Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Crossbills Don't Like Helicopters!

A bit of a belated update but on the last day of my 'Autumn Migration 2 Weeks Off Work Holiday' (23rd Oct) Gary and myself headed out a little later than earlier in the week and arrived at Lynford Arboretum about 10.30am. As soon as we arrived the flock of Crossbill flew off over our heads, with according to the other birders present at least 1 male Two-barred Crossbill. We contented ourselves looking at fungi, plants and a couple of moths. The birds returned and we got good scope views of the male Two-barred Crossbill, even if it flitted about too much to photograph. The flock was then spooked by military Helicopters flying low over the tree tops, and despite waiting around they did not return quickly so we headed off towards the Titchwell.

Before we arrived news of a Swift sp. at Cley had us hoping to catch up with something exciting on a quiet day of very quiet week on the migrant front. At Cley we soon located the bird over North Hide, but ID was inconclusive, with the bird looking like a Common Swift and then a Pallid Swift as it climbed and fell against the cloudy sky. We intercepted the bird at Salthouse where we got better if brief views, the bird was later confirmed as a Pallid Swift.

While at Salthouse we got new of two reported Parrot Crossbill in Bacton Woods. We spent the next 3 hours hunting around this area of Gary's Patch. We eventually found the Crossbills or rather they found us, as they flew over we could heard the call of a Parrot Crossbill in a small group of 7 Crossbill, but they then perched out of view. The birds feed silently in a tree yards from us only spooked by a helicopter flying over, we failed to relocate them after that and as it was getting late decided to head home. Frustratingly we knew we had seen a Parrot Crossbill but were unsure which one of the 7 it was! Gary later caught up with the birds a couple of days later, confirming a Parrot Crossbill was definitely in the flock.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Semipalmated Plover in Hampshire.

After going to Stiffkey instread of Hampshire on Friday Gary was itching to go look for the Semipalmated Plover on Hayling Island, but with things planned it was not until 4.30am on Sunday 20th that my taxi to the south coast arrived. Driving down the weather was awful with torrential showers, thunder and lightning. After a breakfast stop we arrived at Black Point on Hayling Island around 9am and would have a 3 hour wait until high tide. Slowly the tide pushed he waders off the mud and sand flat forcing them to roost on the beach. Sanderling, Grey Plover, Dunlin and 30 or so Ringed Plover eventually all came close, but despite 100+ birders looking at everyone, no one could call the Semipalmated Plover. Around 11.45 with most birds roosting high on the beach a Carrion Crow spooked everything up and the birds all moved off. We all packed up our scopes and headed half a mile or so along the beach a favoured place for the Ringed Plover to roost at high tide. Here we found c20 Ringed Plover and their slightly smaller cousin, the Semipalmated Plover. The birds had no where else to go with the tide now at its highest and offered great views despite once being cased off by a dog. It turns out the SPP was probably across the bay earlier in the morning at Thorny Island, so the main flock watched for 3 hours hadn't held the bird.

The weather had held out so we decided to try and find the 5 reported Parrot Crossbill along with a Two-barred Crossbill at Hamsted Forest in Kent on the way home. Arriving at the forest we first walked the wrong track before a kind dog walker pointed us in the right direction. On parking at the correct end of the forest, the rain started to fall. We soon found the assembled birders, who very soon left us, as the rain became harder and harder. Hiding under and umbrella but still getting wet, we waited 40 minutes before the rain finally stopped. Almost as soon as the rain stopped we heard the call of a Parrot Crossbill. A few Common Crossbill flitted along the clearing back edge, and among them a male Parrot Crossbill perched up. Although slightly distant the much more chunky beak was clearly visible, compared to the Common Crossbill in the same tree. After enduring the rain we decided to wait a little longer, hoping for better views and possibly the Two-barred to reappear. However by 5.15pm the clouds had started to form again so we headed back to the car, heading home via the Dartford crossing we completed a full lap of the M25 and arrived hope about 9pm.

Final Patch Visit & North Norfolk

On Thursday 17th I decided to visit Whitlingham for what would be my final visit to the Country Park with it still being my 'local' patch. Sadly it proved to be an anti-climax with a distinct lack of wildfowl and very little bird life in general. Fly over Redwing and Fieldfare were two new patch ticks for the year and close views of a Treecreeper the only highlights. I had planned to walk the woods and Whitlingham Marsh, but the lack of activity lead me to the Flint Barn for a warming cup of tea, followed by a slow walk home.

Friday the 18th was a much better day, Gary collected me at about 6.30am and we headed off to North Norfolk (the night before we had debated driving down to see the Semi-palmated Plover in Hants.). We arrived at Stiffkey more hopeful than expecting, as the winds had not been ideal for much migrant movement. Walking towards the Whirly Gig we soon picked up quite a few Redwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush and Blackbird, also 2 Ring Ouzel but not the numbers of Thrush seen on Monday. With the thrushes was a large mixed flock of Tits and Finches but nothing out of the ordinary. Near to Garden Drove we found a group of 13 Blackcap but they proved to be the only warblers we found in the area. News of 4 Glossy Ibis seen past Wells had us keeping a look out over the salt marsh and eventually they came past, flying on then over Blakeney Harbour and tracked onward East. Small groups of Redpoll flew over most of the morning, along with a couple of Brambling and Crossbill so with at least some evidence of incoming birds we decided to slip and slide out to the bank of gorse out in the salt marsh. Our rewards for this was 2 Rock Pipit and a Water Pipit mixed in with the numerous Meadow Pipit, and a Peregrine hunting over the marsh. The remains of whom's lunch we found in the form of two well stripped Redwing carcasses.

Just back at the car we got news that the elusive Dusky Warbler at Weybourne had been trapped and would be released in 20 minutes, rather than walk the Campsite Woods we raced (always obeying Speed Limits) to Weybourne and arrived shortly before the bird was released at Denmark House. We got brief views in the hand before the bird whizzed off into the bushes.

A brief stop at Cley Spy in Glandford enabled us to view a rather smart male Black Redstart frequenting the barn roofs, before returning home. Driving back Gary was cursing that we had not gone to Hampshire with the Semi-palmated Plover message reporting the bird 'Showing Well', maybe another day!

Monday, 14 October 2013

A Day in the Dunes

The middle 2 weeks of October are always set aside by Gary and myself for a spot of Autumn migrant hunting. Going away this year wasn't really an option, Gary has a new baby and I'm moving house, so Norfolk will be our stomping ground for the next few trips. 

We started today bright and early at Burnham Overy dunes. Walking down the Gun Hill track it seemed rather quiet, maybe this is just because last year we had thousands of thrush streaming in all day, or maybe it was the stiff breeze keeping things low. The first migrant was a Woodcock flushed from the hedge, followed by a few Redwing and Song Thrush. 2 Bullfinch were nice to see, even if not of the trumpeting northern variety. In the sueada by the sea wall we located a few Chiffchaff, Robin and Goldcrest, an early president for the day. A fly over Crossbill with a strange call could of been part of the Parrot Crossbill influx but we will never know. The bushes by the board walk are always productive and today was no exception, singles of Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethoat and Ring Ouzel, along with more Robin and Goldcrest. Walking Gun Hill large numbers of Reed Bunting and Meadow Pipit seemed to dominate along with small flocks of Redwing off the sea. A few Blackcap were by the old brick chimney, and 3 Brambling were near the board walk as we returned. 

