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Stubb Mill Raptor roost and stuff on the patch

Roost watches on the patch proving fruitless in terms of the scarcer stuff right now. Been at it in the late afternoon pretty solidly since the 20th, spending time all over the patch. Most Marsh Harrier were c7 going to roost at Stumpshaw, seen from Wheatfen. There were also around 1000 Starling here, swirling around in a cloud before dropping off into the reedbed. Rather worryingly, the only Barn Owl I have seen was at Claxton Marshes on the 23rd. Swathes of Wigeon and Lapwing on and around the river here as usual, a wonderful sight and sound.

Bullfinch have been a real flavour of the month, picked up by their mournful calls and often found feeding high up in the trees. Maximum only a pair though.

So, on Boxing Day Debs and I ventured a little further afield to Hickling Broad and the Raptor roost at Stubb Mill. I haven't visited for a couple of years and Debs it transpired never has, so a perfect place to spend the afternoon. I would estimate we had around 40 Marsh Harrier, and t…

Into the final knockings

I rose before the sun today and enjoyed a crisp morning and a walk around Surlingham Marsh. I encountered a Muntjac Deer on the Carnser, perhaps foraging away from frozen areas like the numerous Thrushes on the ground. I then heard 1 if not 2 Bullfinch, and for a change the pair were easy to see amongst the dead wood and pale sky. Stunning birds and lovely to have them so local. A female Marsh Harrier was hunting over Heron's Marsh, and she or another bird flew close by overhead as I made my way round. There was little else out and about bar a Chinese Water Deer and a nice mixed Tit flock containing Marsh and Coal. It was a gorgeous morning though.


Returning home briefly for a much needed bacon butty, I then went east to Rockland Broad. The small dyke that held a Grey Wagtail last Winter appears to have been dredged, much to the interest of the local Finches and Tits. Still no Brambling though. The broad itself held Tufted Duck, Coot, LBB, Common and Black Headed Gull. More Bullfi…

From doorstep to marsh and back

Rose early on Sunday morning to a dripping, damp misty morning in the village. The lanes and hedges are ablaze with colour at the moment, and Debs and I enjoyed all of this well before the rest of the village awoke. Upon leaving the front door, the first bird of the day was to be a Bullfinch, couldn't ask for a better start! At least 2 birds were calling, all I saw on this occasion was a white backside. Good to know they can be seen local though.
Continuing towards Ferry Road on foot, we encountered Fieldfare, Redwing and Song Thrush feeding on the Rose hips adorning the scrub. Birding can and will be at times dull in the deep mid-winter, but these welcome visitors always make it bearable. Not much was moving overhead due to the thick mist, and the same was true upon arriving at Church Marsh.
A significant number of Teal were loafing about on the lagoon, and after nervously circling when we arrived, they settled again and I was able to count 107, which Ben tells me is a record cou…

Patch update and Carlton Marshes

It has been a while since I have added a new species to the year list let alone updated the blog. The latter will have to suffice for now!
I parked up at the top of the hill, Church Marsh beneath me, Saturday the 8th on a mild November day. A Thrush fest ensued of the good kind, with Mistle, Song, Redwing and Fieldfare all bursting out of the berry bushes they had been feeding on. It is also a good time of year for Corvids too, with Jays popping on on both fat balls in our garden and in their usual spots around the reserve. Elsewhere, the WeBs count was poor, with just 20 Tealthe only Duck encountered. I wonder how saline levels are in the lagoon, post-flooding a couple of weeks ago.
Onto Rockland, and the count was restricted to GC Grebe and a Cormorant. 2 Crows gave the local Buzzard hassle over the small wood in the marsh. Interesting to note a sightings board discussion that had taken place in the hide "What a joke, cow shit everywhere", followed by "What do you exp…

A Steppe up and the week that was

Last Saturday, I caved and joined the throngs of visiting birders at Burnham Norton to see the Steppe Grey Shrike. Now, my Helm Shrike ID guide is in a box somewhere for removal but I did note at the time what a compact little bird this was, with lovely peachy hues on the flanks and pale mandibles with a black tip. I never tire of Shrikes and this one was a real crowd pleaser. A helpful chap on Birdforum pointed out that the Lincolnshire bird was if not more confiding, so perhaps that is indicative of this subspecies of Southern Grey Shrike. Debs and I watched with amusement as he fed on mealworms which had been provided. Overhead, Pink-footed Geese were returning to Norfolk for the Winter no doubt surprised by how mild it was, and still is.
The following day was my only real window of opportunity to get to the coast, what with moving this coming weekend. I went round Church Marsh first thing, 2 Kingfisher and Teal numbers building the highlights. Out East, Began at Waxham, very quiet…

I think......yes, Autumn is here.

