Monday, 10 December 2012

Scarey Little White Faces

On Saturday I crept of into the stock room at work to listen to the last 10 minutes of Norwich vs Swansea, and glancing out of the window saw 5/6 small eerie white faces starring back at me from the outside of the second floor window. It wasn't a Carnary or a Swan, but rather a Pied Wagtail.

It just so happens that one of the 4 large Christmas trees around the edge of John Lewis is pushed up against the stock room window, and lined up on one of the the branches were 5/6 Pied Wagtail, looking in at me. Last year a noticed a few Pied Wagtail roosting in the trees and it looks like this year they have decided to do the same. I would estimate maybe 100 birds roosting in the trees at the moment but it is hard to tell as many birds are arriving after dark. Up until 2-3 weeks ago the birds had been roosting on Surrey Street in the trees by the main Aviva building, but now the leaves have all gone they have moved.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Disappointed and Suprised

Each morning last week i had the pleasure of watching the Waxwing frequenting the Rupert Street area while walking to work, with up to 14 birds present. On Saturday morning (17th) however the birds had gone, and have not returned since. That was not the only disappointment of the day as a text from Gary alerted me to the juvenile Surf Scoter drifting west of Sheringham, being at work i couldn't get to the coast unit Monday. Getting home that evening i was aware of the Rose coloured Starling at Northrepps. Fast forward to Monday and both birds had gone, and with drizzly weather i ventured no further than to collect the broken feeders, demolished by a squirrel in the garden.

On Friday however after locking the front door to walk to work a Peregine flew over the house, no doubt one of the cathedrel birds, foraging further afield than normal. Walking to work on Saturday morning i got my second suprise of the week, i watched two Blue Tit poping in and out of a cavity in a wall, each time with food in their beaks, i assume feeding young! I then found a rather cold looking Angle Shade Moth on a fence, my second unseasonal sighting of the morning.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The UEA and Back Again

With Laura working again and a few days off work, for the first time in months i found myself with some free time. Yesterday's drizzle kept me in, but today i ventured out to the UEA a walk i haven't done in ages. Walking down to Eaton, i picked up a large tit flock on Unthank Road but the best bird was a Coal Tit (but there's 3 in the Garden), by the bridge at Cringleford i found a nice looking Grey Wagtail, and a Marsh Tit nearby. Walking the River towards the Uni a Kingfisher whizzed through, 2 Little Grebe bobbed about and 3 Grey Heron dotted the route. I also saw my first Otter on this stretch of the river and a stoat ran across the path. Disappointingly no Green Woodpecker or Mistle Thrush were on the paddocks and the feeders by the greenhouses have gone. A small flock of Siskin was my first group of the winter by the east end of The Broad. The Broad itself was devoid of waterfowl, a single Great Crested Grebe, 3 Cormorant and c15 Common Gull (not even a Mallard) were all i could see. Walking the woods and playing field i failed to add much else, but there's still quite a bit of interesting fungi around. Below is what i think is Blistered Cup growing on a heap of old hay bales the dumping area at the back of the playing field (James correct me if I'm wrong). Walking back via Colney Lane and Cringleford, i had a flock of c45 Redwing fly over, and completed my loop seeing the Grey Wagtail again.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Waxwings back in the GT!

Atleast 2 Waxwing are back in the Golden Triangle area of Norwich. On Monday and Tuesday two flew over Rupert Street on my way to work and on Wednesday i could hear what i think were Waxwing calling from a rear garden not far away. I'll have to keep my eyes open now walking to work, something to liven up the walk in on cold damp mornings.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

City Center Birding

With news of a Black Redstart and a Ring Ouzel in the City, i took advantage of the clocks going back an hour, using that extra hour to go for a jaunt around the city before work on Sunday.

Walking via Jenny Lind Park and Chapelfield Gardens, no Waxwing have yet made it this far inland. James had no luck the previous day hunting for the reported Ring Ouzel near St Andrews Car park, and after 10minutes despite finding loads of Blackbird i was about to leave when i heard a Ring Ouzel call. Something i heard a lot in North Norfolk last week. I soon saw the bird in flight, a juv/female type bird showing its pale wing markings it was soon gone against into the bushes.

I spent nearly an hour around the Cathedral meeting Paul and Ricky but no Black Redstart. Two Peregrine where on the spire which was nice to see, and walking back to work a flock of Redwing flew over.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Thrushes . . . In The Wood

On Tuesday we may have stayed local, in Trimingham Clifftop Wood rather than further North, but the result was the same. From the persistent thick mist, again Thrushes dropped from the sky. The numbers were lower than Monday but still quite a sight.

Redwing - 2300, Fieldfare - 450, Ring Ouzel - 11, Song Thrush - 37, Black Bird - 110, Robin - 65, Goldcrest - 80, Brambing - 80, Siskin - 2, Chiffchaff - 12 and Woodcock - 2.

Bird of the day was a Short-eared Owl my first of the autumn. We also heard a Yellow-browed Warbler in the Wood but with the fog so thick that we couldn't view the tree tops most of the day, it alluded us. Dispite spending over 6 hours in this small area we couldn't turn up anything rarer.

News of the Arctic Warbler at Brancaster on Wednesday being found after lunch was a little frustrating as i had already committed to doing other things. With the Olive Backed Pipit still at Holkham would have also made a nice trip out, autumn isn't over quite yet!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Redwings . . . In The Mist

The forecast finally offered up some easterly winds, so a week on Gary and i returned to Burnham Ovary Dunes hoping for a better haul of migrants. Driving through fog from Norwich it got thicker and thicker, we wouldn't see anything.

How wrong we were, it was raining Thrushes, a quite unbelievable fall. The birds just seemed to magically appear through the gloom. Other highlights included a Long-eared Owl and large numbers of Robin and Brambling. Below are the counts for the birds we could see through the fog, who knows what we missed?

Burnham Overy Dunes Count:
5500 x Redwing, 3300 x Fieldfare, 340 x Blackbird, 155 x Robin, 63 x Song Thrush, 79 x Brambling, 75 x Goldcrest, 26 x Ring Ouzel, 10 x Chiffchaff , 10 x Meadow Pipit, 2 x Mistle Thrush, 2 x Crossbill, 2 x Woodcock, 1 x Redstart, 1 x Blackcap, 1 x Redpoll, 1 x Long-eared Owl.

We then headed for Stiffkey Campsite Wood to see a stunning Red-flanked Bluetail. Which showed really well, sadly i didn't have my camera. We also found another 500+ Redwings on the campsite along with a few Fieldfare and Robin. A probable Yellow-browed Warbler was also calling amongst a tit flock.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

I'm Bored, Let's Go To Scotland

On Monday common sense prevailed and Gary and I decided that the East Olivaceous Warbler in Fife, although very appealing, was just too far to go for a LBJ that could move off at anytime: and instead spent the day trawling Burnham Overy Dunes.

Fast-forward to Thursday, four days into our ‘birding fortnight’, non-existent Norfolk migrants and reports of a very content East Olivaceous Warbler in Fife, the inevitable happened. I receive a call ‘Shall we go to Scotland tomorrow?’

