near miss

It seemed that Friday was a good day for a seawatch.   I mean, a Fea’s Petrel flew past the evening before.  How good does it need to get? What with the patch being by the sea, it seemed a good idea to then proceed to sea and watch it.  Getting ready for ‘the big one’.  The patch tick of patch ticks.  A rare seabird.  Lets go!

The first Brents of the winter, some Wigeon, some Scoters.  No shearwaters, certainly not any Cory’s.  Or Gannets.  Some gulls.  No skuas. Some terns.  Hmmm.  But then!   Hang on one a second there is a small dark bird with a white rump flying almost on the waves!!! Bloody hell!  It couldn’t be could it?  Where has it gone?  Find it find it!  Oh, what is that what has gone and landed on that there rock.  Oh, it is a Wheatear. 

Swallow anyone?

a swallow doing not long now


rainy double patch tick whammy

So I went out into the patch and it looked like this.

sky doing just you wait sonny

Understandably, I started getting rained on.  So I retreated to the shelter of a nearby motorised vehicle and by the magic of the internal combustion engine I found myself by an area of scrubland.  Actually it is desolate industrial wasteground, but scrub makes it sound all wild and authentic and everything.  Bored out of my patch mind by the lack of birds to watch I even ended up taking pictures of a bird I don’t like.

a wood pigeon doing rubbish

I muttered, and took the Lords name in vain with reference to the rubbishness of local birds etc.  I mean Wrynecks are stalking local dunes, but not mine.  Greenish Warblers are being found in bushes a mere few miles away, but not here.  All I have is a Wood Pigeon.  And those Sparrows.  And that Blue Tit.  FFS.  Blue Tit?  But that would be a member of an entire family of birds that do not present themselves around here at all.  Have I fallen into the complacency of the common place again?  Yes!  Patch tick! Niiiiice!  Better get the bins out then and look at it properly.  It’s a respect thing.  But hang on, what is that flicky thing that is with the Tit and Sparrows in that rubbish bit of scrub/wasteland.  Oh it seems to look like a warbler.  At 8x magnification it revealed itself to be no less than a Chiffchaff.  Another bleeding patch tick!  Shmokin!

One rain shower for me, two photos for you dear reader, and a rambling post about two patch ticks.  Splendid.

sea gooseberry

Naming wildlife in the old days must have been a pretty easy job.  It looks like a cucumber, it lives in the sea – it’s a Sea Cucumber!  It looks like a gooseberry, it lives in the sea – its a Sea Gooseberry!  It looks like a lion, it lives in the sea – its a Sea Lion!   Perhaps not then. 

As accurately suggested by James and Harry, it would seem that the little globs of not much (99% water evidently) are not eggs but are complete beings (albeit dead ones), called Sea Gooseberry.  They are little jellyfish thingies, and they are classified in the phylum Ctenophora.  I did think about loading loads of Ctenophora facts and figures up on here, but then realised that I really didn’t have the stamina for the research.   I mean it’s not like it can fly or anything is it?  When I say ‘research’, I meant cutting and pasting loads of text what other people had written. 

However, if you click on these words it will take you to a blogpost written by Phil Gates who writes the excellent Cabinet Of Curiosities blog, and it is about Sea Gooseberries of all things.  He has photos and text and stuff.  Click on it!

it’th a myth-tery!

Got out in the patch at lunchtime.  Swifts flying low over the dunes, juvenile Starlings running around at the edge of the marram grass.  Linnet knocking about with some House Sparrows, a Ringed Plover flew past.  Reasonably normal, reasonably pleasant. Got to the sea, and started wandering up the beach.  It’s always worth looking at what is by your feet in this situation, and today I saw some funny little translucent balls by the high tide line.  Oh, I haven’t seen them before.  Ha! Look how gooey they are when they meet the sole of my shoe.  ‘How quaint they are’  I thought.  I paraphrase, obviously.  Then there were some more of them, and some more, and then more.  In all they were irregularly scattered along the hide tide mark for a few hundred metres.  Bloody hundreds of them.  This here photograph gives you an impression of the scene.

something doing not much

 I thought  I’d better take a bit more notice now. 

They are generally about 3/4 inch long, mostly translucent, gooseberry shaped but not quite as firm.  It looked like there was some kind of smudge in the centre and beyond that they looked fairly featureless.  Once the photos had been developed in the dark room, a little more detail could be ascertained.  behold…


something doing closer than before
I’ll stick my neck out and say that they are some kind of egg.  A cephalopod or something.  I don’t know.  Do you?
Answers on a postcard…



conrcrake and the croft

Twas flicking through the iplayer last night and came across a programme called The Corncrake And The Croft which had originally been shown on BBC Alba.  Excellent I thought, I’ll watch that – and now.  Although the beginning of the programme was in Gaelic with English subtitles, the majority of the programme was in English.  It was a revisit to an episode of The World About Us from 1977 (!) which, you’ve guessed it, was about crofting and occasionally Corncrakes in Uist.  There is plenty of photography of other birds and it is well worth a look.  It is from a time when a Corn Bunting singing on fence isn’t worth mentioning, when nobody spoke about conservation and when tractors didn’t have a cab.  The story line is a little unreal though.  This being the west of Scotland, it didn’t seem to rain in the summer which I found strange, only when the foaming seas of Autumn arrived did the weather change.   Anyway, if you have an  hour to kill while the rain stops birding this weekend, I recommend it.

Here is a link to the online version.

While I’m talking about foaming sea in Uist, here is a picture of just that, apart from the fact that it was not taken in Uist.

sea doing foam

ryan giggs

It’s amazing what people get up to on the interweb, and what they will talk about or look for isn’t it?  Indeed, recently someone landed on this blog after putting ‘hardcore dolphin porn’ into their search engine.  Not ordinary dolphin porn, no.  Hardcore dolphin porn.  I haven’t taken too much time to try and work out what it entails exactly.  Take a look around, this is a dolphin porn free site.  Dolphin friendly perhaps. 

