Saturday, 21 April 2012

Brecks impresses once again

I used to struggle out in The Brecks; hard work, slogging it out for little reward. Those days are long gone, dear reader. Nowadays, I rock up, nail specialities and jam in on other stuff! Today goes down as one of my best days in the field, anywhere, let alone The Brecks.
Picked up Ricky early doors and headed to our first site. Goldcrest, Nuthatch and the expected Tits were all very vocal. After a short wait, we heard the hoped for strangled call of a male Golden Pheasant and eventually managed decent views in the gloom under the pines. The mad dash had paid off! Walking the long way back to the car, we happened upon 2 Tree Pipit, singing and parachuting in a clearing. Some Lesser Redpoll flew overhead and 2 Siskins called. As if initial views were not enough, 2 male Goldies were seen in the undergrowth on the way back! You can see a great picture of one below.
Buoyed by our start, we aimed to spot some Raptors while the sun shone. Our second site was just the ticket- 6 Buzzard catching some thermals, 2 Sparrowhawk and a distant male Goshawk being mobbed by a Crow. What a hulk of a bird! Lots more decent birds here, including Cuckoo, Bullfinch, Green Woodpecker, Yellowhammer and Crossbill.
Stopping off at East Wretham Heath, we picked up 2 Swallows and a displaying Curlew. The mere was worryingly bone dry. I'm sure a lot of hard work goes in here, but this has to be the worst reserve for birding I have been too, I never see anything decent despite the rumoured Brecks specialities.
By the time we got to Santon Downham drizzle was fast turning to showers, but we did pick up a Kingfisher on the river, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and ace views of Nuthatch on the church. Electing to drive rather than wait it out was a good move, as by the time we got to Lynford conditions were again excellent. Our timing somehow impeccable, we had 2 male Hawfinches feeding on the ground, the same spot as my female birds last week. Wow! Crossbill were also seen in the arboretum. Back at the car, we enjoyed excellent views of Wren and Treecreeper.
Leaving Lynford, I spied a perched Buzzard. Ricky was busy talking about Shed Seven with a mouthful of mini cheddars, so missed the beast. Luckily I was able to turn round for another look. I noticed on the second pass, hands on wheel, it was rather dark. Too dark. On the return leg, I realised this was no Buzzard- we were looking at a perched Harris Hawk! Bloody hell! Ricky saw the bird drop to the ground, the return to perch. We stopped and set out on foot. Brief flight views were had. Wonder how long this individual has been living wild? Final bird of the day was a male Brambling in summer plumage. Nice work!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Is anyone out there?

Slow as hell on the patch right now. A Swallow flying strongly upriver was a new addition to the year list, but still no Warblers in the reeds other than the resident Cettis. Highlight today was undoubtedly a male Marsh Harrier giving the local Ducks a few nervy moments, right out in front of the hide.
1-4 Lapwing can be found on the mud at the back of the lagoon, which sadly have put pay to the presence of the pair of Little-ringed Plover, it would seem. The Lapwing can be quite aggressive, dive-bombing any potential intruders. The pair of Shelduck were back today, hopefully now ready to breed here.
The cold north wind meant vis mig was non-existent, and another look at the charts doesn't fill me with confidence for the week ahead. Easter break done and dusted, and despite some just lovely days out, I can't help but feel a little short changed.
On the plus side, birds making little head way on the continent are perhaps caught in a bottle-neck of sorts, so when the wind and weather does change for the better, we had better brace ourselves. Oh, and I get to bird in Norfolk, so not all bad is it?

