Monday, 6 November 2017

Bird Watching - Starting them Young

As Autumn has drawn to a close a few birds have appeared in Norfolk but I found myself busy on the days the birds appeared. Although for once I had some time off work while Norwich Beer Festival was on, and on 24th October meet James and Karl for a lunchtime session. Bird related beers (and nature) were at a premium, I started by sampling Jo C's Stout Robin and then People's Raveningham Bitter (it had Raven in the name!). Among a few other beers Three Blind Mice's Milk Worm (almost Silk Worm and their Lonely Snake wasn't on.) and East London's Orchid had enough'nature' about the to tempt me. James and I then went for a walk in Train Woods hoping for a bit of fungi, but the dry weather meant little was about. However the Eyelash fungi Scutellinia sp. was a new type of fungi for me and I learnt quite a lot more about leaf mines from James.

I deciding to put down the DIY tools I took Agnes on a walk around part of the patch to Antingham. Although not two until tomorrow (7th) she is very good at spotting birds already, even if shouting 'Birdie' scares a few of them off. Lots of the expected common birds including a very large mixed tit flock, which also held 2 Goldcrest, Agnes particularly enjoyed the Long-tailed Tits that came within a few feet and also a hovering Kestrel. I enjoyed watching both Marsh and Coal Tit birds I rarely see on this area of the patch. A pleasant couple of hours well spent.

With news of the White-billed Diver moving backwards and forwards along the coast. Before going out for lunch at the weekend I got Laura to stop off at Walcott, an hour of strolling along the wall and a bit of sea watching proved successful, when the White-billed diver was located by another kind birder, i also saw a Great Northern Diver and numerous Red-throated Diver. Gannet drifted past in large numbers, a Little Auk scurried through going west and a Guillemot was surprisingly my first this year in Norfolk. Highlight of the day was not the life tick in White-billed Diver, but Agnes shouting 'Look Turnstone' as we got back into the car, after Laura had pointed them out to her at the beginning of our walk.

Today while making a brief stop near Norwich Airport to collect Birthday presents, Agnes correctly identified a fly-over Pigeon, (I left her off not being specific to Wood Pigeon) and while she pointed out high flying gulls (birdies), I heard the call of a Hawfinch and on turning around 2 few over our heads.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Optimistic Birding - Rewarded

Today (18th) was the only day during my annual two week 'Autumn Migrant Holiday' where the persistent Westerly winds gave way to a light Easterly/North-Easterly, and with a little bit of drizzle forecast I was probably a little over optimistic of taking something from a quiet Autumn.

Without the car I had two 'public transport' options head East and walk from Sea Palling or head North and start at Cromer. The train pulled into Cromer station at 8am, the light was poor with drizzle in the air. Looking out to sea I picked up a Fulmar and distant Gannet. Between the Doctor's Slope and the Lighthouse, Chaffinch (17) and Robin (18) seemed to be moving East along the clifftop, but it was too dull to see anything in the woods. A lone Redwing was in the gorse, but on reaching the golf course I was a little underwhelmed.

Looking out to sea a bank of cloud was heading towards me, then half way across the Golf Course while on the Coastal Path I seemed to be awash with Goldcrest (48), with them appearing in every bush. In this short stretch of maybe 1km I also saw my favorite bird of the day a Firecrest, a female Ring Ouzel and 3 Song Thrush all appearing to be new arrivals. A large flock of Goldfinch (100+) also held a few Linnet and Greenfinch but little else. Approaching Overstand my 'fall' of birds evaporated as quickly as it arrived, reverting back to being Robin and Chaffinch.

I stopped for a cuppa and toast in the cafe before continuing East, the light had improved now and I picked out 3 Red-throated Diver offshore. I was getting towards Trimingham before the next birds of note a flock of c30 Meadow Pipit and 30+ Skylark, that split and merged over the stubble fields. 60+ Cormorant were on the beach with a fixed gull flock and 6 Brent Geese headed West. The Clifftop Wood was silent, 5 Starling flew in off the sea and a Grey Wagtail flew over calling. I was aware of an elusive Barred Warbler behind the Pilgrim's Shelter on Monday, but wasn't expecting for it to be boldly sitting up in the hawthorn hedge. Needless to say it wasn't there long and despite knowing exactly where it was hiding I could not see it again.

