Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Dare to dip

You will need to make this BIGGER.

I seem to keep dipping a lot of birds lately. The Happisburgh Greenish, The Cromer Greenish and Bonelli's......don't get me started regarding the Caspian Tern at Titchwell. Its not like I twitch regularly, you would have thought the birds could behave on the odd occasion I do travel. Credit though to those hardened souls at Cromer; standing in one place for a lengthy period is not my strong point.
Cantley Beet Factory has been brimming with quality the last couple of days, and after my telescope temporarily lost a leg yesterday (putting a stop to some proper scanning of the exposed mudflats) I returned today for a proper count up, scope rehabilitated.

Little Stint 1 Juv (see photo; you do well to spot him observer!)
Curlew Sandpiper 3 Juvs
Common Snipe c15
Green Sandpiper 9
Common Sandpiper 4
Dunlin 12
Greenshank 13
Ruff c14
Knot 1
Redshank 2
Ringed Plover 10+
Lapwing 250+
Yellow Wagtail 2

Yesterday, I had my first Wheatear of the Autumn, plus a female Marsh Harrier.
Cracking range of Waders to be had, and a real pleasure to come across the Little Stint, so smart in immature plumage. Initially I found a single Curlew Sand with the Dunlin flock, and it was a classic 'last scan before I leave' moment during which I latched onto the 3 birds together. As a chap said to me on site, "Keep still, and the birds will come to you". Sound advice!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Someone left the gate open......

....and cows left their mess, all over the joint. Added to that the RSPB lads doing some sterling work clearing scrub, I was not expecting too much in the way of birds.
A much needed patch tick arrived on the lagoon, a Common Sandpiper calling had presumably been feeding out of sight. After a few bobs and a typically low flight path across the lagoon, it was gone.
Also of interest was a group of Warblers flicking in and out of a bush, mainly Chiffchaff, but in amongst them was a Lesser Whitethroat. I do not have any evidence of breeding for this species on the site, so presumably this bird was feeding up and moving through. Other bits and bobs included a Jay, pair of Great--crested Grebe and a chick, and teal numbers building up (note- must count the ducks!).
I photographed this pair of Odonata 'in the moment'. Are they Common Darter? If not, why not?

Popped to Happisburgh this afternoon after a late report of a Greenish Warbler in pines behind the cricket pavilion. I clearly need to be quicker out of the blocks. A flyover Yellow Wagtail was welcome, but not exactly what I came for! I stopped at various patches of scrub and horse paddocks on the way out of the village, all the right habitat; no birds save for more Whitethroat, feeding up for the journey ahead.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Dune walking

washed out Small Copper

'Resting' Small Heath

Debs and I spent a couple of hours searching for Butterflies in the Dunes at Horsey today.
Our main target was Dark Green Fritillary, and we were lucky enough to have 2 individuals give us a fly past; these guys just would not settle! As I understand they are past their 'best' now, and I will return next year with hopefully some photos to share.
My good record with Wall Browns continued, 1/2 seen. Singles of Small Copper and Small Heath were well watched. The Small Heath was at first identified in flight; I later read that these butterflies never rest or feed with wings open. Lazy. 2 Holly Blues, 1 Small Tortoiseshell and plenty of both Large and Small Whites made up the rest of the Lepidoptera.
Ruddy Darter, Migrant Hawker and I believe a male Common Hawker gave us a right show, delaying the drink in the Nelson's Head.
Debs, it was her lucky day, saw 2 Common Lizards. One she claimed was significantly bigger than the other, perhaps a male? Or could it have been something else entirely, since it was but a fleeting view?
Apologies if you are reading for birds, the title of the blog could easily lead one to believe that the content of the writing should be avian-based. With that in mind, we watched a female Sparrowhawk materialise, cruise towards some Swallows, then thought better of it. Why can't I find a Wryneck? Yes, there was that one time on Fair Isle, but that is cheating, right?

