Friday, 31 December 2010

Last outing of the year, 30th December

Had really hoped to catch up with the LWF at Cantley by now, but with foggy conditions forecast in Norfolk for the next few days, that would (hopefully) have to wait until the New Year.
Debs and I began at Strumpshaw, relatively early, in search of Bitterns on ice. There had been Bitterns showing in front of Fen Hide, but not whilst we were present. I would tentatively suggest this may have had something to do with camera shutters clicking away when anything flew by/landed out front; 5 going off all at once makes for quite a racket! Luckily, this didn't put off the Water Rails too much, of which 4 individuals were counted. One brave individual made a dash across the ice, but he was quickly gunned down by the crowd of photographers, clearly spooked. Is there really any skill in just firing away like crazy, or am I being too harsh?
Following the boardwalk, we could hear some Pink Footed Geese somewhere close, but the fog meant we couldn't see them. Other than that, Marsh Harrier, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit and Chinese Water Deer were the other bits and bobs of note.

Went to Surlingham after lunch; seemed fitting my last visit anywhere this year should be here.
The fog had by now worsened and views across the river were non-existant. Some Coot were still on the river, along with Gadwall and Mallard. As before, the reedbed itself was silent; haven't heard the Cettis for a few weeks. An odd highlight came in the form of a flyover flock of Goldfinch and Linnet, unseen; the Linnet was a very late patch tick for me!

With the day's action all but over, this got me thinking about targets for the year. Having only begun birding Surlingham Church Marsh seriously since August, I am finding it difficult to set a species total target. I would guess at 130 (although once I have set up my BUBO account, I may adjust this total next week). I also need to set those patch boundaries out more clearly. Highlights so far have been Hen Harrier, Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Brambling and Green Sandpiper.
My individual targets for the site are as follows: Spotted Flycatcher, Marsh Tit, Garganey, Little Egret, Lesser Redpoll. I think these are all well within reach. An outside bet would be Lesser Pecker....and who knows what waders! In terms of potential rarities, the scrub and reedbed is crying out for a Marsh or even Savi's Warbler, and Red Footed Falcon would go down well.
I have not decided on 'bigger picture' targets yet, although finding something decent on the east coast goes without saying.
Best decision I have made since moving to Norfolk was to start birding a local patch. Thoroughly enjoyable few months here and another year in Norfolk. Thanks for reading, and heres to a cracking 2011! That Steller's Eider in Estonia is a little bit closer.........
(Oh, and a New Year's resolution will be to take more pictures, I know the blog needs brightening up. Now, wheres that Whiskey bottle........).

Monday, 27 December 2010

Christmas, and still the thaw will not come.

I could quite happily watch the garden birds from Mum's window all day. More often than not, with drink in hand, this is what I spent much of the festive period doing. Fieldfare and Redwing would sometimes stop to rest in the bare trees, whilst Song Thrush, 10+ Blackbird, Tits, Pheasant and Robin fed on or around the feeders provided. Star bird was spotted by my 10 year old cousin, a male Bullfinch feeding amongst Chaffinches.
Leaving rural Suffolk and returning home today, of course I found time to stop off at Surlingham on route. For once, there were ducks on the river- Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Mallard. A group of Coot cracked on with some much needed weeding, and Wigeon were grazing on the opposite bank. Exciting stuff, for the patch. Further away, towards Postwick, 3 farmyard type geese fed amongst the Greylag. Without my scope, it was difficult to gauge size but they appeared a little cumbersome and nothing of real interest. A couple of Lapwing were out on the marsh.
Carrying on with the usual circuit, a Bullfinch called from deep within the scrub. The reed bed itself was silent, not even the Cettis was singing. I had to walk round to the ruins to see another bird, but worth the walk it was. A mixed flock of finches held one Brambling, and 2 Bullfinch called and quickly flew off. Good stuff! A few Teal were in evidence on the unfrozen dykes, and a Grey Heron was fishing. No sign of the Bittern that Ben had seen, but still a good few birds to blog about.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Some Thrush action

Whilst I am giving a talk on STDs at school tomorrow, the heading of this blogpost has nothing to do with the nasty kind of Thrush.
A lovely flock of c40Fieldfare on the hill at Surlingham held a Redwing and Mistle Thrush, enjoying the company of its visitors from the north.
Apart from the usual Cettis and Reed Bunting, the reserve was quiet and therefore I have little to report! However,one mammalian highlight 'popped' up in the form of a Weasel, my second here at Surlingham. This little fellow slipped out of the river-bank undergrowth and trotted away down the path at the foot of the ruins, completely unaware of my presence.
Ducks are in short supply right now, since much of the lagoon is still frozen over. Teal are again favouring the 'back garden area' of the reserve!
A Little Grebe on the river is going on the list, thank-you.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Dancing on ice

A Water Rail, of course. My hoped for bird of the weekend, watched sliding around on an iced dyke at Buckenham Marshes today. Bitterly cold, lost all feeling in my hands after a while so the trip was cut a little shorter than planned. I did however manage to see a gaggle of 20+ White Fronted Geese and 15+ Barnacles, difficult to ascertain exact numbers due to the distance. Ducks were much closer though, Teal and Wigeon were feeding either side of the track.The noise was immense, it was like being in the middle of the flock. Plenty of Lapwing around, but no raptors.
I popped into Strumpshaw Fen on the way back home, and much of the action was around the visitor centre. A reported Northern Bullfinch could not be located, but I did pick out a couple of Lesser Redpoll in amongst the Siskin flocks. Marsh Tits also in good number and vocal.
Yesterday, I only had time for Surlingham. Other than the usual suspects it was a little quiet on the reserve, no doubt due to a frozen lagoon and visibilty was down to less than 50 metres. I could hear Thrushes on the move, and then a group of angry Blackbirds allowed me to watch a Tawny Owl at roost. An expected, but welcome, bird for the patch list.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Snowy visit to the patch

An early rise on a Sunday can only mean 2 things- my better half is away for the weekend, and I have not yet managed a trip out since last Sunday. Difficult to plan, when the weather is so unpredictable and mock papers need marking.
Odd goings on at the start of the circular walk- 5 Cormorants were fishing on the Yare, these guys usually just fly through. The marshes at Woods End were devoid of geese- these were also in the river- but a lovely sight ensued, a Red Fox was out on patrol, padding through the white stuff. 2 Egyptian Geese honked loudly in the offending direction.
The scrub held the usual Tit flocks, and 2 Bullfinch called, unseen. The lagoon was completely forzen over, and I had rather hoped for a Water Rail, displaced. A flock of c10 Reed Bunting buzzed through the reeds, and 2 Bearded Tit pinged through.
Making my way round to the ruins, I was alerted to a mixed flock of Goldfinch and Siskin, which settled in a large oak. A female Kestrel joined them, which initially upset the flock but they did settle. An amusing scene then took place: the Kestrel took off, landed on a tree nearby, and the flock followed. Seeking protection?
Then, more odd news. A family of Mute Swans appeared to harbour 2 Canada Geese, if a little reluctantly. More security in numbers? Walking back towards the church, I could hear Wigeon call. Through the flooded woodland, I could see a flock of around 20, with 15 Teal. They were on a small pool, at the bottom of someone's garden. This is a small, secluded spot and perhaps I can understand the Teal being here, but the Wigeon should surely be elsewhere? Finally, a Greater Spotted Woodpecker was in the churchyard trees.

