Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Taking a Dip on a Hot Day

Today (Tues 8th) after spending most of Bank Holiday Monday replacing a couple of rotten sections of our conservatory I finally had a list of jobs that could at least wait half a day, so I decided a trip to Cley NWT was in order to look for the Purple Heron, not a 'lifer' but a Norfolk tick none the less.

Agnes and I left after an early breakfast as I didn't want to be out in the full heat with her. We first stopped at Salthouse Heath to look for Nightingale, although not the ideal time of day after a short wander around I located a single bird giving short often incomplete bursts of song. A Garden Warbler was also heard but not located.

Moving onto Cley NWT, from the bottom of Old Woman Lane I could see a group of birders on the West Bank all looking in different directions, I guessed the Purple Heron wasn't showing. Agnes and I therefore first tried the hide cluster. Reed and Sedge Warbler serenaded our walk, and after greeting the birders in the hide Agnes sat down to watch her 'birdies'. From Daukes Hide Avocet, Godwit and a summer plumage Ruff came very close to the hide exciting Agnes, but I mistakenly it appeared had swapped my camera bag for her change bag! Two Little Tern were my first of the year and a Sandwich Tern briefly stopped in. I checked the log book and noted that a Spotted Redshank was apparently still around so had a second check of the back of the scrape with the scope. A Common Sandpiper wandered the margins and two Little Ringed Plover were nice to see as always, I then found the Spotted Redshank, a bonus bird for late spring. We spent a short while in the Avocet Hide scanning Cricket Marsh for the Purple Heron but without luck. The Common Sandpiper did however come within feet of the hide and some Avocet displayed almost as close. By the Warden's House the call of a Cetti's Warbler perplexed Agnes, I could see the bird but she couldn't. While listening to its calls a Swift wheeled away overhead another new bird for the year. Parking up on Beach Road we joined the small group looking for the Purple Heron, it hadn't been seen all morning. We waited about 25 minutes with the only birds of note a couple of Wheatear.

It was only just after 10.00 we stopped on Kelling Heath to look for the resident Dartford Warbler. Linnet seemed to be the bird of the moment, seemingly singing from every bush, being joined by the occasional burst of Whitethroat. We found a couple of Common Lizards one of which kept Agnes amused as it popped its head in and out from a tussock of grass. I only saw one Adder, which although not approached closely reared up and hissed before slithering away. At least one Woodlark was heard singing but not seen, and a couple of Blackcap were in the Silver Birch. I had given up on Dartford Warbler when walking back past an area already checked, I heard the mechanical song from a stand of Gorse, rounding the corner I briefly saw the bird, before it saw me and dropped down from its perch. Back in the car park a Garden Warbler was calling in the scrub, after a few minutes and changes of viewing angle, eventually I could see the source. Although I was feeling the heat I think Agnes would have wandered the Heath all day but I needed to get back to those not so important jobs at home.

Despite dipping on the target bird of the trip and at times the heat, it proved a worthwhile morning out which I think we both thoughtfully enjoyed. At some point Agnes is sure to rebel or if not become a bird watching maestro, either way I lovely she wants to share my passion.

On Sunday (6th) after work I called into Mousehold Heath to look for a singing Wood Warbler, still in shirt and trousers (there's nothing wrong with formal birding). Upon arrival I met Ricky and a few other local birders, who informed me I had missed the bird by 5 minutes and it was being a bit illusive. I spent the next 45 minutes wandering the area without luck, before duties at home meant I had to head off. It was great to catch up with a couple of birders I've not seen for a while even if I missed the bird. After I left the bird was eventually found, having relocated across the road closer to the pitch and putt.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Winterton and Hickling NWT

Last Thursday (26th April) I headed off to Winterton hoping that the Pallid Harrier of previous days would still be present. On route a Yellow Wagtail was noted with the grazing sheep as we approached Waxham. I had decided to walk just the North Dunes, despite the south section often being more rewarding, I didn't think Agnes at 2 1/2 years would manage a full lap. Glancing out to sea at least 4 Common Tern were fishing, my first of the year and a couple of Wheatear where in the car park. Agnes enjoyed climbing the highest of the dunes in our attempts to find the Pallid Harrier, but without success. We did however see 25+ Wheatear, 2 Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler and numerous Meadow Pipit and Linnet. The best moment of the day however was Agnes finding a Ring Ouzel. While I was inspecting a couple of very confiding Wheatear, Agnes shouted out 'Blackbird' and pointed to a male Ring Ouzel in the dune grasses. Walking back via the beach, a couple of Ringed Plover and the for mentioned Common Tern the only birds of note.

With rain forecast for the whole day on Wednesday (2nd), Agnes and I where at Paston Cliffs by 7.45am ahead of the rain. In the 45 minutes before the drizzle migrants finally seemed to be arriving. Getting out of the car I peered over the cliff edge checking the grassy slopes and scrub, expecting a Ring Ouzel, but not expecting the female Pied Flycatcher perched on the gorse. I thought this was a new patch bird but I had one here a few years back. Whitethoat have suddenly appeared in force with at least 5 singing on territory. 2 Chiffchaff were also calling including 1 individual that kept singing on the ground. Only 2 male Yellowhammer remain and the Linnet flock seems to have broken up with a few males spread out singing throughout the site. Despite the large numbers of Wheatear clearly finally on the move, we were walking back to the car before we saw 2 males perched on the remains of the chalets currently being upgraded. Also of not was the unusual sight of a Canada Goose on the sea.

