Monday, 26 December 2011

. . . and a Waxwing in a Pear Tree!

Firstly i hope everyone reading this has had a good Christmas day and will have a bird filled New Year.

As with previous posts I've not really been out much, but in the last week have seen a few nice birds from the comfort of the house. A week or so ago Gary and i heard i Firecrest calling further down Unthank Road, and since then I've been listening out to see if it came my way. On Monday (19th) getting back home from the last of the Christmas shopping and heard a bird in the trees opposite as i was unlocking. It didn't take to long to find the Firecrest in the bare trees before it flew of with some Blue Tits. Staring out into the back garden the same day a second 'garden tick' appeared, in the form of 2 Lapwing flying over, unusual for the city.

Putting the old wrapping paper out into the bins on Christmas morning i disturbed 3 birds from the fruit trees in our garden, i had earlier seem 7 Collarded Dove, lots of Blackbird and the usual fair of Tits and Finches but little else. 2 of the birds few out of site but one briefly returned to the top of the Pear tree, a Waxwing, not a new garden bird but a welcome little Christmas present.

Writing this on Boxing Day still in bed, from the bedroom window i have already seen Coal Tit, Grest Tit, Blue Tit, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Rook, Goldfinch, Greenfinch,Chaffinch, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Starling and Blackbird. No sign of a Christmas Robin but 8 Redwing are currently perched in the neighbours silver birch. Maybe a New Years resolution should be to spend more time watching the garden?

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Not Much Birding

The lead up to Christmas is always a bad time for birding as my rota gets shot to pieces and what free time i do have is spent shopping or similar, this year we also had a wedding to attend thrown in for good measure. The wedding was in Oxford, and i briefly considered spending the Sunday after the wedding down at Chew Valley, but with the weather uncertain we decided to spend the day in Oxford. This looked turned out to be a good choice as the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper by all accounts was elusive and eventually moved to a nearby site, and it was 60 miles further from home.

The trip was not however birdless from the Wedding Reception venue 'The Dog House' near Abingdon, i did manage to add a new bird to my 'pub list' in the shape of a Red Kite perched in a tree in the rear garden and then later 3 circling with a Buzzard from the Lounge window.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Semi-palmated Sandpiper for Lunch

About 10am this morning Gary text me to find our when i was next free, which translates as there's a rare bird about we need to go look for. Well the reply text was 'I'm free now' and at 11.15 Gary was on my door-step in full suit and tie. Having driven over from Great Yarmouth this was his extended Lunch hour. Parking off Old Womans Lane at Cley we where soon in the main hides looking through waders. It didn't take long to locate the Semi-palmated Sandpiper in with the Dunlin. A life tick or both Gary and myself, and in Norfolk to boot. In recent years this bird has been on our radar for a twitch but has always been just a bit to far or at the wrong time. Having not removed his tie Gary was back at work by 2pm and i was back at home.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Disappointing UEA

A stinking cold had me stuck in the house yesterday, so feeling a little better i decided to get some fresh air and walk down to the UEA, Whitlingham was a bit to far. Walking across Eaton Park very little was about, but near the 'new' Greenhouses just off Bluebell Road i soon found loads of small birds. Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit and Blackbird flew across the path. I then noticed a feeder near the growing beds that I've not noticed before. A Nuthatch flitted about in the tree tops and a loose group of Siskin flew over. The rest of my walk was very disappointing, the Broad had 2 Great Crested Grebe, a single Mallard and a few Black-headed Gull. Approaching the Rabbit enclosure i was expecting good things but found nothing! All the feeders that used to be here have been taken down, these feeders used to attract so many birds including Nuthatch, Marsh Tit and on one occasion i had Hawfinch here so i hope they return soon. Walking the river towards Eaton i only had a few Blue Tit and Moorhen, more disappointment. Then a Kingfisher flew past and perching very close, spirits raised i got out my camera. The little excitement soon became anger as i realised the shutter button had broken. I walked home via Waitrose, wondering if i should have stayed indoors!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Wagtail Roost

Popping out on my break before working through until 8pm on Thursday, I was greeted by Pied Wagtail flitting and calling in the fading light and glow of the street lights. c10 birds tried to roost in one of the 'palms' on the traffic islands outside John Lewis and looking up 50+ Pied Wagtail sat on the safety rail that runs around the rooftop of the shop. Most winters a large group of Pied Wagtail move into the city to take advantage of the extra warmth from the buildings. Whether they continue to roost at John Lewis or move to their regular trees/buildings near Gentleman's Walk I'll have to wait and see.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Waxwings Return

The late fall of migrants in the week typically occurred just after I'd had a few days off, and equally as typical had all moved off by the time my next day off, Sunday had rolled around. I would have like to catch up with the Hume's Leaf Warbler and Melodious Warbler particularly, but a Palla's or Yellow-browed would have also been welcomed. On Sunday however i did catch up with my first Waxwing of this winter, with c12 birds just off Hall Road in Norwich. I'll try to return in the week to photograph them if they stay.

Walking to work this morning (Monday), was much more enjoyable now i have the prospect of Waxwing on route, last winter a flock was around the Jenny Lind Park area for a few weeks and most days brightened an often cold damp walk into work. No Waxwing yet in the Park but a Peregrine diving low across the ground after chasing some pigeons from the Old Hospital site, was even more exciting. Not to be out done 3 Waxwing then flew overhead and settled in some trees near the Bignold School, a very pleasant start to the week.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

SEO@Thorpe Station Marsh

I've had quite a bit of holiday to use up recently but yesterday was my last holiday day of the year, and i decided to give Surlingham a bash. I was planning to cycle around Whitlingham then take the cycle route to Surlingham, but a slow puncture made me change my plan.

I cycled around the Great Broad and stopped a few times, it was rather quiet but a Little Gull was with the other gulls in the conservation area and Tufted Duck numbers are starting to build. Scanning Thorpe Broad i could see a few Pochard and lots of BH Gull but again it looked quite. As i was on the bike i gave Whitlingham Marsh a quick look, a Grey Wagtail by the viaduct was my first on the patch this year and a Chinese Water Deer was also somethingCheck Spelling new. Near the Sewage works i noticed my tyre was rather flat so headed over the Postwick Viaduct and dumped the bike at Laura's work on Thorpe Road. After lunch with Laura in the Coach and Horses i decided to walk the areas of my patch north of the river.

I started off in the Roseary Cemetery, as with the days trend it was rather quiet and close up Green Woodpecker, was one of the few bird i saw. Lions Wood was awash with Grey Squirrels, Blackbird and Wood Pigeon, but a Nuthatch broke the monotony. Carey's Meadow was also very quiet, bar a Bullfinch i could hear but not locate. I had planned to get to Station Marsh about 3.30 then hang around for the Short-eared Owl seen the last few nights, but as it was only just after 2.30 so i first walked the whole site. A Great Black-backed Gull was a patch year tick and i found a few Cetti's Warbler calling. Waiting by the cattle pen gulls streamed over along with corvids. A few other birders appeared then at 4.15 the Short-eared Owl appeared. It rise up from the edge of Thorpe Broad and then started to quarter the meadows, and times coming very close and circling over the broad. Sadly the light was to poor to get a photo of my newest patch bird.

North East Norfolk

Sorry about the slightly late update on 29th Oct James, Gay and myself after a bit of furniture moving at Gary's headed to Trimmingham for a final bash at finding some late migrants. Getting out of the car Gary noticed a Buzzard sp. finding a gap in the treeline we were able to confirm Gary's initial thought Rough-legged Buzzard. News of a Red-rumped Swallow flying north through Sea Palling with 2 Swallow had us move to the clifftop hoping they would continue north. While waiting we scanned the sea, eventually picking up several groups of Little Gull and Kittiwake and a few Wigeon. Red-throated Diver appeared then disappeared on the sea and a lone Snow Bunting appeared to come in-off. At about 12.30 i located 3 Swallow heading north, but as the passed overhead they became silhouetted so we tried to ID them over the stubble, 2 where clearly Swallow, the third we could not clearly see however no obvious rump. We had to conclude as unlike as it may be there was 2 groups of 3 Swallow heading north at the end of October in NE Norfolk.