Interesting article in the Observer regarding the 'release' of Beavers in Scotland. This is something I am personally in favour of, although setting 20 loose illegally is perhaps not the way to go about these things. Cannot seem to post a link, but it is on the website.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Surlingham and surrounds

Arriving at Coldham Hall car park, the smell of Sunday roasts from within reminded me I should book a table here for a sit down meal over Christmas. The small tracts of RSPB managed marsh and reed beds were quiet, save for a Cettis and the odd vocal Reed Bunting. A young Marsh Harrier, not presumed Northern, passed through in comfort despite being harried by a Crow. A largish flock of Siskin called but refused to settle.
Down at the patch, a record count of 100+ Greylag Geese were on the marshes at Wood's End. A muddy puddle held a Herring Gull and intriguingly a Green Sandpiper. A march round to the hides and I was able to take in the usual Long Tailed Tits, Blackbirds and the odd Redwing. Despite the noise from the rifle range, a few Mallard were loafing in the lagoon, and just as I was thinking the muddy margins looked promising, presumably the same Green Sandpiper dropped in. A good bird for the site, and this individual fed and settled well, unlike the birds I saw in August. A female Sparrowhawk was also out for a feed, much to the annoyance of the local thrushes.
Finally, I caught up with some Siskin on the patch, a mixed flock including Goldfinch flew overhead as I headed back to the car. Less water about today, although wellies still a must.
Hoping for some Owls, I finished off at the marshes around Langley and Claxton. The Corvid roost is by now quite a spectacle, and a single Barn Owl made for a nice finish to the afternoon as darkness fell.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Surlingham on Saturday

Short on time this weekend just gone, so much so that I had to turn down a lift to the Pied-billed Grebe near Manchester. Congrats on seeing the bird though lads, heres hoping it stays true to form and hangs around into the New Year.
Taking my usual route round Surlingham, a look across the river towards Wood's End revealed very little, which is odd since this is usually a good spot for Geese and Gulls. I soon picked up the reason for this: a Peregrine Falcon was on the ground, quite how long it had been there was unclear. However, when I finally get round to defining the boundaries of 'The Patch', I could do with Peregrine on the list.
The scrub and bushes that skirt the main area of reed bed and marsh were full of Fieldfare, the largest flock being 20. A sorrowful call alerted me to the presence of a Bullfinch, one of 'ours', which proved elusive but I did get a brief view before he departed across the river. Heard before, but not seen until now, so a new bird for the patch! As if to accentuate that point, a group of Siskin called from somewhere. Next time maybe.
Nothing from either hide, but large parts of the marshy land were now underwater and were attracting Black-headed Gulls, Mallard and Teal, all of which clearly preferred to feed here than on the deeper lagoon. A Sparrowhawk breezed through, confirming the Surlingham area as the raptor capital of the Broads. Thats Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Hobby, Peregrine, Marsh and Hen Harrier here since August, plus Barn and Little Owl.
The churchyard held a few Redwing and Goldcrest, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker called. This looks like being a good spot in spring, Spotted Flycatcher the obvious target.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Happisburgh duck watch

Great range of species, mainly duck, seen off Happisburgh this a'noon, between 13.40 and 15.00.
In no particular order:
c100 Common Scoter, one Velvet a little closer to the shore.
1 Little Auk bombing South.
2 Great Black-Backed Gulls, distantly.
8 Brent Geese.
An incredible 163 Common Eider, all heading north.
Female and Male Goldeneye, not together.
11 Wigeon.
1 Kittiwake resting up on a groyne before flying off northwards.

Inland, 14 Golden Plover, 10 Skylark and c15 Lapland Buntings capped off an excellent afternoon in the field.

Gotta admit, I just can't get excited by this Northern Harrier business. But then, I did rubbish the advanced Bird ID Guide. I now believe it to be essential reading.
Flights booked to Estonia next April, a week of 'birding, racoon-dogs and culture'. Very excited, Steller's Eider, Great Snipe, Owls, Peckers, Bears, who knows. Details to follow. If anyone has been, any tips would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Border-Hopping

As is the norm for half-term, I spent some of the time back home in Suffolk visiting parents and getting the car nursed for the winter. Mother had not yet caught up with the King Eider that has been lingering off Dunwich, and frankly I was keen for better views than I had managed earlier in the year at West Runton.
From Dunwich beach, I picked up the bird distantly loafing near the sluice, so we walked south for better views. The scrape had a few duck on it, along with 5 Bewick Swans, which clearly suggests we are in for a terrible winter. By now, the Eider could be considered to be lingering off Sizewell, so the hoped for amazing views were not really obtained. Better than nothing, that's King Eider in 2 counties this year!
We searched for the reported Rough Legged Buzzard pair near Reydon, but only managed a glimpse of a distant Buzzard sp. Westleton Heath was short of a Shrike, but we enjoyed watching a Red Deer stag and his harem from the deer watch point.
Lackford Lakes is a cracking little reserve, so on the friday took a non-birding friend for a trundle. Large numbers of Siskin across the reserve, plus Tree Sparrow and Lesser Redpoll in scrub around the carpark. The first Goldeneye had returned, along with the expected Wigeon, Gadwall and Shovelor, all showing off nicely. My friend was suitably inspired to set up a new feeding station in his garden. That's the ticket, I thought.
Spent this morning exploring Eccles, Waxham and Sea Palling. Shit all birds, but some super new habo to delve into. Managed little, and oddly the best was at sea- a Red Throated Diver, 6 Common Scoter and a few Gannet seen off Waxham.
The missus is really nailing this birding lark; a text from her whilst I was on route alerted me to the presence of 8 Waxwing not far from our place. I picked her up on the way through and sure enough, just round the corner from the Whalebone pub, were 5 of the 8 Waxwing looking superb at the top of a tree. Seaduck, Siskin, Swans and Waxwing....maybe Autumn is over, but I could easily adapt to this winter medley.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Wet and Windy

An Autumnal feel to the day. The warm coat was dug out of the cupboard under the stairs, and the rain stopped for long enough to allow a blustery walk round Surlingham Church Marsh. The main action was on the river today, starting with a Great Crested Grebe. This adult moulting into winter plumage had two, then one young back in late summer; hopefully at least one fledged successfully. A noisy Kingfisher was glimpsed, finally on the patch list. Wildfowl numbers were at an all time low, and the only birds seen around the lagoon were 3 Reed Bunting and a single Grey Heron. Wondering where all the ducks were, a flock of 15 Wigeon called overhead and refused to settle, clearly unimpressed with the lack of grazing potential. (We could do with some more scrub removal though, the Cattle are having to work over-time). This was another new bird for the patch, so certainly not an afternoon wasted.
The 2009 Norfolk Bird Report has just been published, hoping to pick up a copy from John Lewis.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Cottages, cemeteries and marshes.

Waxham was quiet around Shangri La, although I left feeling a little guilty that I had not been able to put the time in today. Various stops to look for Cranes for my visiting family drew a blank.
Great Yarmouth cemetery proved to be a good move, for after much searching we latched onto a tit flock which comprised a beautiful Yellow Browed Warbler and a brief Firecrest. Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Redwing and Song Thrush made for a very rewarding couple of hours.
Buckenham Marshes was windswept, perhaps leading to the now resident Peregrine positioning herself on the ground sheilded by the cattle. 3 Ruff were here also.
Surlingham seemed lively, and it was no suprise when I located 3 Brambling amongst some Thrushes feeding on berries. Another patch tick! Good to see they are now filtering inland, never tire of seeing them. The finale was a bit special however, a female Hen Harrier over the reeds until dusk. My run of good birds here continues, this the best of the lot. My thoughts are now turning to the prospect of a winter roost here. Still on a real high, this is what patch watching is all about!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Tough luck out east ends with a flourish

