Monday, 31 December 2012

Review of the year and resolutions for 2013

Its that time of the year where I look back at the highlights of 2012 (mainly from Mid-Yare) and look forward to 2013. So this will be a fairly brief round up of the highlights of what has been a very good year for certain reasons.

January- Highlight from January was a Grey Seal in the River Yare, a first for me on the reserve. Apart from that the Beans, Whitefronts and the ever un/popular Lesser Whitefront was still present.

Febuary- It was a cold month, with the associated wildfowl movements. I mostly recorded winter wildfowl in search of water flying up riveras Strumpshaw was rock solid ice for at least 2 weeks.
-14 Goosander, Male Scaup (patch tick), Redhead Smew were the main highlights as well as many wild swans relocating.

Below are the travellings of the three neck ringed greylags found at Strumpshaw in Feb, if you look at the details you will see that these geese travelled from Birsay, Orkney on 20/11/11,were at Strumpshaw until 4/3/12 and were back on Orkney by the 13th. The Greylags you see in Norfolk could be more travelled than first thought!
OHVT    Loch of Hundland, Birsay        HY2925  10/07/2011              3       M     
COHVT    Loch of Boardhouse, Birsay      HY2625  15/10/2011      vv                    
COHVT    Sabiston, Dounby        HY2922  26/10/2011      vv                    
COHVT    Kirbuster Farm, Birsay  HY2825  01/11/2011      vv                    
COHVT    Kirbuster, Birsay       HY2825  20/11/2011      vv                    
COHVT    Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk         TG3306  24/02/2012      vv                    
COHVT    Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk         TG331067        04/03/2012      vv                    
COHVT    Farafield, Birsay       HY244311        13/03/2012      vv                    

March- Was notable for two new species to my Mid Yare list, the first was of 4 Glossy Ibis's together at Strumpshaw and then Cantley. Interestingly 5 were reported at Strumpshaw and 4 at the later site, I am still not sure if someone couldn't count in Fen Hide or if one decided it had had enough of the company and did not move with the others. The other MY tick, which was far more unexpected and probably holds a greater rarity value was a Red Breasted Merganser which decided to roost (?) by Tower Hide for at least 2 weeks. It gave me the run around and seemed to be able to disappear into thin air whenever I turned up, I eventually caught up with it, thankfully!

April- A relatively quiet month for me, the only noteworthy mention was the Hoopoe at Waxham Sands Holiday park, a Norfolk tick for me and a UK tick for Ruth. Other than that the migrants were mainly late back because of the awful weather.

May- May was kind to me, whilst carrying out a wildfowl surrvey I found a Savi's warbler singing from Tower Hide, this was a UK tick for me, my only one of the year so i'm glad it was a self find to boot! A verry attractive Pectoral sandpiper was present at the mill for a few days mid month too which was yet another MYtick. I finally self found a Red Rumped Swallow at Waxham early in the month too, which livened up a relatively poor stomp at the coast! My final highlight of may was seeing the fantastic Broad Bordered Bee Hawkmoths at Holkham with my father, cracking little moths which I have wanted to see for ages, they did not disappoint!

June- I kicked off the month very nicely with a self found Marsh Warbler singing like mad, a very nice surprise and excellent SF tick, I have wanted to find Marsh and Savi's for many years so I feel I have succeeded in one of my aims of being in the broads now! Other than that I went to winterton to see the fine female woodchat shrike and came accross the odd decaying thornback ray in one of the slacks.
 Listen with headphones from 30 secs to hear the Marsh Warbler

July- I finally caught up with Red veined darter at kelling quags, my only addition to the dragonfly list this year. A Caspian tern graced Strumpshaw and Buckenham for 4-5 days, a long stayer compared with the majority of casp records in the uk, a rarity in itself to be able to successfully twitch this individual. Other than that in the last week of July Strumpshaw held a week long Bioblitz, this was a great success where over 1100 species were recorded, we will do this again in May 2013- more details to follow shortly. I also found an odd looking Marsh Harrier with a white belly in the North Broads, this later relocated at Strumpshaw.

August- A quiet month with the usual waders at Buckenham being the main highlight, Ididnt manage to find anything rarer than a wood sand unfortunately but there's always next year. I did see the biggest flock of feeding cranes that I have witnessed before- an impressive 32 all in the same field.

September- Birdwise the highlight was my final decent find of the year a female/Juv Red Backed Shrike at Winterton Dunes. Was great to finally find this species on the coast although it was a very flighty bird which I only saw fairly briefly. The main event of September was the birth of my son Toby, a truly amazing experience (all 72hrs of the labour!! and seeing a caesarian section on my wife!) but the outcome is a beautiful little boy.