Just before 2am Gary Picked me up, collecting Robert on the way we arrived in Scotland by 7.30 and after a stop for breakfast we arrived in Fife Ness, Fife about 10.30am. After a while we soon located the bird. Constantly ticking it wasn’t hard to follow through the scrub. The bird was quite mobile but the  brief views were had were frequent and often at close range. A quick look on the sea turned up the expected sea birds and hunting around the area we found a couple of Blackcap, Reed Bunting, Blackbirds and a very tired Redwing. A Red Breasted Flycatcher was located near the gate before we left, and there was also at least 3 Chiffchaff in the area, but the Radde’s Warbler of the previous day couldn’t be relocated.

Driving home we decide to look for Black Grouse, a bird Robert has never seen. Heading towards Langden Beck a well known site for Black Grouse in Durham, we stumbled across 15 Black Grouse in a couple of fields in Northumberland. The 13 cocks all in one place was very unexpected and almost takes moment of the day from the Eastern Olivaceous. Most of the birds mysterious melted away over the 20min or so we watched them, I assume heading off to roost as the sun started to drop behind the hills. A brief spontaneous stop ‘somewhere on a hill’ allowed Robert to pick up ‘Grouse Lifer’ number two when we found 4/5 Red Grouse in the fading light. A beautiful sunset then finished off the day nicely (the following 5 hours drive home in drizzle aside).

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Lots of Leather, Lack of Birds

On Monday Gary and I headed out early to Gun Hill/Burnham Overy Dunes area and spent the next 6 hours migrant hunting. Starting early was vital as before 10am we connected with quite a few common migrants, but after 10am the wind picked up and birds became scarce.

Between 8.30am - 10am we had most of the days birds of note included, 4 Brambling, c15 Redwing, 5 Song Thrush, 1 Male Blackcap, 1 juv Whitethroat, Golden Plover c30, c30 Linnet, 25+ Chaffinch, 20 Goldfinch, 40+ Meadow Pipit, 2 juv Swallow, 2 Goldcrest, 50+ Starling and c30 Skylark. Most of these where in the hedgerows by the track or around the boardwalk.

Over the next 4 1/2 Hours we walked firstly Gun Hill, Burnham Overy Dunes and the West end of Holkham Pines (while hiding from a rain shower). We added comparatively few birds, 2 Blackcap, 15+ Goldcrest, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Green Woodpecker, 6 Song Thrush, c10 Redwing, 2 Brambling and 50+ Meadow Pipit.

In search of a rarity for the day we headed down to Kelling Water Meadows to have a look at the Pectoral Sandpiper that has been around for a week or so. I've seen quite a few Pectoral Sandpiper but always at a distance, so it was nice to have such a confiding bird giving close views.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Late September Moths

I ran the moth trap over night on Saturday, and was rather disappointed to find only 4 moths waiting for me on Sunday morning. 1x Angle Shades, 1x Lesser Yellow-underwing and 2 x Large Ranunculus. The later being a new moth for the garden. Being relatively new to moth trapping I am yet to understand the best conditions and what to expect throughout the year. I can only assume the clearing skies, almost full moon and cool night conspired against me.

On Sunday night it was much cloudier and a with a bit of a breeze i was more hopeful. I only ran the trap 7.15-10.30pm when the wind picked up and rain threatened. I still managed a more respectable 11 moths. Including 2x Common Marbled Carpet, (new to the garden), 6x Lesser Yellow-underwing, 1x Large Yellow-underwing and a slightly late Willow Beauty.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

2 "Lifers" and a Dorset Holiday

With 5 days planned in Dorset from 24th-28th i wasn't planning on doing much on Sunday 23th, but with favourable weather, Gary convinced me a trip to the coast would be a worthwhile. The day started very quietly at Holme, 2 hours of waiting around the NWT reserve looking for the long staying Barred Warbler and Wryneck and Little Bunting of the previous day turned up nothing more interesting that a fly over Hawfinch and my first Brambling of the Autumn. A Red-breasted Flycatcher had been showing at the NOA reserve so we paid our £3 and waited, but as the wind increased so the RBF kept out of site. After and hour or so we decided to look around the more sheltered pines but only found a few Goldcrest. Hoping for a change of fortune and some lunch we stopped in a Titchwell, views of a possible 'Baird's Sandpiper' were inconclusive, but before we found much else (or got a bacon bap!) news of a possible Booted Warbler at Burnham Overy provided some hope so we jumped in the car and headed east. Parking in the village we walked along the sea wall and eventually found 4 birders looking into some suadae, not the crowd we expected. A very pale 'milky-tea' coloured bird soon flitted out of the scrub, giving great flight views before disappearing again. Someone bravely called it in as a Booted Warbler and soon people started to arrive. The bird got more and more flighty as the crowd grew, this enabled us further good views, but we decided to leave before the rain arrived. A brief stop at Cley failed to turn up much before the rain really set in, so we headed for home.

5am on Monday and we go in the car for 5 days in Dorset, not really a birding holiday but with scope for a few hours birding at least. No being able to get our accommodation keys until 3pm we headed first to Lodmoor RSPB. I couldn't join Gary in his trip for the Short-billed Dowitcher 2 weeks ago but the bird had been seen the previous day. Things didn't look good but after about an hour the bird was located. The bird turned out to be my 350th British Tick, my second in two days and a good start to the holiday. The only other birding of the holiday was a sea watching stint from Portland Bill, which eventually turned up a single Balearic Shearwater, a few Guillemot, Gannet and Razorbill, a rather disappointing total. A Raven offered close views, but we failed to find the Ortolan Bunting seen earlier in the day. Other birds seen round and about included a Wryneck, 2 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Winchat and some Redwing. Gary also found a Goshawk and Osprey on a trip out without me.

Since my last post I've ran the moth trap  only a few nights, once at home and once at Gary's. Catches are falling but new moths include Angleshade and Light Emerald in Norwich, and Common Marbled Carpet and Oak Hooktip at Gary's. We did take the trap to Dorset but the heavy showers only enabled us to run if for a couple of hours on 27th, catching only eight moths. However these included two new species for me in Frosted Orange and Lunar Underwing.

Friday, 7 September 2012

1st Autumn Migrant Hunt

I haven't forgotten about my blog, but simply haven't been birdwatching much since returning from my Honeymoon back in June. I've run the moth trap a few times but with nothing to shout about let alone blog about.

Yesterday I was hoping to joing Gary driving down to Dorset to see the Short-billed Dowitcher, but work messing up the rota left me very annoyed and having to work! I have a holiday booked only a mile down the road from Lodmoor RSPB at the end of the month, fingers crossed.

Being deprived of a twitch, I had to get out to the coast today to release some frustration. Laura and i headed to Grambrough Hill at Salthouse, a favourate migrant haunt of mine. Lots of Curlew on the grazing marshes, showed a little promise but hunting around the bushes we could only turn up a Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Whitethroat. A small group of Pinkfoot Geese on the marshes to the north of the Dun Cow though were rather early arrivals.

