With a rare a day off work, i agreed to met James at the station and head to Buckenham to look for the Lesser White-fronted Goose that appeared last week. We got of the train at Cantley and planned to walk back via Buckenham and Strumpshaw. From Burnt House Road we located the main flock of Bean Geese, but due to the lie of the ground couldn't see the whole flock. Moving further along the footpath we got better views and located the Lesser White-front with 100+ Bean Geese. A Barn Owldrifted along the railway hedge line and a Buzzard was perched up on a nearby gate. Approaching the river a ringtailHen Harrier flew east and 2 Peregrine were perched up in a dead tree. A second Barn Owl flew along the river bank nearer Buckenham, before the elevated position gave us better views of the geese. On the Buckenham side of the reserve most of the Wigeon had been forced onto the river along with a few Shoveler and a Black Swan. 2 Dunlin flew over the new hide as we gave it a one over and a single White-fronted Goose was with a small splinter of Bean Geese. Walking back through Strumpshaw we met Ben, and discussed the merits of the Lesser White-front. I would like to think that historical evidence of the species at this site, the weather when the bird arrived and the fact it seems to have arrived with Bean Geese and associates with them should be enough to suggest it is a genuine bird. But with many feral geese now in Norfolk, it looks like it is guilty until proven innocent.
With working unusual hours at work, Christmas shopping, and recent spell of cold weather, i have manged all but no bird watching in the past few weeks. I have had to make do with glancing out at the feeders during the few hours of daylight i seem to see! A few new birds were added to the 'Garden List' while snow was on the ground. A Mistle Thrush flew over the back of the house on 25th Nov while on the 3rd/4th Dec a female Brambling was under the feeding station. In the large tree opposite a Nuthatch was seen with a tit flock on the 5th Dec Waxwings have been in the area with a single over as i put the bins out on 3rd Dec and other small groups over since. Walking to work via the back streets between Unthank Road and Newmarket Road i have found the main Waxwing flock on a few occasions recently, sadly i could only watch them a few minutes before having to carry on. A brief walk around the back of the UEA, revealed the feeders in the compound to be empty, but large numbers of tits were still sifting through the detritus under them, there included my 1st Marsh Tit at the site for some time and Laura's first Nuthatch.
Gary had invited me to join him and James to go and see the Northern Harrier, that had finally been pinned down at Thornham long enough to be positively ID'ed. Rising at 5.45 i wondered was it really worth it. A trudged to the station in the snow where i met James, from North Walsham we slowly made our way to Thornham. From the harbour we didn't have to long to wait, once a snow shower had passed the juv. male Northern Harrier showed well before drifting west over Holme. The bird was much darker than i expected above, and below the orange/chestnut hues showed well as the bird banked and turned in surprisingly good light. A food stop at TitchwellRSPB saw us watching a female Brambling among the commoner birds around the feeders, as well as brief views of an over wintering Chiffchaff. Refuelled we headed onto Wells Woods. 2/3 Goldeneye were on the boating lake as we arrived and a exiting birder informed us that the Northern Bullfinch had been showing along with a probable Siberian Chiffchaff and Northern Treecreeper, all would be new sub-species for me. We soon heard the 'trumpet' call of the Northern Bullfinch, but initially could only locate its commoner cousins. A male Northern Bullfinch eventually flew across the path and after a bit of repositioning we got good views. At least 1 female Bullfinch of a much heavier set was also probably of the Northern race. While viewing the Bullfinch at least 1 Mealy Redpoll was feeding in the birch trees above us. A brief look for the Chiffchaff produced nothing and news of a Baikal Teal in Cambridgeshire got us excited before we opted for a drink in the Dun Cow at Salthouse. Sadly there was not alot to report from the pub-birding hotspot but the 6+ Snipe were a new 'pub tick' and a Barn Owl was seen. A quick half at the Bluebell in North Walsham before our train also failed to added more birds to our list.
Yesterday saw the death of one of the biggest names on the British bird scene, no not Lee Evans but Bernard Matthews, can you think of another Bernard as famous? I tried not to let this news get me down and headed out into the first snow of the winter. Walking around Eaton Park i found a large mixed group of finches and tits, mainly Chaffinch and Blue Tit. Walking through the pitch and putt i added a Great Spotted Woodpecker and scrutinised a very large Long-tailed Tit flock, sadly no northern race birds. UEA Broad was useless with only Black-headed Gull and Mallard, not even or Moorhen or Coot. The feeders in the Rabbit enclosure were much more successful, with Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Robin, Wren, Nuthatch, Jay, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush and Blackbird all flitting about. Standing on the bridge i heard another Nuthatch, a nearby tree actually held 3 Nuthatch, i watched these birds for 15 minutes before walking along the river towards Eaton. 2 Kingfisher whizzed passed together, and 4 Mistle Thrush were sat up in a tree, then snow again stated to fall heavly so i headed home.
Having not been out birding i decided to have a wander around Whitlingham on Sunday, but no sooner had i been dropped off it started to rain, great! Looking across the Little Broad i could see the 2 drake Red-crested Pochard still remained. The drizzle then misted up everything and i saw very little until i reached the conservation area. Most of the wildfowl had concentrated in the bay, with Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Wigeon and Shoveler. a group of 4 Little Grebe hugged the island and a 2 Snipe were in the margins. The highlight was being surrounded by a flock of Siskin while at the viewing screen with birds coming within a few feet. Walking around the east end of the broad i added little else, until i reached the meadow opposite Little Broad carpark, where a Green Woodpecker was on the grass and the 'little hybrid goose' was with a group of Greylag.