Walking towards Holkham we continued to pick up small numbers of thrush, before Gary found a Great Grey Shrike being chased by a large flock of Meadow Pipit. We watched this for a short while before it headed inland with some purpose. In the brambles and bushes by the pines, Robin and Blackcap were about in good numbers, before we stumbled upon a group of c30 Chiffchaff all in a small area. Here we also found our only 2 Fieldfare of the day, 4 Mistle Thrush and 2 Swallow. Walking the southern edge of Holkham Pines we soon stumbled across a Pallas's Warber, more Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Pallas's Warbler are one of my favorite birds and this tiny eartern migrant flitted about at close quarters for a while. From the Cross tracks we headed towards the beach and dunes, seeing 2 further Crossbill and lots of Goldcrest. Things had gone rather quirt so we headed back along the seaward side of the dunes. Nearly back at the boardwalk came news of 2 probable Parrot Crossbill back in the pines! We headed back but after 45 minutes without signed decided to call time on the days birding. Nearly back at the boardwalk again and more news, this time a Siberian Stonechat at Wells. 

Parking in the beach car park and walking back we soon found the location to the West of Beach Road but no sign of the Stonechat. Gary headed back to pick up the car giving me 10 minutes or so to keep scanning, and just as Gary arrived back I found the Siberian Stonechat a little distant, but still showing most of it features and general pale appearance. With a Barn Owl Drifting past in the back ground this was a nice way to finish the day. 

Totals for the day included, c900 Redwing, 58 Song Thrush, 3 Fieldfare, 58 Blackbird, 10 Ring Ouzel, 4 Mistle Thrush,18 Brambling, 3 Crossbill, 125 Meadow Pipit, 64 Reed Bunting, 55 Robin, 56 Chiffchaff, 73 Goldcrest, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 58 Blackcap, 2 Swallow, 1 Pallas's Warbler, 1 Woodcock, and 1 Great Grey Shrike.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Its October, time for some migrants?

On Tuesday 1st, after leaving Mum at the hospital for a day procedure Dad and I headed off to Winterton in search of some October migrants, hopeful brought in by the proceeding few day's easterly winds. Standing in the car park the wind was still brisk and was going to cause problems, any passerines would surely keep low, but on the sea Dad soon picked up 2 Pintail and 7 Brent Geese. With the breeze we decide to walk the south dunes under the Hermanus hoping the bushes would offer some cover. It was evident there had been a recent fall of Robins and there was a passing of c40 Meadow Pipit, but it was surprisingly quiet. 3 Siskin, 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest the combine migrant total after nearly 2 hours searching, although we thought we briefly heard a Yellow-browed Warbler.

An impromptu sea watch in the lea of a dune for 30 minutes was much more successful, with 2 Med Gull, 3 Little Gull, 15 Brent Geese, 2 Red-throated Diver, 1 Great Skua, 13 Wigeon and numerous distant Gannet, Kittiwake and Sandwich Tern. Bird of the day however went to a Black-throated Diver heading south.

We briefly looked in the bushes around the totem pole, but the wind was rushing through them so we decided to get some lunch. Walking back to the car we flushed a single Wheatear and 5 Skylark. Back at the car park c50 Common Scoter were close to the beach, but contained nothing rarer. We had planned to look for the Rose-coloured starling at Caister, but mum called and would soon need collecting.

Throughout the dunes we found lots of large hairy caterpillars, which i believe to be Fox Moth caterpillars.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A Morning at Strumpshaw and Scouting the Patch

On Tuesday I caught an early bus and soon found myself at Strumpshaw Fen RSPB with the mist still hanging over the reeds. I seemed to be the first person to walk along the Lackford Run as a continual steam of spiders webs stuck to my face. The Lackford Run path was quiet with a few Blue Tit and 2 juv. Reed Warbler on the deck and above me 2 Marsh Harrier were constantly harassed by a large group of Lapwing. From Tower Hide I could see that the winter wildfowl have started to return, 100+ Teal, c30 Wigeon and a large group of Shovler frequented the main pool. The margins were also lively with 31 Snipe, 1 Jack Snipe, 1 Sanderling and 18 Ruff, as well as the for mentioned Lapwing. I had just counted the Snipe and found the Jack Snipe when all hell was let lose, and i soon located the culprit, a female Hobby skimming over the reed bed. I had the hide to myself so spent some time looking through the ducks and waders before heading off along the river bank. The Fen Hide held 6 people but not a single pair of binoculars, just big lenses and cameras pointing at nothing in particular so i soon left. Two Great Spotted Woodpecker sat in the dead by the path back and allowed me to get very close. Grabbing a flapjack from Reception hide I was mid-munch when a Bittern flew past the front of the hide, a few seconds later two of the photographers walked in, hard luck guys. By the feeders i watched a pair of Marsh Tit and a Goldcrest in the Yew tree before heading back towards the main road and bus home.

On Wednesday I needed to be in North Walsham late afternoon, but decided to catch an early bus and scout out a bit of my 'new patch'. Dad dropped me off on Skyton Road after we'd been to the bank and I wandered off to re-discover Felmingham Heath, which I haven't visited in over 10 years. The wet woodland edges to the south and west were full of fungi, which made up for the lack of birds. The main area of dry heath is much patchier than i remember, with large area of gorse, but it was nice to see many areas being re-opened up by habitat management. While watching a group of young Willow Warbler I caught the silhouette of a raptor, initially i thought it was a buzzard, but as it flew closer and into better light i didn't need my binoculars to see it was in fact a Goshawk, a bird i really wasn't expecting. After more fungus hunting i took the back roads and footpaths towards another area of my new patch, the quiet lanes south of Antingham. Although again few birds were about i took my time to re-familiarize myself with lanes, hedgerows and fields, nothing the different habitat, and what i might expect to see in the future. Part of this areas forms the 1km square that i plan to monitor for all species of plant, animal and insect, so i made lots of mental notes of things to look out for next year.

Monday, 23 September 2013

A Quiet September

I haven't really had much to report over the last couple of weeks, with the only local bird of note, the Wilsons Phalorope at Cley appearing and then disappearing while i was working.

On 10th September I did manage a brief sea watch from Walcott, but having to meet the solicitor first it was 10am before dad  and I arrived. We stayed in the car as waves broke on the sea wall, sending spray high into the air. We only scanned the sea for about 30 minutes before a heavy shower reduced visabily and we gave up. But not before spotting a few marine specialists, 4x Sandwich Tern, 1x Arctic Skua, 1x Great Skua, 2x Manx Shearwater, 3x Eider, 2x Common Scoter and 1x Red Throated Diver. I then got thoroughly wet and cold waiting nearly 2 hours for my delayed train home.

I wandered along the River Yare towards the UEA on 20th, but this time on a much cooler day i failed to find any more Willow Emerald Damselfly. With autumn migration not really noticable inland i was concentrating on hunting for fungi rather than the birds, but with a dry summer i failed to find very much.

After a warm afternoon and with a cloudy evening i decided to run the moth trap on 21st, but by midnight the cloud had cleared, and i could get the trap in without the aid of a touch as the moon was full. Unsurprisingly the the trap was nearly empty with only 5 moths in total, the highlight being a Brimstone moth - just because it was yellow!

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Yare Valley and a Willow Emerald

With my planned house purchase starting to gather pace, i decided to spend sometime looking around the areas local to my current Norwich home, it may be the last chance i get to spend some time in the area.

On 30th August i wandered down to Marston Marshes, it was waiting on a call from the estate agents and needed to get out of the house to relieve the tension. Lots of people were out enjoying the sun, but the birds were not. Only 17 species were seen, a rather disappointing total if it were not for a female Redstart found along Marston Lane.