As I type the wind is giving the leaves on the trees a real run for their money, and since I last posted Autumn has certainly arrived. Still relatively mild (I had a t-shirt on at Minsmere last Sunday) but change is afoot.

Beginning with Minsmere, the presence of a Little Crake seeped out to the news services on Saturday the 4th. This would be a new bird for me, so after an early morning check round Rockland (Swallow and probable Brambling the highlights) I headed to Suffolk expecting a queue for Bittern Hide and the usual throng of twitchers hoping to catch a glimpse. I arrived mid morning, wandered into the hide and set up my scope, nowhere near as busy as I had expected. Within 10 minutes the bird scuttled out onto the vegetation at the back of the pool. Despite the haze, it was clear enough to see I was looking at A smart Little Crake. My cousin and Uncle were enjoying views too along with a few other familiar faces. I watched the bird for 15 minutes or so, until more people arriv…

A sprint for a Sandpiper and other Norfolk tales

Luckily nobody else was up early enough this morning to see me running back to the car to collect my scope at Church Marsh, having just spotted 2 Waders at the lagoon edge just to distant to ID. Certainly a test of the leg, which held out. On returning to the lagoon having worked up a sweat I was able to positively identify 2 Common Sandpipers, telling myself how much I liked Sandpipers and how much that could mean when the end of year patchwork challenge points are added up. Elsewhere on the reserve, I encountered singing Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Perhaps they are setting up a territory for winter or maybe just singing because they can. Kingfisher (regularly seeing at least one in the last couple of weeks) Sparrowhawk and 2 Little Grebe the best of the rest. In recent weeks Little Owl, Green Woodpecker and calling Tawny Owl are all of note.

Today Debs and I grabbed a few hours round Waxham before heading for dinner at my father in law's. We walked from Waxham Sands down to the pip…

Wales, armchair birding and back on the patch

Without doubt my longest gap between updates on this ere blog, and with good reason. Not only has United's transfer dealings taken up a lot of my time on Twitter, but I also got married. This wonderful day was prefaced by a serious leg sprain which meant I was unable to walk properly for some time and I am not the best patient says the current Mrs. Bradley. Still, we enjoyed a wonderful mini break in Wales and I will start with this.

Our cottage was set on the edge of the Brecon Beacons, with the backdrop of Cennen Castle, Ravens and Red Kites. An ideal setting as I recovered on the couch and the swelling in my leg finally began to retreat. Every evening we were treated to a 40-strong Soprano Pipistrelle roost leaving both ours and the neighbouring cottage, the Bats emerging very early to hunt in the valley. Locally, we picked up Redstart, Badger and Wood Mouse. I wish I could have been able to explore more but long walks were out of the question.
We visited an RSPB reserve out on…

A new patch bird- not the Purple Heron though!

Yesterday news broke of a Purple Heron in a ditch at Claxton. Now, there are quite a few ditches at Claxton and no further details were forthcoming. Not owning a pager, I checked RBA online late in the day and knew I had missed a big patch bird and one which I have been expecting for some time now. I went out in search this morning post-car boot sale. Assuming it was mobile I began at Langley Dyke. Very quiet this morning, but I glimpsed a small bird flick from a wire into a bush, and back again. Surely a Flycatcher. This would be a patch tick whatever the species! I went round the back of the carpark for a better view, and confirmed it is Spotted Flycatcher! Now this seemed to be a different bird to before, as on its back were 2 white downy feathers not present on what was probably an adult seen at distance. This is what patch birding is all about, you just never know!
I had by now almost forgotten about the Heron, but I went to Claxton on auto-pilot. Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Reed Bun…