Sadly the American Bittern was not at Cley, but Walmsley in Cornwall, so on Friday after watching a firework display in Walcott, Gary, Philip, Laura and myself headed off to Cornwall. We arrived at first light, a Tawny Owl flying past as we made out way to the reserve and hides. We joined the queue for the hide and waited for the light to improve and our turn in the hide. The bird was very elusive, so turn over in the hide was low as people struggled to get good views. Two birders literally were at each other throats arguing over the time one had been in the hide! I managed a fleeting view of the bird as it walked between two ditches, peeping through the slatted screen as i waited to get in the hide. I had to wait a further 2 hours before i again got good views of the bird, i was moving between the two hides queuing and rotating through, often only seeing the reeds move rather than the bird. Laura still hadn't seen the bird until finally the bird settled a bit and another birder allowed us to view the bird resting in the reeds through is scope. We then drove home via Derbyshire hoping to see the Franklins Gull but the bird could not be located among the large gull flock in fading light.
After a lie in to recover from our Cornwall trip Laura and i headed out to Cley. Parking at the Coastguards we headed to the North Hide. One Grey Phalarope was still present but soon flew to Billy's Wash. Large numbers of Wigeon and DB Brent, combine with the strong sunlight meant a i could not locate the Green-wing Teal seen earlier in the day. With news of a few Little Auk passing i had a 30minute sea watch which produced a single Little Auk, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-necked Grebe, lots of duck mainly Wigeon but also Eider and Common Scoter, loads of DB Brent Geese, and distant a Skua sp and auk sp.
Since returning from the Scilly Isles i haven't really been out birding to much. During a brief stop at Walcott on the 25th October i saw a small skein of Brent Geese and a single Great Northern Diver fly through. Walking to work on 1st November a Waxwing flew over Christchurch Road in Norwich and on 5th Nov i finally made it down to Whitlingham to catch up with the Red-crested Pochard James had found while i was away.
On Saturday 30th October Gary and i attended the Norwich Beer Festival. While supping our 1st drink, a spicy ale called 'Hey Pesto' we devised a drinking strategy while looking though the beer guide, if it has a birds name we would aim to quaff if down. As it was the last night we found our task harder than expected and had to use our imagination a little.
Hey Pesto - Tipples, Acle, Norfolk. White Dove - Ole Slewfoot, Hainford, Norfolk. Gannet Mild - Earl Soham, Earl Soham, Suffolk. Swift One - NOT AVAILABLE. Fledgling - Front Street, Binham, Norfolk. Burston Cuckoo - NOT AVAILABLE Norfolk Black - NOT AVAIABLE. Bitter(n) - Elmtree, Snetterton, Norfolk. Phesant Plucker (cider) - NOT AVAILABLE. Kingfisher (cider) - NOT AVAILABLE. Wheat(b)eer - NOT AVAIABLE. An (Teal)lach Suilven - An Teallach, Garve, Ross.
Got back from a holiday to the Scilly Isles and south-west late last night, i will do a full report soon. Highlights including Tawny Pipit, Melodious Warbler, American Golden Plover, Red-eyed Verio, Subalpine Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail, Green Heron, Squacco Heron and Cattle Egret, plus many commoner birds giving great views.
Catching up on the blogs and websites i was surprised to see a retrospective ringtail Pallid Harrier reported at Holme. This has created a dilemma for me, i was at Holme and saw the bird, noting it down as a probable Montagu's Harrier, but not giving it much attention, before concentrated on looking for 'rarer' migrants. The bird has now been re-identified from photos, so do i have a new tick, or is this just a lesson in being more attentive?
High tides meant that early afternoon would be the best time to look for the Olive-backed Pipit at Stiffkey, so Laura and i started off at Holme. Walking the dunes towards the Warden's house there was an obvious fall of Song Thrush and Brambling with birds in nearly every bush. I also saw my first Fieldfare of the autumn and Richard's Pipit was briefly seen on an area of short turf. At least 2 Lapland Bunting flew over the dunes and Thrushes continued to come in-off. Around the Warden's House i saw 2 Redstart and a Black Redstart, before Laura found a Yellow-browed Warbler in a clump of Buckthorn. A Great Grey Shrike had been seen on the grazing marshes but looking from the hide we could see little. From the footpath to Thornham the Great Grey Shrike could be seen, albeit distantly. By the time we walked further down the footpath the bird had gone, first flushed by a Magpie then Sparrowhawk. A juv. Montagu's Harrier flew through, but we couldn't be bothered to walk further so returned to the car, and then had lunch at 'The Hero' in BurnhamOvery. It was about 2.30 when we parked by the campsite in Stiffkey, cars were everywhere and i could see a line of birders distantly across the very muddy saltmarsh. Before setting off i made a phone call to check if the bird was showing, it was but an IsabellineWheatear had also just been found in Lowestoft. Before even getting my boots on i had decided to leave the Olive-backed Pipit and go to Lowestoft. After a frantic drive across the whole of Norfolk we eventually arrived at North Denes. The IsabellineWheatear was showing extremely well at close range, with little need for a scope, it was a shame the camera was at home. In the early evening sun the pale tones and posture of the bird along with it 'pot-belly' appearence distinguised it from a Northern Wheatear near by. We headed back to Norwich, mud free and rather content at seeing a stunning bird, leaving Stiffkey was probably a good call.
