Saturday, 31 March 2012

Local alert for Wigeon watchers and Bat detecting.

If you live in the north of this Fine City, and choose to stand outside in your garden between 9.20 and 9.50pm as I have done on 3 occasions this week, you will hear and maybe see a flock of 20-35 Wigeon flying East. Guaranteed.
If you hear the unknown Wader, let me know what it is please.

 On Thursday, I attended an interesting talk by Norwich Bat Group (see links). I have been fascinated by the world of Bats since I was little, and after seemingly years of putting it off, I purchased a Magenta Bat 5 Detector.
I repeat my Birdforum post here:

 Bat detecting and frequencies
Good afternoon,

I have finally taken the plunge after years of deliberation and purchased a starter Bat detector; a Magenta Bat 5 to be precise. I put it to use straight away last night, walking around a farmyard pond in Suffolk after dusk. It was a little chilly, but at least 3 Bats were heard thanks to the detector.

For future reference, here is a list of the echolocation frequencies of 16 species of British Bat:
20-25 KHZ Noctule
25 Leisler's
27 Serotine
32 Barbastelle
39 Nathusius's Pip
45 Pip
45 Whiskered
45 Brandt's
45 Daubenton's
45-50 Brown and Grey Long-eared
50 Natterer's
50 Bechstein's
55 Pip
80 Greater Horseshoe
108 Lesser Horseshoe

I had my dial between 45 and 55, hoping for Pips, Daubenten's and Long-eared, maybe Natterer's?
Having been on a couple of Bat walks before, I remembered the sound that Pipistrelles make, and brief views led me to the conclusion that I was watching 2-3 Pipistrelle species. First question: which is the Soprano Pip, is it 45 or 55 KHZ?
I then moved the dial around, hoping for more species in the area. I was picking up sounds at 20 KHZ, which I would describe as 'smacks'. The pattern was similar to the earlier Pips, and I wonder if there is some overlap in frequencies? I couldn't see any Noctules and despite the smacks maybe I was picking up Pips at 20 KHZ?
A walk along the moat that borders the farm and another Bat was heard. A very liquid quality to the feeding sound, this was at 45 KHZ.

I am really pleased I have finally purchased a detector, and I will be using this a lot over the Summer in Norwich and the Broads. But, with so many Bats echolocating around 45-55 I need to learn the sounds. Can anyone recommend any software or websites for doing this?

Finally, as an amateur in all of this, does anyone have experience of national or regional Bat conferences? The East of England conference is in two weeks time, and the workshops on habitat and sound analysis sound like they could be useful.

So, that is where I am with this new venture.

The Garganey are still at Surlingham as of yesterday, so a return visit tomorrow evening and hopefully some bats over the lagoon.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Surlingham Garganey

Before the obvious, a brief look back at last Sunday.

Laid up with a cold for a few days, I emerged on Sunday to find the 4 Glossy Ibis at Cantley looking pristine in the sun, a full array of greens, purples and blues when the sun caught the plumage. Lovely stuff. Also popped to Marlingford, 2 Grey Wagtail on the river here, 2 Common Buzzard overhead. Stopped for a pint in The Bell, lovely spot this and a decent pint of EPA.

Surlingham this evening was rather warm, and driving home listening to Gram Parsons I could have been anywhere, but glad I was in Norfolk. 3 Chiffchaff are now singing on the reserve, and the Kingfisher frequenting the landspring continues to show. A Little Egret was in front of the hide, and there appeared to be a good few Duck present. I set about scanning the wildfowl, and stumbled across a pair of Garganey! Patch mega! Both were asleep, the white head stripe giving the male away. After a short wait, he woke up and dabbled in the water at the edge of the mud. Always nice to see this species, let alone on me patch! A look at the sightings board showed that the pair had been present since at least midday (Thanks Mr. G Moore) which is encouraging, since that would have been when the Gun Club were popping off rounds. Will they stay? Stay tuned for more information.
Other stuff of note included a pair of Marsh Harrier (per sightings board) Common Snipe and Great-spotted Woodpecker. Coal Tits in song today, with aplomb.

Great start to the year- Northern Bullfinch, Hen Harrier and now this.
Below is the worst shot of a Garganey you will see. But they were there.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Surlingham delivers

