Tuesday, 31 March 2015

A sodden Brecks trip and some local highlights

It was a real pleasure to meet Josh (PomSkua) on the 23rd which was a bright and breezy day on the patch and surrounds. Josh, like me, enjoys finding birds and exploring new habitat. We spent a good hour at Wood's End, heading up through the pine belt and down towards the sewage works at Whitlingham. At least 3 Common Buzzard were on the wing in the area and 34 Lapwing graced the ploughed fields. The scrub around the sewage works held a decent number of Redwing and a few Fieldfare- definitely worth coming back here during the Autumn.
At Church Marsh, a calling Oystercatcher was new for the year, a Chiffchaff was flycatching and a female Bullfinch gave her slightly odd trumpeting sound, similar to Northern but not quite right. Coupled with this was a slightly more 'optimistic' flight call, a more upbeat tone than the usual mournful call we expect. As Josh said, still much to learn about our more common species.
Last stop of the day was Claxton, and this proved to be a proper patch moment. Approaching the pub and the small aviaries by the river, a small grey passerine flicked down from a tree. We both took a moment, and exclaimed "Black Redstart!" Even though there was no doubt as to the ID of this migrant, I still took a while longer to process what I was observing. I suppose if you were on the coast at this time of year you would do well not to find a Black Redstart if you put the time in, but to have one turn up this far inland was quite brilliant. We watched her as she alighted to the roof of the pub, and as I understand it a few observers got to see her here the following day. It will be tough to beat this for bird of the year- but I will try! We finished by the marshes themselves, watching hunting Short-eared and Barn Owls together. Just gorgeous.

A further patch addition flew over the house in darkness on the 23rd, a Ringed Plover. I had thought Little-ringed more likely, so did check the calls for both straight away so as to be sure. A decent record this, with Ringed being the more coastal bird of the two.

Connor and I enjoyed (just about) a rank and sodden day in the Brecks on Sunday 29th. We had this in the diary and I am glad Connor convinced me it would still be worth it. We had drumming Lesser Pecker at a new site, and elsewhere Green Sandpiper, Buzzard, Grey Wagtail, Siskin, Redpoll and the expected woodland birds. We purposefully didn't go to the well known sites today, with the weather so poor we explored new habitat and ear-marked sites for future visits when it was dry. I particularly enjoyed the Great Cressingham-Hilborough area, lots of potential here.

We finished the day at Hardley Staithe and pits (not sure these are actually pits, but anyway). In poor light and windy conditions we were able to lock onto the drake Ring-necked Duck found earlier in the week by Justin Lansdell. My second ever of this species and very smart too.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Alderford Common and Claxton Marshes

Inspired by recent visits to New Buckenham Common, I have been researching other significant areas of common land in Norfolk. Many seem to be SSSIs, which made my task that much easier. Now, the patch comes first, but with some spare time at the weekend Debs and I headed out to Alderford Common near Lenwade to explore the site. Hawfinch have been reported from here according to a PDF I came across published by Natural England. We didn't manage any of these, but Bullfinch were easy to come by and always make a nice consolation. 4 Buzzard were mewing overhead and a Siskin passed through. We found at least 2 Badger setts and the site looks excellent for these mammals. An enjoyable hour here, we then headed to Whitwell Common which we couldn't find! If anyone has been and knows anything about access, do let me know. They have a Facebook page and I have received some help, but I guess not knowing the area at all puts me at a disadvantage.
Next commons to try- Swannington Upgate and Fritton.

This evening I popped into Claxton Marshes on the way home from work. Some real quality on offer, and I soon got onto my target bird if only briefly. A Short-eared Owl, missing from the list last year, but very much present this year thanks to the tip-off from Ben. Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and a Peregrine troubling the Lapwing over the river completed a Raptor fest. A male Stonechat was singing, furthering my belief that this species is indeed here year-round. All this in half an hour, and if this continues I won't be getting out to any Common Land any time soon!