Sunday, 27 November 2011

Surlingham again and life in perspective

Although Saturday morning was relatively quiet on the reserve, Surlingham has hit the headlines of late with the occurance of at least 3 Short-eared Owls. I was happy with 1, but this blog has some cracking shots of the birds, which according to the much abused sightings board in the hide, may still be present. What is interesting is that the birds are being reported roosting in scrub, which I thought was unusual for Shorties. 
Ben Lewis informed me of both flyover Pink-footed Geese and Lesser Redpoll in the scrub, neither of which I could locate on my visit, but sure signs that that elusive 100th species for the year is not far away. Good numbers of the beautiful Redwing and Fieldfare were present, and Wigeon have returned to graze on the banks of the Yare. What smart looking ducks these are, if a little cumbersome compared to the ever-present Teal. 
The Highland Cattle have been taken off grazing duty for the Winter, Matt and the team from Strumpshaw moving the animals to drier quarters until the Spring.
Ricky made a belated entrance (!) and we headed to Haddiscoe Marshes. Marsh Harrier and Kestrel were our only raptors, but an evening visit here later in the season would no doubt pay dividends.
The news today of the death of the Wales football team manager Gary Speed has left me both sad and frustrated. News such as this certainly puts things into perspective, and what a shame to lose a great man and legend in the game. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A break in the fog and a silent flap

A weekend of monotony and illness on the couch has crept into this very week dear reader, however I did sneak out to the patch on Monday night. A walk could lead to sickness and definitely sweat, but a short hike and a stand at the vis-mig hotspot of the ruins was manageable. 
As the light dimmed, a Kestrel flew through purposefully, hoping for a last minute snack. Watching a Little Egret fish, my attention turned to a silent flap of wings: a Short-eared Owl, briefly, spooked by a dog walker,  flapped over the hedge and was lost to view. But, what a few seconds! No doubt the bird heard me exclaim "yes!" and thought better of hanging around. 
As the mist began to settle over the marsh, Snipe began to grunt in the air, unseen. Wigeon and Teal arrived to roost on the lagoon, the Wigeon particularly audible as they arrived. In the distance, but growing ever closer, the Greylag flock. Numbering around 300, it seems the group are continuing the current trend of roosting on the lagoon. Their arrival set against the backdrop of moonlight and Water Rail calls made for a memorable end to a cracking hour on the reserve.
Walking back in the dark, a plop louder than a Water Vole could possibly make in the adjacent dyke. Surely an Otter, but this elusive mammal flatly refuses to give itself up here at Surlingham.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Weekend Post Two- Titchwell and Gypsy Lane

Got to say, wasn't massively keen on  joining the crowds at Titchwell today, but with relatives visiting it seemed only fair to visit a premier bird reserve, surely guaranteeing some decent birds for them. 
The search began not far from the car-park, and I picked up the calling Yellow-browed Warbler that has been present for over a month now. Avoiding the ridiculous scrum in the wood, we waited by the path and eventually were rewarded with neck-aching views of this always super migrant. 
A helpful member of staff alerted us to the presence of feeding Water Rail in the ditch near the centre, and we didn't have to wait long to hear the squealing call, and then this usually elusive bird fed no more than 2 metres away from us, probably my best ever views of this species. 
Walking to the beach, 2 Lesser Redpoll were in bushes feeding on catkins with Goldfinch. Barely out of the car-park, and some great birds already!
100s of Golden Plover were on the scrape, and opposite were many Curlew and a single Grey Plover on the marsh. Pintail were looking glamorous as ever. 
The sea was a little quiet, although at least one Little Gull passed in a short time, and a juvenile Gannet was loafing close to the shore. Knot, Sanderling and Turnstone all fed at the shoreline. 
Walking back to the centre, the Water Rail spot was again of interest, but this time a Woodcock sat silently in a sun spot. We all felt lucky to observe this species at such close range. 
A visit to Gypsy Lane away from the crowds proved rewarding; a single Tundra Bean Goose fed just across a channel in a meadow. Seems to have been an arrival of these Geese today, but I certainly had not expected to find my own! This was the icing on the cake of a super day on the north coast. Sure, give me the east coast, solitude and a bag of chips any day, but this ranks as one of my best day's birding this year no doubt. Crippling views of Water Rail and Woodcock, unforgettable stuff.

Weekend Post One- Hemsby and Caister

Began my search of 'new' habitat round Hemsby and Caister. I must have been searching in the wrong area, for I did not see the Waxwings that have since been reported. However, it was Thrush city in a small copse; c50 Blackbird and a smattering of Redwing. A Bullfinch was amongst Chaffinch feeding on berries. This apparently the wood that once held Dusky, Pallas's and YBW. I can see why, I need to be hitting this every day in half term! The dunes also look decent, large-ish areas of bramble and plenty of leafy gardens for birds to hide up in.

At Caister beach, and I quickly got onto a group of 19 Snow Bunting, several showing much of their striking summer plumage, fantastic! Despite the misty conditions at sea, Red-throated Divers came past and 2 Gannets fished more distantly. A probable Red-necked Grebe was seen briefly, but I made the mistake of moving my scope. That was that! A nice suprise were a flock of 21 Barnacle Geese heading south. I had a wander round the small patch of heathland north of the town, nothing doing here but again an area I clearly need to find the time for. I have since read the the other end of town, an area round the golf course, is decent for migrants too.

Popped into Filby Broad on the way home, 6 Goldeneye the highlight here. A backing track of howling apes from the wildlife gardens made for a surreal experience.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Patch, California, some Ducks.

Can't seem to magic a Short-eared Owl out of Surlingham at the moment, or much else for that matter. Teal are the sole representative from the Duck family on the lagoon at the moment, looking nice in their Winter plumage. 
A Kingfisher is often heard along the river, but rarely seen. A Tit flock near the church comprised Marsh, Coal, Great, Blue and many Long-tailed. 
A better evening was had last weekend, which included Barn Owl, Snipe and Greylag Geese at dusk arriving on the lagoon to roost. Close to 300 in number.

Went exploring today, first Scratby for some seawatching. Coming from Norwich, this is the nearest coastal spot for me along with Caister. I set myself up inbetween some chalets and watched the waves between 13.15 and 14.30. Here are my totals, in order of appearance:

Diver Sp. 3 North
Common Scoter 2 N
Dunlin 17N
Teal 36 N
Ringed Plover 3 N
Brent Geese 26 N
Shelduck 2 N
Med Gull 1 South
Curlew 2 N
Wigeon 20 N
Great-crested Grebe 1 N
Lapwing 1 N
Kittiwake 3 S
Red-Breasted Merganser 1 N

A dog put up a small flock of birds from the beach, a brief view suggested they were Snow Bunting.
Gutted not to pick up a Skua, but nonetheless an enjoyable afternoon. Forgot how much I enjoy seawatching! 
Popped to California out of curiosity, end of the world stuff there. Little cover for the birds, unless they like caravan parks. Caister next week, weather permitting!