With rain forecast i decided not to venture far from home, and there wasn't much about anyway. I headed down to Whitlingham, and thought I'd take a leaf out of James book and actually count what i saw, but not just the waterfowl but everything. If it moved it was counted! I started by the Canoe club, walked the South shore of both Little and Great Broads, then scanned Thorpe Station Marsh and returned via the Conservation area and North shore, before working the scrub near Little Broad Car park. The despite light drizzle most of the morning i counted plenty of birds with a few surprises. Of note were 9 Mistle Thrush on the Meadow near Whitlingham Lane, a 2nd Winter Yellow-legged Gull (patch tick), 35+ Robin possibly part of the autumn influx seen at the coast, 3/4 Kingfisher (i'm normally lucky to see one) and Cormorant are now roosting on the large pylons at the west end of the site.
Whitlingham Total Count (Great Broad - GB, Little Broad - LB, Thorpe Broad - TB, River Yare - RY, Other - Oth)
Many of the good birds of the weekend had already passed through, but i still thought I'd give Wells Wood a look, with nothing else to do on my day off. The constant drizzle felt blissful compared to last Saturday's rain and gale force winds. Walking the sea wall to the woods i saw 3/4 Wheatear, and then by the toilet block in the woods found my best bird of the day, a Red-breasted Flycatcher. In the Dell i found 2 Redstart, 1 Pied Flycatcher and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. A few tits flitted in the treetops but the light was not great to look through the canopy. The scrubby area south of the main path proved to be the best area by far, i walked the area twice, turning up 1 Ring Ouzel, c20 Brambling, 4 Redwing, 5+ Redstart, 8 Blackcap, 1 Barred Warbler, 2 Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Garden Warbler and numerous Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. Between times i walked a short distance towards Holkham on the main track to where the Bonelli'sWarber had been seen earlier in the week. No sign of the Bonelli's today, but while in the area with another guy we found a second Barred Warbler, Garden Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and 3 Redstart. Robin seemed to be in every bush and probably included many 'migrants', a large number of Pink-footed Geese where in the fields south of the woods and more seemed to be joining them in off the sea. I thought about walking to Holkham hoping to find the Wood Warbler, but 3 hours of drizzle had me quite wet. Walking back via the toilet block it was nice to see a birder i had sent in that direction earlier had finally found the Red-breasted Flycatcher and a flock of Siskin flew through. Although quick look in the bushes by the lifeboat station failed to turn up much, 2 probable Twite few over landing on the saltmarsh across the channel.
A trip to Yarmouth with Laura's younger sisters was interrupted at 2pm when my phone rang, 'MEGA Flycatcher on the Point!' Gary was on his way but i couldn't really go. Well after 10 minutes i changed my mind, playtime in Yarmouth was over! I was dropped in the car park at Cley about 3.45pm. I started walking against a gale force wind and driving rain, with no birding equipment or real water proofs. I was still thinking Willow/Alder Flycatcher when Gary text again, 'Yellow-bellied Flycatcher', honestly I've never heard of it or have a clue where it's from. But if correct this would be a 'MEGA MEGA' a western palearctic first. Lookig up between waves of lashing rain i saw a Leach's Petrel flyby in the surf. I met Gary near Yankee Ridge as he started to walk back, i borrowed his binoculars and carried on to the plantation. I joined the throng, the bird was skulking away, a brief flash of the bird could have been 'any' bird. 15 minutes later the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher showed well for 3-4 minutes, pinching a scope i got some good views, before my line of vision was blocked. With Gary, my lift halfway back i called time and started walking back, much easier with the wind behind me. A Puffin zipped past before i decided to walk along the marsh edge rather than beach. I disturbed 3 Wheatear along with a probable Snow Bunting around Halfway House. Back in the car, Gary and I agreed this had to be the hardest twitch we had been on, wet and cold we drove home knowing if the ID was confirmed we had just seen the biggest and best bird of the year.
The whole of this week I'm off work, and predictably the forecast hasn't looked good for birding in Norfolk. So last Sunday when Gary suggested a foray outside of Norfolk i jumped at the chance to see at least something decent this week. We headed for Kent hoping to see Wilson's Phalorope, White-rumped Sandpiper, Great White Egret and Ring-billed Gull. Leaving at 5am we were at Westcliffe-on-sea by 7ish, to look for 'Rossi' the returning Ring-billed Gull. I've looked for this bird on at least 5 previous occasions without luck, but today he sat on the beach only a few meters away. Our early visit no doubt the key, as no people were about to distract him with a bag of chips. News on the other birds had us first heading to Oare Marshes. Walking along the sea wall we soon located a large mixed flock of waders, Godwit, Curlew, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Golden Plover, and as we were advised 'somewhere' a White-rumped Sandpiper. We briefly picked up the bird in flight before we waited for the flock to shuffle around, finally the White-rumped Sandpiper moved into the open but only for a short while before burying itself once again. A juv. Curlew Sandpiper was also amongst the flock. Moving off we headed for Grove Ferry NNR, the Wilson's Phalorope had flown out of view and not been seen for over 1 1/2 hours, but we sat down to wait. The tall reeds masked many areas of the scrape and pools so the bird could have been under our noses, after 30min or so the distinctive bird flew in and fed on the back of the scape. Although a little distant a great bird to see. The Wilson's Phalorope was the 3rd North American bird of the day and with time on our side we headed to Dungeness hoping to add Great White Egret to the days list. The wind was blowing strongly across the reserve, if the GWE was there it was anchored down well out of view, so after a quick flit around the reserve, we headed home. Lots of Chiffchaff were on the reserve, holding on until the last minute to leave and a Hobby was also of note.
