It was a fairly late decision to visit Norfolk for the weekend and I had yet to experience Norfolk at this time of year so the decision wasn't too difficult. I arranged to go up with my mate Chinny, and was up at 4am to get to Rugby for 8am where we were joined by Tony House. Due to the weather forecast saying that the better day was going to be on the Sunday, we decided to have a bash at a Kestrel which perches on a fence post near to Chinny's work and then have a bash at his feeders which attract Nuthatch, GS Woodpecker, the usual Tit's and finches. This would leave us the Sunday to get to Norfolk and have a good days shooting with the forecasted nice light.
The Kestrel wasn't playing ball, although she was perched on a fence post on our arrival. So armed with 500 and 600mm lenses hanging out the car window we attempted the drive past pausing briefly for some shots. This is the method that Chinny has been using to get shots of her, so we knew it worked...well it did for him, and his mate Keith apparently!
Unfortunately, the Kestrel had other ideas and wasn't entertaining that at all. So we waited, discussed, swore and in the meantime, saw lots of Redwings and Fieldfare, but opted to try for the Kestrel again hoping that it would come back and give us an opportunity.
Well, as nature is uncontrollable, it didn't happen. Quite frustrating, so decided to have a look at Chinny's feeders. Had a bash for a couple of hours but the sun wasn't fully behind us and it was quite strong for the time of year and heavy shadows resulted. The Nuthatches and Woodies didn't turn up so didn't get any shots that were an improvement on my others, but still nice to be out and pressing that shutter button!
Tony was adamant he was going to get the Kestrel, so opted not to do the feeder and it transpired that the Kestrel still wasn't in the mood, so Tony left empty handed too.
Left Rugby at lunchtime to get to Welney for the late afternoon sun and a bash at getting some Barn Owl's perched or in flight. Got there in some great light, parked up, got all set up and waited excitedly for the Barnies to come up the side of the road hunting with a view to nailing a shot. After about 4 minutes, the light seemed to fade a bit and then a band of cloud came across and that was it for the day. Aaaaargh! We were thoroughly depressed as it was so promising.
So off to the B & B which was in Wells-next-the-Sea and was called Machrimore. A stunning place that was really well looked after, a lot of effort had been made with Christmas lights all over the property (subtly and tastefully done I hasten to add). The breakfast was superb, hospitality was great, room was fantastic, absolutely perfect and would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of a stay. The owner is a former press tog and only too keen to talk about photography which was pretty cool!
Quite a torrid night for Chinny as I seem to snore when I am really tired or have had a few beers. This was unfortunate for him as i was tired and had a few beers too. We have shared a room before and Chinny was well aware of the possibility of me snoring, and as he sleeps really lightly and couldn't get single rooms, he decided to buy some earplugs. He looked overjoyed on his walk back to the car from Boots and couldn't wait to show me his prize purchase of "Flight earplugs". The look on his face soon turned to gloom as we realised that these were in fact for equalising when taking off and landing when on an aircraft and had no sound shutout capabilities whatsoever. I decided not to wind him up for fear of a good face punching. The good news was he managed to get some lovely wax earplugs that moulded perfectly to his large earholes!! Still wasn't enough though, but I'll stop there. We're still friends.........
Up the next morning to have a go at some landscape photography before the sun came up. The light was amazing and took the shot below at first light.
Nothing doing on the beach as it was really windy, no clouds, I have no creativity and the sun was the wrong side. The subjects that were available were the boat tractors (is that what they're called?) and these were all attached to boats and didn't make for a great picture. I took one anyway :o)
After I thawed out, we then drove to Salthouse for first light and a bash at whatever was around. We were pretty sure that there was a good chance to shoot some Lapland Buntings which were scattered amongst the Snow Buntings. I had never seen Lapland Buntings so was quietly excited about getting some shots. There's always a good chance there for Turnstones which I have yet to nail. The light was great for the first 5 minutes and then it clouded over, again! Aaaargh! I decided to have a go with some fill flash using a flash extender ("Better Beamer" to our American friends) and below is some shots of what I managed to get. After 2 hours lying down shooting Lapland and Snow Buntings, it wasn't until I left that i realised that my IS (Image Stabiliser) was turned off??? so my images were a bit soft......I'm obviously not too good at shooting from a beanbag!
Below is my first shot of a Lapland Bunting. It's really difficult to get their feet visible unless you have hours and hours to wait until they jump onto a rock. In the 3 hours I was there, none did!
There were other visitors to the shingle which included some Teal......
...and some Snow Bunting......
And a white Snow Bunting which I was keen to nail but the white one's tended to stay in the middle of the group, and when they didn't, those blinkin' Turnstones got in the way!
..and a Dunlin, which I have never managed to get an image of prior to this. Unfortunately, light was poor and was having to shoot wide open which doesn't give much depth of field...as you can see!!
We decided to have a look at Cley Marshes and see what was happening around the hides. The light was poor and although plenty of birds, they were huddled together and not much opportunity for any action...or shots for that matter. Chinny and some other people saw a Weasel which I missed. At the hides we saw large numbers of Golden Plover, Lapwing, some Pintails, Brent Geese, some Shelducks, GreyLag geese, some Shovelers, a distant Marsh Harrier and some Godwits....oh, and some Stonechats.
Not my usual type of shot compositionally but tried for something a bit different. I can't remember what the background was but I'm pretty sure it was natural and not a building or something
So after what was photographically a disappointing visit to the hides, I decided to return to Salthouse to have another go with the IS turned on. I didn't get any better images due to light degradation.
On our return, there were more photographers than I have ever seen in one place! The money in glass alone would have fed a small country! Chinny managed to get a shot. Unfortunately, this was probably the least number of photographers at any time during our visit here
A few of the photographers were snapped by Chinny :o)
We met up with Keith Burtonwood who is Chinny's mate and decided to go to Cromer for some shots of the Pier. It's quite a charismatic pier and we stayed for an hour or so getting some long exposures from a variety of angles. I REALLY must learn the fundamentals of landscape composition as i had some ok images but the composition really let the images down.
Some shots of the pier
and a Black and White version
and from another angle....
Our last morning we decided to get out early and have a look at what Well-next-the-sea beach had photographically but again the light didn't materialise and we didn't get any shots of any quality, so it was back to the B&B for a great Full English breakfast.... well deserved! On the way back to Rugby to pick up my car, we had a look at Brancaster??? and as nothing much was going on, and the tide was very low, and we didn't fancy getting very muddy for nothing, we drove home.
All in all a very enjoyable weekend, but photographically a bit disappointing...... just nice to be out experiencing nature!