Monday, 13 February 2012


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! 

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