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 BlackTern 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.
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.
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.
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.