With a week off work i thought would finally get an opportunity to get in a good sea watch. Westerlies are forecast all week so Saturday was my only real chance to go with some moderate NW overnight. I left the house at 4.30am and walked to the station, arriving at Sheringham at 6.15am. I soon had a Manx Shearwater pass mid-distance it was then quite until the Sandwich Tern started to move though, with Skua appearing to harry them. c20 Arctic Skua, 2 Great Skua, 1 Pomarine Skua and 1/2 Long-tailed Skua passed through in 2 hours, although some birds circled back and probably got counted twice. The LT Skua was called by a regular in the shelter and at first look I'm not sure would have correctly called it, i can see why it causes so much debate on the message boards. A distant shearwater was noted as Sooty Shearwater, but shearwatersp. only totalled 4 in 2 hours, with 2 being to distant to ID. Gannet were passing through in reasonable numbers, mainly travelling east. (167e/86w). Other birds of note included 3 Red-throated Diver, 6 Pink-footed Geese, 1 Fulmer, 5 Common Scoter and a few odd waders and ducks.
I munched my way through a bacon bap before James join me on the bus to Cley, i was originally going to go straight home so anything we could see would be a bonus. From Daukes Hide we located 2 Little Stint and a few Dunlin but wader number were very low. A large number of Wigeon were probably new arrivals. The wind had dropped and the North Scape was as deserted as the others, so we walked the ridge towards Salthouse. After hearing a Lapland Bunting overhead we eventually located 4 on the ridge behind Arnold's Marsh. Walking to Salthouse we added Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and 2 Wheatear on a rather disappointing walk. The Dun Cow failed to give me any further pub birds, but to pub dragonflies in Migrant Hawker and Common Darter. Sheringham had provided a good sea watch considering the mediocre conditions, and Cley as half expected was quiet, but all in all no pleasant day out.
....was all i had to show for the 7 1/2 mile walk along the coast from Cley Coastguards back to Sheringham. I wasn't hopeful for much as the wind had swung around to a strong SW, scuppering any plans to sea watch or finding many migrants. I caught the 8.23am train and the trip to Sheringham produced some of the best birding of the day, 2 Buzzard, a Sparrowhawk and what was to be the days biggest surprise 2 Quail near Northrepps. They'll soon be leaving and are normally hiding in the crops, but the harrowed ground gave these two nowhere to hide. At Cley the wind was strong, anything good was going to be skulking down low. A quick look on North Scrape just gave the normal waders, so i soon headed off towards Salthouse. Behind Arnolds Marsh a Wryneck has been present a week, but despitelookingthought the bushs and scrub i didn't find it. (I later learned no one saw it all day.) In the same area though a group of 7 Lapland Bunting fed on the shingle ridge, but were easily spooked by walkers. 2 Wheatear and a lone Whimbrel were the only migrants i could find, though a fly through Merlin let me know Winter is on its way. Moving onto the Little Eye at i found a further 4 Wheatear, 1 Whinchat and a few juv Common and Sandwich Tern. Grambrough Hill so often a migrant hotspot gave me close views of Kestrel but only another Wheatear to the migrant list. Weybourne looked more promising with the seaward side of the hill sheltered from the wind. With 6 Wheatear, 3 Stonechat, 3 Meadow Pipit, 1 Whinchat and a Willow Warbler, that was debatable. The walk from here to Sheringham along the coastal path was even less eventful with a Whitethroat and 2 Wheatear hardly worth noting. Not the best migrant hunting conditions by a long shot but t was still nice to get out.
A message yesterday alerted me to a single juv Black Tern at Whitlingham, a would be patch tick, but after a meal at the in-laws meant i was hoping it would stay around. After the briefest of lay in courtesy of the gas man, Laura and i went down to Whitlingham about 9.30-10.00. We hadn't stopped the car and i had a Black Tern flying over the Great Broad, and upon stopping i soon located a further 3 birds. The last couple of years despite the regular passage I've only seen Black Tern while sea watching so it was nice just to spend some time looking at the plumage detail. A Black Swan has also returned to the area and was in the conservation area, and just as we were leaving a Common Buzzard flew over the car. We then moved onto Rockland Broad in the hope of catching up with an Osprey in Norfolk. Walking along the track i peeped through the trees to see another juv Black Tern but little else on the Broad, so we continued onto the hide. Just prior to the hide i scanned out towards Buckenham and Cantley Marshes, and found the Osprey although at distance flying along the river. We sat in the hide for about 30-45 minutes. Two Black Tern were present along with the usual waterfowl and gulls. The Osprey didn't return while we were there, but a Kingfisher flew past the hide just before we left to cap off a pleasant morning.
We might not have the skills of the 'Punk Birders' but someone must be reading our birds and beer pub watching blogs, Gary was asked recently '...are you one of those 'drunk birders?'. On Sunday for the first time in a few months Gary, James and myself went out again as a trio to hunt for autumn migrants. With the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler leaving Yorkshire overnight, we instead headed for HolmeNOA and NWT reserves. We first looked in on the juv.Red-necked Phalorope at NOA'sRedwell. A smart male Redstart added a little extra value to the £3 fee for entering the hide! We had a walk around the forestry behind the NWT Info Centre where eventually Gary located a Pied Flycatcher, but little else was around. Along the entrance track we watched a Garden Warbler catching flies at close quarters, a female Redstart, Stonechat and a juv. Red-backed Shrike, before two Peregrine then drifted over low. We then went to the pub, not just pub but the best birding pub there is, the Dun Cow at Salthouse. Here i added 5 new 'pub ticks', Canada Goose, Common Tern, Hobby,Whinchatand Greenshank. We also picked out Sandwich Tern, Wheatear and Gannet all good pub birds. Doubling back to Stiffkey we eventually caught up with a Barred Warbler not far from the campsite, and also saw Garden Warbler and Whitethroat. A brief stop at Cley coastguards failed to turn up any Lapland Buntings but during a quick seawatch we saw dark, light and intermediate Arctic Skua, a few distant Gannet and a close flyby Guillemot. With the sun starting to fall in the sky we walked the back of Weyborne Camp. We failed to locate the Wryneck seen earlier in the day, but Gary found our second Red-backed Shrike of the day, large flock of 30+ Pied Wagtail failed to hold a White Wagtail and a couple of Wheatear flitted about in the orange glow.
