Sunday, 4 December 2011

Twichin' a ride

No car again today but I was not deterred. With the Western Sandpiper still present my goal was Cley. I found that it is far easier to get there on public transport than I first thought, total cost from Brundall to Sheringham return on train £7, return on coasthopper from sheringham to Cley was £2.60 and going to Cley by public transport gives you 50% off ticket price (not advertised that well!). All in all the day cost about £12, probably cheaper than the petrol to get there and back, faith in public transport restored?!

Anyway back to the birds...
I got to Cley at about 10.30 walked in the hide, put my bins up and saw the bird for 5 seconds and then it flew away! the hide almost emptied as those in there first had had good views, with increased space i got into a good position and waited. about 20 mins later a few Dunlin returned then I got onto a smaller bird flying around the scrape, I said quietly this could be it coming in now, it landed and bang, there it was about as close as it could be, great views and well grilled. I now need to swat up and try to convince myself that the bird I saw was a Western Sandpiper and not a semi p. Whatever it was, it was an interesting bird, it looked like a squashed up little stint with a long bill and running around feeding like it was on speed! The shapes this bird was pulling were really distinctive looking and quite squat but had a feeding pattern that is best described as stitching, like a sowing machine. Another notable feature was that it was catching lots of thin worms and pulling them high out of the mud before eating, unlike the Dunlin, which presumably were also catching worms but just sucking them up not visible to me. Plumage wise it was interesting and quite changeable in different light as these little waders always are, distinctive features included streaked capdark eye smudge giving an almost evil look, light streaking on breast sides, scaps were well patterned and some looked ginger, not sure of shapes as the bird was always on the move, long bill, decurved at the tip, quite long legs, able to wade out, the photos show the rest, just about....
The 'runt' Dunlin flew in and was with the other Dunlin very briefly, at first I thought it was the Western due to the size but it clearly was not, I could not relocate this bird but it certainly looked interesting in the brief view I got. Other birds worth noting included the Green Winged teal an interesting leucistic brent goose, and a greenshank, it had muddy legs which looked very yellow underneath, I assume it was just a greenshank though, the first I have seen for a couple of months.

Green winged teal sticking out like a sore thumb, even when sleeping

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Mega day at Mid Yare

No car again today which forced me to take to two wheels instead of 4. It actually prompted me to have a proper look around Buckenham and Cantley rather than just doing the necessary (rushed) counts during work hours. It turned out to be a great day.

The day started at 7am emptying the moth trap at Strumpshaw, a warm night had me hopeful I managed 2 migrant species, the first of the December moths and a very odd looking variant of Large Wainscot, the photo does not do it justice but there is a prominent zigzag line which is not shown in any guides. I have searched on the net and found a couple of images showing this form but I have no idea of how frequently it is found?
While emptying the trap I heard a flock go overhead at first I thought they were Cranes but they turned out to be Whooper Swans, my first (and most likely) of 3 Mid Yare ticks today, as I was in the wood I am not sure of how many flew over but it sounded like a small flock 5+.
Trap contents;
Mottled Umbar 2
December Moth 5
November moth sp 2
Feathered Thorn 3
Chestnut 2

Winter moth 2
Lunar underwing 1

Rusty Dot Pearl 2
Diamondback 1
Blastobasis lacticollela
Acleris cristana 1
(Acleris Hastiana a few weeks ago  too)

Not bad for November.

Onwards to Buckenham where I saw 2 Peregrines sat on gate posts across the marsh, another 2 Whooper Swans flew over the hide just to reaffirm any doubts I had about the earlier call. I got to the mill and noticed that the wet area held large numbers of Linnet and Skylark, after 20 mins of searching through the long wet vegetation a small group of Skylark took off and one had white wings, you can imagine my thoughts! No white winged lark unfortunately but it was obviously a Snow bunting, there were another 2 in the flock too, they were feeding well for at least 20 mins as I carried on searching the flock. I am beginning to get slightly blasé about snobs but this was different this was Buckenham, I even felt a rush as I realised how rare these birds are in the Mid Yare Valley. The records in the office show that this was only the second sighting ever (2003), I suspect however there have been a few more than that.