Visting the estate agents in North Walsham gave me the excuse to have a quick wander along the cliff top by Mundesley Holiday Camp on the 2nd September. The wind wasn't great for any migrants coming from the South-west. Two distant Arctic Skua and a few Sandwich Tern were out to sea, as well as the commoner gulls. A Yellow Wagtail flew west along the cliff, a handful of Swallow flew Eastward and a large flock of Linnet were on the nearby stubble field.

A walk along the River Yare from Trowse to Lakeham proved rather fruitless on the 3rd September, 3 young Willow Warbler, a family of 4 Mistle Thrush the probable highlights. I did spend a while however watching a Hornets nest near the electricity substation but didn't have my camera to take any photos.

Whitlingham has been the closest thing i have had to a patch in the city for the last 5/6 years, but i have neglected it of late. Starting at Trowse water meadows i was rewarded with a Kingfisher fishing from a perch, and also a family of Willow Warbler being feed in the river side willows. From Whitlingham Lane 2 Buzzard circled overhead a a Green Woodpecker was in a dead tree. The Little Broad was quiet but a close in Treecreeper was appreciated. On the river my the Water Sports Center a family was 4 Kingfisher were feeding and playing, and 2 Bullfinch flew across the river. The conservation area was rather noisy with lots of juvenile gulls harassing the adult birds. Walking clockwise my attention was caught by a bird flicking about the top of some alders, expecting a warbler i was surprised to see a Spotted Flycatcher. Not far away i found a family of Cetti's Warbler being feed in the scrub,  they looked fully fledged but still begged for food. Scanning Thorpe Station Marsh a lone Lapwing was the only bird i could see. The south show was equally quiet 2 further Kingfisher and a pair of Kestrel over the Meadow the only birds of note as i wandered home.

On Monday 9th September i wandered from Eaton to the UEA following the river year. I continued my trend for seeing Kingfisher everywhere i go with a family group of 3 on the River and another one on the UEA Broad. Other birds of note were 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker and 2 Tawny Owl, the owls called for a couple of minutes before flying alone the woodland edge south of the UEA Broad. It was very strange hearing them call at 10.30am! But the highlight of the day was a probable Willow Damselfly found by the river. (i say probable because my damselfly ID isn't the best, so if some one could confirm the ID i would be grateful.) As far as i am aware this would be a new site for the species that seems to be spreading in East Anglia.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Wyneck Wyneck Everywhere but None in Sight of Drink

Has summer ended? Yesterday and today saw a steady flow of migrants arriving along the whole of the east coast including large numbers of Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Whinchat, Wheatear and Wryneck. As well as smaller numbers of Greenish Warbler, Icterine Warbler and Black Tern.

Despite it being a Bank Holiday Weekend Laura and I after a lazy morning headed to Salthouse to see what migrant we could catch up with. We parked in the beach car park and could see a large group of birders on Gramborough Hill, at least 1 but probably 2 Wryneck were close by but not showing once we got there. A Whinchat was on the wires close to the car, A family of Stonechat confused a few people as Whinchat, Stonechat and Wheatear created a mixed flock including 6 Whinchat, 5 Stonechat and and 5 Wheatear. In the Gramborough Hill bushes 3 Spotted Flycatcher and 2 Pied Flycatcher occasionally made short fly catching darts and at least 1 Willow Warbler, 2 Whitethroat and a female Redstart kept themselves well hidden. We did think about leaving as there was no sign of the Wryneck for over an hour, but the other birds had kept us there, the Wryneck then reappeared perched up with a Wheatear  on the wires, giving clear if a little distant views. A quick look over the shingle back didn't offer any Shearwater or Skua but a juv. Black Tern was a bonus bird. 20+ Wryneck have been reported on Spurn today and 12+ in Norfolk so it was likely we would see one the only disappointing thing was that the bird wasn't viewable from a Public House that would have topped the day off.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Little Nugget of Gold

I manged to run the moth trap last night but just before i went to bed an unexpected shower forced me to bring the trap in at 12.30. The trap was dominated by Copper Underwing (9), with at least one probable Svensson's Copper Underwing. New for the Garden were a rather warn Gothic, Flame Shoulder (3), Poplar Hawk Moth and Tawny Speckled Pug (1). The most attractive moth without doubt was a Gold Spot also new. Other moths among others included, Bloodvein (1),  Dunbar (2), Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (5), Brimstone (2), Silver Y (5), Mother of Pearl (3) and Willow Beauty (4).

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Cantley to Brundall

Yesterday i caught the train to Cantley and planned to walk back to Brundall, via Buckenham and Strumpshaw, quite a punishing walk if you include getting to and from the station. I decide to start with the Beet Factory and soon found lots of Green Sandpiper. But before reaching the cooling pools i stumbled across a mixed tit flock holding young Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, 2 Willow Warbler and a loosely associating family of Whitethroat. The cooling pools to the north held 8 Green Sandpiper and 1 Common Sandpiper however visibility was hindered by tall vegetation. I had much more success with he pools to the east of the factory with 8 Green Sandpiper, 2 Common Sandpiper, 7 Ruff, 5 Dunlin and a Spotted Redshank. There was lots of eclipse duck which despite picking through all look quite common.

Walking along the river back towards Buckenham i found the best birds of the day, 2 Wood Sandpiper were in a muddy pool and also Ruff in ones and twos at various spots. A female Hobby flew through and I found 3 Grass Snake sunbathing, but until i reached the Mill at Buckenham I had to make do with watching Dragonflies which filled the air as few birds seemed to be around. What was left of the quite dry flooded pools was dominated by a large flock of Canada Geese, which were joined by 17 Barnacle Geese and 2 Snow Goose type birds. 2 Avocet, 1 Green Sandpiper and 1 Common Sandpiper found space in the margins before 2 Wood Sandpiper arrived, probably the two I had seen earlier. By  the Fisherman's Carpark a lonely summer plumage Bar-tailed Godwit and Oystercatcher were joined by two further Green Sandpiper and Yellowhammer was a nice bird to find as i walked towards Buckenham Station.

At Strumpshaw Fen RSPB my first stop was the pool by the feeders to look for Small Red-eyed Damselfly, which i found but I was also entertained by a family of Blue Tits bathing and a Chiffchaff having a drink. Walking along the river bank a juvenile Cuckoo flew from reed bed and i spotted my second Hobby of the day. From the Tower Hide 32 Ruff were causing confusion as they varied from bright white to golds and browns, a good gathering of Lapwing were also present along with a rather drab eclipse drake Wigeon and you guessed it another Green Sandpiper. Walking back towards the railway line i bumped into Ben who pointed out 8 rather nice Swallowtail caterpillars, before we discussed the possibily of seeing the Willow Emerald Damselflies quite soon. Walking along the rather over grown footpath back towards Brundall i'm not sure who was more shocked, as i pushed through overhanging bracken a Tawny Owl perch on a low branch was startled and flew only a few feet over my head. Getting home i examined my blistered toe and reflected on a nice day out. I did run the moth trap but with little success, an Orange Swift the only moth of note and new for he garden.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Birding Gary's Patch

Or should that be Insecting Gary's Patch? On Monday I found myself in North Walsham with a few hours to kill so headed off along the disused North Walsham - Mundesley Railway and Pigny's Wood, part of Gary's Patch. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, and i soon had a large list of Butterflies, but birds were in short supply. Upon reaching the steps down to Pigny's Wood I had 13 species of Butterfly all quite common but nice to see. Banded Demoiselle, Migrant Hawker and Common Darter were near the river Ant. Not far from the 'Old Oak'  I found a colony of Purple Hairstreak defiantly the butterfly of the day. I sat and watched c 12 for a while and managed a few pictures as they briefly settled between chasing and dancing around. Walking across the Meadow area towards the 'Barn' i spotted a Harvest Mouse in some tall grass, I've only ever seen them in captivity so was taken for a while until it spotted me. By the scrape I saw Broad-bodied Chaser and Black-tailed Skimmer, before watching a Green Sandpiper on the muddy margins. I followed the course of the River Ant back towards Bacton Road, seeing 2 Painted Lady Butterflies and a surprise Kingfisher, considering the over grown nature of the channel. All in all a rather nice couple of hours, with 18 species of butterflies on the wing and 8 species of Dragonfly/Damselfly, it was only the poor total of 20 birds that let the walk down.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

It's just too HOT!

