Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas

Just a quick post to say happy christmas to all that read this blog. I also wish you all a wildlife filled new year. Thanks for everything

Monday, 15 December 2014

Weekend wandering the patch

Like many other people, I was out and about this weekend trying my best to claw back some of those 'easy' species which I appear to have missed so far this year.
On Saturday I got the train to Cantley and walked around the beet factory, around Cantley, Buckenham and Strumpshaw and then back through Brundall to home, an enjoyable walk in glorious sunshine.
Unfortunately there were not a huge number of birds about, but as always there were some highlights.

Sugar factory;
2 chiffchaffs together with a tit flock
1800 lapwing
64 ruff
1 water pipit
3-5 bearded tots
2 pintail
1 green sand
1 dunlin
8 curlew
1 peregrine

Fox enjoying the first rays of winter sun
Buckenham & Cantley
3 buzzard
4 marsh harrier (including a tagged bird I couldnt quite see- looked like white left pale blue right but too distant to be sure- any info would be appreciated)
60 golden plover
600 lapwing
530 wigeon
no geese to speak of apart from a single barnacle

Yesterday I was working in the office but managed to take a few pics of some of the residents.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Taigas return

Finally year ticked taiga bean goose at Buckenham today, with 32 present this afternoon.

Buckenham and cantley totals today included;

Lapwing 2125
Golden plover 1037
Wigeon 1480
Ruff 16
Bean goose 32
Whitefronts 11
Pinks 5
Buzzard 4
Marsh harrier 13 (through at dusk)
Peregrine 1
Water pipit 3
Skylark 82 (!) all over in 1 big flock- cold weather movements for sure poss a MYV record too?

Glad to see the north easterly winds along with cooler weather on the continent have brought in some geese

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Penduline tit finally gives itself up....

...and there are two!
Unfortunately I did not manage to see the birds, but did allow myself an early lunch break when the news broke.
The two birds flew into the reedmace opposite the hide and then onto the right hand plot in front of fen hide. From talking to the people who saw the bird (6) they were only on show for a matter of seconds and despite a few cameras in the hide no one got a shot, but descriptions suggest a possible male and female?

It's a bit of a relief to be honest as I was very confident of the calls and alarm call that I had heard almost a month ago but now we have the concrete proof that there are certainly 2 penduline tits in the reedbed. In the past few days David B has also seen them but very fleeting and I think only in flight. So will they give themselves up properly this week? I wonder if there have always been two? I wonder if I'll ever get to see them?!

Just a word of warning to those who go for these birds, the fen hide is pretty small and I've given it probably over 20hrs looking for these birds without success, so be prepared for a full hide and a long wait, but good luck!

Ps if anyone in the hide today fancies submitting a description for the bbrc that would be great! So much better than the sound recording I was going to submit!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Buckenham and cantley goosey goings on!

A bit of monitoring on the wet grassland this morning turned up a few goodies. A five goose day as well as 3 dodgy hybrids (red breast/barnacle, greylag/Canada and the Ross's type)

2 bewicks lost in fog over Brundall early am.

Still no beans but I keep saying next week looks good! looks like some easterlies which could well push them over this way, fingers crossed they will return.

Here is a photo of said Brent, a juvenile dark bellied feeding profusely with the Canada flock shows the size difference quite well. Don't usually see them alongside Canada's!  (hopefully it'll replace my other record shot of Brent's earlier this year!)

Lots of juvenile whitefronts present, I did do a family productivity count a few weeks ago which suggests they had a successful breeding season

Monday, 10 November 2014

Beet factory to Brundall

A day off without a car and with good weather forecast, so I decided to get the train to Cantley and walk back seeing how many species I could see. My main target bird was Taiga bean goose, but I was unsuccessful, shouldn't be long now with some east in the wind this week possibly.
I had a very pleasant day, but there were no additions to the patch year list or any unexpected species, however I did see just about all expected species which resulted in 78 species being logged, not a bad total for an inland area at this time of the year.
I walked around the beet factory (BF) and then through Cantley and Buckenham (still path closures currently in place but looks like it could be reopened soon) then through strumpshaw wood, fen hide and reception before making my way back home.