An enjoyable if tough couple of days birding around Waxham and Happisburgh. Highlights included 3 Redstart at Happisburgh, large numbers of Brambling, Siskin, Song Thrush, Redwing, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest, my earliest Fieldfare ever, Hen Harrier at Waxham and finally a Hooded Crow in a ploughed field, also Waxham.
It was amazing to be out in fall conditions, and the opportuntity to observe Siskin, Brambling and Chaffinch so close was a real treat. A little gutted not to have turned up a rare Pipit or Warbler, but nonetheless a memorable couple of days in the field. Every bush flicked or ticked, the horizon often covered in Pink Footed and Brent Geese.
To finish with the Hoodie was the highlight. I pulled up at the road-side pull in, just south of Shangri La. I could see a few Crows, Lapwing and Goldies out on the ploughed field, so decided to have a scan before walking to the beach. Another birder was present, who said he thought he might have seen a Hooded Crow, but his optics weren't quite up to the job. I had a scan, and there it was, in East Norfolk! A combination of channels in the mud, discussion with the gentleman and fumbling for my phone meant the bird was lost to view, but no doubt it is still knocking about somewhere. Couldn't make out any signs of hybridization, and hopefully it can be refound.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Surlingham this evening 07/10/10

The light was fading as I observed my latest patch tick- a Little Owl, perched on a fence post out on the grazing land. A satisfying find; the habitat looked spot on for this species, and I hope now that a breeding pair will become vocal in the Spring. It also struck me that it had been some time since I had good views of a Little Owl. No doubt this species goes under-recorded, since many pairs breed on private parkland or agricultural land. Great to have this species at Surlingham. Earlier in the evening, I had been watching 2 Bearded Tits from the hide (heard only before today) along with a glimpse of a Reed Bunting. Quite a contrast to the owl, which says a lot for the varied habitat in a relatively small area. The reserve is slowly revealing itself, and with evidence of further flooding, who knows what could be next.....

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Out of tune at Holkham forces local action.

OK, so this has moreorless been done to death on Birdforum, but it would seem there was something of a mishap regarding Hippo id at Holkham on Saturday. It would seem that an Icterine Warbler was indeed seen early doors, and this individual did not hang around. However, a report of a Melodious Warbler bought out the crowds, and understandably so. Hoping to see a county mega, I ditched the trip to the east coast (mistake) and joined the throngs. On arrival, most were standing around in hope, and word on the track was that the reported Melodious was optimistic at best. Not one to linger, I spent a good hour round the cross-tracks hoping for the YBW that was reported earlier that morning. I settled for a good haul of common migrants in the bushes including Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Bullfinch, lots of Goldcrest and c10 Siskin.
Good to see Connor, James and Gary at the 'ghost' twitch, and the north coast is a premier birding venue, but the crowds of people at the pine woods is enough to put me off for a while....and I was one of them! If you follow the news, there always that chance you will get stung. Not that I will learn anything from this.
Spent this afternoon exploring habitat round Surlingham. Surlingham Marsh at Coldham Hall is a nice spot, but all I managed in the wind was a Kestrel. The patch itself (Surlingham CHURCH Marsh, confusing isn't it?) was quiet, no doubt due to the Sunday gun club. A few Teal and Gadwall were on the lagoon, so clearly the rifle fire does not bother all of the wildfowl. A large Tit flock were near the hide, and out of sight I could hear what I believe was some kind of Reed Warbler sub song, an odd one that. Wellies absolutely essential here; track muddy most of the way round and signs that the site is beginning to flood. A drive round Claxton and Langley offered fantastic views over the marshes, but the wind seemed to be putting pay to raptor spotting.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Empid effort and a shedload of Robins.

It was just about worth it, one of those 'I was there moments'. After a gruelling walk, I managed good views of an Empidonax Flycatcher in the plantation. Eye ring, olive tones, tail flicking, yes- this one was from The States! Quite which one it is, the experts will decide but from what I have read ID will be tricky and may take some time. Some good bits on LGRE's blog. The walk back was reminiscent of a scene from Dawn of The Dead, but a Grey Phalarope was a good self-find on the beach. Now one of these and 2 Red Necked at Kelling, amazing!
Feeling like the time to strike was now, I left early from school today and trawled Waxham until dark. Huge numbers of continental Robins had made landfall, a 'tick' from moreorless every bush. Good few Blackbirds, handful of Goldcrest, 30 Siskin, 7 Redwing, and Chiffchaff were all in the bushes around Shangri La and the trail to the beach. The first Pink Footed Geese had arrived, and they shared a field with a mixed flock of Lapwing, Golden Plover and Ruff. Great feel about the evening, a real intensity in the air. A female Pied Flycatcher was probably the best of the bunch, but surely more to come?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Just another day

Late twenties really is not significant, but I still felt the need to treat myself a little and get out birding this evening.
Debs had not yet been to Buckenham Marshes, and we were the right side of the city for a meal at the re-opened Rushcutters. On arrival in the carpark, Rooks and Jackdaws were perched on the wires like harbingers of old age. Looking forward to the winter roost here. On the track to the scrape, a few Linnets nipped in and out of the scrub. Quite a Gull roost had built up, mainly Black Headed but a few juvenile Herring. Lapwing were sparingly interspersed. The main attractions were again the raptors. A hunting Marsh Harrier was the first to show itself in the fading light, then of more interest was a possible female Hen Harrier. Difficult to id at a distance, but the general jizz felt right. The keen eye of my better half picked up a falcon on a post, which turned out to be a cracking Peregrine! What with the small arrival of Wigeon, signs of winter are afoot.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Football means keeping it local

.....and Berbatov finally repaid my commitment. What a hat-trick.
Surlingham on saturday evening allowed me to add yet more species to the site list. Not the hoped for Pec Sand, but Great Spotted Woodpecker and Reed Bunting. Also of note, a single Marsh Harrier powered through at dusk and a juvenile Green Woodpecker was seen on the grazing hill. Another noisy evening on the reserve, the chorus again led by Cettis and Water Rail. Thanks to the RSPB staff who have been busy clearing nettles and scrub; sitting in the hide is now a worthwhile experience! Teal, Shovelor, Mallard and the odd Gadwall are still the expected duck species on the lagoon.
This evening (Sunday) was spent at Rockland Marshes. A tatty looking Barn Owl was seen, and the Corvid roost was even bigger than last time, and is quite a spectacle. Bought back memories of Mark Cocker's excellent 'Crow Country'. Plenty of bats between here and Claxton, reminding me that a detector is necessary for next summer. These ones were not Pipistrelles; a little bigger, less fluttery. I was standing near water, so most likely Daubentens, enjoying the relatively warm evening under cloud cover.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Yare birding

One could argue favouring Buckenham over Cantley was a mistake, considering the wader count on RBA from the latter site. A few Snipe were in evidence at Buckenham though, along with Egyptian Geese and some nice looking Lapwing. When aren't they?
Good day for raptors, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and Hobby all seen well.
A trip to Rockland Broad allowed me to connect with the Black Tern that has been present over a week, great little bird to watch as it hawked for insects up, down and over the broad. Debs was gutted to have missed this one, she has a bit of a thing for Terns it would seem.
Surlingham Marsh on a Sunday appeared a bit dodgy on paper, the firing range nearby surely not conducive to a Shrike looking for a rest. However, I did manage a few patch ticks including Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Rook, Meadow Pipit and a Mistle Thrush. This was seen from the ruins, feeding on the hilly grazing land.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

News from the patch and further afield

A sodden thursday evening at Waxham proved my worst fears: I had missed the best of it. A glimpse of a lovely male Redstart and a Chiffchaff with a roving tit flock (its 21st century winter time) were the best bits. Of interest, a field full of various brutes, including Lesser BBs and Herrings, and as if to rub it in a Yellow Legged was seen on the beach that day. I told myself it was in a difficult 2cy plumage, and I wouldn't have been able to id it for definate anyway.



