Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Wembury 13th March and a trip to Deutschland

A short walk along the coast at Wembury on the 13th in glorious weather produced a few good birds and some surprises. A summer plumaged great crested grebe was loafing about on the sea before going to sleep, a bird I don't see at Wembury often. Further out and busily diving was a Slavonian grebe which only gave brief and distant views. A littoralis (Scandanavian) rock pipit developing summer plumage was feeding on the seaweed mass on the beach amongst the  rock pipits but there was no sign of the water pipit. The finch/bunting flock had diasppeared from the stubble field but 3+ male stonechats along the walk were a nice sight after the cold winter. 3 chiffchaffs were seen, 1 of which was singing merrily. The dead harbour porpoise was still on the beach but there was less of it than a week ago as something has been busy nibbling at it. 2 common lizards were sunning themselves on the wooden fence running alongside the path by what was HMS Cambridge grounds. 2 oil beetles and a peacock butterfly were nice surprises but most surprising was a painted lady butterfly sunning itself before flying off, it looked quite faded but was otherwise in good condition. A coffee and a pasty were enjoyed while sitting on the beach in the sunshine at the end of the walk.

The 14th saw us heading up to Heathrow airport for a trip to Germany to see my sister Vicki and her family. I tried to get David to travel up the M4 in the hope of seeing some red kites but he wanted to drive along the A303 instead. A stop at Stonehenge for a rock bun didn't produce any corn buntings as it has in the past. Saddest sight was the number of dead badgers by the roadside, I counted at least 10 along the whole route.

Hamburg on the 15th and 16th was cold and grey with a biting wind and while sight seeing I managed views of coot, mallard, tufted duck and greylag geese with herring,common and black headed gulls. Carrion crows were seen which suprised me as I was expecting hooded crows, having seen hooded crows in Berlin which isn't far away (as the crow flies!). Stayed in a great hotel opposite the main railway station which had a 150m water slide, great fun especially when my Mum had a go on it, David and I could not stop laughing as she was hurled around the twists and turns. I ended up with a few bruises as I hurtled down the slide and Mum hurt her finger and got her hair soaking wet, something she hates doing unless at the hairdressers. My cousin Claire had a cold so avoided having a go but David loved it, screaming all the way down!
The infamous water slide as seen from our room window

The 17th saw us head south by train to my sisters in Bergen-Belsen, site of the infamous concentration camp. We got off the train at Celle where 5 hawfinches were a nice find flying around the tree tops in the park around the castle. They were quite nervous and flighty but their large head and chunky, triangular wing shape in flight were noted. The light was poor and they stayed high up in the tree tops so plumage detail was somewhat lost as I had my Leica travel binoculars with me and not my Swarovskis. Lots of siskins were flying around too and were quite vocal.

We caught the bus to Bergen and stayed in a hotel called Desperados, being attached to a Mexican restaurant, and despite the ominous name was actually quite pleasent. Bergen was quite a nice small town with lots of calling nuthatches in the trees.

The 18th was grey and drizzley with a cold wind but walking down to Vickis house provided a good view of a flyover red kite which made up for not seeing any on the trip up to Heathrow. 2 tree sparrows were seen in a tree in a back garden.

Vicki has been feeding the birds in her back garden all winter and watching the feeder from her kitchen window gave good views of great and blue tits with greenfinch, chaffinch, siskin, nuthatch, a male yellowhammer and  a male and female bullfinch.

Male bullfinch - blurry due to being photographed through 2 panes of glass
Best shot I could get of a siskin!

We took a trip out to the site of the Belsen concentration camp which was a sad and sobering experience.However I did see a black stork which flew overhead. It had some primary feathers missing and was distant and I assume is most unusual for March in Germany.

Black Stork over Belsen
Walking back to the hotel in the afternoon the weather had improved and the sun was shining. 4 roe deer were feeding out in a field near a small wood and 20 common crane flew over in V formation in 2 flocks heading East.

The 19th was sunny and mild and saw us head to Hannover by train for the day. The 20th was milder still and we had a pleasant walk through the woods near Vickis house where 2 chiffchaffs were singing and a brimstone butterfly flew past. A fire beetle was also seen. A red squirrel was seen in Vickis garden before it disappeared into a tree and out of sight and I also had a brief view of a willow/marsh tit on the feeders in the garden. Unfortunately my 7 year old nephew Jack then had a nasty fall on the steps in the cellar which needed stitches to a cut above his eye and he returned form the medical centre with a nasty black and swollen eye, steristrips and plasters.

Out of focus Fire Beetle - still trying to get used to the new camera!

The 21st saw us heading back to Hamburg and the flight home to Heathrow. The car journey back from Heathrow was slow going at times due to the incredible fog, something I have not seen for some time and it was quite eerie driving through it as it appeared to swirl all around us. We arrived home at around 11:30 pm due to the slow progress caused by the dense fog patches we had to drive through but we had had a great if tiring week with some good wildlife sightings.

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