This week as been the best so far for autumn migrants, with lots turning up in North Norfolk, but i was stuck at work, then ill. Today the only birds of note where at Holme, a rather long drive for Barred Warbler and Red-necked Phalorope when not feeling 100%, we instead opted for a lay in and something more local. With the Willow Emerald Damselflies relocated again at Strumpshaw that was our first stop. Although Lackford Run is closed, part of the Fen Trail has been reopened to allow views of the damselflies. Luckily someone had just located a female as we arrived and then a male was also found, a little to far away for good photographs but i tried. As the sun came out Common and Ruddy darters appeared everywhere, and we also saw Brown Hawker, Southern Hawker and probably a Norfolk Hawker, but its a bit late for them to be flying. From the Fen Hide we watched a Hobby zipping around and two Marsh Harrier, but bird life was lacking. We then went on to Ranworth, enjoying an ice cream before returning home.
I received news of a Booted Warbler on Blakeney Point at 5.40pm just as i finished work and then deliberated if i had time to see it before darkness fell. I concluded yes, but only just. I jogged home a normal 35min walk done in 20min. A quick change and drive up to Cley and Laura and i were at the 'Coastguards' by 7pm. Leaving Laura in the car i (stupidly) jogged up the point getting to Halfway House in 25minutes and Yankie Ridge in about 40min. Along the way i had caught up with Gary and apparently ran past a Bluethroat! After all this effort i was horrified to find not a single birder at the Booted Warbler site, we worked the Suadea along the ridge but flushed very little, one promising warbler was briefly seen but couldn't be relocated in the fading light. After an hour of hunting the light was to bad so admitting defeat we started walking back. At Halfway House, I'm not sure what came over me, probably a combination of cold and guilt at leaving Laura in the car (now in the pitch black) but i jogged from here back to the car. Blakeney Point can be a wonderful place and turns up so many great birds, but this year I'm finding it a cruel place, of 4 trips i have returned empty handed on of 3 occasions. Little return for my invested efforts, but I'm sure I'll be doing it all again sometime soon.
Yesterday, after having a physio appointment in North Walsham, Laura and i had time for a short walk, between the rain showers. With a few Osprey drifting through i thought I'd check out East Ruston a site migrating Osprey have stopped at in the past. To cut a long story short, as the tag line says, there was no Osprey! But a nice Male Hobby perched up was a nice substitute. A couple of Migrant Hawker Dragonflies flew past despite the over cast weather and i found quite a lot of fungus emerging including what i think must be the largest mushroom i have ever seen, the cap was c40cm across and the stalk was as thick as my arm! James what was it? (I'll find the picture and post later)
With a day off work and the Lesser Grey Shrike that appeared yesterday still 'showing well' at Kelling it was a no brainer. After a brief lay-in Laura and i headed out to North Norfolk, we parked in Kelling village and walked down towards the water meadows. The pools are almost dry so no waders, but i did spot my first, belated Ruddy Darter of the year along with a probable Brown Hawker. Butterflies were also aplenty, with Wall, Small Tortoiseshell, Large White, Small White, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Holly Blue and Common Blue all seen. We were directed up towards the radar station but the LG Shrike had moved, luckily the Lesser Grey Shrike was soon relocated on the barbed wire fence next to the 'Quags'. A new 'life tick' has I'd missed the birds at Hickling and Weybourne in recent years. We viewed the bird for a while, a stunning Male, although the stiff breeze made scoping a little awkward at times. Walking back along the track we saw a Emperor Moth caterpillar, the largest caterpillar I've ever seen! Driving back towards Sheringham we then viewed the Red Arrows displaying over Cromer, part of their carnival celebrations. Back in Norwich i was sitting in the garden when a Jay in the neighbours tree and an unlikely garden tick with a fly-over Common Tern. Then in the evening a Sparrowhawk flew over the house, to add another bird to my fledgling Garden List.
The NEW House Me and Laura have finally finished moving into our new house on Unthank Road in Norwich, it took 2/3 weeks to get things sorted but luckily no birds have really been about to miss. The feeders are up and have already been visited by a few birds. Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Robin, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Magpie and House Sparrow have so far been seen from the garden. Also 3 Migrant Hawker Dragonflies have been around, numerous Hoverflies, Large White, Peacock and Tortoiseshell Butterflies. A reasonable first 10days in the house.
Blakeney Point With the lull of the summer i was glad to get out again to look for some early returning migrants on Blakeney Point. We briefly watched the sea for 15 minutes, just long enough to pick up a few Gannet, 1 Great Skua, 2 Arctic Skua, 1 Manx Shearwater and a host of Sandwich Terns. Laura was feeling unwell so she napped in the car while i headed off alone into the suadea. Not far from the Coastguards i found a female Redstart which promptly few across the channel and out of sight. Whimbrel regularly flew though, 20+ in total. About 500m before Halfway House i met some other birders who had just seen an Icterine Warbler, a bit of stomping about and eventually i managed some brief views. Heading onwards to Halfway House, i spent far to long looking at a Dunnock, before going on to find 3 Whinchat, 2 Stonechat, 1 Reed Warbler, 1 Willow Warbler, 2/3 Yellow Wagtail, 5 Linnet and numerous Reed Bunting. Gary had called and he joined me where i had seen the Icterine Warbler, we spent awhile looking but without success. A female Wheatear was around and we spent ages trying to pin down a Locustella Warbler, that was probably a Grasshopper Warbler. Having left Laura a few hours in the car, i thought i would treat her to lunch in the Dun Cow, where we added Common Crane, 3 Spoonbill, Sedge Warbler, Sandwich Tern, Black Swan, Gadwall, and a 'heard' Whimbrel to 'The Pub List' bringing my 'Pub Total' to 100!
