Monday, 19 November 2012

The Patch gets a look in after all

After a frenetic Saturday's birding, I felt justifiably guilty having not been to Surlingham for over 2 weeks. I therefore made an early start on Sunday and began at Langley, the sun still low in the sky making for a beautiful morning.
Plenty of Geese over the river at Buckenham, some of these possibly the reported returning White-fronts and Beans. Underneath a gathering of Cormorants was a male Peregrine, perched and ready. There seemed to be plenty of birds about today and I was picking up Bullfinch, Pied Wagtail and Green Sandpiper overhead.
Onto Surlingham, and although the lagoon now appears devoid of quality for the Winter (the Teal are looking smart, though) the rest of the reserve is really showing its colours. The churchyard was an epicentre of activity, with a roving Tit flock that comprised at least 5 Goldcrest (no fire, yet) Marsh, Coal and Long-tailed Tit. Still by the church, a Brambling wheezed unseen, my first of the year here amazingly! Elsewhere, Redpoll passed overhead calling as did more Bullfinch. A flock of 90 Lapwing over at Wood's End was my highest patch count, get in!
After a highly recommended roast lunch at The Marsham Arms, Debs and I headed into The Broads in search of Cranes and Raptors, our first such trip of the Winter (?) period. Debs was on fire, picking up a group of 3 Cranes close to the car as we passed through a likely spot, and more distantly 16+ fly away from us. We did manage a single Barn Owl, Marsh Harrier and a Short-eared Owl (the latter in darkness as we drove home) but nothing quite on the scale of last Winter. Still, early days yet and without a severe frost the usual suspects are yet to move. Plus, it was such a clear evening I would expect Owls to emerge later and hunt throughout the night.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

A late flurry of birds

Good job I checked the bird news today!
I had planned to do the patch mid-afternoon, but on hearing about a juvenile Surf Scoter at Sheringham I quickly changed plans. Luck was certainly with me today, for on arrival James and co recommended I avoided the long cliff-top slog and approached the cliffs from the west of Sheringham; sound advice. I had however heard a Richard's Pipit on the golf course and later discovered 2 birds were probably present.
Walking the footpath I saw Barn Owl hunting the scrub next to Dead Man's Wood (dare I ask?) and a small group of birders were looking out to sea. Before long I was watching a bird I had never seen before, a Surf Scoter! The profile view allowed a look at 'that' bill and the double cheek-flash was evident when the bird wasn't diving or looking the other way. Thrilled with that, I knew Ricky was on route so I spent some more time on the cliffs. I picked up a Red-necked Grebe, a nice self-find (although when I told one couple what I had seen, the response was "Yes, but we are here for the Scoter". Really?) and then a large Pipit species dive-bombed into a bush. I set my scope up, and sure enough onto the path crept a nice Richard's Pipit. Great views, I totally forgot I had a camera in my bag. Still, nice to be lost in the moment. Ricky arrived, I managed to get him onto both birds.
Walking back, we encountered a very pale female Chaffinch displaying migrant-like behaviour. She was feeding on the edge of a stubble field, never far away from us and only flying a short distance to keep ahead. Tame, but more likely very tired.
By the time I left Sheringham it was too dark to look for the Rosy Starling at Northrepps. No matter, for I cannot remember a better hour of birding this Autumn!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

When in Rome....

Despite missing the Great Thrush Fall of 2012 (and anything else decent for that matter) there has to be life in this Autumn yet for me. It is a wonderful, restless time of year. I enjoyed a blustery walk round Surlingham yesterday afternoon, the first visit post-holiday. Church Marsh lagoon was devoid of Duck, but I was able to watch a Kestrel hovering over the marsh. The marsh adjacent to Coldham Hall was more lively however. I caught up with the escaped Harris Hawk, complete with Jesses, and what a fine looking individual s/he is. Desperate to get a photo, I headed to the marina but the bird was chased away by a pair of angry Rooks. A flock of 60+ Golden Plover over and passing Cormorants reminded me this was in fact British birding in Autumn.

So, Rome. The headline news on this ere blog is that Debs and I are now engaged to be married, so Rome turned into a kind of engagement-honeymoon. We packed in the expected sight-seeing in our short stay, overwhelmed by archaeology on such a grand scale and humbled by the Vatican and everything that goes inside of it. We did of course manage a bit of birding. On route to and from the airport, we saw both Cattle and Great White Egret. Common birds in and around the city included Yellow-legged Gulls, Hooded Crows and (Monk?) Parakeets. In amongst the remains of the Forum, we encountered a few confiding Black Redstart, pictures courtesy of Debs. Also at this site, a presumed escaped Cockateil called loudly and posed for some pictures. I say presumed, Australia is a bloody long way away.

Enjoyed a talk by a student from the University of Bristol last night, organised by Norwich Bat group. The topic was Bat roosts in churches. Whilst some interesting observations were made, what really concerned me was that in one area Soprano Pips are foraging some 14km from their roost site, crossing A roads in search of food. Presumably habitat is richer in food species elsewhere? Bats that roost in Cley church foraged much closer to the roost in the church, indicating that they are finding food closer to home in an area rich in biodiversity.

 Underbelly of the Coloseum. Ignoring the crowds and trying hard to picture what wildlife and Gladiators would have roamed underneath.
 Black Redstart, The Forum.
 Yellow-legged Gull, the new Caesar round these parts.