There goes the fear

Osprey at Eyebrook

WW Black at Grafham

Essex Skipper at Happisburgh

Before heading off to the British Birdfair at Rutland Water, I headed to the east coast for a bit of bush shaking. Conditions looked good for some early migrants, Wryneck and RB Shrike my own personal targets for the morning. Perhaps I should have set my sights a little lower, since a good few Lesser Whitethroats were as good as it got on the avian front. I did enjoy some success with some Butterflies: 2 Wall Brown in dunes at Waxham, an Essex Skipper on the clifftops at Happisburgh and best of all, a new moth for me: The Drinker! This thing looks like an X-file, what a beast. Stupidly the camera was in the car at this point.
On route to 'The birdwatcher's Glastonbury' (Yeah, right. If that was the Glastonbury crowd, you can count me out in the future) Debs and I stopped off at Grafham Water. Here we enjoyed excellent views of Both Black and White-Winged Black Tern. A useful exercise in Tern ID with Common also fishing the reservoir. Debs watching Terns= happy for the weekend.
The fair itself was a good one this year, punctuated by some interesting lectures and a brief meet and chat with Jimmi from Doves! He is involved with a project known as 'Ghosts of Gone Birds', which highlights extinction past and present. Also involved is my friend and mentor from my Nottingham days, Dr. Rob Lambert. He nailed his specialist subject of 'The History of British Seabirds' during the celebrity wildlife brain of Britain, but went on to be frankly embarrassed by Mike Dilger (Oooooooonnnnneee) in the general knowledge round. Rob, if you are reading, I was mouthing the words 'Lulworth Skipper' to you.
Best lecture was given by Martin Garner and James Lees, who spoke about finding and documenting rarities. Just the boost I needed after my abject failure to find anything decent on the coast, but they did point strongly at the use of digiscoping in order to get records accepted, something I do not do....as yet.
On the Sunday, we left early in order to do the circuit of Eyebrook Reservoir. I quickly picked up the hunched-over Cattle Egret that had kindly turned up over the weekend, and intervened when I noticed a group of birders happily watching a Little Egret and believing it to be Cattle. Think of it as community service, lads. We also enjoyed crippling views of an Osprey, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard. A Ruff was with the Lapwing flock, and distantly a probable Black Tern hawked over the water. Bullfinch called from scrub, and a Yellowhammer landed and called within feet. What a great set of birds, and for a brief blasphemous moment, I wished Eyebrook were my local patch. Surlingham- you know I don't mean it, and will appease with the finding of a Whinchat later this week. Or a Woodchat Shrike.

Monday, 15 August 2011


Mink are a bit of a guilty pleasure, like say Duran Duran. They are an invasive species (Mink, that is) and have been responsible for depleting native fish stocks, and have had a negative impact on Water Vole numbers. They should not be here. But, one could argue that is a very xenophobic attitude. Little Owls should not strictly be here, but I can't say I mind them. I had never seen a Mink in the wild until yesterday, and a part of me was pleased to see them. It goes without saying, that I will not articulate this pleasure when contacting the RSPB.
After a fruitless morning at Surlingham, Ricky and I went to Rockland Broad in the hope of an Osprey sighting. Walking the track that circumnavigates the broad, a crash in the reeds revealed the aforementioned Mink, one chasing another. Unaware of our presence, but unseen in the undergrowth by now, the pair engaged in some rather odd noises (courtship, play?) and then disappeared further into the thick vegetation.
The Broad itself held a few Great-crested Grebe, Tufted Duck and a resident Kingfisher. 2 Marsh Harrier drifted through, and both Common Buzzard and kestrel were seen behind the hide in the meadow. No Osprey, but going by recent form, there is a good chance of one or more hanging around the Rockland/Strumpshaw/Surlingham area until September. Now that would be a smashing bird for the patch list!
Debs and I went for a wander in the Broads that evening, and the sky was undoubtedly the best bit. Add in the sound of bugling Common Cranes, and you can only be in Norfolk.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Knee-deep in Waders

Dropped Debbie off at work this morning and went straight onto Breydon Water. I had my reservations about the tide, and was proven correct when on arrival it was apparent most of the Waders were hunkered up against the bank, awaiting the retreat of the high tide. Despite that, I settled in for an hour's watch in the worst hide in Britain (honestly, check it out, it looks and smells like a toilet in a dirty rock club). Wader counts right here:

c220 Avocet- all feeding- what a sight! Over 1000 were seen in 2009, in September.
Black-tailed Godwit 20+
Bar-tailed Godwit 50+ (many of both Godwit species roosting out of sight).
Curlew 20
Greenshank 1
Oystercatcher 4
Redshank- difficult to even estimate, mainly out of sight.
Also of note was one Little Egret and a Common Tern.

