Thursday, 27 June 2013

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 well enough to confirm nor deny black patches.
  • The bird was some feet above the tree line, and on a bright day with nothing to compare this bird to in terms of size, the usual caveats exist.
  • I did not notice streamers or  particularly long tail feathers, but I could not say for sure it was very short either. The direction of flight did not help.
  • I have never seen this species before! I dipped both the Thornham and Buckenham birds. 
  • Can I honestly rule out Royal Tern? In that light and again with no experience of either in the field, I'm not sure I can, however unlikely.
  • I never find anything decent.
Any thoughts welcomed.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

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 leaving the new family in peace.

Having been away at another wedding this weekend (9 in total this year!) it looks like I have missed the Rosy Starling up at Wells. Shame, looked a cracker. However, I do have a day off this Thursday so I am hoping for a warm day for some Raptor watching. I am also out again with the NBSG on Tuesday night, this time searching for the elusive Barbastelle at Taswood Lakes.

Friday, 21 June 2013

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 omnipresent throughout the wood. I would imagine a walk later in the Summer could turn up a greater range of Bats, although the analysis of recordings may throw up something else.

EDIT- Recordings analysed by Jane, and indeed we were having a better evening out there than we realised! Most exciting of all were 6 Barbastelle calls, some of which were recorded on my transect and (I hope) missed due to the noise of the rather long grass! Myotis sp. and Noctule from elsewhere also recorded. Blimey!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

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 also spotted a freshly emerged Elephant Hawkmoth, a cracker as always.  The reserve was buzzing, Gropper reeling and 2 Cuckoo calling whilst at the Swallowtail site. I had a quick chat to the warden David Nobbs before leaving, lovely chap, he told me that Red Kites are being seen every week and a Spotted Flycatcher has been in the cottage garden.  Wheatfen is such a special place, I look forward to whiling away a few Summer's days here again this year.

Last week, Thursday night, I joined Norwich Bat Group for the annual UEA Bat Hunt. The weather was a little breezy, but not too cold and thankfully for the first time this year, the Bats delivered. A full set of results can be viewed here: Thanks to Stuart for taking the time to analyse the recordings.

A quick plug for the Norfolk Bat Survey: If you haven't already done so, it is not too late to sign up and help ascertain just what species are in 'your' 1km square. Details here:

Digging further back into the archives, on Monday the 10th Debs and I shared in a proper wildlife experience at Church Marsh when 2 Fox cubs emerged from an earth. The light was fading and despite revisiting we have not yet encountered the cubs again. Still, magical stuff.

To finish, a few recent highlights that we did manage to photograph!

 Surlingham Fox Cubs
Surlingham evening sky
 Common Spotted Orchid
 Elephant Hawkmoth
Swallowtail Butterfly

Sunday, 9 June 2013

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 hunt earlier in the week, a positive sign considering the scarcity of sightings from here this year.

Away from Norfolk, a wedding in Harrogate involved a stop at a friends in Oundle. We took out a canoe and paddled down the Nene one evening. A fantastic experience, not least because the wildlife accept a much closer encounter than if one were walking. We saw Kingfisher, Common Tern, Bullfinch and distant Red Kites throughout the valley. A stop at a lock for a beer and crisps with 2 of my best mates was pretty much my idea of perfection. Need to start saving for a Kayak, I've done enough talking about it!

On the Bat front, a very early individual left a roost somewhere near Surlingham church at 8.30pm on Wednesday the 5th of June. I would guess Natterer's based on flight pattern. The weather is slowly improving, so the various surveys I have signed up to should begin soon. This coming Thursday, the 13th, is Norwich Bat Group's Big Bat Hunt at UEA. Passive detectors will be used which record every Bat pass, and computers will be available to help assign the recordings to species level that night. If you are interested, we are meeting at North Park Avenue carpark at 9pm.