Great Knot in the bag and some local bits and bobs

Couldn't help but feel I had been here before, when a Great Knot was reported once again at Breydon Water. I absolutely love Wader watching so was not put off at all by the 'probable' reported on the Sunday night, and in preparation I slung some clothes and gear in the back of the car. I finished up at work early with a couple of tasks to complete, but there was only one place I was headed to first. It was a hot day, and I was glad of my shorts and t-shirt as I paced out the 1 and a half miles down the estuary towards Burgh Castle where I was delighted to find the bird feeding on the mud not too far out. I made a few notes at the time. Some spotting on the flanks, and scapulars looked black but fringed with white allowing for a chequered effect. The bill looked slightly decurved, the tail accentuated. The head colouring actually looked dark red but in fact was black, the sun playing tricks on this glorious hazy afternoon. I went home and read up on the Great Knot some more…

Rose-coloured Starling from work

My boss was kind enough to let me out of work during a free period this afternoon, I was hoping to see the male Rose-coloured Starling down the road in Carlton Colville. A short drive and I found the expected guys and girls in camo gear in the middle of a housing estate, much to the delight of school children heading home. I had no gear but a fellow birder Danny was kind enough to lend me his bins and track down the bird for me, top bloke! My first adult male of this species; forget the Caister bird I have seen the real deal now! When the Caister bird was last seen it was beginning to put on adult feathering, I'm sure this bird is a different individual but who knows.

Other than that it has been pretty uneventful on the patch of late. Even the common species are beginning to quieten down as the peaceful buzz of Summer sets in. Green Sandpiper, Cuckoo, Marsh Harrier and the like should not be taken for granted though! It appears an Osprey is being seen at Strumpshaw, so hopefully I…

A below average May ends with a bang

I had set aside last Friday to do some serious birding away from the patch, and met up with Connor early doors and headed to West Runton, where the female Black-headed Bunting proved a little too elusive. We checked out Wareham Greens where the only bird of note was a Spoonbill. With no further sign of the Bunting we had planned to call it a day, but news of a Rustic Bunting at Happisburgh had us sticking to the road for a little longer. This was to be a double Bunting dip, for the Rustic had gone to ground and has not been seen since. Ricky turned up and found a female Redstart in the paddocks near the coastwatch, and a small Warbler that sprang from the same bush was probably a Blackcap, not the bird we were looking for. A Yellow Wagtail the other bird of note here. The day ended up being a bit of a birding social, with Tim and John making welcome appearances during the day.

I walked to the Rockland Broad hide and back today, and it is pleasing to see that the 1s Little Gull is stil…

Chasing the prize

A gap between posts as large as this in May can only mean one thing: the men in suits came for us at school. Despite the short half term, an unnerving finish and little opportunity to rest. I awoke early today to empty the Moth trap and for the first time in many weeks felt refreshed and ready to go again. Hopefully Spring has not left me behind.
Sunday the 18th was a warm day, so I went for a short walk along Langley Staithe. I enjoyed watching young Rooks being fed by adults on the marsh, almost as big as their parents now. There was not much other avian interest but the path was great for Butterflies. 2 Wall Brown, 2 Common Blue, 1 Small Tortoiseshell and 1 Small Heath- a new species on the patch for me. There were also Common and Azure Damsels on the wing.
An evening walk on Wednesday the 21st yielded a single Wheatear, again at Claxton, again atop the muck piles dredged from the surrounding dykes. My 3rd record this year.
Looking back more recently to Saturday, all of the usual s…

Dark skies and Swifts

Epic scenes in the South Yare Valley this weekend. I never quite managed to beat the showers this weekend, the weather made a special effort to catch up with me. I did grab a few hours in the field here and there, and by far the highlight were 100's of Swifts careering against dark skies at Claxton Marshes this afternoon. I watched them for as long as the weather would allow, ever impressed with their aerial ability. It felt rare, too, and had I not been rained off I would definitely (maybe) nailed an Alpine.

Early this morning I set off for Langley Marshes, to count some Lapwing and hopefully catch up with some migrants. Undeterred by the drizzle outside (fuzzy head actually helping in that respect) I lucked in with a roadside Turtle Dove in Langley on route. A new patch bird! The marshes themselves weren't great, 6 Lapwing and a thorough soaking.

