to flutter around. 

Then we got a stroke of luck, when a pair of males chased a lone female (the bearded tits, not Dad and me, before you say anything!!) along the edge of the reeds, close to us. 

Far too busy in the chase to notice us, we finally managed to get some closer shots, and made the gamble of staying a bit longer well worthwhile. Kate was beaming and so excited to have got some good images of them at last. 

A quick coffee and cake at the Trust's café and we were on the route home. A fantastic week in Norfolk once again, more fond memories to treasure and a sackful of images to process! Norfolk had once again reminded me that it can rival more distant places for photo opportunities on our fair islands, and reminded Kate how much she loves photography. A great tonic for us all.