Super.  In this juncture, I offer a  recent picture from the patch which contains no dolphins or porn at all.

patch doing clouds and stuff

more randoms

Halo was incorrect, as it was probably a circumzenithal arc.  Which I reckon is pretty cool.

And that Eagle, right, must have flown through my patch.  AND I chose not to journey to work via Filby on the day that a WTE wakes up and has a look around in that area at the time that I would have been going through.  Something about a chap called sod, a law, and a very rude word comes to mind.

I didn’t get a Sand Martin on the half-heartedly predicted day, but I did get a Swallow which was simply beautiful.  And then another on Monday.  Not a magic blog perhaps, but just a magic patch perhaps.  Which is fine by me.  We’ll see.

On Saturday and Sunday the pond in the garden had been taken over by rutting water snails (spp).  As each one moved about on top of the weed, it let out a little pop.  Pond pop corn.  Great fun.

I did see Sand Martins at the weekend however, at Runton.  I could do nothing but stare and smile while they farted.

I’m not telling anyone how great Runton is.

A mammoth fell out of the cliffs once.  It was quite dead, but quite large.

Stuff still falls out of the cliffs and the cliffs still fall.  I’ll put a picture up of the beach.  It isn’t as good as it looks, no siree.  And you should make no effort to go there, as you will not like it.

Haven’t seen any patch Wheaters since first contact although I am receiving reports that they continue to move through.  That also, is fine by me.

You have had over a hundred posts of this nonsense now.

runton doing just fine thank you very much

another patch tick!

Hard to get, but it still counts – I was walking along the road this morning and I could hear a Wren singing it’s little troglodyean heart out.  Lovely. 

No migrants yet.  Which is mildly annoying.

Nor is there a picture of a Wren that I have to offer you.  They’re like, so fast and everything.  And like, small?

Weather was been a bit rough yesterday mind you…

beach doing rough


sea doing rough

top o’ the world

Well, top o’ Norfolk anyway.  For a while today there was no higher pair of mince pies in the whole of the county than mine.


what you would have gotten

There was going to be a post here today of such side-splitting wit and hilarity that you, dear reader, would not help but read it again.  There was going to be stunning photography of super rare migrant birds along with incredible insights into the psyche of the modern patch birder.  However, after spending over eight hours staring at an illuminated screen to the exclusion of all other life in the western palearctic and bashing the keyboard in front of it at superhuman speed, and destroying three mice in the process, just to produce very many similar looking documents,  I can take no more.  So the entry for today reads thus.

Male Common Scoter on the sea at lunchtime.  Patch year tick.  Page updated.  Yay.

The post you would have gotten will probably have escaped me by tomorrow.

poor mans dolphin

 The other day, I was wandering around my patch, like what I do and was ever so slightly surprised to see the dorsal fin of a cetacean breaking the water.  On more that one occasion.  I swore gently, as I wasn’t expecting this and nor had I seen this before anywhere ever not at all no way.  It turns out that it is not uncommon for this to happen along the coast here, but I didn’t learn this until well after the event.  During the event, I thought that there was a very small chance that it could have been incredibly significant so I tried to take a picture of the cetacean.  And here it is.

cetacean doing hide and seek


No, I can’t see it either.  However with the wonders of modern technology I have overlaid the original picture with a pointy fingure type of imagery to show where I thought it was.  I think it is called photoshopping.

a finger doing I reckon it was there

But what cetacean?  Well, my incredibly detailed field note leads me to believe that it is a Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena.  If it had been nominally a Dolphin, this would sound incredibly interesting, but a Porpoise doesn’t quite have the same ring about it does it?

norfolk’n cliffs

Not the hallowed Cliffs of California (yes, in Norfolk), or the rather iffy ones at Happisburgh but a fresh set put down by the rampaging North Sea the other day.  You can tell it’s Yarmouth as the self-styled ‘Pleasure’ Beach is in the background. 

Interesting birds?  Right now?  In the patch?  No.

south denes doing perspective

how long is not long?

How long does a Great Crested Grebe wait between dives?

It’s an interesting question perhaps.  Although I haven’t actually timed it with a chronograph I can tell you from my own bitter experience that the time taken between dives is almost exactly the same amount of time that it takes a weatherbeaten birder to see a bird pop up from under the water, focus optics on said bird, present pre-set camera to optics and take picture of latest patch tick and then note that bird has resumed it’s underwater foray and there is nothing ornithological to take a picture of as it is swimming away in a random direction at up to 14 metres a second under the water. 

Or almost as long as it takes to read that sentence.

 The fact remains that there was Great Crested Grebe on the sea at the tail end of the week.  A wholly expected patch tick, and thankfully taken and will be added to the list page shortly.  Strangely, I had seen this species here previously, but it was before I had decided that it was my patch, and therefore had not begun the patch list so it wasn’t on the patch list.  No, I can’t see the sense in it either.

As for the last week in the patch, it has been much the same and reasonably tedious.  I have to remind myself that the tedium does involve Med Gulls, Peregrines and Snow Buntings, so it isn’t all bad.

Now, I would have loaded up a picture of the above detailed failure, but a picture of a splash over a grey sea would be quite dull. 

Here are some gulls instead.

gulls doing semi-obligatory post photo

mystery tracks, perhaps

To my mind this is one of three things.

a) the tracks of a Seal that has hauled out on the shore

b) the tracks of a dog with an itchy arse dragging its rear end up a beach

c) Something much more sensible

Any ideas?

tracks doing mystery