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Showing posts from 2013

Ending the year on the patch

A look back at some Christmas birding, and whilst there were no late additions to the year list some excellent Winter birding was enjoyed as thoughts turned to 2014.
Debs and I spent the afternoon in Surlingham on Christmas Eve, beginning at Church Marsh. 2 Curlew over doubled the patch record (!) and even treated us to a their mournful call. Also smashing the record for number seen on any one visit was the Marsh Tit, again 2 birds at either end of the reserve. I can remember when I saw my first Marshy here, and I am pleased to report they are getting easier! Expected residents were Treecreeper, Bullfinch (heard) Great-crested Grebe (2) and a hopefully-resident female Marsh Harrier.
We then moved onto Wheatfen for a walk through Surlingham Wood. Again, I heard the Nuthatch near the cottage and a few Redpoll sp and Siskin were typical winter visitors.

Yesterday I made an early start at Church Marsh, and feeling a bit rough this was my only stop in the end. Again, I had a Marsh Tit not …

And what of Surlingham?

With the utter devastation on the coast wreaked by the storm surge earlier in the week, I was anticipating some potentially harmful flooding at Surlingham Church Marsh having seen Ben's pictures of a very wet Strumpshaw. However, despite some standing water on the north of the reserve and signs that the river had overflown in one or two usual spots, the impact looked akin to that of a heavy storm so hopefully not too much saline crap has seeped into the marshes. On the reserve were 2 Kingfisher, 2 Goldcrest, 2+ Bullfinch, 1 Linnet, 3 Snipe and a few Teal.
Over at Claxton Marshes, 3 Marsh Harrier enjoyed the breeze but the real prize was across the river: 30 Taiga Bean Geese! Glad to have that zoom function on the scope.
Not much doing at Langley Dyke bar a Kestrel and 100's of Pinks somewhere up high, so I headed to some stubble and set aside near Surlingham. A flock of 100+ Linnet was notable, and Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Winter Thrushes were all recorded on similar habitat.

Great White Egret, Buckenham

An Sunday evening trip to Buckenham Marshes in hope of Raptors heading to roost yielded an unexpected Great White Egret, initially seen at 4pm over the river at Claxton/Rockland Marshes (bird of the year on the patch in terms of 'points') flying strongly across the river towards Strumpshaw before being lost to sight. Real monster in flight, size and long yellow bill leaving me in no doubt as to what I was looking at. Get in! Supporting cast of 3 Barn Owls at Claxton, Marsh Harrier at Buckenham and a superb Corvid roost by the station. And all those Wigeon for company, what a site Buckenham is.

Some changes at Surlingham

Headline news from the patch is a fond farewell to the Whaley Hide, dismantled and removed in favour of a sluice. Like other visitors I am a little sad to see the old hide go, but it was old and in many areas beyond repair. The installation of a sluice will connect the lagoon to the flow of the river, thereby increasing the biodiversity of the lagoon waters and putting an end to years of silt build up. Perhaps in time a few more Waders will look to stop here on migration, as the numbers of invertebrates increases. Exciting times. The team from Strumpshaw have also cracked on with more scrub removal, cleared ditches and uncovered a new mini lagoon between the main lagoon and the gun club. Excellent work and already I have noticed wildlife making use of their 'facilities'; today, a Treecreeper was frequenting an area of newly cut scrub that was previously obscured from view, and a count of 42 teal (2 females) was very healthy indeed.
Away from the main reserve, a skein of Pink-f…

Half Term Birding

Been out of action ever since the weekend that was with Achilles Tendinitis, rather painful, but with the onset of half term and the ankle area easing up it was high time to get out and about once again.
Wheatfen was looking splendid on the 31st, so splendid in fact that the foilage shielded from view the Siskin and Redpoll I could hear. 6 Snipe were seen flying strongly southwards, and a bustling Tit flock held Long-tailed, Marsh, Great, Blue and a Goldcrest. I really thought I was into a Firecrest for a short time, and surely this is a species I will add to the wider patch list before long?
A scan over Claxton Marshes late afternoon did not produce a Short-eared Owl as I had hoped it might, but across the river I could see a group of Barnacle Geese grazing. 'Seen from the patch'= tick! I finished the day at Langley dyke, where 3 ghostly Barn Owls were hunting.

