Tuesday, 24 May 2016

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, home to many Small Eggar Caterpillars.

The previous day, Debs and I attended the Norfolk Wildlife fair, and although we again felt it was not particularly well attended, we enjoyed a decent hog roast, a walk round the hall and a chance to peruse some bird art and literature. I missed Jonny Rankin's talk and never saw the Edible Frogs that live in one of the ponds- at least one of those I can go back for! Speaking to a chap from NARG was the highlight actually. I have always found Reptiles and Amphibians fascinating, and he was able to fuel a bit more of this by telling me Adders have a strong hold in The Broads, and that the Newt in my toilet last year was actually a Smooth, not Great-crested. They welcome Herp sightings, and you can upload them here: http://groups.arguk.org/NARG/

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Breakfast (and dinner) with the birds

A glorious couple of days on the patch, full of good birds, wonderful company and fine food.

Starting mid-morning on Saturday, a report of a Black Tern at Rockland Broad meant I would have to be quick to connect with this migrant, which always passes through at this time of year. An initial glance across the broad gave up nothing bar a few Great-crested Grebe, and I instead busied myself checking the water levels and checking the moorings. A Hobby flew overhead, launching itself into  an aerial assault on some poor insect. My first of the year, and a bird I never tire of watching. A look back to the broad, still quiet. The silence was broken by the squawk of  Tern, and 2 Common Tern then honed into view. Not bad- but not quite the bird I was after. Settled in the hide, I waited a while longer and sure enough one then another Black Tern arrived! Three year ticks just like that, the Marsh Terns in particular offering a superb display over the broad.

Later that day,I met with mum, dad and some friends to walk round Church Marsh. We had excellent views of a Cuckoo overhead, as well as a hunting male Marsh Harrier. The heat appeared to render some of the common species a little inactive, so we took dinner at The Ferry before heading to Coldham Hall for dusk. After a swift pint, we heard Grasshopper Warbler reeling, and watched a Hobby pass through. Luckily for them, the 2 Noctule Bats were out a little later and therefore not under threat from the Falcon which did not hang around.

Early this morning, myself and Peter met around 36 folk who had signed up to the SYWG walk round Church Marsh. We split into 2 groups, and I opted to take in the hide and river first. We quickly got onto a Cuckoo in flight, and I caught a brief 'reel' from the meadow. A pair of Shelduck were on the lagoon but wildfowl numbers were actually very low. Further on the trail, I got all excited with a Common Sandpiper on the moorings over the river, new for the year. A Garden Warbler was singing from deep within the riverside scrub nearby. From the foot of the ruins, we enjoyed excellent views of a reeling Grasshopper Warbler, probably the bird of the morning for the group. Having said that, we were lucky to see so many of our 'common' species so well- Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Sedge Warbler and another Cuckoo. We finished with a Treecreeper near the pub. I had toyed with stopping for breakfast, but Peter informed me that his group had seen 2 Avocet on Postwick marshes. I said a few quick goodbyes and headed back to the church and down the hill. The Waders had done a bunk by the time I got there, although I did see 4 Little Egret heading North. The Nuthatch I keep writing off also reminded me he is still there, now in the churchyard. An excellent morning, I am glad so many people came along and hopefully enjoyed themselves. I certainly did, showing and sharing the birds is a delight and I am always privileged to be asked to assist with these walks every year.

Debs and I have just returned from a walk to the river, where looking across at Buckenham perhaps the earlier Avocet were now looking much more settled. Ringed Plover, Ruff and Redshank could also be seen.

 Braving the heat at Church Marsh
 Common Sandpiper
Claxton Marshes

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Whimbrel always welcome, and a look ahead to SYWG walk

The weekend gone really felt like Spring, after some torrid weather the sun shone and temperatures finally rose. On the 30th I embarked on a walk that took in Claxton Marshes, the track to the Beauchamp Arms and back home along the Langley road. Hirundines were hawking in some numbers now, and my first Whitethroats (5) of the year were recorded. A single Lesser Whitethroat rattled from a hedge bordering a grazing meadow, a welcome return to the patch list after absence last year. Sedge Warbler sang from quite literally every bush anywhere near a dyke or reedbed and allowed smashing views.
That evening, Debs and I did the circuit at Church Marsh. I was lucky to observe a single Grasshopper Warbler reeling, and at least 2 Bearded Tit were hanging on and hopefully will breed successfully.

May 1st heralded the return of the Swifts, and in our new location we now have at least 2 pairs hunting for insects over the houses, often watched from the window. This is always such a highlight for me and that screech reminds me of long, hot summer days.

On the 2nd, I chanced Langley marshes in the hope of a Wagtail or Wader amongst the cattle. I was thrilled to observe 7 Whimbrel feeding in the grassy tufts of said cattle field, my third record of a group on the patch but a new record in terms of number: 2,2 and now 7 the high. I watched them for a while until they flew north towards Cantley marshes.

After some late night Owling earlier in the week (Barn, Little and Tawny heard) we continued the nocturnal theme with a few drinks at Coldham Hall followed by a walk along the marsh at dusk. This was a great call, for we had booming Bittern, singing Gropper and another new for the year, a Cuckoo.

The weekend looks promising, and I hope to see a good turn out for the South Yare Wildlife Group walk at Church Marsh, bright and early at 5.30am on Sunday. I can't promise a Red-footed Falcon, but I can guarantee a good breakfast at The Ferry Inn afterwards!