Later in the afternoon, driving home after a trip to Sea Palling amusements a Hobby flew across the road close to Cart Gap in Happisburgh.

Today (3rd) we continued Agnes' birding education with a trip to Hickling NWT. Arriving around 8.30am we had the reserve to ourselves Agnes was very excited by the hides, whispering as she looked for birdies. Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler were singing in good number, the former much easier to see. A Cetti's Warbler uncharacteristically sang out in the open and a Grasshopper Warbler was heard distantly. From the Observation Tower a few Tern could be seen out over the Broad, with at least 2 perched up closer being Arctic Tern. The Bittern Hide, like the Cadbury Hide only offered up the common waterfowl, but at least gave Agnes some practice separating ducks, geese and swans. Walking back along the raised bank a Hare slowly hopped along ahead of us, always remaining just out of photographing distance. A Bittern was briefly seen skimming the reed bed before again taking cover. After a picking a large toy dragonfly from the shop, a treat for walking the whole loop, we removed our muddied boots and headed home. Spending the rest of the day in the garden, a singing Whitethroat on the wasteland behind the house was a new garden tick.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Migrant Waders and Wheatears

Yesterday (22nd) after having an adventure with Agnes at BeWILDerwood, I had a couple of hours to myself so headed for a bit of birding. I decided to first head to Norfolk Wildlife Trust's newest reserve, and part of my patch Pigney's Wood. The screen by the scrape has now been removed, it had been vandalized on my last visit but now there's no cover to view the scrape. This combine with the over grown margins in the conservation area meant I had no chance of seeing any migrant waders if present. The site was full of singing Blackcap and Chiffchaff, but no Whitethroat as yet. During my relatively quick lap of the site, although few birds were seem butterfly numbers were good, with Large White, Small White, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone, Peacock, Holly Blue and Red Admiral all seen.

After a very quick lap of Southrepps Common I headed to Trimingham next, determined to fine a Wheatear, my nemesis of recent weeks! At Southrepps the site was very quite the only thing of note being 2 delightful flowering Fratillaries. Approaching the clifftop to the West of the Clifftop Woods, I spotted my foe and then a few of his friends. In total at least 7 Wheatear (6 male/1 female) were close by, also lone House Martin and 7 Swallow flew West. In the Wood I found 3 Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler, before heading home. Going via the 'Quiet Lane' I found a small group of 6 Whimbrel in a field south of the village. While driving through Gimingham I noticed the fishing lake have almost been drained, an about turn and I was soon watching two Common Sandpiper enjoying the recently exposed mud.

Today (23rd) I had noticed that two Dotterel had be found near Happisburgh. So after arriving home from work and popping to the chippy I was able to park up at Happisburgh by 7pm, after a quick detour via Gimingham. Id been told a Green Sandpiper had also been present at the fishing lakes and luckily it only took me 5 minutes to locate it. West of Dogget Lane off Cart Gap, a lone birder soon guided onto the male bird in the plough in the closet field to us. I soon located the more striking female, as she slowly walked towards us, halving the distance. I spent about 30 minutes watching the birds before they settled back down towards the rear of the field. Without doubt the best views I have had of these delightful birds, I'm used to hazy distant views at Choseley. Typically I had no camera, but I managed a couple of record shots with the phone. Walking back to the car I was serenaded by two Yellowhammer to top of a delightful evening wander.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

More Badgers at the Allotment

On Tuesday (21st) after a busy morning helping dad cut and split firewood ready for next winter, I had a wader around Paston Cliffs. Towards the Paddocks a couple of Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail were all of note, still no Wheatear! Walking East a small group of Meadow Pipit flew through, among them a rather dark individual looked like it may have been a Rock Pipit, the birds only briefly alighted on the cliff face and I couldn't get a decent view. At least 8 Yellowhammer are still present and the Linnet flock surprisingly seems larger than during the winter. The field closest to the Gas Terminal was being ploughed and planted with potatoes, most of the gulls normally on the beach had headed up top. The Glaucous Gull present in the area for a while was unmissable, joined mainly by Herring and Black-headed Gull but also 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull. 5 Stock Dove joined in the feast.

Early Tuesday morning I had set up the camera trap while at the allotment, and after collecting it on Thursday as further images of badgers. These looked smaller/slimmer than previous clips so I wonder if these are younger individuals? During day light hours the camera was set off at regular intervals by a steam of small birds coming in to collect nesting material from the detritus of old bedding spread by the badger's sett. Blue Tit, Great Tit, Dunnock, Robin, Chaffinch and more interesting Long-tailed, this means i must now lookout for the delight of a Long-tail Tit nest nearby.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Mystery Pellet

Last while walking back along the track from the allotment I picked up a small bird pellet. Until this morning I forgot it was in my bag (in a pot). The pellet was very compact and had hardened since collecting so I only managed to pull out the largest bones. These I believe belonged to a Field Vole, with distinctive zig-zag set teeth, seen at x30 magnification.

I realised that most raptors produced pellets, but only recently discovered in fact almost all birds produce them. Does anyone have an option on what bird this came from? My thoughts are either Kestrel or Tawny Owl.