Friday, 31 December 2010

New year

Well what a year it has been for many reasons.
The best parts of 2010 have been moving back to Norfolk, getting engaged and generally feeling ready and able to settle down where I am.

The wildlife highlights are as follows;

-Adding a few uk ticks- White Tailed Plover, Isabelline Wheatear, Arctic Warbler (Northern Bullfinch), Northern Harrier
-Self found ticks include a possible wild Lesser White-fronted Goose, Common Rosefinch, Glaucous Gull, Fan tailed warbler (re-find).
-Lots of new moths including some good migrants while in Kent putting my moth list up to 502.
-Finding a colony of Southern Emerald Damselflies in Kent
-Finding the first breeding population of Willow Emeralds in Norfolk
-Increasing my dragonfly list to 32

In 2011 I have a few goals,
-The old favourites are to find Savi's, Marsh and Icterine Warblers in Norfolk/Suffolk, all of which are overdue UK ticks.
-See 130 bird species at Strumpshaw Fen(I think this is a fair target but will reassess if needed).
-Get my bird year list back up to the 250 mark, should be very do-able in Norfolk.
-Aim to get 500 species of moth in the year and really get to grips with micros.
-Add 3 species of dragonfly to my UK list.
-Start identifying Hoverflies and Grasshoppers/Crickets
As well as all this Ruth and I intend on getting married so it could be a very busy year indeed.

I have enjoyed writing this blog and will continue throughout 2011, more photos and hopefully more interesting stuff too

Happy new year to all readers, have a good year

Thursday, 30 December 2010

A foggy day at Titchwell

Ruth and I had planned a visit to Titchwell on Wednesday and as we woke we realised that the weather was not going to be nice to us with visibility of about 80m, after delaying for a while we thought sod it and were on the road, it might be quieter people-wise if there is fog. Ruth and I both worked at Titchwell in the past so it was nice to have a catch up with the staff that we knew and to see how things have changed in the offices etc, so after a chat and some food we headed out. The new Fen hide was our first destination, an improvement on the previous hide especially with those windy windows, didn't see much here apart from a few flocks of pinks over. The fresh marsh was still frozen and it was so foggy that anything that was there was impossible to see, the hope of seeing the Northern Harrier seemed a distant hope! Having said that we did see a ringtail Hen Harrier cross the path in front of us and disappear toward Thornham, a definite Hen though. Also a Water pipit came shreiking over us as we got to the (ex) hump.
We carried on to Thornham point where we found a flock of 9 Snow Buntings a small number of Bar tailed godwits and lots of fog between the point and Thornham harbour- the harriers favoured hunting ground. On walking back to the platform we noticed that we could start to see the sea and a few smart drake Goldeneyes, Common Scoter and the other normal birds.

We then went to check out the main event- the new Parrinder Hide, wow, its an amazing bit of architecture and with windows you can position where you want the gap, ideal for those rainy windy days, another feature I really like is the fact that there are stools and not benches and better than that they can be moved up or down so your elbows fit on the shelf nicely. A lot of thought and time has gone into the making of the hide, so congrats to Rob for a great result.
The thick fog was still present apart from a miraculous hole around the fresh and brackish marsh, with the sun lighting up everything beautifully, result! There were fairly good numbers of Teal and Wigeon evident as well as a small flock of Skylarks feeding on the vegetation and 11 Ruff, the gull roost was building steadily too but I couldn't see anything interesting amongst the usuals. Whilst talking to Dave the ducks started scattering and the waders alarming only for a Hen Harrier to come over the Brackish Marsh with the sunlight lighting it up fantastically, you could see all the feather detail brilliantly (through Daves scope...Thanks!) it was of course the Northern Harrier/Marsh Hawk complete with dark mantle, apricot unstreaked underparts, the rump appeared to be broader and more of a wrap around than hen, it did just look slightly different although seeing the leg hanging down was the personal peace of mind just to make absolutely sure it was the bird in question (I know how bad that sounds). So after that bit of luck we headed back for a look in the shop and a cup of tea.
The drive home to Brundall was tricky to say the least, the fog mixed in with the Norfolk B roads, particularly on the Lenwade cut through were awful. I couldn't see more than 5m in front of the car at times so it was a slow drive home.