Moving onto Cley Marshes, we could see a lone Spoonbill from the visitor center. From Daukes hide we soon were directed to a Pectoral Sandpiper on Simmonds Scrape as well as 3 Curlew Sandpiper. The scapes held many more birds than recent visits, as well as the regular waders we picked out, 2 Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Little Stint and Yellow-legged Gull. Content with this we headed to the deli in Cley to fill up on Sausage Rolls and cake! I might run the moth trap tonight as its been a nice warm day.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A New Toy

With Laura ear marking some of our wedding money to buy kitchen stuff, i thought we should buy something more to my liking so ordered and duly received a moth trap last week.

Being a kid with a new toy the following night after purchasing a new extension lead i had the trap up and running, straight away i made my first error. I turn the trap on before dark so i could watch the football, but this seemed to attract lots of aphids and flies. I only ran the trap about 3 hours as i wasn't sure if it would rain, but picking through the flies i had a reasonable haul. A few days later i put the trap out again this time only for a few hours between some light drizzle, and although not hopeful still caught a few things.

27th June 2012 21:00-24:00

Heart and Dart x 5
Codling 10 +
Peppered Moth (int) x 1
Yellow Eggshell x 1
Large Yellow-under wing x 3
Flame x 3
Garden Carpet x 1
Various micros

1st July 2012 21:30-23.15

Hebrew Character x 5
Flame x 1
Snout x 1
Riband Wave (Dark non-banded) x 1
Various micros

Hopefully I'll get the trap out regularly and build up a garden list, the micros are a step to far at the moment, but i might have a dabble soon.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Honeymoon Birding

Laura understood that with a Wedding ring was also attached binoculars and scope, so bird watching was always on the cards while away on Honeymoon. Although not renowned as a bird watching hot spot, with only just over 40 breeding species Madeira's bird life is rather special due to its isolation in the Atlantic many species or sub-species are endemic to the island. Arriving on Monday 28th May we had two weeks to explore the island and we had a day booked with a local guide on the 1st June. Before that trip however we found a few birds of our own walking around the islands capital, Funchal and while out and about on a few excursions.

My first new 'life' tick was a Canary on the 28th, a couple of pairs nested in the hotel grounds but up to 30 regularly flocked up nearby. 2 pair of Kestrel also nested nearby and regularly cruised past our balcony at close quarters. Walking along the sea front the only type of gull present were Yellow-legged Gull but nesting colony of Common and Roseate Tern, were nice to see nesting so close to the city, on a rock only about 100m from the promenade. Flying around with the Tern were a large number of Pallid Swift, and looking up into the mountains behind out hotel these were joined by Plain Swifts, a second life tick.

Madeira only had 2 common warbler species, Blackcap and Spectacled Warbler, but walking the suburbs near the hotel Blackcap seemed to be everywhere in a city where everyone seemed to have their own small banana plantation in the garden. We also found Greenfinch and lonely Lesser Black-backed Gull during our wanderings.

On Wednesday we took in an excursion exploring the west of the Island and this enabled us to add may on the commoner species that didn't venture into the city, these included Sparrowhawk, Red-legged Partridge, Linnet, Grey Wagtail and Rock Dove. But the find of the day was a migrant Alpine Swift at Cabo Girao, the site of the second highest sea cliff in the world. It was rather strange however to see such an environment not teaming with seabirds, only a few swifts and kestrel flew around. Thursday we found a group of Maderian Chaffinch in a local park along with Goldfinch and out first Monarch Butterfly of the trip.

Friday 1st was birdwatching day, and i was looking forward to finding the more elusive endemic species. Hugo our guide picked us up at 9am and we first look at a small fresh water pool for a migrant Little Bittern that had been around for a few weeks, the bird could not be found, and two trip later in the week failed to locate the bird. But a pair of Coot had raised 2 young on the pool, a rare bird on Madeira. Other Madeiran rarities in the area included Mallard and Little Egret. We next drove across the island to an area of Laurel forest to look for the endemic Trocaz Pigeon, which after a short while appeared, at a nearby site we then got cracking views of Madeiran Firecrest down to a couple of meters. Before lunch we visited another small pool this one home to a Green-winged Teal, now resident for 5 years. Stopping for lunch we viewed Cory's Shearwater and Manx Shearwater feeding off shore at Porto Moniz, before driving into the mountains to look for Berthelot's Pipit, Madeiran Quail, Rock Sparrow and Spectacled Warbler, but low cloud reduced visibility to nothing. Still we had a great chat and picked up all the information and locations to try to find the birds later in the week.

On Sunday we again met Hugo for a Dolphin/Whale watching trip. This brought the added bonus of close views of Cory's Shearwater and Manx Shearwater at sea, but sadly no Petrels as we stayed relatively close to the shore. During the trip we connected with 20+ Bottle-nosed Dolphin, and also a rare Monk Seal. A flying fish was also an unexpected sight. A Grey Heron another rarity on the island was perched on the fish pens as we returned to the harbour, and Rock Sparrow nested in the cliffs by the Quay, another life tick.

For the next few day we had a car on hire so explored the sites recommended by Hugo and the island in general, picking up most of the island specialities we had missed. On 4th looking for the Little Bittern again we came across a small group of Waxbill at Lugar de Baixo, we also found Spanish Sparrow, but failed to find the 6 Glossy Ibis that have been recently frequenting the area around Faial. On 5th we drive up to the top of Pico do Areeiro the third highest peak, the views were stunning and i also caught up with a very obliging Berthelot's Pipit. Madeira's only pipit. The last day we had the car the clouds finally cleared from the plateau area of the island allowing us to catch up with Spectacled Warbler, but also saw further Rock Sparrow and Buzzard, and heard Madeiran Quail we couldn't locate.

The rest of the holiday was more relaxing but i did again go out with Hugo for a late night visit to a site close to the breeding ground of the rare Zino's Petrel. Against a back drop of the clearest night sky I've ever seen, non-breeding birds circled around us playing and calling. The eiree calls and silhouettes an experience i will never forget and with only 75 pairs remaining an experience i can only hope to repeat.

Pre Wedding Update

Getting married 3 weeks ago has meant i haven't had much time for birdwatching or updating my blog. Since the last post however I've only been out to Thorpe Station Marsh twice, on the 15th and 23rd May, but on both visits i added patch year ticks. Including a patch Life Tick Whinchat on the 15th.

On the 15th i walked Carey's Meadow before heading onto Thorpe. The area was much livelier than previous visits with Garden Warbler and 4 Blackcap among the birds singing. Recent visits to Thorpe Station Marsh had been rather drab so i soon picked up most hindrines and many of the returning warblers for the first time this year. I had decided to visit in the hope for a fly through Red-rumped Swallow with a few along the coast and a big movement of hindrines. I had no luck on that front but sitting by the cattle pen i heard a Yellow Wagtail towards Bungalow Lane, on scanning the marsh and posts i then found the aforementioned Whinchat, but not the Yellow Wagtail. A Common Sandpiper was on the spit and a Common Tern flew along the river.

