Saturday, 29 October 2011

Patch list creeps up, and a trip to the G Y.

Thursday morning, I snuck in a couple of hours on the patch before marking books loomed large.
Good bit of vis-mig taking place, including Greenfinch, Skylark and Pied Wagtail. On rounding the first bend, I heard the familiar mournful call of a Bullfinch- 2 birds flew from view. Siskin were here too, but then a less familiar call. Convinced this was not an odd Great Tit, I waited around and backed off a little. Sure enough, a Marsh Tit flew into view. Surprisingly, this is a new bird for my patch list, despite seemingly good habitat. Certainly never heard singing during the breeding season, so I wonder where this little chap has come from. My favourite tit on the patch!

Moving on, the ground muddy beneath my boots now, Geese and Corvids were busy overhead communicating in scattered groups. On the lagoon, another first: the only Duck species present were Teal, and 122 was a record count for the patch. Quite a day, then!

Yesterday (28th) I set off for Great Yarmouth cemetery for some sprite hunting. I began in the north section, but arrived back at the road a lot sooner than I had hoped to! Not a lot doing then. Sadly, the south section was even more quiet. In total, one Goldcrest, 2 Redwing, Linnet and Siskin in groups overhead and a couple of Fieldfare completed the below average haul considering time and place.
Breydon Water was at high tide, but a quick scan through revealed the expected Avocet, Golden Plover, Redshank, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit and a selection of winter Ducks. 
Best of all were three Little Egret, one of which was hunting under the bridge next to a late-ish Whimbrel. 

Even more exciting (I know, it's October guys) were two Mistle Thrush over our house in Norwich yesterday.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Phalarope Day!

Debs and I met up with family today, both of whom were keen to see the confiding Daurian Shrike at Horsey. Excellent views were again obtained of this confident individual, which today was building up a small larder of bees and wasps. Shrikes can only 'show well', so why the photographers present needed to shove their massive lenses in the face of the bird I don't know, ridiculous.

A quick seawatch from here proved productive, a Common Scoter flock of c100 birds were loafing offshore, and closer in a few Red-throated Divers were fishing. Gannets fished distantly and one or two Auk species could be seen but not assigned to a species. A probable Grey Phalarope flew North, the first of a few today.

We had planned on giving the bushes a look around Shangri-La at Waxham, and on finding nothing of note we headed down to the beach. As luck would have it a couple of birders were watching two Grey Phalarope close in, gripping photos below!! The birds (possibly one adult and one juvenile) allowed for a close approach and we watched them spinning for food, classic Phalarope behaviour. A memorable moment followed, as two more Grey Phalarope flew South, over the heads of the pair spinning! My little cousin claimed another one South, so a maximum of six seen today, lovely little birds and I cannot imagine ever seeing four at once again!

Driving back we pulled in and studied the gulls following a plough. A distant Harrier would not come close enough, but a Mediterranean Gull was easily picked out amongst the masses of Black-headed.

We finished the day at Strumpshaw Fen and had brief views of Bittern. Marsh Harriers, Bullfinch, Siskin, Marsh Tit and Fieldfare made up a super supporting cast. Matt, one of the reserve staff, told us Otters have been showing beautifully from the reception hide, typical.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Patch update, and the only way to start half-term.

With a (nearly) blank week stretching ahead of me I began by taking in Surlingham Church Marsh this morning. A Wigeon was new in on the lagoon, and both Little Grebe and Cormorant on the river heralded the arrival ofWinter. 2 Great Crested Grebe were probably a breeding pair, and a Sparrowhawk overhead was probably local too. Large numbers of Starlings moving overhead, a flock of 5 Pied Wagtail, 6 Stock Doves and finally 40 Lapwing at Wood's End. Fieldfare and Redwing heard, but not yet pinned down this winter period. Bullfinch and Siskin also vocal from the scrub.
Returning home after the weekly shop, news had broken of an Isabelline Shrike at Horsey. Shrikes are a real favourite of mine, and I couldn't miss this! I read up on the Izzy Shrike complex whilst having lunch, and felt prepared to ID whatever was there.
Once I had enjoyed good views, I set about pinning the bird down to subspecies level. One or two on site thought it to be a Turkestan (Red-tailed) Shrike, but I could see no features indicating this. Infact, the bird was pale, lacked a prominent mask and supercillium, and the creamy wash breast with faint barring suggested an obvious Daurian Shrike.
It was a cracker, and showed well for the birders present. I missed it catching a Wren (short distance migrant?) but did watch it feed on the impaled carcass; butcher bird indeed!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Dipping and Patching