Tomorrow will be the final big push with the house move, so today Laura and i decided to relax and not shift boxes. We first headed for Holt, where we wandered around the shops for a bit. Shocked at the price of a Pork Pie in the town, we headed to the visitor centre at Cley for a bite to eat. On the way we drove around the back lanes of Salthouse without any sign of the Hooded Crow or any birders looking for it! From the Visitor Centre i could see 1 Gargany, 3 Marsh Harriers, 5+ Spoonbill and the Black Swan as well as numerous waders, while tucking into a lovely jacket potato. We decided not to walk the reserve but a scan of the Eye Field and surrounding area failed to turn up the Hooded Crow here either. Heading for Sheringham, again via Salthouse's back roads, we were lucky to find another birder who was watching the Hooded Crow, a 'Norfolk Tick' for me. An ice cream at Sheringham was well received, before calling in on my parents, and stopping at a garden centre to buy a new feeding station and feeders for the new house. As i write this news has broken of 4 (yes FOUR!) nesting pair of Spoonbill at Holkham, raising at least six young, these wonderful birds are a welcome addition to N Norfolk, a bird i never tire of seeing.
July is often a quiet month, and the early excitement of the WT Plover, and American Sandpipers didn't last. With no birds of note to go and see, and picking up my new house keys, i haven't really ventured out much. On Sunday the 18th, i enjoyed a lovely evening cruise on the Broads with people from work but a couple of Common Tern the only birds of note. While in North Walsham on 23rd i took a walk down to Spa Common, and was surprised by the number of recently emerged butterflies about, Painted Lady, Gate Keeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Peacock, Red Admiral, Large White and Small Tortoiseshell were all along the hedgerow of Manor Road. Arriving home from work on the 27th i was gutted to see that a King Eider was being seen off of Sheringham but with the Mini at the garage i had no chance of seeing it, even more annoying was the fact that unlike at Filey it decided not to stay around and was gone the next morning. A Hooded Crow is currently in the Salthouse area so hopefully it will remain until Monday/Tuesday when I'm next off from work, and can hopeful find a few hours when I'm not moving boxes.
The heavy rain forecast over night had not come to much so Laura and I headed to Titchwell hoping to catch up with the Buff-breasted Sandpiper we mist on our last visit. From the Island hide the Buff-breasted Sandpiper showed well. The Pectoral Sandpiper hadn't been seen from the hide so i didnt stay long. From the path near the new bank, i eventually found the Pectoral Sandpiper near one of the more vegetated margins. Also of note on the Fresh marsh, 5 Snipe feed out in the open on one of the pools, a Whimbrel, 3 Curlew, 5+ Spotted Redshank, singe Greenshank,Green Sandpiper and the normal waders. A Grey Heron wrestling with a large eel amused those in the hide, we heard one old lady "..it's not going to eat it is it?" A Spoonbill flew over the path as we walked back and reports of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker had me searching the carpark trees but i only found a young Great Spotted which i assume had been misidentified. We stopped at Dersingham on the way back, hoping for a Black Darter or a Golden Pheasant i had to be satisfied watching a pair of Kestrel feed their 5 young and a Green Woodpecker. Laura hadn't seen Little Owl, but a stop at Flitcham soon rectified that. A family of 4 Little Owl sat out on posts at the back of the meadow, a Red Kite passed over along with a Buzzard and Sparrowhawk in the 20 minutes we stopped. 4+ Turtle Dove and numerous Stock Dove were dotted about and a Green Woodpecker flew through. Driving back the heavens opened, many of the roads had large puddles in a few places the road was barley passable.
Having spent the morning moving boxes in preparation for moving house, i was planing to relax during the afternoon. Then Gary text, he was going to Rainham Marshes RSPB and did i want a lift, well YES i did. Fighting through rush hour traffic carry collected Laura and i from Thickthorn Services at 5.20pm, by 7.30 we were at Junction 30/31 of the M25 and 3 miles from Rainham. We then took 1hour 30minutes to get around the roundabout and down towards the reserve, with the reserve closing at dusk time was tight. We rushed around to the back of the reserve and soon were looking at the White-tailed Plover. It was on the back of Aveley Pool and showed white well, preening and lifting its wings showing its distinctive white tail and yellow legs. With the light fading we didn't really look at any other birds on the reserve but atleast 6 Grey Heron were roosting on the pool and large number of young Coot were present.
Signing into Birdguides to read of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper showing at Titchwell again frustrated me, but that was short lived as scrolling down i read 'MEGA River Warbler SE of Norwich.....details to follow'. For the rest of the day i was checking Birdguides, ringing and texting. The news broke Thorpe-next-Haddiscoe was the place to be. At 6.30 Laura, James and myself set off, a Buzzard of the way seemed of little importance. I've never been to such an organised twitch, sign posts (RIVER WARBLER ---->) guided us off the main road and down back roads, a carpark was set up, we paid our £2 and followed the arrows painted on the grass to the viewing area. We had to wait a while but then the River Warbler sang, a distinctive song like no other bird I've heard. We eventually moved as we couldn't see the bird. The bird skulked in a Alder so views were limited, and a mass of heads often blocked my view. An elderly lady birder then allowed me good views, fighting the corner of the short birder and clearing an area of 'giants'. A nice evening with lots of friendly faces to chat to, a lovely sunset, and Barn Owl and Marsh Harrier hunting over the marshes.