Visiting on the afternoon of the 23rd while Laura had her nails done for the Wedding i had a good stomp on the patch in bright sunshine. I soon heard a distant Grobbler calling which eventually i located towards the back of the marsh singing high in the reeds. At least 1 Cuckoo was in the area, in the poplars at the east end of Whitlingham Great Broad and possibly a second in the woods. 2 Shelduck where on the spit and a fly over Hobby seems to be resident this year reading other people blogs. I finally found a LRP near the scrape having missed them on previous visits. Before being picked up, despite a very busy beer garden i set up my scope in the Rushcutters and managed to add Cuckoo to my 'Pub List'

Sadly the Wedding prep meant i couldn't travel down to see the Cream-coloured Courser or even get to see the Bee Eater in North Norfolk, two birds i would have loved to have seen. But the Wedding was blessed with great weather and the day went swimmingly, we even had Spotted Flycatcher nesting outside out honeymoon suite window.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The BIG Norfolk Day

Sunday 6th was our second 'Bird Race' day of the year, with the aim of seeing as many species in Norfolk in a single day. For the last few years we have improved on previous totals but last years 124 was probably going to be a stiff target considering the cold weather, and the fact we only having 2 pairs of eyes, James giving this bird race a miss.

Gary picked me up in Norwich at 4am, having seen Barn Owl on the way he was already one ahead. First bird of the day was a Tawny Owl in the road near Thetford which took some evasive driving to avoid. First stop was Santon Downham, on arriving it was obvious we may have problems as the recent drought had burst the river banks flooding nearby meadows and blocking the riverside path. However we scanned the flooded meadows and hedgerow and still found a good number of birds. A pair of Manderin were probably pick of the birds on the meadows but i also saw my first Whitethroat and Garden Warbler of the year. Close to the car we also picked p Nuthatch and Treecreeper, tricky birds in previous years, before walking up the road to find a calling Cuckoo. Lesser Redpoll and Crossbill flew over before two Cuckoo flew directly over us. Walking back to the car we added Sparrowhawk and Siskin giving us a total of 37 species so far. We also hear a Marsh Tit we could locate it though. Driving the short distance to St Helen's picnic area a Tree Pipit was calling from a telegraph post, before adding 7 mores species at the picnic area, including Bullfinch and Goldcrest, Gary also saw 5 Brambling while i had a pee! We stopped briefly by the meadows again we added Chiffchaff, Swallow, House Martin, Cormorant and Rook, leaving Santon Downham on a total of 49.

Driving to Weeting Heath we added House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Swift and Red-legged Partridge. And after a 20minute wait added a distant Stone Curlew to the list along with Lapwing. A Green Woodpecker flew over near Hockwold, and scanning Hockwold Flash we added a further 10 common species to bring my total to 66.

As it was still only 9.15am we had to wait for Welney WWT to open we scanned nearby fields picking up Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Corn Bunting, Avocet, Teal and a distant Buzzard. In the car park we soon added Reed Warbler, Tree Sparrow, Common Gull and Oystercatcher. An injured Whooper Swan was also viewable from the visitor centre. I've never seen the reserve so flooded even in winter, so things did not look hopeful from the main hide, however we did add 6 more species including Wigeon, Litte Grebe and Little Egret. Back in the car park we had a Sedge Warbler, before Gary found 3 Yellow Wagtails and i a pair of Gargany. A quick stop at Denver Sluice finally added Dunnock to the list along with Arctic Tern and a pair of Kingfishers.

Missing Little Ringed Plover at Welney, i suggested stopping at Pentney GP, which turn out to be a worth while stop. We added Egyptian Goose, Sand Martin, Little Ringed Plover, a surprising Goosander, Herring Gull, Wheatear and Common Sandpiper. Over the 100 mark for the day we headed next to Roydon Common. Despite a drizzly shower, a Curlew was near the car park, we watched a family of Stonechat getting fed and a single Woodlark was in the area. A quick stop at Flitcham added the hoped for Gray Partridge and Little Owl. We hopped to scan the sea from Old Hunstanton but with the tide out we made do with the foreshore adding, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Turnstone, along with flyby Fulmer and Great Black-backed Gull.

Titchwell means a food stop, but while eating my bacon butty a Brambling dropped in on the feeders, before we walked up to the main road to locate a calling Lesser Whitethroat. back on the reserve a Short-eared Owl was found over Thornham Marsh. Gary then reclaimed his 2 bird lead seeing a Cetti's Wabler i only heard before we entered the Island Hide. A little Gull was flying about, a male Pochard and female Red-crested Pochard were on view and a small flock of Brent Geese then dropped in. A Spotted Redshank was seen from the bank before we walked up to the beach. We failed to find a single sea duck which was disopointing, but we did see Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin and a few distant Sandwich Tern. Walking back the Short-eared Owl flew over our heads, we also heard a Water Rail and saw briefly Bearded Tit.

Before stopping at the Gun Hill Track at Holkham we saw a Red Kite, and from Gun Hill a large mixed flock of Whimbrel and Curlew. Scanning the marsh by the Joe Jordon hide we found single Pinkfoot, White-fronted and Barnacle Geese. Driving through Wells town we also added Feral Pigeon to bring my total to 130.

The total was still steadily growing but at Cley parking at Old Women's Lane we were told that the main hides had little to show so instead moved to the Coastguard Car park. 2 Little Tern flew east and a Golden Plover was in the Eye Field. 2 Spoonbill then flew in before we returned to the car. Moving onto Salthouse we scanned the marshes from Gamborough Hill locating the long staying Hooded Crow and a distant Whinchat. Briefly stopping in on Bishop's Hide at Cley looking for Snipe we stumbled upon the Timminck's Stint that had not been seen for a few hours and also our second Little Gull and Common Sandpiper of the day. Any more species would now be a struggle so news of 2 Common Crane had us rushing to Friary Hills to add my 137th bird of the day and Gary's 139th. Driving back through Cley Village a Barn Owl turned out to be my last bird of the day. As subsequent stops for Nightingale, Grey Wagtail, Woodcock and optimistically Nightjar (it's prob to early and was raining) failed to deliver, although a Nightingale was added to the 'heard' list.

So a grand total of 138 species seen by me and 4 more heard, and 139 + 3 for Gary. Our largest total by a long way and on a day hampered by flooding, cool weather and drizzle, what total could you get in Norfolk on a Perfect Day?

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Portland Migrant Hunt

Sorry about the late posting I've not had Internet access the last few weeks. Using my up coming Wedding as essentially an excuse to go bird watching, (it's a stag do honest!) Gary James and myself headed off to the south coast on Friday 13th April. Not that i knew where we were going as Gary wanted to make it a surprise.