The third and final local mega appeared minutes after I left the snow bunts, I saw a duck on the river which I almost passed as Mallard, luckily I thought it looked a little odd . I put my bins up and thought thats an was one! I have no idea how uncommon Eider are on the River Yare especially this far up river, I know we have no records at all on the system so its got to be pretty dam rare!
On reviewing the pictures it appears to have a black nail of the bill it should really be pale, could be a juv?

Totals for the day;

Pinkies 533
Whitefronts 118
Snow Bunt 3
whooper Swan 2+
Eider 1 female
Dunlin 1
Marsh Harrier 6 inc 1 wing tagged individual
Sparrowhawk 3
Peregrine 2
Merlin 1+
Golden Plover 3000+

So there you go yesterday I had Desert Wheatear and Yellow Browed Warbler as hightlights and today its Whooper Swan, Snow Bunting and Eider, the later 2 probably being more exciting rarity wise than yesterdays offerings (relatively speaking), funny old game eh.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Surprise UK tick?!

A quick update since my last post...
I took Monday and Tuesday off as well as heading to the north coast today.
With Ruth working weekends, being car-less is pretty rubbish, but luckily I managed to jump in with a colleague this morning.
Highlights from the past week include;

Sheringham Monday;
1 drake scaup
5 Shag
2 bonxies
2 Snow Buntings

Wells, Monday;
2 Waxwings
600+ Blackbirds (everywhere! lesser numbers of Rwing, ff and s thrush)

Waxham, Tuesday;
2 Little Auks
150+ Little Gulls
40+ Red throated Divers
6 Blackcap
2 Chiffchaff

Strumpshaw, Friday
56 Waxwings
35,000 Starlings roosting

Lapland Bunting- heard as I opened the car door- good start to the day!
Desert Wheatear
Northern Wheatear

Lapland Bunting 1
Snow Bunting 1
Slav Grebe 1
Goldeneye 8

Desert Wheatear was a UK tick for me, I was not aware of this at all (!) I was convinced that I had seen one before but unless I just have not recorded it before it was a new British bird for me. A surprise but a result at the same time!
Some poorish pics below- usual excuses- poor light being the main factor. great bird through the scope though. 

Friday, 4 November 2011

Who rules the roost?

After an inspiring all day meeting in Cambridge I got back to the reserve to enjoy the sunset. It seems as if the Starlings have returned for another year, possibly helped on by some Easterly winds. Throughout the week there have been small numbers; between 3 and 5 thousand strong. Tonight it seemed as though there were far more, I would estimate that a total of 10,000 or thereabouts roosted. Hopefully these are just the first few, they certainly create a nice end to the day, especially when they fly overhead while tending to a reed/scrub fire. Hopefully they will also attract a few more Harriers, Peregrines, Bitterns and possibly Merlins to feast on the bounty that has presented itself.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Dusky Lemon Sallow?

I put the trap out on monday night and had a few expected moths, it was very warm (13 degrees!) for November. Along with the usual red line quakers and november moths I had a couple of migrants in the forms of Rusty Dot Peal and a diamond-back, been a while since I caught either of these at Strumpshaw.

I did get a possible new moth for me, the photos below show the particular individual in question, I think its a Dusky Lemon Sallow, its a bit battered so I'd really appreciate a confirmation or two, thanks!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Another nice day out East

Looking at the winds late last week I decided that today could be good and duly booked a day off.
I headed out to Horsey Gap first of all to catch up with the Daurian Shrike which has been present all week, this was a new Norfolk bird for me and the second Issy shrike I have seen, the last being in 2002 on the Scilly's. This one was far more showy than that one and even when I tried to slip by and leave the bird it flew in for a closer look, great bird!
The bushes held very little, far less than hoped but undeterred I headed on to waxham to see what was doing there. Again Shangri La cottage bushes were relatively quiet save for a single Goldcrest and a slight rarity in the form of a Great Spotted Woodpecker (in off?). While checking the bushes a typical Tickty tick tick chuu call was heard coming from inland, the Lapland Bunting was then located flying straight towards me then headed North along the dunes.
With the bushes lacking in passerines, although it felt as if something could fly in at any time, I had a look at the sea. I was watching for about 45 mins and clocked up an impressive 150-200 Little Gulls, a few Kittiwakes, 8 Red Throated Divers, a few Gannets and Guillemots, no hoped for Little Auks.
A very nice day to be out and about, glad to get the Shrike and Little Gull was a year tick too, hopefully tomorrow will produce a rarity, now where to find it?!