On the 1st of November, Debs, her dad and I took a walk round Bacton Woods chasing up the Parrot Crossbill reports f…

A weekend to live long in the memory

Saturday 12th, I picked up Connor around 6.30am and we headed to Waxham with migrant hunting in mind. It was clear that the NW blow and rain had dumped many common migrants. Every bush had a Robin, some more than one. There were also almost equal numbers of Song Thrush and Blackbird. As the sun rose, slowly more birds became active. Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Goldcrest and ticked and tacked from cover. Superb stuff! Overhead, Brambling and Redpoll were moving, and some did rest long enough for decent views. Heading out into the dunes towards the pipe dump, we encountered a female Redstart and a Woodcock on route. Still, birds were arriving including more Thrushes and even a few Skylark. Without much success around the pipe dump itself (a Robin with a sore throat gave us a headache for a while) we headed back to the car and onto Horsey.

Although there were less birds around by mid morning, little clumps of cover were alive with activity. In the same patch of scrub and pines that last y…

Signs of migration on the east coast

Ricky and I were keen to get in on the early October action so headed to to Caister Saturday morning, hopeful of some vis-mig and perhaps something rare too.
We began at Caister golf course after a quick look for the Rose-coloured Starling (I caught up with this bird last weekend, and since Ricky already has it on his list we decided against a thorough search). 100+ Meadow Pipits were moving through, many coming to rest on the course. This bode well. Overhead, we had 7 Redwing and a single Fieldfare. 3 Stonechat were showing well, perhaps local migrants or looking at the habitat, residents.
We extended our search to the northern side of the town, scanning the beach for any early Snow Buntings. No sign of these delightful winter visitors, but we did pick up 2 striking Wheatear. Probing the shoreline was a single Knot.Walking the heathland north, one berry bush was home to 6 Blackcap (5 females interestingly) and a single Whitethroat. 4 Brent Geese flew south for the winter, navigating …

The question facing every Chiffchaff- should I stay or should I go?

Counted upwards of 7 Chiffchaff around the patch this morning, 5 at Surlingham Church Marsh and 2 at Rockland Broad. 2 were in song, which got me thinking. How many of the birds I saw today will be wintering here in Norfolk? A minority I would suspect, but wintering Chiffs are on the rise, so the data tells us. Perhaps the birds in song were the birds planning to stay, proclaiming this is me, and this will be my territory for Christmas dinner and beyond. The songsters remained hidden, but the birds I were able to see appeared to be fresh juveniles integrated with mixed Tit flocks, gleaning insects from the greenery. I also heard what I believe to be the warbled and guttural sub-song of a Blackcap, another candidate for residency. Add in the singing Cetti's Warbler (2) and for the first time in around 2 months, Warbler song had returned to the patch.
After walking the circuit at church marsh and seeing no-one (lovely) I headed to Rockland Broad chasing a report of a juvenile Black …

Chat about the patch

Looking back on a busy few weeks, I did catch the tail of the fall including a superb inland Wryneck at Strumpshaw Fen and a Red-backed Shrike at North Denes Lowestoft. Also here were a Whinchat and a Wheatear. Working now in Carlton Colville, that means Lowestoft and in particular Pakefield are within easy reach for a post-work visit if conditions are good.

