My wife nonchalantly dropped into conversation that a Red Kite had been present for most of the day out the back of the house on Friday. Out for most of the day Saturday, I finally managed my own sighting earlier today. The heavy, drooping wings and forked tail unlike any other Raptor in the valley and a welcome return to the patch. I am almost convinced that breeding took place last summer, but from September onwards the birds disappeared and I never had the smoking gun in the form of a nest or a juvenile to prove my thinking. Hopefully this will be the year. In other local news, I am still enjoying at least 1 Tawny Owl on my drive home from work in the evenings. A bird remains around Pond Farm, and on Thursday evening I had a second near the old church. The bird at Pond Farm is around half a mile away from a substantial block of deciduous woodland, so unless it is using a garden or not breeding at all, this individual must be making a short commute each night to what on the face of it looks like fairly inconspicuous farmland. Presumably the local Rat population is healthy enough for it to continue its endeavours.
Having made clear a few targets in my last blog, it was with great surprise and excitement that I watched a male Goosander flying down river at Surlingham Church Marsh on the 20th. Not even on the list, I exclaimed! I love how patch birding can still surprise even after over 5 years patching at Surlingham. Goosander are unpredictable in the valley, and more reliable at quiet inland lakes and pools such as Sparham or Thorpe Little Broad. A great bird to add to the lifetime list here, and after a relatively lean year in 2017, this was a species I had never recorded, in the bag, before January slinks away. Elsewhere on the reserve, a Nuthatch was calling near the church, at least 2 Bearded Tit pinged from the reeds near the gun club and 17 Mallard were on the lagoon. Most interesting was a possible Siberian Chiffchaff. At the time, I noted that this was the palest Chiffy I had seen (bar of course an actual Siberian) with grey tones to its plumage. The breast though was strikingly pale. Annoyingly it never called, and remained low in scrub. I saw it on and off for around 30 seconds before it moved away, lost to view. I expect this probably was a Siberian, but without the call to clinch it, it won't go down as anything more than a very pale Common Chiffchaff.
At Rockland the following morning, I was struggling to keep warm with the temperature hovering around zero. Warming the cockles slightly was the long-staying drake Goldeneye, nice to get this not only into the New Year but on the WeBs count too. 7 Teal, 2 Coot, GC Grebe 2, Little Grebe 2, Mallard 2, Tufted Duck 3, Kingfisher 1 and Heron 2 completed the count. Again, Bearded Tit were pinging here too, this time on the Rockland Marsh side rather than the more likely Wheatfen land. 2 Marsh Tit, 2 Buzzard, 1 Marsh Harrier and a single Snipe rounded off the morning before I returned home to warm myself up.