Green sandpiper- 9 together at BF
Lapwing- 420 BF + 1600 cantley + 720 Buckenham
Pinkies- 540 over river from BF + 950 Buckenham
White Fronts- 18 BF + 38 Buckenham
Stonechat- pair BF+ pair Buckenham
Bearded tit- 15+ at BF + 5 Cantley 
Water Pipit- 2+ BF + 1 Buckenham
Buzzard- 8 in one kettle at Buckenham
Golden plover- 350 Buck/Cant
Ruff- 12 BF + 37 Buckenham
Snipe 16 BF
Marsh Harrier 7+ over reserve inc tagged P3 a new one for me and a bird that was tagged at Buckenham this year, so far this autumn I have seen green tagged birds including DZ NL NN and P3, hope there will be more to see over winter!

That's about it for figures, as I said a very nice selection of birds on view on a nice sunny day...

Friday, 17 October 2014

Wells to Burnham Ovary Dunes- a good day!

A superb day up at Holkham/Wells area today. I walked from Wells right through to Burnham Ovary Dunes (didnt quite make it to gun hill!) Today I semi found all my own birds, meaning I'd have found them all myself had they not have been reported yesterday! (no one pointed out any birds to me)

Yellow Browed Warblers were certainly the theme of the day with a total of 9 different birds seen, with a possible 10th not counted. lots of dudes trying to see ybw, with them calling all around them without them knowing, so just walking on! 

As I got to BO dunes I looked up to see a superb Rough Legged Buzzard come in off and stall over the dunes quite close to me! While watching it a common buzzard and red kite also joined it briefly.  What a fantastic bird RLB is when seen well, this was possibly bird of the day!

I ate lunch and noticed a great white egret flying over the grazing marsh!

On the way back towards Lady Annes road I bumped into a large tit flock, after 5mins of scanning it I managed to lock bins on a superb Pallas's Warbler, my first for years and the best view I have had. It was too high in the trees for photography but it was so good to find the bird after seeing so many ybw's. I managed to get a few people to look at the flock but I dont think anyone else managed to get on the bird at any other point of the day!

I got back to the car and there was a bit of light left so decided to go and check out the Izzy Shrike at Stifkey, I managed to see it for less than a minute before it went to roost!

A brilliant full day out in the field and most enjoyable.

YBW-9 (poss10)
Pallas's warbler-1
Rough leg-1
Red Kite-2
Goldcrest- loads!
(poss sibe chiffchaff)

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Yellow browed warblers?

Yesterday I used up a days TOIL and headed out to the East coast.
My first stop was Yarmouth Cemetery. It was feeling quite birdy in the cemy at first light with robins and redwings passing over in numbers with the occasional brambling thrown in, chiffchaffs were also more evident than they have been in previous visits. As I walked around the churchyard I noticed a couple of blackcaps, tits, crests and chiffys at the top of a sycamore tree so waited a little while to see what else was in the flock. This decision paid off as I got onto a yellow browed wabler, it was silent and quite tricky to see well, but I managed to get a couple of shots as seen below. It was a shame the bird did not call as it was very much darker all over than the usual crisp look of a ybw, especially the undeparts, the brow was more yellow/buff than yellow and the cheek was also quite a bit darker giving almost a masked look to it, you can also just about make out a slight crown stripe in the images, I didnt notice this in the field. It was not the brightest of mornings so that may have played a part but even so it was a stikingly dull individual. While I dont think it's Humes, I have not seen Humes before but wonder if they can be identified with any certainty without hearing them call?

I continued around the churchyard without getting too much more of interest so returned to the Sainsburys gate sycammores where I saw another Yellow browed warbler, this one was far more yellow and 'normal' looking, it had yellow brow at least!

I then moved onto winterton and then Waxham. Both places held quite a lot of migrants the highlight at Waxham was standing in the wood while a flock of 60-70 goldcrests passed through, quite a sight and sound, again I cant believe that they were all gold crests, but they were!
So after that excitement I picked Lizzie and Toby up and we went to!