All in all a very pleasant day, good to catch up with some old friends and amazingly jammy luck to see the fog part and the sun come out just as the Northern Harrier gave a fly by, some say you make your own luck and staying on in the hide was definitely the right decision!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Lesser White front- how genuine though!

A good mornings survey of Buckenham and Cantley saw a fairly good variety of birds using the marshes due to the thaw. 4 Water pipits together on a semi frozen flooded area were a good start. The Taiga Bean geese were on Buckenham first thing this morning, a total of 99 were counted, they also carried a Lesser White Fronted goose with them. There has been a hybrid LWFG in the area for a while but this was as pure as they come, although distant all features could be clearly seen, white blaze going back above the eye, few bars/smudge on belly, yellow/orange eye ring and small size. It was closely hanging around with the Taiga's and eventually flew off with the group when railway staff walked past them. They were fairly distant so the photos are pretty poor.
Other highlights were 85 Pinkies, and 76 White fronts, 2 Ruff and 1600+ Wigeon. Good to see some water unfrozen for a change, made quite a difference.

Click on images to enlarge

Monday, 6 December 2010

Not a massive amount to report in the past week, hence lack of postings. The snow seems to have missed the Norwich area which was a bonus, didn't fancy getting snowed in all week, it has been below freezing all week though.
I have been out and about in the Strumpshaw area adding Mealy Redpoll to the patch list, Bitterns are still being seen flying about over the reedbed, Otters are similarly evident and the Penduline Tit is possibly still about, I have heard it but not yet seen the little blighter.
Friday's survey of Buckenham and Cantley saw very little apart from 78 White fronted geese and a ringtail Hen Harrier, which luckily were both showing very well.
I went to Wells on Saturday to dip another Humes Yellow Browed Warbler, another bird that I seem to have difficulty connecting with. I did however see 11 Mealy Redpolls, 4 Woodcock and a single Northern Bullfinch, the highlight of the walk was a Sunstar on the strand line, the first I have seen in Norfolk.

Day off today and I seem to have picked another dull damp misty day, I'll get blue sky one day off! Just walked around Strumpshaw and watched an Otter breaking the ice in front of Fen hide for 20 mins, amazing how strong they are, too misty for decent shots unfortunately. Also on show were 3 Weasels and a Stoat along sandy Wall and continuing the non bird theme a few rats were munching on some apples by the river bank, apart from that it was business as usual.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

November Moths

Just to prove that it can be worth setting the moth trap in November here are some of the moths that can be caught in early/mid November. Not trapped in the last couple of weeks due to v cold nights but have still seen the odd winter moth about.

A combination of 3 nights trapping in early November saw the following in the trap;

Mottled Umbar- 11
November moth sp- 88*
Merveille du jour- 2
Feathered thorn- 27
Red Green Carpet- 2
Large Wainscot- 10
Yellow lined Quaker- 10
December Moth- 2
Spruce Carpet-1
Chestnut- 1
Beaded Chestnut-1

Not bad at all considering the temperatures

Red Green Carpet ------------- Spruce Carpet

Mottled Umbar ----------------Chestnut

Merveille du jour

Green brindled crescent---------- Red-Line Quaker

December Moth

* The very similar group of November Moths are beyond me, I aggregate them to Nov moth sp, in reality they could be November, pale November or Autumnal moth. They look so similar by the time they have warn that without checking their goolies I cant be sure, I would have thought the top left image could be different to the other two but it could just be the difference between male/female or fresh/warn. Any tips or comments??

