Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Yesterday I was out early has I had a list of jobs I should have been doing, but still wanted to have a look at Horsey for the previous days Ortolan Bunting. I arrived at Horsey Corner just after 7.15am early enough for free parking a good start (the pay machines is locked away overnight), and headed towards Waxham Sand Holiday Park. I had briefly stopped a Happisburgh for a sunrise photo.

A theme of the last few days, a pair of Stonechat just south of the Caravan Park were still delightful to watch. I set up in the dunes to scan the short turf of the caravan park, and on my second pass I spotted the Ortolan Bunting feeding on the edge of a track way. I watched the bird for 3/4 minutes before a dog ran across the grass, the OB flew directly over my head and appeared to drop in the dunes a short distance away. I spent a short while looking, succeeding in only flushing the bird before losing it again, but a Richard's Pipit flew over calling. I returned to scan the caravan park but added only a Chiffchaff in the brambles. I walked north scanning the bushes and scrub before turning back to the car park via the dunes. At the northern edge of the caravan park a Yellow-browed Warbler was calling and a Richard's Pipit was seen in the dunes not far from the car. The peace and quiet of the morning walk was soon replaced by the whine of the petrol strimmer, as I gave our hedge its annual major hair cut now the birds have stopped nesting.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Blyth's Reed Warbler and other Migrants

I had decided to head out to Blakeney Point after dropping Agnes at Nursery at 8am. I though this would be my best chance to see the bird, rather than wait for news and then set off. The day started in shambolic style, putting Agnes in the car I realised my walking boots had just been driven to Norwich with my wife, rushing for Nursery I grabbed my sandals to drive in and threw my wellies in the boot, not ideal footwear to tackle the Point! Then halfway to Blakeney for some reason I glanced onto the back seat, S**T no binocluars, driving back home I found them by the boot rack.

After a very brief pull into Walsey Hills, where a Jack Snipe was on view from the road, I belatedly arrived in Cley's Beach Road car park about 9.30am. At least by this time a report had just come out that the Bylth's Reed Warbler had stayed overnight. Knowing the tides was going out I took the long slog out on the shingle, reserving sandy beach for my walk back.

Not far beyond the fishing boats I had a female Brambling emerge from the sueada, but I was almost at Halfway House before the next notable bird, a male Ring Ouzel. Near the Hood a Yellow-browed Warbler skirted the saltmarsh margins, flitting a few more yards every time I approached. There seemed good numbers of Meadow Pipit and Linnet around and 4 juv. Gannet passed close to the shore, along with groups of Wigeon and Teal.

Approaching the Plantation 4/5 Wheatear frequented the short grass, but no birder watchers. I made myself comfortable and had only been seated 5 minutes when the Blyth's Reed Warbler was chased from the brambles by a Yellow-browed Warbler. This diminutive bird must have suffered from Napoleon complex as preceded to chase everything. The Blyth's Reed showed on and off for 5-10 minutes before again being chased. I watched the Plantation for the next hour as a few other birders arrived. The Blyth's failed to reappear, but 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Blackcap, a Chiffchaff and Goldcrest all showed on and off.

I wandered over to the Old Lifeboat House and soon located a smart pair of Stonechat, while watching these I noticed a thrush disappear behind the toilet block. Further investigation revealed a lone Fieldfare and 6 Redwing in the brambles, but also another Lesser Whitethroat and a Barred Warbler. The Barred Warbler showed well as it ate blackberries before being disturbed by the Redwing. After a further 10 minutes by the Plantation I decided to walk back via the Dunes. A second Brambling of the day was in the dunes and a couple of Chaffinch appeared a little out of place on the beach.

A slow amble back along the surf was easy on the feet and gave me a chance enjoy the warm sun that had broken through. A couple of species jellyfish were on the beach, I only photographed one but have no idea on ID. Back at the car by 2.30pm I though about going to Waxham for the Ortolan Bunting, but my legs said no!

Sunday, 7 October 2018


This morning (7th) Laura, Agnes and myself decided to have a wander around Blickling NT. While walking the park land and around the lake 3 groups a Redwing flew overhead my first of the Autumn. A Green Woodpecker was seen a very close quarters, and 2 others more distant. 2 Mistle Thrush were by the formal gardens and a probable Hawfinch briefly in the beeches by the lake.

Laura offered too cook an evening roast, but that meant I couldn't paint the kitchen ceiling so by 2pm I found myself once again at Paston Cliffs.

On getting out of the car the patch felt and sounded different, with the resident Dunnock families rather adjatated, there were extra birds about. By the cliff edge track I soon located a tit flock unusual in itself here, with Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tit together, but also a Yellow-browed Warbler in tow.