Since my last post i haven't really done much birding. A brief half hour walk around Spa Common on 24th July about covers it. Although I did see 2 Kingfisher by the small bridge along with an Otter, also in the area 7 Stock Dove and various juvenile birds including, Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chiffchaff and Great Tit. A surprise garden tick on the 17th July was Little Egret flying over.

Dispite the hot weather I've been struggling to run the moth trap as overnight storms have threatened or I've been out and about (strange I know). When running the trap I've had a mixed bag some nights getting nothing more than a trap full of flies and dross and other nights new species for the garden.

New Species:
9th July   - Pale Oak Beauty, Heart and Clubs, Clouded Boarder, Woodworm Pug and Dark Spectacle
12th July - Double Square Spot and Dark Grey Dagger.
13th July - Miller and  Dingy Footman.
29th July - Campion, Scalloped Oak, Silver Y and Phoenix.


Can anyone help ID the bottom carpet moth sp.?

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

A Short Summer Stroll?

Despite Monday being forecast as possibly one of the hottest days of the year, i had already decided to go out birding, but where? There's never much new to find at this time of year, apart from maybe an early returning wader, but the coast would be full of beach goers and offer little shade. I decided i would walk my regular spring route from Rockland to Norwich. I caught the 9am bus to Rockland and started my walk from the New Inn. There were lots of hindrines in the air over the meadows and broad including at least 2 Sand Martin but i'm not sure where they would nest locally and 2 Grasshopper Warbler were reeling from the tussocky grass in the meadow. Halfway to the hide i was sure i heard a short burst of Nightingale song, but despite waiting about and looking again on the walk back it only called once. A Whitethoat perched up allowing a couple of quick photos,  and i also got good views of young Willow Warbler being fed. From the hide i saw two Kingfisher busily flying back and forth no doubt feeding young somewhere nearby. The only other thing of note the 50+ Mallard more than I've ever seen here at any time of the year. Walking back i located one of the the Grasshopper Warbler before taking the footpath towards Surlingham.

As the day was nice i had a quick wander through part of the Wheatfen Reserve, no birds of note, but a Swallowtail was one of the many species of butterfly, damselfly and dragonfly i saw during the day. Nearby i watched a female Kestrel with two fledglings learning to hunt, they hadn't quite perfected the hover! Walking through the village a Sparrowhawk circled overhead before i took the Wherryman's Way down towards the Coldham Hall a diversion i wouldn't normally take but i fancied investigating the pub. (As it happens i was to early, it was closed.) Approaching the Ferry House Pub by the river i could hear a Cuckoo nearby and soon found it not far from the gate to Surlingham Church Marsh, looking for the Cuckoo i forgot about my lunchtime pint! The pool on Church Marsh has held Green Sandpiper of late but i had to make do with a young fox playing along the back edge. Looking out over Postwick Marshes i did pick up a Barn Owl and two Buzzard circling high.

From here to Bramerton i saw little and the new look pub looked a little to posh for a birdwatching lunch so i headed on towards Whitlingham. The track to the Sewage Farm held a nice little surprise, a Little Owl digging about under an oak tree for beetles, there was also young Goldcrest and Coal Tit in the pines. The Sewage works held its normal pair of Oystercatcher and a Song Thrush was singing from the top of the Barn by the flyover. Dispite walking through the woods and around the back of the Great Broad, 2 Common Tern and a few Tufted Duck were the only extra birds i added before walking back to the Flint Barn for a much needed sandwich. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was on the dead tree by the new archery range and a Green Woodpecker was on the large dead tree opposite the Canoe Club. Walking back via the city to pick up some new shoes, i finally got home at 3.30, with rather achy feet. Including but detours it turns out my short summer stroll was just over 17 miles long, at least for most of the day it was cloudy so i wasn't burnt to a crisp.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

June Update

During June despite the Roller in Holt and the Pacific Swift in Suffolk I just haven't managed to get out birding much. All the good stuff appeared while i was at work or otherwise engaged! I have however managed to run the moth trap more frequently if only for a few hours at a time because of the threat of overnight rain.

12th - Marston Marshes was particularly quiet however a few orchids on Eaton Common brightened the walk along with the regular Kingfishers in the area and close views of a Green Woodpecker eating ants.

17th - Thorpe Station Marsh / Carey's Meadow - The orchids at Eaton encouraged me to go to Carey's Meadow, where i found only two spikes, at least four different species are present on site so i was very disappointed. On the Marshes at least 4 Male Reed Bunting where singing. Lots of Warblers about though  only briefly seen now that everything is finally thick with leaves. Garden, Cetti's, Reed, Sedge and Grasshopper Warbler all seen along with Whitethroat and Blackcap.

18th - Strumpshaw Fen - A belated Father's Day outing. A distant Osprey was seen towards Rockland, 3 Common Sandpiper from Tower Hide and 2 Swallowtail on Lackford Run covers the highlights, but all the normal stuff was about. 3 different broods of Blackcap being feed was nice to see. I also managed to walk straight past the Bee Orchids near the reception hide! Lunch at the Fur and Feather in Woodbastwick meant i also got to try Woodforde's 'new' ale Bure Gold which went down a treat in the sun. 

Moths - New Garden Moths included Mottled Pug (7th), Common Swift (7th), Pinion Streaked Snout (11th), White-Spotted Pug (11th), Treble Lines (16th), Lime Hawk (21st), Poplar Grey (21st), Clouded Silver (29th), Buttoned Snout (29th) and Small Clouded Brindle (29th). 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Another Rare Thrush & Yorkshire Holiday

On Saturday 18th Gary collected me mid afternoon and we headed off for Kent and a female Dusky Thrush. Arriving at Margate Cemetery we soon found ourselves viewing the bird perched up in a sycamore. Luckily i had a clear view through the recently emerged leaves. The bird then spent a while feeding in the open and perched in a pine offering crippling views at times. My second rare thrush of the Spring, not to wish away the summer but some rare autumn thrushes would be nice. As we left a stream of Ring-necked Parakeets started to flow into the cemetery to roost including a group of 25+.