The Coastal Path briefly comes inland to avoid the radar station and here a small group of 5 Yellowhammer had the company of a male Reed Bunting. Past the beach ramp at Trimingham I was skirting the caravan park when a smart male Stonechat appeared at close quarters. Sadly I gave him only brief attention as a large mixed flock of finches appeared from between the caravans (i suspect someone had put seed down) among the group of 50+ mainly Chaffinch and Goldfinch I picked out at least 2 Brambling. Walking towards Mundesley a heavy drizzle set in and I saw very little extra. Behind the Holiday Camp (on my patch), I turned up a lonely Goldcrest, 2 Reed Bunting and c20 Skylark before turning inland towards home. By Paston Great Barn a group of Redwing, my first thrush flock of the day passed over. Walking the Paston Way along the old railway line and via Pigney's Wood I saw only the expected resident birds.

I arrived home 7 hours and 26km after getting off the train in Cromer, time for a cuppa and sit down. Maybe it's already to late in the Autumn but I failed to see single Wheatear, Chiffchaff or Willow Warbler, but the fall of Goldcrest and great (if brief views) of the Barred Warbler have to be the highlights of an enjoyable if tiring day.

Monday, 16 October 2017

A quiet Autumn so far . . .

The weather this Autumn hasn't been ideal for migrants on the East Coast, with low numbers of  relatively common birds reported. In fact we haven't had any weather window that have encouraged me to change plans and head for the coast. I have however stumbbled across a few birds and the month has gone on.

On Tuesday 5rd October i headed to Sheringham, not really to bird watch but just a wander really with Agnes, however the binoculars went in the bag as normal. With a NW wind blowing it was worth a quick look over the sea. Sea watching with a 2yr old, a limited supply of snacks and no scope isn't easy so i only managed 20 minutes, long enough with the help of a 'prepared' birder to spot a Sooty Shearwater and a Guillemot.

Walking too work via the River Wensum the regular Grey Wagtail have been in evidence, appearing to defend territories, but probably trying to finally chase off their fully grown young. I've also seen the Kingfisher on at least 3 mornings, and had a small group of Redwing fly over on 6th Oct.

At home Blackbird numbers seem up in and around the garden and our Song Thrush has returned, Redwing have also been heard flying over a few mornings and seen on the 12th Oct.

Today (16th Oct.) enjoying what may well be the last 't-shirt' day of the year, Agnes and I headed for Cromer Zoo. After getting off the train we first walked the cliff top along the Runton Road car park, a group of Meadow Pipit flitted about the grass and a group of Starling appeared to come in-off but may have just circled around. The only migrant i can be sure of was a late Yellow Wagtail in the horse paddock near the zoo. I also saw this rather smart Small Copper butterfly enjoying the sun on my way home.

It is only mid October so we still may get some easterly migrants, but with hurricane Ophilia bearing down on the west coast. they'll probably arrive after my 10 days holiday that i started on Saturday.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Colletes, Paxillus, Phylloscopus

No not a magic spell cast by a bespectacled wizard, but in and around my garden last week.
In fact it was a rather poor week nature wise as on the best days for migrants I was working and when I was off I tried to tidy the garden between rain showers. I did however see two Ivy Bees (Colletes hederae) and spot at least 7 species of fungi in the garden. Photographed below Brown Rollrim (James feel free to correct my ID) which seems quite previlent  this year I've only ever seen a couple fruiting bodies in the garden but had 12+ large exampled near our birch. Dad kindly popped over and cut my grass while I was out, but before I got any other photos.

Finally on Friday walking the short distance too Waitrose I had a Yellow-browed Warbler (Phyllospocus inornicus) calling, but the heavens opened before I could see the bird and walking home all was quiet.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Better than PG Tips .....

