Friday, 17 October 2014

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 save for an odd ticking in the small wood near the holiday cottage. Couldn't pin it down to anything and the bush I assumed it had come from gave nothing up. Of course I was thinking Radde's, but I have also heard some Robins make odd noises over the years. Hard work from Horsey corner to the pipe dump and back; Brambling south and steady passage of Mipits all I could muster. Then drove to Happisburgh. Whimpwell Green silent, no repeat of last year. Heard a single Yellow-browed Warbler at the edge of the cricket pitch in the village along with Richard Moores. That was to be my lot, and although it felt right, I was clearly a day early having looked at the charts.
I left the house at 7 the following morning.....for work! I stood and listened in the garden, for overhead in the drizzle and gloom were probably 100's of Redwing streaming through the village. On arrival at work, I went out to the playing field and still more were passing through, now in Beccles. I had that sinking feeling as I went back to my room to sort out lessons for the day.
I was pleased to hear from friends of their successes on the coast, Monday and Tuesday certainly produced the goods and as many have commented, if it had been a weekend who knows what else may have been found. It was less pleasing to hear of the poor behaviour at some of the twitches, and of some 'birders' intolerance for those that use the countryside for anything else other than birding. Neither act gives the hobby a good name.
So, southerlies for the next few days. Perhaps a rare Swift may make an appearance, and I would expect the first Brambling to arrive further inland. I have already heard Siskin calling at Church Marsh, so a change in the temperature late October and no doubt the Redpoll will follow. A Common Snipe called as it flew over our house last night, a reminder that things are changing and moving.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

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 arrived and I got out of the way to give them a spot. I went down to the sluice bushes which were quiet. A Stonechat and parties of Bearded Tits were the pick of the bunch heading back to the car.

Down on the patch, a male Stonechat was at Church Marsh on the 4th, in exactly the same spot as last year's bird, perched opposite the gun club. At Claxton Marshes, the Whinchats have long since departed but I have had a maximum count of 3 Stonechat, so perhaps this family are local to the marshes.
Post-Little Crake, Debs and I went to Langley Dyke for a walk down to the river. We scored big time here with a dog Otter swimming away from us towards Buckenham.

Not sure how to play this weekend coming. I am a big Shrike fan and with the Steppe Grey at Burnham Norton this is very tempting. Looking at Magicseaweed, there is a window for some easterly passage. Bit of rain on Saturday afternoon so perhaps Sunday morning, hit the coast. This is a key weekend, as the following is booked for another house move. Not far, infact just a bigger place in the same village.The doorstep habitat here is awesome, and on a Spring morning I am pretty confident I will be able to hear Sedge Warblers from the drive........