Monday, 31 December 2012

End of year musings and a look ahead to a bigger patch.

January and February proved a great start to the year, both down at the patch and further afield. Lesser Redpoll was finally nailed down at Surlingham, and a male Ringtail Hen Harrier should really have been the highlight of February, had it not been for the brief appearance of a Northern Bullfinch. Despite what I thought was a decent description, the Norfolk Records Committee declined to accept the record. Nonetheless, an exciting and educational bird for the patch. In The Broads, Cranes and Short-eared Owls duly obliged on numerous occasions  In keeping with the aforementioned Redpoll theme, a Coue's Arctic Redpoll was a British life bird for me at Kelling. February ended with another British lifer, a Red-breasted Goose at Felixstowe.
March heralded the return (?) of the Northern Bullfinch, although I was later alerted to similar-sounding female Eurasian birds so nailing a departure date is difficult. Elsewhere, I took in the American Wigeon at Marlingford. A second Hen Harrier graced Church Marsh, and the likes of Treecreeper and Great-crested Grebe began courtship. At the end of the month came for me the patch bird (s) of the year- a pair of Garganey on the lagoon.
Into April, and one of my favourites. the Green Sandpiper had returned to the reserve. Willow Warblers. Chiffchaff and later Grasshopper Warbler all joined the resident songsters. A Thrush roost was a surprise, Redwing singing amongst the Mistle Thrushes and Fieldfare. 4 Lapwing moved back onto the lagoon to attempt, and sadly fail, to breed.  A trip to the Brecks yielded a superb cast of Golden Pheasant, Goshawk, Hawfinch and a Harris Hawk.
May is a superb month at Surlingham, and the highlight was mammalian, an Otter, my first for the reserve. Dragonflies and Butterflies were by now out in force. Not far from Cley, I picked up a lifer, a superb Bee Eater!
The Summer months had me seeking out obscure reserves and whiling away the school holidays looking at mostly insects. A highlight not only of Summer but of the year was watching and photographing Purple Emperors north of London. It was a wet Summer, which left few muddy margins for Waders at the patch, and even Cantley was not always producing the usual glut of Waders.
A stunning lifer came in the shape of a Purple Heron in Cambridgeshire, followed by a singing Blyth's Reed Warbler at Wareham Greens.
The Farne Islands in August were just stunning, and we were lucky to be on Inner Farne the day after a small fall. We saw Icterine Warbler, Whinchat and Pied Flycatcher along with the expected seabirds.
Autumn was a little hit and miss in truth, hit in that Debs and I got engaged, miss in that the winds rarely swung to the east and the great Thrush Fall occurred during teaching hours! However, a late flurry of birds did occur in November. A Surf Scoter was a nice find off Sheringham, and here too was a Richard's Pipit and Red-necked Grebe on the sea.
The last month has seen action predictably wind down at the patch, although a Woodcock was a welcome addition to the list. Waxwing, Hen Harrier, more Otters than you can shake a fist at and a Water Pipit ensured that the year finished with some classic Broadland wildlife.

Phew. No doubt missed some good stuff there, but it does take a while to trawl through the blog together with my notebooks (and time is against me, I am due to produce a course for a lunch gathering soon).

A look back to a post from last January and I was relatively pleased to see that I had managed 3 out of my 5 target birds at Surlingham this year: Lesser Redpoll, Pink-footed Goose and Garganey. Wood Sandpiper slipped through the net, but I may have to admit defeat with Spotted Flycatcher, which is sad. So, after some thought on a rainy day, my 5 Surlingham Church Marsh target birds for 2013 are:

1) Wood Sandpiper (Should pick one up on the lagoon)
2) Water Pipit (possible flyover, habitat is good for an over-wintering bird or two)
3) Firecrest (Reported twice by others on the reserve; my turn please!)
4) Osprey (Annual at Rockland, so this would be a flyover record)
5) Ring Ouzel (Marshes and scrub along river have always looked likely; there is at least one record within the last 5 years).

Now that I have signed up to the patchwork challenge, I have made full use of the 3kmsq allowance.


As you will see, Surlingham Church Marsh remains on the left hand edge, followed by Surlingham Marsh, The Covey leading to Wheatfen (Ted Ellis Reserve), Rockland Broad and footpaths leading out across Claxton and Langley Marshes.
Rockland should add some real spice to proceedings, and Surlingham Wood with Ted Ellis's reserve may throw up a Lesser Pecker, who knows. The marshes at Langley are just across the river from Buckenham, so perhaps I can grab some flyover Geese. In general, I would hope that Short-eared Owl, Bearded Tit and Golden Plover become more regular sightings rather than just every other year at Church Marsh.

With this all in mind, my Surlingham and South Yare patch targets (and where I expect to encounter them) for 2013 are:
1) Black Tern (Rockland Broad, annual passage migrant)
2) Slavonian Grebe (Rockland Broad)
3) Nuthatch (Surlingham Wood)
4) Whinchat ( Claxton/Langley Marshes)
5) Long-eared Owl (?).

Looking further afield, I will continue my trundles out east during migration. I have come to accept that with limited time and geographical location, the chances of me actually finding something decent and beating the locals to it are slim. However, you just can't beat that buzz of grilling a tit flock at Hemsby or watching the Skuas bomb past at Happisburgh. The East coast is just great, and when the time comes I will be making my fair share of early starts in order to experience migration in full swing.

Away from birds, I also plan to become more actively involved in Bat surveying in 2013. These creatures have always been a real passion of mine, time to take it a little more seriously. I would be keen to visit roosts with a view to obtaining a license somewhere down the line. 
Finally, I have signed up as an RSPB volunteer. This is in part due to a potential future career in environmental education, but regardless of this outcome I know I will enjoy putting something back into a region and organisation that already plays a massive role in my life.

So, all that remains to be said is thank-you to all who take the time to read my blog and offer their advice, insight and/or messages of support. Here's to another great year in the field!




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