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


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


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......