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.