Saturday, 30 April 2011

Rough and windy

A Hoopoe reported from Winterton Dunes this morning was more than enough motivation for me to hit the east coast and bag some migrants.
Disappointingly few birds seen, of any description. Happisburgh was windswept and bare, so I headed for 'cover'; the dunes at Eccles. 3 Lesser Whitethroats were heard rattling, but no Wagtails, Falcons, nothing. This was hard going- the wind blew so hard I actually had a headache. Probable Swift over Whimpwell Green, but I was unable to stop the car for a look.
I sat back in the car and collected myself and decided a change of tactics were in order. It's windy, too windy. Birds are either hunkered down or passing straight through, maybe stopping further inland, I hoped. Hickling Rush Hill Scrape seemed like a good shout, so that was where I ended up.
3 Wood Sandpiper were at the far side of the scrape, and 3 out of 4 Greenshank showed much closer to the hide. 8 Ruff were almost looking smart, and 2 Avocets provided more colour. A good wader fest! 2 Marsh Harrier were in the air, then something else caught my attention. Clearly a Buzzard, and prolonged but distant views showed off a white rump and dark carpal patches. Having just seen a few of these beasties in Estonia, I was watching a Rough-legged Buzzard. I managed to get the other birder in the hide onto it before it drifted west over Hickling. A good bird for east Norfolk and a satisfying end to the day. More tomorrow!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Broads Tours, 25/04/11

The Broads looked great yesterday, a pleasure to be out and about, even with a few holidaymakers!

We began at Barton, hoping to catch more than just the tail end of the Black Tern passage. I had a feeling we had left it too late, and that was the case. We did however enjoy watching the now resident Common Terns here, and looked very hard at a few incase an Arctic was amongst them. 2 Common Sandpiper were seen, but not by us. The scrub around the boardwalk offered good views of Treecreeper and Blackcap.

Ranworth Broad was a first time visit for us, which again was heaving with Common Terns, and this time the scrub allowed us a close up of both a Cettis Warbler and a Willow Warbler. More was heard than seen, the trees and vegetation thickening by the day.

Upton Fen was not as hard to find as we expected, and is somewhere that will keep me coming back, this is a great reserve. It reminded me of a mini Hickling Broad, and as at Hickling there is potential for rare, with a vast reedbed surrounded by grazing marshes. A Savi's Warbler apparantly took up residence in 2000 (fast becoming a bird that I am setting my sights on to 'find' in the broads), and Red-footed Falcons have been seen in the last 5 years. We had great views of a hunting Barn Owl around midday, a pair of Marsh Harrier and 2 Hobby- my first of the year. Always a buzz seeing that first Hobby. Great variety of insects and Butterflies here too, not all we could put a name to, but will try to one day. No rush though, this is a great reserve to soak up. With so many good pubs located around and between, I think the odd evening visit here will be in order during midsummer. Bloody love The Broads.

Sunday, 24 April 2011


James and I set off mid morning for the Ouse Washes reserve in Cambridgeshire, hoping to see the drake Blue-winged Teal which has been present for long enough.
Twitching, on this blog? Hold on.......
Great reserve, similar to Welney just up the road. Good views of Yellow Wagtail, Little Egret, Little-ringed Plover and Lapwing on the lagoons. Pride of place probably went to a lone Greenshank. As you may have guessed, no sign of the Teal. A Grasshopper Warbler was reeling somewhere out of sight, and I had a Turtle Dove blaze past.
On route to the Ouse, James received a text from Gary alerting us to a Citrine Wagtail at East Runton. Bugger, we thought. We had spent so much time looking for the Teal, any chance of the Wagtail had surely gone.
I got home and got on with some marking. My friend Rob called. I marked one book.
45 Minutes later I was looking at a pristine male Citrine Wagtail. The bird showed down to 15 metres and with a head like that, will be unforgettable I'm sure. Most birds I have seen photos of have been Autumn migrants, so to see a real live spring bird was a treat. I would add some pictures, but the camera says "card read error".
Not finished with my day, I headed to the patch after dinner. Two twitches in a day and I was in need of a cleanse. Surlingham always does the job. The 2 Little-ringed Plover were still in place on the edge of the lagoon, and were aggressively defending their new territory from.....a Yellow Wagtail! Get in!
Marsh Harrier and more distantly a Buzzard hunted over the marsh, and a Gropper reeled me back to the car.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Now thats what I call Surlingham!

You can probably tell by the over-excited title of this post that I am rather pleased with my evening exploits on the patch.
Counted 5 Groppers on the reserve, one of which was across the river, so not technically Surlingham I suppose. Managed a glimpse of one, but as is often the case they remained so close yet so far, a bird that keeps me coming back for more! More Reed Warbler seem to have arrived too. Quite a noise as I completed the circuit.
6 Lapwing were on the lagoon, and as well as displaying they appeared agitated. A closer look revealed the victims of their dive bombing- a pair of Little Ringed Plover, a new bird for me at Surlingham. A Cuckoo then flew over, having been calling from across the river. Yes, another new one but no doubt present every year in ideal habitat.
I didn't try for Little Owl this evening, but on the walk back another Owl started calling, this time a Tawny. I went a bit King/Packham all over it, calling it towards me. It did respond, appearing in a tree close by. My last 'hoot' was in truth poor, and the Owl responded by buggering off. Whoops.
Finding MOJO on the doormat with a free Black Keys CD completed an awesome day!

Turtle Dove joined the Lesser Whitethroat in mother's garden yesterday.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Return from the east and Norfolk is blazing!