On Tuesday 21st Laura and i called into Bempton Cliffs RSPB on route to Whitby. A strong Northerly wind blew up the cliff face and wasn't pleasant. We managed to pick out all the usual seabirds including Puffin, always a great bird to see, and watched the good numbers of Tree Sparrow by the Visitor Center, before having our sandwiches and continuing north. Staying in Whitby for 3 days it was nice to see Fulmer nesting on the cliff but the strong winds meant i didn't spend too long on the cliff top. A brief drive through the moors after riding on the North York Moors Railway proved rewarding with Red Grouse, Golden Plover and Merlin on the 23rd. A wet day in York offered no bird life but this wasn't meant to be a birding holiday. Before coming home we spent 2 days around Leeds, staying with friends. 10 Red Kite north of the city and a Sparrowhawk in the Garden added to my relatively small holiday list.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Early May Update

On the 2nd May i went for a wander around the UEA and Bowthorpe in the hunt for a few more spring arrivals. Starting at Eaton i walked along the river towards the UEA, lots of birds were calling and i got close views of Blackcap, Whitethroat and Wren oblivious to me as they sang out. Near the UEA Broad two Kingfisher whizzed by but the main Broad was very quiet. Behind the UEA playing fields i was delighted to see two Little Owl foraging in the meadow and then perching up once they spotted me.

Bowthorpe Marshes were quiet but Swallow, House Martin and a pair of Sand Martin hawked overhead. Two Oystercatcher were on the pools and near the Car Park two Garden Warbler sung in the Hawthorn thicket along with 3 Reed Bunting and 2 Song Thrush. Over Colney Gravel Pits i spotted my first two Swift of the year.

Sunday 5th May was 'May Day Bird Race' Gary and myself whizzed around Norfolk to see if we could beat the 142 species seen/heard last year. Gary collected me before 4am and we headed for the Brecks, but not before a Blackbird perched up outside my house. A Tawny Owl near Snetterton  was seen before we arrived at Santon Downham. We spent quite a while walking alone the Little Ouse and St Helen's Car Park area, reaching 50 specie before leaving. Highlights included an nonseasonal Fieldfare, Willow Tit, a pair of Manderin, 4 Crossbill, Lesser Redpoll, Grey Wagtail and the best bird a male Ring Ouzel perched atop a tree by the Car Park.

Near Grimes Graves it was great to see 6+ Tree Pipit as well as a Willow Warbler. Driving past Weeting Heath NWT we saw a Stone Curlew close the the road so didn't even have to stop on our way to Lakenheath RSPB. Although the reserve is not in Norfolk you can scan back across the river to Nelson's County, and from this view point we added some of the common wildfowl and also Barn Owl, Sand Martin and Reed Warbler.

Arriving at Welney WWT just before they opened at 9.30 we had 73 species seen and three other heard with Whooper Swan and a few gulls in the field approaching the reserve. Great White Egret was out target bird and took a little finding, but we added both Godwit Sp. Yellow Wagtail and Common Sandpiper among others while searching, however we did fail to see the Gargany that was present. We added Red Kite near Nordelph before arriving at Pentney Gravel Pits. Here a Lesser Whitethroat was in a the roadside hedge, we found Mistle Thrush and Oystercatcher on the meadow and Actic Tern, LRP and Egyptian Goose on the Pits. Leaving the area a female Redstart flew across in front of the car bringing the total seen to 97.

In North West Norfolk we added Whimbel, Cuckoo, Wheatear, Curlew, Stonechat and Sparrowhawk at Roydon Common, but spent too long hunting for Wood Lark. Flitcham was offered up Tree Sparrow, Grey Partridge and Marsh Harrier, but the resident Little Owl hid out of sight. A quick stop at Chosely added only two species, but both good birds, Corn Bunting and Turtle Dove. Titchwell was the last big site that offered the prospect of a good specie haul. We duly added 20 species highlights included Common Scoter, Gannet, Eider and 2 Long-tailed Duck on the sea. And Little Tern, Red-crested Pochard, Cetti's Warbler and Bearded Tit on the reserve.

The rest of the day would be spent popping into a few sites hoping for the odd addition hear and there. A Spoonbill flew through, with a brief roadside stop at Holkham. A long walk on Kelling Heath was a little disappointing with only Bullfinch and Green Woodpecker added. From Cley Marshes NWT Car Park we scanned out Gary finding a distant Green Sandpiper and myself a Short-eared Owl flying off towards Blakeney. We finished the evening on Salthouse Heath listening to Nightingale before a surprise Hobby flew over us. As the sun fell we sat hoping for an early Nightjar without success, but our second Ring Ouzel of the day was as unexpected as the first.

136 Species had been seen along with 4 extra heard brought he total to 140. Two less than last year, but rather surprising last years list included 17 specie snot seen this year, so maybe next year will bring us 150 species in one day.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Rufous Tailed Rock Thrush

Meeting Gary for lunch during my Breydon walk meant i was aware of the Rock Thrush that had been found earlier that day in Kilnsea on Spurn. Gary had meetings that afternoon and the forecast looked good for the bird to head off overnight. Friday Morning however the bird was still there and after rearranging a meeting Gary picked me up just after 10am for a whistle stop trip to Yorkshire. The traffic wasn't too bad and we arrived a little after 2pm. Initially the bird couldn't be located but was soon re-found in its favored area. We watched the bird for about an hour at times it came quite close, before some people got too close and if flew back to a post at the back of the paddock, annoyingly each time before i had managed a photo. A nice bird to see a shame about the morons that wanted to pounce on it. Just before we left i quickly popped into a nearby hide to look at a Long-eared Owl perched up in the hedge, before we dashed back home.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Breydon Storks and Migrants

Today i caught the train to Berney Arms, one of the most isolated station in Britain,being 3.5 miles from the nearest road. From the station its a short walk to the edge of Breydon Water, from here you can walk to Great Yarmouth about 6 miles along the north wall, its isolation makes for a very quiet walk (today i encountered just 1 person on the whole route). Before i got off the train though i had seen what i thought was a Rough-legged Buzzard on a post from the train, but now i'm aware of a very pale Common Buzzard in the area, which sadly it probably was.

Getting off the train i soon heard and located Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting, Bearded Tit, Curlew, Skylark and Chiffchaff. Walking towards the Wind pump 12 Whimbrel flew over my head (a group of almost 50 was seen later)  and 2 Marsh Harrier were close by. My first rather tired looking Swallow was on the wires and a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling but could not be seen. A Cuckoo was calling and was found just east of the Berney Arms Pub, along with 2 Whitethroat and slightly further along the wall a Lesser Whitethroat. For the next 40 minutes or so heavy drizzle was frustrating but was brightened by 3 Yellow Wagtail . By the Breydon Pump House, 5 Swallow and a House Martin flew around the sluice and a lonely Wheatear watched me from its perch on a footpath marker post.

Since my last walk along this route two pools have been dug and these held lots of Shelduck (one group of 58 and one of 72) as well as Avocet and lingering Wigeon. My attention was soon distracted by two White Stork that flew in and then came closer and closer. If these birds are excepted as wild they will be a 'lifer' and my first of the spring. I watched the Stork for 15 minutes or so before the flew off north. I then scanned the pools for 'migrant' waders without success until i stumbled upon a Gargany. Part of the North Wall is closed for flood defense work so i detoured via the back of the Vauxhall Holiday Park. My first Reed Warbler of the year was in a reedy dyke and 2 additional Yellow Wagtail were flitting about. Peacock, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies had started to emerge as the sun finally broke through.

I next walked through both the old and new cemeteries in Yarmouth, but with lots of the old scrub removed i only managed to find a single Blackcap. On North Denes i found a female Wheatear and on the beach numerous Ringed Plover and singles of Greenshank and Grey Plover. 2 Sandwich Tern headed north before i headed into town to meet Gary for lunch.

Back on the train home i got one final surprise for  the day. Not far from the old Pontiac Roadhouse a Glossy Ibis was flushed into the air by the train from a flooded pool, it flew away from the line before characteristically gliding down into the marsh again.

