Sunday, 30 March 2014

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 over the marsh, and a male Sparrowhawk cruised over the pinewoods, hopefully prospecting a nest once again. A few Teal were on the lagoon, although no sign of the hoped for Garganey. I had already seen one Green Sandpiper head towards Wood's End, and luckily another was grounded and probing at the back of the lagoon. A Shelduck flew over head, technically a returning bird I guess. Excellent in terms of variety today.

A search for a reported large Owl species proved fruitless the previous evening down at Wheatfen. It was an eerie evening all things told, the mist lay thick on the meadows and a couple of Tawny Owl hooted. A small Bat species hunted high amongst the pines at the entrance to the reserve. Back at home, another Bat was out late last night but promptly disappeared when I went to grab the detector.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

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 had stumbled across a nesting pair, a real slice of good birding and good luck combined. The usual site at the feeders was busy with onlookers to the Hawfinch were naturally keeping a low profile.
Back at the puddle, we chatted to other birders and up until now the definite Two-barreds had not been seen since this morning. Connor again was on form, picking up a call we had been hoping to hear, a 'tooting' contact call from the larches. Now we were able to enjoy excellent views of a male, soon to be joined by a female and a second male. What trying, but cracking birds these Two-barreds are. We watched them feed in the larches, able to take in the full suite of features. Unmistakeable!
Other birds of note included Redwing, Goldcrest, Common Crossbill and stacks of Siskin.
I haven't looked at my life list for a while, but it looks like I'm now up to 313 BOU, and with a trip to Scotland in April I can hope for a few more additions.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

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 with going for the Dusky Warbler, didn't, and checked RBA too late to be in with a chance of the 5(?) Two-barred Crossbill at Lynford. Always next weekend.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

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 (4 reported this morning) and 2 Grey Herons stalked the flash at Wood's End. Stunning sky tonight.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

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 caught up with the resident Nuthatch too, a fine sight to see as it stalked a Silver Birch. I chatted to a nice couple in the carpark who informed me of a South Yare Wildlife group talk on Bees, I shall make an effort to attend this seeing as Bees are a bit of a target this year.

Determined to catch up with some Woodpeckers, I drove to Wood's End. Passing the Water's Edge, it could so easily have been a mid-summer's day, folk out on the decking enjoying a drink. I followed a footpath and saw both Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers. The Butterfly list also increased, Peacock and Comma on the wing now.

I am now tweeting, @SurlinghamBirds should you wish to follow me.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

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 wildfowl at night, and standing in the dark I have heard Egyptian and Greylag Geese, Teal, Wigeon, Little Grebe and Mallard. Oystercatcher are heard most nights since early in the week and Black-headed Gulls are a noisy distraction. Our garden borders a large paddock, which is nicely overgrown, pleasing the Rabbits. We had a nice surprise one evening whilst washing up, since it was not just the Rabbits who enjoyed using the paddock:

The Barn Owl epitomises everything I hoped for when we moved out here. Freedom, beauty and wild spaces. She, or he, has since been seen twice more. Hopefully a nest is nearby.
Although less exciting, Linnet are regular over the garden and probably breed in the surrounding farmland. Yellowhammer, Sparrowhawk, common Tit Species, House Sparrow and Tawny Owl have all been heard or seen in the garden.

Weekends have been spent unpacking and sorting the garden, hosting parents and paying bills so little time for proper birding. The last full visit I managed at Church Marsh was on the 20th of February with Ricky, and thankfully was the best trip of the year so far. The first Oystercatcher had returned to Wood's End and 2 Tufted Duck were on the river. Ricky picked out a Little Grebe, soon followed by a second. Not an easy bird here. Best of all was a small passerine perched on the reed stems near the gun club. I looked, and looked again to be sure. Stonechat! A patch lifer. So full of character and a bird we both hold in high esteem. I checked if he was still about on Sunday morning, but there was no sign.

I have been inspired since moving here, and knowing I can walk down to the patch tomorrow morning before breakfast is a freedom I will do my best not to take for granted.