This morning I made an early start hoping for some migrants on the patch. The resident birds were initially the highlight: Kingfisher and Barn Owl at Surlingham got the day off to a good start. From the lagoon, a patch of scrub held at least 3 Reed Warbler, 1 Reed Bunting and a couple of Blue Tits. This reminded me of a similar encounter at Claxton over a week a go, a seemingly inconspicuous bush holding Lesser and Common Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Stonechat and Reed Bunting. All birds looking like fresh juveniles, sticking together in the hunt for food before the long journey south. I was determined though to find a Whinchat today,…

Away from home

After more dips searching for Clouded Yellow than I care to remember (I got up early today only to be confronted with rain sheeting down, great) Debs and I escaped to Derbyshire for a week away. I had managed to convince Debs it was worth doubling back on ourselves in order to visit the Birdfair, so this we did on the Saturday. As usual, we divided our time between talks, book searching and chatting to a few friends. Jari Peltomaki's excellent presentation on the Owls of Finland was one of the best I have seen at Birdfair, polished to say the least. We also attended talks on Birding in Spain and the Wildlife on Yellowstone; both hot contenders for honeymoon/future trips. Incidentally, I have just finished Stuart Winter's gripping 'The birdman abroad'. His descriptions of American Warblers have pushed the USA right to the top of my must visit list.

Back in Derbyshire, it was birding in the dales for the week. The hills and the peaks for me offer a piece of wilderness we…

Norfolk Bat Survey- the results are in!

That was quick! Results as follows.

TG3206 Summary:
Summary: the numbers relate to the number of bat passes rather than necessarily the number of bats. Bat species = where there is insufficient information to assign the recording to a species or bat family - normally where there is too much noise to pull out a reliable signal. Myotis species = this is where the recording belongs to the family Myotis, which in Norfolk includes Natterer's, Daubenton's, Whiskered and Brandt's. Low confidence = where there is a high chance of the recording being assigned to the wrong species. Confusion is most likely between Daubenton's, Whiskered and Brandt's, and between Noctule, Serotine and Leisler's. 30 July1 Brown long-eared bat 8 Common pipistrelle 2 Myotis species 4 Noctule 28 Soprano pipistrelle 1 August1 Brandts - low confidence 2 Brown long-eared bat 29 Common pipistrelle 1 Natterers - low confidence 2 Noctule
36 Soprano pipistrelle
You will notice the 31st is missing; as I feared, the …

Bits and pieces.

Firstly, congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Emerson!
A few notes from the start of August. Ashwellthorpe Wood on the 1st, no White Admirals but many Whites and Peacock. A Common Buzzard was calling and circling above the wood and a smart Kestrel was hunting on the woodland edge. On the 2nd, I completed my first of 2 Waterways surveys for Daubenton's Bat. 15+ passes of said species were noted, an improvement on the last survey which was 8 in 2008. Considering the proximity of Marriot's Way to the city centre, I was pleasantly surprised to record 5+ Noctule, 2 Common Pip and many Soprano Pip. I have since had a Noctule fly over my house on his evening commute, what a garden tick!  Debs and I visited Strumpshaw Fen on the 4th, enjoying the almost menacing flights of Migrant and Southern Hawker along with both Ruddy and Common Darter. 100's of Peacock Butterflies nectared in the reed beds, an amazing sight. Due to the sparsity of notes in my book (getting lazy) I cannot put an ex…

Barbastelle at Surlingham?

After setting up the recorder for the Norfolk Bat Survey, I took myself off for a walk in the dark round Church Marsh. I feel like I know this place like the back of my hand, but I like how it can shock and surprise me in the dark. Nightwalking is underrated.

From the hide, I awaited the impending Geese roost. Some great counts:
Greylag 193
Canada 27
Egyptian 13

There were also 4 Green Sandpiper probing the margins, my highest count this Autumn. By now, I was expecting the Bats to join me but I was disappointed. Single passes of Noctule, Common and Soprano Pip were all I managed until I approached the Church. (I should however comment on my encounter with a young Fox, one of the cubs from earlier in the year no doubt. I watched him for ages in the fading light, something I never would have gotten away with during the day.