October was notable for me not seeing a single decent migrant, despite trying on 5 occasions at the coast. My first year without finding a yellow browed warbler since 2005! I will use the excuse that I had a newborn baby so couldn't get out as much as I would normally! However I did manage to time a well placed day off for what must be most birders event of the year- the thrush fall! As has been summed up so many times, it really was incredible, you had to be there from dawn to understand...didn't know where to look there were so many birds on every bush, tree, field and the air was full too...amazing!

November and December- pretty poor generally, not a lot happening apart from rain and flooding. Waxwing took up residence at the fen which was nice, a total of 6 Water pipits and 4 Jack snipe were seen on one stomp through the fen, apart from that I had a good encounter with an otter.

So looking forward to 2013- As stated previously I will be putting my efforts into the patch birding competition so will hope to explore the Mid Yare Valley more and more. I have seen about 170 species at Mid Yare in total over the past 2.5yrs as warden and 2 summers in the broads as Bittern researcher, My aim for the year list has to be at least 165. Which is aiming high but if I put the time in it is probably passable, we'll see!

I'd love to see a few new odonata species this year with White legged damselfly, clubtailed dragonly and southern migrant hawker the most likely additions if I manage a trip to some relatived in Gloucestershire and a well timed trip to Essex to see family.

It would be nice to see an Icterine Warbler, but I've been saying that for at least 5 yrs without joy- its unlikely at Mid Yare so would have to twitch one on the coast if I am to see one at all.

My BUBO BOU list targets show my top 5 british targets as;
1. Bonaparts Gull
2. Icterine Warbler
3. Semi P sandpiper
4. Humes Warbler
5. Stilt Sandpiper
 I'd have thought in Norfolk it would have to be between the two warblers for the most likely addition.

My BUBO Mid Yare targets show up as being;
1.American Wigeon
2. Geen Winged Teal
3. Curlew Sand
4. Little Gull
5. Lesser spotted pecker

I would have said that the list is the wrong way round personally with it being LSW, curlew sand, little gull, am wig and GW teal in that order, but who knows. There are many other species that are more likely than the top two for the patch like: Nightingale, Knot, Grey plover, whinchat , turnstone and redstart to name a few.

Mothwise i am taking a slight step back from trapping at the fen and am turning to my garden as a regular trap site. That said I'll certainly be trapping at the fen a few times a month at least when the weather looks good. I also have 4 'guided' trap opening events at the fen throughout the summer (check website and book early to avoid disappointment!)

No doubt there will be a few surprises in 2013, I'm looking forward to the new year, lets hope it a productive one.

Many thanks for reading my blog and I wish all viewers a very Happy new year.

- Ben

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Work, rest and play...

Unfortunately it is my turn to work boxing day this year, I am also working the 27th to get 'my bit' out of the way. The two good things that come from this is christmas off next year and two days in lieu to be taken off in the first week back at work giving me a few days to add some species to the patchbirding list nice and early.

A few December moths have been attracted to the security light recently- the nights have been so mild lately, warmer than many of this 'summers' nights, may have to put a moth trap in the garden this evening if the rain holds off.

Today I managed to get out of the office to check cattle and to check on the state of the paths (River was flooding over the path on the way to Tower Hide still) On my wonderings I managed to bump into 4 Waxwings sittling nicely in a tree along sandy wall, looking fantastic in the sunlight, a Bittern decided to do a flyby and an Otter swan across in front of Fen Hide as well as at least 12 Marsh harriers playing in the wind. Not bad for an hours check of cattle! I then managed to complete the majority of my paperworkso rewarded myself by going to reception hide.
I sat in reception as dusk approached to see if there were many harriers coming to roost, and was greeted by a chinese water deer just in front of the hide, a kingfisher perched on the fish refuge and a couple of water rails battling for territory just in front of the hide. Marsh harriers were always tricky to count as they were behind the block of scrub but I managed to get up to about 14 birds, then another large raptor flew accross the fen, at first I thought it was a MR flying slightly oddly/moulting, but then soon realised the shape of the long tail and flappy wings- a Red Kite, more of a spring/summer bird the fen, this was my first in December. Finally as the harriers were all floating about a stunning male Hen Harrier came into by binocular view, as always the bird did not hang around and just shot through the fen heading South, a cracking bird all the same though.

So as far as 'days in the office' go it was quite a rewarding one, good to get some work done and see some decent wildlife, hopefully there will be more of the same today, think I'd better sweep out the hides, do a litter pick and check on the water levels today.... well someone's got to do it!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Weekly round up- floods, otters and a Bittern

A great final week at work before christmas gave the opportunity to take a few pictures of the regular reedbed specialists.

