Saturday, 20 January 2018

A Windy Walk-about

On Thursday (18th) Agnes was invited to play at a friends giving me a couple of hours to myself. After collecting the new car last weekend it also meant I could think about more than a walk around the block. I decided to head for Sheringham looking for the Black Redstart and Waxwing of previous days.

After the overnight storm the wind was still quite strong and there was plenty of debris to dodge on the road. I got to Sheringham about 9.30 parking by the RNLI slope a brief hunt failed to locate the Black Redstart. But from this view point and walking East along the prom I saw numerous Guillemot flying West as well as a few RT Diver and my first Gannet of the year. Just below the Mo a Purple Sandpiper was on the rocks with the Turnastone before I headed inland along back streets towards the station. There was initially no sign of the Waxwing and a fellow birder also confirmed they had had no luck. Just a few minutes later a group of Blackbird and Starling erupted from a small rear garden and among them were the 3 Waxwing. I got flight views and one briefly perched before they returned to feed in the garden. Walking back along the prom I decided to walk to the Lifeboat shed with little expectation as a digger was working on breaking up and repairing the seawall. To my surprise atop a small rubble pile only feet from the workmen the Black Redstart flitted about. I soon had to return and collect my daughter but a delightful hour or so.

After her post lunch nap Agnes got herself up and I found her in the study looking out the window, she had found my spare binoculars and informed me she was 'looking at birdies'.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Playing with New Toys

While in the city on Sunday I finally got to call into Warehouse Express and treat myself to a new pair of binoculars, not because I really needed them but because I could. The need to 'test' them gave me an excuse to visit Bowthorpe/Earlham Marshes, after we had done a bit of shopping. Luckily I met a nice chap with a scope who had already scanned Colney Pits without seeing much so I opted for a scan across the marshes from the road bridge and then a short wander. East of the bridge was quiet with just a few gulls loafing around, but looking west I soon spotted the Great White Egret close to the river. Although the bird was a little distant I decided not to walk to far as there were lots of dog walkers and it seemed quite quiet, a few Redwing and Fieldfare were in the area though, and a Grey Wagtail called from near the weir.

Earlier in the day I popped out and collected my new camera trap after its first outing. New to this tech I wasn't really sure of the best settings to use or where to locate it. Dad had located a good track near his farm allotment that he was curious about, so I strapped it to a tree and hoped for the best. The trap had been activated 14 times in the 36 hours I'd left it out, I was expecting very little but I had to wait until I got back from Norwich to have a proper look. I had 5 day time activations and 9 over night. Unsurprisingly I had captured myself twice but also a cock Pheasant showing off in front of the camera, the best clip though was a Muntjac Deer wandering around in full daylight.

I was most impressed by the night vision of the camera, a 'distant' Muntjac could be easily identified and I also had the back end view of 2 Badger running through shot. I also had 5 clips of what appeared to be nothing (I assume something triggered the side sensors but failed to enter the camera view). With little prep these results were overwhelming, so I'm planning to set it out again later in the week, using higher resolution video and longer recording times, but any advice would be greatly received. 

Saturday, 13 January 2018

'Mystical valley' Hume's Warbler

With a free weekend I text James to see if he fancied a trip to Cromer to look for the Coues's Arctic Redpoll and Iceland Gull. He was already planning a return trip to Waxham and the Shangri-la Chalet area to look for the Hume's Warbler after last Sundays failings.

Knowing I would be visiting Waxham on Saturday I jumped at the change to pop to Cromer with dad on Friday. After a quick bit of shopping (the purpose of his trip) we wandered over to the 'Lifeboat' slope and very quickly spotted the juv. Iceland Gull among a group of mainly Black-headed and Herring Gull that appeared has a Crab boat prepared it pots anchored close into shore. After that success we drove home via the coast road, but with no sign of any birders we didn't try to stop and look for the Arctic Redpoll. Leaving Agnes with mum, dad and I visited his allotment to collect some winter veg but also to set up my new camera trap near by, i'll report any success later in the week. A large mixed tit flock near the allotment held LTT, Blue Tit, Great Tit and 2 Marsh Tit something i'd not seen here before and also new for the year.

This morning (13th) Laura and I first had to go and collect our second car, meaning now I can get out birding with Agnes on my days off, without relying on lifts. James called by at 10.30 and we headed off to Waxham. As with last week we found a small group of birders near the chalet, with no recent sign of the Hume's Warbler i was surprised not much searching was going on. After a short while we headed south along the landward side of the dunes determined not only to find the bird but stay warm. For the next hour Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin and Wren frustrated us, before a small bird-watching tour located the bird, not far from us, just south of the chalet. We got really clear if brief views on three of for occasions over about 10 minutes, the bird mainly kept low in the often dense under canopy of the stunted sycamores. What really surprised us both was how vocal the bird was at times and the volume of the call. A couple of Goldcrest were also seen and i heard and probably briefly saw a Chiffchaff, while trying to follow the Hume's Warbler back towards Shangri-la.

We next called at Happisbugh in the hope of connecting with the c11 Shorelark frequenting the area. We had no luck locating them, and neither did Gary White who we met of the Coastal Path near the Lighthouse. He had earlier had a Lapland Bunting nearby so we wandered further on towards Cart Gap. We also failed to relocated the Lapland Bunting, but two male Stonechat added to my fledgling year list and walking back James spotted 4 Snow Bunting slowing making their way along the beach.
Arriving back home for a warming cuppa a Song Thrush sang boldly in the hedge neighbouring my house. A pleasant couple of hours, with my first lifer of the year.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Hume, just a Blackbird.

