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Showing posts from 2016

2 Patch Lifers- and one is here to stay

With Rose Ava Bradley finally making her arrival into the world on November 20th, time further away from home has been been hard to come by but infact, her coming has made me appreciate what is on my doorstep even more.

The original due date was the 5th, and a few folk were justifiably surprised to see me at the Minsmere Cliff Swallow twitch that day. This American vagrant had made landfall near the visitor centre with 3 Barn Swallow, and I managed to convince Debs that should anything happen, I would be back in 2 hours. I was, but need not have worried.

Having lost a week in hospital with initially poorly mum and baby, work kindly offered me another week's paternity leave which I gladly snapped up. This eased the pressure, and I have been able to grab the odd hour here and there on the patch, sometimes with baby. On the 4th of December, I elected to leave Rose with mum and headed down to The Covey at Wheatfen to watch an obliging Cattle Egret devouring worms around the feet of th…

Quality abounds on the patch in October

It has been difficult to tear myself away from the coast this October, but with so many birds on the move at this time of year some consistent patching was bound to turn up some good birds.

Starting though with something much more local, the continued and indeed strengthening presence of Bearded Tit at Surlingham Church Marsh. Recalling the halcyon days of summer, I had seen a maximum of 3 birds together at any one time but was convinced there were more. On the 15th, I recorded a group of 7 erupting out of the reedbed, and could hear a further 2 individuals pinging from whence the small flock came. This count of 9 represents my record count on the reserve and indeed on the patch and will be looked back upon as a highlight of the year for sure. Elsewhere on the reserve, there has been an expected increase in numbers of Goldcrest and Thrushes, and on the 25th a visit with Ricky heralded the arrival of Autumn proper with a wheezing Brambling and the second Woodcock of the Winter period, …

Twitching versus finding

I had put aside Sunday for a full day in the field, so when news broke of an Isabelline Wheatear at Burnham Overy on Saturday morning I wasted little time in getting the usual bits together and made the trip up to the north coast. I join the crowds perhaps twice a year these days, but this was to be a lifer and with plenty of eyes, hopefully more decent stuff would be located near by. 
I've said enough about the parking elsewhere on social media, needless to say it was atrocious from some but no need to repeat myself here. The walk to Burnham dunes is always a long one, but with restless Brent and Pink-footed Geese feeding either side of the track, there was always something to look at. Finally arriving at the end of a long line of birders, the Isabelline Wheatear was easily picked up as it fed amongst the sparse vegetation. The black alula contrasted with a sandy wing and back, almost like the bird had been through a dust storm and never bothered to tidy up its appearance. Postu…

Siberian Sprite turns up at end of rainbow in Waxham

Having had a good afternoon on the Saturday in the tranquil surrounds of Great Yarmouth Cemetery (2/3 Yellow-browed, Brambling, Ouzel over), and spurred on by news that a Radde's had been found out east, I elected to go for an old school weekend, retracing my steps that led to the Bluetail a few years ago. Ironically, I could even follow a new route, with the opening up of a new coastal footpath that links Sea Palling with Waxham and I believe extends further. I have never been more excited to see a hedge freshly trimmed (!). The track now means one can walk in amongst the coastal scrub, without looking down upon it in frustration thinking, how the hell do I get in there? It didn't take long for it to feel very birdy indeed, Joe and I picking up at least 1 Lapland Bunting in-off soon after 8am. Meadow Pipits seemed constantly on the move all day, and every step revealed a wary Thrush or Robin darting out of cover and away from us. Surprised not to pick up a Yellow-brow, for n…

From Caister to Corton

With a northerly blow forecast, I was keen to get out on Saturday and do some seawatching. I was busy Saturday morning, but soon regretted not being busy Saturday afternoon instead as 2 hours from Scratby were not very productive, although it was good to finally meet Stratton Birder Steve. We gave it a couple of hours, the best bird was probably a Grey Plover going north. Brents, Gannets and Wigeon were the most numerous migrants of 8 species not including the resident Med Gulls. Steve and I then went separate ways to hunt some Passerines, although Steve did return later and score a juvenile Long-tailed Skua! I went to Caister and did the usual loop, saw absolutely zilch. With still an hour to spare I went to Yarmouth Cemetery, and bar a Chiffchaff there was nothing in here either (I'll refrain from saying it was 'dead') although 2 Firecrest had been reported earlier in the day. Unusually I didn't see any other birders, although it was by now around dinner time and I t…

Slowly does it

With summer continuing to outstay her welcome, birding has been slow of late. Having been over at Strumpshaw Fen to look through some Moths with Ben on the 31st, and feeling like I hadn't seen anything 'good' for ages, I strung out the morning with a walk round to Tower Hide. The immature Glossy Ibis was showing well in front of the hide, and continues to be present at time of typing. This bird constitutes my 5th Yare Valley record after 4 birds at Reedham/Cantley Marshes in 2012. A target bird south of the river for sure.