News of a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Titchwell had me back looking at birds rather than insects. The BB Sandpiper was found late on Friday, and with a house views on Saturday morning it was mid-morning before we could set out. News was the BB Sandpiper had flown at 7.30 am so we stopped at SwantonNoversWatchpoint to look for Honey-buzzards. As soon as we got out of the car we were onto 2 birds circling together a Common Buzzard and a Honey-buzzard. Dispite no news on the BB Sandpiper we headed for Titchwell anyway. We picked up a further 2 Common Buzzards on route. At Titchwell the BB Sandpiper was long gone but the Knot flock continues to grow, we viewed a Spoonbill that was actually feeding rather than sleeping and 15+ Spotted Redshank were on the Freshmarsh with a sprinkling of Greenshank amongst them. The sea was flat with loads of tern offshore, i watched a small group of immature Eider awhile before a dark bird with 2 Tern caught my eye. A juv/dark morph Pomarine Skua drifted west continuing to harass the tern. Walking back a Painted Lady butterfly was on the main bath along with a few Small Copper and a Ruddy Darter was by the Meadow Trail. [Edit] After looking at past records, photos and advice, i've changed my thoughts on the Skua sp. and now favour the more likely Arctic Skua, considering time of year, weather etc.
As the summer heat continues, insect hunting once again has taken over from birds (whats birds!). With Laura still feeling a little under the weather, a short walk on Buxton Heath seemed a good idea, it was still a bit much in the heat . By the carpark i saw my first Gatekeeper of the year along with a couple of Small Skipper and Small Tortoiseshell. Cutting across the Heath an Emperor Dragonfly flew through and we disturbed lots of small moths. At the back of the site Laura found 2 Silver-studded Blue, while walkingdown to the grazing meadow we saw a Large White and Green-veined White. Walking back the same route we found a White Admiral in a shady glade and 10+ Silver-studded Blues all together, a probable Brown Argus also flitted about and a Small Copper was on the path. A Large Skipper and Speckled Wood by the car completed the butterfly list. Bird wise we saw 3+ singing Yellowhammer, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatcher and various small finches and tits.
I first walked down to Carey's Meadow in Norwich to take some photos of the Bee Orchids i had seen in bud last week. While there a Brown Hawker flew through and i also saw my first Meadow Brown of the year. With the day warming up i thought it would be worth a trip to Strumpshaw to look for Dragonflies and Butterflies. Normally I'm over optimistic about what i might see but today i saw far more than i expected, 6 species of dragonfly, 5 species of damselfly and 12 species of butterfly. A Norfolk Hawker was the pick of the dragonflies and Swallowtail best of the butterflies. Bird wise i heard all of the normal warblers inc. Grasshopper Warbler but only saw Blackcap, Cetti's Warbler and Sedge Warbler. From the Tower Hide, a Hobby, 2 Common Tern and a distant Bittern in flight were the birds of note for the day.
A morning stroll around Whitlingham started with a female Bullfinch by the Little Broad, a Kestrel over the meadows and a Great Spotted Woodpecker nearby. Walking the river bank i saw many young fledgelings including Reed Warbler, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat. From the bird hide i picked up my first Great Black-backed Gull at Whitlingham this year. Thorpe Marshes had little of note so i thought about heading home. I then heard a Cuckoo calling in the direction of Whitlingham Woods and had to go investigate. I walked through the woods stopping near the pines to investigate a small flock of tits and in the same tree i also found my first Goldcrest on the patch this year. Stopping to see if i could still hear the Cuckoo i found a Spotted Flycatcher, perched up in the sparse pines. A new 'patch life' bird. Leaving the woods i sat on a bench by the river and Cuckoo then appeared, flying across the river and over Thorpe Marshes, capping off a nice morning. An evening trip to Cley Marshes NWT, failed to show the ChileanFlamingos that had been present the previous, but a summer plumageSpotted Redshank was nice to see, and from the Visitor Centre mound a distant Spoonbill was a year tick, but not the most satisfying.
The late run of migrants has now dried up, so with a day off work i stayed at home, tidying the garden and house. A Spoonbill and Roseate Tern had been seen at Cley, so when Laura suggested an evening stroll, Cley was our destination. We parked at the Coastguards and walked over to the North Scape. The Spoonbill was long gone but consolation was in the shape of a Curlew Sandpiper andLittle Stint. 2 Little Tern rested on one of the spits and large number of Black-tailed Godwit fed, along with Avocet and Knot. Terns dropped in frequently and i was delighted when a Roseate Tern appeared, Common Tern and Sandwich Tern also stopped off. A lovely evening, which also turned up a few surprising birds.
A week after (to late) the Subalpine Warbler had been seen on Blakeney Point, Gary, James and myself decided to stomp out across the miles of shingle to go and see nothing! Well in fairness when i say nothing i mean, a Reed Bunting, a few Meadow Pipit, a Great Crested Grebe, single Gannet and a load of Sandwich Terns. This Spring's migration may have been rather late but i admit that walking Blakeney Point during the 2nd week of June for migrants, is only something the dedicated or fool hardy get up to.....I'll let you decide which we are?
