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Monday, September 27, 2010

More migratory waders

Following my previous post (below), I was able to observe a few more species of wading birds passing through the Seewinkel National Park (Burgenland, Austria) on their migration from the Arctic tundra towards Africa and the south. Here are a few of them.

Common Sandpiper - this juvenile is completing its post-juvenile moult

Dunlin - this bird is showing the last remnants of its black belly-patch
as it moults into winter plumage

The Knot is a little larger than the Dunlin and this individual is already in winter plumage

The Ruff - many pairs breed in the National Park
but many pass through on migration from further north

The Avocet is not strictly an Arctic breeder,
but they migrate south to avoid freezing temperatures in winter

Monday, September 20, 2010

Festival of Mabon

Mabon is the Festival of the Autumn Equinox and is usually celebrated on September 21st. After Mabon, the nights in the Northern Hemisphere are longer than the days and, although we may still enjoy some lingering warmth in the sunshine, we know that summer is efectively over and autumn is upon us.

In the bird world, Mabon is the time of frenzied migration. Many species have already departed, and for others, like wading birds, it is the time of peak flow as they vacate their breeding quarters in the Arctic tundra to head south to warmer climes. I am spending this period observing migration at the Biological Station at the Seewinkel National Park in Burgenland, on the Austria-Hungary border. Here, the birds pause on their way south in order to rest, feed and build up strength for the next stage of their journey.

The Turnstone is a rare bird away from the coast and this youngster must have become disorientated on its first migration south to Africa

The Little Stint is one of the tiniest shore birds, scarcely larger than a sparrow, and works its bill rapidly like a sewing machine as it probes the shoreline incessantly for invertebrate food

The Spotted Redshank is passing through in hundreds and uses its longer bill for
picking out prey from deeper water where it can wade on longer legs.

Kingfishers are not normally thought of as migratatory birds, but many move away when rivers and lakes freeze up. The Biological Research Station in the Seewinkel National Park caught 69 Kingfishers in a period of three weeks; one of them had already been ringed in Poland

Mabon sunset over Burgenland

A Happy Mabon to all my readers!

Friday, September 10, 2010

There's an old mill by the stream...

There are scattered around the Norfolk Broads some old structures that look like windmills. However, these were never mills, for grinding grain but wind pumps that were used for distributing water around the Broads network to maintain navigability. You can find more information about the old wind pumps here. Nowadays the pumping is done by electrical pumps.

What is that structure at the end of that backwater? Shall I paddle down and explore?

Ah, it's an old wind pump. It has lost its spars and sails.

I discover another - this one still has remnants of the old spars

Now, it is but a sad reflection of its former busy working life - a home for Starlings and Jackdaws.
Can you see something sitting on the top of the spar?

Oh, it's a Cormorant!

Horsey pump with stratocumulus; this is one of the best preserved wind pump in the Broads. With a head wind and the water getting a little choppy, I did not go closer.

As I settle down for my last camp in the Norfolk Broads, there is an inviting pub,
tantalisingly on the other side of the river.
But, hey! I have my very own ferry!!!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Where the wild geese fly...

The Norfolk Broads is probably the most popular recreational inland waterway network system in Britain
It is wonderful to see a ketch rigged out with full topsail,
intended to catch the breeze over the tops of the reed beds

Paddling along a river, you can be confronted by a large vessel coming your way:
Help! Who has the 'right of way'?
What did I do with the rule book?

Oh well, Discretion is the better part of Fowler,

she is bigger than me and so I nose into the reeds and just let her sail past

My choice is to avoid the busy navigation lanes
and creep quietly along the edges of the reed beds...

...and penetrate the creeks and backwaters... who knows where they might lead?

where the water-lillies in bloom are undamaged
by the propellers of the motor-boats

and I can drift silently close up to a Grey Heron...

...or a young Great Crested Grebe with stripy head and still in baby-down.

I surprise a Mute Swan who takes avoiding action to avoid being run down by my kayak

After several hours of energetic paddling, I moor the kayak to have a pic-nic...

The kayak even has a special recess to hold the refreshement

Wending my way back through the backwaters as dusk falls, I encounter a flock of wild Greylag Geese, a wonderful climax to a fine day's kayaking in some of Britain's wildest wetlands