A quiet period at work this week gave me the opportunity to visit my brother again in Norfolk, we had originally planned to photograph the Grey seals and their pups but after the recent flooding, casualties, and abandoned pups that needed rescuing it did not seem appropriate so I targeted two birds, the first was Common Crossbills which have been coming down to drink at puddles in Suffolk, and a Shore Lark on Great Yarmouth beach.
I drove to Norfolk through the night and arrived at 6.30am on Wednesday. After a quick coffee at my Brother Kim's house I then drove back to Suffolk to the site where the crossbills were. These crossbills have been regular visitors to these puddles of water. By 9.00am we were all setup and ready. During the next few hours more people turned up but still no sign of the birds when I noticed a Sparrowhawk nearby, this bird of prey was in the vicinity nearly all day and after six hours of waiting the light was starting to go so we packed up. Feeling rather deflated we decided to give it another try in the morning.
Thursday morning came and we made the hour trip back to Suffolk and set up as we had the previous day only this time I spotted four Crossbills in the tree about 70m away so we were more hopeful. After an hour or so a Crossbill flew down to a small tree to our left and was clearly coming down to drink, it stayed there for a few minutes and Kim and I froze so as not to spook it. Suddenly a car drove in and turned around right over the puddle of water which sent the bird off high into the trees some distance away. We were beginning to think things were just not going to pan out right for us when another photographer turned up. As he set up beside us a total of 9 birds flew into the small tree on our left and this time a few of them took it in turns to quickly collect some water before flying away, this only lasted for about thirty seconds in total so the photo opportunities had to be taken there and then. We had both male and female birds at the water and also had another visit later in the day although this time it lasted for about 3 seconds. The birds then decided to drink from another puddle around the corner from where we were set up so this was to be our only chances. We did manage some nice images although as the birds landed on the wrong side of the puddle for us, we did not manage any reflection shots, (maybe next time).
The forecast for thursday was cloud and rain but we thought it may be worth getting up early and trying to see if we could locate the Shore lark and maybe learn a few of the habits of this bird which might help us for Saturday morning when the forecast was going to be good. On arrival it struck me that on such a large beach it was going to be difficult to locate two small birds, the wind was bitterly cold but it was reasonably bright and no rain as yet. after about four hours we were on the verge of giving up for the day when a local birder located them. All the birders in the vicinity were called over so they could see them and once they had left we started to edge slowly closer. After about fifteen minutes we were almost in range for some shots when a Peregrine falcon came from nowhere and flew past us at speed and only about 20 feet away from us and no more than four feet above the ground, needless to say the birds quickly dispersed and were not seen again that day and as we searched it now began to rain. Once again another bird of prey had thwarted our plans.
Saturday was the day for me to return to Devon but I wanted another look for the larks. We arrived shortly after it got light and together with another photographer and at least half a dozen birders the birds were still not located after 3 hours. Everybody else had now left and we decided to head back to the car when I caught sight of a small bird moving in the distance. On closer inspection it proved to be one of the two Shore larks. Once again we crept slowly closer and this time no birds of prey interfered with us, this time it was a flock of about 40 snow buntings that caused us a problem, they decided to join the larks and then shortly after they flew off with the two shore larks following suit and flying off into the distance.
20 minutes or so later I said to Kim that I really needed to get going as I had a six hour journey ahead of me and it was already 11.30am
Once again we headed to the car and once again I spotted them. This time they were close to the Pier and car park, well away from the flock of snow buntings that were constantly circling and only landing briefly before taking off again. We did the same again for the third time, walking along on our knees edging slowly closer. We managed to get some photos from a reasonable range when a dog walker decided to throw a ball for her dog to chase. The dog chased the ball and once again the birds flew, however this time they only flew a short distance and eventually they came close enough to us for the shots we had tried so hard to get.
7 hours later I was at my desk reviewing my shots and updating this blog.