The Missing Post

Last week i was having internet issues so my post failed to upload. As it was a while ago i'll keep it brief. Tuesday 16th i started again at The Cock in Lakenham but this time walked out towards Arminghall, around High Ash Farm and then the old Roman Town at Caister St Edmund. It was much breezier than the previous day and that was reflected in a surprising lack of warblers compared to the previous day, i only saw 2 Chiffchaff and a single Willow Warbler. The area by the chalk pit often has Swallow and Sand Martin but none as yet, but a lone Fieldfare lingered. High Ash Farm had loads of singing Sky Lark and 6+ Green Woodpecker but little else of note. The burial site opposite the Roman Town held probably the birds of the day with two Whimbel on the grassy fields. By the sewage works i had up to 15 Swallow and 4 House Martin in the air together before they all passed off, a couple of Swallow later may have been extras. A Kingfisher whizzed passed on the River Tas and two Oystercatcher just about rounded off the birds seen despite walking home via Markshall, Keswick and Eaton.

Monday, 15 April 2013

'Chiffchaff, chiffchaff, chiffchaff'

Having waited to hear a Chiffchaff for ages today i could not escape them. Laura dropped me off at Lakenham Cock, the same as a few weeks ago, before she went to work. By the pub i could hear 2 Chiffchaff  and soon saw one by the old mill. A Grey Wagtail was by the second channel and a Kingfisher whizzed by. Just over the railway bridge i saw two Swallows skimming over the field and once in the meadow two Willow Warbler were chasing each other along the river bank. More Chiffchaff sang as i approached the electricity compound, before i was given a reminder of winter when 15 Redwing gathered in the trees. The gentle bird calls were then shattered by a Cetti's Warbler calling only feet away from my ear, a call i haven't heard for ages despite the birds no doubt being here all winter. The Riverside bushes seemed to have lots of warblers moving through, mainly 'quiet' Chiffchaff, feeding and moving on, by the time i reached Trowse Mill i had seen 9 Chiffchaff, 3 Willow Warbler and 2 Cetti's Warbler, with 34 species seen.

Today i decided to approach Whitlingham from a different direction, walking through the Trowse village and woods, via Whitlingham Hall and walking down the Lime Tree Avenue. 2 Common Buzzard circled over head by the Hall and a pair of Coal Tit were collecting nesting materials by the top of the Avenue. By the Great Broad i saw the two remaining young Egyptian Geese and also two broods of Moorhen. No hindrines were over the Broad, but three Pochard lingered and a Marsh Tit was near the Rea Platform. Just past the Picnic Meadow a group of 3 Jay made plenty of noise and a lone Mistle Thrush was on the wires. The sound of Chiffchaffs was a constant. In Whitlingham Woods 3 Goldcrest were in the company of a Treecreeper and Long-tailed Tit appeared all over the place. By the line of telegraph posts a male Blackcap was singing and a Chiifchaff was singing on the ground and then hopped up towards my feet!

Scanning Thorpe Station Marsh from the woods initially i saw nothing, but eventually found a Little-ringed Plover and a couple of Teal, while a Sparrowhawk circled overhead. From my normal view point at the east-end of the Great Broad, i found a Green Sandpiper on Thorpe and 2 Reed Bunting. Back to the Great Broad a pair of Blackcap were near the pumping house and a Sedge Warbler was near the conservation area along with two Cetti's Warbler and a Willow Warbler. Whitlingham held at least 12 Chiffchaff i think the most I've heard singing at once. 63

During my walk i also saw my first butterflies of the year. With 2 Comma and a Peacock at Whitlingham, 3 further Peacock at Trowse Water Meadows and a Small White and Tortoiseshell on my walk home. Also of note was a Chinese Water Deer in the open on the grass by Whitlingham Woods Car park.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Is it Spring now?

This morning with an uncertain forecast for the afternoon i headed out early to Marston Mashes to track down Spring, though as i type this at 12.30 i can see only blue sky! The walk along Unthank Road and through Eaton was pleasant wit lots of common birds calling and flitting about, it felt like spring. And just past the golf course gates i heard my first Chiffchaff of the day, Walking the meadow parallel to Marston Lane i saw 3 Green Woodpecker, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Reed Bunting and the fore mentioned Chiffchaff. All drumming and singing to attract a mate, even more spring like. Reaching the river 2 Kingfisher whizzed past, always nice to see and i spooked a Snipe from a nearby dyke. By the central cluster of trees i watched a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming for a while, but it was rather camera shy. In the muddy river margin in the trees i found a Common Sandpiper, but no sooner i had seen it it saw me and disappeared into one of the dykes across the river. A Grey Heron and Little Egret both with breeding plumes sat on the river bank as i walked towards Keswick Mill. I was just about to pronounce the arrival of spring when i was drawn to a commotion similar to a flock of Starling between the golf course and river. Closer inspection revealed a large flock of Redwing and a few Fieldfare, both in the few odd trees and on the marsh itself probably numbering close to 250 birds. Winter hasn't quiet given up yet. I spooked another Snipe by the railway line before crossing over to Eaton Common.

Just inside the gate i was taken by surprise when a Woodcock came up from under my feet, the Redwing flock then appeared drowning out the call of a Nuthatch nearby. By the weir another Kingfisher flew past and i spent a while enjoying the calls of a Song Thrush. I then noticed a dead Woodcock floating in the margin before finding a 3rd bird in the scrubby corner of the Common, this one much 'redder' than the first. A small flock of Siskin were in the Alders, a Grey Wagtail was on a fallen log blocking the river and a Sparrowhawk circled high above me. As i was leaving two very glossy Marsh Tit held my attention before i headed home. Just before i reach the house a noted a Nuthatch singing only a few doors away.

As i have been typing James has text to say 2 Little Ringed Plover have returned to Thorpe Station Marsh along with 2 Green Sandpiper, 2 Chiffchaff and 5 Sand Martin passing through, if Spring isn't hear Winter is losing its grip fast! I also found a Common Quaker moth in the garden my first moth for months.

Mid Yare 'Spring' Ramble

Every Spring for the last few years around the end of March I have caught the bus to Rockland and walked back to Norwich via the Wherryman's Way. This is normally one of my first opportunities to pick up a few spring migrants, but despite being a couple of weeks later than last year James and i were not optimistic when we climbed on the bus last Friday.

The car park by Rockland Staithe often holds my first Chiffchaff of the year, the area only held a few commoner residents, Linnet, a female Blackcap and a couple of Fieldfare. Rockland Broad itself was rather quiet, a displaying pair of Great Crested Grebe and some singing Skylark at least gave the illusion of spring Walking back past the Staithe i noticed a Wood Duck, though sadly on a garden pond along with a few other ornamental ducks. Following the footpath across the fields we saw Chinese Water Deer and a pair of Brown Hare, a large flock of Linnet the only birds of note. The wood along the side of Wheatfen often holds numerous Great Spotted Woodpecker but was ominously quiet. And in the meadows nearby we found more winter Thrushes with a mixed flock of Redwing, Fieldfare and Starling. A nice Marsh Tit feeding in a garden close to the road didn't really lift the wintery feel.

Surlingham Church Marsh always looks good for Waders and passing wildfowl but i never seem to find any here. Today was no exception, Gadwell, Malllard, Teal, Canada Goose and Tufted Duck offer little to write about, although we did spook two more Chinese Water Deer. Taking the path past the gun club, the Little Owl were hiding out of sight, the only surprise was a group of Red-legged Partridge running around the conifers. A pair of Coal Tit were also close by.