Estonia was a true wilderness experience for me, an amazing if desolate country with great birds and great people. A full trip report will follow, but I'll just leave this as a taster for now:

Visited the patch yesterday morning/afternoon and minus a few species it could easily have been mid July, ridiculous heat! the HTC clocked it at 25 degrees at one point.
The main change, other than the thicker vegetation, appeared to be an arrival of Whitethroat, approximately 5 on the reserve. I was pleased to again view a Little Owl in the usual tree, and presumably the same Gropper reeled from a hidden perch.
At Rockland, no Terns, but 2 Cuckoos were heard for the first time this year. Well, for me anyway! I noticed one had been reported from the hide at Surlingham also.
I then had a drive out to Hardley Flood, failing miserably in my attempts to find the place, but I have a fair idea of where I went wrong.

Visiting my parents in Suffolk for a couple of days, and upon unloading the car I heard a call that was just about familiar......a Lesser Whitethroat, which mum thinks may have been present for a few days. It is very vocal today, infact I can hear the rattling end to the call as I type, so I plan to spend the afternoon getting decent views and maybe a picture!
Trip report to follow sometime this weekend.

Monday, 11 April 2011

One final look and more migrants are arriving.

Couldn't resist a last stroll round the patch before heading off to the Baltic, and very glad I did. Mopped up a good few year ticks. I rarely visit the reserve early in the morning, so it was interesting to see so many Rooks around, new for the year. More Blackcaps appeared to have arrived, and I counted 5 Sedge Warbler this time around. A pair of Shelduck were back on the lagoon, and behind them a Barn Owl was out hunting in the morning sun. Sitting in the hide I watched Reed Bunting, another bird which seems to have doubled in number all of a sudden. Another first, a Reed Warbler sang unseen. The Gropper was silent today. I wandered further up the hill in hope of a flyover raptor. Looking in the direction of the village, I spotted a bird sunning itself that I have been trying to locate for a while now- Little Owl. I am fairly sure I have located the nest/roost, and it seems s/he is sharing a tree with a nesting Egyptian Goose! A Swallow on the patch was another year tick, and finally back at the car a calling House Sparrow was also a new bird!! I wonder what will have changed when I next visit in over a week's time. Should have seen a White-tailed Sea Eagle by this time tomorrow, and plenty of seaduck. Lovely stuff. For now, a couple of pics of the humble residents of Surlingham Church Marsh.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Success in The Brecks?! 09/04/11

A later start than preferred due to an appointment with the doctor meant chances of a Lesser Pecker at Santon Downham were always going to be slim. It was a cracking morning however, plenty of birdsong including Blackcap, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit, Siskin and other woodland residents. In terms of target species, a possible Willow Tit was all we managed, and a brief view of Whitlingham's finest. We had lunch in the sun and headed off to try somewhere different, which in typical brecks fashion shall remain a location 'somewhere in the forest'.
Things really picked up here, beginning with the butterlies on the wing. Holly Blue, Orange Tip, Brimstone, Peacock, Tortoiseshell and Comma were all enjoying the 20 degree plus heat. As were 2 Common Lizards!
2 Woodlark sang from separate clearings, a beautiful song with a real liquid quality I never tire of. Best of all, excellent views of 3+ Goshawk including one bird that flew over head allowing a closer than usual look at the plumage of this enigmatic species.
A familiar call alerted us to the presence of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, which gave a brief view before flying off. Other bits and bobs included A Buzzard carrying a large twig, Kestrel, GS and Green Woodpeckers and a local walker told us a Redstart had been seen earlier in the morning.
So a relatively straightforward and rewarding afternoon, helped in no small part by my uncle and little cousin who joined me for the day. I would back him to find a first for Britain one day; he beat me to a Goshawk shout on more than one occasion!
Debs and I leave for Estonia on Monday, so depending on net access this may be it for a while. But I bet you can't wait for those gripping photos of Steller's Eider, Pygmy Owl and Great Snipe. We can't!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Gropper on site!

An evening visit seemed the obvious thing to do after a day of above average temperatures for early April. Furthermore, my shoulder is not in as bad shape as I had feared; a mini-dislocation was all. Carrying the scope was no hassle! Along with the newly resident Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers, some new song amongst the reeds. 2 Sedge Warbler were belting out their scratchy tune for the first time this year, a welcome sound. Even better was a reeling Grasshopper Warbler near the ruins. Despite waiting patiently I only managed a glimpse, and by this time it was getting quite dark. Typical for this species, I find that they either give superb views, or barely show at all. A few bats were flitting about, difficult to put a species to them in the fading light.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Surlingham yesterday, A&E tomorrow?

Warmest day of the year so far on the patch, and my notebook makes good reading!
I extended the walk this time, taking in Ferry Road which leads down to the pub. Some excellent damp scrub there, and of course I hoped for a Firecrest reported last week from here. No luck there, but a worthwhile extension and a walk I will be doing more often at 'peak' times of the year.
At least 10 Singing Chiffchaff were counted on and around the reserve, along with new arrivals in the form of 3 Willow Warbler, all giving away their presence with a beautiful song. I heard a Sand Martin near the river but could not lock onto it, still a year tick mind! A Blackcap was singing near the pub, another year first, and a male Marsh Harrier gave the ducks a scare over the main lagoon. Hopefully a mate will show up and breeding can commence. Shoveler numbers were up to 6, Cettis up to at least 3.
At least 6 Brimstone butterflies were seen, along with two Commas, a favourite of mine. Their wings look frazzled, like they have been set alight somehow.
A Swallow was seen low over fields near Bramerton on the way home.

I had big plans for today, but finding myself laying flat on my back on the bathroom floor this morning put pay to migrant hunting. Possible shoulder dislocation (again), so off to the docs in the morning. Now, if the WT Eagle would land somewhere, tomorrow afternoon could be interesting.....