Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Easter Catch-up - One

Considering that in the last 5 weeks I've been out birding on only three occasions, with an week off work plus Easter I found myself birding almost every other day in April. I will need a couple of posts to get back up to date (I really should get back into the habit of posting weekly!).

9th April - Barton

With no nursery I decided to take Agnes for a walk around Barton, now 3 1/2 she's really starting to enjoy birding and was very proud in pointing out a Buzzard circling overhead. The Broad was more like the North Sea with the wind whipping up some waves, so little was seen. The wind also kept a lot of smaller birds well hidden, however numerous Chiffchaff were calling and my first Willow Warbler and Blackcap of the year were of note.

14th April - Morston

We should have been at an Easter Egg Hunt but as I had mis-read the start time, were ready to go a good hour early. Rather than sit in we headed to Morston, making use of our new National Trust pass we parked in at the Quay and set off to look for the Great Grey Shrike present. As was the case with the GGS in the Brecks I again dipped. Three new year ticks from the short jount however with 2 Spoonbill, Mediterranean Gull and 3 Wheatear. At the Egg Hunt in Matlaske Laura spotted a Red Kite gliding low over the parkland.

15th April - Waxham / Winterton

With the Schools of for Easter James Emerson and I set aside a day to catch up and go birding. We stopped on route at a site that has held migrant Osprey in the past, but today only a pair of Marsh Harrier and common birds. Walking the Dunes at Waxham turned up the two Ring Ouzel (present a few days), a Blackcap and couple of Chiffchaff. With little around and the long staying Hoopoe still at Winterton we decided to head further west.

Pulling in along the Horsey Straight we soon located the lone Tundra Bean Goose that remains with the resident Greylags. Scanning the geese we completely missed the Great White Egret standing in the field only meters away, with the bird taking flight at the first sight of a camera!

Stomping off through the South Dunes at Winterton we nearly reached Hemsby turning back with news the Hoopoe was back near the toilet block. We walked the North Dunes in the area of the Totem Pole with little success, with only Skylark and Meadow Pipit for our efforts. We were about to give up when a fellow birder pointed in a vague direction with the thumbs up. A few dunes later and James flushed the Hoopoe. It seems quite skittish and few low quite a distance between stops. We still managed good views of a lovely bird, with James capturing the below record shot.

16th April - Southrepps / Paston

After repairing some rotten woodwork at home I headed to Southrepps to look for another Great Grey Shrike reported the previous day. A walk north of The Common failed to turn up a GGS however 3 Swallows hawking over Warren Barn were my first for the year. Walking The Common the resident birds are now in full song and some of the areas distinctive flowers are starting to bloom, in this case

Moving onto the patch at Paston, I had a nice male Wheatear by the car and a male Ring Ouzel of the cliff face very close by. As with my last visit Linnet seemed to be perched on every bush. A Lesser Whitethroat was by the turning circle and a Sandwich Tern was heading north out to sea. The Holiday Camp and Paddocks were very quite, although the Sparrowhawk and 2 Kestrel patrolling the cliff probably didn't help.

17th April - Morston / Cley / Felbrigg

With Agnes spending a day with the in-laws I decided to head to Cley and Salthouse in the hope of finding migrants in decent numbers. Greeted by a hazy sea mist lingering over the grazing marshes I drove on to Morston to give the Great Grey Shrike another try. Walking West towards Stiffkey Fen the expected waders were observed including a lone Whimbrel, with a couple of Wheatear and a male Stonechat hardly worth note. I walked just beyond Stiffkey Fen without seeing the GGS (it reappeared in the afternoon) but decided to give the Fen Pool a good scan. While scanning I realised I could hear at least 2 Sedge Warbler singing, new birds for the year, a delightful sound, but one I almost over looked. After locating the Sedge Warbler I continued my scan locating my 3rd year tick of the morning with a Common Sandpiper feeding in the margins. Walking back I watched the Stonechat for a while and flushed a Ring Ouzel from the gorse but still no GGS.