As it was lunch time we headed to the Poachers Pocket at Walcott, ordered our cheesy chips and sat outside to scan the sea. We picked up many similar sea birds as at Trimingham, with Little Gull, Black Tern and Kittiwake being Pub Ticks. A few Guillemots lingered off shore and a Common Scoter flew through. 2 Red-breasted Mergansers west, a flyover Redpoll and a Great Northern Diver were a further 3 Pub Ticks. The best bird though was a Black Guillemot, a Pub Tick, a Norfolk Tick, a rare bird for Norfolk, it flew in and eventually gave good enough views to clinch an ID. We then located a flock of Pink-footed Geese we could hear from the pub, only a couple of fields over. We couldn't find any rare geese mixed in but a neck collared bird (pale blue CCI) has since been reported back to us as a bird ringed in 202 in Aberdeenshire and been seen in Norfolk most years since.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Isabelline Shrike

Back at work after 2 weeks off i sat down at lunch time to read the following text 'Isabelline Shrike, well tasty, at Horsey and has now vanished' thank you Gary. Well the bird reappeared and teased me for the whole week while i was at work. Come Friday, the bird surprisingly still remained and Laura and i had the day off. But we first had to visit the travel agents to book our honeymoon. Finally at 2pm we arrived at Horsey to get excellent views of a very confiding bird. A one stage the bird was only a few metres away. We watched the bird for about 45minutes, as it flitted about catching wasps. Luckily i took my camera and managed a few reasonable photos of a new 'life tick' for me. A short sea watch from the end of the Nelson Track failed to give up one of the Grey Phalorpe of previous days, but 4 Red-throated Diver and 2 Little Gull are worth a mention.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Scarlet Tanager?

Okay we went to North Norfolk not Cornwall, but it was a very close call. Gary and I had a plan to leave at 4am and hover around the M25 awaiting news on the Scarlet Tanager, but decided late in the evening that maybe we had travelled enough in the last week and settled for Blakeney and Salthouse instead, hmmm.......

After a positive lie in Gary picked me up at 8am and we headed to Friary Hills in Blakeney to look for the Cattle Egret. Stuart White informed us the bird was in a tree between Blakeney and Cley. Walking to the end of the Hills, 3 Crossbill flew over but there was no sign of the egret. We then drove around to the sluice at Cley to look from a different angle, only for Gary to spot the bird flying back into a cattle field towards Blakeney once again. I suggested trying the Wiveton Farm Shop/Cafe, as it backs onto Friary Hills. Here we found the Cattle Egret in a cattle field opposite the cafe, in fact we watched the bird while enjoying a cup of tea and slice of cake.

We next stopped at Salthouse for a spot of sea watching. Despite the unfavorable winds a Puffin flew west, and quite a few Guillemot and Razorbill sat on the sea as well as 2+ Red-throated Diver. From her we walked west along the shingle ridge and down the track to the Dun Cow, seeing nothing of note. Even from our favourite 'Birding Pub' we saw very little as we had lunch. We did however see a large thrush arrive with some Redwing. We spent the next hour walking the nearby hedgerows trying to locate the bird, with thoughts of Siberian Thrush from what little we had seen of the bird flying in. We had no luck re-finding the bird, which could have been something special, or just a rough looking Fieldfare or scruffy Blackbird. Walking back along the Iron Road and shingle a few Redpoll and Siskin passed over and a late Swallow headed east.

Stopping at Cley, for once there was plenty to see on Simmond's Scrape. With a good size Golden Plover flock, 5+ Snipe and a pair of Pintail close in, as well as the more common expected waders.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Now that's Scilly

Dipping the Rufous-tailed Robin, Autumn was lacking in birds so Gary and I planned a trip out west to catch up with some good birds this Autumn. We decided on visiting the Scilly Isles but only for a few days not our normal week, this trip would be more of a twitch than a birding holiday. We booked it on Saturday and left at midnight on Monday.

Gary, Philip and myself drove down to Penzance overnight and caught a Helicopter to Tresco at 9.45 on Tuesday. The Least Sandpiper we hoped to see had left the Abbey Pool so we jump on the shuttle bus (Tractor & Trailer) and just managed to catch the boat to St Mary's, via Bryer and Sampson. From the boat we spotted a Spoonbill on Green Isle before booking into our B&B in Hugh Town.

The first of out target birds was the Wilson's Snipe on Lower Moors, after a short wait the bird showed very well with 2 of its common cousins. c10 Swallow lingered over the area before they finally fly south and a Chiffchaff was also in the area. With time on the island at a premium we headed off towards Maypole to look for the Upland Sandpiper. Cutting along the Sunnyside Farm Trail the small bulb fields were alive with birds including 2+ Blackcap, Brambling, Goldcrest, Siskin, and various other small birds. The Upland Sandpiper had not been recently seen, but news of 2 Olive-backed Pipit had us scurrying around the corner to Watermill Lane. The birds showed very well feeding between the furrows, but a heavy shower had me sheltering under a hedge. Back at Borough Farm the Upland Sandpiper was still elusive, but then it appeared c10feet from me, it was probably sheltering against the back in front of me before i disturbed it. It walked further down the field and showed for a while flitting between the rows of bulbs. It was time for lunch, but arriving at the Longstones cafe it was closed, but in the nearby Carreg Dha Gardens we watched Firecrest at close quarters. 10 minutes later we were rushing back to Longstones to view a Red-throated Pipit in the nearby cow field, with Meadow Pipit also present it took a while to be sure we had the right bird, but a 4th 'life tick' of the day. We walked back towards town at a slower pace, picking up Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Firecrest and Goldcrest near Lower Moors. After finding the 'dump clump' we waited for 2hours+, watching a small muddy pool, hoping for the Northern Waterthrush, present for a few weeks to appear. We got rather cold and only saw a Grey Wagtail, so headed to the Atlantic Inn for much deserved food.

We rose early on Wednesday and were at the 'dump clump' for first light after 45 minutes or so we started to think about heading back to the B&B for breakfast, but then the Waterthrush appeared. Initially the bird was near the back of the pool, but then came much closer, oblivious to the c20 people watching it, after about 10 minutes the bird disappeared and so did we. After breakfast we backed our bags and headed out towards the airport via the coastal footpath and Upper Moors. A Black Redstart was on Porth Mellon beach, and Philip fond a Yellow-browed Warbler by 'Nowhere'. Atleast one other Black Redstart was in Old Town Bay and 2 Wheatear were near the Windsock. A reported Wryneck could not be found near Giant's Castle, but we got good views of a 1st winter Bluethroat by Porth Hellick, my 1st 'red spot' individual. 7 Greenshank on Higher Moors was our last trip tick before catching the 12.45 plane back to Land's End Airport.

Monday, 17 October 2011

A Great 'Grey' Day

Gary's first day off from work and we started off at Lowestoft to look at the juv. Woodchat Shrike. The bird was very obliging showing to a few feet not far from Link's Road car park. While watching the Shrike Gary flushed a 'crake' like bird, the bird few a second time, an unexpected Quail. With no sign of the Isabelline Wheatear reported the night before we soon headed of to Corton. By the church we soon found a Yellow-browed Warbler but the 2 Great Grey Shrike from the previous day had moved off. with the weather looking good for more migrants we decided to look for our own birds in Norfolk.

Walking along the track at Horsey we found a Goldcrest and Chiffchaff with a tit flock but no 'mega'. Walking the back of the dunes, Siskin and Redpoll passed over head in large numbers along with Redwing and Fieldfare. Gary then found a very distant Great Grey Shrike closer to Waxham(we later got better views from the road). We then chatted to so ringers who had great success with ringing loads of Meadow Pipits and Redpoll. Walking back along the dunes we had a Short-eared Owl in-off and then a small bird land on the beach. Closer inspection and we found i tired looking Snow Bunting on the tide line.

A stop for lunch was retired so we paused at The Poachers Pocket in Walcott for cheesey chips and a pint. While there we added 2 new 'pub birds' in Short-eared Owl in-off and 4 Common Scoter. Other birds included a summer plumage Red-throated Diver, Gannet, Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal.

Final stop of the day was Trimingham cliff top wood. The wood itself only held a few Goldcrest, but on the cliff top we found our 3rd Short-eared Owl of the day and a Green Woodpecker. Here we met Conner and 2 friends, we the searched a nearby stretch of woodland, but only found more Redwing, Fieldfare and a Brambling.