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


Day off today so managed to escape to the North Coast, I spent the morning at Wells Wood. I managed to get a subspecies tick in the form of Northern Bullfinch, I saw 2 females and a single male briefly. The females were as big as Waxwings and just sat there when all other bullies flew away, I didnt realise the females didnt have the trumpet call so spent too long trying to clionch the call, unsuccessfully of course. I did manage to hear a clear trumpeting from a male as I was leaving, he flew in and out quite quickly but perched calling for long enough to realise some subtle differences. All in all they were all far larger than our Bullfinches with stronger wing bars, more bull necked, male had saw edge to wing bar and a more pink tinge than red, wheras the females were a different hue being a slightly duller colour. They are just the sort of birds I love seeing, they are subtle but obvious when seen well, especially if heard!

While out and about I also managed to find 17 Shore Larks, 11 Waxwings (in off) and at least 3 Meally Redpolls in amongst a very flighty flock of lessers.

After Wells I headed to the Burnham overy car park where I picked up a Rough legged Buzzard hunting, it was distant but showed well enough to be sure of ID, there were also 3 Common Buzzards viewable from here at the same time.

Unfortunately my day was cut short by having to pick Ruth up from work and then go shopping, still I had a successful morning with 3 year ticks and a subspecies tick in 3 hrs!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Fog

I was planning a trip to the east coast this morning, however it was too foggy to bother wasting the petrol. I decided instead to drive to Strumpshaw, a 3 minute drive from home, very handy indeed!
I arrived to the expected view of fog and not a lot else but decided to sit in the Fen hide and wait to see what happens.
For a day that didnt look too promising I got a few quality species. Bearded tits were evident pinging in the reedbed as well as 7 Marsh Harriers still roosting in one of the cut strips from Fen Hide, it was good to see them interacting with each other while on the ground.

After a kingfisher also put on a short performance on one of the perches, the first good sighting of the day occurred when I noticed ripples in the water, an Otter popped its head up and to my surprise it was being followed by 2 much smaller heads! Brilliant stuff, finally I was watching the bitch and cubs that so many visitors have been reporting lately.

Equally as impressive was the fact that a Bittern decided to finally show well for me in the cut plots, I have seen a lot of Bitterns recently however they have mainly been short flight views. The bird flew in and was feeding for about 20 mins in the open giving really good scope views, photography was a joke due to the mist but I gave it a go anyway, its behind the crow in the photo...and wont win any competitions!

I left the hide quite satisfied and continued round the fen, highlights were decent numbers of winter thrushes, a few Brambling and Redpoll flying over as well as more bearded tits. I checked out one of the reed plots I cut last week and manged to flush 2 Jack snipe, 16 Snipe and 2 Water pipits, a positive bit of habitat creation!

For some reason today had a few hints of spring about it, despite being cold and foggy I have heard Great Tit, Song Thrush, Blackbird and Wren singing. I also noticed a female Marsh Harrier flying around with a reed in its talons, the Black Swans have decided its a fine time to raise their young, I suppose it would be if they were still in Oz.

With the news of an Arctic Redpoll on the North coast I think I'll check out the local redpoll flock and hope for a mealy or two, I wouldn't mind an Arctic but I'll remain realistic for now!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


I had to check the salinities at Buckenham and Cantley on Monday. It was one of those wall to wall blue sky days, very little wind and not a bad temperature, in short it was one of those days where you have to remind yourself your at work...the best kind! We had to traverse most of the reserves ditches so it was only a matter of time until we bumped into the goose flock. We were 'advised' that the geese were in a certain location and that we should try not to disturb them for obvious reasons, so in some ways it was lucky that 2 railway people came along the tracks in full high vis and flushed them for us. 140 grey geese got up, typically they flew into the sun so it was tricky to be sure of id's but I'm fairly positive I counted 38 Taiga Bean Geese within the flock of Pinks and White fronts, the shape and size really stands out when silhouetted. I was fairly happy with the sighting (my first taiga's for many years!) however 10 mins later I noticed 10 geese coming in from the North heading straight for me, they cant have seen me until the last minute as they flew pretty much overhead in perfect sunlight, fantastic views! Typically my camera was safely nestled at home so no pics unfortunately, but was good to be able to study them rather than trying to get photos. In total there were 48 Taiga beans, 15+ Whitefronts, 100+ Pinkies, lots of golden plovers, 15+ Ruff, 2 Peregrines as well as all the usual stuff including 2300+ Wigeon, quite a site and sound.