An afternoon walk round Surlingham Marsh was terribly uneventful but pleasant. A number of dog walkers doing the circuit along with the odd family group. A Marsh Harrier caused a fuss over the river and was mobbed by a crow. The lagoon had 50+ Teal on it, most of them resting on the now muddy banks- where were the Snipe? A late brood of Greenfinch were still on the nest next to a public footpath, and a Stock Dove called. Hardly typical of a September day.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Surlingham then migrant hunting

The highlight of the past couple of days is a bird I haven't even seen, and it remains unconfirmed! A singing Savis Warbler at Strumpshaw Fen would be a cracker, lets hope it is genuine.
Surlingham Marsh last night produced a Hobby hunting at dusk and at least 3 Chinese Water Deer. It was actually quite noisy on the reserve as the sun went down; squealing Water Rail, at least 3 Cettis going at it, bark of the deer and of course the omnipresent geese. 35 Egyptian Geese were counted over the river, wonder what the record is? 2 Bats were seen hunting in and out of the ruins, Pipistrelle sp. I would guess, perhaps roosting in the ruins themselves. A Jay that flew from the other side of the river made it onto the patch, and represents the latest patch tick.

Winterton Dunes this afternoon was hard work, bashed by ESEs but very few birds to show for it. Female Redstart, 2 Whinchat and 4 Wheatear were the migrants, and locals included a Kestrel, Marsh Harrier and Buzzard. Glad we put the time in, but can't help but feel we were hard done by when you consider what has turned up elsewhere. Did bump into another birder, who agreed that the hoped for birds just weren't present. Weather too nice. Tuesday looks really good, bit of rain to ground some birds, which at present are surely just passing through.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

East Norfolk, 31/08/10

Something snapped yesterday, the terrible realisation that a return to work was once again inevitable. My response: bird. And bird hard.
Happisburgh was first stop on the agenda, a favourite site of mine but under watched of late, no doubt due to the acceptance of a patch. The coast watch was quiet, but glorious. The clifftop walk produced a Wall Brown Butterfly, my third ever and second in this spot! At sea, 10 Eider flew north along with 3 Curlew. 2 Sand Martin were clearly reluctant to leave, and Sandwich Terns were seemingly on the move. Managed to turn up a total of zero migrants despite some serious pishing down Doggetts Lane, but field inland of the cliffs interestingly held a number of large juvenile Gulls, Lesser Black Backed and Herring, which appeared to be sheltering 7 Sandwich Tern! An odd sight.
Surlingham was equally stunning in the late summer sun, and here a new bird was added to the fledgling patch list: a Hobby, which at first I thought was just showing off, but infact was being mobbed by Swallows, so this individual did not hang around. A drink in the Ferry House was much needed; this should be more of a regular stop I decided.
Picked Debs up from work and drove out to Waxham. We managed to locate the Red Backed Shrike, and watched this great little bird from the dunes in the fading light. Despite a trundle through the dunes, no Wryneck, but another birder told us it had been seen, showing well. A Lesser Whitethroat and Wheatear were the other birds of note.
As with last year, the last few days of the school holidays proved some of the most productive of the lot. Back to it for me, but with the decent weather set to continue until at least the weekend, one or two evening trips are in the pipeline.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Surf, Sea and Skuas

A good if testing hour of seawatching at Cley this morning. Holding the tripod steady was as challenging as the id, but rather than get too hung up on that side of it, this morning was quite an experience in conditions best described as adverse. A group of 9 Bonxies came through, accompanied by a smaller Skua which was called as a juvenile Long Tailed. No doubt it was called by a hardened seawatcher, but I am aware of the pitfalls of juvenile Skua id, and having never seen this species before I feel a little reading is in order before I am happy with what I saw, or was told I saw. Plenty of Gannets passed through, and other highlights included a Sooty Shearwater, and a group of 4 distant Shearwaters that were probably Manx.
We walked along East Bank, and so much was moving. The wind appeared to have unsettled the ducks, for Teal were a constant presence in the air. A Sparrowhawk, Spoonbill and 2 Great Black Backed Gulls flew over our heads and a Whimbrel and 3 Curlew were grounded for the time being. A great range of species seen in x-rated conditions; extreme birding is how I sold it to Debs.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Rush Hill scrape, Hickling

Flooded out, don't bother! Did manage a Greenshank, call and white wedge on its back betraying its identity. Plenty of Teal, few Gadwall but not the hoped for Yankee wader fest. Back to the shorebirds book, in hope. Marsh Harrier drifted through and Bearded Tit were heard calling on route back to the car.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Surlingham

An evening visit again, hanging onto what light remains since the nights that are fast drawing in.
The Wood's End Barn Owl again arrived on cue across the river, and the crowd of Egyptian Geese were particuarly unsettled. The lagoon held 80 duck, 5 female Shoveler were the latest arrivals amongst the Teal and Mallard.
A Green Sandpiper, probably one of the two I have seen before, was on the puddle at the foot of the hill were the ruins stand. The startled bird legged it across to the lagoon. Where was the Spotted Crake I had been picturing?!
I finished the evening at Rockland Marshes. Another Barn Owl, and a 400 strong Corvid roost swarmed against the full moon, still settling down for the night as I left at 8.30pm.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Birdfair

I won't grip folk off too much regarding my morning with Mr. King; suffice to say he is a thoroughly decent bloke and the morning I spent in his company will not be forgotten. Whilst grilling an odd looking goose in the hide, I had forgotten I was birding with 'Simon King' as such, I was just out enjoying the birds with good company. Birds from the hide included An Osprey, called by the man himself, Green Sandpiper, Ruff, Lapwing and Little Egret. An odd call from the woods was believed to be a juvenile Tree Sparrow (I need to get an iphone!), although I did not see any from the usual hide.
Spent most of the fair itself moving between the optics marquee, lectures and catching up with friends. A trip to Eastern Europe is now on the cards for next spring, so a number of very helpful tour guides were approached and I purchased Gerard Gorman's excellent guide to birding in Eastern Europe.
We went down to see the Ospreys, which were great, but in truth the experience was forgettable. "Have you seen any Ospreys?" we were asked, on numerous occassions. Try looking I thought.
Eyebrook reservoir was more our scene, and Debs picked out the Black Necked Grebe, although distantly. On nipping round the other side of the water, the bird had disappeared, which was to be the pattern for much of Sunday morning. Still managed to find a few dickheads, who were scoping the water from the middle of the road on a tight bend.
Not long til the new term now, hoping for a couple of patch visits this week. An Osprey has been at Strumpshaw for 2 days, just over the river from Surlingham.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Waxham and Happisburgh

Never made it down to the pipe dump, a large party of caravans and tents (legal?) were blocking my route, as far as I could see, so no chance of exploring the srcub. A walk to Shangri-La Cottage produced common residents including Whitethroat and Kestrel.
An hour long seawatch from Happisburgh 10.30-11.30am proved a good move. A walker flushed a Whimbrel from the beach, which flew high, alarm-calling. 4 Guillemot drifted west, and whilst grilling the small group from some distance a probable Arctic Skua flew west. What was probably the same bird then landed (displaying white flashes on the wings, but not a double flash) not far from the auks and proved a good comparison in terms of size and shape when on the sea. Sandwich Terns fished both close in and distantly.
A female Brown Argus provided the Butterfly interest, and a few ladybirds were zipping about, nothing on last year's invasion though.
Birdfair tomorrow, and a lunch date with The King. Details, of course, to follow on monday.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Surlingham Marsh 18/08/10

A couple of recent visits to Surlingham have proved a little quiet, adding one or two common species to the list but nothing really worth blogging off about.
I decided an after dinner visit was in order, so did the circuit from 7-8pm. A Barn Owl was watched hunting the marshes literally outside the Woods End pub (open and under new ownership, trip report to follow!). 18 Egyptian Geese were counted, and 4 white farmyard type geese were in with the Greylay flock.
On arrival at the lagoon, finally some action. A Grey Heron was fishing right out front, and duck numbers were up; plenty of Mallard and more Gadwall and Teal in support. Then, jackpot. Calling as they flew in, 2 Green Sandpipers. Sadly they didn't hang around, departing high towards Wheat Fen, but hopefully a taster of things to come. A joy to watch as they fed, always unsettled, for around 5 minutes at the water's edge amongst the Teal.
Green Woodpecker, Pied Wagtail and a singing Yellowhammer were also added to the list.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Birding in 'The Cradle of the Industrial Revolution'.