The track leading to the church and the car-park has often been good for Bats, and tonight was no exception. Noctule passed overhead, and both Common Pipistrelle Spe…

The Norfolk Bat Survey

Having picked up the equipment from Wheatfen (and then again, from County Hall!) I was all set to partake in the Norfolk Bat Survey. My registered 1km square is TG3206. This square includes much of Surlingham Marsh, Heron and Bury's Marsh, the latter pair not accessible to the public. On Tuesday night, I set up the equipment on Heron's Marsh. It was a perfect evening of Broadland beauty: low-hanging mist, Groppers reeling and Chinese Water Deer ending the tranquillity with the occasional bark or grunt.

Since this spot, I have set the detector to record at the end of Cut Loke (next to Bury's Marsh) and tonight I have one final spot, to the east and nearer Wheatfen. I think this promises to be the best location due to the mix of trees, a wildflower meadow and proximity to water.

Back to Buckenham

Debs and I returned to Buckenham on the evening of the 29th of July, a pleasant breeze and a fine evening was enjoyed. We bumped into Justin at the mill, a nice chap and vastly experienced in terms of birding the Yare Valley and further afield. He pointed out the Little Stint to us, my first of the year having not scored in Spring. This individual was not showing spanking scapulars I would expect from a juvenile, but the V-shaped brace was noticeable. Perhaps a first year breeder?
An excellent array of Waders were on offer, including at least 6 Wood Sandpiper split between the mill pool and the hide scrape. Singles of Green and Common Sandpiper, Greenshank and Curlew (over and flying onto my patch!) were accompanied by 5 Little-ringed Plover, and 4+ of Redshank, Common Snipe and Ruff. I adore Wader watching, but the evening light made it challenging so it was great to have Justin on hand. Whilst we were watching birds, Debs was taking some pictures.

A mega Wader this Summer?

Personally, I think the next few weeks looks good for a rare, even mega, Wader here in Norfolk. The warm weather has allowed pools, lagoons and scrapes to look particularly inviting to any flyover flocks. At Surlingham, the water levels are the lowest I have ever seen them, almost too low. Pictures below. However, we are now due some stormy weather and a continuation of South-westerlies. Rain tends to ground, or at least push around, any Waders in an area. I would love to stumble across a Pectoral Sandpiper, and both Cantley and Buckenham have a decent record with this species. A straightforward Semi-P, or summer plumage Stilt Sand, and I'm dreaming. So, it was with these thoughts that I made my first visit to Cantley beet pools this morning. Selected counts as follows:

Green Sandpiper 12
Common Sandpiper 1
Ruff 9
Redshank 1
Lapwing 18

Also here, a Common Tern passed though  and I was noisily harassed by a gang of Black-headed Gulls who decided I was a clear threat to their chicks…

Away in Spain and home for more Bat surveying.

From the 19th to 21st of July I was at a friend's wedding in Spain, not far from Madrid so other than the airport I enjoyed rural surroundings, the constant buzz of insects and village plazas for my short time there. This was in no way a wildlife watching trip, but naturally my eyes were peeled and I picked up a few good bits. Birds of prey were enjoying the hot thermals, although I could only get a positive ID on a Red-footed Falcon. I had what I think was a Spanish Imperial Eagle, surrounded by many smaller Raptors, high in the sky over farmland. Much easier to ID were Great White and Little Egret, White Stork and Bee Eater. Despite the intense heat and late nights of beer and fine dining I did manage a walk out into farmland. A Shrike on wires was perhaps a Red-backed, and a Clouded Yellow flew right past me, a new species altogether. On doing some research it would seem this was probably a Berger's Clouded Yellow. I also encountered a Marbled Skipper, another new Butterfly…

More Butterflies and the odd Bat for a blog.

Re-visited a site near Bergh Apton on Sunday, rich in Butterlfy and Insect life. Literally 100's of Meadow Brown and Ringlet were seen, the next numerous species probably Small Tortoiseshell. Red Admiral numbered just 2, Large Skipper 2 and Small/Essex Skipper c10. My first Gatekeepers of the year, 2, and 3 White species completed a super haul. The Cinnabar and 6-Spot Burnet were the day flying Moths were also encountered. 2 Brown Hawker patrolled the nettle beds, and a large Hawker went unidentified. Some choice pictures below.