After being collected at 4am our first stop was in Hordle, Hampshire to look for the long staying adult Rose-coloured Starling. After it a bit of hunting we returned to the car and i found the bird perched atop the telegraph post by the car, the light wasn't great and the bird was moving around, so after 30 minutes or so we moved of looking for out next target. The theme of not quite knowing where i was going or what i was going to look at continuied until we got near the next location, Steepe Langford, Wiltshire. Though i did see my first Swallow near a village called Tiptoe, while travelling. At Langford Lakes we viewed a female Ferrugious duck in classic sleeping mode, also a Kingfisher and my first Sedge Warbler of the year. Next stop was Chew Valley Lakes where we eventually located the site of the Spotted Sandpiper, and a very showy Grey Wagtail. The next target bird was the Long-billed Dowitcher at Meare Heath in Somerset, but again the site took a little bit of finding. The birds however did show well with one individual moulting into summer plumage, as well as more common waders a Great White Egret dropped into the same pool. A further stomp around the reserve turned up little but we did hear a Reed Warbler and Bittern booming. Abbottsbury in Dorset was our last stop before calling into out hotel on Portland. Although distant a Black-winged Stilt was an unmistakable figure in the wet meadows. We also picked up Common Tern and Sandwich Tern fishing over the Fleet. Before checking out the local pub on Portland i headed out to wander around an old quarry next to the hotel while Gary relaxed. A Lesser Whitethroat was in the scrub by the gate and a House Martin flew over, two new year ticking.

The second day of the trip started at Portland Bill looking for our own migrants, its started well with Swallow flying over, and we soon found a small group of Wheatear near the light house. A brief sea watch turned up Gannet, Manx Shearwater and Kittiwake. On the cliffs and nearby Guillemot, Razorbill and a single summer Puffin were seen. A Yellow Wagtail flew over calling but could not be seen against the sun. A further walk around only turned up a Raven, Kestrel, House Martin and lots of Linnet. After a late breakfast we decided to try the quarry near the hotel for sheltering migrants, but after 2 hours found a single Greenfinch! We then gave up on Portland and headed to Radipool RSPB in Weymouth to at least see some birds. We soon heard Sedge and Reed Warbler but by the time of reaching the North hide had seen neither only commoner birds. From here however we viewed the long staying Glossy Ibis initially obscured but after a flew fight views the bird came close in to the hide. Walking back to the car we managed to see the singing Reed Warbler, before a second short stint ob migrant hunting on Portland. The area of cliff side scrub turn up two birds, a Great Tit and a Wren, we went back to the hotel and gave up for the day!

On the last day of the trip we got up early and headed down to Portland Bill again but the wind was stronger than the previous day and much colder. The Wheatear still hung about but the only new birds were a pair of Lesser Redpoll overhead during our 45 minutes or so in the area. We then said good bye to Portland driving cross country to Wales. At Penath we then saw the drake Lesser Scaup, my second lifer of the trip. The bird was at a site i could only describe as a little Welsh Whitlingham, full of locals and children enjoying the sun. Driving along the M4 we saw the usual Red Kite flying over head.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Rockland to Whitlingham

For the last few years I've embarked on a spring migrant hunt, walking from Rockland Broad via Surlingham to Whitlingham, following the river most of the way. This year i was hoping to find a Osprey, Ring Ouzel or Gargany.

Catching the 9am bus to Rockland, my first migrant was as previous years was a Chiffchaff in Rockland Broad carpark. Between here and the bird hide i saw 4 more Chiffchaff but at least 8 were singing and i saw 2 Willow Warbler, as well as many commoner species. Little was on the Broad, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls are worth noting, 2 Little Egret flew over and a Buzzard circled over Surlingham Woods.

Skylark flew over head as i cut across the fields towards the Ted Ellis Reserve. I only walked the woodland section as i rarely find much on the rest of the reserve. 3 Great Spotted Woodpecker battled it out and a Treecreeper was also seen. Chiffchaff were also everywhere. Walking through Surlingham village, i found 2 Goldcrest in a road side tree that gave views to a few feet at one point, oblivious to me. A flock of c15 Linnet were also on the edge of the village. By the Surlingham Ferry Pub a pair of Sparrowhawk displayed over head, and from the hide on Church Marsh a Green Sandpiper was on show. The Gargany reported last week have gone but the Little Egret remains on the pool. At least 7 Chiffchaff and 2 Willow Warbler were singing but little else was about despite me doubling back and looking around the ruins and meadows. A few butterflies however are now on the wing, a Small White was by the pub, 2 Orange Tip along the river bank and a Peacock by the Landspring Sluice.

Along the route from here to the sewage works at Whitlingham i was serenaded by more Chiffchaff and also saw a fresh Comma, before a flock of 22 Redwing flew over heading east. The Sheep field behind the sewage works held c15 Pied Wagtail including a White Wagtail, 2 Meadow Pipit, 4 Skylark, 4 Lapwing and a flock of 10 Linnet, a Coal Tit was also nearby. The sewage works themselves held a mixture of corvids, 2 Oystercatcher and 6 Stock Dove. I walked through the Whitlingham Woods to the view point but not before picking up 2 Green and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker. Scanning Thorpe Station Marsh i couldn't find the hoped for LRP or any other waders. You briefly walk along the outside edge of the woods and here i was rather surprised when a flash of bright orange appeared in the hawthorn hedge. A new patch tick for me, 2 Firecrest flitted in the hedge, briefly crossing the path into the brambles, all at close quarters but to fast for a photograph. A Willow Warbler was further up the path along with 2 Marsh Tit. The Great Broad was surprisingly quiet, both in turns of birds and people, i only saw 6 people as i walked around. From the conservation area however James' Caspian Gull remained and a lone Pochard was by the watersports centre, and that was about it bar the commoner species.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Finally I get to Cantley

I started the day in Rosary Cemetery while i waited for the train to Cantley. It was initially rather quiet then i realised why as i counted 14+ Jay spread between two trees arguing and fighting. A Chiffchaff burst into song and i then found a Treecreeper building a nest. Maybe I've never been that observant but this is the second unusual nest I've seen in a week or so with Long-tailed Tits last week.
I got off the train at Cantley and within minutes i was watching 4 Glossy Ibis on the flooded meadows. A few Wigeon still linger with Curlew, Teal and lots of Corvids also in the fields. Walking over to the Reedcutters i was disappointed that the pub only opens during the evenings and more so when i could see the Ibis from the grounds, another bird escapes my 'pub list'. I walked around the back of the Beet factory with a large number of Shoveler, Shelduck and gulls, but no waders. Cetti's Warbler called from the river bank and i thought i heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on the footpath towards Limpenhoe, but failed to find it. Back on Station Road in Cantley 3 Fieldfare flew from an ivy covered tree, before i headed across the fields towards Buckenham. A male Hen Harrier drifted over Cantley Marshes and Chiffchaff are now back in numbers. A brief stop in the now disused Buckenham church allowed me a short rest as i was rather warm and i wasn't best dressed for the weather. A Mistle Thrush was near Buckenham station but the marshes were rather quiet, so i headed off to Strumpshaw.
The usual tits flitted around the feeders including 2 Marsh Tit. Walking he woody area by the Reception hide a Willow Tit was calling and eventually found. In this area i also saw two voles and a wood mouse. On the main track a Cetti's Warbler unusually sat out in the open calling. Entering the Fen hide i was told i had just missed a close in Bittern, but was soon aware how close then it started to boom from the closest area of reeds maybe only 5m away. I got a couple of brief views through the reeds but the bird never ventured back into the open. A few Bearded Tit flitted but i headed off around the back of the reserve. It was rather quiet along the river back, but a few minutes in the Tower Hide produced 2 Avocet, 2 Snipe and few Lapwing. A show off cock Pheasant posed for a couple of photos but the rest of my walk back to Brundall and the train produced little.
During the day i did pick up my first butterflies of the year, a Comma at Brundall Station, 3/4 Tortoiseshell in Cantley village and 5 Peacock at Strumpshaw.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

One Chiffchaff doesn't make a Spring.