Sorry Norfolk fans, for this post relates to a week away in Derbyshire. On adopting a patch, I promptly left the county....
The helpful folk from the relevant thread on birdforum put me in the direction of Wyver Lane NR, just 5 minutes from where we were staying in Milford. We managed two visits here, and whilst nothing out of the ordinary was seen this is clearly a well watched local patch with potential. A high count of 66 Lapwing were present on the 12th along with 2 Grey Herons, and a Kestrel was observed hunting on the 15th. During both visits a Water Rail was calling not far from the track.
2 trips to Carsington Water proved fruitful, on the 12th we saw 1 Greenshank, 1 LRP, 1 Dunlin and 1 Common Sandpiper. A single Red Crested Pochard, flyover Buzzard and good numbers of Tree Sparrow made for a good haul. A return trip on the 15th produced more of the same minus the waders.
Milford itself is a picturesque village and made for a good base to travel from. We had a Nuthatch on the bird feeder outside our cottage, a Tawny Owl called during the firework display on sunday night and a Kingfisher was seen from the bridge. Here, a number of Daubentens Bats were hunting of an evening. Just outside the village, a Little Owl was seen perched on some wires on a drive home.
The moors around Beeley, north of Matlock, had been a 'must do' from the start, but the time of year meant we could easily have left seeing nothing. A drive around produced a hunting Merlin, always great birds to watch. Scanning the heather for Grouse produced a Raven and a Crossbill flew over calling. Star bird goes to a female Goshawk, seen dashing low over the heather away from a conifer plantation. My first thought was, bloody big Sparrowhawk, the rest is history.
We also visited Coombes Valley RSPB across the border in Staffs. A real gem of a place with more 'new' habitat to explore. A quiet day on the bird front, with a Nuthatch seen, but good for butterflies; Debs managed good pictures of Comma and Peacock, whilst Small Copper and Green Veined White were also seen. The habitat here is great for Redstart, Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher, the latter of which we saw a single bird as we left the reserve. Little did we know there were plenty back home in Norfolk by now...
The Peak District is great to explore, and whilst I am of the opinion that you cannot beat Norfolk birding, you get the impression that there are some genuine wild places here that are desperate to be looked into.
As well as the birds, Alton Towers was a rain soaked laugh a minute. The Holly Bush Inn in Makeney is a superb pub, and the King William back down the hill into Milford is not bad either.

A Red Kite was seen on the drive home, somewhere near Corby.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Holiday fit for a King part 2

Just a different kind of King this time.......
Almost forgot I had entered the competition, so to receive an email from Zeiss UK congratulating me on winning a walk and lunch with Simon King at Birdfair left me speechless, for at least 5 minutes, then the expletives and phone calls followed. Goes without saying I cannot wait, but what to ask him???
I have decided to adopt Surlingham Church Marsh RSPB as my local patch. Just under 20 minutes drive from my doorstep, seems like a great reserve with bags of potential. Patch details and the beginnings of a list to follow. A visit saturday evening produced a Marsh Harrier, 2 Common Buzzard and Grey Heron from the church ruins 'watch point', ideal for viz-mig.
Having spent a few years in Norwich now, I feel the need to put some time in and focus on one area close to home. Furthermore, the list is getting there and I no longer feel the need to see anything and everything in Norfolk. I will still be hitting the east coast come autumn, and the usual trips up to Cley and Wells will be forthcoming I am sure.
I am off to Derbyshire, Milford to be precise, for a week so will attempt the odd update when possible. Now where is my passport......

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Rockland Broad

A breezy but pleasant afternoon. Well under an hour spent in the hide overlooking Rockland Broad produced a Kingfisher, Common Tern and young Reed Warbler. Very few wildfowl or waterbirds in general, a brood of Tufted Duck and a Great Crested Grebe were noted though. A Kestrel was hunting the meadow but no other raptors were over the marshes. I saw my first Painted Lady of the year along the track to the hide. A Common Buzzard was circling a beet field on the way home.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Ted Ellis Country

Whilst the summer holidays may not be prime time for high-adrenalin birding, it is a great opportunity to get out and explore Norfolk. I have visited Strumpshaw Fen more than any other reserve/patch this year, more than I always care to blog about. What is on the other side of the river?
More of the same it would seem, fantastic habitat and great birds, the only difference being the profile of the following sites. Surlingham Church Marsh and Wheatfen (Ted Ellis) reserve appear to be little known and under-watched. No matter, for this was exactly what I was after.
Beginning at the former then. The reserve trail is a nice little circuit, easily walkable in under an hour. It is Strumpshaw in miniature, complete with its own scrape (of sorts), a hill (migration hotspot right there) and with added grazing marshes. It was at these marshes that I heard the reel of a Gropper. The ruins of the church of St. Saviour are certainly worth a look, and I spent a moment here at the grave of Norfolk naturalist Ted Ellis. The reserve was quiet, but I look forward to a visit in the autumn or sooner.
The Ted Ellis reserve itself is a real gem, hard work in terms of birds (the helpful warden advised me not to bother with my scope!) but excellent for insects and plants. I managed 9 species of butterfly during my walk round the reserve and plenty of Silver Y moths. A young Reed Warbler and Cettis Warbler were the only birds of note. Another one to return to in more favourable weather perhaps. There were 3 cars in the car-park, which the warden described as a busy day.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Buckenham Marshes

A wet morning led to marking, but the reappearance of the sun gave me the ideal excuse to toss aside the papers and get out and about.
Buckenham Marshes is just down the road from Strumpshaw, but despite living in Norwich for almost 3 years, I have never visited. The reserve information board rather nervously exclaims "The vast expanse of grass can appear rather quiet", or something similar, which basically means you are gonna have to work for your supper.
Eying up a potential walk back to Strumpshaw, I headed towards the Yare in hope rather than any great expectation. It was very quiet, an odd looking wagtail was presumably a juvenile Grey, and aside from Meadow Pipits and Goldfinch not a lot was doing. I clocked a female Marsh Harrier quartering a patch of dense grass, and seemingly out of nowhere a very dark Common Buzzard appeared. Landing gear out, the pair sparred in the sky, derelict windmill making quite a back-drop.
Walking back, a male Marsh Harrier made a lazy attempt at taking a Mipit mid air and a Water Rail was heard.
I arrived home to some fantastic news- a COLONY of Spoonbills are breeding at Holkham! How has this one slipped through unnoticed I wonder? To be honest, I have not been to Holkham for some time, and no doubt RBA did the right thing and filtered out any reports sent to them. 6 pairs, 4 have fledged young and 2 are now feeding young. Hot on the heels of breeding Purple Heron and Little Bittern this year, but this is the way to do it! Natural expansion as much as climate change I would suggest, although some experts may say otherwise......

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Holiday fit for a King

Not a bad way to start the summer break. King Eider is a rare bird in Norfolk, just 6 previous records so when news broke this morning that the first summer bird from Yorkshire was now being seen off Sheringham (followed by West Runton) I headed off for the latter venue. The bird showed well but a little distantly. Despite the distance, the structure appeared to be smaller and more compact compared to the Eider usually seen in these waters, and the bill was obviously smaller. A white-wash colouring could be seen on the underwings. At time of writing, the bird is now being seen again from Sheringham and will hopefully stick around.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

This River Warbler is bought to you by......