Firstly a couple of pictures of the Lackford Run during one of the 8 days of flooding the reserve received in the past 2 weeks. for those who know the reserve, we often get complaints that the Lackford run trail is often quite muddy, the photos below show why it gets muddy! this path floods on the medium/high high tide and well below the Environment agency flood warning level, a constant problem during winter and summer too.

This is the path 3hrs before high tide... I decided to close the path!

This young otter was absolutely fantastic, one of my wildlife highlights of the year. I watched it forr about an hour, in which it caught and dismembered 5 fish. I was so close the crunching of scales was clearly heard!

To finish off a nice Bittern in front of reception, this was at the top  of the reeds and then crawled down and started hunting just behind the reed front, always amazing to watch them in hunt mode with the bill half in water head cocked.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The 2013 patch

My patch for 2013

Here is the outline of my patch for the patchbirding competition.
It measures 2.97 square km; although many parts of the above map cannot be walked on ie settling pools at the beet factory these have been included for ease of calculating area in one go.

The patch in more detail;
-All of Strumpshaw Fen, except Bradeston Marsh- standard reedbed species expected here as well as some wildfowl and raptors, hoping to repeat my self found Savis and Marsh warblers of this year for extra points.
-Strumpshaw Wood- woodland species, hoping for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker a would be patch tick.
-Most of Buckenham Marshes- useful while surveying for wildfowl and waders.
-Cantley- as Buckenham- only the riverbank counted in boundary.
-Cantley Beet Factory- could be useful for the all important extra species of waders, good track record of common/scarce species that are tricky even just next door on Cantley marshes (such as Curlew Sandpiper)
-Link road from low road to Buckenham wood- main reason for the inclusion of this is the car park at Buckenham wood, it's a very good vantage point for birds of prey and vis mig etc.
-Rockland Broad- this in the past has produced some diving species that are difficult elsewhere, recently held Red Necked Grebe, Black terns pass through regularly as well as decent Osprey hunting grounds.

So that's it, this year I managed (so far) 148 species, although birding took the back foot while Ruth was pregnant/since Toby has been in this world. Next year I will try and get out more and am looking forward to birding the slightly extended patch to see what it can produce.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

A late afternoon stroll around Strumpy

I managed to get out of the house after a long tiring weekend. Amazing evening, nice and cold and calm with a beautiful sunset and 51 species noted.
The Waxwings are still present around sandy wall, some have been there every day now for over a month, far better than last years (20ish) one day record flock. Also saw Kingfisher, Otter, Barn Owl and quite a few Marsh Harriers, a (poor) roost of 1300 Starlings were out done by the sunset.

Also if anyone is interested I have joined twitter: @ben_lewis_uk

I have also joined the patchbirding competition for next year, a map of the patch will feature here soon, I'm looking forward to seeing what the Mid Yare Valley really has to offer!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Dawn at the fen

An early wake up for some reason today, it looked clear although still dark so I knew it would be a nice  morning to have a walk around the fen.
It was fairly quiet and crisp, the highlights are pictured below, also saw 2 Kingfishers, 1 Bittern, 1 Water pipit and the white bellied Marsh harrier (possibly the same bird that I pictured in the north broads in the summer?)

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Amazing fall of thrushes!

I have not got time to write in length about yesterday mornings outing to Waxham but all I can say is wow!
After getting woken pre dawn by the baby I headed off to the coast where it was foggy with an easterly, always a winner. On exiting the car it was clear it would be a good morning with Brambling creaking from the churchyard and redwings passing invisibly overhead.
Although I did not find anything rare every footstep kicked thrushes off the deck, the trees were absolutely crawling with Redwings fieldfares and quite a good number of ring ouzels too. At one point just North of the pipe dump there were thrushes everywhere c800 redwings and c300 fieldfares on the grassy field with at least 2000 rw and 1000 ff in the dense bushes, what a sight, what a sound. You had to be out at the coast this morning to get what I'm talking about but it had a great feel to it, I wonder how many goodies are lurking within the bushes today, despite trying hard there were no Raddes or Duskys in the brambles, as far as I could see..!

Thousands of Redwing and Fieldfare
8+ Ring Ouzel
1 probable brief call from a Lapland bunting
A distant call that was probably the invisible Richards pipit
1 Black redstart on roof of building opposite Shangri La
Super day back to work Tues to Thurs now, hope something is around on Friday.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Back to work with a cracker

Having spent the past 2 weeks off work on paternity leave, I am now the very proud father of a little Toby, I returned to work yesterday.

It was largely uneventful but while waiting in front of the railway gates I looked at the floor and found the beast below. This was a very nice welcome back, my first Convolvulus Hawkmoth at Strumpshaw, an indication of some migration too.
what a cracker though!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

RBS find (not the bank!)