Debs and I enjoyed a stroll round Church Marsh this evening, finding Warblers hard to come by but 2 male and 1 female Shoveler had…

Tern deluge

Rockland Broad was finally on excellent form this afternoon, and I must remind myself of that on the days when I see only Coot. Reports of Arctic Tern from yesterday had me on the edge of the seat, for this was a year tick. Looking at the news from today, Black Tern had now arrived in force and there was always a chance of this species too. My luck was in, for amongst at least 5 Common Tern were 1+ Arctic Tern and 1 Black Tern. A great opportunity to observe the distinct jizz of these 3 species, and the marsh Tern will of course be a highlight of the year when I look back. Also still present was the 1s Little Gull, a real acrobat this little chap, although I had come across him a few days back.
Walking back, I heard a Gropper from behind the hide and at the staithe, my first Swift of the year was seen above.
Church Marsh was pristine and alive with our summer visitors this morning. Teal seem to have done one now, leaving Gadwall, Mallard, Shelduck, Coot, Moorhen, Mute Swan and probabl…

Yellow Wagtails at Surlingham plus being a whisker away

A Whiskered Tern at Rockland Broad last Thursday would not only have been a massive hit on the patch but also a lifer for me. It just wasn't meant to be however, I was working late and the bird was present for just over 3 hours once it had been reported. Rockland is a good site for this Tern, and despite no news on the Friday I headed down after work for a check round. 5 Common Tern were new for the year list, and if one thing has come out of this it is that I am now better at Terns having read ID guides to death since the event! Thank-you to all of the people who contacted me about the Tern, nice to know such a support network exists and I hope I can pay you guys back with a biggy on the patch one day. Providing I get to see it of course!

Teal are still clinging on at Church Marsh, with 3 pairs present as of yesterday. Whilst counting the Ducks, a familiar call instantly had me looking to the sky, and a lovely Yellow Wagtail flew east over the lagoon. I am sure they are present o…

Ton up on the patch, and a word on the AFON young birder's day at the BTO.

A 50-specie haul at the patch this morning, my best so far this year and some real crackers in there including Kingfisher, Cetti's Warbler, Marsh Harrier, Grasshopper Warbler, Green Sandpiper and number 100 for the year, Whitethroat. Not bad within walking distance of the front door! It feels like the pieces are falling into place now, although the weekend perhaps didn't deliver the excitement that some predicted.

Debs and I enjoyed walks round Rockland Broad and Wheatfen yesterday, hoping to catch the national Arctic tern passage that was hitting the news services. In all it was a very quiet day with little doing on either reserve.

I did want to mention the excellent A Focus On Nature young birder's day which was held at the BTO. Details of the participants can be found here:

http://www.afocusonnature.org/members/workshops/young-ornithologists-workshop/stay-contact/

Although I am listed as a speaker, I had the easy job of sitting on a debating panel. The youngsters had it…

I got 99 problems but a patch ain't one HIT ME

Any excuse to get that lyric into a blog post title; needless to say I am up to 99 for the patch year list. A reeling Grasshopper Warbler brought up the number of Jay Z early this morning, although not in the usual early arrival spot, this one was in the corner of the reserve near the gun club. Elsewhere, 3 pairs of Shelduck on the lagoon smashed my record count for this species. Interesting to watch the reaction of the 2 resident pairs as the third arrived. Very aggravated, but the peace that ensued suggests the lagoon can cope with 3 pairs. However, a lurking Fox may have had other ideas this morning, eyeing up the Shelduck and the Gadwall with intent. Great mammal moment.

Marsh Harrier activity has been very interesting of late. 4 Different individuals have been seen in the last 2 weeks:

A regular 'silver'backed' male, colouration similar to that of 'Eastern' Marsh Harrier. He was seen dropping food into the reedbed, and (presumably) a female below responded.A se…

Scotland

Approximately 30 minutes after alighting the Easyjet flight to Inverness, I was face to face with a ridiculous lifer: an American Coot. Here he is:

 And me at Loch Flemington, lifer in the bag.