At Cley the haze had started to lift, a quick check of the Eye Field gave up only 2 Wheatear, but no hoped for Wagtails. Scanning the sea seemed pointless with the mist hanging just off shore that said however I sat down for 10 minutes and 2 Velvet Scoter passed close enough to be seen with their distinctive wing bar. Water levels seem very high from the main hides, consequently very few waders were present and after finding the hoped for Little Ringed Plover I headed to the Visitor Centre, to check I hadn't missed anything and have an early lunch. Walking back a Cetti's Warbler unusually sang out in the open giving exceptional views as it belted out its energetic song.

Driving home the sun was warm on my arms, and at the last minute I decided on a stop at Felbrigg. I still hadn't seen a Little Owl this year and this was perfect weather for one to perch up. Parking by the Wood Yard I bumped into a few members of the East Norfolk Bird Club finishing their walk so soon had a grasp on everything that was about. The hoped for Little Owl was soon found with the given directions, a Redwing/Fieldfare flock will probably be my last of the year and a Mistle Thrush was vocal in his presence. Unexpectedly (the bird club hadn't told me) two Ring Ouzel where seen at close quarters on the Warren, with a further also present nearer the sluice along with a Wheatear. On the lake 2 Tufted x Ferruginous Duck held my interest for a while before I saw my first Whitethroat of the year, completing my short loop back to the car.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Pre Easter catch up

With an early warm spell encouraging some wintering birds to leave early. I found very little to head out for in March instead getting some other jobs out of the way.

8th March - Cley / Kelling Heath

It's been a while since dad and I have managed to go out birding together so it was nice to head out to Cley. We walked out along East Bank I finally added Avocet to the year list but also adding Barnacle Goose, Green Sandpiper and Ruff. Bearded Tit pinged in the reeds and a small number of Pink-feet remained. After a cuppa in the visitor centre we had a wander around Kelling Heath, little was about however with Linnet the dominant birds.

14th March - Walcott / Mundesley

Driving though Walcott a white-winged gull flew over the road, and an Iceland Gull was then found loafing in a nearby field. The planned walk at Mundesley followed adding Kittiwake and Fulmar to my lists. Still early for migrants I had to be content with a few fossils from the beach. Taking Agnes to nursery on 24th March I had to pull over in Antingham after spotting a male Black Redstart on a farm building roof. Returning after drop off however I couldn't relocate the bird.

4th April - Paston

My first spring visit to the cliff top at Paston was a rather quiet. With a few now infarmous Sand Martin drifting along from Bacton joined by 2 House Martin. Every bush appeared to have it's own Linnet which at times was rather frustrating as nothing rarer was around.

6th April - Home

Pulling into my road my eye was drawn to a Gull that flew up from the road in front of me. On the roof of the factory was a Yellow-legged Gull with 2 Lesser Black-backs and a Herring Gull. As an added bonus from the bedroom window the YLG made it onto the garden list.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Late Winter Catch-up

After a flurry of trips out in January, February was a rather quieter affair. With just a couple of trips out and other jobs to do I've gotten rather lapse with the blog, but hopefully this will be the last summary type blog for a while.

Southrepps Common - 20th January

Directly next to my daughter's new nursery, Southrepps Common will probably become a regular spot as I take a 30 minute wander after drop off or pick up. This day however, Laura, Agnes and I had an extended walk of The Common and Lower Southrepps. The Common was rather quite bird wise with a work party tidying the reed beds and scrub. Warren Woods however held a few more birds including Goldcrest, Coal Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Behind Warren Wood, Fieldfare, Redwing and Green Woodpecker were in the Paddocks and a decent size gull flock were on the ploughed fields.

Felbrigg NT - 24th January

Parking at the back of Felbrigg I couldn't walk a full lap of the lake due to ongoing improvements to the dam area, So I decided to walk via the Church. I still haven't managed to see any Little Owl by the Hall, only finding Jackdaw in every tree! 4 Mistle Thrush we near the Car Park and a mixed Fieldfare and Redwing flock flew over. Sadly at the foot of the Church tower a female Kestral has met her demise, can only imagine flying into the tower as despite the freezing temperatures the bird was still warm. The lake was frozen except a small area being patrolled by a coupe was swans. A Stonechat was below the dam and a unusual flock of c15 Meadow Pipit and 20+ Linnet were in the rough grazing. By the flooded meadow I found a delightful mixed flock of birds holding, Bullfinch, Brambling and Marsh Tit as well as the commoner finches, tits and thrushes.