Looking back to the 25th of June, a NBSG survey at Rainthorpe Hall near Taswood Lakes proved very productive and also marked a change in the weather for the warmer. The Hall itself is a quite stunning relic, well maintained and a privilege it was to walk the grounds. Before dark, a Barn Owl flew in front of the car and a Tawny Owl called. At least 3 Fox were seen as dusk fell and finally, James, you were spot on- I saw a Glow Worm! Once the Bats were out w…

Weather to watch Insects

After a week of bright but at times unsettled and stormy weather, it seems much of Britain has been struck by a mini heatwave. This is of course excellent weather for watching Butterflies and Dragonflies go about their business. Before recounting the last 2 days, of note at Church Marsh was a Common Tern upriver on the evening of the 3rd, new for the year. Yesterday Debs and I spent the heat of the day at Wheatfen. We ended up with a cracking species list. Scarce Chaser were relatively common both in dykes and over the reeds. Black-tailed Skimmer, Norfolk Hawker, 4 Spotted Chaser and probable Broad-bodied Chaser were our other big Odonata. Onto Damselflies, and we saw Large Red, Azure, Common Blue, Banded Demoiselle and Blue-tailed. Butterflies were also on fantastic form. We were lucky to receive a fly-past from a single Swallowtail. Large Skipper was new for the year, and Small Tortoiseshell were seemingly everywhere. Really pleased to see them doing well. 
Today, woken by the new C…

Canoeing with birds.

After much talk and until now little action (other than the purchase of a dry bag), on Saturday 29th myself and 2 of my best men set off on a weekend canoe and kayak trip down the river Nene. Our starting point was the 'harmless' market own of Oundle and our destination the town of Yarewell and campsite for the night. Conditions were breezy (turning to windy on the Sunday as we headed back up river)  but bright and often warm. It was a privilege to be so close to the wild residents of the river, and for that reason alone a long term aim remains to get myself a kayak or canoe and bird the shit out of the inaccessible broads.  Turning up a rare duck or two, access difficult, I'm there.
Anyway, our journey. We were accompanied by the omnipresent Red Kite. I never tired of seeing this superb Raptor, although Oundle resident Allan has them on his garden list! Common Buzzard and Kestrel were also plentiful. Best bird and contender for moment of the paddle came near Tansor, when …

Caspo or not so?

With seemingly ideal conditions I headed to Buckenham Marshes RSPB just after lunch for a spot of Raptor watching. I found a suitable vantage point and parked up, overlooking woodland and the marshes. By 2pm, I had seen little to get excited about, 4 Common Buzzards the sum of my efforts. However at just after 2pm, I picked up what I initially assumed was a Gull distantly, but heading towards me. I soon realised this was a Tern, the flight too languid for a smaller Tern species but still distinctive. This was bigger than a Black-headed Gull. Soon enough, the bird was above me. I expected to see a black bill of a Sandwich tern, but instead got a carrot-coloured bill. Surely not? A Caspian?! Sadly the bird was lost to view heading north over Buckenham Woods. I calmed myself, and phoned RBA requesting the bird go out as a possible.

Why not a definite for me?

The bright sunshine I was staring into meant that the full suite of ID features could not be obtained. I could not see the primaries…

Some recent goings on at Church Marsh.

Stepping back into last week, I had a good evening session at Surlingham Church Marsh. Whilst I have not yet been able to catch up with the Fox cubs again, a few markers have been laid down suggesting we are now into Summer. 2 Green Sandpiper were on the lagoon on the 19th, returning birds. Hopefully this is a sign of a decent Wader passage this year. Also on the lagoon was the first returning Teal of the Summer, a still smart drake. There were also 5 male Tufted Duck. Not sure if these chaps are returners or not, since Tufted Duck do breed on the reserve. Perhaps they are first Summer birds and/or local failed breeders.