 I managed a couple of shots of a Cetti's Warbler at Strumpshaw the other day, I must admit they looked far better on the screen on the camera, but I thought I'd whack them on here anyway.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Patch ticks and work at the same time!

Thursday was obviously a great day for migration, with Great Grey Shrikes present on the coast and 50 Short Eared Owls coming in/off at Titchwell there was definately something about to be found. But I was at work, at this time of the year Strumpshaw can feel as far away from the coast as the midlands, oh to be working by the sea again!
It was a Thursday so we have our weekly work party, burning reeds in front of the Fen Hide (view looks great now by the way). As we headed out we encountered a large flock of Bearded Tits, great news considering their decimation this winter. The BR's hung around all morning pinging in the reeds.
The clear sky meant that we were getting a small but steady stream of fieldfare, redwing, redpoll, brambling, siskin and meadow pipits but it was shortly after lunch when Strumpy got on the scarce migration band wagon. I looked at my pager to reveal the fact that there was a large SEO movement along the coast, telling Ron about this he seemed suitably impressed, 3 minutes later a shout went up, SEO flying along the river. So it was a bird flying high obviously moving through to the East following the river, great, patch tick 1.
About an hour after that excitement we had stopped for a drink when I noticed a bird on one of the dead tree perches not too far from Fen Hide, from the sounds of it the reedbed birds were not too keen on its presence. I said to Ron, who had bins on him 'Is that a small Sparrowhawk, or is it a great grey shrike' half jokingly of course, he looked, turned to me and his face was a picture, he simply said 'yes, its a ggs!' A super bird for the reserve, I have not yet checked the records but it is possibly the first for the reserve since the 80's!
Nice to know that on that Thursday the main species along the coast of interest were SEO's and GGS's and we had both at Strumpy. Rough Legged Buzzard is the next target, its obviously been a good vole/lemming year so I would not be surprised if we get loads of geese, RLB, and all the other assosiated species, could be a good winter!

A selection of distant pics of the shrike, a lot of these were taken at 30x magnification hand held so click on them to blow them up and laugh, still, it would help pass it through the BBRC had it of been an Isabeline Shrike.

Can anyone id this micro??

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Early morning rewards at Holkham

The weekend started with a slight disappointment of the Rufous Tailed Robin doing a bunk on Friday night, although had it of been there I would have been tense all day due to being stuck at work until 5.

I managed to get out this morning and enjoy some good ole Norfolk autumn birding. I arrived at Lady Annes Drive  at 7.30, it felt more like 5.30 due to the chill in the air and the fact that no one was about.
I had a very enjoyable mornings birding with a good overhead movement as well as a good number of crests in the bushes. A couple of crests sounded Fiery but alas I could not locate them in the high pines, there were a few blackcaps and Chiffys around, more so than I had earlier in the week at Waxham.
I made my way towards the 'tower' hide and stopped for a while watching a tit flock move through, the tsee tseeing was gratefully interrupted by a Yellow Browed Warbler, quite a way off but enough to prick the ears up. It eventually came closer and showed fairly well although into the photos. I'm glad to finally see one of these beauties this autumn, I was begining to wonder if I would. While the warbler was calling my ears suddenly latched onto another call, this time obviously a flyover. I called it as Yellow wagtail at first, looked up to see a large pipit, in the bright sunshine it even looked quite yellow but the call and flight pattern firmly idenified it as a Richards Pipit, great stuff! Then about a minute after that a very pale chiffchaff with a wing bar appeared, a clear contender for Tristis, but the thing wouldn't call so I'll let it go...five minutes of fantastic birding, made the early start worthwhile!