Frosted Orange, my first, from Strumpshaw Fen  The Glossy Ibis, a mid-stayer 
Having been round Church Marsh and Rockland Broad this weekend, along with regular walks down to the river, I can safely say there is not much around at the moment. Still, the weather is glorious and I never tire of getting out and exploring the valley. Church Marsh had a juvenile male Marsh Harrier, a pinging Bearded Tit and a few returning Teal and Shovelor. Chiffchaff are ev…

Snettisham- Wader Spectacular

I have had my eyes on the tide times that could produce a 'Wader Spectacular' this year at Snettisham, and whilst many have been and gone that coincided with me being at work/asleep, I was pleased to finally connect with this experience on Tuesday morning, arriving at Snettisham around 8am. The times provided by the RSPB helpfully allow for a moderate walk to the estuary, nonetheless I got there in plenty of time and watched the tide gently encroach on the mudflats, eventually forcing the 10s of 1000s of Waders off the estuary, many alighting on the small pools behind the rotary hide. The decision making process that the birds must go through fascinates me. I had only been watching for half an hour, and the first of the flocks got up and began swirling against the blue, before coming down behind me. There was still plenty of mud spare at this point, but an active decision had been made- enough is enough chaps, we're moving now. And so this dynamic continued, groups of 10s…

Update 3/3- Minsmere.

Driving along the track to Minsmere, I was reminded of how much excellent and often impenetrable habitat there is here. Upon arrival, hearing a Bee Eater had been seen on the reserve, I remarked to mum that it would most likely have worked its way inland by now. Thankfully, I was wrong. The bird remains present today, and we both managed distant views of this most exotically dressed of migrants as it hunted for bugs over the woods. Within minutes of seeing this bird from East Hide, I picked up an interesting looking Buzzard over Westleton. A prolonged look and this turned out to be one of the Honey Buzzards in the area, drooping wings and more pronounced tail giving it away. With 2 excellent birds in the bag, a look over the scrape revealed a Little Gull and a few Ruff.

Minsmere being what it is, more was in store. A female Adder almost crossed our path as we walked amongst the dunes, the first time I have seen one of these for at least 2 years. A couple of Wheatear whizzed about in t…

A scattering of migrants heralds the start of the birder's Autumn.

Although we are still enjoying some excellent summer weather in East Anglia, a run of easterly winds and a few migrants making landfall signals that Autumn is underway for the birder. On the 17th I headed to Caister early morning for my now usual circuit at this time of year. Beginning at the golf course, I picked up 2 Whinchat and 5 Wheatear. This boded well, but was infact the best of the migrants today. Caister north dunes gave up a single Whinchat and Wheatear, and many Common Blue Butterflies, which seem to be having a good time of it. With time in the bank, I headed to Winterton South dunes but could only pick up a Chiffchaff here, the Grayling and Small Heath Butterflies stealing the show. Summer hanging on, but Autumn more than knocking.

That evening, I took the usual route down to Claxton Marshes and my good (ish) fortune continued- at least 2 Purple Hairstreak were in the Oaks, a very good local tick. Out on the marshes, Marsh Harrier and Kestrel were hunting, and a Reed War…

Summer Moth highlights so far

I've owned a Moth Trap for a few years, but having moved a few times (the trap likely to cause disturbance in a couple of locations) coupled with some shocking summers, only now have I been making a constant effort to trap, almost nightly. Truly bitten by the bug now. The excellent Norfolk Moths website has been a real help, as has a chap on Twitter who goes by the moniker @mothiduk ! I have also attended a Moth morning at Strumpshaw and one here in Claxton, hosted by the SYWG. Both of these mornings amassed some impressive totals, over 100 species at Strumpshaw (a few micros pending) and 39 at Claxton (excluding micros). I particularly enjoyed the Wainscots at Strumpshaw, and of course a migrant Tree Lichen Beauty was an obvious highlight. In the village, a Reed Dagger was probably the scarcest Moth trapped. 
At home, species counts have varied from 10-40, many micros on top of that not yet being identified. The Micro fieldguide is on the birthday list. Highlights have included m…

Northumberland- Coast and Castles

I almost couldn't believe the Bonapartes Gull on the Wansbest Estuary was still present come the start of summer, and ever since June I have been crossing my fingers that this bird would stick so I could get a look on the way up to our holiday cottage in Northumberland. I surely deserved some luc, having left East Anglia just as a first for Britain shows up. And so it was , on Saturday July 30th Debs and I descended the concrete bank of a fly-over (cue various remarks about the places we end up) to view the Wansbeck Estuary near Ashington. It did not take long to pick up the Bonapartes, a smaller Gull than the Black-headed species with which it was associating. Paler, and with an all-black bill, this was a learning curve for 2 Gull amateurs and a great start to the break. Also on the mud here were Whimbrel, Dunlin and a few Sandwich Tern more distantly.

We stayed near Bamburgh, and the rolling countryside around our cottage was home to plenty of House Sparrow, Yellowhammer, Hare a…

Garden Moths and local Willow Emerald

Cracking few days of trapping in the garden. On returning from Northumberland, I plan to catalogue my finds but until then have been uploading onto the excellent Norfolk Moths website. Many highlights to speak of, and lists longer than I care to type, but here are a few of the crowd pleasers. Many of these were trapped and then visited by Joe and James, so I was pleased with such variety.