A call from a birding friend and mentor had me up at 4am saturday morning, helping out at the River Warbler twitch. Thoroughly enjoyable experience, and nice to put something back into the scene after last sunday. The bird itself showed well in the wee hours, singing atop of a thistle and elsewhere between 4.45am and 8am. As the heat set in, the bird became more difficult to see, but whilst on car park duty I did manage some good views. The marsh itself offered some great birding after hours, including Barn Owl, Hobby, Marsh Harrier, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Meadow Brown, Ringlet and Comma Butterflies also observed.
Back at the family home in Suffolk, the pair of Turtle Doves appear to have settled down to the point where I can't find them, and 2 young Tawny Owls greeted us on returning from the pub late last night.
The moth trap this morning was brimming, and whilst I have plenty to still to ID, 5 Elephant Hawkmoths, 4 Swallowtails, 1 Magpie, 1 Privet Hawk, 1 Ghost and 1 Mother of Pearl were trapped. Plenty more photos to trawl through, when I get the chance.
A Lapwing woke us up on friday night, calling loudly from our roof in Norwich. Obviously an under-recorded phenomenon.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

River Warbler a nice suprise

As mid summer approaches, a look through the birding archives will reveal a lull in activity, and to be honest the last few weeks have been a little slow. Nothing to write home about, so I haven't! Few trips to Strumpshaw, enjoying the summer evenings followed by a cider back in the city, you know how it is. Door-step birding.
When news broke on sunday that a River Warbler had been singing at a site SE of Norwich for the past few days, I was very much on alert again. Did not get much done all day. Waiting. Haddiscoe was eventually revealed as the place to be, so after a quick snack I headed over and was welcomed by 'River Warbler >' signs. There really should be more of these, eastern Europe presumably the place for them. I was waved in, put my money in the collection pot, and car-parking attendants beckoned me into a spot. Bit like Glastonbury! The crowd was slowly building so I took up my place near the front of the viewing point. A Barn Owl, Marsh Harrier, Hobby, Tree Creeper and Stock Dove kept the awaiting group occupied.
The Warbler itself sang on and off between 6 and 9pm, a silence of varying length settling over the group when the bird began again. And what a noise! It reminded me of a sewing machine. At around 9pm, true to form, the song really kicked in and became more regular. Many of those waiting had now flocked back to the car park in hope of a glimpse, and in light of this charge I stayed where I was. Around 9.20 I was rewarded with good views of the bird moreorless in the open, singing, in Norfolk! Rather smugly, I left soon after, realising that was a moment to savour and was as good as it would get. I fear a few may have 'ticked' a brown blob, but each to their own. Many thanks to the finders for allowing us onto their land, you have proved what can be done! I may head back for a second helping should the bird stick. A Little Owl was seen on a post driving home, not far from the site.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Time for an update......

Great end to the half term week.
Thursday night- I went to the brecks, again. After driving round the forest clearfells near East Harling, I decided to set up at one and hope. I was rewarded with excellent views of Nightjar at 3 seperate clearfells, including a pair. Intiguing to watch, for as long as the light allowed. Incessant churring combined with the odd croaking sound, can't work out if both sexes emit this call or not. Woodcock, Red Deer and Tawny owl the other highlights. Possible Long eared in the headlights but could so easily have been Tawny at that distance. Still, managed to avoid any dogging sites this time.
Friday- put in 3 hours sky watching from Pipps Ford in Suffolk in hope that the Booted Eagle would be seen again. It wasn't, although hopefully it will be pinned down now, reports today suggest it is in the Havant/Andover area. Hobby, Buzzard and Nightingale were seen during the watch, and it was good to catch up the 3 other birders who made the effort.
Saturday- Moth trap this morning had Poplar and Privet Hawk Moth, Buff Tip and a few others bits I am yet to ID; hopefully some pictures to follow.
5 Black Winged Stilts at Titchwell proved too tempting. Only saw 4 at any one time, but on the walk back from the beach one individual, possibly son of Sammy, was showing much closer. Grasshopper Warbler reeled not far from the centre, Bearded Tits were busy and a few summer plumaged Sanderling were on the beach. I was too late for the Gull Billed Tern, but nay matter, for this was Titchwell at its very, spring best.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Golden Delicious

It is half term, so I promised myself one early start. drove off into the Brecks at just gone 5am this morning, and after years of anguish and pain, I finally connected with a Golden Pheasant. I would guess around 3 calling males at a sensitive site. 2 Cuckoos, few Mistle Thrush and a Red Deer stag topped off the morning. Put that in your Springwatch and smoke it.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Prat-trick

After feeling shitty last weekend, it was a relief to get out and about this weekend. A phonecall from a friend who had twitched the Oriental Pratincole straight after a flight in from Oz inspired me to leave the county and make the trip to Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincs. Simple enough drive, under 2 hours.
Staff in the visitor centre put me onto a male Gargany, as usual looking like an odd bar of chocolate. I took in the reserve...and what a reserve it is. Reminded me of both Boyton Marshes in Suffolk and Titchwell. On hitting the reserve trail, I was surrounded by birds- Avocet, Lapwing, Redshank, Corn Bunting, Yellow Wagtail......and, distantly, an Oriental Pratincole. Happy but far from satisfied, I walked round to the east hide where the bird was apparantly showing down to 10 metres. On route, I watched a tiny wader land and despite poor views on the ground it was confirmed by an 'expert' as a Temmincks Stint. Feeling increasingly smug, I rounded the corner and true to form, the Pratincole was fly-chasing right in front of the small crowd. Now, the red underwing could be appreciated. I could actually make out the nostrils; although slit or semi circle I wasn't sure! Still stunned, I watched the bird for a while, wondering how a bird can appear so exotic yet so at home.
Wallking back produced more of the same, including better views of the Temmincks which was by now feeding near some Little Gulls, 2 I think, with blush pink breasts. A look in the 360 hide did not produce the expected X-Box, but instead I managed to locate a Wood Sandpiper, much to the delight of the frothing masses inside the hide. Heading car-ward, I was thinking it was about time I recognised someone, and lo and behold along came fellow bloggers James and Gary. Imagine you had good views lads. Cracking day, looking forward to my next visit here, whenever that may be.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Waxham pipe dump- glamour birding.

After Saturday's Bluethroat 'experience', a trip to the east coast would help ground me more firmly in reality, but of course with the chance of something a bit special.
The strong northerly winds may have made for some good sea watching, but without shelter this I decided would be futile. Bush bashing it was to be.
Happisburgh coast watch was absolutely dead, apart from the carpet bowls competition. Easy.......
Sea Palling was a little quiet, the winds clearly having an effect on the smaller birds which had probably taken to hunkering down in the scrub.
Waxham proved more fruitful. At the Shangri La cottage, a Sparrowhawk upset a Willow Warbler and the resident Chaffinches. A walk to the pipe dump produced little on route except for a singing Cettis, but the chicken field held 13 Whimbrel and a single Bar-Tailed Godwit. Couldn't help but notice that had been missed as per RBA........ Nice. 2 Stonechat were present and the local Skylark were now attempting to sing over the blowing gale. 4 Greenfinch flew south and 2 Linnet were startled in the dunes.
Girlfriend went ON HER OWN to Strumpshaw. I'm so proud. She saw the Little Gull from the Fen Hide, and some Terns are back. Good birding!