Lynford / Santon Downham - 28th January

Working a night shift but waking at 6am I made the most of my day visiting the Brecks before starting work at 6pm. Starting off a Lynford Arboretum I first walked down towards the gravel pits, a few Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe and a Little Egret the only birds of note. But no sign of the previous weeks reported Gooseander. WAlking through the Arboretum a couple of Crossbill flew over, a flock of Siskin were near the bridge and a Nuthatch was on the feeders. A walk around the Paddocks offered very little with no sign of the 30+ reported Hawfinch, just a single Mistle Thrush, until a lone Hawfinch flew over.

Rather disappointed with Lynford, I decided to head to Sandton Downham to look for the long staying Great Grey Shrike, but despite a good number of birders on site the bird was not located. It has since taken up residence in Brandon Country Park nearby.

Lyng NWT - 28th January

With time before starting work I detoured on my way back to Norwich. But like Lynford the Goosander seen here recently also couldn't be located. However good numbers of small birds made up fore this including a very confiding Goldcrest, Bullfinch, Marsh Tit, Song Thrush and Greenfinch a once common bird not encountered often.

Cley NWT / Sheringham - 31st January

Cockley Cley / Lynford - 21st February

Every school holiday James Emerson and I try to catch up for a bit of old time birding. Following my rather disappointing trip to the Brecks of previous weeks I decided on a revisit. Our first stop was a well known Raptor hotspot near Cockley Cley. Despite the overcast conditions a few Buzzard were 'up' and after a short while a Goshawk quartered woodland giving prolonged views. Buoyed by this success we headed to a nearly site for Willow Tit, but despite 45 minutes or so of waiting by the feeders, the best we could manage was an interesting Marsh Tit and a Nuthatch. Walking further along the track a Muntjac Deer and Great Spotted Woodpecker were also seen.

With a few hours to kill before heading off to try and see the Kumlein's Gull at Lackford Lakes, we decided on a visit to Lynford. Lynford Water was once again quiet though a massive flock of Siskin seemed to surround us with sound. in the Paddocks we soon located a flock of c15 Hawfinch that gave good views feeding under a Hornbeam. A nice male Crossbill was seen drinking by the bridge before we headed off.

Lackford Lakes SWT - 21st February

Neither James or I had been to Lackford Lakes before, this was obvious but we eventually found ourselves in the car park. It was still early for gulls in the roost so we had a cup of tea and a chat with a volunteer in the visitor centre before exploring a bit of the reserve. WE spent some time viewing a scrape known as 'The Slough'. A large flock of c400 Lapwing were put up by a couple of Buzzard and a few Pochard were with the expected common waterfowl. Among these ducks James was drawn by a couple of slightly unusual looking Mallard. This were Roseybill x Mallard hybrids, something James was more interested in than myself, but still something different to see. Sitting by the Sailing Lake a few Black-headed Gull were already in the roost and were being joined by more birds all the time. After about an hour we had to give up with birds still arriving, the pleasant weather meant the bird arrivingng later than previous days. James did pick out a 1st-winter Caspian Gull, a Red Kite flew over and a Kingfisher whizzed by while we waited for the gulls to arrive.

Blickling NT - 26th February

Laura had an extra day off work and waking to a sunny morning we headed to Blickling for a morning walk. We walked the Park and Lake before enjoying a scone and tea, and athough the best birds were only a Great Spotted Woodpecker and 2 Green Woodpecker it was a delightful couple of hours.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

January 2019 so far . . . .