. . but does 3? Today i was spoilt for titles for this post after a morning spent at Thorpe Station Marsh it could have easily read 'Thorpe Wader-fest' or 'Mammals on the Marshes'.

Laura dropped me off by the foot bridge and headed for work, i had picked Thorpe in the hope of a early Gargany passing through. Things looked good with the scape flooded and plenty of water on the marshes. I started off walking the river bank, but the broad looked rather quiet with a few Tufties and Gadwell, single GC Grebe and a mixed gull flock. A splash in the dyke caught my attention and an otter dived out of view, my first otter on the patch. From the screen i then noticed 2 Avocet on the spit how had i missed them from the bank. They then swam out to the centre of the Broad mingling with the gulls. Cetti's Warbler seemed to be singling from every scrubby clump, eventually i glimpsed one near Bungalow Lane. Tip-toeing back across to the Cattle pen a Water Vole swam one of the dykes and scanning from the pen a Chinese Water Deer completed a trio of mammals. From here i heard my first Chiffchaff of the year calling from the railway line but couldn't locate it from it's two brief spats of song. The flooded marshes held 8 Teal but no Gargany. Uncommon on the patch 2 Meadow Pipit then flew overhead. 3 Oystercatcher then appeared from the direction of the sewage works making loads of noise, they circled around but moved off, but not before disturbing 2 other waders, I'd previously over looked. A Green Sandpiper soon disappeared into the marsh, but a single Dunlin remained on the spit a little longer before also wandering off. 2 Snipe completed a very unexpected haul of waders. Walking back over the bridge what i assumed to be a group of House Sparrow turned out to be 8 Dunnock all together.

Carey's Meadow had a lot to live up to and tried its best. Just inside the gate 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over together and 3 Mistle Thrush fed on the deck. only a few yard further and i heard my second Chiffchaff on the day, but this time the bird was obliging and showed quite well, frantically feeding and not noticing me, at one point it came within 6ft. 2 Redwing then reminded me Winter hasn't left us yet. I then stumbled across my second group of Dunnock this time 11 all together, is this normal behaviour? Groups must have been a theme as i then saw 7 Jay all in one tree, making the predictable racket. I heard another Chiffchaff before spotting 2 Long-tailed Tits with nesting material so i followed them, i then happily watched them for 10 minutes coming and going adding to an already stunning looking nest.

Before meeting Laura for lunch i wandered through Lion's Wood and Rosary Cemetery, where i heard 2 Nuthatch but failed to see them and a saw a single Song Thrush. Walking home via Hall Road a lone Waxwing sat atop a Rowen tree remind me that March isn't as quiet a month as you might expect!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Marlingford, Marlingford and Marlingford Again

Since my last update i seem to have spent lots of time visiting Marlingford looking for the Great White Egret. My 1st visit on the 20th Feb was sadly cut short as i had to return home after news Laura's Great Gran had died, but before going home i had found 2 Buzzard a 2 Little Egret.

The following day dad and i sent an hour or so at Happisburgh by the Coast Guards, a large flock of Brent Geese held 3 Pale bellied Brent. A small group of Twite, Meadow Pipit and Skylark were in the stubble and a Great Northern Diver flew through south. During a brief stop at Walcott we found a Med Gull and Turnstone ran everywhere as normal. Driving around the back roads a RL Buzzard was breifly seen along with 5 Common Buzzard and a couple of Sparrowhawk. A final stop behind Mundesley Holiday revealed nothing of note.

On the 26th before and after going to Sainbury's Laura and i looked for the GW Egret again without success. On the 2nd March however i did catch up with the GW Egret with the bird finally raising a head up above the vegetation. Waiting for the car wash at Longwater a Red Kite drifted over and a Bullfinch sat i the bushes no more that 6ft away to complete a delightful 30 minutes.

On Saturday 3rd Gary picked me up mid morning and we headed again for Marlingford. From the Bawburgh Road we could not see the GW Egret so headed for Marlingford Mill to look for the American Wigeon reported the previous day. By the church a Red Kite drifted over. The Red Kite had apparently just scared the widgeon flock so we had to wait awhile for the drake American Wigeon to show. While there we also saw a Little Egret, Grey Wagtail and Nuthatch.

We then spent most of the afternoon at Titchwell, pleasantly quiet without 'birding tours' filling the hides. We did first stopped at Choseley watching c40 Yellowhammer and c20 Corn Bunting. From the Island Hide we failed to locate the reported for Mandarin or Scaup on the Fresh Marsh. The Brackish Marsh held 3 nice Spotted Redshank very close in but not the Smew reported earlier. The sea proved to be much more successful, with his first scan Gary picked up the Velvet Scoter, drake Scaup, many Goldeneye and 4 Longtailed Duck all close in. Walking back the redhead Smew reappeared on the Brackish Marsh and although the Mandarin was still elusive from the Parrinder Hide I did pick up a early returning Sand Martin flying west. A final scan from the path and Gary located the female Mandarin asleep in the reeds. The Arctic Redpoll remained in the picnic area and showed well before we left.

A drink at the Dun Cow as the sun started to set was a nice end to the day, despite not seeing to many birds it was nice sitting in the garden looking over the marsh, has spring sprung?

No, as i finish this post (Monday) its been raining all day with sleet this evening!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Whitlingham Brent Goose

James had told me on Thursday of a Brent Goose at Whitlingham so on Saturday morning i wrapped up warm and headed out. It was soon obvious the cold nights had finally reached Whitlingham with both Broads frozen over for the first time this winter. This forced all the birds into one quite small ice hole. Before looking through them i meet James and Shaky by the Flint Barn and also the Brent Goose, feeding on the bank of the new overflow car park area. Scanning through the ice hole birds we found 4 Goldeneye, 4 Little Grebe 6 Great Crested Grebe and lots of Tufted Duck and Pochard, but not the Redhead Smew of previous days. Scanning Thorpe Marshes which were also frozen over, c250 Teal huddled on the ice with Mallard, Gadwell and a mix of gulls. The Smew then flew along the river, circling over again before going into the ice hole. At the conservation area more ducks huddled on the ice and a Snipe flew over but little of note. Back on the south shore while looking for the Smew a single Siskin and Redpoll flew over calling. If not bristling with birds a 'patch tick' in the Brent Goose and good company made for a very pleasant morning, well worth braving the cold.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Garden Watch & Marston Marshes