From here, we retired back to the flat and plotted out a route to Burgh Head. A White-billed Diver had been seen here, so we thought this well worth a look. An excellent range of Sea Duck were seen, including Long-tailed and Common Scoter. Both Great Northern and Red-throated Divers performed well. A wildlife hihglight of the year soon followed, and not the WB Diver. A pod of at least 6 Bottlenosed Dolphins came through, 2 individuals breaching. A superb sight and a moment to remember.


We then went to Roseisle Forest, and although they made us work we enjoyed excellent views of a pair of Crested Tit. Also of note was a displaying Tree Pipit. Siskin were here by the bucketload, and the fields bordering the forest held Hooded Crow and Curlew.

The following day, Friday, was spent almost entirely i…

Early April

Various bits and pieces to report on, beginning with a gorgeous day on the patch.

With so much birdsong at Church Marsh this morning I made an attempt to count everything I saw and heard, later to be uploaded to Birdtrack, cue feeling of warm and fuzzyness. Blackcap are here in force, 12 singing males counted. Chiffchaff seem to have quietened down, perhaps busy with nest building, since only 4 were heard. At least 4 Willow Warbler were also singing. It was decent on the lagoon, with male Shelduck, nesting Oystercatcher, Green Sandpiper, 12 Teal and 4 Gadwall. Elsewhere, a single Swallow was new for the year and always a fine sight. Perhaps I am the first person s/he has encountered since arriving on these shores. Quite a thought.

This afternoon I walked along the river over-looking Langley Marshes. At least 11 Lapwing were present, a decent count at this time of year. Marsh Harriers displayed overhead, and young Rooks cawed noisily from their nests. The addition of the drains and slu…

New arrivals on the patch

I awoke to the song of a Mistle Thrush, a beautiful tune when one is halfway between asleep and awake. It sounded as if it was in the garden, probably perched in what I think is a Cherry Tree. By the time I was out of the door it had departed, still singing, but further away in the nearby copse.
It was to be a morning of song and calls that allowed me to pick up more returning migrants. A Willow Warbler was singing in the scrub, the end of the song to me sounds like he is laughing all the way to the bank. On the other side of the reserve, a Blackcap fired out its own tune. Last year, I welcomed back these pair on the 13th and 14th of April respectively. Factoring in a harsh Winter and my proximity to the patch would suggest it was always likely I would pick these two up earlier this year, but to record them both in March is at least of note if not significant. I will compile a list of arrivals and departures in the near future.
Elsewhere, a Kingfisher bombed away from the river and ov…

Two-barred Crossbill clean-up

The last time I dipped these birds was late Summer and again into Autumn last year, so the reports of a maximum of 5 Two-barred Crossbills at Lynford had me firing up the Fiesta and heading to the Brecks, accompanied by James and Connor. A glorious day it was, and upon arrival it did not take long to hear singing Firecrest (4 + territories encountered) and Nuthatch. We began searching for Crossbill at a construction site just inside the arboretum, and after 10 minutes or so a male Crossbill landed in a small tree. A closer look revealed it to have wing bars, one in particular was chunky. Even more crucial were the tertials, fringed white. This looked good for the reported 1w male. He didn't hang around, and we were left almost convinced!
Searching amongst the varied trees and shrubs, Connor came across 2 Hawfinch. I managed a glimpse of one high up in a pine. I have never seen Hawfinch in the arboretum itself, only in the paddocks or on the ground near the feeders. Presumably we h…

Bits and Bobs

A quiet weekend, out birding on the patch early this morning. Took the saw with me for a bit of maintenance, and although I only cut back a few bushes the difference between today and this time last month is striking. Not much in the way of birds, although there are at least 4 Chiffchaff on the reserve now. A pair of Little Egret heading upriver was the highlight and now my max count at Church Marsh! Rockland was similarly quiet, but again presumably a second pair of Little Egret were heading down river.

Hardley Flood, and the water levels were high meaning no Waders and not much of anything else, bar my 3rd pair of Little Egrets today. With nothing doing I stopped off for a quick stroll round Sisland Carr, followed by a glance over Claxton Marshes in the hope that the Ringtail Hen Harrier would pass through. I had to make do with a distant Barn Owl.

