Sunday, 27 September 2015

Record equalled and some new reading material

I toyed with heading to the coast this morning, but with conditions looking almost too good (and impending house move) I instead visited the patch this morning, allowing me to crack on with some packing and some school stuff over the rest of the day.

I arrived at Church Marsh around 8am as the sun was burning off any mist and dew that still lingered. The bushes looked beautiful, spider webs framed by the sun and the damp. Walking along the river bank, a Wagtail called and I knew this was one to put my bins to. A lovely Grey Wagtail it was, heading east down river. This is only more 3rd record on the patch and of course a year tick, a record-equalling one at that. 120 species now for the year equals last year's total and I am optimistic I can break this tally with some more Autumn birding before we have to move away. I am still missing Hen Harrier, Yellowhammer, Brambling and Lesser Whitethroat from the year list. Even better would be a new bird for the patch, and perhaps with coastal action being limited for me this season I can look to focus on what is available on the doorstep and enjoy this.

Elsewhere on the reserve, the movement of Siskin continues with more birds overhead in 1s and 2s, heading in various directions. The Pines at Wood's End are bound to hold a few this Winter, and I must remember to give this area off-patch a visit. A Snipe got up from Postwick Marsh, and a Kingfisher flew up river. At the lagoon, I was pleased to see a pair of returning Wigeon, my first of the Autumn. Probably because they were new in a still a novelty, I actually thought they looked smart in their eclipse plumage. Teal numbers are steady, and Gadwall and Mallard are always present in varying numbers. Calling Blackcap and Chiffchaff numbers are both down, just one of the latter today. Arriving back home, a Redpoll flew over the house.

Some great Owl action to report on from the last week. Debs and I were walking back from the pub on the 10th and encountered 2 Tawny Owl, 1 in hot pursuit of the other. A further 3 were hooting nearby, and Barn Owl began screeching as we arrived home. I will miss this walk. Even better, on the 20th at Church Marsh 2 Crows exclaimed loudly over the pine wood as darkness arrived, and looking up we could see them harassing a Short-eared Owl! Never regular and never predictable, this Owl is always a joy to see and that night was no different. I originally thought this was a year tick, and indeed at Church Marsh it was, but having seen a single bird at Claxton back in Marsh, this was not the 120 I was looking for. Cue Grey Wagtail.

In other news, I have a nice collection of nature writings and this was added to on my birthday. The photo below shows my latest additions. Particularly looking forward to Meadowland; 'Claxton' by Mark Cocker was the kind of intimate portrait I love and this looks to be from the same stable in that sense.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Webs and Wheatfen Mammals

I enjoyed an excellent morning morning on the 13th, beginning at Church Marsh for the first winter WeBs count. Upon arrival in the carpark, a Siskin flew north over the churchyar, a species so scarce this year that this bird was in fact the very first of the year on the patch! I would hear a couple more as the morning lengthened, and this early movement suggests we may get a few more in situ this winter.
Elsewhere on the reserve, Chiffchaff were particularly vocal and the usual common species were soon picked up. The WeBs count itself was merely OK- 2 Kingfisher, 5 Mute Swan, 1 Grey Heron, 12 Mallard and 29 Teal.

Onto Rockland, and not surprisingly the large body of water provided a much better count: 1 Water Rail, 1 Common Snipe, 7 GC Grebe, 8 Mallard, 3 Tufted, 1 Kingfisher, 2 BH Gull, 2 LBB Gull, 1 Cormorant, 1 Moorhen and 2 Mute Swan.
More evidence of diurnal migration here, with 2 Redpoll over heading west. A Barn Owl was out late hunting the marshes, a Chiffchaff was actually singing and I caught a glimpse of a late Reed Warbler. With a Buzzard mewing and Cettis singing, this all felt a lot like Spring.
The best of the day was left until last. As I left the hide I scanned the gates and posts on Rockland Marshes, and quickly latched onto a Chat species. With the help of the scope, this was quickly pinned down to Whinchat, and a further scan revealed a second bird, 2 Stonechat and a Wheatear! My third ever patch Wheatear was the 'rarest' bird here, but Whinchat was belatedly new for the year. Pretty chuffed with all three!