....Kingfishers at breakfast time. Walking to work alongside the river Wensum this morning a Kingfisher whizzed passed in a flash of electic blue and further along a second (?) was perched up. A delightful start to the morning, and in contrast too the chaos that i've read about and very nearly joined at the Pallas Grasshopper warbler twitch earlier in the week. (I only stayed at home because my wife had the car and dropping her at work would have been to convaluted). The simple things are often under valued, I also noticed more birds calling as the mornings have gotten darker the birds are no longer singing while I sleep.

For the record I don't like PG Tips, Yorkshire Tea for me!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Blickling Bimble

During a family orientated long weekend away in Essex we did little nature spotting, despite the fact we got lucky and avoided most of the rain so on Tuesday Laura, Agnes and myself with the sun shining decided to go for a walk around Blickling.

Leaving the car park we decided to walk the Monument Loop, rather than usual Lake route,we soon saw a few Hornets among the ivy on a hedge and quite a few butterflies where making the most of the sun, Red Admiral, Large White, Comma and Speckled Wood all close by.

Bird and wildlife was very limited but Agnes spotted a decorated stone, part of the summer craze 'Norfolk Rocks' (where children and adults decorated, hid and hunted and re-hid stones, a great idea getting children out doors and creative) anyway we spent the rest of our walk eyes peeled and found 20/30 moving a few and keeping one as a souvenir. Agnes was so excited by finding a colourful stone!

It wasnt just decorative stones we spotted, surprisingly by the Monument, away from the Lake lots of recently emerged darter dragonflies flew around, and Agnes found a Small Emerald Moth in the grass, i new species for my list. Also a sure sign that summer has given way to Autumn was the emergence of quite a bit of fungus. The most striking being this Parasol sp.

The Essex trip wasn't devoid of wildlife, we saw Elephants, Giraffes and Rhinos but that was at Colchester Zoo! Native species wise, we did see a large shoal of Mullet from Southend Pier, they followed the in coming tide over the mudflats hoovering up anything that decided to craw out of the mud, in water hardly deep enough for them to swim. A few dragonflies at Wat Tyler Country Park and bats flying around at dusk in South Benfleet the other highlights.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Bank Holiday Bees

Last Monday I finally managed to catch up with James for our regular school holiday catch up. Being a bit early for migration James had identified a couple of specialist bees for us to find in North Norfolk.

Before heading out we looked through the few moths I'd trapped over night and I asked James to look at a few insects I was curious about and might interest him. The highlight of the moths a new species for both me and James was a Scarce Bordered Straw, a migrant to Norfolk. James also identified a few leaf miners for me a new interest for him and something completely different for me.

First stop was Weybourne where we soon located the large colony of Heather Bees (Colletes succinctus) nesting in the cliff. Apparently they commute the couple of miles inland too feed on Kelling Heath. A few Wolf bees and Darter dragonflies also held our attention before James also found the cuckoo bee Red-thighed Epeolus (Epeolus cruciger). Walking West to the radar station we failed too find much else of interest but a lone female Wheatear shows that Autumn migration isn't far away.

Onward to Morston where we hoped to see Sea Aster Bees (Colletes halophilus) a specialist bee of salt marshes. We couldn't see the fields of purple on the Saltmarsh has most sea aster had died off but luckily James noted a yellow abarent form which held our target species. Walking as far as Stiffkey Fen was rewarded by a group of 37 Spoonbill and lots of waders however without scopes and looking into the sun we could identify anything unusual.
Before we joined the sausage roll queue I popped into the public loos. Luckily they were quiet as on leaving I spotted a Frosted Orange moth near the door and looking around spotted numerous moths, that then needed photographing on the ceiling. These included 3 new moths for me, Chinese Character, Pale Eggar and Rosy Rustic.

Dropping me off at home i spotted a rather spectacular Sycamore Moth caterpillar in the hedge and Angle Shades moth. James also identified the parasitic wasp Cotesia glomerata. 

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Bird Race and May Update

This was going to be a brief post about a couple of birds seen since my last post about our 24 hour bird race mid month, but it appears that post never updated and was lost. So i will start with a brief (ish) summary of that first.

