Wednesday, 15 August 2018

A Summer Update

Since my last update I haven't been out birding much with only a few local walks between the blistering sun, a family wedding in Wales and fitting a new kitchen.

During June a Cuckoo seen at Coltishall on the way to work on 5th has been my only Cuckoo sighting of the year until a Juv. bird at Potter Heigham on 7th August. Also in June I stumbled across a Honey Buzzard near Stalham on the 10th. While in Wales I caught up with a Wood Warbler (15th June) after missing the Mousehold Heath bird earlier in the year.

July was written off with the blistering heat, although a boat trip on Malthouse Broad did allow Agnes so close views of Terns and young Great Crested Grebe she really enjoyed. Most days while going to work I have seen Black Redstart in Norwich city center with at least two broods appearing to have fledged.

August brought a bit of a rest bite from the blistering heat, but also a delivery van containing a new kitchen on the 1st. Installing the kitchen is almost complete, but a family bereavement has also left me with little time. Being stuck at home did have one highlight a Spotted Flycatcher briefly in the garden on the 5th. I have also noted more butterflies and dragonflies in the garden than previous years, with Banded Damoselle and Red-eyed Damselfly new for the garden list. The moth trap hasn't had many outing after getting boxed at the back of the garage behind boxes of kitchen parts. In the last few days I have found Elephant Hawk Moth and Lime Hawk Moth caterpillars in the garden.

The allotment has been parched so I haven't been there as often as I would like, abandoning many of my crops due to the lack of water on site. The Badgers are still very active in the area with young seen on the trail cam, Hornets have started nesting in the old shed, Lesser Whitethroat have bred and I have seen Slow Worm and Grass Snake.

On the 7th August I put the kitchen aside for a few hours and arrived at Potter Heigham at 7am before any heat haze. Walking the river bank I kind birder directed my further along with directions to the Spotted Crake, I soon found both birds present. 5+ Wood Sandpiper, 2 Green Sandpiper, 1 Common Sandpiper and 7+ Ruff  were the wader highlights. Juvenile birds seemed to be flitting everywhere among the reeds, with Sedge, Reed and Grasshopper Warbler all seen. A Sedge Warbler was also seen feeding a fully grown juv. Cuckoo. Also worth note were the 20+ Little Grebes and 5+ Gargany on site.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Late May Update

Since my last last update on the 8th I haven't been out birding much in Norfolk, the main reason being a weeks family holiday to Cornwall. It looks like i missed out on the influx of Black Tern and a few later migrants but I may get a chance to see a few if they linger before heading to Wales for a few days and a family wedding.

With the influx of Black Redstart on the coast it wasn't a massive surprise to find one singing in Norwich City Center. What was a surprise was i was sitting on the canteen terrace at work when I heard and then saw the Black Redstart in 10th. In fact at least two and probably 3 males have been singing in the city over the last month, and before seeing the Black Redstart at John Lewis (work), I had looked for another just of Rose Lane that morning. Since then the 'John Lewis' bird I have seen 3 times and heard most days until 16th, also heard the 'Rose Lane' bird on 11th and since returning from Cornwall see the 'Castle Meadow' bird 3 times.

Continuing on the bird watching on route to work note on the 11th I heard a singing Cetti's Warbler near to Cow Tower and also watched the Peregrine hunting over the playing fields. Lost of large fish, bream? were also feeding under the willows along Riverside walk. Today 31st a Yellow-legged Gull was another surprise being near New Mills Yard by the sluices, my 100th bird seen on route to work.

While in Cornwall we were blessed with delightful weather and although not a bird watching trip, and with no rare birds arriving while i was there I was lucky enough to catch up with a few special birds. The biggest piece of luck came while travelling down to Cornwall. The (out of date) Sat Nav plotted us a bizarre route around Salisbury Plain, after I asked it to avoid a particular road closure (it turns out the road wasn't even closed), and while on this detour of small lanes that we chanced upon a Great Bustard, although obviously part of the reintroduction scheme, a bird I never imagined we would see.

Staying not far from Truro we visited The Lizard on the 18th and saw my only 'target' bird of the trip a Chough, we also saw two Turtle Dove for the year list as well as Razorbill, Shag and other resident birds. On the 23rd I added my first new 'Pub List Bird' for a few years with a Whimbrel from The Ship Inn in Devoran. (I must try harder to visit a few pubs while on my bird watching trips). A singing Wood Warbler withing the gated holiday complex we stayed at on the 24th was very unexpected. After missing the Mousehold bird I wasn't expecting to catch up with one until my South Wales visit.

On Tuesday 29th after visiting the opticians and waiting in for a delivery I found myself with a few hours to kill so decided on a trip to Potter Heigham Marshes (I also bought a new strimmer in Latham's). It was rather blustery but still I found lots of waders many with chicks and other water fowl on the pools. Pick of the bunch were two Curlew Sandpiper, two Common Sandpiper and a Greenshank, c30Black-tailed Godwit, 9 Dunlin and 1 Grey Plover were also of note. A Great White Egret flew over and a pair of Pochard with 2 chicks were an unusual sight.

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.