Bird Race - 1st January

The 1st January was the 10th Year that I have joined Gary for an informal bird race, (informal as we are not racing anyone else) aiming to start the year with as many species as possible. Arriving at Titchwell RSPB in the dark the birds started to emerge from the darkness. Sea watching at first light was very productive with 36 species seen as we turn back inland. Highlights being 3 Red-necked Grebe, Slavonian Grebe and a Black-throated Diver. The Fresh Marsh had high water levels so wader numbers were rather limited but we still arrived back at Reception, after picking up some woodland birds along the Meadow Trail with 70 species. A female Merlin chasing a Meadow Pipit over our heads was probably the best bird on the reserve. Fuelling up with a Bacon Bap. Dunnock, Greenfinch and Coal Tit were on the feeders and on a second attempt a Water Rail was found in its regular dyke nearby, before we left Titchwell Reserve.

Choseley Drying Barns in recent years have been disappointing, but we added 10 more species here including Brambling, Mistle Thrush and Yellowhammer, before moving on. Thornham Harbour gave up a Spotted Redshank and Rock Pipit before we eventually saw the c14 Twite that make the area home most winters. A few more common species were added in the Gun Hill/Holkham area so that our 100th bird of the day was Tree Sparrow, at an old site I've not visited for a number of years.

We tried Holt Sewage works on a whim a few years back, and visiting it again this year proved fruitful, with birds including Grey Wagtail, Chiffchaff and Firecrest. The Holkham became our was over run with New Year walkers, so Felbrigg became our favoured site to top up on woodland species. Nuthatch was expected but Marsh Tit was a nice addition.

Our only 'target' bird of the day was the Dipper near North Walsham, a bird neither of us had seen on the 1st January and a uncommon visitor to Norfolk. With the bird located by other birders, it was little more than a drive by sighting as the bird frequented the old lock at Briggate. The day was passing by fast but the Dipper was bird 112 for the day, so we headed towards Hickling and the Stubb Mill roost our traditional days end. On route the Whooper and Bewick's Swan were seen near Ludham, and female Scaup was seen on Hickling Broad. As well as viewing the expected Harriers from the Roost Canada Goose  was belatedly added to the day's list, 2 Common Crane fed in front of the view point and in the very last of the days light a Woodcock flew overhead. A grand total of 118 species seen, a good start to the year, if not our highest January 1st total with a few species suspicious by their absence.

Alderfen - 6th January

Laura, Agnes and I had decided on a Sunday walk and with the opportunity of a few birds we headed for Barton Broad. The car park was the full with people obviously walking off thier excesses of Christmas and the New Year, with cars even parked on grass. I'm not one for crowds so we drove onto Alderfen, one of NWT's oldest reserves and one much under visited (we were the only people there). The Broad held c60 Wigeon, plus good numbers Teal and Tufted Duck, as well as the expected waterfowl. Walking the wet woodland surprisingly few birds were seen and none specialised to the habitat. Driving home I decided to call in at Briggate and Ebridge I the hope the recently departed Dark-bellied Dipper may have returned. It hadn't but we did stumble upon a mixed finch flock including c50 Brambling.

Barton Broad - 10th January

After abandoning my visit a few days earlier and with Agnes spending her first full day at her new nursery I had some free time to visit Barton Broad again. Sadly the Black-necked Grebe of previous days had departed, but 2 female Scaup, c60 Goldeneye and a handful of Pochard were on the Broad. Surprisingly a Little Grebe was new for the year being missed on January 1st, along with Great Spotted Woodpecker and Lesser Redpoll also mist on the 1st. Driving on towards Potter Heigham and the coast a Green Woodpecker was another year tick, seen in Neatisthead.

Hickling/Potter Heigham - 10th January

I had planned to look for the Heigham Holmes Cattle Egret from Martham Ferry and then look through the geese near Horsey/Waxham, traffic was queued up and not moving near Potter Heigham so I decided on a walk around the Rush Hill area of Hickling NWT. Parking near Potter Church the walk to Rush Hills was uneventful with a few common birds, but generally quiet. I then stumbled across a mixed Tit flock, holding 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Treecreeper, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Marsh Tit and a Goldcrest.