I have been reading with envy of the glut of Waders present at Whitlingham/Thorpe this past week, so in hope of pulling my own Godwit out of the bag I employed the help of Ricky at Surlingham this morning.
The scrub was a little quiet at at first, no Siskin or Redpoll, and one wonders if that will be it til the Autumn. However, I did score my first singing Chiffchaff of the Spring which may well be a migrant rather than an over-wintering bird. Ricky also saw the back end of a Kingfisher at the landspring.
Across the river, a Little Egret landed in amongst the reeds and soon made itself scarce. Back to the scrub,and a Bullfinch called and flew deeper into the bushes. At least 3 Goldcrest showed really well.
On this note, Ben of Strumpshaw has alerted me to the varied calls of female Eurasian Bullfinches. My last visit yielded a Northern call, or so I thought. I had taken for granted that the slightly different tone was merely the Northern experimenting, but now I am not so sure. In conclusion, whilst the February bird was a Northern, last week's bird is a little in the balance. Still learning!
At the lagoon, it all kicked off. The sleeping Teal alighted, and our attention turned to the cause: a small, compact ringtail Hen Harrier! Presumably a male, we watched the failed hunt turn into a preening session. The bird was harassed by Lapwing before flying again, lost to view on the ground. Brilliant! Ben had this bird on the 13th, so a good opportunity to catch up with this species hanging on in Norfolk before the expected departure.
A Marsh Harrier, also juvenile, flew over looking interested briefly.
Unable to relocate the Hen, we instead picked up an Oystercatcher and Ricky got excited about a Squirrel. Treecreeper, Goldcrest and another Kingfisher completed the circuit nicely. A Pied Wagtail was a year tick, in the paddock by the church and a Kestrel flew over the new barn. Such a varied species haul today!
Pictures courtesy of Ricky.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Yare birding: Northern Bullfinch still present

I enjoyed the warmest day of the year so far at Surlingham Church Marsh yesterday, and it was great to hear the songsters punching out a tune or two. Song Thrush, Dunnock and Wren are proving easier to see than usual, singing from a favoured perch for all to see. A Treecreeper heard from the trail was the latest bird added to the 'in song' list. But, signs of Winter still remain. Following the trail down from the church before the river, a twittering Siskin alerted me to the presence of 6 Lesser Redpoll amongst the former birds. They allowed close scrutiny; one bird was so pale underneath, barely any streaking on the flanks, but the colouration on the back and lack of white rump proved this to be 'just' a Lesser.
Not much doing at Wood's End, no sign of the Oystercatcher as yet this year. However, the call I have been lucky to have become almost used to stopped me in my tracks: the Northern Bullfinch was still present! c2 Eurasian birds were seen, but the Northern again proved elusive, calling again before presumably heading off deeper into the scrub. Perhaps an early morning effort next weekend would pay dividends?
The lagoon was devoid of Duck bar 2 Shelduck, hopefully back to breed. A single Lapwing was on an exposed spit of mud, awaiting his/her partner to try again this Spring. Reed Bunting and Cetti's Warbler were both vocal.
The Little Egret appears to be resident at the moment, again fishing from a dyke viewed from the ruins. Also seen from here were 5 Common Buzzard, ever so high over the river and Wood's End. New one for the year list!
I opened my Butterfly year list account with a Peacock. Always a significant moment in the year, seeing that first Butterfly.

Debs and I went to Strumpshaw Fen this afternoon, and witnessed the comings and goings of a very confused and nervy flock of Wigeon. The birds had presumably been disturbed by a low flying microlight, and they were not able to settle the whole time we were there. Other wildlife of interest included 19 Ruff, Common Snipe, Marsh Harrier (pair, in courtship) Stock Dove and 2 Chinese Water Deer. Few pictures from today:

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Marlingford confirmed as destination of choice for Norfolk scarce

With only an hour or so to play with this morning, Marlingford Mill proved too tempting to ignore. I met Ricky at 9am who was already onto the drake American Wigeon along with a few other birders. Only my second ever record of this species in the UK (the first being at Needingwoth, Cambridgeshire) and therefore my first in Norfolk. With such a small flock of 'our' Wigeon for company, the bird was easy to find and a pleasure to watch graze. I do like that green eye mask! Whilst here, we also had decent views of the local Grey Wagtail. A Kingfisher was heard only, and a few Stock Doves busied themselves over the meadow. There was no sign of the reported Great White Egret, so we drove back through Bawburgh, stopping on route for a scan. A Little Egret was seen perched atop a small bush, and I picked out a Little Owl resting on a dead tree. No big Egret then, but a super hour of birding so close to Norwich.

A note from last night- at least 2 Whooper Swan flew over my house in Norwich, just before Match of the Day came on. Massive Norwich record!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Return of the Northern and dancing Grebes.

Lovely afternoon at Surlingham, just nice to be out. I certainly did not expect to hear the Northern Bullfinch again, but the bird remains, elusive as ever, calling from scrub near the Warbler bench for those that know the reserve. At least 3 Eurasian around today too.
Other bits and bobs included Siskin and Redpoll overhead, a super mixed flock of Thrushes comprising (mainly) Redwing with a few Fieldfare, Starling and 2 Mistle Thrush. Winter won't let go, yet. Duck numbers significantly lower on the lagoon, but the Shelduck have returned. Little Egret showing well from the hide, Grey Heron over.
I was lucky enough to have my camera with me to film a pair of Great-crested Grebe in a courtship dance. I rounded the river bend and saw both birds up in each others' faces, so quickly pressed record and watched the following unfold (best bit is the start, I'll be honest!)

Need to get a tripod.....
Some stills of Surlingham.