After putting the Christmas decorations back in the loft for another year. Laura, Agnes and I headed to Wroxham for Sunday lunch. News of  Hume's Warbler at Waxham gave us an opportunity too see a bird I've looked for in the past but failed to see. It would also be Agnes first twitch where she was actually 'helping' me look, nows she just over 2.

Near Ingham we saw a group of 7/8 wild swans but couldn't stop. They looked pretty good to all be Bewick's, a large corvid flock was also nearby.

Arriving around 2pm I was soon told the bird was elusive and moving along about 500m of dunes, however no one seemed to be moving far from the spot it had last been seen 2 hours previous. Agnes was annoyed I'd not brought her binoculars and wanted mine, i also heard a few tuts when upon seeing a Blackbird she correctly shouted out 'Blackbird'. Laura took her for a walk West thinking i might get linched while I left the small group (after seeing only a Robin and said Blackbird in over 15 minutes) and went East. Not far along I soon found a tit flock and got very exited when a small warbler appeared with the LTTs but alass it was a Goldcrest. After a good scan through the flock I meet the girls again and decided having spent an hour in the cold blustery wind do head home.

Driving back via Horsey and Martham we found a large flock of Mute Swan but also a second wild swan flock, mainly Whooper but also 2/3 Bewick's.

Friday, 5 January 2018

A Record 1st January

Gary and I set out, as is now tradition at 5.30am with the aim of being the first visitors to Titchwell RSPB of the year. Although the forecast was favourable we had no great expectations, with few rare birds to search out. I believe this lack of rare birds actually proved the making of our biggest 1st January total as we never felt rushed spending time at each site and turning up some real bonuses.

Robin, Blackbird and Feral Pigeon were all seen by street light before leaving North Walsham. 3 Tawny Owl were seen on route and we took our rightful place in an empty car park around 6.30am.
Unlike the drizzly dawn of last year it was soon getting light and upon reaching the beach we had already listed 30 species and not just shadowy silhouettes. With the tide quite high and sea relatively flat sea conditions looked good, the beach held large numbers of gulls and waders and we had a 48 species total before looking inland to the marshes. Beach highlights inc 2x GND, 20+ close Long-tailed duck, an almost constant stream of Red-throated Divers (easily 200+) and a bonus juv. Shag. Scanning the Brackish and Fresh Marshes we took our time slowly building our total. An unseasonal Greenshank another unexpected bird and often tricky Water Pipit had us at 65 before the fen trail and the prospect a of a Cornish 'style' pasty breakfast at the cafe. Getting into the car 6 fly over Redwing gave us a running total of 82. (78 new plus Robin and Blackbird meant 80 Titchwell birds!)

A brief stop at Thornham allowed us to see Twite and Rock Pipit before heading inland. Chosley Barns have proven disappointing but recently we have found a favorable route through the neigbouring back roads towards Docking. This year we stumbled across a Linnet flock of maybe 600+ birds with a few Chaffinch and Goldfinch tagging along. I also managed a lone Brambling in an adjoining hedge. Next was our only off piste twitch looking for a Glaucous Gull rumoured to be in a pig field not far away. The pig farm appeared to cover numerous fields but as we pulled up within seconds Gary located the bird sleeping not far from the car.

With time on our side we decided to break with our regular route swapping a dash cross country targeting a few birds at Flitcham for a more leisurely woodland walk at Holkham. Driving via Burnham Market we flushed a Short-eared Owl from a hedge and added a few geese species looking out towards Gun Hill. Avoiding the madness of Lady Anne's Drive we parked up by Holkham Park gates with over 100 species seen before 12.30. Only a few feet from the car Gary was onto a calling Firecrest and then a chunky fly over finch had us both thinking "Hawfinch", two unexpected birds in as many minutes. A walk around the woods, park and lake added a few more species and we climbed back in the car on 113. Driving through Stiffkey I briefly though about the Cattle Egret reported frequently before Christmas and as we drove post the flooded field sure enough Gary said "are those Cattle Egret" and lifting my binoculars yes they were. We stopped by the Dun Cow in the hope of distantly scoping the Snow Bunting flock reported by the 'Little Eye' but before seeing those birds 115 and 116 were surprisingly Pied Wagtail and Rook! Stopping a Sheringham we hurried along the prom we quickly located a Purple Sandpiper before continuing East.

A 'drive-by' of the regular 'tundra swan' fields near Ludham was the only site we dipped at all day (the small flock has being hanging out near Ingham recently it turns out). We arrived at Hickling NWT with the light still good, and walking towards the Stubb Mill Roost we had equaled our previous best 1st January total of 118. A Sparrowhawk flew along the track ahead of us and from the roost Barn Owl and Hen Harrier were soon seen. With advise the Common Crane were roosting else where on the reserve, we decided to relocate part way back along the track. This was soon rewarded with 17 Crane flying in and calling at close quarters in the fading light, a delightful way to end a very pleasant and surprisingly relaxing day.

122 species seen, but still driving home our thoughts couldn't help drifted to what could have been. Redpoll, Spotted Redshank, Bearded Tit and Eider just a few we 'missed', but I'm sure if we had targeted these we would have missed many others. I hope everyone has had a Merry Christmas and Happy Birding for 2018.