Thursday, 24 December 2015

A long-awaited patch lifer and Stubb Mill roost

I will need to review my targets for the year shortly, but I can safely say Jack Snipe would have been one of them, for it has been a target species ever since I took up this South Yare patch I now call home. Historical reports came from Church Marsh, the ditch alongside the gun club was apparently decent for them. On the afternoon of the 21st I went with this in mind, paying closer attention to the ditches and patches of open fen. I flushed 23 Common Snipe, which surprised me as I expected to find fewer, what with the mild weather. I almost trod on it, one way of telling you have a Jack Snipe on your hands. As it got up, it showed the mustard stripes along its back, and a short bill. It didn't fly that far before landing again, another signal that says Jack rather than Common. Bingo! Confirmed- this secretive, diminutive Wader is indeed a winter visitor here at Church Marsh.

Yesterday morning, I had the QA checks to do at Rockland Broad.The broad itself was quiet, save for a few Black-headed and Common Gulls, a handful of Coot and Tufted Duck and a Marsh Harrier over. Star bird went to only my second Grey Wagtail of the year, and 4th ever record on the patch. This bird was in the same spot as the 2nd, a couple of years back, sat on the sluice at Rockland Staithe. After some heavy rainfall the the flow had picked up, proving attractive to this pretty Wagtail. Fingers crossed it remains into the New Year. for this would be a nice year tick so early on.

Of an evening, Debs and I have been walking down to the marshes in the village and enjoying the raucous Corvid roost by moonlight. There does seem to be a smaller roost in the trees that line the road to the Beauchamp Arms, although many more continue to make the journey across the river to Buckenham Carrs. Last night, we deviated and drove to Hickling Broad to take in the roost at Stubb Mill. Initially, bar 3 Cranes, there was little action out 'the front', but just behind us on the track were a large group of Fieldfare drinking from the puddles. In amongst them, a few Redwing and the odd Brambling. A Repoll flew overhead, and then our attention was turned to the marshes themselves when a Barn Owl arrived to hunt. Marsh Harrier numbers were growing, and by the time everyone had left we enjoyed the sight of 55+ swirling into roost together.

Finally, one of the moments of the year. In near-darkness on the walk back (do take the scenic route, this always produces the goods) 3 Crane flew overheard, low, calling. Magic.

 Claxton Marshes (it actually was cold)
 Cranes at Hickling
 Fieldfare and Redwing behind the viewpoint
Hickling Broad- undoubtedly in my top 5 places in Norfolk.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Local ramblings and SYWG walk at Church Marsh

In contrast to my last post, the weather has turned mild and wet, rather than crisp and dry. Weekends away haven't allowed for much birding, but recent Saturdays and Sundays have almost been written off with high winds and rain dominating. Saturday the 5th was little different, although the rain held off as I walked round some marshes closer to home. A Woodcock was flushed, almost flying vertically once it had lift-off. I expect many of these birds are present in the damp woodland and scurb around the village, although seeing one has more to do with luck than anything else. A small number of Siskin were just about heard over the wind, their social calls carrying a short distance on the blow before dissipating.

Yesterday, it was a pleasure to help lead the South Yare Wildlife Group annual Winter walk round Church Marsh. Just under 30 people had booked up, so we split into 2 groups, my group initially heading away from the river and taking the track via the gun club towards the church and back round. We were off to a good start when we encountered a Barn Owl hunting the private marsh just west of the Ferry Inn. As one walker nicely put it, you can never tire of seeing these birds in their element. The marshes themselves were bleak and brown with seemingly little life, and the hoped for Bearded Tit did not materialise.
 At the Landspring, a Kingfisher left its perch right on cue, and a Siskin called from the canopy of the Alder woodland. We had nice views of a pair of Teal here, and a little more distant were the usual flock of Wigeon that over winter on the small lake.
Perhaps the bird of the day was a bit of a surprise given the timing, a pristine Little Egret flying overhead, once more than scarce in these parts, but now on the increase.
At the hide, a few Gadwall and Teal dabbled in the lagoon, and as we left a Water Rail squealed, a sign that it was getting darker and the call of the pub was getting stronger. A small group managed good views of a Chiffchaff nearby, a species no doubt feeling vindicated in its decision to stay here for the winter with such mild weather in the offing.