Yesterday the 19th, Debs and I attended the small Mammal safari at Wheatfen. I was really hoping for one of Yellow-necked Mouse (scarce in Norfolk, only 4 records from 2013, although going by records submitted House Mouse is rarer, so a certain amount of either species goes under reported and or under recorded) and Water Shrew. I did not know Harvest Mice were also present at Wheatfen, but event leader Dan Hoare explained they were extremely elusive. Dan had kindly been setting and baiting Longworth traps for the past 3 nights, and were hit the jackpot in trap number 2 with a Yellow-necked Mouse. Elsewhere in the wood we had plenty of Wood Mice and an ex-Bank Vole. The damp but relatively warm conditions of the past week had given rise to some cracking Fungi, many of which James had ID'd on his Facebook page. Although something had taken a chunk out of a Fly Agaric, I have not seen this particularly species looking as good in many years.
We finished the walk and retired for tea and coffee and a look at various skulls and droppings. Thanks to Dan and Wheatfen for hosting an excellent morning.

 Fly Agaric
 Glistening Inkcap
The Face of Evil
Yellow-necked Mouse before release

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Final knockings of the summer, and the end of the patch dream?

A busy few weeks before returning to work, both on and off the patch.

looking over my notes as far back as the 22nd, Debs and I enjoyed a fine visit to Rush Hills scrape at Hickling. I remarked, rather untimely as you will see, that if money and work were no object I would love to live in this part of Norfolk. The leafy country lanes and abundant water bodies nearby make Hickling and surrounds so appealing. It was a particularly hot day, and the Waders on the scrape remained distant and hazy, but we did see 17 Dunlin, 6 Ringed Plover, 2 Wood Sandpiper, 1 Spotted Redshank, 1 Snipe, 2 Little Stint, 50+ Lapwing and 4 Ruff. As usual, great variety here.

With easterly winds and some rain, a fall of common migrants occurred beginning on the afternoon of the 23rd. Unfortunately I was unable to get to the coast that day but set off early on the 24th for Grambrough Hill hoping that the Booted Warbler had stayed overnight. The forecast had been wrong, the night had been clear, and the Booted had gone. 1 Pied Fly remained in the same bush, along with juvenile Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. Wheatear, Whimbrel, Fulmar and Sand Martin were added to the day list. I then headed to Wareham Greens to see what else was left over. 2 Pied Fly were the best of the bunch, a lovely Lesser Whitethroat showed nicely and there were plenty of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaff around. I caught up with Connor and Kayn coming back from East Hills, where they had had 30 Pied Fly and a good few Redstart. I fully expected them to say they had found a Greenish, but as we discussed, this fall seemed mainly to have been made up of common migrants bar the Booted and the odd Wryneck.

I met up with Colin and Ben (Moyes) on the 28th for a bit of bush-whacking at Winterton. 1 Pied Fly, 2 Redstart, 2 Chiffchaff, 4 Whinchat and 2 Stonechat were our reward for a solid session in the dunes. Frustratingly, I am fairly sure we had an Icterine Warbler by the fence line. Initially, I saw the bird feeding on the ground near the Whinchat. Alerted by odd behaviour, I followed it back to the bush it had come from. Tail was long, square-ended. Breast was yellowing and the back was olive coloured. I never quite pinned it down close enough to confirm, but this was certainly not a Willow Warbler. Later that day, I noticed someone had reported a possible Icky from the same area.
After losing our prize into the bushes, we headed to Caister. Ben spotted 30+ Med Gulls loafing on the shoreline, and the bushes here held 2 Whitethroat. I was pleased to see that someone found a Barred Warbler here on the 31st, and back at Winterton a Bluethroat had turned up. Can't see everything!

I gave Caister another shot, just Wheatears for company this time. Next weekend looks decent if the forecast easterlies hold, and I may get out to the coast again if time allows.

Back on the patch, a high tide has swamped much of the local marsh and flooded the lane in the usual places. on the 31st, a Garganey on the river adjacent to Church Marsh was a surprise and a welcome year tick. A trundle round this morning threw up only a couple of Bullfinch, although a fellow Twitterer had a Hobby there later on in the morning. Very nice.

As I alluded to earlier, all is not well at the mill. It is with a heavy heart that Debs and I have to leave Surlingham, as we have been served our notice. I am absolutely gutted, and with 2 months to find somewhere to rent I cannot foresee a place coming up in the village between now and then, nor Rockland either. Some people seem surprised we are not buying, but of my friends who have bought somewhere, they were able to do this due to an inheritance. Enough said. We have had to look further afield, Loddon to the east and as far west as Mulbarton, Bawburgh etc. We are determined not to move back into the city, and I am sure somewhere will come up for us. Depending on where we end up, how much I can visit Church Marsh will likely change. I am desperate to continue my involvement here, but I am obsessive when it comes to time and making best use of it. I have already considered Ashwellthorpe Wood and Flordon common to the west as potential pieces of a new patch. All speculation until we get a place somewhere. Until then, we intend to enjoy a final few walks round marsh and the fen.

 Pied Fly at Gramborough
 Local Swan
Evening scene at Church Marsh