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.