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.