The tide showed about as much movement as the Waders, so with time on my hands I decided to take in Cantley too. I checked the northern-most pits first, only 3 Green Sandpiper here. Main action was in the scrub- Reed Warbler, Whitethroat and young birds of prey (Sparrowhawk?) called from woodland nearby.
Not to be beaten, I signed in at reception and tapped up the main pit.
Loads of birds.
My notes make for some good reading!

Ruff 20
Knot 4
Green Sandpiper 15- conservative estimate
Common Sandpiper 5
Wood Sandpiper 1
Greenshank 1
Common Snipe 2
Redshank 2
Dunlin 2 (one interesting juvenile actually had me taking notes; the all black bill and short projection amongst other things confirmed it was 'just' a juvenile Dunlin).
Yellow Wagtail 4
Marsh Harrier 2
Kestrel 1
Bearded Tit- many pinging birds unseen in reed bed.
Little Grebe 2

Rather happy with that lot! Really enjoyed sifting through the endless Green Sandpipers in search of that one Wood; I would guess there were more of each, but as I did the circuit I was in danger of counting some twice. Easily spooked, they make you work for it!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Surlingham and Buckenham stuff

I have to admit, visits to Surlingham have been a little uninspiring of late. Poor weather, very few birds, and a while since a new species. The westerlies are not really conducive to decent migration on this side of the country, and the strong breeze means Warblers are laying low.
On the 9th, kingfisher hunting the main lagoon was brief but pleasing, and the recent glut of sightings lead me to believe there must be a late brood somewhere close. Duck numbers are low, but Teal, Tufted, Shovelor, Mallard and Gadwall are presumably here to stay until the Spring. Both Coot and Moorhen have bred.
Today, a male Kestrel was observed in classic pose, on electricity wires. 3+ Bullfinch were heard, one seen, near the start of the trail. Maybe a family group. Teal numbers were up again, 5+ now. A pair of Blackcap were feeding on berries in scrub. A Pied Wagtail flew upriver.
After lunch and a chance to collect myself, I headed to Buckenham Marshes for further disappointment. No Raptors, no Waders (pools are dry) but plenty of feral geese. A look through the flocks revealed a single White-fronted, local celebrity the Red-breasted x Barnacle, 2 Canada x Greylag and larger numbers of Greylag and Canada. It started to rain, I neglected to count them.
Above are some moody/uplifting pictures from both venues.

Frampton Marsh RSPB and a little bit of Derbyshire

Frampton Marsh in Lincolnshire is one of my favourite 'big' reserves, so with time on my hands before a university reunion weekend in Derbyshire I stopped off here on the 5th of August and spent a good few hours on a bench, surveying some excellent birds.
Top of the pile was a Pectoral Sandpiper, presumably an adult (I couldn't make out any white tram lines on the back) and a bird I have not seen for some years; 2 well-watched birds at Minsmere around 7 years ago (before I made notes!). What struck me was the overall 'dumpy' impression; even upright, the bird appeared somewhat portly. This was in contrast to the elegant Wood Sandpiper, 2 of which fed much closer to the path and my bench. 2 Green Sandpiper, 1 Common Sandpiper, 3 Ruff, 2 LRP, 2 Ringo and plenty of Lapwing made up the rest of the wader fest. Juvenile and adult Yellow Wagtail were flying over, sometimes landing, all of the time. At least 7 Little Egret stalked the marsh, completing a memorable scene. My reason for remaining seated rather than doing the circuit was a certain Spotted Crake, which had been present for just under a week. Despite my efforts, the bird was not seen. Apparently it rocked up early the following morning, typically Crake-like I thought.
Whilst I was not really in Derbyshire to bird, I did manage to get away from the cottage for a bit to visit Wyver Lane DWT north of Belper. Not much was seen here other than plenty of Hirundines and Lapwing, but the water levels look good for a Wader soon. Great little reserve; have a look here for an up-to-date look at what is about. Patch birding rules!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Extended update part 3- Other bits and bobs

