Sunday, 18 September 2011

Good Vibrations on the patch

With a series of busy weekends coming up at precisely the wrong time of year, it was essential to squeeze in a visit to Surlingham on Friday night before leaving for London on the Saturday. 
I left it late, purposefully, to get a taste of what might be around for next weekend's RSPB Moth and Bat night on the reserve. Before the Bats came out, I enjoyed excellent views of a Kingfisher, first perched and preparing to fish before being spooked by a boat and flying off downriver. Continuing round the river bend, my first Bats of the evening. A purposeful flight, swooping down to grab insects from the surface of the Yare. One would associate Daubentens with water, but these mammals were flying high over the river rather than feeding close to the water. In short, I couldn't identify them! Natterers perhaps, sizewise. 
The lagoon was busy with wildfowl, Teal arriving in the gloom. As I left, the first of the Egyptian Geese began flighting in. A Tawny Owl called from the pine plantation. 
More Bats flew past at head height, these ones much smaller, Pipistrelle sp. One definite ID was a single Noctule, which bombed past across the reedbed. Lovely stuff! 
A Snipe was flushed from the puddle at the foot of the ruins, and by now I was struggling to see any further than 20 metres ahead, so back to the car I went. 
Me and Debs enjoyed Brian Wilson in concert last night, the old boy has still got it! 
Depending on the United result, I may well pop out again after tea. 

Monday, 12 September 2011

....and then onto the patch

Seeing rare birds does have an inspirational effect on me, and riding high on the buzz of seeing a Little Bittern earlier in the morning I headed to Surlingham Church Marsh that evening, eager to find some birds.
The male Marsh Harrier was back, drifting over the reed bed as the light began to wane. The muddy margins really should hold some Waders, but I had to be content with watching the Ducks for a bit. 
The main points of note came whilst watching the dark descend from on high, next to the ruins. On approaching, a few Mistle Thrush exited a large Oak. By the time they had all left, I had counted 29! Maybe I had disturbed their planned roost site, but hopefully this was usual behaviour for this time of the day. I reckon there were more, too. Pleased with a record count for the site, I was preparing to head back to the car when a Hobby appeared, like only Hobbies can do. High, over my head, then onto the reserve. A final foray before bed no doubt. Now very satisfied, I did head back to the car. 

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Titchwell: The Reaction

With the Little Bittern showing well (albeit occasionally) yesterday, I was in no doubt as to where I would be birding today. Arriving fashionably late, Debs and I joined the throngs that were cluttering the main track and raised bank, scouring the small pool for the juvenile Bittern. Ricky informed us there had been little action so far this morning, but a brief flight and the bird had everyone on their toes. It even had some on their backs, and bums, sliding down the bank for a glimpse. Not cool guys, the tracks are there for a reason. We did not have to wait too long before the bird moved again, and I was looking the other way, Debs with the first view as it flew low across the pool. I uttered a few expletives, fearing this could again be another dip balanced precariously on 299 BOU. Scanning the reed edge, a snake-like movement, and the Little Bittern was fishing. I had the views I was desperate for! Beautiful streaking on the breast, and a bright yellow bill. A landmark bird for me in Britain, and one I won't forget.
Able to relax, we took in some more of the reserve. Debs had not visited Titchwell before, and I promised her there was more to see than just a small pool. The sea was quiet, but a number of Waders fed along the shoreline. Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Dunlin, Curlew and a cracking Grey Plover. From the super hide, we watched Dunlin and at least 5 Curlew Sandpiper were picked up in a quick scan. No sign of the reported Buff-breasted Sandpiper sadly.
To break up the journey back to Norwich, we stopped off at Sparham Pools. I have never visited before, but this seems like a decent spot with potential. A walk away from the car-park, to the road and bridge over the Wensum, and we were rewarded with a lovely male Grey Wagtail. 
Surlingham Church Marsh yesterday was quiet, save for a Common Buzzard and Kestrel. Teal numbers have tripled, and 6 Mistle Thrush were in the grazing fields viewed from the ruins. 

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Surlingham update and Cantley Waders

Waders galore

Common Darter

Sunrise over Surlingham Village

A flurry of recent visits to Surlingham have come about I believe due to the realisation that a return to work looms. An Autumnal twist has been noted on the reserve: Mixed tit flocks roving far and wide through the scrub, and 4 Snipe were feeding at the rear of the lagoon on the 31st oAugust. On the 1st of September, a flock of c.50 Lapwing were at Wood's End, and a Chinese Water Deer was feeding at the edge of the lagoon. These mammals do seem to be more visible at this time of year. 3 Cormorants were on the river, returning for the winter. Other bits and bobs included a coming together involving a Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk (no harm done) and a Heron carrying away a Grass Snake.
On the 2nd of September, I was a busy birder. I began at the patch, arriving on site at 5.30am. I was keen to see what wildfowl used the lagoon overnight. As I walked towards my target, at least 2 Bullfinch called persistantly, but I was unable to pick them out in the half-light. A Tawny Owl called, Cettis Warblers sang and the Geese began to wake up; it was a noisy start to the day! On the lagoon, I smashed my record count of Mallard on site- 106 were counted. 44 Egyptian Geese, 7 Canadian Geese, 2 Greylag Geese and smaller numbers of Teal and Gadwall were the other birds that had presumably roosted on the lagoon. I watched most of them leave as the light broke through the misty gloom. The real highlight was a Kingfisher, which flew right past me as I sat in the bus shelter hide.
In front of the 'proper' hide, the reeds have been cut and burned. 2 Moorhen foraged here, and this looks like a good spot for Water Rail and Snipe, particularly as the months pass into Winter.

After cracking a few last minute chores at home, I picked up James and set off for Strumpshaw. The reserve was quiet save for a Hobby perched nicely on a dead tree, but we had really come to search for the Reported Willow Emerald Damselfies. I am still a novice in this area, but despite employing the expert help of James, we were unsuccessful. We did however see Common Blue, Brown Hawker, Common Hawker, Ruddy and Common Darter and a couple of male Brimstone Butterflies.

We then popped to Cantley, meeting up with Ricky and bumping into fellow blogger David Norgate. We had crippling views of the Dunlin flock feeding within yards of us. A quick scan through revealed at least 10 Little Stint, 4 Curlew Sandpiper and a few Ringos. We hunted for the Pectoral Sandpiper in amongst the mudflats and endless supply of Ruff, but this bird was to prove too elusive. We did however manage the usual Green and Common Sandpipers, and picked up a smart Wood Sandpiper. Again, fantastic variety on offer and having visited a few times over the summer, I feel like I am really beginning to get to grips with Wader behaviour at a site like this.