From here the path takes you on past Bramerton and onto Whitlingham. Scanning from a high point across the marshes i found a Curlew and Green Sandpiper on a flooded pool and also 2 Stock Dove. Again woods often alive with woodpecker drumming seemed quiet and it was only when we reached the Sewage Works things 'picked up' again, firstly with an usual gathering of 84 Lapwing, a pair of Oystercatcher and a Herring Gull added to the days total. Before a Water Rail and Sparrowhawk close to Whitlingham Marsh became the last real birds of the walk as Whitlingham CP and woods were busy with people enjoying the Easter holiday and a little bit of sun. Spring must be around the corner very soon!

NB. Finally on Saturday i heard and saw my first Chiffchaff of the spring, harrah!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Finally a Lesser Pecker

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker are a rarity where ever you are these days and after Sundays dip in The Brecks i was not optimistic about catching up one one this year. Luckily dad is friendly with a few local farmers and on Wednesday we visited a private site where he heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker last week. Standing by the car we soon heard a LSW drumming, but i had seen 2 Nuthatch, Marsh Tit, Treecreeper, a lone Brambling and various other Tits, before a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker flew in. The bird alighted on a nearby tree before 3 squabbling Great Tit disturbed it and it flew out of sight. A great 45 min spent before heading off to do a food shop.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Breckland Mixed Bag

On Sunday Gary, his dad Paul and myself headed out into the Brecks for Gary's 'Birthday Bird-Day'. We started off looking for raptors, and once an early shower had passed the birds started to appear above the trees. Firstly a few Buzzard, 2 to start with but up to 7 were up together. A Red Kite was then seen (later joined by a second), before 2 and then 3 Goshawk appeared. Initially distant, but moving closer as they displayed. At least 1 Sparrowhawk and 3 Kestrel completed a large raptor haul in less than an hour. Lots of Skylark and Siskin were around and also a lone Crossbill was of note. But no Woodlark as reported from the same site a week or so ago.

Our next stop for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker proved less productive, with two hours spent and only a handful of commoner birds seen, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Siskin and most of the Tits although a probable Willow Tit lightened the mood.

The long staying Black-bellied Dipper at Thetford decided to go AWOL while we visited but while there we did get crippling views of one of the now famous otters. Finishing on a high note we did then catch up with a flock of 22 Waxwing in Thetford. Feeding close to the road they allowed us to approach very closely, not noticing us in their frenzy to feed. (annoyingly i was so close the camera wouldn't focus).

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Lakenham to Whitlingham

Yesterday Laura dropped me off early in Lakenham and i walked along the river to Trowse, and on to a lap of Whitlingham. By the Cock Inn 3 Kingfisher flew back and forth along the river, surprisingly often perching near the top of a nearby tall tree. 4 or 5 Song Thrush sang between here and Trowse which is nice to hear and a single Teal was on the river. A flock of Redwing (c20) were near the flyover and a Grey Wagtail whizzed past at Trowse Mill.

Since reading a report that Mistle Thrush are declining I've seen them in more places than ever, 2 where in the Jenny Lind Park on Sunday morning, 1 near the house on Sunday evening, 2 by the Trowse Sub-station and finally 2 more off Whitlingham Lane.

Whitlingham is now in a rather quiet stage with many ducks having left but spring migrants yet to arrive. Still the mixed flock of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll remain by the Little Broad with at least 2 Treecreeper and a Goldcrest in tow, and there was still a large group of Pochard on Thorpe Broad. Spring is obviously on its way with lots of birds starting to call with Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit and Robin seemingly in every tree. A lone Marsh Tit near the Flint Barn was nice to see and a Coal Tit uncommon for Whitlingham also nearby.

With the broad-side path closed while ditches are dug out i walked along the wooded trail just past the picnic meadow, here a Green Woodpecker was feeding in a clearing and a large flock of Linnet (38) feed on the adjoining stubble field (i tried to get some pictures but the camera wouldn't focus!). Scanning across to Thorpe Broad apart from the fore mentioned Pochard only a few Tufties remain. With the water level having fallen i recorded my first waders of the year on the shingle spit, 1 Redshank, 4 Oystercatcher, 6 Lapwing and a Common Snipe. The walk back along the north shore was uneventful with a Great Black-backed Gull in the conservation area the only bird of note.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Birds that Peck on Wood

Today Laura and i decided to go and have a look at Barton Broad. On arriving the mist was thick and walking down to the board walk we saw only a Blackbird, 3 Carrion Crow and a handful of Wood pigeon.What little of the Broad we could see through the mist had a thin covering of ice and i managed only 2 Moorhen. Walking back along the boards we saw nothing until we stumbled upon a single large flock of finches and Tits. Siskin, Redpoll, Chaffinch, Brambling, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest. We then heard a Woodpecker drumming and on closer inspection found a pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker close by before a second male arrived and the birds all flew off. A nice walk if lacking in birds, but watching the courting woodpeckers was nice.

Monday, 11 February 2013

More of the Yare Valley

With another uncertain forecast, i decided to stay local. Walking via Eaton Park I was by the UEA Broad before I found anything of interest, a Kingfisher at the east end perched up perfect for a photo, until I got the camera out! Still at the east end was a mixed flock of Lesser Redpoll and Siskin however the light was to poor to take a photos, 3 Treecreeper, 1 Goldcrest and 3 Long-tailed Tit seemed to be assocating with the flock. The path along the river to Eaton was very muddy, despite seeing Little Egret at Bowthorpe I was still surprised to find two on the river here. At Eaton the river was flowing to fast for me to find the resident Grey Wagtail.

I carried on along Church Lane and on towards Eaton Common. There was lots of small birds by  the railway line and a calling Nuthatch was my first for the year. Marston Marshes was quite a challenge with lots of mud and standing water, but few birds. The resident Kestrel was on hand and 2 Green Woodpecker were in the trees. 3 further Little Egret were on the marshes, i can only assume that the birds have finally pushed up the Yare after many years around Breydon, Cantley and Strumpshaw. As always the feeders by the Golf course gates held lots of common birds, and nearby I found this 'Pied Blackbird'. Walking home i ran into another large mixed finch flock, but no rarities of note.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Flooded Bowthorpe

Last Thursday I went for a walk around Bowthorpe and needed my wellies, the marshes were badly flooded and in many places i had to wade through 5-6 inches of water. I spent a while scanning the reeds by Colney Pits hoping for a Bittern but without luck however further along i got a bigger surprise with a Great White Egret flying east and going behind the Pits. Two Little Egret and 5 Heron were also on the flooded fields. 4 Male Bullfinch were near the car park with a large group of mixed finches and further along behind he substation a large Thrush flock held Redwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush and a lone Mistle Thrush. There were lots of Teal between Bowthorpe and UEA and 4 Shoveler with a large group of gulls to the east of the bank.

Earlham Park was very quiet, but i did see 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker and a single Green Woodpecker. By the bridge over the river near The Broad a mixed flock of Siskin and Redpoll was nice to see and further along they came down into some low bushes coming withing feet of me. The Brod itself was devoid of wildfowl, 2 Mallard, 1 Great Crested Grebe and 1 Coot! Walking home over Eaton Park I found a flock of 25 Redwing feeding on the pitch and putt, and 6 Mute Swan on the Boating Lake.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Water Rails, Woodcock and Kingfishers

On Tuesday 22nd before work Laura dropped me off in Drayton so that i could walk back along Marriotts Way and the River Wensum. I would have gone to Whitlingham but the route to and from was leathel with compacted ice.

