Posted: 26 April 2022
It was just before 20:20 and the doorbell rang. It was Jim our neighbour, saying, "I know you like photographing wildlife! Well, there's a stork sitting on our neighbour's tree". It was 10 minutes after sunset. The sky was overcast and the tree is 100 yards away, but I like a challenge.
I went upstairs to grab my camera and found the window open that looks towards the tree in question. We call it the totem pole. It's a substantial specimen and every couple of years our neighbour has it stripped of all branches. The earliest photograph I have of it was taken in 2013 when it was ready for another pruning. This year that happened last week and the result is that it forms the most perfect perch for a stork. Diana and I were taken to see a stork colony when visiting Wiesbaden Marina in Germany a decade ago and that tree looks very similar to the chimney with a stork nest that we saw there.
Given the extreme distance, dull conditions and depending on how much I zoomed in the camera was taking between 1/8th and 1/13th of a second to capture the images, nothing like quick enough to freeze the motion of the bird perching on top of the tree some distance off and which was constantly altering its position as it appeared to inspect the ground below. Most of the time when I pressed the shutter button all I captured was a blur.
The White Stork Project web site tells me that "White Storks are opportunistic feeders and will readily feed on a broad range of small mammals (voles, shrews and moles), insects (beetles, grasshoppers, and crickets), reptiles (snakes and lizards), amphibians (frogs and newts), bird’s eggs, fish, molluscs and earthworms (which can form up to 30% of their diet)". We have all of those in our grounds, and have photographed most of them. so while I doubt we'll see it there in the morning, the stork should think of our place being an attractive place to visit.
The project asks for reports of sightings, and I have completed the reporting form on their site. It's a shame that conditions were so dark that it is impossible to make out what appears on the rings you can see by the "ankle" on the right foot and above the "knee" on the left.
Posted: 27 April 2022
When Diana woke this morning and peered through the curtains it was to report that the stork had gone. But a while later, at 08:25 the stork was back and I was able to take another photo.
Then I went to have my shower and got back to find the stork gone again but some 20 minutes later Diana said "It's in Peter's field"! That's the name we've given to the land behind our neighbour's house. I managed to get a further picture.
Luckily, with the slightly better light and the slightly closer bird, I was able to zoom in and could read the ring number, which I reckon says this bird is GB40.
It's time to go back to the White Stork Project site and post another report. I hope that are able to tell us more about this bird, why it might be here and how long it is likely to stay.
It's also prompted me to read up on Cranes, a bird I reckon can be easily confused with a Stork. They are reported to be breeding on Hickling Marshes, only a few miles from here.
Posted: 28 April 2022
Yesterday afternoon Diana was reading on one of the Facebook groups to which she belongs that there had been a number of sightings of a stork around Hickling, some five miles away.
Yesterday evening the stork did return to the "Totem Pole". I posted a message to Jim to let him know it was there at 17:24. It was stayed until lack of light made it impossible to see. I took a few photographs, but the bird was facing away from me and the wind was ruffling its feathers so there's little point in adding them to the page.
When I woke this morning it had left its perch so we can only wait to see if it returns as it did yesterday. I haven't had any feedback on the reports I posted on White Stork Project site yet. I asked to be told more about the bird that I'd been able to identify.
Posted: Afternoon 28 April 2022
Jim has told me he's been in touch with the Norfolk Ornithologists Association and they would like to see my photos, so I have emailed the address he gave me. He also told me that the stork was grazing on Peter's field, as it had been yesterday, when he got up this morning, but that was after 05:00 rather the time time I first looked out through the curtains, around 08:15!
Posted: 29 April 2022
I have now had responses from both the Norfolk Ornithologists Association and the White Stork Project. The first group had asked about the other "ankle ring" on which I could make out no discernible marks from my photographs. I had to ask about that and got the answer:
The other ring is the regular BTO ring. These are made of metal and intended to last the bird for life. While every effort is made to fit colour rings that will stay on, they are rather more durable. So the colour ring serves to identify the bird in the field, and the metal ring is confirmation of its original capture and the start of its life history.
As I had hoped, the White Stork Project were able to tell me more about the bird from the code on the blue ring:
I am fairly sure the ring number is GB46 which is a bird we have been following the movements of with interest. This bird is a five year-old female brought to one of our release sites from Poland in 2018, after being treated for an injury she sustained in the wild. She has been all over the place lately, including the Netherlands, Aberdeenshire just a couple of weeks ago, then Northamptonshire and now Norfolk!
Many of our released Storks have been wandering around all over the place, but tend to return to one of the release sites in Surrey and Sussex in due course. Our hope though is that as we move towards our goal of a self-sustaining population, then some of these wandering birds will start to breed further afield and hopefully the migrating juveniles will attract wild birds from the continent when they themselves return to the UK to breed. Our hope is that there will be 50 breeding pairs in this country by the end of this decade.
The sightings coming in are vital for the project to learn about how these birds are behaving post-release and we are monitoring their movements closely.
You can find out more about the project via our website and keep up to date on our Twitter and Facebook accounts @ProjectStork or on Instagram @WhiteStorkProject
As you will see, on getting this second email I examined again all my photographs and did find one that managed to confirm that the ring did, indeed, identify the bird as GB46, but none showed the BTO ring any better than the earlier photograph.
Posted: 4 May 2022
And now what must be the final postscript to this article, I received a further update yesterday from Matt at the White Stork Project .
I'm happy to report that GB46 is now back at Knepp here in Sussex, we spotted her while we were out on-site yesterday.