On the 13th May 'Team Loon' (Gary, James, Lis and myself) woke early leaving Norwich by 1am. As this was a formal competition with other team, we dispenced with our normal 'within Norfolk' rule and headed for the Nene Washes in Cambridgeshire. As it was dark it was alabout what we could hear. It was amazing the number of birds calling at such and early hour, but amongst the commoner species we heard both target species for the site Corncrake and Spotted Crake. 19 species mainly heard as we headed back to Norfolk and Santon Downham.

Lots of woodland bird were soon added and a few heard birds upgraded to seen. The Mandarin didnt fail us showing well with duckling in tow. Lesser Redpoll and Cuckoo were goid bird too see but no sign of the resident Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Nearby Tree Pipit and Woodlark saved us some time so we headed off to Lynford. Checking Lynford Water then the arboretum. 2 Spotted Flycatcher were nice to see a bird often missed and just as we were leaving a singing Firecrest took the tally to 71 and it was only just past 8am.

We headed south into Suffolk adding extra birds on route before we wasted a bit to long looking fir and failing to see Golden Pheasent. Great Livermere was our next stop. We initally struggled to find the lake but added Tree Sparrow and Grey Partridge while 'lost', finding the lake we added a few gull species and Gary found us a Lesser Whitethoat but not the hoped for Black-necked Grebe. Not to far away was Elvedon and a White Stork which took a while to locate but eventually went on the list. Still in Suffolk but looking across the boarder at Lakenheath Fen we added Glossy Ibis, 2 Black-winged Stilt, Common Tern and Hobby before again moving on.

We were already maybe a hour befind our ideal schedule, but a Yellow Wagtail on route was bird 100. Arriving at Welney my collegues were fleeced for enterence fees and then we proceeded to see very little missing most of the hoped for birds as the site was so dry. We did add summering Bewick and Whooper Swan and Red-crested Pochard. We headed north towards the coast, Flitcham another 'banker site' failed to deliver with only Med Gull and Red Kite added. Hunstanton cliffs gave us a bonus 5 wader species as well as the targeted Fulmar. A detour to Holme for a spurious Pied Flycatcher only wasted time. The now annual Dotterel were in the heat haze at Choseley and we finslly arrived at Titchwell at 4pm.

Behind on time and species, Titchwell started well with a Norfolk lifer for me in the carpark a singing Wood Warbler. Brent Goose was species 120 seen on route to the beach. Sandwich Tern and Velvet Scoter the pick of a brief sea watch. We had too pick up the pace. A flyby stop at Holkham added Great White Egret and great views of a Bittern in flight, but no Spoonbill or lingering geese. The day was petering out we made the bold decicion too head for Minsmere as locally sites would only hold the odd extra species.

It was 7.20pm we arrived at Dunwich Heath we soon added Sand Martin 130 before adding Dartford Warbler and Stonechat. From the cliffs we added Barnacle Goose and Kittewake, before hearing a Water Rail. Arriving at Minsmere the light was starting to fade. Short-eared Owl was a bonus before we heard Bearded Tit and added a few species from the east hide. Caspian Gull was 140. I managed to pick out a distant Stone Curlew in very poor light. In the dark at island mere we added calling Little and Tawny Owl but no Savi's Warbler. Back at Dunwich we heard a Nightjar and then a Nightingale at Westleton Heath. A brief listen for Quail on the way too the finish line in Halesworth failed to add a final bird so we finished on 145 species. A cup of tea at the HQ of The World Land Trust was wecolme, here we meet the 2 offical teams. Being a affiliated 'virtual team' it was an honour to be invited back for the presentation and to share a glass of bubby with the winning team. We also go to see the very special trophy a Ne-ne egg signed by Sir Peter Scott.

A brief update for rest of May, while boat fishing off Bacton on 16th I got great very close views of Gannet a more distant view of probable Sooty Shearwater. Sunday 21st a Honey Buzzard was seen while driving back from Great Yarmouth. 28th I visited the patch near Mundesley in the hope of a fly though Bee Eater, Osprey or Honey Buzzard with all seen along the coast. But the best bird was only a Stock Dove. What will June hold.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Daddy & Daughter Birding

With Laura away in Barcelona, the car was free so I decided to take Agnes out on her first twitch, our second birding trip after a walk on the patch a few months ago. A pair of Black-wing Stilt were near Potter Heigham, so after have breakfast we headed out.