Not far along the old railway line i spent 15minutes watching a Barn Owl hunting over the marshy area along with a Kestrel and Woodcock feeding along the hedge line. 2 Fieldfare also flew over with a single Redwing. There seemed to be lots of Great Tit and Long-tailed Tit along the path. I was surprised to see 4 Little Grebe on the river, but i was nearly in Cossesty before seeing any number of birds. A stream that ran under the old rail line had a Grey Wagtail hiding under it, a Kingfisher whizzed by and a Goldcrest was with a LT Tit flock.

Detouring from the railway line to follow the river Wensum near Dereham Road, i found Otter tracks in the snow, 2 more Little Grebe, a Woodcock, Snipe, a Water Rail and another Kingfisher. By the city dump 2 further Kingerfisher were on the river and more surprisingly a Water Rail was feeding in a dirty ditch close to the path. The scrub opposite the Wensum park held a large flock of finches and tits including 2 Brambling and 2 Coal Tit. The area also gave up a 3rd Water Rail and my first Great Spotted Woodpecker of the year.

I also found this rather strange 'upside down' fungus which i can't identify growin on the underside of an oak branch. Any help with the ID would be helpful.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Snowy Whitlingham

Waking up to temperatures of -10C and 15cm of snow, my plan to go to Strumpshaw/Buckenham wasn’t really going to happen, instead after my optician appointment I skidded off to a delightfully quiet Whitlingham. But not before taking a few snowy pictures in the city centre, seeing the Peregrine on the Cathedral and watching a skein of Pink-footed Geese fly high over the Castle.

Trowse Water Meadow was a picture postcard but held nothing, the only birds of note
5 Fieldfare flying over. By the Ski Slope however a found a single Waxwing which then disappeared into nearby gardens. The Little Broad was completely frozen, but the Great Broad was clear of ice. In the trees by the Little Broad car park, a flock of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll also held a Mealy Redpoll, as well as the usual finches and tits. A second small group of Redpoll were very close to the path near the Flint Barn which I tried to photograph before looking through the waterfowl. Duck numbers were surprisingly low, Pochard  c15, Tufted Duck c150, Wigeon 1, Shoveler 1 and none of the rarer grebes, divers or ducks, that the colder weather may have brought.

Walking the south shore i did flush 5 Snipe one of which appeared to be smaller and may well have been a Jack Snipe. There appeared to be more people walking around Thorpe Station Marsh than Whitlingham, and unsurprisingly only a few Tufties and gulls could be seen.  By the sharp bend in the river a Grey Wagtail was on the muddy margins and in the conservation area a drake Goldeneye was the only bird worth  reporting. A Bullfinch was in the riverside brambles and that was about it. Despite a couple of good birds, the walk was relatively unproductive, however the snow covered scenery more than made up for any lack of birds.


Sunday, 6 January 2013

January 1st Bird Race

As is now tradition Laura and I spent New Years with Gary and Claire before Gary and I rose early for the start of another birding year. Neither Gary or I could be described as fighting fit, Gary with a chest infection and me a stinking cold, none the less we jumped in the car at 5.45am and headed to Titchwell. The day started well and ended well but the middle was a struggle.

We had a total of 5 species before arriving at Titchwell around 6.45am (Feral Pigeon, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Barn Owl). Walking out to the beach, initially by moon light and then the first rays of a new year we added another 13 species before scanning the beach and then the sea, as the sun final rose over the marsh (Wood Pigeon, Blue Tit, Mute Swan, Lapwing, Teal, Brent Goose, Golden Plover, Redshank, Little Grebe, Shelduck, Grey Heron, Shoveler and Turnstone).

The beach held two of the largest flocks of Sanderling I have ever seen and also lots of Oystercatcher, but with the light still poor we started to scan through a large gull roost on the sea. We soon found the common gulls (Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull) but also Great Crested Grebe, Common Scoter, Goldeneye and a Red-necked Grebe, which was easy to ID in close proximity to the Great Crested Grebe, Carrion Crow wher also on the beach. Gary then found the first good bird of the day, an adult Caspian Gull. While scanning the sea, Dunlin, Eider, Wigeon, Fulmer, Red-throated Diver, Kittiwake, Razorbill, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Goldfinch and Curlew, before a flurry of good birds. First o found 3 Long-tailed Duck, then Gary a Red-breasted Merganser and Velvet Scoter before a rather large Great Northern Diver flew through the scopes. A flock of Knot took the running total to 45 as we left the beach.

We wanted to added Red-crested Pochard to the list but had no idea where 'Patsy's Reedbed' was (it's near the Fen Hide) but added Grey Plover, Skylark, Moorhen, Meadow Pipit, Wren, Pinkfoot Goose, Linnet, Mallard, Pintail, Ruff, Gadwall, Avocet, Spotted Redshank, Snipe, Greylag Goose, Little Egret, Pochard, Reed Bunting, Magpie, Cormorant and Marsh Harrier as we walked back along the main path. On the meadow trail we added, Bullfinch, Chaffinch and Dunnock, before locating Patsy's Reedbed, but not before two squabbling Stoat had nearly ran into us, unaware of our presence. We soon found the Red-crested Pochard, also Coot, Tufted Duck and Great Tit. By the Visitor Centre's rear feeders Pheasant, Brambling, Greenfinch and Long-tailed Tit were added. Having the required Bacon Bap and Hot Chocolate a group of people drew us to a Water Rail in the near-by ditch. Flyover Siskin and Lesser Redpoll gave us a total of 80 species as we got back into the car.

The next few stops proved rather disso pointing as some of our regular spots for those awkward birds, failed one after another to turn up their specialities. We did however add Common Buzzard, Grey Partridge, Red-legged Partridge, Jackdaw, Collard Dove, Starling and Kestrel as we criss-crossed North Norfolk. A quick stop at Cley and Salthouse added Pied Wagtail, Canada Goose and Richardson's Canada Goose (also a lifer) if accepted.

Buckenham/Strumpshaw was our next destination, where we could hopefully pick up a few bird quickly and maybe ever a few specialities of the area. However traffic got the better of us so we detoured via Ranworth to ensure we had enough time to get to the roost at Stubb Mill. On route we added Jay, Rook and House Sparrow. At this point 100+ was looking a long way off. By Ranworth Village Hall Gary picked up a surprise Mealy Redpoll within a mixed Redpoll/Siskin flock. We also added Marsh Tit and Treecreeper, before heading off to Hicking. On route we added Mistle Thrush, Stock Dove and Bewick's Swan.

Walking down from the Car park to the Mill 100 species was insight. Bird 99 was possibly the best bird of the day(although we didn't know it at the time), a Chiffchaff. Although later IDed as a Siberian Chiffchaff  by another observer who heard the bird call. Two Egyptian Geese in a field dragged us up to the 100 mark before reaching the roost. The roost finished the day as it had started with a flurry of good birds. Gary soon found a Merlin (I later found a 2nd), a ringtail Hen Harrier and 10 Crane (the first of at least 32) then flew through in quick succession. Not to mention the Marsh Harriers and two Barn Owls hunting close in. We then saw a small group of Fieldfare, Yellowhammer, 3 Whooper Swan and a Sparrowhawk, before in the growing gloom a Woodcock brought the days total to 108.

With a few 'common' birds missed and a host of other less common birds we would have expected the days total was more than respectable, 110 if you include the Tree Sparrow and Goldcrest also heard.