Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Mixed Christmas

This Christmas we rented the same flat we usually do in Sherringham on the north Norfolk coast.  It's a nice, warm, comfortable flat in the middle of the town, with a decent chippie at the end of the street and the most excellent Restaurant No 10 close by.  The plan was to spend the whole time watching birds on the reserves at Cley next the Sea and Tichwell Marshes, but on Saturday morning, Jenny wasn't feeling well, having picked up a tummy bug somewhere.  We went to Cley anyway, figuring we'd get lunch in the visitor centre there, and we could stay inside and watch birds from there if she didn't want to venture outside.  No reason to expect the visitor centre to be closed on Christmas Eve, after all.

It was not to be.  The visitor centre was indeed closed, so we had to lunch in a nearby pub before walking across the reserve to the nearest hides.  It was bitterly cold in the rather sharp wind.  We were very glad to get into the first hide, I can tell you!

Worth it, though, as we saw lots of birds.  Marsh harriers, lots of lapwings, a few dozen black tailed godwits, avocets, a few shoveler ducks, lots of teal and widgeon, a scattering of dunlin, a few birds we tentatively identified as golden plovers, a pintail duck and several shelduck.

There were also a few birds I thought were redshank, ignoring the fact that their legs were bright orange, not red.  After a bit of quiet discussion between Jenny and me, the guy sitting next to me offered advice, saying they were, in fact, ruff.  Now Jenny had thought they might be, but I'd dismissed that, as ruff over-winter in Africa.

Except that the local expert told us there was a small population that over-winters in Norfolk, and we were watching a dozen or so of them, including a male just coming into breeding plumage.  That was pretty good!

Jenny was really not well, and in the evening, hardly ate any of the goose I roasted for her.  Worse, her sense of taste was affected, and the decent bottle of red I opened was wasted on her.  I had to drink most of it myself!

On Christmas day, after opening our presies, we drove to Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, near Fakenham.  We knew the gardens and shop would be closed, but figured the nature reserve should be open.  Wrong.

It was a beatiful day, however, so we ambled slowly back to Cley, spotting a stoat bouncing across the road at one point, and startling a merlin a few miles later on.

At Cley it was much warmer than the previous day and we sat in the same hides, watching an amazing display.  There was a poorer selection of ducks, but the highlight was a vast flock of golden plovers.  We're not much good at estimating numbers of birds, but decided there were well over 1000 in that flock, as well as several hundred lapwings.  I hope this mpeg movie works in your browser.
OK, it's a rubbish video, but it's the best I could do.  When I zoomed back so you could see how big the flock was, the birds were so small as to be almost invisible, but close in, and it doesn't look like anything that special.  I blame the birds, me.  They just don't fly as close together as starlings!
In the evening, we roasted a haunch of muntjac, which was delicious, but Jenny barely ate enough for a church mouse, poor girl.  And I had to drink most of the Klein Constantia Marlbrook red, her favourite wine!
On Monday she was worse yet.  We discussed going home, but then went to Tichwell Marshes, which was a pleasant drive.  As we went past Cley, we noticed that the visitor centre was open, so hoped for lunch at Tichwell.  Wrong again.  The notice said they'd been open on Saturday, but would stay firmly closed on Boxing Day.  Bummer!  Well, by now my guts were threatening, though fortunately the threats have been empty so far.  Just the odd twinge you get when you know things are going wrong, but that's been it.  It did mean, however, that my appetite was (and still is) quite suppressed, so missing lunch was no hardship. Jenny, however, wasn't up to any birding at all, which was a real shame, as she gets much less opportunity than I do, and had been really looking forward to it.

We arrived to find a cluster of people looking up into some alders right next to the visitor centre, and eventually spotted a notice announcing the presence of arctic redpoll, which are something of a rarity.  I got quite a good look, but I don't think Jenny saw them other than being small birds in the trees over there somewhere.  I thought they just looked like redpoll, but then the sign did say they're extremely hard to distinguish.

We wanted to go right out almost to the sea, but the walk was too much, and the furthest we got was the very splendid new Parrinder Hide, about half-way to the dunes.  There we saw an enormous flock of golden plovers, presumably the same flock we'd seen at Cley.  I overheard someone say "three or four thousand" but of course, I've no way of knowing how much better he was at estimating bird numbers than we were.  It looked similar in size to what we'd seen.

There were also several hundred (at least!) brent geese, many more teal than at Cley, and several common snipe.

We didn't stay long, however, as Jenny was feeling awful, and soon headed back to the car.

On the way home, we decided we would go home straightaway, though that actually meant leaving at about half past five, as it took close to an hour to get back to Sherringham, then another hour to pack up and load the car.

Driving home, we started feeling the call of our local chip shop, and by the time we arrived, we were really looking forward to fish and chips!  In keeping with the rest of the trip, it was not to be.  Both the chippies, along with all the restaurants we could see, were closed.  Feeling rather sorry for ourselves, we got some breaded pollock fillets out of the freezer, fried some chips in the frying pan and boiled up some peas.  Not quite what we'd had in mind!

God's teeth, I've typed all that and the bloody video still hasn't finished uploading!  Mind you, it is 80Mb, so maybe I'm expecting rather a lot.


Jennyta said...

What a shame Jenny wasn't well. Both my daughters have been struck down with d&v over the last few days. I had to smile, however, at your valiant attempts to make sure the wine didn't go to waste. Well done, you!

Rob Clack said...

Well, we keep smiling on, but she has a doctor's appointment for this afternoon. A tummy bug should have cleared up by now, so we figured it's time to call in the professionals!

Rob Clack said...

Sorry, meant to say, hope your two are on the mend.

Jennyta said...

Yes thanks, Rob. I hope Jenny will soon be better. :)