Debs being arty at Strumpy
Holly Blue

Only by listening to Black Mountain have I made it this far- the third and final update, for now.

On the 29th of July, James and I made an early start in The Broads. Fairly unproductive, although a few juvenile Bearded Tits were welcome (only the second sighting for me this year, the first being pinging birds at Breydon). Feeling like not a lot was doing, we signed in at Cantley Beet Factory for a Wader watch. 2 Wood Sandpipers were undoubtedly birds of the day, and allowing for comparison were 5+ each of Common and Green Sandpiper. Still no sign of the rumoured flock of 45 Green Sand, so I will be back again before long. Other Waders included 1/2 Ruff, Dunlin and 3+ Lapwing. It was difficult to not flush the birds feeding around the edge of the pit, so will hidden were they. My counts above are conservative; infact, it seemed like Green Sands in particular were dropping in regularly, perhaps having fed in the nearby dykes of grazing meadows and marsh.

Summer returned yesterday, so Debs and I spent the evening at Strumpshaw. A nice range considering the time of year, including Common Tern, Little Egret, Green Sandpiper (heard only), Stock Dove, Jay, Marsh Tit and the usual Marsh Harriers. A Holly Blue posed nicely, and we watched a pair of Common Hawkers near the small pond.

Extended update part 2- Mothing.

Chinese Character
Swallow Prominent and Peppered
Elephant and Poplar Hawks

Two nights of trapping in a rural garden in Suffolk provided me with new species, ID conondrums and a reason to get up early in the first week of the holidays. I appear to have mislaid my complete lists, so below is a highlights reel, in no order whatsoever:

Dusky Sallow
Poplar Hawk Moth
Elephant Hawkmoth
Swallow Prominent
Brimstone Moth
Dark Arches
Broad-Bordered Yellow Underwing
Orange Moth
Chinese Character
Ruby Tiger
Pale Prominent
Peppered Moth

Not bad!
One in particular threw me, and typically this was the one image that was unfocussed. Can anyone ID the blurry moth with the purple sheen above, top photo?

Extended update part 1- Patch notes

Due to the absence of a computer and the usual self-indulgences I enjoy during the first week of the holidays, an update of my movements has been hard to come by. I am now back online and de-toxing before a weekend in Derbyshire. Here are my recent notes for Surlingham Church Marsh.

On the 25th, 2 broods of Reed Warbler were located. A single Tufted Duck was on the lagoon, no sign of those youngsters. Geese numbers had increased over the river; c50 Egyptian and the Greylag flock now well over 100. Mingling with 5 Canada Geese was an odd looking job, a small mainly black goose, pale cheeks with red fringes. I had it down as a Red-breasted x with either Canada or Barnacle. Later that day, I realised I had seen this bird before, but not in the flesh. Barnacle x Red-breasted it is then.
The 29th was very quiet, duck numbers even lower and Warblers hard to come by. A Kingfisher heading upriver was a welcome sight.
Today, presumably the same Kingfisher whizzed past as I meandered alongside the river. Juveniles of both Chiffchaff and Willow were seen and heard respectively. A female Kestrel and Magpie had let the heat get to them, engaging in an aerial duel. 2 Lapwing were on Wood's End marshes, a Little Egret Flew over and one of the two Little Owls was in the dead tree. The warmth meant plenty of Butterflies were on the wing, as were some Dragonflies. I am still learning with these guys, but I believe the picture shows a splendid looking Migrant Hawker. Please comment if incorrect! Also watched a pair of Brown Hawkers near the Gun Club. A bugger to photo, they just would not settle!