On Saturday we rose early and headed to Warham Green to look for the Rufous Tailed Robin, but along with the the 700 or so fellow birders returned home without seeing the bird. The clear, cold night either killed the bird or hopefully allowed it to continue on its migration. After a full fried breakfast, Gary and i set about arranging our next little trip.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Autumn Finally Arrives

The strong westerlies have finally subsided and been replaced by east winds, although not that strong. I met dad at North Walsham Station and we headed to Cart Gap. With a few birds out to sea we started with a sea watch for about an hour. Redwing came in off all the time along with Goldfinch and a few other small birds. A single Sooty Shearwater was at mid-distance and 2 Pomarine Skua passed north and a few Arctic Skua were at distance. Brent Geese streamed through along with large numbers of Wigeon, but also Tufted Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Shoveler, Shelduck, Common Scoter and ~Pink-footed Goose. For no apparent reason we then decided to walk the clifftop near Paston rather than the dunes towards Sea Palling. This proved to be a good choice. Walking the stubble fields we first came across a group of 100+ Skylark and a couple of large groups of Meadow Pipit. I then noticed a Short-eared Owl come in off before it was mobbed by crows and moved back out to sea. In the scrub we found lots of Winter Thrushes, Redwing, Fieldfare and Blackbird no doubt new arrivals and 2 Song Thrush came off the sea. Single Wheatear, Whinchat and Firecrest were also probable new arrival, joined by the local Linnet, Dunnock and Wren. Probably the same Short-eared Owl was then flushed from the cliff, but with c50 arriving at Titchwell and groups of 3/4 elsewhere it could have been a second bird. A Golden Plover was frantically drinking from a pool on the 'carpark' and could easily be approached, another tired new arrival. We then clambered down to the beach where dad trawled for shrimp in the shallows before we headed home, content with out haul, of birds and shrimps.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Whitlingham - Winter Returns

During the first of my 2 weeks off, i was planning to stay in Norfolk looking for migrants but with continued westerly winds it looks like i won't see many migrants until next week, when Gary is also off and we may head out west.

With little about i headed to Whitlingham and was pleasantly surprised. Walking across Trowse water meadows small groups of Redwing regularly passed overhead with a few Fieldfare for good measure. Peeking over into the back gardens of the houses backing onto the Little Broad there were lots of birds in the hedge and around the feeders. Blackbird, Robin, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Great Tit were all in the melay along with a lonely male Brambling, the winter birds have started to return. The Great Broad was quite as the wind whipped up a swell, i found most waterfowl sheltering behind the island. Tufted Duck numbers have increased and other new arrivals include, 3 Wigeon, 7+ Pochard and 4 Shoveler, but goose numbers seem much lower. From the screen i also located 2 Snipe on the island edge and a group of Siskin settled in the Alder above the screen, amongst them 2 Redpoll. Looking across the 'new coach park' a male Sparrowhawk sat in a fence post close by but flew off as i got out my camera, a Kestrel also flew low over Little Broad car park. Looking into the gardens again i added Coal Tit to the days list and saw the Brambling again. I walked back along the River Yare to Lakenham, seeing 4 Green Woodpecker and also finding a Hornets nest, which i watch for a few minutes.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Mega Northern Twitch

On Saturday Gary and i embarked on a twitch that was mega in more than one way. Firstly it was to see a 'Mega' in the Sandhill Crane, secondly it was in Aberdeenshire and thirdly i was working both Friday and Sunday. After work on Friday i got an early night and Gary picked me up at 3am. We drove north with only a brief breakfast stop at Scotch Corner and a petrol stop somewhere in Scotland. We made good time until we reached Aberdeen where and accident delayed us 45minutes and after hunting for the Strathbeg RSPB reserve we arrived about 1pm. Luckily enough the Sandhill Crane was viewable from the information center so we didn't have to walk far. Although a little distance, the openness of the site meant, with a scope you could get clear, detailed views without too much effort. We hung around about 45 minutes, also noting 2 juv. Pectoral Sandpiper and 4+ Barnacle Geese amongst 1000's of Pinkfoot Geese, as well the more common birds.
From Loch of Strathbeg RSPB we decided to call in a Blackdog a village we had passed on the way and with news that the Black Scoter that's been present for a few months had been seen it was worth a stop, 2 Surf Scoter were also reported in the area. Arriving we were greeted by a sea covered with a birds. Large numbers of Eider, Common Scoter and Guillemot, with Red-thraoted Diver and Razorbill mixed in. With some drake Common Scoter being well marked on the bill locating the Black Scoter wasn't easy. Gary eventually located the bird, but after a few minutes we lost it once again as it dived and moved on the tide. I had a single Puffin fly through, along with 2 Red-breasted Merganser, but we struggled to locate the Surf Scoter. Conscious of the time at 4pm we though we should start heading home. After a KFC stop at Gretna we arrived home at 1am,
22 hours, 1135 miles and 2 'Megas' after setting out.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Whitlingham Counts

I didn't feel like rising at 4am in order to get to Sheringham for a sea watch, but in retrospect maybe i should have, with a Fea's Petrel past and good numbers of shearwater also. Instead i went for an overdue walk around Whitlingham and decided to conduct a full count of the bird life in the area. I walked the water meadows at Trowse then the Great Broad loop, but plans to walk Whitlingham Marsh and the woods were cut short by a heavy thunderstorm, most of which luckily i sheltered from in the Flint Barn. I was rather surprised by the low numbers of small birds around, maybe it was just they were quiet or i simply couldn't see them through the still quite dense foliage. The wildfowl proved much easier to count, with Mute Swan, Mallard and Tufted Duck numbers starting to build. A singing Chiffchaff, Common Buzzard and 3 Kingfisher proved the only real highlights.

Cormorant x30, Grey Heron x2, Lesser Black-backed Gull x24, Black-headed Gull x38, Herring Gull x13, Common Gull x3, Buzzard x1, Carrion Crow x9, Magpie x6, Jackdaw x15, Jay x3, Mallard x103, Tufted Duck x47, Gadwall x31, Egyptian Goose x33, Coot x31, Moorhen x11, Great Crested Grebe x14, Black Swan x1, Mute Swan x98, Canada Goose x13, Greylag Goose x63, Feral/hybrid Goose x18, Wood Pigeon x97, Stock Dove x23, Collared Dove x3, Kingfisher x3, Green Woodpecker x2, Blackbird x8, Song Thrush x1, Robin x3, Dunnock x3, Wren x2, Chaffinch x8, Goldfinch x11, Great Tit x16, Blue Tit x22, Long-tailed Tit x7, Coal Tit x1, Cetti's Warbler x1,Blackcap x1, Chiffchaff x1, Whitethroat x1, Goldcrest x1.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Little Bittern @ Titchwell

I missed the previous Little Bittern at Titchwell so Laura and i planned to an earlish start, which was delayed by a leaking fish tank and heavy rain shower as we went to load the car. Even so we had arrived at Titchwell by 9.30. We soon found the pool the Little Bittern was frequenting and joined the growing crowd. After only 15 minutes the bird was relocated, luckily enough we were near the front and got views using another birder's scope, although not the best views we moved off as it was becoming a bit of a scrum. We walked up to the 'new' hide and despite the sun being in an awkward position picked up 7 Curlew Sandpiper, Knot, Dunlin, Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit, but no sign of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Looking back towards the information centre we could see a flock of Golden Plover and Cattle Egret briefly in flight pointed out by a warden. We decided not to walk out to the beach instead having a second look for the Little Bittern. Again we only waited a matter of minutes and found ourselves in the right place at the right time. The Little Bittern walked across the front of the reeds in clear view, we couldn't have asked for better views, we could see it streaked brown colouring and yellow beak clearly using only binocular. Driving back via Chosley we saw the regular Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer, before stopping off at North Creake Abbey so Laura could have a look at a vintage fair.

I'd had also better breiefly mention last Mondays jaunt around Maston Marsh and Keswick with James. Marston Marsh has had a lot of word done on it this summer, the paths have been leveled and resurfaced, and 2 'fish refuge' pools and a wader scrape created. A wet winter however will surely see the paths flooded and possibly washed away, as they have not been raised. The wader scrape is also in a position that can not be viewed, so we many never know if it attracts anything. Mini-rant over there wasn't many birds about, with only Kestrel and Great Spotted Woodpecker of note on the Marshes. In the paddocks by Eaton Common we watched a Green Woodpecker and heard an unlocateable Kingfisher. Keswick Mill Pool was also quiet but a sun trap nearby gave us Comma, Holly Blue, Peacock and White butterflies. We wandered back along the main Ipswich Road stopping to photograph the Sandy Stilt Puffballs that grow on the roadside nature reserve. On Saturday i also saw my first winter thrushes of the autumn with 2 Fieldfare flying over Grove Road while walking home from work.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Sheringham Sea Watch

Suitable sea watching days have been very limited so far this so with an all be it moderate northerly wind forecast and a day off i rose early and headed to Sheringham, meeting James at Norwich station and Gary in Sheringham. The sea was surprisingly choppy when we arrived at 6.15am, and more surprisingly the shelter was empty of birders. Around 8am the tide turned the sea became quite calm and the birds also slowed up. During the 2 hours or so we watched Skua numbers were quite good but Shearwater and Auk were disappointingly almost non-existent. The Arctic Skua included a nice mix of light and dark morph birds with a couple of full plumage adult birds complete with full tail feathers. Sandwich Tern flew through in large numbers which i gave up trying to count quite quickly. A few waders flew through and a Razorbill was the lone auk, which flew through just off the breakers.

