Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Bat hibernation roost visit

Last Saturday, I met with fellow members of the Norwich Bat Group at Whitlingham to investigate 2 traditional Bat roosts in the vicinity. Even during the Winter, Bats become active every 20 days or so depending on temperature and and weather. What with the exceptionally cold weather, it was hoped that Bats would be using these tunnel roosts to keep warm, rather than the natural environment, for example trees.

The temperature was 1.5 degrees outside, and inside the first tunnel we registered around 6 degrees in the tunnel and it didn't take long until the first Bats were located. 2 Brown Long-eared, 2 Daubenten's, 1 Natt-Daub and 7+ Natterer's were found. Most were found inside purpose built Bat Bricks. Although some years ago I joined the Suffolk Bat Group in Thetford forest for a nestbox check, I have not observed these delightful creatures at such close quarters for some time. What became apparent were the similarities, and differences, between Natterer's and Daubenten's. Natterer's are larger and show a bedraggled, furry appearance. They also exhibit a pink face, compared to a more plain flesh coloured Daub.
The second tunnel was warmer at 6 degrees (the sun now stronger outside and the thaw setting in) and here we had 23 Natterer's and 5 Daubenten's, great stuff and so many were unexpected. This time, we encountered 2 Daubs hanging.
The Bats seemed on the whole unaware of our presence, but one or two began to stir (possibly a natural reflex  impossible to say) so we wasted no time in counting and leaving them in peace.

I decided it was worth a quick look for the Slavonian Grebe present on Whitlingham Great Broad, and as luck would have it the bird was showing close to the car-park and I was able to get other birders onto it.
A cracking morning, the Bats proving a fine antidote to cold Winter birding.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Some cold weather observations

Church Marsh itself is pretty barren right now, although areas of water or mud are proving a real draw for the residents of Surlingham. Yesterday, Debs and I braved the cold and were treated to excellent views of Fieldfare, Common Snipe and Robins, the latter very tame and clearly desperate for food. Bird of the walk was a Woodcock, flushed from a dyke which also held a small group of Teal. Arriving back at the car, a Great-spotted Woodpecker was drumming, unperturbed by the snow.

This morning, I made an early start in the hope of catching up with some of the smaller birds I had missed yesterday. I was lucky, for amongst the Alders were Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and best of all 2 Brambling! I have not recorded this species at Surlingham for some time and although views were of the back-breaking variety this is always a super finch to see. 
With the hungry Robins in mind, I had taken some bread with me today which was enjoyed by all, including me. Elsewhere, a Snipe was flushed from the ditch near the gun club, and I have my suspicions that this could have been a Jack. Back at the churchyard, 2 Great-spotted Woodpeckers were drumming and a third was chased away. This all bought back fond memories of Estonia. 

On the way to Rockland Broad, 17 Skylark had flocked together in a field.

The Broad itself was mostly without ice, although a small group of Common and Black-headed Gull were loafing on one small shelf of ice. A Wader species was a surprise, and was probably a Ruff although flight views only proved inconclusive. Very little Duck action. 

A plethora of snowy pictures to choose from, so here are a selection.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

New Page- Surlingham Church Marsh

Dear all,
just wanted to draw your attention to a new page I have added, which serves as a visitor's guide to Surlingham Church Marsh. Any comments welcome, and hopefully more of the like to follow this year e.g. 'The migration and behaviour of Green Sandpiper at SCM' and 'Bats of the Yare' (can but hope!).

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Surlingham- first visit of the year.

Before the above is dealt with, a trip back to Claxton Marshes on the 3rd produced 2/3 Short-eared owl, a male Stonechat and a Barn Owl hunting early at 2.30pm. Strumpshaw at dusk threw up 2 Woodcock.

Yesterday I set off early and arrived at Wheatfen to a cloudy yet mild start. This is a gem of a reserve, and other than the volunteer workers who were dredging a dyke, I had the place to myself. I quickly picked up the expected common species around the car-park, and enjoyed the song of the not-so-common-anymore Song Thrush, something I have not heard since last Summer. Robins were vocal all over the reserve, as were Marsh Tit, an 'easy' bird here. Heading off on the trail, a familiar sound had me looking skywards, as c100 Pink-footed Geese flew Northwest. A great patch tick, considering I have only recently added this bird to my Church Marsh life list. Birds of the day for me were the small flocks of Lesser Redpoll. These birds feed silently until disturbed, and views high into the Alders leave one with a rather sore neck. One large flock which also contained Siskin just wouldn't rest for views. Although not really cold enough, this reserve surely represents my best chance of a Mealy or something rarer.
Inspired by recent discussion on Birdforum, I have taken to snapping the odd toadstool. Using a rather old ID guide, the closest I can get to assigning this to species level is Mycena Inclinata, but I will seek further clarification.
Moving onto Church Marsh, I was pleased to pick up Lesser Redpoll and Siskin here too. The reserve was quiet, so I returned for an evening visit. This rewarded my efforts with a mixed Thrush roost including at least 3 Mistle Thrush and many more Fieldfare and Redwing. A Sparrowhawk, Green Woodpecker and squealing Water Rail were other notable additions to the year list.
Another  couple of Fungus, the to photo could be Meripilus Giganteus:

This evening I took in the dusk at Strumpshaw Fen, with a particular focus on goings on across the river at Wheatfen. A male Hen Harrier was absolutely cracking, and typically the last bird into roost.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Everything's new!

The one day of the year when even a Woodpigeon is greeted with enthusiasm. Well, for a brief moment anyway. I realised on our return we never actually saw a Dunnock, an early riser perhaps, which we certainly were not. Still, some great birds to get the Surlingham and South Yare list off to a good start.

We centered our New Year's Day stroll around Rockland to start with. On the broad were a pair of Goldeneye, a bird I would be unlikely to score on Church Marsh. Tufted Duck, LB Gull, Coot, Little Grebe and Greylag Goose added to the variety. A Kingfisher was vocal and we did manage to see him in flight amongst the scrub. The water level was as high as I had seen it here, perhaps the bird was varying his fishing strategies accordingly. Also amongst the scrub were Marsh Tit, Bullfinch, Goldfinch and a Stock Dove over. Driving between here and Claxton we picked up Common Buzzard and Marsh Harrier.

Viewing from the Beauchamp Arms, one can obtain views across the river to Buckenham Marshes, if height allows. Here I could make out the Barnacle Goose flock, but could not positively ID the group of Waders seen in flight (probably the Ruff from last week). According to Patchwork Challenge rules, birds seen from your patch count! This could be crucial. The real stars were however on the Claxton side of the river, 2 ghost-like Short-eared Owls. One individual was subject some of the most persistent mobbing I have seen, unable to land or hunt for around 20 minutes as a Rook had the Owl pinned up high:
This meant that the other bird was able to hunt relatively unnoticed along the river bank! Super birds as always, and a great patch tick. Also seen here were 2 Barn Owl, 2 Kestrel (one of these had a go at the Shortie too)
2 Grey Heron and a Little Egret. A Ringtail Hen Harrier was reported from this area too, perhaps we were the wrong side of the marsh for viewing.

We finished the day at Langley marshes. 1000's of Lapwing with smaller numbers of Golden Plover had crossed the river from Cantley. 2 More Barn Owl were enjoyed, and as the Corvid roost built up we headed  home. Perhaps the best 'tick' of the day came as we were driving, in that it was unexpected and a difficult species to connect with. A Little Owl was perched in a tree outside a farm in Langley, to make it a 3 Owl day and provide the perfect finish. And I haven't even been to Surlingham yet!