Sunday, 26 September 2010

A fantastic mornings birding!!

I got picked up at 5 this morning with the hope of the Willow/Alder flycatcher and whatever else we managed to see along the way, straight to Cley with us.
Amazed to find that the coastguards carpark still had spaces in it at 6am this morning we happily parked and started the long wind blown march out to the plantation, always longer when the body hasn't woken up yet!
After a few minutes of sitting watching the plantation I saw a small bird hopping about under a sycamore but never got on it properly, there was still hope that the bird was still present. About half an hour later someone shouted 'Ive got it' so everyone raced to try to see the bird, at the very same time a bird was calling really hard from the Western edge of the plantation which a few of us checked out, to our surprise a LITTLE BUNTING was sitting there giving it all it had. it stayed for about 2 mins and then flew off strongly in land, incredible how it must have just flown across the North Sea, landed calling non stop and then went on its way again, very much unlike a large amount of the birders that looked half dead by the time they had walked to the point!
A few minutes later and more individuals seeing the bird it performed fairly well, I secured some very good views of the bird for about half an hour, far better views of the Cornwall Empid. To me this bird looked quite different to the Cornish bird, possibly due to the fact that its a month earlier in moult stage? Who knows what this one will turn out to be, I have not had time to check all the features out (not that there are too many to look for).
After a brief look around the point we decided to head back loosely walking back with Howard Vaugn et al from Rainham, we didnt get too far when a large pipit flew over us, bins up straight away revealed a RICHARDS PIPIT flying towards the point, all that saw the bird were in agreement so I was happy too.
About 10 mins later 2 grebes flew past the first a typical great crested the later quite a well marked adult summer-winter RED NECKED GREBE, fantastic stuff, the day was already good but that was another bonus, but it got better than RNG when 2 LONG TAILED SKUA'S flew over the shingle giving stonking views of a bird I have seldom seen the past, nice one!!
Returning to the car park the expected carnage ensued, cars on just about every possible bit of land. We decided that the Dell at Wells would be nice and sheltered, it was very quiet indeed however 2 Pied Flys were present , with that nugget of info passed on to 2 birders we were off back towards Brundall and home (I have moved again). It was only when I got home that I realised the 2 birders we saw had more luck than us with a Bonelli's warbler sp at the Dell, we did think it looked good, lesson learnt!
Ah well cant win em all and I'm very happy with seeing a Willow/Alder flycatcher, Little Bunting, Richards pipit, 2 LT Skuas, Red necked grebe and a couple of pied flys all before mid day in Norfolk. Great day I just hope its the precursor to a great Autumn.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

5 mins birding

I managed 5 minutes of birding today between meetings, I sat in the reception hide at Strumpshaw. In that 5 mins I managed to see 1 Bittern 1 Otter (swimming just in front of the hide chasing fish), Hobby, bearded tit and 8 Marsh Harrier. One of the Juvenile Harriers carried wing tags L-white 36 R-light blue, this was ringed as a chick on the Isle of sheppy, will be interesting to track this individual as it moves around the broads/Norfolk.

Sunday, 12 September 2010


Having a long weekend in Watton with Ruth, the pull of Arctic Warbler at Holme was a little too much to resist, I was on the road by 5.30am on Sat morning and arrived at Holme to watch the sun rise (obviously too early for warblers) I parked by the far toilet block and walked along the track ever hopeful for some flyover migrants. I was partially wrong, SW wind and a clear night didnt help, however I was the first at the pines and the bird I wanted to see hadn't moved off. I had about a 2 hr search but the Arctic Warbler eventually showed very well, it enabled me, Conner, Ray and others to get all the necessary id features. The bird had a very interesting look about it, partially due to it looking like its been squashed but mainly due to its habit of feeding in a very lethargic fashion moving around the pines in a slow but deliberate way. No photo's even attempted as I was trying to see it well rather than ruin the experience by getting annoyed with crappy pics. A great bird and it showed well for those who were able to see/look for it. It also is my 399th species for the UK, looks like the 400 is well on the cards for this year!