Close by another warbler drew my attention, it appeared to be a Lesser Whitethoat but with more extensive brown tones, possible 'Siberian' characteristics now I'm looking in a book, but I'll never know as it dissopeared into the scrub and re-emerging as my second Yellow-browed Warbler!

A group of pipit appeared to come in-off and all looked like Meadow Pipit. A very grumpy Dunnock alerted me to a striking male Stonechat perched on the cliff face gorse, and this was quickly joined by a female partner. Chiffchaff and migrant Robin were also seem along the cliff. I then spent a few minutes having a stare off with Stoat only a few meters away. The potato field has been lifted and held 2 Stock Dove and a number of Skylark.

Retracing my steps I scanned the scrub and cliff face. The grumpy Dunnock was still calling but this time on the short turf nearby a Snow Bunting was yet another surprise. The YBW was still with the tit flock along with a Chiffchaff. Walking towards Mundesley there is much less scrub and thus fewer birds but a couple of Redwing appeared exhausted near the paddocks.

With earlier news of  RB Flycatcher at Trimingham and a few GG Shrike appearing along the coast I detoured home via the quiet lanes of Gimingham and Trimingham taking it slow. No GG Shrike and the RB Flycatcher had not been seen again, however a flock of c.20 Brambling where in Trimingham church yard. A lone Fieldfare was seen drinking from a puddle near Trunch to complete my migrants for the afternoon.

I now have 10 days off work, with only a kitchen ceiling to paint and migrants arriving, maybe this year I've timed my Autumn holiday right?!

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

A bit more sea watching

Paston Cliffs - 26th September

Again the winds were not ideal, but I was able to start sea watching at Paston just after 7am, so I was hopeful of at least a few birds passing through early. Shortly after arriving I heard the unmistakable 'wink-wink' call of Pink-footed Geese and soon saw my first returning birds of the Autumn with c60 heading east. With relatively strong north-westerly winds the day before most bird seen seemed to be passing back west. During the hour I watched the sea only 5 Gannet, 3 Sandwich Tern and 4 Cormorant headed East. These were joined by 4 Pink-footed Geese low over the sea and a small skein of 14 Brent Geese also heading east. Birds were heading West in slightly larger numbers, highlights being 3 Velvet Scoter among 23 Common Scoter, a lone Arctic Skua harassing Sandwich Tern and single Balearic and Manx Shearwater. A group of c15 Teal also headed west.

While sea watching two further skeins of c70 and c60 Pink-footed Geese flew overhead. Scanning the paddocks and scrub were very unproductive with only resident birds seen, a late House Martin flew East and a lone Stock Dove was on the freshly drilled field.

Trimingham - 26th September

After popping home and applying a second coat of paint in the kitchen, I was left with the choice of watching paint dry, food shopping or another walk. I opted for a second walk followed by shopping.
Walking the cliff top fields and the clifftop woods failed to turn up anything of note, and the scrub behind the Pilgrim Shelter only held a couple of Chiffchaff.

Cley Marshes NWT - 27th September

With a day off from DIY I headed for Cley after dropping Agnes at Pre-School. I wasn't expecting much but decided on a change of scenery from the patch. The daily sightings board was still empty so I headed for the main hide cluster. An educational group had taken over Dauke's Hide, so positioned myself looking over Simmond's Scrape in Avocet Hide, but I could see no waders. The reason for this was soon obvious, with a male Peregrine sitting in the middle of one of the small islands. After 10 minutes and only a flyby Marsh Harrier I relocated into Teal Hide looking over Pat's Pool. A few Ruff and Dunlin were on show if a little distant, but before I could scan for anything more interesting, the Peregrine flew through scattering everything. A Common Sandpiper bobbed along the far bank once the birds eventually settled and after further scanning the previous days Pectoral Sandpiper was found feeding with the Ruff and Dunlin. A small flock of Golden Plover were a sign of the changing seasons. The Peregrine's third appearance was my cue to head back to the visitor center for a cup of tea. Driving down Beach Road I hoped to see the reported Purple Sandpiper by the sluice however maintenance work on the West Bank meant there was lots of heavy machinery about so I couldn't park. I contented myself with a leisurely drive home, via the back roads.

Paston Cliffs - 2nd October

Today I managed to catch an hour or so sea watching between 8.00am and 9.10am. The previous days winds had subdued but there was still a strong movement of birds East. With my first Red-throated diver, Great Skua and Pomarine Skua of the Autumn. The scrub gave up no raraties to note however 4 tired looking Blackbird and 5 Robin were probably birds passing through.

