Sunday, 19 February 2012

Two-barred tales and British life birds.

A busy end to the half term week, which had already gotten off to a good start with the Arctic Redpoll. 
On Thursday, I called in at Hardley Flood on route to Suffolk. Always seems to be a good variety of birds on offer here, and today was no exception. c70 Pintail and Shelduck were on the flood, 100's of Teal, a smattering of Wigeon and a few Great-crested Grebe. Not the hoped for Divers and Sawbills, but half decent nonetheless. 8 Curlew dropped onto marshy land on the other side of the river, and a Kingfisher was seen hunting along a dyke. A female Marsh Harrier finished off proceedings nicely.

Back home with the folks, my car was serviced quicker than I expected which allowed me to head to Felixstowe Ferry for a potential British lifer: Red-breasted Goose. Locating the Brent flock harbouring the bird was easy; locating the RBG not so! Took me a while to find it, being slightly smaller and often sat down meant it was easy to miss. Not sure being with a Brent flock as a carrier species adds to the chances of this bird being accepted by the BBRC?
A look under the Orwell Bridge threw up some Curlew, Dunlin, Redshank and common Duck species, but sadly not the Black-necked Grebe which has been present recently. Oh, a nice Stonechat was my first of the year. Lot to answer for, Mr. Stonechat, when it comes to me and birding. 

Today, a phonecall from Connor alerted me to the presence of a Two-barred Crossbill at Lynford Arboretum. After some deliberation, I remembered that I really rather liked Crossbill, so picked up the student and blazed a trail into the brecks. Few other birders were about, not all looking for the bird it has to be said! We enjoyed good views of Common Crossbill, Siskin, Marsh Tit and heard Nuthatch- but no special xbill. It has since come to light that there may be 2 birds, one or more present since January 6th but at a site not accessible to birders. I can see the reasons for suppression here, and clearly no-one has the right to see any bird. However, I wonder how many times one or both birds have been feeding unnoticed around the arboretum in the last month, in an area used to dealing with visitors? Still, it was worth a try today and I read up a bit about Crossbill ID!

Finished off at Surlingham CM for the Harrier roost of no Harriers. Little Egret, Barn Owl, Fox and Chinese Water Deer my best bits here. Oh, and what a sky tonight! 

 Sky over Battisford, near Stowmarket.
 It's in there somewhere!
Surlingham this evening.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Kelling Redpoll

Took a trip to Kelling this morning to hopefully connect with the Arctic Redpoll which has been in the area since at least January. We arrived around half 10, found the feeders and quickly got onto the bird in question. Very smart, distinctive plumage; a classic Arctic! The bill was noticeably smaller, more squashed than the Lesser Redpoll feeding alongside. The white rump, fluffed up appearance and overall cold, grey-white tones made this an easy one to ID. The Coue's seemed to more than hold its own amongst the Lessers, not afraid to defend a spot on the feeder. Also of interest were how variable the Lessers were, one individual showing a large amount of white on the wing, more than I have seen on this species previously. 4 More birders then arrived and the Arctic became more elusive, so we headed to the water meadows.
Debs picked out 2 more Lesser Redpolls along the track, before arriving at the pool. 300+ Brent Geese were on the field behind, and closer in were 15 Pink Feet. Other birds of note here included 15 Dunlin, 10 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Grey Plover, Shelduck, Shovelor and a rabble of Wigeon! 
Leaving Kelling, we drove back past the feeders and noticed some idiot had set up a 3-foot telescopic lens so as to over-look the garden and property that the Redpoll flock were frequenting. We stood on the other side of the road, and that at times felt too close. I regret not stopping and giving this fella a mouthful, actions like this may mean the owner quite rightly gets shirty with visiting birders. This was at 12pm, bloke in full camo gear. 
Shame on him. 
Anyway, here are some pics taken by my better half!