Great Skua 5(e) 5(w) Arctic Skua 12(e) 4(w) Sandwich Tern c250(e) c30(w) Gannet 54(e) 18(w)Oystercatcher 2(e) 9(w) Red-throated Diver 2(e) Dunlin c10(w) Razorbill 1(e) Turnstone 3(w) Fulmer 1(w) Common Scoter 3(e) Canada Goose 12(e) Skua sp. 2(e) Shearwater sp. 3(e).

By 8.15am the sea was quiet so we walked up and over Beeston Bump, the scrubby land beyond the hill gave up a few small birds. A Lesser Whitethroat was probably the pick of the bunch before we walked back and waited for the train.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Warblers in Brief

James called me on Friday to tell me he was going to look for the Greenish Warbler at Cromer, but with rain chucking down and other things to do i decided to try on Saturday. Again on a tight schedule me and Laura arrived at Warren Wood but could only stay about an hour. The Greenish and W Bonelli's both had been heard but only briefly seen. 3 Chiffchaff flitted about in the bushes bordering Happy Valley along with a family of Chaffinch, 2 Blackcap and a lone Whitethroat, while 5 Swifts and a few Sand Martins flew overhead. Just before we had to leave the tit flock came through the area we were watching, complete with the Bonelli's Warbler it tow. I only got brief views before the bird was chased off by the male Blackcap but this was enough for me to see it's very pale underside and yellow tinge to the wing. After physio i returned mid-afternoon with Gary, and it didn't take long for us to hear the Greenish Warbler call in the Holm Oak on the hilltop, the same place Gary saw the bird in pouring rain on Friday. Gary found the bird but no sooner had he located it a Chiffchaff arrived and chased it up higher into the canopy. Despite waiting around another hour and half we only heard the Greenish Warbler once more and probably heard the Bonelli's Warbler also. As another storm threatened we headed back to North Walsham. Brief views of both birds, but many people will struggle to even see them in the leafly sycamore, and hopefully if this mini influx of Greenish continues and i'll catch up with another bird.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Around Holt

Last Sunday Laura and I decided to have a look around Holt and get a bite to eat. James' recent trip to Baconsthorpe inspired me to visit while nearby. The Ruins of Baconsthorpe Castle are down a long track and we had the site to ourselves. The nearby farmyard and Castle mere provided us with a selection of avian delights. We watched a family of 6 Little Grebe fed on the mere along with Coot, Moorhen and Mallard. 3 Grey Heron flew over as we walked back towards the car and a small group of Stock Dove were in the area. Back at the car i noticed a large group of small bird son the nearby wires, and getting out the scope i was delighted to ID them as c30 Corn Bunting. We had our wander around Holt before calling into Cley NWT for a cup of tea and cake. We didn't wander to far but still scanned over the scrapes and marshes, noting Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, 2 Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Sandwich Tern and 2 Spoonbill, as well as the more common waders.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Upper Yare Valley

The coast is still quite a trek on public transport, so even with the prospect of a few early migrant on the coast i decided to stay local and walk the River Yare between Eaton and Bowthorpe. By Cringleford Mill i spent awhile looking at the Dragonflies and Damselflies in the area, mulling over the identification of a few. Banded and Emerald Damoiselles, Ruddy Darter, Migrant and Brown Hawker were all in the area along with a few butterflies enjoying the sun's early warmth. Not far along the riverside path and i had the best bird of the day a Honey Buzzard flew low over the meadows, before drifted south out of sight. Although the best bird of the day had shown up early there was plenty more to see. Before reaching the UEA i had seen 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Green Woodpecker, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Sedge Warbler amongst other common birds. The UEA Broad was quiet with a lone family of Great Crested Grebe and a few Mallard. The playing fields offered more with a large group of Starling on the pylons, c30 Goldfinch, 2 Stock Dove and female Kestrel. Pied Wagtails often gather here in winter and i was surprised to count 41 on the cricket pitch nearest the hospital. A lone Common Tern and Swallow passed over head as i approached Earlham Park, where a Kingfisher perched up and then whizzed past me. On Bowthorpe Marshes a helicopter flushed a family of Red-legged Partridge and almost everything else. Walking the grazing marshes and riverbank i found a further 6 Green Woodpecker and 2 more Great Spotted Woodpecker, a large group of Long-tailed Tit, 2 family groups of Linnet and a lone Bullfinch. At Bowthorpe as the sun once again emerged from the clouds dragonflies zoomed about, a mixture of Ruddy and Common Darter, Migrant Hawker and singles of Brown Hawker and Emperor Dragonfly. As well as more Banded Demoiselle and Common Blue Damselfly. I also saw 2 Mink on the river near the ponds, with Jim seeing them at Surlingham does this mean they are increasing in number once again? On the subject of 'pests' i counted over 30 Magpie at Bowthorpe! The final bird of the walk was a Sparrowhawk which flew across Earlham Park as i started to walk home along Earlham Road. 44 species of bird, 8 species of dragonfly/damselfly and 9 species of Butterfly was much more than i had hoped for when setting out.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Waders at Thorpe

From experience I've learnt not to be at Cley when rain in forecast, the only sure thing is you'll get soaked. So despite my initial intention to look for the Pectoral Sandpiper, Spoonbill and Little Stints, i decided to keep nearer home and went down to Thorpe Station Marsh. Approaching the footbridge over the railway i noticed a family of Linnet and a Whitethroat on the rough ground. From the cattle pen the mashes and scrape were deserted so i walked along the river bank to view the spit and shingle. I soon found the Lapwing that recently have been gathering on the scrape area, I counted 46, but also 5 Greenshank, 4 Oystercatcher and 2 Green Sandpiper. The most waders I've seen on site at once. Walking the rest of the circuit I flushed c30 Stock Doves from the grazing marsh, but saw little else, 2 Blue Tit, 1 Wren and a few Carrion Crow. though I did think i heard a Yellow Wagtail overhead.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Pub Birding in Thorpe St Andrews

With Laura settling into her new job I found myself with a day off while she was at work. So on Tuesday I met up with James to have a look around Thorpe Station Marshes. In short the marshes were deserted except for a growing flock of c65 Lapwing and the small resident Stock Dove flock. We stopped at the Town House for a carvery lunch and dispite the drizzle we decided to sit in the garden. The next hour was the most fruitful of the day, as the drizzle soon eased i picked up 2 'pub ticks' in Whitethroat and Garden Warbler, while James also added Kingfisher to his publist. Other beer related birds included, Coal Tit, Blackcap, a family of recently fledged Goldcrest and a Bullfinch we could hear but not sadly see. Walking back through Carey's Meadow we only added a juv. Chiffchaff to the days list and saw more Blackcap.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Out of Norfolk!

It's been a month since my last post, put simply i haven't been out, and on the odd occasion i have I've been looking at orchids, butterflies and dragonflies. With Laura starting a new job next week and me having this week off work i booked a few days away in Derbyshire, as well be working slightly different shifts patterns from now on.
Driving up to Chesterfield on Monday, we made Rutland Water our midway stop off. This gave me a chance to pick up a life tick with a stonking adult Spotted Sandpiper, we also watched c15 Common Sandpiper and and maybe 1o Green Sandpiper from the Lyndon Reserve. It as always nice to see the Osprey with 3 fledglings starting to fly. A family of Kestrel were still just small enough to huddle in their nest box to avoid a shower but the Tree Sparrow were notable by their absence.
The Western Bonelli's Warbler still remained on territory, so with unsettled weather forecast for the next few days we headed out first thing on Tuesday. Shortly after arriving at the site i heard a call i would not have recognised until a few nights before when i had been researching. That said i could not see the bird in question, a Willow Warbler then a Chiffchaff briefly exciting me before the heavens opened. After the shower passed the Bonelli's called again this time much closer. I got brief flight views twice as it flitted across the path and finally a clear in brief view perched. A second heavy shower seemed then to lay the bird low. After 30minutes of waiting we decided to leave but not after watching fledgling families of Meadow Pipit, Blackbird, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Song Thrush, not to mention Swallow and House Martin skimming the meadows. As we walked back to the car the Bonelli's Warbler again called, but i contented myself with close views of a male Bullfinch, before changing out of my wet clothes in the car.
Wednesday and Thursday the weather remained overcast but still pleasant enough. We didn't really go looking for any other birds, but the large numbers of Swallow nesting in the ruins of Old Hardwick Hall kept us amused as we visited the NT property and we also had an Osprey fly over the car as we drove home some where in Lincolnshire. Two life ticks rounded off a nice short break.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Insects and Nightjar

With a long weekend off i finally managed to get down to Horsey on Friday to look for the 1st-summer Red-footed Falcon. After picking up mum and dad we headed off, near Hickling we saw what turned out to be the best bird of the day with a female Montagu's Harrier crossing the road and quartering the field. With that been the best bird you would have guessed that the Red-footed Falcon had gone. We took a slow pace down the track as this was the first time mum has walked any distance since her knee replacement, but this gave us time to admire the many butterflies and insects amongst the nearby flowers. 6-spot Burnet Moth were on every thistle, but also Small Tortoiseshell, Small Heath, Meadow Brown, a lone Gatekeeper and best of all 4 Dark-green Fritillary by the dunes. Back in North Walsham a short walk on Spa Common gave up a Great Spotted Woodpecker and my first Ringlet butterflies of the year, before we enjoyed a lovely meal a Skyton Goat Inn.

On Saturday Laura and i had a Chinese with Gary and Claire before heading out to see if we could locate Nightjar for Laura. Going to our normal site for around 9pm we expected a longish wait as it was rather light, and a nearby party was pumping out music. The music stopped shortly after we arrived and after only 5/10 minutes a Nightjar started to churr. Then from behind us a second bird flew over our heads and perched up. The bird flew a few circuits around us between perching in a Silver birch. The good light meant we could see all the features of the bird clearly. I counted atleat 4 birds in flight across the site before we left, with it still being light enough to see a late flying Hawker Sp. dragonfly.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

A Green Surprise!

Since the Waxwing left my walk to work has been rather quiet, but yesterday i got a surprise. Cutting across Jenny Lind park close to where James and i used to live i over heard a couple "...oh they've got parakeets here like at home" they pointed at something and carried on walking. Well I've been to Titchwell recently and I've heard some bizarre ID calls by people with spotless Swarovski scopes and a pristine Collin's Guide. This said i had to look, without my bins i couldn't see a thing in the tree they pointed at, but as i was about to go sure enough a Ring-necked Parakeet flew over my head into a different tree. Whether the bird is genuine or an escape I'll probably never know, unless i spot a 'Lost Parakeet' poster on Monday morning, none the less a nice little surprise before work.

With today being Father's Day we took Laura's dad for a walk around Strumpshaw Fen. The cool breeze and occasional drizzle killed on the chance of seeing many dragonflies or butterflies, i only saw a unidentifiable hawker buzz past and single Blue-tailed Damselfly all the way around. Bird life was much more promising with many young fledglings in the reed beds and bushes seemed alive with warblers. Cetti's, Grasshopper, Reed, Willow, Sedge, Blackcap, Whitethroat, and Chiffchaff were all seen. The ducks all looked rather drab in ellipse plumage, not good when trying to give Laura's dad a lesson in Bird ID. At least 4 Marsh Harrier hunted over the reserve with a pair of Hobby zooming around amongst the hindrines. A Cuckoo was heard but couldn't be found and of the other small birds 2 Marsh Tit by the river proved the highlight. Kingfisher and Otter had been seen from Reception Hide but after 20min or so we decided to head home for lunch.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Supper: Roller, Breakfast:Swallowtail, Lunch:Osprey followed by cake!

I finally have had two days off work that have given up birds worthy of having their own blog, rather than a belated catchup thingy! Monday i was planning a day out to look for dragonflies and butterflies, but with the morning over cast Laura and i just pottered round the house. This changed when i checked Birdguides over lunch, 'Roller at Upper Hollesley Common', i need a lift as Laura was going to her mum's. A quick chat with Gary and a plan was drawn up, but the 3 hours i had to wait while he finished at work dragged on. Driving down was quite tense with Gary, Philip and myself all desperate to see the bird, and a quiet pager didn't help. We needn't have worried as arriving just before 6pm we watched the bird for about an hour, giving good views at mid-distance. A bird i will remember along time, sadly i couldn't get a photo.

On Tuesday Laura and i decided a stroll on the Broads was in order and headed to Ranworth. While driving over the Postwick Viaduct we had a Marsh Harrier flying level with us over Whitlingham Marshes, a new patch tick. At Ranworth, from the Maltsters pub i could see Common Tern, Great Crested Grebe, Egyptian Goose , Chiffchaff and Marsh Harrier to name a few. Walking the nature trail we were surrounded by warblers calling, mainly Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Willow Warbler but also Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warbler, all probably with young. A hobby also screamed past chasing dragonflies. Quite a few Black-tailed Skimmer zipped about and Laura picked out a Swallowtail not far from the path. From the info centre a located the long staying Osprey, before we went on a guided boat trip of the broad. It was very relaxing giving close views of the Common Tern, Marsh Harrier, Great Crested Grebe and the Osprey perched up, before catching a fish close by. c400 Greylag Geese are roosting on the broad while they moult and where joined by 2 escaped Bar-headed Geese. We got the ferry back into Ranworth village where a second Swallowtail of the day powered past as we sat enjoying a nice slice of Victoria sponge. All in all a very enjoyable 2days off.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

A Quiet Month for Me

I haven't posted for nearly a month because well i haven't seen much, i had no luck with the Great Snipe, found few migrants, should have gone to look for the Broad-billed Sandpiper, Rosefinch and Bonaparte's Gull but didn't and yesterday i should have gone to see the White-throated Robin, but again work got in the way. I have managed to drag myself a few times but single trips to Cley, Salthouse and Whitlingham has been the limit of my birding adventures. A trip to Cley on the 13th May was probably the month's highlight. Although the Great Snipe was not showing i still saw the Lesser Yellow-legs, Temminck Stint, Wood Sandpiper on the pools, before finding a male Ring Ouzel along the back roads. A trip to Salthouse with Gary was rather windswept on the 15th. We walked the shingle and then the middle track before endulging in some 'Pub Bird Watching' A male Whinchat was probably the highlight on the track with a few Wheatear on the shingle and Whimbrel over from the pub. My net trip out wasn't then until the 5th June to Whitlingham. Being the end of half-term it was rather busy with boats and canoes every where. I soon found a pair of Spotted Flycatcher not far from were James had advised me to look but failed to connect with either of the two Cuckoo he had seen the previous day. A Garden warbler at the east end of the Great Broad was the only other bird of note, but Damselflies were everywhere along with a few dragonflies darting about. Walking down Magdalen Street it was nice to see a male Peregrine bombing over a rooftop level, if still a bit unexpected.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Minsmere RSPB

Finally I'm nearly up todate with my postings. On the last day of our extended Easter Break (04/05/11) Laura and i headed to Minsmere, hoping that the White-winged Black Tern remained, however well aware with the change in wind conditions it would probably have gone. On the way we stopped near Halesworth to look for the Woodchat Shrike, we met four other bird who hadn't seen the bird but after 30 minutes or so i found a distant perched bird through the growing heat-haze. With the bird facing away the white scapulars were the only obvious feature. Although always distant the bird did move to give a conclusive ID. At Minsmere as expected the WWB Tern had moved off, and also the North Wall path was closed, so we walked via West and South Hides to the beach where we had lunch in the dunes before looking at East Hide and returning via the same route. The scrapes were all dominated by Black-headed Gull but i did manage to pick out 2 Med. Gull, 1 Caspian Gull and 2 Yellow-legged Gull, as well as Common, Sandwich and Little Tern. At least 3 Common Sandpiper were seen along with 2 Curlew Sandpiper and the usual waders. On the return trip i thought I'd check the sightings board in West Hide, and as i did so 2 Black Tern were being added to the list. They briefly stopped on the scrapes before heading towards Island Mere. A quick stop at the pond by the centre gave us views of Hairy Hawker, Common Hawker and 4 Spot Chaser, before we returned home via Southwold for an ice cream.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

May Bird Race

Although not a true bird race (as we are the only team) every spring Gary, James and myself aim to see as many birds as we can in 1 day. The last two years we gone on 'Late May Bank Holiday Weekend' have notched up 113 (+4 heard) and 115(+4), this year in a bid to get more migrants we decided to move the race forward to the 'Early May Bank Holiday'. Also in previous years we have wandered very slightly over the borders this year, it was a solely Norfolk Bird Race.