Bird of the day for me was a Common Buzzard seen from the garden, being hassled by the local Corvids.

One of those weekends when I toyed…

Hardley Flood and an evening on the patch

A beautiful morning in Chedgrave as I set off along the river bank to take in Hardley Flood. Both Fieldfare and Redwing were on the move (the latter still moving over the garden tonight) and a single Redpoll flew west. On the water itself were 2 Pintail (both drakes), many Shelduck, a single Redshank and an immature Great Black Backed Gull. Kingfisher, 2 Little Egret and on the marshes 26 Curlew added to the variety. Not the hoped for GW Egret or even Glossy Ibis, but living much closer to this under-watched site means I can look to make regular visits here and hopefully catch up with some migrants over the year.

I called in at Langley Staithe on the way back, hearing Redshank across the river and an unseen Green Woodpecker. 2 Marsh Harrier were up high, looking in prime position for a food pass but nothing came.

This evening I managed a quick walk around Church Marsh. Of note was a presumed dead Bank Vole, picture below and happy to receive any comments as to an ID. A Chiffchaff sang…

Singing Chiffchaffs and other Spring features

Up and about early this morning, leaving the house on foot just after 7 to take in the patch. Highlights were 2 singing Chiffchaff, 1 near the pub and another in the scrub. I would presume these are resident birds that have been hiding throughout the Winter, but the warm air mass and records of Grasshopper Warbler and Wheatear further north may suggest otherwise. Joining the chorus were Reed Bunting, Cettis's Warbler and Skylark. A male Sparrowhawk cruised across the grazing meadow. Kingfisher and Green Sandpiper on the flash at Wood's End were the best of the rest.
On returning to the house, Small Tortoiseshell and Brimstone Butterflies had been encouraged by the balmy temperatures and were inspecting the heather I had planted yesterday.

This afternoon I got the itch to be out again, so popped to Wheatfen for an hour. a Common Buzzard was displaying over the wood, and although the Woodpeckers I had hoped to see were quiet, I did happen upon to basking Grass Snake. I finally c…

Settling in to Surlingham and the garden list is off and running

I have spent most of the morning planting summer bulbs, a Buddleia and some heather in the garden. The Snowdrops underneath the tree are perhaps past their best, but the Daffodils and Crocus that have materialised are welcome and look smashing. The mild weather has had me removing layers in the middle of the job, and the local wildlife scene appears intent and with purpose for the first time this year. Driving along Slade Lane this morning, I saw my first Butterfly of the year, a windswept Small Tortoisehell. Always a red letter moment in any calendar year. Back in the garden, 2 more Small Torts and a powerful looking male Brimstone. Added to this a large Bee species (I intend to get to know Bees much better this year) and a Ladybird species and Spring has truly sprung.
Although our feeding station is rarely utilised by the resident Tits unless early in the morning, the garden and surrounds has certainly thrown up some good birds. A reservoir to the south of us pulls in a variety of w…

Tales from the patch and a bit of wardening

Although much of my free time of late has gone into the house move, I have managed to get out into the field with the extra time that half term offers.
Yesterday evening I made a quick visit to Langley Marshes. This is becoming an excellent spot for Little Egret, at least 3 were here. A peek across the river revealed the flock of White-fronted Geese, another 'extra' species for the patchwork challenge. A male Marsh Harrier ghosted by as I was watching the Geese. To the right of the Geese I could make out some smaller Waders on Cantley Marshes, probably Dunlin but too distant to confirm. It is looking decent out there! Onto Claxton, and 3 Barn Owls were hunting and a Kestrel was perched looking smart. A cloud of Lapwing and Golden Plover erupted over at Buckenham, the culprit a female Marsh Harrier moving through.