Today I decided to go to Winterton, ideally to try and re-find the scarce blue tailed damselflies but failing that I had not seen Southern Emerald in Norfolk so thought what the heck its a win win situation as the SE's have been there all week.
As happens so many times when birding seems dead! Even on a good day Winterton has so much habitat it is hard to work and hard to keep focus especially when there is sod all about. so today I walked about 800m before seeing my first grounded bird, it was however a Whinchat so I thought it at least showed promise. 6 Mipits flew South, reminding me that vis mig should be better than it had been up to this point too, but the sun was out and it was very pleasant. After another 8 or so different whinchats I thought there could be something else on the cards for today. At this point I saw a pale bird on top of a bush, bins up,  juv Shrike, nice one! The number of times I have wanted to see a shrike on top of one of the many decent 'shrike bushes' and now I had one, a juv. I had to look through the scope as it was pretty distant and fired off a couple of shots just to make sure I had something on record, pretty sure it was red backed though, then I noticed a dog walker heading straight for the bird...great. I tried to move closer to get a better view before it was flushed, put my camera up took the shot below and then it was gone. I could not relocate it dispite looking quite hard, each scan turning up more Whinchats on top of bushes but no shrike.I should imagine I had well over 20 Whinchats this morning in the dunes up to the concrete blocks, I'd only seen one before today this year. I phoned it into RBA and just made sure I had the id as Red Backed Shrike correct. Great start to the first bit of birding of the week. I didn't see the ode's I went for but got a good find to compensate nicely.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Morning seawatch

Seeing the number of seabirds reported off the North Norfolk coast yesterday evening I decided, having been woken up at 4.45 to head out and see what I could find.
I arrived at Waxham at 05.45 and began, the strong Northerly wind had my hopes high but unfortunately there was not as much as hoped for.
My totals were as follows 05.45-08.00

Sooty shearwater-3
Arctic skua- 4 definate with 5possibles
Pom Skua- 1 possible at long range
Manx Shearwater- 1 probable distant
Gannet 100+
Fulmar 26
Things far too distant in the haze, but looking interesting 20+!

There was stuff out there but it was all very distant going up and down on the horizon, there was also a bad heat haze due to a warm sea and cold air temp which didnt help. Good to see the Sotty's though, these passed through at medium-close range which was nice.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

About time for an update

Its been a little while since my last update for so many reasons, I have so much going on right now I have hardly been out with binoculars in the past 3 weeks. I did manage to have a walk at Waxham on Monday which was pleasant if a little quiet. Was just nice to get out and see the sea and feel some fresh air to be honest.
The highlights of the morning were a Whinchat on the wires not far from Horsey mill, id'd at 40mph thanks to it flicking off the wire at the perfect time to reveal its diagnostic tail pattern. The other highlight was a flock of 32 Common Cranes all in a single field, I believe this is the most I have seen on the ground together before so certainly worth a mention, anywhere else in the country, or even Norfolk and there would have been quite twitch on for them.
The photos below showcase the incredible zoom on my camera too. The first pic is with no zoom, the arrow points to the thin strip of yellow field in which the cranes were, the second shows a zoomed image of part of the flock, pretty impressive for a 3 year old camera (Panasonic fz35)

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Buckenham waders

I have been to Buckenham three times in the past three days. The pools are looking pretty good at the moment with water and muddy edges at a good ratio for a whole host of waders.
Nothing particularly special seen but
1 wood sand on fri and this morning
4 Green sands on fri and up to 6 this morning
2 Common sands this morning
2 Dunlin on Fri
1 Greenshank present both days
2 Whimbrel on the mill pool this morning
3 Little Ringed Plover

Also present are small family parties of Yellow wags, today I saw an adult with at least 3 fledged young (I winder if they are actually from Buckenham?).
Birds of prey have also featured well on all visits with 5+hobby's, 3 Buzzards, 2 Buzzard sp's, Marsh Harriers, Kestrels and Sparrowhawks all out and about.
Brown Hawkers seem to be featuring heavily along the riverbank too, one seems to take off every 10 paces!

Next week I want to report that I have found something like a stilt sand or similar, we'll see!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Strumpshaw Bioblitz

Last week saw a lot of specialist come to Strumpshaw to help us try to record as many species as possible.
It was good fun listing like a maniac for a week and we did various events for families and individuals alike, which saw a lot of people take a look at taxa they may not usually notice.
I will update more results as they come in but currently the list stands at a whopping 1004!
My main contributionwas the Moths of which I recorded over 200 species, with help from dad, thanks! It is a shame the nights were so clear, the final two nights had more cloud cover and the number of micros increased dramatically. A brief photo documentation of the weeks moths and others.....

Is the vole a water vole? Taken at Winterton Dunes?? 

Double Kidney

Small Red Eyed Damselfly

Candy-stripe Spider