Lakenheath and Welney, 02/05/10

A visit to a friend's at Methwold provided the ideal opportunity to spend the morning at Lakenheath and the afternoon at Welney.
The RSPB reserve was alive with song, Whitethroat, Reed and Sedge Warbler were all seen in good numbers by the train track. My first Cuckoo of the year was heard, but not seen. Stock Dove and the squeal of Swifts added to the cacophony of sound. A single male Golden Oriole was present on site, but not seen by me. It has been too long since I have laid eyes on one.
At the Joist fen watchpoint, the sight of 30+ Hobbies greeted us, probably the most I have ever seen in one spot. What a sight, what a reserve. Orange Tip Butterflies accompanied me on my walk back to the carpark.
The afternoon was spent at Welney, my obvious target bird being the White-Spotted Bluethroat, now present for just over a week. £6.90 entrance fee; I would like to know how this can be justified, considering the cheaper entrance fee to NWT and RSPB reserves. However, from near the Lyle hide, Sedge and Reed Warblers teased the small crowd, but finally a flash of red as the bird dashed into the reeds. A patient wait and I was rewarded with amazing views, down to 5 metres. The bird sang and displayed, fanning its tail whenever another warbler got a little too close. Bit of a moment for me I'll admit, still not quite over it yet. What a bird. And what a setting- taking a minute to look up, Lapwings and Avocets were displaying, 2 or more Yellow Wagtails flew past and a Barn Owl hunted the dyke adjacent to the footpath. Again, what a reserve. What a county! Any thoughts of a steep entrance fee were now a distant concern.
From the carpark, Corn Bunting sang and the Barn Owl was now on a post, allowing close views from the car as I drove home.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Brecks 14/04/10

Began at Weeting Heath, first trip for a number of years. Nothing changes- distant views of the Stone Curlews! Did have a 3-4 birds on the move before disappearing over the mound, but I could just make out one on the nest (shhhh!) for more or less the whole time we were there. A pair each of Stock Dove and Mistle Thrush more than made up the numbers, and a Marsh Tit showed well in front of the hide. No Woodlark though, hit and miss this year according to the warden.
Lynford was quiet, save for Treecreepers and Nuthatch. 'Nuff said.
Santon Downham threatened to go much the same way, until the next big thing on the birding scene, my cousin of 10, called 'Redpoll!' Sure enough, he had spotted 3 birds nearby, but the noise from a little further away suggested more were close by, and a 50-strong flock of Lesser Redpoll was located. Fidgety, sociable birds, great to watch. In the same tree, 3 Common Crossbill were observed. Things had picked up.
East Wretham Heath held the commoner woodland species, and suprisingly our first Great Spotted Woodpecker of the day. Thinking back, no drumming heard at Santon Downham of either spotted species. Have they had a hard winter?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

13/04/10 Waxham

All seemed quiet in the county, if you go by the pager that is. Must be some birds out there? A walk through the marrams towards the pipe dump at Waxham reeked of potential, complete with biting NNE wind! Early signs were not promising, just the resident Chaffinches and LT Tits. On approaching the pipe dump, memories flooded back of the possible Semi-collared Flycatcher I saw here a year (or more?) ago. These bushes needed careful attention. A Willow Warbler gave a burst of song, and was then easily located. A second bird was seen in the adjacent bush, and further down the track another put in a showing to make it a hat-trick. The chicken paddocks (!) held 3 Stonechat on the fence and 2 male Marsh Harriers put in an appearance, one resting for awhile amongst the chickens! A Kestrel breezed through and was suitably grilled, and the resident Skylarks made a fuss of the windy conditions.
Decided a quick stop at Shrangri La was in order (a holiday bungalow with a rare looking garden before you ask) and this was a wise decision. Just north, in the garden of the smaller bungalow, was a Ring ouzel. Job done! It didn't hang around, the chack-chack call was audible as the bird disappeared into the scrub, I had been able to watch it for no more than 2 minutes.
A sparrowhawk on the drive back could not have been more confiding, perched, as I crept up on it in the car. Needed a camera, memory will have to suffice.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Happisburgh

Went out looking for raptors and rouzels. Located neither, but nonetheless a fulfilling afternoon.
A short walk to the coast watch point and today the paddocks held some birds, 2 Skylark (one spring bird minus crest that had me going) and a Pied Wagtail. Where was the Yellow Wagtail I had hoped for? A Chinese Water Deer had somehow remained hidden and shot off on noticing me. 2 Sand Martins breezed over the paddocks as I headed back to the car. My first of the year.
The cliffs were devoid of birds, although there were a number of large flocks of Woodpigeons in the lighthouse field. The gulls on the groynes gave me a headache, so onto Doggetts lane. The outward leg of the walk produced little, 2 Meadow Pipits and 1 White Wagtail. However, the return journey held 3 Wheatears right at the end of the lane back near the clifftop walk, and 6 Mipits feeding together suggested a small fall. Accompanied by Skylark song the whole way, the Wheatears capped off a nice trundle about.
Butterflys today- a Brimstone at Little Melton this morning and a Peacock at Happisburgh.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Stiffkey Fen

The weather was so good today, easily made up for failing to connect with the Iberian Chiffchaff. I figured a late morning start would fit in with the continental relaxed way of life, cant imagine a Chiffchaff from Spain or Portugal hurrying up. Timing was irrelevant since the bird had not been heard of seen since yesterday evening. Oh well, still plenty to see here. A Willow Warbler nipped in and out of the bushes, and a Common Chiffchaff called. On The Fen: 4 Med Gulls, 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Ruff, Ringed Plover and lots of Avocets and Black Tailed Godwits. A Swallow flew through.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Return to Kessingland

03/04/10
Made an early (ish) start today, heading back down the A146 in hope of seeing the Pallid Swift after my dip earlier in the week. It was a brisk morning, and I was lucky to miss the rain. A trudge down Marsh Lane, and almost straight away there it was; another new bird from the med, my first Pallid Swift! I enjoyed the bird amongst a small group of birders for almost three quarters of an hour, challenging myself to keep the bird in scope view for as long as possible. On more than one occassion, the bird flew over my head and I was able to make out the white stain on its chin and neck. I felt the wings were a little broader than on Common Swift, and after checking my Collins guide back in the car, I wasn't wrong. Stubby wings rather than pointed were also clear to see. The grey sky behind the bird allowed for a look at the black-washed-with-brown colour.
3 ticks in a week, and on the drive back I thought about my favourite. Whilst I am thrilled and lucky to have Lesser Kestrel on my British list, views were distant and whilst I am sure it IS a stonking bird, I can't say I felt that on the day.
The Pallid was subtle, a birder's bird, a treat to watch and study. Still not my favourite.
The Alpine Swift, with its contrasting colours and acrobatics over Cromer town centre, will leave me with the most satisfying memories of the 3. This WAS a stonker, and whilst by no means the rarest of the 3 contenders, I found it an unforgettable bird for all the right reasons.
Birding ended early today, attention now turns to Old Trafford. Hopefully Berbatov is awake today, I fancy he will be.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Costa Del Suffolk, 30/03/10

Never again will I write off the month of March.
Jetted over to Westleton Heath yesterday afternoon. Passed a few Kestrels on the way; nope, not quite. Genuinely nervous in the car, this was the first twitch I had been on in ages. Parked up just off the road and made my way over to the small crowd on the ridge. Thankfully, I didn't have to wait too long until my and Suffolk's first Lesser Kestrel put in a satisfying if distant performance. It appeared to be taking insects from the ground and then feeing on various posts. Amazing brick red colour contrasted with an almost blue-looking tail. Got it! The Great Grey Shrike nearby was a nice sideshow for when the Kestrel was not on view.
Tried my luck for the Pallid Swift at Kessingland. 30 blokes loitering at the gates of a sewage works, how must that have looked?! No luck. Saw one birder checking the church for roosting swifts though, top birding!
What a few days! Keep an eye on those charts would be the lesson learnt here.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Weekend of 27-28th, North and East Norfolk

Began at Cromer on the saturday, lovely views over the town and eventually.....an Alpine Swift!! A real stonker, showing off for the small crowd as it threatened to give crippling views, but never quite did! Still. a lifer and a satisfying bird to see in the wild. 1 Chiffchaff presumably new in called from the cliffs and another from the woods near the light house.
Called in at Overstrand and walked part of the cliffs. 2 male Kestrels may have been migrants but not a lot else was seen.