Blackbird- lots in off early on
Skylark- light passage West 
Redpoll- 36
Crossbill- 57
Brambling- 25+
Siskin- 110+
Chaffinch- 300+
Goldcrest- 40+
Chiffchaff- 16
Y-B-Warbler- 1, a hint of a second individual further West, but was distant and only heard once.
RICHARDS PIPIT-1 over West at 09.20

Now for the National Hen Harrier roost count this evening, hopefully something will turn up to make it interesting, looks like it'l be a nice clear evening.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Links road, Lowestoft

With an Autumn of Westerlys what better place to go to try and get some eastern migrants than the most easterly place in the UK- Lowestoft. I thought I'd check out the Woodchat Shrike, look at the bushes and do a bit of seawatching. I managed to do all three, the Shrike showed exceptionally well, despite the deluge of rain that was falling all morning. This is only the second WcS I have seen in the UK, the other being a fine adult male at Holme a few years back. This bird didnt seem to mind people too much at all, but it had a particular dislike to horses and white dogs though!

Seawatching was fairly productive considering the westerly blow, totals for a on off watch for a cumulative total of 2 hrs below;
5 Arctic Skua
2 Pom Skua
3 Great Skua
constant stream of Gannets
6 RB Merganser
Lots of Brents
3 Commic Tern
1 Eider
30 Wigeon

In off totals were slightly more interesting;
4 Short Eared Owls
1 Merlin
1 Sparrowhawk
2 Woodpigeon
15 skylark
40+ Meadow pipit
1 Grey Heron
2 Brambling
18 Chaffinch
6 Starlings.

Not fantastic totals, but quite interesting all the same, an obvious movement across the North sea even with a westerly. The Yellow Browed Warbler did not show for me, I did check the bushes North and South of the car park to flycatcher alley, but little was doing. The Yellow Legged gull managed to sneak into the picture below, unfortunately I missed a photo of it posing nicely on the beach due to a loaf of bread further down the beach.

Left untreated a forest forms in a matter of years!!! Japanese Knotweed- nasty plant!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Jammy Git!

Having the day off today I was slightly torn between going birding on the North coast (wind looked good) or go to Boyton.

5.30am and Boyton was on the menu for the morning, I managed to get there for about 7.30, just in time to catch the first good rays of sun striking the bird.
Needless to say it was crane like and a new British  bird for me, I didnt go last Sunday because it was hot, the roads were busy and for some unknown reason Sandhill Crane didn't quite 'do it' for me. As I say quite odd but if it had been an equivalent  mega passerine I'd have been there in a shot, its possibly got something to do with the fact that I see cranes quite frequently and 'ours' are better looking, I dont know!
Still it seems as though I managed to jam into seeing it on its last morning at Boyton? The bird flew around at 10.30 and flew off South. How often do good birds turn up on a Sunday and leave the following Friday, must be very annoying for those who 'need' birds.

After having my fill of the crane, staying for about 2 hrs, I headed to Minsmere as I have not been since Feb. Turns out it was a bit of a waste of time, very little there on the scrapes apart from the usual common species and the woodland and lagoon loops were not passable as a circuit, I should have checked the website. The trails are closed due to urgent sea defence work, so all for a good cause . There was a small flock of Godwits, Dunlin, 6 Avocets and small duck numbers but apart from that the lagoons were pretty empty (save for dodgy geese). Most of the visitors were enjoying all the bird identification challenges, the Red breasted geese and Barnacles made most peoples day despite being as plastic as the Roller in Cambs! I do love overhearing identifications in the hides, always brings a smile to my face, we all start somewhere.
I walked from the sluice to the power station and managed to see 3 chiffchaffs, 2 goldcrests and one long tailed tit who had lost its friends, positive mental attitude was hard to keep up when looking at very little. There were a few Wheatears on the beach, all juvs, which livened up the walk a little and it reached a crescendo when I saw 2 Bonxies .

So as days go it was very good in as much as I got a mega Nearctic crane, possibly on its last day of showing, however the lack of drift migrants in East Anglia is begining to get annoying, surely I wont an autumn without seeing a Yellow Browed Warbler!

Some poor pics of the crane below, dont enlarge them, it was about 600m away, good through the scope not the lens....excuses..