Parking at Latham's we walked north along the bank of the River Thurne, with Agnes on my back I couldn't take me scope so was relying on the generosity of others if the the birds were at a distance. Walking down to the flood, i saw my first Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Cetti's Warbler and Common Tern of the year. We heard a distant Cuckoo and Swift seem to be back in numbers all of a sudden. Reaching the first pool, i could pick out Dunlin, Grey Plover, Avocet, Redshank, Common Sandpiper and a Wood Sandpiper with ease, and with a little help soon saw Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and Gargany. The middle pool held a few ducks more common waders and a Spoonbill. It was on the end pool we saw our target birds the pair of Black-winged Stilt a little distant but borrowing a scope I got good views, a summer plumage Spotted Redshank was nearby and I saw a second drake Gargany. An Arctic Tern briefly alighted on the marsh, 2 more Spoonbill were around and we had totaled 11 Wood Sandpiper, before the cool breeze and being stationary had started to test Agnes's patience. A brief look for the Wryneck seen Friday by the mill only enabled use to see the Cuckoo from earlier.

I let Agnes walk back from the bridge to the car and she got very excited by a brood of freshly hatched Egyptian Geese although the parents seemed less than amused, especially as she was calling them ducks. After a quick bottle in the car (milk for Agnes, not beer for me), Agnes started to doze, so any thought of a further walk from Potter church to Rush Hill's and looking for the Savi's Warbler was put on hold. And in all honestly was a bit optimistic on my part. Writing this we are sitting at Nanna's anticipating a roast, not a bad Sunday Morning.

 Our first Birding trip in Feb

Friday, 5 May 2017

A chance Eagle

Commuting home from work on Monday I spotted what I thought was a Buzzard being mobbed by Jackdaw, but getting closer it was actually a much larger bird being mobbed by the resident pair of Buzzard I see most days going to and from work. I could only have been the juv White-tailed Eagle that's been seen in and around the Broads of late. Sadly we couldn't easily stop but I see the Eagle has resurfaced at Buckenham so I may get a chance for better views this weekend somewhere nearby.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Finally some Migrants

News of a Hoopoe on the edge of my patch was to good to ignore, so this morning dad and I headed for Mundesley cliffs. No sign of the Hoopoe, I suspect the news was released late with the bird in a private garden. Lots of other migrants were about finally making it seem like spring.

First walking towards the village it was clear hindrines were on the move we had over 30 Swallow, 6 House Martin and 2 Sand Martin all passing north. Checking the paddocks I spotted 6 Wheatear and while counting them a Short eared Owl got up out of the long grass just a few feet away. We continued up to the lifeboat shed with a large flock of Linnet, numerous Skylark and  small group of Meadow Pipit flitting about. Back towards the gas terminal I heard a Ring Ouzel and eventually located two on the cliff face. Another 7 Wheatear were in the fields and a Tree Pipit flew over. Walking back to the car 2 or 3 Whitethroat called from the brambles. Back at my parents a Willow Warbler seemed out of place in the two small rose bushes in their front garden.

Stopping get off at dad's allotment for some greens on my way home I found the two best birds of the day, a pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker perched above the car before flying off calling to each other.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Common Lifer

We have been spending the Easter weekend in South Wales with family and although early in the Spring I decided I was worth a walk out from the house to look for Wood Warbler, the commonest bird missing from my new life list. I saw them when much younger but not listing.

I walked an nice area of woodland by the river soon seeing Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and hearing a rather vocal Song Thrush. I then heard a Wood Warbler,a called I'd brush up on. Dispite the trees still being a bit sparse of leaves it took me a while to locate this little lemon gem high in the canopy. I walked further onto an area of scruby heath which I suspect was old slag from the local mines. Here I disturbed a Ring Ouzel and saw my first Whitethroat of the year as well as various other common species all in spring song. I was perplexed by one call I didn't recognise which turned out to be the Ring Ouzel I've only heard alert and contact calls in Norfolk.