After the disappointment of the f1, spent the remainder of sunday afternoon at Happisburgh. Began near the coast watch point, and 2 Swallows were seen hawking beyond a field of daffodils, my first of the year. A Linnet together with 2 Pied Wagtails and a Meadow Pipit all drank from the same muddy puddle. The new paddocks here look like super habitat for migrants. Onto the beach car-park, not a lot seen from the cliffs but 2 female Black Redstart were a treat, first picked up by my better half. We watched them fly catching in the afternoon sun. 1 more new Swallow gave the briefest of views.
6+ Magpie may have been a party of short distance migrants at Cart Gap, also here were 4 Red Legged Partridge.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Insert spring related title here

Happisburgh this morning before the rain. Bloody windy walking the cliffs, didn't get much for my trouble either. Plenty of gulls loafing in the field, few Linnets zipping about and a distant Diver sp. Back at the car park were 3 Pied Wagtails in the grass, one of which was an alba race bird, nice.
The paddocks at Whimpwell Green held around 7 Redwing, 4 Fieldfare, 1 Yellowhammer and plenty of tits shouting at each other. A good mix of the seasons at this transitional stage of the year.
Little else to report, although I managed some good birds from the train last weekend including Buzzard, Barn Owl, Wigeon and Sparrowhawk as I journeyed from Norwich to Manchester to stay with friends.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

27/02/10 Happisburgh and East Ruston

A gap in the showers late afternoon convinced me a trip out would be far more productive than watching the rugby, good decision.
Headed to Happisburgh and walked the clifftop track which had become saturated and muddy. Not a great deal to report, bit of a Gull fest with Common and Black Headed loafing in the clifftop fields. Out to sea 3 distant Common Scoter were sadly the highlight, nowt on the beach. Decided not to push onto the lane and headed back, 4 Linnets providing a brief distraction.
Drove down to the paddocks at Whimpwell Green, better birds to be had there. Mistle Thrush fed alongside Fieldfare, couple of Redwing in trees and a Song Thrush nervously joined its 2 brutish cousins for a meal. Blackbirds zipped around, the light just beginning to fade now.
Finished the evening with a walk down Weaver's way at East Ruston. Fantastic views of a quartering Barn Owl were enjoyed amongst ideal habitat. 3 Grey Partridge were notable. Arriving back at the car a Woodcock flew overhead.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Strumpshaw Fen, 20/02/10

Living back in Norwich is awesome! The fen is no real distance from our new place in the north east of the city, so it was agreed a pre-dinner walk was in order.
We walked out to the remains of the old pumping station, chasing up a description a visitor had handed in that sounded suspiciously like a drake Smew. Few Teal on the flashes, but a grotty looking Mallard may have been the bird in question. 3-4 Chinese Water Deer were positively romping in the meadows adjacent to the river.
With dusk closing in and the reserve quiet, we finished up in the Fen Hide. The Redhead Smew was present with some Gadwall. One Marsh Harrier was soon joined by another four, making up a small roost. Corvids headed towards Buckenham. Cettis Warblers, Bearded Tits and Water Rails called; the sights and sounds of the broads. I had hoped we would be lucky and see the Otters that have been reported more frequently of late, but on this front we were unlucky.
We walked back in near darkness to the beautiful liquid sound of the Song Thrush, and a brief sighting of a Tree Creeper topped off the evening nicely. Driving back through the village a Woodcock flew over the road.

Brettenham Heath, 19/02/10

Decided to make an evening trip to the heath. Local bird reports suggest Long eared Owls breed here, and February should be the right time to hear birds calling.
Spent around 2 hours wandering the heath until darkness, no sign of any Owls. However, a Woodcock whizzed past just above my head and an astonishing spectacle of 97 Red Deer, including 2 Stags, were watched jumping the fence into another part of the heath. A Yellowhammer flew to roost, as did a Fieldfare and the local Corvids. It was a beautiful evening, and despite no sign of my hoped for quarry, a pleasing outing.
Drove home via East Harling Heath, stopping at various pull ins and listening for calls. Again, I left feeling frustrated but the habitat looks promising and persistence may just pay off.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Breckland birding

Been awhile folks, but after a seamless house move (back to Norwich, Anglia Square massive and Wroxham as a local patch?) I am back, and a half term visit to the forest seemed in order.
East Wretham Heath has bags of potential but no birds. Well, not the birds I wanted! Had a good look at some Marsh Tits, recent BB article in mind and all. Loads of corvids leaving their morning roost.
Santon Downham held a handful of Brambling, lovely to look at after what I am sure has been a lean winter. Pretty sure I heard a Lesser Spot, ticked off both the commoner species.
Lynford was on fire, Crossbill in the carpark and Hawfinch in the paddock, 10 and 15 respectively. A white Pheasant was just weird.
Went onto you know where for a Goshawk, no sign this time but picked up Yellowhammer, Sparrowhawk and the calls of Siskin and Crossbill. The walk back yielded 2 white deer (theme continuing) amongst some more regular coloured Roe plus a porno mag, lovely stuff.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Big Freeze Blogservations

The weather, whilst tough for some of our wildlife, has had a positive impact in that people have found themselves paying closer attention to local patches, myself included. I cannot claim to be a dedicated patcher like some, but rather than risk driving further afield I have been quite content to watch what goes on in the garden and around the village. Here are my Big Freeze observations.

Fieldfare and Redwing. Our country garden is usually more suited to smaller birds, but this winter the Thrushes have taken over. Whilst the aforementioned species are nervy and rarely stop to feed, the fact they have dared to enter the garden at all speaks volumes about their mounting desperation. A recent flat hunting trip in Norwich turned up birds feeding close to Dereham Road.
A record count of 23 Blackbirds tend to boss the bird table and ground level feeding station. Quite a sight, and a challenge to pick out the dominant individual/s.
Male and female Bullfinch in the garden. As with the winter Thrushes, their stay was brief and they didn't even attempt the feeder. This is however a garden tick.
My father spends part of his week managing a local pig unit. He has seen Snipe on the tiny pond just off the road. A Kingfisher was also seen here in October, perhaps a sign of what was to come. Really special sightings for my small Suffolk village.
Last night as myself and friends drove out for a pint, I spotted a Tawny Owl in a hedge, and on the way to work another bird narrowly missed my front Windscreen. I would guess tawnies are doing ok, perhaps not Barn Owls due to their hunting method. Driving home we narrowly missed 3 Roe Deer in the middle of the road.
An evocative sight any time of year, a Starling 'swarm' in Thetford has been a pleasure to observe both from and to work. Around a thousand birds can be seen at dusk south on Croxton Road from the leisure centre.


Monday, 4 January 2010

See Eagles?

Icy conditions contrasted with a hot debate! Norfolk have already turned them down; will Sea Eagles find a home in Suffolk? This photo was taken with the Blyth Estuary in the background, an obvious breeding site should the proposed reintroduction take place.





Interesting if at times ill-informed comments here:

Fantastic birds they are, but my concerns would be with livestock owners and the wider countryside. Is this really the best way to spend 'conservation' money when Willow Tits, Lesser peckers and the like slide into oblivion?

Back at Minsmere

Not sure I have experienced temperatures this cold on the reserve before, a tough week awaits our wildlife. A Green Winged teal had been present for a few days, but I was unable to locate it from the East Hide. A teal with a go faster white stripe doesn't really do it for me anyway. A single pintail roosted amongst the usual suspects, and snipe were in evidence feeding and nipping around the reserve. A woodcock was flushed from the sluice bushes and a single Marsh Harrier floated over the levels. The highlight of the day came in the sublime form of a hunting stoat. Fantastic views for a few minutes close to the South Hide, what plucky animals they are.
On the walk back to the centre a Marsh Tit was seen and Water Rail heard.
After warming up with a jacket potato and a read of the new Suffolk bird report we headed to Dingle Marshes. What may have been Twite alighted upon our arrival. A wintering Greenshank was a nice find amongst the Snipe and Redshank. A single Avocet arrived from somewhere; a few for the year listers here.
We finished off at the Blyth Estuary, where around 10,000 Common Gulls had come into roost, their numbers growing during our short stay here. A large group of Knot swirled in the freezing air along with a few Dunlin. Golden Plover were distant but identifiable.
The drive home threw up a hunting Barn Owl near Darsham.