Spurred on by this or maybe just being blindly optimistic I deiced to walk on to Potter Heigham Marshes, marking my walk quite long. The walk was worth it however when a Great White Egret was found, and then my realisation I could view the area of Heigham Holmes from near Candle Dyke. 3 Otter swam along Candle Dyke oblivious to my presence and after a short while the Cattle Egret was seen distantly by the farm buildings. Also nearby were c80 White-fronted Geese and my second Merlin of the year. Driving home I called by Ludham for a brief look at the wild swan flock although they were rather distant.

Paston Cliffs - 14th January

Having dropped Agnes in Southrepps for Nursery and called in to pay my mechanics bill in Mundesley, it would have been rude not to call in on this section of my patch for the first time this year. The expected Gulls loafed on the beach and a distant Gannet was off shore. A lone Fieldfare fed with a small group of Blackbird on the edge of the set-a-side field joined by a few Linnet and Skylark. Suddenly many more birds erupted from the field c20 Skylark, 3/4 Meadow Pipit, c20 Linnet and a family of Goldfinch, most of whom were hidden from view sent skyward by the resident female Sparrowhawk. The Sparrowhawk left without breakfast and the birds settled again a Mistle Thrush had appeared in the middle of the throng. With a mild NW breeze I had a short 15 minute sea watch, a few birds were closer in than usual with 5/6 Guillemot and numerous Red-throated Diver joining the earlier mentioned Gannet. But the best, two Long-tailed Duck were a new Patch Tick.

East Ruston/Happisburgh - 15th January

A brief stop at East Ruston Common to check for waterfowl on the pools proved fruitless. However in the road side Gorse 6+ Goldcrest were joined by at least 1 Firecrest a bird I will never tire of seeing, and by the water treatment site 2 Marsh Tit were showing well.

Happisburgh was my destination, and although quite a long walk was surprisingly quite with no geese seen in the area or any of the hoped for Snow or Lapland Bunting that often frequent the area in the winter. A mixed Chaffinch/Brambling flock were seen between the water tower and Grubb Street before I parked by the village hall and wandered off through the village. The garden feeders in Blacksmiths Lane only held House Sparrow and Great Tit and I was on Beach Road before i encountered more birds. The Manors orchard held a large number of Blackbird feeding on the fallen apples, and a good number of House Sparrow and Linnet in the boundary hedge but nothing stand out. I walked the cliff top from here to Doggett's Lane, with on 8 Turnstone and 4 Linnet seen in the Lighthouse Field. Rather surprisingly though I watched a Great Northern Diver come in off the sea and fly over my head, heading inland! To complete my lap I walked the clifftop towards the Old Coastguard Lookout and took the track back towards the village hall. I had noticed a few distant Red-throated Diver distantly passing so paused by the old lookout to look out to sea. c40 RTD could be seen with probable other more distant, but also 10+ Guillemot, a Razorbill, Red-necked Grebe and a Shag also seen. The later two additions to the Year List, belatedly giving the walk some credibility.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

The Final Birds of 2018

Filby - 21st Dec

Just before Christmas I found myself not far from Filby so stopped in to look for the red head Smew. Agnes was very excited but once I had wrestled my scope off her I couldn't locate the Smew on Filby Broad. A walk down to the viewing platform over Ormsby Broad also was unsuccessful, but while walking back through the trees I saw a small duck land. Finding a better view we watched the Smew diving for a few minutes before it swam out of view.

North Walsham - 30th Dec

With Christmas and work commitments I wasn't expecting any birding before January 1st, but news of possibly my favorite British bird a Dipper a few miles from home couldn't be turned down.  I popped out at first light calling first at Ebridge Mill without luck. I drove the short distance to Briggate Mill no Dipper but at least I meet a fellow birder. I also came across two Red Deer stags by the roadside. I drove home via Ebridge, again I found myself alone, and initially I saw no bird. A final quick look by the mill pool overflow and the Dark-bellied Dipper was only a few meters away. The bird was very confiding allowing me close enough to get photos with my small compact camera. A delightful bonus bird to end the year.

Happy New Year and Happy Birding.