After lunch today I went to the new house to install the most important piece of kit bar the shower:


The garden behind us has a nice looking feeding station, so by pl…

Sunday stroll

Fairly lazy weekend on the birding front, but good reason for that as I will explain. Popped to Wheatfen after lunch today and the resident birds were making themselves heard, including Great-spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Goldcrest and Treecreeper. I almost walked into a Water Deer, who was grazing on the track near the small lagoons. In the woodland, Bullfinch called but remained elusive. A female Reed Bunting showed herself nicely through a gap in the scrub.
A scan from Claxton Marshes allowed me to add to species to the list that were entirely absent last year. 3 Ruff could be seen on the marsh, as well as 3+ Dunlin! 17 Shelduck were new in, and 2 Peregrine were assuming the usual fence post vigil. On the Claxton side, female Marsh Harrier and Kestrel surveyed the marsh. Heading to the car, the breeze had encouraged a Buzzard to take to the skies.
I finished up at Church Marsh in the hope of the ringtail. Again no luck there, but I did enjoy Song Thrush in song and the over-winteri…

Looking at the patch with a Warden's eye

On Saturday 25th, I met Ben Lewis at Surlingham Church Marsh to begin my new role as volunteer assistant warden at both Church Marsh and Rockland Broad. I was thrilled when Matt Wilkinson had asked me if I was interested in the part time role, which upon investigating could easily be balanced with birding and school. During an average winter month, I probably visit Church Marsh three times and Rockland Broad once. My role here requires a once per month check of water levels and vegetation length, WeBs count, safety check and the odd bit of maintenance. Yesterday was my induction, and after being issued with a saw and pair of gloves Ben and I set off round the muddy track to get a feel for the job description. I was lucky enough to explore off piste, which as well as learning a little about reserve management delivered my first Woodcock of the year here and around 10 Common Snipe. I can see now why the Snipe like it out here, although they would do well to avoid the cattle's tread.…

Church Marsh on Saturday

A fairly nondescript January morning, light winds and a threat of drizzle and the temperature mild for this time of year. Selfishly, I would quite like to see some colder weather but I doubt our resident birds would agree with me. This benign Winter is giving the Barn Owls a chance to recover and should allow for a decent breeding season for many, should it continue.
I arrived to birdsong, whereas last year the trees and bushes would have been frozen and silent. Chaffinch sub-song was a first this year, and in full swing was a Mistle Thrush in the churchyard. One of my favourite bird calls, something distant and wild about this one. Another bird was seen near the ruins. Elsewhere on the patch were Skylark overhead, a smattering of Teal on the lagoon, a Song Thrush and Treecreeper. The best of the action was near the landspring, Church side. A small flock of Siskin were showing well, and in amongst them were a Goldcrest, Treecreeper and common Tits. The Siskin were so close I could hea…

Happisburgh then back to the patch

Made and early-ish start today and decided to head to the coast and take advantage of the glorious if chilly conditions. Happisburgh is always a favourite destination, and we were not disappointed for as well as blue skies and a bracing sea breeze we were treated to close views of 12 Snow Bunting on the cliff face 50 yards or so from the beach car park. The reported Black Redstart was easy enough to find on the rocks beneath Doggerts Lane, but he did not hang around long enough for a picture. I blame the local Robin and Stonechat for hassling him.

Late afternoon and a trip to the patch beckoned. I love the evening commute over Church Marsh and with it being January there were still a few obvious year ticks missing. Most pleasing were not 1 but 2 Barn Owl hunting either side of the river, one showing well from the hide. A Sparrowhawk was disturbed from its roost, silently gliding across the marsh to find a sheltered spot. A few Herring Gull flew over, and once the gloom had reduced the…

Patch bang wallop!

New Year's Day was an absolute shocker weather-wise after around 10pm, so bar a pub lunch Debs and I kept a low profile. Today however was a perfect opportunity to get the 2014 patch list up and running, albeit flying solo. This was a bird race, versus no-one.
Beginning at Surlingham Church Marsh, the bright sunshine meant the resident birds were seemingly more active than usual at this time of year. It did not take long to add Marsh Tit, Goldcrest (2) and wintering Siskin to the list. Looking across the river to Wood's End, an early contender for bird of the day: a Peregrine Falcon! Not recorded anywhere on the patch last year, back of the net! A real powerhouse in flight, a female I reckon. The Falcon had forced most stuff off the marsh, but a second treat in the shape of 15! Curlew circled and landed, a patch record smashed and to boot a tricky bird on the year list. Moving on round the muddy circuit, the expected species were added including Bullfinch (female), Lesser Redp…