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Brecks stuff

Super trip to the Brecks yesterday morning, lasted until early afternoon but rain put pay to any serious Goshawk hunting. Began the morning at Santon Downham, the air punctuated by singing Brambling and Nuthatch, the former looking pristine in deep summer plumage. A pair of Sparrowhawk soared over the river, and an odd call alerted us to a pair of Mandarin Duck, which flew downriver before landing in trees. We searched briefly for Lesser-spot amongst the dead wood, and although this elusive bird was not seen an unlikely quarry was picked up in the shape of my first Cuckoo of the year.
Lynford next, and here Crossbill had replaced the Brambling in terms of sheer number of birds. Lesser Redpoll foraged in smaller groups at the tops of trees. A helpful birder pointed us in the direction of some feeders just outside the arboretum where Hawfinch sometimes fed. Sure enough, on arrival one bird was picked up in trees before she flew down and joined another on the ground. Best views I have had of Hawfinch, no doubt, cracking finches. Few pics below.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Hunting, Hallowed Ground and a Hoopoe.

Firstly, a few patch visits to update (that's the hallowed bit, for those wanting to keep track).

The evening of the 9th was marred by drizzle and a slight drop in the temperature to around 9 degrees C, and although the reserve was a little quiet, I did pick up a year tick in the form of a pair of Red-legged Partridge, viewed from the ruins. Rarer than Redpoll at Surlingham! Also of interest here was a mixed Thrush roost, including Redwing, Fieldfare, Song and Mistle. The majority of the birds were Redwing, and it was a delight to hear their beautiful song in the evening light, the first time I have heard this here in England.
Back on the main reserve, 2 Green Sandpiper now frequent the lagoon and muddy margins. One less skittish bird allowed good views as it sat calling, preening and generally looking rather smart in breeding plumage. 

Yesterday, the 10th, was undoubtedly one of the best visits of the year so far. Wrapped up for Winter again, we began the circuit with brief views of the Kingfisher before I almost trod on a Water Rail! The bushes were settling for the night but Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff all sang. On the river bend, Debs shouted 'Hirundine' (she is getting a little too good at this) and sure enough, 2 Sand Martins were hawking for bugs! 
Another year tick was again picked up by Debs in the scope, this time a welcome return for a Little-ringed Plover. Two had been reported on the board, but this evening we could only find one. No sign of any Sandpiper, but a pair of Shovelor were new in.
One dyke in particular appears to be home to at least one Water Vole, and up until now only noises have betrayed their presence. A patient wait yesterday evening and we did see one plop into the water. Continuing the mammal theme, walking back adjacent to the church and the pinewoods a few small Bats were out hunting. Using the detector, we picked up both Common and Soprano Pipistrelles, the latter seemingly flying higher and appeared more wary of us. 

Before this super patch visit, I had been out at Hemsby and Caister on my first real migrant hunt of the year. Saw nothing. Might give up Hemsby. To say I was disappointed would have been an understatement, so much so infact that I decided I had earnt myself a twitch,so called in at Waxham for decent if brief views of the Hoopoe on the way home. Well, you can't argue with a Hoopoe, can you? Also here a Swallow moved through. 

Monday, 2 April 2012

Surlingham two times

A couple of patch updates, beginning with an evening visit yesterday.
A Green Sandpiper was heard flying downriver, new for the year. Presumably the same bird was later seen feeding in the muddy margins around the lagoon. Plenty of Teal here, but no Garganey, presumably moved on.
The scrub was busy: 2 Bullfinch, one giving a Northern-esque call in common with some Eurasian birds. Treecreeper, Chiffchaff, Cettis and another new for the year, Williow Warbler, were all heard or seen here.

As it began to get dark we had another go with the Bat detector. By the landspring, we picked up a series of fast, quiet clicks which sounds like a Brown Long-eared Bat, having listened to some sound files online. By the main church, we had 2 Pips at 45 KHZ.

This morning, the lagoon was a noisy place, since 4 Lapwing had moved in overnight! One was displaying overhead, so hopefully these pairs will try again this year. The Little Egret was relaxing in amongst some reeds, and from the hide I heard my first Blackcap of the year, seen briefly. Willow Warbler numbers up to two, and another Blackcap was heard near the ruins as I watched a Kestrel hunt.

A Green Sandpiper turned up on the muddy puddle at the foot of the hill.