Gary collected James and I about 4am and we arrived at Santon Downham before sunrise. This gave us time to walk down river to look for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, but also ment a blank list as we had added nothing on our journey there. 1st bird of the day was Moorhen, followed by Woodpigeon, Mallard and Carrion Crow. Gary then briefly saw a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, that James and i sadly missed, we spent the next 30min or so looking for the bird but without success. We did however add 24 more species before returning to the car, highlights being Willow Tit, Garden Warbler, Mandarin, Grey Wagtail and Crossbill. We then drove to the St Helen's Picnic area, here we added 13 more species, including Siskin, Goldcrest and Green Woodpecker. James also spotted a Kingfisher zoom past that Gary and i missed. 41 birds had us well ahead of the 27 we had as we left Santon Downham last year.

A brief stop at Grimes Graves gave us Tree Pipit before Weeting gave up Collared Dove, House Sparrow, Stone Curlew, Lapwing, Mistle Thrush and Chiffchaff.

As last year Lakenheath Fen was the next stop, but with the main reserve being in Suffolk we had to be content viewing Norfolk's Hockwold Fen across the river, this saved us time as we didn't wait around looking for Golden Oriole, Hobby or Cuckoo. Scanning The Flash we soon found Gargany (3+), Little Grebe, Shoveler and other common waterfowl. In the air Sand Martin, House Martin, Common Tern and a surprise Arctic Tern few around. I picked up a distant Meadow Pipit and Skylark, before James and Gary found Marsh Harrier and Kestrel. Before a Reed Bunting duly flew from Suffolk into Norfolk for us, and as we were about to leave c15 Bar-tailed Godwit flew through. We had added 25 species at Hockwold before moving on.

At Welney the wind was much stronger, the idea was to look for the Bluethroat, but with the wind we stood little chance. There were no Corn Bunting on the wires, but a Yellow Wagtail fought the winds as it flew over the car park. Lady's Fen gave us only Avocet and Redshank before we wandered down to the Lyle Hide looking for the Bluethroat, with the wind whipping about we first scanned the marsh, picking up Wigeon, Whooper and Bewick's Swan. We had almost given up on the Bluethroat before we started when Gary hear a faint call, after only a few minutes wait the Bluethroat popped up in full view close to us, although brief we had enough to admire the bird. 2 Little Ringed Plover were on the Scrape and Tree Sparrow were on the feeders.

A couple of Swift near Nordelph was my first of the year, and with a few other common bird we arrived at Roydon Common with 90 species already under our belt. We heard then located a Yellowhammer before Gary located James and i a Cuckoo (he had seen one at Hockwold), followed by a Whimbrel and a fly-over Common Buzzard, but with little else about we moved on. Flitcham was equally disappointing the wind kept the Little Owl out of sight, but James did spot a Wheatear nearby and quite a few Grey Partridge were in the area.

As we reached the coast the wind really picked up at Titchwell we would barrely be able to stand at times, but first we checked Choseley, atleast 1 Lesser Whitethroat was near the farm but again we failed to see Corn Bunting. On the RSPB reserve we rounded up a few of the waders missing from our list, inclusing Spotted Redshank, Ruff and Common Sandpiper, and most of the gulls. A very brief look out to see left us sand blasted and with only a single Common Scoter to add to the list. Somehow through a swaying scope Gary located 2 Little Tern and then a male Red-crested Pochard. Despite the wind we had added 16 species and heard a Turtle Dove.

The next few stops only added the odd bird here and there. At Friary Hills the Ring Ouzel had gone but we spotted a Greenshank, Cley had no Spoonbill, but Sandwich Tern, Reed Warbler, Green Sandpiper and my first Hobby of the year. Kelling Heath produced nothing, but the Water Meadows added 3 Woodsandpiper to the list. The light was fading but we returned to Cley Coastguards hoping the Spoonbill would roost, they didn't but i found a small group of summer plumage Golden Plover in the Eye Field. Salthouse Heath was nearly in darkness as we picked up a Nightingale singing close to the road, picking out its silhouette we listened to the bird awhile, a satisfying end to a long day. As we approached Holt one final bird added itself to the list as a Barn Owl perch up close to the road. A finally tally gave me a total of 123 species seen and 6 extras heard, James and Gary saw one more bird than me, but heard 1 less.

End of April

If i don't do my write ups as soon as i get home i tend too forget, and of late the Internet has been a right a***, so once again i find myself typing another 'catch-up' post. I had the week after Easter of so made the most of the weather, getting out as often as possible.

23/04/11 - Eaton Common, Norwich
Not much to write home about really, a Willow Warbler, 2 Whitethroat and Chiffchaff the only migrants. A pair of Kingfisher at Keswick Mill kept Laura and i entertained while we had a picnic and i was confused by a mimicking Song Thrush.

24/04/11 - East Runton
Getting ready for a family BBQ Gary called to inform me of the Citrine Wagtail on the coast, so we immediately left to be back in time for food. The sun of Norwich gave way to thick sea mist, and i froze in my shorts, but the stunning male Citrine Wagtail showed well despite the light. In the same meadow 3+ Yellow Wagtail, 3 Wheatear numerous Linnet also fed.

25/04/11 - Surlingham Church Marsh
I've only over walked the river bank path of Surlingham Marsh so Laura and i had a more thorough investigation to avoid the Easter Monday crowds of the coast. The reserve itself was bigger than i expected and despite a great habitat for many species i failed to find that many on a hot day. 2 LRP on the scrape were the highlight, with most of the expected expected warblers also about.

26/04/11 - Whitlingham CP
With the children back at school i found Whitlingham quiet once again, this was only my second walk around of the year so i was soon adding patch year ticks to my under visited patch. The first highlight was a Peregrine over Colmans factory viewed from Trowse Water Meadow, no doubt one of the nesting birds from the cathedral. A large number of Sand Martin were joined by smaller numbers of House Martin and Swallow over the Great Broad and i found a Common Sandpiper resting on one of the fishing platforms. In the conservation area a Kingfisher sat in the reeds and 2 Stock Dove were on the island, behind me a Grasshopper Warbler reeled and after 10min or so i located it in the scrub by the path to the screen. Whitethroat were singing all along the river bank, and in the same bramble patch as the last 2 years i located my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year. Scanning Thorpe Station Marsh i found my 2nd Common Sandpiper of the day with 2 LRP and a Green Sandpiper all on the stony spit.

29/04/11 - Stiffkey Fen/Cley/Salthouse/Kelling
A trip around a few sites in North Norfolk with dad turned up some good birds but also left me slightly frustrated. At Stiffkey we has 2 Firecrest on the track, Common Sandpiper in the margins and Whimbrel on the saltmarsh. But the most frustrating bird was the probable Black Kite that i had while walking back to the car, the bird drifted inland as i watched through my binoculars, but as soon as i moved to the scope the bird drifted behind the tree line before i could confirm the ID, a later report of the bird in the same place niggled at me the rest of the day. At Cley we quickly visited the main cluster of hides before having a cuppa in the cafe. We still added Spoonbill (3), Sandwich Tern and Garganey to my year list before walking Gramborough Hill at Salthouse, my favorite migrant spot. The wind was quite strong, but we sound found 2 Whinchat in the bushes and a Wheatear on the posts. Scanning the marshes from the hillside i found my 4th Common Sandpiper of the day (there was 2 at Cley) and also a Woodsandpiper both in a dyke i wouldn't have seen at ground level. Salthouse Heath failed to deliver a Nightingale, though it was early afternoon so we head to Kelling Heath. It didn't take to long to locate a Dartford Warbler singing not far from the place i last saw one last year. Further along the same track i nearly stood on 2 Woodlark before they flew skywards singing, a further 2 were seen perch nearby. Walking back towards the car i flushed a pipit that on closer inspection was a Tree Pipit, a year tick just before we headed home.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Spring Update

Haven't really been out that much and when I have been out haven't got around to writing things up, so here goes with a whistle stop update!

