Sunday, 25 January 2015

Wild Swans at the double

I did not expect to be 2 species up on my patch life total this early in the year, although if I had to choose 2 likely species it probably would be the wild Swans. Hot on the heels of hearing 1+ Whooper Swan earlier in the month, I owe a great deal of thanks to Ben who spotted a Bewick's Swan on 'my' side of the river this morning whilst he was counting Wildfowl. Having already been to Rockland early doors and seen the usual Coot, Tufted Duck and nothing else, this would top the day off nicely. (I say nothing else rather flippantly- I did also observe a Barn Owl and Cetti's Warbler, which were lovely, but I had hoped for some decent Wildfowl in the colder weather).

Good numbers of Mute Swan graze the marshes at both Claxton and Langley, and last year I recall a count of 80+ in the first Winter period. This Bewick's was said to be east of the Beauchamp Arms, so I set up my scope outside Buckenham sailing club, flushing a Kingfisher as I did so! The Bewick's quickly came into view, feeding with one Mute (must have been at least a third bigger) and some Canada Geese. Brilliant.

Yesterday I left the house on foot, walking to Wheatfen, taking in Surlingham wood and home again. A very enjoyable walk with many common species seen, some firsts for the year. A Nuthatch in the wood was of course the highlight, and I was finally able to add Mistle Thrush and Redwing. Redwing very hard to come by at the moment. 2 Redpoll sp called and passed through, again not an easy bird. Getting all nostalgic again, I remember a superb pink-breasted flock of 25+ at Church Marsh after the cold Winter of 2012-2013. Certainly makes one appreciate these moments in time during leaner years.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

A step by step guide to a good birding weekend

Buoyed by the chance of a patch addition in the form of a Great Northern Diver, I was out on the patch early on Saturday morning scanning the river from the end of the Carnser. No sign of the Diver here or anywhere this weekend, but it was worth getting up early for a superb Otter wrestling with an Eel mid swim. Really getting to grips with these elusive neighbours for the first time since moving out here.

Back for breakfast and then a trip to see the coalman, followed by a foray to Rockland Broad.  A huge male Sparrowhawk cruised through, harassed by Gulls. I had to look twice at this brute! 2 Common Buzzard soared high above the small copse, taking advantage of the breeze and a clear day. The day early WeBs count was not very intersting, although c50 BH Gull was probably a record count although I know I could get more if I stayed until late.

This morning I awoke to a frozen village. The roads and bushes were silvery with frost, and bird activity was frantic for this time of year. Stepping out of the door, a skein of Pinks called from above, an excellent start and a patch year tick. At Church Marsh, further year ticks arrived in the shape of Linnet (a pain to get here), Little Egret, Treecreeper and singing Stock Dove. The highlight for me was shared between my first Song Thrush in song of the year, and a mixed Tit flock that held 2 Chiffchaff. Great to see these Warblers alive and well after a night of below freezing temperatures.

Back at home, the garden had also jerked into life. 2 Coal Tit, both appearing to sing, were using the feeders. I suggested to Debs we get some boxes up sharpish. We have a rather dense and dark garden in places, the Tits encouraged by the firs I would think.

That afternoon, I returned to Halvergate Marshes with the sole intention of seeing the juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard. Thankfully he was easy, perched on a fence post not that far from the road, seen nicely in flight and showing the full suite of features. There were 100's of Lapwing here, and I was tempted to stay and explore further (6 Short-eared Owls reported from near Berney today) but the patch called and back to Claxton I went.

A good evening for Raptors: 5 Marsh Harrier to roost, 1 Barn Owl, 1 Kestrel and 1 Common Buzzard. Wigeon called playfully from the river, and 2 Snipe grunted overhead. As dusk fell, my ears pricked up to the sound of Whooper Swans! I could not see them, presumed heading towards Cantley. A patch lifer and a suitable end to a great weekend in The Broads, home and away.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Out with the old and in with the new

On the 28th Debs and I visited Ludham and the area around St. Benet's Abbey, without doubt one of my favourite places in Norfolk. On arriving in the small car-park, a Short-eared Owl was hunting right out front, cruising by scanning the long grass. A superb start! We enjoyed the Owl for a while before heading back down the track towards where we had seen a group of wild Swans on the drive down. Sure enough, there were 36 Bewick here and further towards Catfield we could hear the call of a group of Whoopers. A single Barn Owl hunted the far river bank, and the Cormorants headed to roost overhead. There is something eerie yet familiar about the Abbey, and the big skies and open country make for an evocative cocktail of the best of Norfolk.

Yesterday, the final day of 2014, Debs and I walked round the marsh (quite literally round the block) and enjoyed calls of a 1/2 pinging Bearded Tit. This is the first time I have had them so close to home, and hopefully they will stay to breed this year, be it here or Church Marsh.

This morning I blew the cobwebs away and walked round the block again. 27 Species which for a change have all been Birdtracked! Highlights were a male and female Bullfinch feeding with a mixed Tit flock, Sparrowhawk and calling Water Rail and Cetti's. Not a bad start to the year, and I hope to have that total up to at least 50 by the time I go back to work on Monday.

For me on a personal level, 2014 will be tough to beat having married Debs and moved to Surlingham. This year, I am looking forward to our main honeymoon in (Thailand?) and a trip to Scotland in April. I want to make the most of the breeding season in both the Brecks and The Broads, and ultimately have a good year at Church Marsh after a couple of leaner years. I continue to meet some top folk through birding and hopefully this will be the case again in 2015. All the best guys and girls. To all readers of my blog- I wish you a happy and bird filled 2015.