If viewing the geese the best place is from the main footpath from Buckenham, after the fleet check with scope on the other side of the railway. Views can also be obtained from the Cantley village side from Burnt house lane, do not enter the reserve apart from on the footpaths!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

weekend wanderings

A fairly chilled weekend, nice not to do too much for a change!
Saturday I went just up the road to Ranworth Broad, not having seen it at this time of the year I was suitably impressed by the number of ducks. I didnt count them all but there were fairly good numbers of tufty's Wigeon, Teal as well as a single female Common Scoter, female Ring Necked Duck flew over with tuftys briefly and the woods held decent numbers of Redpoll and siskin.

I decided to check out the Alders at Cockshoot broad which I seem to remember being good for Redpoll (in the spring at least). Unfortunately the river had other ideas, it was in flood mode and even with wellies on I couldnt walk along the road to the boardwalk! The signs 'Road liable to flooding' came very true. Nipped into Sainsbury's for some essentials on the way home and got 50+ Waxwings.
Sunday- I decided to check out what Lowestoft had to offer, there have been a few Northern LT tits present as well as a Pallas's or 2. i managed a couple of Firecrest's and lots of Chiffchaffs, not a lot else though.
Yet again a Pallas's escapes my binoculars, Its a bit of a bogey bird for me, which is beginning to really annoy me to be honest! I have tried for a few and only ever managed to see a yellow rump dissapearing into the braken at halfway house, blakeney, not the best view of a little gem. Luckily I have been to China so have seen hundreds very well indeed. I'll get one properly in uk one day!

On the way back home I couldnt resist a look at the Yarmouth Waxwings seeing as it was a detour of 3 mins. Light was absolutely rubbish so pics are not great but always a joy to see 80+ Waxwings!

Hopefully the water levels will go down soon, Strumpshaw has come up by 13cm this weekend and I'm cutting reed all week, its going to be a wet one.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Scilly's 2010

I had a great week last week on St Agnes, good weather, good to spend the week with my parents and good walking, its just a bit of a shame there were not a huge number of birds about.
We were staying at the Parsonage, St Agnes which was a fantastic location, always a nice starting point as it has such a good track record of rarities. Unfortunately the best bird I had in there was probably a Chiffchaff, ie not great especially considering the Red Eyed Vireo the week before. Ah well we did manage to see some birds, highlights were;

(yt- year tick)
Lapland Bunting
Shag- (yt!)
4 Black Redstarts
4-6 Firecrests
Whooper Swan
Siberian Chiffchaff?
Yellow browed warbler (yt)
Spotted Sandpiper (yt)
Red breasted Flycatcher (yt)
Dusky Warbler (yt)

From the above list you can see that we had a relatively poor haul considering we were birding dawn till dusk most days, 5/6 year ticks in total and one of those was Shag! The RB fly, YBW and Dusky were seen on the final morning too so you could say that rarities were just that... rare!
Still the weather was very nice which made the holiday very pleasant indeed plus there was a keen westerly wind throughout the stay which always made us believe that the biggy may well be round the corner.
The highlights for me were seeing and hearing the Dusky warbler well on the final morning as well as getting the RB fly on call. Bird of the trip however was a male Lapland Bunting, not a year tick but it was a bird which allowed me to get 2 feet away so could really get a very good look at as well as a few photos. Shame we missed the American bittern when we returned but the large scale twitching of a puddle hoping the bird would return seemed pointless!

This shows the possible Tristis Chiffchaff, unfortunately didnt call, looked pretty good for one.

Dad and I did manage 2 moth ticks however! these came in the forms of Red Sward Grass and Cosmopolitan, I must admit its full credit to dad for checking the flowering Ivy every night, amazing how many moths were seen nectaring in comparison to those that made it into the traps.

Its always great to go to the Scilly's, such a fantastic place even if it does seem to be getting less birder friendly. Thanks to my parents for another great trip.