02/04/11 - Headed out with Gary and his dad to Landguard in Suffolk to look for the Short-toes Treecreeper, which we duly found, also of note were 2 Black Redstart, Firecrest and my first Chiffchaff of the year. From here we moved onto Upper Hollesey Common, where after finding the right site we viewed a Great Grey Shrike near the military base. A brief stop at Lowestoft failed to turn up the Iceland Gull that has been present all winter, be we did see the large numbers of Kittiwake that have returned to nest.

09/04/11 - A visit to a complaining customer had me visiting South Norfolk to put right the wrongs of a delivery driver, and adding a few year tick on the drive. A House Martin was seen in New Buckenham, a Grey Partridge tried to land on the bonnet near Kenninghall and a Turtle Dove was seen on wires not far from Banham.

11/04/11 - A late afternoon walk around Marston Marshes a site I've not visited in a while gave me a single Swallow, and a whole host of warblers, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, but the best bird of the evening was a male Hawfinch which was in the ''island' of trees by the river before flying towards the Pheasant pens.

12/04/11 - The previous day being sunny would have been nice at Strumpshaw RSPB, but this day was cool and breezy, not ideal for migrant hunting. Sand Martin, House Martin and Swallow hawked on the pools along with 4+ Marsh Harrier. The riverside bushes held large numbers of Blackcap singing as loud as ever, as well as a Cetti's Warbler and many often elusive Sedge Warbler. A Willow Warbler sang in the open as we approached the Fen Hide, where we views a Ferruginous duck of unknown origin, but it showed no sign of any leg rings. Walking back via the woods we go close views of Marsh Tit and another Willow Warbler.

17/04/11 - An afternoon trip to Thorpe Station Marsh added many bird to my Whitlingham Yearlist as i haven't visited the area much this year. Pausing by the cattle pen i soon had seen 3+ Little Ringed Plover as well as the resident Stock Dove flock and a distant Buzzard flying over Thorpe St Andrews. I then walked along the river back scanning back across to the spit i picked up most of the resident ducks, as well as a single Snipe and late staying female Goldeneye. 2 Whitethroat were near the bird screen and a Little Gull was in the air then later seen on the shingle. Back by the railways and reed bed i picked up Sedge, Reed and Cetti's Warbler as well as Chiffchaff and Blackcap in the railways side trees. By the foobridge i heard a Grasshopper Warbler so sat down for a while hoping to hear the bird again and locate it, something i never did. While waiting however i spotted what i initially though was the Buzzard again heading high and east over Thorpe St Andrews but closer inspection reveled the tell-tail features of a Red Kite, a very welcome patch tick.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Wheatear and some Mist

With 6 days off Laura and I had set aside Monday as 'Bird Watching Day' and after a bit of thinking decided on a trip to Titchwell RSPB rather than Minsmere RSPB, some i later regretted. I started by having a quick look out into the garden, only 6 common species but it was a start. Our first stop was Guist, but before we arrived another 6 common species had the total at 12, but nothing of note. A drake Mandarin was on the river, but was chased out of view by a pair of Egyptian Geese before Laura saw it, 5 Reed Bunting where on the wires nearby and a Buzzard was circling as we left the village. Arriving at Choseley we had totaled 19 and soon added a further 9 species. The mixed flock of Yellowhammer/Corn Bunting was bathed in lovely spring sun shine. c30 Golden Plover also held a lonely Turnstone and 2 Stock Dove feed on spilt grain. Looking down the hill we then got a surprise, below us was a very thick blanket of sea mist, covering the reserve and all the coast. Walking the Fen Trail i picked out a Bullfinch and Cetti's Warbler, as well as more common stuff on the feeders. The pools to the west of the main track and fresh marsh could not be viewed through the mist, with only a few waders visible near the margins. The new hides don't seem to bad if full of 'novice' birders. A female Goldeneye was close in along with c12 Snipe, as for the rest of the birds it was a challenge to ID them. Visibility did improve from time to time and eventually i had most of the common waders. The beach and sea were even thicker in mist, but i picked up a close Spotted Redshank and Rock Pipit on the brackish marsh. Back at the centre with a bacon bap we had a female Brambling and Siskin on the feeders. We left the reserve about 1pm just as the mist started to thin, with a total of 67 species. A brief stop near Holkham Church added a few lingering Pinkfeet, a single White-fronted Goose and a singing Marsh Tit, but also our first Wheatear of the year. A final stop on the way home failed to add the hoped for Woodlark or Dartford Warbler although the former was heard. 3 more common species gave a total of 76 not bad considering the appalling visibility at Titchwell, but to top it off 3 Penduline Tit were found and showed well at Minsmere all day!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Gary's Birthday Birding

After visiting my parents on Friday we decided to drop in at Horstead Mill. There was a few people around so i wasn't expecting the local Grey Wagtail to be around but after initially no sign and a walk across the meadows, Laura located a Grey Wagtail as we returned to the car. I promptly located a further 4 all feeding in or by the sluice. 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker called in the trees and i though i briefly heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker also calling.
On Saturday Gary and I headed to The Poachers Pocket in Walcott for a bit of Birthday Beer and Birding. We picked up one new 'pub list bird' with a breeding plumage Fulmer, a group of 5 Dunlin flew through and 2 Med Gulls where in the area. Also worth noting was a small passage of Gannet east with c20 passing through in the 45min or so we watched the see. A brief walk around the Witton area failed to turn up a couple of hoped for birds, but we did find probably our last large group of winter thrushes of the winter, with c50 Fieldfare and c25 Redwing in the meadows by the church. At least 2 Buzzard where in the area but the biggest surprise of the day was a juv. Red Kite over.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Starling Dance

Walking home from work Laura and I spotted a large cloud of Starling swirling, calling and trailing across the sky over Sainsbury's in Norwich. The flock of c2000 Starling skitted about for about 10 minutes before all diving into a couple of trees on on Grove Road. This spectacle I've seen over the reed beds of the Broads a couple of times but never before in the city, and it captivated Laura.
Yesterday I finally made it down to Whitlingham, despite hoping to visit my local patch atleast fortnightly this year this was my first visit of the year. It was rather quiet, not to mention cold. Most of the wintering wildfowl appears to have moved off and a failed to connect with the Siskin, Redpoll, Finch or Tit flocks, with just odd birds. That said the 80+ Teal in the conservation area are worth noting as were the 2 female type Goosander asleep against the island. The bird of the day though was probably the single Dunlin wandering on the shingle spit of Thorpe Station Marsh, viewed across the river from Whitlingham. The Great Crested Grebes have started to pair up and we watched one pair as the performed there weed dance.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Marlingford Great White Egret

Last Thursday Laura told me she had seen 3 men standing in the road near Marlingford with optics, wasn't sure what was there and couldn't stop to ask them. No news the blogs or birdguides so i thought nothing of it. Saturday morning and news of a Great White Egret near Marlingford, working Saturday and Sunday i hoped the bird stayed put. Online directions meant little, so Laura drove me to the place she had seen the men in the road. No birders, no cars but a Great White Egret in clear view. The bird was feeding in the dykes and flooded meadows just east of the village, feeding in the open the bird gave great views, even giving us a fly past, before continuing fishing. This was a long over due life tick, I've looked for a few in the past without success, and i really hadn't anticipated the massive size of this bird. Back in the garden another new 'garden tick' was a Redwing perched up in a tree two gardens down, but still viewable from our garden. The Blackcap appears to have left but the female Siskin still remains with the Goldfinch flock which has doubled in size to 10 birds in the last week.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Oriental Not So Slaty-backed Turtle Gull Dove

Basically we saw the Oriental Turtle Dove in Chipping Norton but dipped the Slaty-backed Gull at Rainham RSPB. That pretty much sums up last Friday when Gary and i went on our first long distance twitch of the year, and also our last for a while with Gary and Claire's baby due in the next couple of weeks. In Chipping Norton the Turtle Dove although elusive at times eventually gave good views, i did need a box though! I big thanks must go to the residents of the area that have let many birders trample their gardens. Also noted was a surprisingly large number of Bullfinch, 2 Brambling, a Blackcap and numerous Tits. Driving from there we passed along the M40, an area I've always been told is great for Red Kite. Sure enough we saw probably 35+ between Oxford and London with one group of 15+ quite a spectacle. At Rainham the RSPB carpark was closed after an accident near the access road the night before, but finding a suitable verge we parked up before heading off towards the tip. 2 hours scanning the large gull flock roosting on the marshes failed to turn up the Slaty-backed Gull. Although one bird looked an idea candidate until it moved, allowing us to then dismiss it due to its small size. A fly though Peregrine was also my first of the year.