Monday, 13 February 2012

And the purple patch continues

A break in the rain and back to the patch this afternoon. Ricky was already onsite, looking for my Northern Bullfinch from earlier. He had seen 3 Bullfinch, one a little bigger than the others, but not much calling of any note, and certainly no trumpeting. It was still drizzly and the light was fading, so we chose to complete the circuit rather than wait around.
As if earlier events were not enough, 2 skittish flocks of Teal allowed us to note a Harrier over the marsh; sh*t it's a Hen, I exclaimed! Another year tick, and a welcome return for a species not seen here at all last year. Good views too, buff underparts and ring-tail all in order. Possibly the bird interpreted my comments as abusive, for it flew off high towards Surlingham Broad. The Hen Harrier roost survey is this weekend!
Other bits and bobs included a Little Egret, 2 Kingfishers (one still at the Landspring, one up river) and a mixed flock of 3 Mistle Thrush and 10+ Redwing. Ricky saw what was probably a Weasel in amongst reeds and scrub.
What a day!


Where to start? Quite the morning at Surlingham Church Marsh, with both expected and unexpected patch ticks.
The marshes at Wood's End were busy, and whilst scanning the Greylag flock a Peregrine Falcon breezed through, eventually settling on the ground out of sight. Recovering my composure, a small Falcon then flew west over the marsh. At some distance, I could not rule out Sparrowhawk, but the wingspan and general bulk looked small. I will be back for another look for what would be a great patch tick nailed on. 
The lagoon was frozen and the sightings board in the Whaley Hide devoid of anything decent. Then, I heard it- Poop, Poop. A metallic sound, like a flat trumpet. I did the classic whisper/shout thing, alerting Debs to a "Northern Bullfinch"! I had stopped dead in my tracks, having experienced this subspecies in Estonia I knew this was a decent bird. We then spent the next 3/4 of an hour trying hard for a glimpse. The bird called on and off, seemingly with a Eurasian bird for company. However, I noted that the Eurasian call, whilst still sad and mournful, seemed louder and sharper. I hear a lot of Bullfinch here, so this was certainly of interest. Edward Woodward has since sent me a PDF from BB which highlights this very fact and attributes the call to Scandinavian birds?!  Anyway, the Northern. I did manage a glimpse and can record the following:

  • Bright pink underparts
  • Cold, grey back
  • Grey mantle noticeably contrasting with the pink breast and cheeks
  • Bill seemed a little squashed, maybe wider than Eurasian?
  • Bull-necked and stocky bird
The PDF from Tim also highlights the length of tail in Northern- 20% longer than Eurasian. Added to this the possibility of extensive white in the rump and wingbar, it is clear the full set of features have not yet been obtained. However, that call= nailed! 
The bird, presumably feeding on buds, was up and down the scrub out the back of the Whaley Hide, and down as far as the corner of the track, which then bends away from the Yare. Despite calling with some regularity (every 10-15 minutes) it proved very elusive. 
By now very hungry, we moved on. A flyover Linnet flock of 8 was new for the year (missed last year!) and we also saw plenty of Siskin, 3 Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and a Kingfisher near the Landspring. 
Writing from home, it has been a rainy afternoon but I may now venture out for another look. Failing that, I will be down there tomorrow morning! 

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Patch Tick!

Surlingham CM: Icy, cold, -1 Degrees C say my notes. Read: perfect opportunity to notch up a few year ticks.
The first birds of note were 11 Wigeon, pushed onto the Yare by the hard frost. Here also were a Coot and Moorhen. The feral Greylag flock appeared in its entirety, the 3 white farmyard birds standing out even more so than usual. Walking the hard mud, a call alerted me to a long hoped-for patch tick and I had to get the bins on them to believe it: yes, 6 Lesser Redpoll feeding high in the trees! I watched them until my neck ached, unable to conjure up a Mealy or something even better! Nearby a Marsh Tit called with enthusiasm.
The lagoon was not up to much, no patches of broken ice there. However, continuing the circuit I did manage to flush 3 Snipe in different spots, one bird at a glance smaller than the rest and silent. A channel next to Surlingham land spring was alive with birds; Teal, Mallard and a swimming Water Rail, perfectly timing its jaunt across the water. Believe it or not, this is the first ever Water Rail I have actually seen on the patch. So many birds seen well today that I wouldn't usually, away from their usual feeding haunts due to the ice.

I had hoped for more time in the field today, but thought better of it upon hearing a number of wheelspins on my street in the city. Today it struck me how urban my location is, and I look forward to a more rural location at some point this year. For now, an icy Surlingham from yesterday: