Monday, 19 December 2011

Weekend drizzle and a hunt for some Ducks

Not the hoped for Raptor fest at Surlingham on Sunday, not a lot of anything infact. Wood's End is/was where it's at: 12 Mute Swans, the Lapwing flock, Common and Black-headed Gulls and the mixed feral Goose flock. 
The lagoon held a single Mute Swan, but Teal could be heard in the dykes. Awaiting Raptors on the hill, it began to rain, then snow. I headed back to the car, as the church bells tolled and families rushed to the service inside, snow falling harder now. A proper Christmas scene!
Today, temperatures still around 1 degrees celsius, I spent the morning searching for scarce Ducks in the Broads. Began at an icy Barton, where I enjoyed Goldeneye, Teal, Gadwall, Tufted and Mallard. Best of all, a Bittern flew low across the water. 
Driving back through Neatishead, I saw the white flash of Bullfinch backside. Slowing down, I watched a male feeding. What a cracking bird. 
I then tried Hoveton Little Broad. Less Ducks here, same species as Barton. A Marsh Tit was with its Blue and Great cousins. The icy ground and bare trees reminded me of Estonia, and it is nice to know that the solitude and wilderness of that country can be found closer to home.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Soggy Surlingham

Not a great deal to report, although a fine Winter's walk was had on the patch on Saturday. Still seems to be more Blackbirds about than usual, and I also heard a Song Thrush singing; beautiful, pangs of nostalgia. A Kingfisher perched was a highlight, looking brighter than ever in the bright sunshine. A male Marsh Harrier drifted through, no doubt unimpressed by the lack of prey on the lagoon. A Kestrel perched itself on one of those white pole things, preening and looking smart. I could hear Siskins in the scrub, but could only manage a brief flight view.
I have never seen the reserve quite so wet, paths on all sides flooded making Wellington boots essential.


Sunday, 4 December 2011

St Benet's, Ludham.





One of very few places I have visited that has a genuine ethereal aura to it, St.Benet's Abbey near Ludham has in the past been privy to a raptor roost of sorts.
Bit of history here, and I like the fact that the Abbey moreorless survived the dissolution under Henry VIII due to its near inaccessible location!
On arrival, Debs and I were greeted with a flock of Cormorants overhead (see above), and in our short time here many more would head west; must be a sizeable roost somewhere. Two Marsh Harriers drifted through, and distantly around 17 wild Swans were seen, probably Bewicks, which favour the marshy areas around Ludham during the winter.
The real star of the show was a Short-eared Owl, remarkably acrobatic in the wind, considering the bulk of the bird. A Barn Owl was seen briefly, and a Kestrel made up the remainder of our bird of prey species. Two more Marsh Harriers arrived as darkness fell over the ruins, and I would say that these birds did indeed roost in the small wood over the other side of the river.
Two distant shapes looked big, and I had my suspicions that they were not Geese. On arrival back home two Common Cranes had been reported to RBA.
Finally, more Cormorants overhead followed by Fieldfare and Redwing.
Driving back up the track, at least three Chinese Water Deer were seen, and interestingly two Skylark were flushed from the verge, in the darkness.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

100!

Really very pleased to locate a flock of 12 White-fronted Geese on the marshes at Wood's End this afternoon, to make it 100 for the year on the patch. The resident Greylag flock were close, just over the river infact, so I had set about scanning through the noisy group when I came across a single White-front in with the Greylags. Perhaps this bird is feral, but the 11+ birds feeding away from the Greylags were much more likely to be migrants. A good bird away from Buckenham! Also of note was a White-front sized goose, dark almost black head, brown back with diffuse white feathers on primaries. Perhaps a Brent x Greylag?! Do they exist? It is certainly a Goose winter.
Not a great deal else to report around the reserve, a worrying lack of Barn Owls of late. Gull roost building on Wood's End, 30+ Common Gull and a few Herring. 5 Pied Wagtail over (off to Morrisons?) and 2 Meadow Pipit flushed from the flooded marsh. Single Teal on the lagoon, bit rubbish.

A final note on the Western Sandpiper. Moult patterns and the rufous on the scapulars seems to have clinched it, but something that really rang bells with me was a piece of behaviour described on Birdforum.Western Sandpipers feed in a methodical 'Sewing machine' style, probing back and forth in the mud. I observed the Cley bird do just this, so feel a little happier ticking a bird that at first I could not ID!


Thursday, 1 December 2011

Striking Sandpiper

The Unions could not have timed that any better. Perhaps I should be shot, but a day on strike on the Wednesday of the week now almost past saw me take a trip to Cley NWT, in search of a new bird to add to my British (and Norfolk) list. Not only that, but but I am a huge Sandpiper/Shorebird fan, so a possible Semi-palmated/Western Sandpiper would be an education whatever the case.


At the time, I made the following notes:
Black Legs
Very short primary projection
Relatively long, pointed bill
Contrasting white underparts
Grey tones to feathers, but scapulars showing some rufous in better light
'Dumpy' appearance. 


Now, a key feature (concave or convex shape to marks on  feathers?) could not be seen in the field, and photos are proving ambiguous! I'll be honest, I was siding with Semi-P by the time I had left, yet today the bird is being pagered as Western, so I and others await instruction!
I did make a couple of notes regarding another small Wader. It was small, dumpy, similar plumage colouring to the grey Dunlin, couldn't make out a supercillium (although photos do show a hint). Could this be simply a small Dunlin, or something else? Looks to big for as Little Stint, bill also too long. Do we have a Semi P and Western  in Norfolk at the same time, on the same pool?! 




Also on site, a brief glimpse of a Water Rail, and a Peregrine sat on the bank opposite the hide. 


Cracking birding!