The RSPB Garden Bird Watch was over the weekend, but i was at work so i decided i would watch the garden on Monday morning. During the hour i recorded the following max counts.
Goldfinch x21 Greenfinch x6 Chaffinch x 7 Woodpigeon x3 Collared Dove x2 Feral Pigeon x2 Starling x6 Blackbird x9 Song Thrush x1 Common Gull x1 Black-headed Gull x3 Sparrowhawk x1 Coal Tit x2 Blue Tit x3 Great Tit x1 Carrion Crow x1 Magpie x1 Dunnock x1 Robin x1 Wren x1
The mixed flock of finches was the biggest i've recoreded in the garden with Goldfinch and Greenfinch numbers both the highest recorded. Apart from that nothing extra ordinary was seen.
On Tuesday I didn't plan to go for a walk but sitting indoors with a head ache i decided some air might help. I walked along Unthank Road, through Eaton and around Marston Marsh. I had only walked 100m down the road and i picked out a Brambling with a mixed flock of finches in some Beech trees, i'll check the flock next time its in the garden. Near Waitrose a small group of Redwing were perched up and Long-tailed Tits flitted in the gardens. The hedge and feeders by the golf club held loads of birds, House Sparrow, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin, Dunnock and best of all 2 Hedge Sparrow. A Treecreeper was in an area of wet wood near the main gate and 3 jay flew along the fence line. I had a nice long chat with the warden who was having lunch with a group of volenteers clearing scrub. I found little else until a Little Egret flew from a dyke and into a tree oppisite Keswick Mill, probable the same bird i saw at Whitlingham last week. Eaton Marsh was very quiet, with a single Mistle Thrush hardly worth noting. Back at home a Cormorant flew over the garden i'll need to check if thats a garden tick!
I did also find this strange fungus, i can't ID it any ideas (James)?

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Whitlingham in January

Wednesday was my last day off of my short break so i headed down to Whitlingham. I sent the whole morning walking around scanning the Great Broad in detail hoping that maybe the Fudge Duck remained. I can confirm that is definitely gone, but my first trip to Whitlingham CP this year did turn up a surprisingly large list 59 species.
Walking Trowse Water Meadows, before walking along Whitlingham Lane my 2012 Whitlingham list soon started to take shape, with lots of common bird soon on the list. It was still early and it was nice to see 4+ Song Thrush all singing, but he best bird from the meadows was a Kingfisher perched up close by than then whizzed off down stream. Whitlingham Lane was alive with small birds, a Goldcrest was with a tit flock by the cottages and 2 Mistle Thrush a bird I've missed of late where on the grazing meadow. The Little Broad held most of the duck species and a male Sparrowhawk flew straight over my head on the main track. By Little Broad Car park i caught up with the annual Siskin flock and nearby 2 rather lonely Redpoll, i soon picked up the remaining common waterfoul despite a misty haze hanging over the Great Broad. Wandering down to one of the fishing platforms to scan for the non-existent fudge duck i Water Rail ran out of some rushes before quickly returning. I sent ages at the screen still hoping to find the fudge duck, unsurprisingly i failed but did turn up 1 possibly 2 Yellow-legged Gull and a Snipe was also in the island margins. The river back was surprisingly quite except for a Cetti's Warbler calling, by the flooded section of path the said Cetti's was unusually sitting out in the relative open. A Buzzard was then seen flying over Whitlingham Woods, before i walked the South shore, again looking for the Fudge Duck. On reaching the Flint Barn i was sure the Fudge Duck had gone but had enjoyed my morning stroll. The best bird of the day was yet to come. Walking back i spotted a new 'life patch' bird with a Little Egret preening itself on a flooded section of Trowse Water Meadows.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

6 Days Off

Having to work lots over Christmas does eventually have some benefits, with some time owed and favourable section of the rota, last Friday i started a spell of 6 days off. The weather didn't really want to play ball though, so Friday was spent relaxing in the house and finally putting the box of Xmas decs out of the way!

Saturday was forecast overcast, but i woke up to drizzle, optimistic it would clear Laura and i headed to Barton Broad for a bit of a walk-about. The rain did ease, however the wind didn't. Barton Broad was very choppy so i could only scan through the closest duck flock. Lots of Tufted Duck and 15+ Goldeneye but little else worth reporting. The Olive Branch Tea Rooms in Tunstead however was much more successful and satisfying. On the way home we briefly stopped behind KFC on Dereham Road in Norwich catching up with the c40 Waxwings, but also c25 Redwing in a neighbouring tree. Sunday was again wet, so food shopping was all i ventured out of the house to do.

Monday was the best dad of the week, and with Dad's Birthday being last week we headed up to Holkham for a day out and a pub lunch. Approaching Antingham 6 Waxwing flew from the hedge, a good start to the day. We then stopped at Fakenham to look for the Great Grey Shrike, it hadn't been seen for an hour, so we decided not to hang about to long (it reappeared in the afternoon). Before parking down the drive at Holkham we first scanned the Marshes from near the church. From here we could see White-fronted Geese, Barnacle Geese, Brent Geese, a lone Tundra Bean Goose and a few Pink-feet Geese with most away feeding. The only bird we could see if we walked the beach was the Shore Lark, but having seen most other things decided to move along the coast. Stopping at the Gun Hill track eventually we picked out a Rough-legged Buzzard moving inland. Next to the track however the stubble was alive with birds, initially i though it was just a large group of Skylark and Meadow Pipit, but on a second inspection 50+ Lapland Bunting made up the bulk of the group. We next decided to drive some of the back-roads around the Burnham Market area before lunch. We found a large Golden Plover flock, and a couple of groups of Grey Partridge before finding a large mixed finch flock easily numbering 300+ feeding on set-a-side. The group was mainly Chaffinch and Linnet, but close inspection also revealed, Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Brambling. In the same field a Green Woodpecker also flew along the hedge. After lunch we visited Sparham Pools, via Guist and Bintree, where the only birds of note were a Barn Owl and single Fieldfare. The regular wintering Goosander were soon located at Sparham and a male Bullfinch perched up close by. Walking the pools we found little until returning to the Car Park a Great Spotted Woodpecker was in a silver birch, and down by the road bridge we found the resident Grey Wagtail. Tuesday was again wet so i walk into the city to visit the bank and opticians. While wandering however i did find a Grey Wagtail near Fye Bridge, which flew upstream.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Yes I saw the Spanish Sparrow

A little belated with the post...but not by some of my previous standards! Last Sunday a week after the Spanish Sparrow's presence was put out to the world at large (it had been the since Dec 3rd) and Gary and I finally had an opportunity to travel down to Hampshire.
Gary picked me up at 4am and we arrived in Calshot about 7.40am, a Woodcock flew over our heads before we joined a growing group of birders in the village hall car park. A distant Peregrine was seen on a nearby chimney, however it was quite a wait before the 'warden' on site notified us the bird was on the feeders in his girlfriends garden. Everyone settled down and formed and orderly clue by the house. No sooner had the first group entered and the bird flew from the back garden and settle briefly in the front hedge, giving most people a good view if brief. We then had a bacon roll in the village hall, re branded the Spanish Sparrow Cafe, while the queues for the house dwindled, as the bird showed well on the feeders again. After a short wait in the house I got good views as the bird came to the feeders then in the vegetable plot and patio.

As with most of the other birders it seems we headed of to the New Forest near Beaulieu to see the Dark-eyed Junco, my second lifer of the day. Straight away we were awarded with great views, but brief and nothing we could photograph, so we waited around a bit longer. While waiting a pair of Crossbill came in close before the Junco re-appeared and again showed well.