Gannet x52 (e) x4 (w)
Sooty Shearwater x2 (e)
Red-throated Diver x11 (e)
Sandwich Tern x4 (e)
Cormorant x9 (e) x4 (w)
Great Skua x1 (e)
Arctic Skua x1 (w)
Pomarine Skua x1 (e)
Shelduck x1 (e)
Common Scoter x5 (w)
Wigeon x36 (w)
Great Crested Grebe x1 (e)
Guillemot x2 (w)

Sunday, 23 September 2018

September in Norfolk

Paston Cliffs - 6th September

After dropping Agnes at Nursery for her first day I headed to Paston Cliffs in the hope of a few migrants or a maybe a passing sea bird. The wind wasn't ideal but I started off sea watching using the car for shelter, after 40 minutes I had a modest total of 6 Sandwich Tern, 5 Gannet, 2 Guillemot and a single Manx Shearwater, before managing to swash a wasp between my finger and scope. With a swollen finger I gave up looking at the sea and hit the bushes. The resident Linnet were about and to my delight I also found 3 juv. Yellowhammer. The nearby fields are being ploughed and had attracted lots of gulls, many of which flew overhead and landed on the beach. Scanning through I managed to find a single Little Gull but little else. However sitting on the end groyne post was a 'small' Cormorant, on second inspection it was an unexpected Shag. Back at the car the male Sparrowhawk of the resident pair was perched close by and I got within feet before if flew off.

Waxham - 11th September

A mild head cold was good enough excuse not to paint the new kitchen, so I decided to 'take some air' at Waxham. Parking behind the church I headed East towards the Pipe Dump (or as it should be called the area previously known as, because the area has now been cleared). With the winds not the most favourable it was unsurprising the lack of migrants, with only a few 5 Swallow East and a few Whitethroat that could all have been resident seem among a group of commoner species. Beyond the Pipe Dump the birds picked up with a group of Swallow (c12) and 2 House Martin hawking over Waxham Sans campsite, a Wheatear on the grass and a female Stonechat close by. Walking back via the dunes 2 Meadow Pipit flew over high going East and a Reed Bunting was flushed. Looking inland a flock of 18 Common Crane where flying towards Horsey Mill. By the board walk path I watched a family of 4 Kestrel hunting and squabbling together, before finding 2 Whinchat perched up. The trees and scrub around Shangri-La chalet held no new birds but in the sheltered sunny spots dragonfly and butterfly enjoyed that later summer warmth.

Happisburgh - 16th September

After a morning shopping trip the wife encouraged me to go for a walk while little one slept. The winds were westerly so I wasn't hoping for much. Parking by the village hall at Happisburgh I wandered out past the paddocks to the Old Coastguard Lookout. A silent Chiffchaff was in the hedge by the paddocks but it seemed very quiet. Checking out the old buildings a Wheatear in the field beyond caught my eye. I was pleasantly surprised that sitting in the Elders out of the wind was the Barred Warbler seen here by others a few days earlier. Typically I had no camera but watched the bird at close quarters for 5 minutes before it was spooked by a dog walker. 4 Swallow flew south and 2 House Martin were still around the village. Just as interesting as the bird life was the Odonata species among the old building, rather surprising considering the lack of nearby fresh water. Common Blue Damselfly, Common Darter and  Migrant Hawker were all seen but most surprising considering the habitat was at least 2 Willow Emerald Damselfly. Excuse the poor picture taken on my phone in blustery wind and strong sunlight!

Bacton Woods - 22nd September

In the morning as a family we had a pleasant walk around Bacton Woods, collecting pine cones for Christmas and hiding in dens! As ever bird life was limited in the primarily pine woodland, but Goldcrest were present in high numbers, and Coal Tit and Treecreeper were nice to see. Also despite the very dry summer fungus are starting to emerge this Autumn.

Paston Cliffs - 22nd September

In the afternoon I headed again to Paston Cliffs, with westerly winds it was a walk of hope rather than expectation. Walking west I scanned the scrub on the cliff face and happened to look up to catch a lone Black-tailed Godwit flying West. While following the bird I noticed a few Sandwich Tern passing offshore so had a 15 minute impromptu sea watch. 9 Sandwich Tern and 2 Common Tern headed west but little was passing by, however I found 2 new patch birds on the sea in the form of a Red-necked Grebe and immature Eider. A juvenile Yellowhammer sulking in the bracken gave hope of something rarer, but the cutting of the set-a-side field has lead to a much quieter feel, with most of the large Linnet and Goldfinch flock absent. Walking back to the car a Tree Pipit flew East through calling, continuing towards the Gas Terminal.