Pack in the garden my regular 10 minute feeder watch before work on 22nd, resulted in a unexpected female Siskin on the Niger feeder, a new garden tick in the form of a male Bullfinch perched in the back hedge and rare for the garden a Wren which seemed to take objection to a Dunnock under the feeders.

Friday, 11 February 2011

40th Garden Tick

I still haven't been able to find much birding time, as we have now started some wedding prep, but luckily there has been very little of interest to look for anyway. I have however been keeping an eye on the garden, although the very cold days seem behind us, quite a lot of birds are still frequenting t he feeders. Today in a free 10minutes before i had to leave for work the male Blackcap that first appeared 2/3 weeks ago was back and also a Goldcrest briefly stopped on the suet feeder before disappearing deep into the hunnysuckle of the hedge, my 40th 'garden tick' since moving in last August.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Waxwings at work

After reading of Waxwing on Bar Street on Bird Guides i wondered if they actually meant Ber Street, so being a little early for work i decide to have a look around. Sure enough in the apple tree where the 'Pot Company' used to be, opposite work 3 Waxwing were frantically feeding on the apples. They seemed unaware of the people walking past, in fact standing by the fence of was probably less than 10ft away. Tomorrow I'll take my camera to work, and because of this I'm sure they would have gone.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Painting and Garden Watching

Most of this weekend was spent visiting Gary to paint his new nursery. I had promised i would paint some birds for him and with the baby due in 6 weeks i though i better start. Before catching the train to Gary's i had a brief look in the garden, the male Blackcap was still about and a female Sparrowhawk flew over, but with only a small amount of time put off the 'RSPB Garden Watch' until Sunday. Between painting Gary took me for a pint and bowl of Cheesey Chips at the Poachers Pocket at Walcott. The surprised look on the barmaids face when we rested to be served outside was great. We soon added Red-throated Diver to the pub list, with them flying in all directions, i gave up counting at about 15. Lots of gulls were about but no Med Gull. Just before we left a smaller wader flew past which Gary relocated, a Purple Sandpiper was then duly added to the pub list. We had a Buzzard driving back, Brambling and loads of finches in Gary's garden.

On Sunday morning Laura and I started by doing our hour of the RSPB Garden Watch, racking up 18 species, before heading off to Gary and Claire's for me to continue with my painting. A Treecreeper was a new 'Garden Tick', the Blackcap and Sparrowhawk appeared again. Also flyover were more Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Carrion Crow and Feral Pigeon.

14 - Long-tailed Tit
10 - Blackbird
9 - Chaffinch
3 - Goldfinch
3 - Blue Tit
3 - Collared Dove
3 - Woodpigeon
3 - Great Tit
2 - Starling
1 - Magpie
1 - Black-headed Gull
1 - Dunnock
1 - Blackcap
1 - Treecreeper
1 - House Sparrow
1 - Sparrowhawk
1 - Coal Tit
1 - Greenfinch

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Cley East Bank

Having stayed overnight with my parents, we all went out for a morning drive/walk to Cley. We parked up in East Bank carpark and walked down the bank to look for the American Wigeon. Walking out we could see very few Wigeon of any type, but did pick up a couple of Bearded Tit in the reeds and a Spotted Redshank on Arnold's Marsh. A large flock of Snow Bunting could also be seen flying along the shingle ridge. Walking back some of the Wigeon had reappeared and after a bit of scanning we located the drake American Wigeon. Geese streamed overhead, mainly Pinkfeet and Dark-bellied Brent. Dad then picked out 6 Bean Geese near the back of the main group as they flew west, a Barnacle goose was also with the Brents and a lone Whooper Swan was near the Coast Road. Looking over the main scrapes i added Avocet and a surprise Green Sandpiper to my fledgling yearlist, as well as Dunlin, Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit and Bar-tailed Godwit. We then moved onto Blakeney, before returning to the NWT Info centre for a warming cup of tea.

Friday, 14 January 2011

New Year Proposal

Work, the weather and other engagements have limited my birding activities so far this year. On the 1st after a quiet New Years at Gary and Claire's, Gary and i rose early to start our Jan 1st bird race. With Gary still suffering and on crutches, Gary's dad joined us acting as stand in driver and we head towards Titchwell for first light. The first bird of the year was a Barn Owl near Morsten. The day was dull and drizzly so a good total wouldn't be easy. We picked up a few birds walking out to the beach in the near darkness, but the best birds of the day was on the beach, a group of 9 Shore Lark east of the boardwalk. We collected a lot of the usual waders, and wintering ducks on the sea and a group of Snow Bunting flew through before we returned to the main reserve. We briefly saw the Northern Harrier over Thornham Marshes, and 2 Water Pipit were of note on the fresh marsh, before we watched the feeders by the cafe, as we ate our bacon baps. Choseley was very disappointing with only a single Mistle Thrush on the wires. Stopping to look for Tree Sparrow we stumbled upon a group of 200+ Brambling, the biggest surprise of the day near Burnham Market, large numbers of Linnet were also in the area. Back on the coast we watched the 2 Rough-legged Buzzard at Holkham, but missed the 2 Smew at Wells, and added Red-throated and Great Northern Diver from Salthouse beach. A brief call at Felbrigg added Goldcrest and Nuthatch, before we caught up with the Whooper/Bewick's Swan flock near Catfield. Last stop of the day was Stubb Mill, from the roost we added 5 Crane and Woodcock to the list, also hearing Kingfisher and Tawny Owl. i counted 43 Marsh Harrier, 3+ Ringtail and 1 Male Hen Harrier while at the roost and watched the 1000's of Pinkfeet returning to roost. For the full days listing see my main website.

On the 9th Laura and i visited some of the places we visited on out very first day out birdwatching, staring first at Barton Broad where i soon added Tufted Duck and Pochard to the year list. I then found drake and redhead Smew which frustrating then swam out of view, it then took a frustrating 15/20 minutes before i relocated them through a gap in the trees so Laura could see them. A Tufted Duck x Pochard hybrid was also found, but no Scaup. Horsey was the next stop, while walked down the Nelson track to see the Seals a skein of White-fronted Geese flew over. There were lots of people at the seal watch point, but few birds on the beach or surrounding area. Sanderling and Turnstone about it, so i had a quick sea watch. 2 GN Diver headed east along with 2 Red-throated Diver and 2 Kittiwake. A Black-throated diver was the surprise find as it headed west. I had plans to go to the Nelson Pub and sit in front of the fire, but arriving at 12.15, 15 minutes after it opened it was standing room only! Once back home and warm, i proposed to Laura, something i wanted to do in front of the pubs roaring fire, she said yes!

Today with yet more drizzle, and not many birds about to go see, i decided against a planned trip to see the American Wigeon at Cley, instead opting for a little shopping in the City. This did give me a chance to catch up with the Waxwing on Lower Clarance Road, before heading home.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Final Whitlingham Trip

Gary, James and myself had planned a trip out in North Norfolk, but with Gary suffering more ligament damage James and i slid and skated around an icy Whitlingham. Walking down the lane we first inspected the large flock of Greylag Geese on the meadows, the usual 'little hybrid' and 2 new Greylag/Domestic Geese were with 145 other Greylags. Walking along the edge of Little Broad we located a Coal Tit and at least 3 Lesser Redpoll in the Alders, but with the broad frozen solid no wildfowl. The Great Broad was almost as frozen, with only 2 ice free pockets containing most of the birds. Whilst scanning through the gulls on the ice i located a juv. Herring Gull adorned with a large red ring 'YZC' and a smaller metal tag. James has since found out this bird was ringed at Halvergate Island and has been seen in Southwold this autumn. While James was counting Coot and Gadwall, i found a single female Goldeneye amongst the Tufted Duck, Pochard and Coot. I had been told that Nuthatch had been on the feeders and knowing Jame still need it as a patch tick we paused to check. After only a few minutes a Nuthatch briefly appeared on the feeders joining the Blue Tit, Great Tit and large group of Long-tailed Tit. The second ice hole held a lone Teal, Little Grebe and lots more Tufted Duck, Coot and Gadwall. We watched a fox run across the ice and 2 Redwing flew over, before a walk through the woods revealed little of interest.