Walking back through the churchyard, I heard the familiar squeak of a young Tawny Owl. The adult was seen briefly, chased into the pines by a noisy Blackbird. This left the young somewhere high amongst the leaves, and try as I might I could not find them! Plus, the adult would clearly have wanted to return, so I didn't look for too long before heading home and lea…

NBSG Survey

Out last night with the Norfolk Barbastelle Study Group surveying a transect within Lower Wood NWT, Ashwellthorpe. By the time we had walked the route in daylight, the hazy evening that had perhaps been in the offing had turned rather damp and overcast. 14 Degrees was warmer than recent weeks however, and Moths were on the wing which was a good sign.

We recorded 10 known Bat passes within the transect, the majority Common Pipistrelles along with a couple that were a little faint and therefore unidentified. Walking back to the car park, we encountered both Soprano and Common Pipistrelles. I love the peace and stillness of a woodland at night, but seemingly Bats aren't quite so keen. The woodland edge and gardens were predictably the best spots.

Despite the Bats not playing ball, Lower Wood is a super reserve nonetheless and access has been made easier thanks to a carpark just off the road through the village. The evening bird song was super, and the smell of wild garlic almost omni…

Keep Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'!

Saw an awesome bird today! Having been unable to connect with the Roller at Edgefield on Sunday due to family commitments, my personal day out from school could not have been better placed. I arrived at the clearing near Holt Lowes this morning and the Roller was on show, atop a tall tree stump. The bird continued to show albeit distantly, and was observed in flight and feeding. I left when the bird seemed settled on the ground. I remember as a child leafing through my Reader's Digest Birds of Britain, and thinking "What on earth is that doing in here?"whilst looking at the Roller image. Now, I have seen one for myself. Many thanks to the finder. Also at Edgefield, 2 Crossbill (!m) and a singing Woodlark.

Working backwards, I opted for a quiet potter around Wheatfen on Sunday, and arrived to find their busiest day of the year in full flow, Swallowtail Day. I tagged on the end of a guided walk and got to see 3 or 4 Swallowtail Butterflies, my first this year. Someone had …

Retracing my steps.

Another crazy few weeks has led to the absence of an update. I am pleased to report that I have been out and about, and looking back over the pictures Debs and I took has reminded me of a few gems over the past few weeks.
A highlight for me has been the emergence of Dragons and Damsels. At Wheatfen, Large Red and Azure Damselfly were on the wing on the 26th of May, along with Hairy Dragonfly. Better late than never! This was a particularly fine day, in which we also heard Cuckoo and saw a Grass Snake.
At Rockland on the 2nd of June, 4 Spotted-Chasers were new for the year, striking looking beasties these. Red-tailed Damsels were also a first of 2013. On the birding front, a distant Hobby was a year tick and 2 Common Terns were hawking over the broad. Met a thoroughly decent chap who was convinced he had seen a Lynx here a few years back.
Evening visits to Surlingham Church Marsh have thrown up the expected breeding birds at this time of year. Debs and I enjoyed watching a Barn Owl hun…

Whirlwind couple of weeks

Just happy to be alive and kicking after a nasty accident involving a berk in a lorry and my now scrapped Fiesta. Luckily, a lady stopped and offered to be a witness if necessary which put my faith back in humanity within a few minutes. Moral of the story? Do not take out insurance with Hastings Direct. Useless. 
Anyway, rant over and new car is on the way. Starting with the South Yare patch, a new species was added to the year list, and a very pleasing one too since Grey Partridge have declined considerably in the last 20 years. A pair were seen in a field along Surlingham Lane. At Church Marsh, 2 Feral Pigeon were an almost regrettable patch tick. Things have been quiet here, as the resident species settle down to breed and absolutely no Waders pas through. It has been rather more lively over at Claxton, where a Montagu's Harrier has been hanging around opposite Buckenham RSPB. Despite 3 evening visits after work, I still haven't connected. A calling Greenshank did provide m…