On Saturday dispenser some drizzly rain we all went for tea, cake and a short walk. The wildlife was limited but we all enjoyed watching two Dipper displaying and then feeding from the bridge.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Sunday stroll

Last Sunday I visited Sheringham Park for the second time in a week as we meet friend staying nearby before having lunch. Being overcast it was much quitter both in terms of birds and butterflies. But I did get some really nice views of a Firecrest by the main path. During the week I saw my dirt Orange tip of the year and a Red kite over while at dad's allotment.

Today being my only day off this week I planned to continue with making a playhouse for my daughter at home. We did make time for a short walk at Walcott where 2 Sandwich Tern and a Little Tern briefly alighted on the groyne before continuing West.  2 Meadow Pipit appeared to come in off the sea, a White Wagtail was nearby and offshore a Skua was mobbing 2 further Sandwich Tern but with only binoculars it was most like an Arctic Skua. The Kentish Plover would have been nice to see but being mid afternoon, Easter holidays and in Great Yarmouth I decided just to get the paint brush out! A good decision it turns out as the bird disappeared for a number of hours.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Mothering Sunday Weekend

On Saturday I met mum and dad for an early mothers day lunch in Bacton and then had a sunny jaunt along the river at Ebridge.  Not a lot was along the river but 2 Red Kite circled overhead with two Common Buzzard. My first Red Kite of the year. Numerous Chiffchaff called along with a vocal Yellowhammer.

On Sunday Laura, Agnes and I had a picnic in Sheringham Park, somewhere I haven't visited since a child. Near the information center I spotted a female Brambling the only bird of note. The common birds were numerous in their song and while atop the Gazebo watch tower a Nuthatch called within a few feet at eye level. But was too quick for a photo. I also saw my first butterflies of the year two Brimstone and a Small Tortoiseshell.

Moving onto Salthouse to feed the ducks I scanned the marshes for early migrants without luck but driving on towards Cley a Swallow was on the wires another first for the year.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Railway Woods Norwich

Walking to work via the River Wensum and Railway Woods proved very productive as well as a pleasant way to start the day. The wood was alive with bird song calling Chiffchaff, Wren, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Blackbird making up most of the chorus. I heard and finally saw a singing Willow Warbler,  most likely my earliest record and then also saw my first Blackcap of the year. But the strangest bird of all was a Red-legged Partridge sitting on the woodland path before flying over the river into the reclamation yard a very unexpected city bird. Between the sluice gates and anchor brewery bridge a pair of Kingfisher whizzed back and forth and at least 3 Grey Wagtail bobbed along the waters edge. I guess it's now time to start work.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Sunny Morning Patch

After having her breakfast Agnes and I went for our first ever patch walk together, with her on my back we saw quite a bit in just a short walk. We walked from home around the quiet lanes behind the house. By the railway paddock we saw 6 fieldfare, 2 mistle thrush and a song thrush. We also heard the first of at least 5 singing chiffchaff. Not far away I saw my first yellowhammer of the year, blasting out a tune atop a tree and a large flock of c.50 linnet. We didn't walk beyond the hump back bridge but from this view point we watched a otter in the river, the pair of little grebe that bred last year had returned, a pair of bullfinch were nice to see and I heard my first willow warbler of the year. Back at home 4 buzzard circled above the house before drifting West.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Posting again!

It's almost two years since my last post and I'm not quite sure I can place all the blame on my 16 month old daughter, but now she's old enough to join me hopefully I'll get out more. So let's start blogging again ready for the spring migration.

February has been quiet with a trip to Felbrigg with James my only trip out. All the normal species seen but nice too get out birding with an old friend. Over the last week I have tried to do a bit of pre work birding. Finally seeing my first barn owl of the year at Coltishall along with a little egret. Along the Wensum in the city centre I saw 3 Kingfisher and 2 Grey Wagtail on Friday. Yesterday I caught up with the Waxwing on Union Street and this morning detoured via the cathedral see the Peregrine on the spire.