After leaving the flock at Holme I decided to nip in to Titchwell, where I first worked in the conservation game, to see what been happening with the works. I managed to time it perfectly as the path had been reopened about 10 mins before I got there, walked up to the new and improved Island Hide which all looks great as does the new freshmarsh. There was even a good flock of Dunlin and Little Stints within touching distance from the hide, Rob looked like the cat that got the cream, the new Island Hide works...well!! also a single very juvenile (tea)Spoonbill on the fresh marsh. Congrats to the team, the reserve should be fantastic over the autumn/winter period .

I then tried to go back to Watton but Ruth's car had other ideas it was emptying its oil onto the car park (sorry Titchwell) 3hrs later after a mad bit of towing to Kings Lynn with the AA (its a bendy road especially when you can only see 1m in front of you) I was back on the road.
A good morning out and great to catch up with a few friends, as I have said before its so good to be back in Norfolk!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

New lists

Seeing as I am back in Norfolk and here to stay I'll start up a few new lists.
Firstly my Norfolk list, not too bad already on 279 but plenty to add over the years. Secondly my Strumpshaw list and thirdly the RSPB Mid-Yare Valley list, this includes Strumpshaw, Buckenham, Cantley, Rockland, Surlingham and Surlingham Church as well as a few smaller pieces of RSPB land in between.

Its always interesting when keeping lists on patches, you find yourself getting happy about seeing all sorts of common birds, its a motivation to get out there as much as possible which is the name of the game. An inland site like the mid Yare valley will miss out on many migrants but there are surprises at many other inland sites in the area. I suspect an annual target of 110 would be difficult but possible, I know that there are a few Whitlingham country park patch birders just up the river who around 100ish, gotta love a challenge.

On a similar vein today I added flyover Greenshank and Common sandpiper to the strumpy and mid yare lists. Osprey was still about over Rockland and I must have seen at least 4 Kingfishers on the river today, always nice to be on a boat going past these beauties.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Migrants at strumpy?

A windy day at the Fen today, I didnt do any real birding as had a fair bit to do. I did however have to right a Kingfisher perch in front of Fen Hide and naturally I took my bins. A few bits about today, most interestingly there was a mixed flock 10-15 Willow warbler/chiffchaffs near the new pond dipping platforms, fresh in perhaps due to the Easterly?? 1 Osprey still present as well as 2 spotted Flycatchers, 2 Hobby's and an Otter swimming in front of Brick Hide briefly.
On another note I have opened up the small pool next to the Brick Hide in the hope of increasing the likelihood of seeing Water Voles, it does looks peachy now so hopefully they will be seen more frequently. Looks like we have some rain set in for the next few days, still no car so cant get to the coast...migrant hotspot bashing withdrawal symptoms beginning!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Another day another Osprey

Most of the day at Strumpshaw today, it seemed a bit slow however the day list was not bad at all.
I started out by emptying the moth trap which held 21 species, not great but it was a bit chilly last night, best of the entrants included 3 Pinion streaked snouts (year tick), 2 centre barred sallows, a fine red underwing and a surprise Southern Hawker.

On to the main path and the bushes seemed alive with common stuff, the Cetti's warblers were quite vocal along sandy wall but too quick for photos, the gaggle of Greylags flew overhead but I noticed a different call in amongst them, 30 Barnacle geese along with an odd looking mix up goose, all from feral origin i'm sure. Bearded tits and photographers from Fen Hide so I moved on.

5 green sandpipers flew over on my way round to Tower Hide, first I've seen for a little while. Tower hide held the usual suspects ie lots of greylags and mallards, however there was a slight increase in teal and wigeon numbers as well as a couple of Tufted ducks. The geese and ducks were on high alert for most of the time, occasionally dashing away from the reedy area to the left of the Otter signs, however the little critter failed to show unfortunately. An Osprey drifted in towards the fen from high North and gave really good views for about 15 mins, perching and hovering right in front of Brick hide, I managed a couple of shots as it approached and headed over the river towards Surligham, I'm pretty sure this was a more adult bird than yesterdays, although 2 were seen together at one point.

