Notes on birds & wildlife from an east coast birder, wildlife enthusiast & photographer
Thursday, 7 February 2013
Black- bellied Dipper + 2 Otters = Top Thetford trip
Today, Thursday 7th January, I couldn't resist the lure of a very photogenic BB Dipper any longer and following a day off TOIL following working extra hours in January, I gave in. It's been a very hectic this year with work and talks at the moment. It was difficult driving west to Thetford this morning but I fared much better than some, the early snow and frost no doubt causing 2 accidents. One on the Barnby bends had me queuing up with other traffic and after a few minutes stationary, I turned round and had to drive the tiny and very water-logged side roads around Mutford & Ellough to bypass the blocked road, just past Mutford, one reward were seeing 3 Bullfinches (a male and 2 females) fly across the road (right to left). Accident number two, whilst driving along between Bungay & Harleston, I noticed a Mini had wrapped itself around a road sign and a ditch to the left of the road. A stop on a side road left at a mile east of Thetford, I saw a Mistle Thrush fly across a side road to a wood.
Finding the 3 Nuns bridge was very easy, driving over one bridge and turning left into a car park by a brook, I walked along past another bridge and turning left and following a brook and some trees, I met a birder who said the bird had just flown off. Fearing the worst i walked further along and was very relieved to see the excellent Black- bellied Dipper posing beautifully perched on a stone on a relatively well lit area of the stream where it intersected 3 separate tributaries. It posed here for a while barely 15 feet away. It swam in the water hunting and catching tiny fish and invertebrates. It then flew to the back perched for a while before hunting over tot he left and then the right. before advancing photographers pushed it over to where I was, where it perched briefly on a twig just 6 feet away. It then flew to an upturned branch in the stream using this as a vantage point for its hunting. It would look for its prey and then suddenly jump in swimming and chasing its prey. It then flew left before it flew past and back a little way. I walked back and it was perched by a log, showing beautifully barely 10 feet away. Its reflection showed well in the water and it spent a good 20 minutes resting, being barely motionless, before it suddenly woke up, characteristically dipping. The Black- bellied Dipper then jumped up to the log and then leapt back fishing first left of the log and then right of the log. It then flew back to its original spot. A birder at the back walked towards us saying he'd just seen 2 Otters, I then crossed the ford, carefully, my Wellingtons sank 6 inches into the mud, but I crossed OK and and walked towards across another dyke running across. With a large house and green area beyond, we could see 2 incredible Otters, bounding and swimming up and down in the water, their bodies arching as they twisted and turned in the water, as if they were playing, one could follow the progress of the Otters swimming right with the tiny stream/ line of air bubbles breaking the surface. Amazingly these otters seemed oblivious of our presence swimming only 3o feet away. They then bounded onto terra firma on the bank beyond which was fenced, before they both entered the water. As they swam you could see their heads break the surface and one bared its teeth once posing beautifully for the camera. You could also see the characteristic matted strands of wet fur and whiskers too. Absolutely amazing views, my best ever of this species and still only the fourth and fifth I've ever seen. They swam quickly right and disappeared behind a reed fringed island. meanwhile a calling Siskin flew past overhead, another Siskin seen in flight and Nuthatch heard in the distance too. A Muntjac deer was seen on the lawn at the back. By another bridge, a Treecreeper flew by and up into a tree. Near Ellough driving back, around 40 Fieldfare flew up from a hedge on the south side of the road. Final goodie of the day was a Song Thrush in the garden seen at the back and then perched in the left tree for some time. Pictures to follow at the weekend.