After travelling back from Kent in the evening heat today was going to be a nice lazy one at home. The alarm went off at 8.30, followed by a text at 8.32 from Gary "5 Black-winged Stilts at Titchwell". Initially i said no, but Laura said we should go, we quickly dressed, grabbed James and left. Every car we meet was going slow, but we eventually joined Gary at Titchwell RSPB where we viewed the Black-winged Stilts, albeit a little distant. We didn't really want to hang about long in the heat still tired from yesterday. A brief look about also gave us a Little Gull, Red-crested Pochard and the usual waders etc. it was nice to see a large Knot flock on the Freshmarsh also. A few photos of the Early Marsh Orchids on the Fen Trail and we headed back home.
A short break with Laura saw us traveling down to Kent, basing ourselves in Maidstone. A mini-holiday to take in Leeds Castle and DungenessRSPB reserve. Travelling down we detoured via Waldeslade to pick up the Iberian Chiffchaff, a bird i saw at Colney a few years ago, but a life tick for Laura. We hadn't planned to do much on our first day, but a trip to a Butterfly Farm took us close to Dungeness. We drove down to the visitor centre just for a look around, knowing we would visit on Friday. We then had a 30min watch of Denge Marsh, from a road that boarders the reserve and were lucky enough to see a Purple Heron in flight. Thursday was spent at Leeds Castle, no bird watching, but the Avery provided some good photo opportunities. I also saw my first Banded Demoselle of the year while walking in the water gardens. Friday morning was my birdwatching time at Dungeness, but the day was blistering hot not ideal. Seeing the Purple Heron earlier in the week saved us spending to long in the sun (the reserve has little cover), we headed straight for the far end of the site, eventually picking out the 1st summer Red-footed Falcon hawking around with 12 Hobby. Very few little birds seemed to be around and i only saw a single wader, a lonely Redshank! Along with a welcome pint at The Britannia in Dungeness i added Buzzard and Linnet to my 'pub list'.
What was going to be a relaxing day, before traveling to Kent tomorrow, started as planned. Laura and i first walked around Carey's Meadow in Norwich looking for Bee Orchids and Early Marsh Orchids, but none are yet out. We then had a nice lunch at The Village Inn, Little Melton before an after lunch stroll around Sparham Pools NWT. Here we saw the nesting Common Terns and Littlr Ringed Plover on the island, a Grey Wagtail, Spotteded Flycatcher and various other small birds many with young fledglings. We then also watched a pair of Grey Wagtails from the bridge. A short walk around Sweet Briar Marshes also failed to produce any Orchids or Dragonflies. Returning home i heard of a Marsh Warbler at Gambrough Hill, so after grabbing a few holiday vitals in town, it was back to Cley. We arrived in Salthouse beach car park and headed to the hill. Meeting Gary with other birders we soon located the Marsh Warbler, but had to wait a while for good views. My second lifer in the area within days. We then quickly stopped near Cley Coastguards to view a Red-backed Shrike, which sat nicely on a gate post close to the car. A Med. Gull flew east over the West Bank. We decided not to visit Walsey Hills where an on off Nightingale/Thrush Nightingale debate has gone on all day, they probably just want my money!
Having laid in after yesterdays mammoth birdwatch, Laura and i went to Hemsby, as i had an urge to spend my large pot of coppers and fancied some doughnuts. Arriving home Gary called "..so have you seen it!.....seen WHAT?". He had been trying to call most of the afternoon to tell me about the Trumpeter Finch at Cley. Planning to go first thing tomorrow Laura then suggested going there and then, 40 minutes later i was standing on the East Bank. After a bit of a wait the Trumpeter Finch was eventually located again on the shingle ridge. We then got some great views as the bird feed on the bank, a stunning pink male, lit by the low sun. Another Year tick, Norfolk tick and Life tick! Walking back we watched Bearded Tits, a Cuckoo, Marsh Harriers and a Barn Owl all flying over the reedbed. An altogether enjoyable evening.
Gary, James and myself got up extra early for this years May Bank Holiday bird race day. A day in which the 3 of us hare about Norfolk trying to tick off as many birds as possible. Last year we managed 113 plus 4 heard, not a bad total. With an earlier start we hoped for a bigger list, but waking up to a very windy, drizzly morning and ecountering some very heavy thunder storms we had our work cut out. Check out where we went and what we saw at www.wheatearsinthemist.webs.com. We managed to beat last year with a total of 115 plus 3 heard (Gary totaled 117 seeing 2 bird i missed!).
With the hot, still weather keeping the migrants away and a lunch date to keep Laura and i kept it local with a brief trip to Whitlingham. Parking near the East-end of the Great Broad, we walked around to the conservation area and back. Scanning Thorpe Station Marsh i picked out a single LRP and a gull that looked a good candidate for Yellow-legged Gull, but due to the distance couldn't be 100%. By the conservation area i picked up my 110th patch year tick with a Garden Warbler. Cetti's Warbler, Reed Bunting and Blackcap being the other notable birds.
This blog will feature the highlights from the 'Diary' pages of my main website. Follow my birding activities here or follow the link to my main site featuring: 2010 Diary Page Bird Year Lists Insect Year Lists My Local Patch The Pub List and many more pages of photos and information.
I recently moved back to North Walsham and needing a new local patch, I soon settled on a few of my old favourite sites, but they were spread around town. All are close to the old railways track beds and my new house sits at the apex of all 5 lines that once radiated out from North Walsham, these form the arteries joining everything up. My 'Birding Alone Old Lines' patch was born, revisiting the old birding sites of youth, via the Old Railway Newtworks.