After the hide I headed over to the Willow Emerald spot and was glad to see a fine male on the correct side of the ditch, finally I was able to take some macro shots of this beauty (last shots I'll post of the WE for now!) The new shots show the diagnostic spur on the side of the thorax quite nicely as well as the nice green into bronze colouration to the slightly clubbed abdomen, pale pterastigmas outlined in black and the pale claspers can just be seen if you click on the image, all in all a subtlety beautiful damselfly.

I got back to the brick hide to see that a Savi's Warbler had been reported!! After a discussion with the receptionist (the guy seemed very confident on the id, first heard singing and then managed to see the bird in the reeds at the junction of sandy wall and the river) I headed over to check it out. Not sure what to make of this one, firstly the fact that Locustella's never(?) sing at this time of the year and the fact that he seemed so blasé about the report made me think it is unlikely, secondly there were a lot of Cetti's about, had he said the wrong species?? I dont know, but an unconfirmed report of a possible is as best as it'll get I suspect, I may head back down at dusk, just in case!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

A day of digging cley

Today myself and 11 volunteers had to 'plug a hole' in the river bank to prevent it flooding...again. This consisted of digging about 3 tonnes of cley and transporting it by wheelbarrow to the gap in the bank. Hard work, but the location was very attractive and we had a bonus flyover Osprey to lift spirits too. All in all a good day with the task being successfully finished.

Yesterday I managed to photograph 2 of the Willow Emeralds mating, they are slightly odd in the damselfly world as they lay their eggs in branches overhanging ditches and standing water. The eggs then hatch and drop into the water, not exactly sure what the advantage of this is, but at least they dont have to venture to the waters edge. The photo shows the female laying said eggs into the bark of the willow...Does this count as a breeding attempt or do I still need to find exuviae??

Day off tomorrow but still have no car so can't visit the coast, oh well moth trap set at Strumpshaw and another day at the Fen me thinks.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Cantley to Strumpshaw

A long walk zig-zagging across Cantley to Strumpshaw was on the agenda today. Salinities of the ditches have to be taken for obvious reasons and today it was Cantley, Buckenham and Strumpshaw meadows' turn. It was a great chance for me to explore the heart of the reserves which, apart from the perimeter paths, I have never walked. Birds were fairly minimal with the highlights being 1 Buzzard, 5 Hobby's, a few bearded tits and a pretty impressive 124 Snipe in front of the new hide at Buckenham. The ditches over at Cantley are pretty impressive, very species rich and packed with water soldier. If I had more time I would have spent a bit longer looking at the dragonflies in the area, nothing great seen but good to see a nice mixture of species still flying in numbers, especially large numbers of Migrant Hawkers paired up and on territories.
A nice day to be out and about and I'll be feeling the long walk through rough grass in the morning!
PS the Willow Emeralds were finally seen again at Strumpshaw today, glad to know that others have seen them too.

I managed a fairly decent seawatch at Sherringham on bank holiday Monday. I arrived at 6am to find the shelter pretty much full, slightly surprising but the weather did look good!
My totals for the morning (06.00-10.00)
63 Great Skua
32 Arctic Skua
1/2 Storm Petrel (possibly the same bird twice)
2 Sooty Shearwater
2 Manx Shearwater
10+ Arctic Tern
Red Throated Diver 1
Fairly large movements of winter duck with Wigeon, Teal, Pintail and Common Scoter all in reasonable numbers

I saw one of the 'long tailed skuas' although was far from convinced it wasn't a slightly pale Arctic, shapewise I didn't think it fitted LTS, so not on my list for the day. A good start to the seawatch season though, especially the Stormie, showed quite well considering the swell too and a pretty good Norfolk bird, just my second sighting in the county.