With a change in the winds and a quite unprecedented influx of Short-eared Owls into Norfolk, I had a feeling the weekend might hold something special. A Rufous-tailed Robin, though, was not even on my radar! Mixed messages were coming through regarding the whereabouts of this Siberian mega, and I decided on the Friday night there was no way I could get to Wells, let alone East Hills, before darkness. Photos appeared, and there was only one place I wanted to be the following morning.
Myself and Ricky arrived at Wareham Greens for first light and joined the masses, shuffling to keep warm in the dark. If the bird was still around, only chaos could ensue. Perhaps anticipating a ruck, the Robin had either copped it or left on the clear skies of the night before. Yes, we were disappointed, but October in Norfolk is great on a bad day. Waiting for the Robin, we had seen Brambling, Marsh Harriers, Yellowhammers, Skylarks, Brent Geese and Curlew, all on their own morning commute.
Both of us had to be back for a late lunch, so after checking the other track to the saltmarsh (and picking up a few Redwing and 2 Chiffchaff) we headed to Wells Woods. After some searching, we were able to pick up a calling Yellow-browed Warbler. This individual offered us a glimpse, and a second then left the same bush, flying high and away.

Today, with nowhere in particular to be and not in the mood for chasing anything rare, I set out for Happisburgh. It was a cracking day, and the local Starlings and Black-headed Gulls were making the most of the warm conditions doing some fly-catching on the wing. Groups of Siskin called overhead, but that was about it in terms of migrants. Waxham was much the same, and my migrant hunt had by now turned into a leisurely stroll.
I needed no excuse to get going, but had to be at Surlingham before dusk to conduct the first of 6 Hen Harrier roost counts. Traditionally, there has been a Harrier roost at Surlingham Church Marsh, but last year I only managed a single ring-tail. Still, it provided a good reason to sit still and see what comes and goes. 
I was in place by half 5, and the reserve was a noisy place this evening. Cettis, Water Rail and Snipe were all a part of the evening chorus. Better vis-mig here than the coast: Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails, Redwing and Mistle Thrush all moved through. A small roost of the latter was present, and Magpie and Jay numbers seemed to have at least tripled. The only raptor I managed was a male Sparrowhawk, and the evening finished with views of the resident Barn Owl. Surlingham at its best? Not far off. 

Monday, 3 October 2011

Timely Mega arrives in Suffolk

Having struggled to get out birding of late (weddings, stags, birthdays) I was chomping at the bit to be back in the field. On Sunday I literally found myself in a field late afternoon, watching a North American Sandhill Crane, probably the rarest bird on my personal list in terms of previous records. This, the first mainland record, is certainly a bird that commands the wow factor. Watching from a distance of about 100m, the bird occasionally raised its head in our direction, threatened to fly, but then just carried on grazing. The grey plumage with rusty overtones looked beautiful in the fading sun. Back on the lane in Boyton village, people were parking up and sprinting towards the target- scenes I have not witnessed since the Winterton Black Lark.
I only just made it to see the Crane, since I had been away in London for a friend's wedding. Whilst Slough is not somewhere I would like to be stuck, a passing Red Kite certainly lifted my mood as I ate lunch in a graveyard! A Ring-necked Parakeet flew over the reception party at Windsor, and a Nuthatch called loudly from atop a pine. I was doing Urban Birding- like David Lindo, his book of which I finished on the train ride home. 
The patch has suffered of late, and I hate to think what I have missed passing through. An evening trip with the RSPB threw up good numbers of Duck flighting into the lagoon- 10 Tufties were notable. The only Bat species we recorded were Soprano Pipistrelle and Daubentens outside the Ferry House pub. Bats and Broadside- gotta love it!
I finally have some evenings free this week, so should get down to Surlingham before dark. Another wedding next weekend (am I getting old?) but it is in Bath, so a twitch on the way back? My money is on a certain Brown Shrike, returning to Staines, or maybe a Black Kite. Either would do very nicely!