We stopped off at Hatchet Pond also near Beaulieu, adding Goosander, before returning to Calshot to look for Black-neck Grebe in the estuary. But the strong wind, and choppy water made searching impossible.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Yare Valley

On Monday i decided to go for a walk along the year valley, taking in Stumpshaw, Buckenham and Cantley. Laura dropped me in the city and i caught the bus to Brundall. A few common birds on the walk down to the Strumpshaw reserve. Recent high tides have left a thick layer of silt across the Lackford Run path. All the slipping and sliding did however rewarded me with two ticks for my embryonic 2012 year list in Water Rali and Cetti's Warbler, in fact i saw 3 Cetti's along the path. By the river i watched a large dog otter fishing before a speed boat scared everything. By the Tower hide i located 2 Goldcrest with a tit flock. Lots of Teal and Greylag from the hide but not much else until a Merlin flew through heading east. 2 Marsh Tit on the feeders and a second otter from the brick hide and i decided to walk on to Buckenham.
Arriving by the station i could see the Taiga Bean Geese quite close and amongst them probably the Lesser White-fronted Goose, however the air ambulance then flew over and all the geese, ducks and Lapwing got up, before i could scope anything. The geese eventually settled however out of site at Cantley. Stopping by the new hide, i picked out c10 Ruff, a single Snipe and 2 Dunlin amongst 100+ Lapwing and Golden Plover. With fence posts being repaired on Buckenham Marshes the geese did not return, a distant Buzzard and fly though Sparrowhawk the only highlights as i walked the river bank.
Crossing over the foot bridge to Cantley Marshes i could clearly see where all the geese had gone. The Bean geese appeared to be split up into 3 groups, some mixed with the large White-fronted Goose flock so locating the LWF would be difficult. I walked the footpath down to Burnt House Road where i could get better views of the Lesser White-fronted Goose, luckily relatively close with a small group of Beans. Sensing the prospect of a 'mega' pub bird i walked round to the Reedcutters pub by the Beet Factory. To my horror the pub only opens evenings during the winter, to make matters worse from the river bank garden i could view through the hedge Bean Geese, White-fronted Geese and the Lesser White-fronted Goose, 3 would-be 'pub ticks'. Disappointed i waited for the train home.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

January 1st 2012

As with the last few years i spent New Year's Eve at Gary's we saw in the New Year then went to bed to rise bright and early to start out year lists all over again. The first bird of the year was as exciting as they come, a sleeping Feral Pigeon in North Walsham town centre.

As is tradition we were the 1st people to arrive at Titchwell RSPB in near darkness. The first few birds were identified from silhouettes but by the time we reached the brackish marsh we could confidently pick out more birds, with Spotted Redshank probably the first bird of note. With a southerly wind the sea was rather quite with a few Goldeneye and lone Great Crest Grebe the only birds seen. Luckily the foreshore was more productive with waders and gulls. Walking back we could view the Saltmarsh and Freshmarsh in better light and soon added most of the waterfowl we had missed walking out. 2 Water Pipit over the path were nice to see. The feeders by the visitor centre enabled us to add many small bird to the days list including all 3 species of Redpoll, with Coues' Arctic Redpoll being a life tick for me.

Leaving Titchwell we only had a total of 59 species rather lower than previous years. Choesley Drying Barns held less than expected but we did run into the Corn Bunting/Yellowhammer flock further through the back roads.

With the lack of sea duck at Titchwell we headed for the clifftop at Old Hunstanton, from were we also saw the corpse of a Sperm Whale on the beach.Back to the birds we picked up Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Eider and Fulmer.

A few more common species were added while driving before arriving at Flitcham, a flock of 70+ Tree Sparrow was nice to see along with 20+ Song Thrush, but the expected Little Owl were elusive. Stopping at Fakenham we soon found the Great Grey Shrike, but more frustratingly after being to early for a bacon sandwich at Titchwell, Morrisons was also closed, so no snacks for us.

Now with 90 species on the list we headed to Cley. The obvious target being he Western Sandpiper, which on arrive in the hides was nowhere to be seen. Avocet and Pied Wagtail were noted before eventually the Western Sandpiper return, close in directly in front of us. Gary then found a Peregrine on the deck has we frantically looked for a Snipe. Gary wouldn't give up and eventually succeeded. The day was however drifting away from us so in a very brief stop at Salthouse we added Guillemot and Razorbill.

Parking by Ranworth village hall a tit flock so found us, and we duly added Coal Tit, Long-tail Tit and Goldcrest, before a Great Spotted Woodpecker and Siskin flock put in an appearance. The female Ring-neck Duck was easy to pick out feeding very close to the Visitor Center with Tufted Duck and Pochard, you hardly needed binoculars.

As always we would finish at the Stubb Mill roost, but drive there via Ludham airfield where a flock of wild swans often feed. Although not the largest group we found 3 Bewick's mixed with 13 or so Whoopers to take the list onto 107. Walking down to the roost at Hickling 3 White-fronted geese flew over. Setting up our attention was soon drawn to 9 Common Crane on view not far away and a Merlin nearby. As the numerous Marsh Harrier dropped in we also picked up a male and ringtail Hen Harrier, and a Bullfinch flew across our viewpoint. With darkness drawing in the Woodcock started to leave the woods to feed on the marsh traditionally the last bird of January 1st, driving back to Norwich however a Barn Owl flew across the road bringing to an end my birding day on a total of 114, with 2 additions (Cetti's Warbler and Kingfisher) heard only.

2011 Review

After proposing to Laura in January, bird watching took a bit of a back seat. With a wedding to plan i became a bit of a 'twitcher' with little time to look for my own birds. My Year List for both Britain and Norfolk reflect this with relatively low totals 233 (Britain) and 217 (Norfolk). My overall British Life List did however increase by 18 to 344, hopefully in 2012 i will go past 350. My plans to visit Whitlingham ever week soon became less than once a month, leading to a rather lowly total of only 99 'Patch Species'. So not much birding done in general but there were still plenty of highlights, plus one obvious misjudgement.

Bird of the Year - Has to be the Roller that turned up at Upper Hollesley Common in Suffolk, not rarest bird of the year, but they are bright blue a stunning birds!

Trip of the Year - We did a couple of epic trips this year, for when we went out we crammed a lot into a few days. As with most years the Isles of Scilly take the award. 2011 saw us spend only 36 hours on the island but i clocked up 5 life ticks including Northern Waterthrush, Upland Sandpiper and Wilson's Snipe. As well as many other scarce species.

And the Misjudgement - This could easily have been my trip of the year, as Gary and i headed up to Aberdeenshire to see the Sandhill Crane. This had to be a day trip as i was working Friday and Sunday, it was a long journey but we saw the bird, only for it to relocate to Suffolk a few days later! Although i did have the conciliation of also seeing a Black Scoter while in Scotland.

So what will 2012 hold, well firstly i will be getting married in May and hope to pick up a few western paliarctic rare and endemic birds while on my honeymoon in Madeira. Money will probably be tight as it seems to be for everyone so local birding will take to the fore. I may even look for a new patch as i seem to have fallen out of love with Whitlingham. That said a few 'away days' may have to be had as i look to push my Life list beyond the 350 mark.