 Garden Tiger, 2 of these rested outside the trap until early morning. 
Wow. Antler Moth. Exquisite and amongst my favourites.  
A great double act, Pebble and Swallow Prominent.
This got us searching for an ID. Balsam Carpet. Not so common.

I am thrilled to have confirmed Willow Emerald at a local private site, Ducan's Marsh. Other cool stuff here included Brown and Migrant Hawkers, Long winged Coneheads and a Hornet-mimic Hoverfly, the same species I have had outside my house in the last week. Thanks to James and Joe for helping me confirm these species.

Willow Emerald Damselfly. Note the pale …

Butterfly Extravaganza

With a continued spell of warm and sunny weather, I have been launching operation Butterfly over the last 4 days, with splendid results. Spurred on by Matthew Oates' book and a belief that this is something I 'can' do (peak birding time often held up by work, but long halcyon days in the summer allow for extra time in the field) I began with a visit to Bonny Wood in Barking, near the family home in Suffolk. In fact, many of the family turned out for the walk including Moysiebirder and dad. The 23rd was a hot day, the wood itself quiet save for the buzz of insects. We were onto our first Silver-washed Fritillaries before long, at least 6 individuals dashed past us on the woodlands rides, rarely stopping to feed and not allowing any photos. A few of us got onto Purple Hairstreak high up in the Oaks, and on the way back we found a much more confiding and more easily observed colony. The target- Purple Emperor- did fly through high and strong, but sadly only myself and Ben go…

In pursuit of Summer

The English football team have been knocked out of a major tournament, and we have left The European Union, since I last posted. A while ago, then. 
As the holidays approached, I appeased myself with decent views of the Caspian Tern at Breydon Water, a species that had given me the slip on more than one occasion in the past. Into activities week, and myself and a group of students witnessed a Marsh Harrier food pass at Cley, a Spotted Flycatcher at Flatford and a first for me- an Old Lady Moth in the trap at school. An excellent final week of work which the kids seemed to enjoy, particularly the bit where I handled a False Widow Spider, unaware of it's inherent danger. 
At Church Marsh, I am close to confirming the breeding of Bearded Tits. I recorded this species almost 5 years ago when I first began visiting Surlingham, and expected it to be elusive but annual. This did not prove to be the case, so this marks a welcome return for a Broadland specialist. I have seen 2 birds toge…

Ducan's Marsh, Claxton

Having achieved both awful and brief views of the Blue-winged Teal at Carlton Marshes, I can finally say I have seen a 'lifer' this Spring. Along with the Teal, there has been some interesting birds in East Anglia, including a Great Knot and Pacific Golden Plover at Titchwell. Not needing to see either bird, I have contented myself with a weekend on patch.

Early this morning I took a walk down to the river. There were plenty of juvenile Sedge Warblers amongst the Reeds, whilst any Reed Warblers were still busy singing. A Barn Owl and Marsh Harrier hunted the marsh. 2 broods of Cygnets are currently being raised, and the parents will have to keep a close eye on them if they are to avoid falling into the clutches of a Mink or Otter. On returning home, I changed and went for a job whilst it was still cool. In Carlton St. Peter, I came across 2 Barn Owls together. One was much higher than the other and appeared a little uncertain, perhaps a youngster in training?

Before lunch I ma…

Finally, just in time for the tail end of Spring migration........

.......we get some good weather. Too little too late? Only time will tell. I have enjoyed watching the resident birds go about their business on the local marshes and broads, but that ranks as the poorest Spring I can recall in terms of migrants and variety. That is not to say the birding is not good- but just a little underwhelming. Over at Rockland Broad on Saturday, I enjoyed a bit of a raptor fest, with 3 Hoby, 2 Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier and Kestrel all seen well. 2 Garden Warbler were singing, one by the carpark and one by the broad. A couple of Common Tern were hawking over the broad, and a Kingfisher was up to the usual near the hide. Don't get me wrong, this is all great (and in the warm too) but I was hoping for something a little different at Rockland this Spring. Still, with the decent weather set to continue for the next week, eyes to the skies. And indeed, to the ground, for my first Wall Browns of the year were flying and I happened upon my first 4-spotted…

NWT New Buckenham Common

On Sunday Debs and I had dinner booked at her mother's, an ideal opportunity to drop in at New Buckenham Common which is just a short walk from their door. Green-winged Orchids were in abundance in patches, and one need not stray far from the path to find them.

As well as these fine specimens, another target was Turtle Dove. Birds were certainly present last year, and this habitat of uncultivated common land and scrub is just ideal. Fortunately, I heard one bird singing and perhaps the same poised on an over-hanging wire. I expect to catch up with the returning pair in mum's garden over half term, but those aside, this will not be a species I record prolifically this year, nor any more. There is hope, for a moratorium on hunting in Malta has been called which will give future birds a chance if everything goes to plan. Hopefully we are not too late.
The Common was alive with Common Whitethroat and Willow Warbler. Single Bullfinch and Linnet were seen. I was shown the web below,…