I have another day off tomorrow so may head up North to do the Wells to Gun hill walk, always pleasant and there have been a few birds in the woods,  hopefully some will remain and even better hopefully new ones will be found... The biggy arrives after the fall...apparently so there is still time for me!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Penduline Tit find!

Well, the Wheatear has been called Northern, I still think there is slightly more to it than a standard wheatear that is wet, but ill bow to those with more knowledge as there dont seem to be too many people that also think its worth delving into. I must admit a trawl through various places looking at wheatears certainly has not come up with anything with a dark breast and the other features shown on my bird. oh well...nice try!

On Saturday evening I went to Fen hide to see if I could read a red wing tagged Marsh harruer (probably from Sheppy). Unfortunately the harrier didn't show, but a decent storm was brewing in the distance over Norwich. While watching I noticed a very discrete thin seep from the reedbed, I pondered with the idea that it could well be a sound I have been hoping to hear at the fen for quite a few years- Penduline Tit! I heard it about 5 times give the call and also heard what sounded like multiple birds giving the same call at the same time, with no reference or recordings I could not confirm or deny my thoughts. On arrival home I played a few recordings of PT and I immediatly realised that it really was most like the sound I heard, whats more the multiple bird call I heard was actually its alarm call! If I had not of heard the alarm call I may have been a bit more hesitant but feeling quite confident I phoned some locals so that they knew that it was possible.
The following morning I got to the hide before it was light, waited 15 mins without hearing it so decided to play a recording to see what would happen, before the second call on the recording I had immediate response! The bird sounded like it was right in front of the hide, but i could not see it at all, the bird spent at least 15 mins calling now and then in the same area. I had my camera poised at the ready to get the confirmation shots, however I then realised it may not show at all, so decided to try to get a recording of the call so I had some evidence at least! Lucky I did as the bird stopped calling soon after I got the recording.
I also heard the bird call at least three times on Sunday evening, however it was much more subdued, luckily for me, others were also in the hide at the same time.

So, below is the only recording I have of the bird. It is fairly quiet so probably best listened to with headphones or at least turn your speakers up! the bird calls twice 1 second and 8 seconds into the recording. Its quite underwhelming I must admit, but a bit of a major rarity so Im very happy with the find!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Wheatear sp ness point

Here is a quick selection of photos from this afternoon.
The Wheatear stood out like a sore thumb amongst 4 Northerns, it was wet, but I cant believe that accounts for all the plumage details seen here.
-very dark backed
-wings dark
-dark beast with clear cut off from white belly
-T in the tail appears to go up the sides, central stripe fades out
-small pale throat
--pale primary tips
interesting white spot in the fold of the wing just under alula.

Photos are poor but shows most of the features I saw in the dim, dog filled field!

Comments most welcome as I'm a little confused by this bird
a rubbish pic but check out the colour compared to the normal northern wheatear in the foreground!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Two cracking ticks with awful pics!

So I have finally reached my 400 BOU birds for the UK!! Its taken quite a while, but with this years excellent offerings (+5) I have managed to reach the magic marker.

My first ever proper twitch was a Red Breasted Goose at Old Hall in 1993, I remember this bird well and I even got bought a photo of it from dad (remember the days of photos on sale at twitches? if not where were you in the 90's lol, its all changed now!
Since then I have added a lot of species to my list thanks to my father, I was lucky enough to be interested in birds at a time when he was twitching quite regularly so got to go to all sorts of places and see a lot of good birds, as well as regular trips to Scilly! I also missed quite a few absolute crackers due to being hungover/going out with mates (red throated thrush is a good example!). Anyway, a special nod to my father for getting me into birds at a young age and getting me enthused enough to become a warden, now I work on a nature reserve and see wildlife all the time as well as doing my bit for nature. 
...But I still have not seen a countable Icterine Warbler, I really wanted to find my own to rack up the 400, but it wasnt to be

So the final bird to reach the mark was Masked Shrike (ironically dad still needs it...sorry!). I was offered a lift and thought why not, we left Brundall at 4am and were back by 3pm! The bird showed well through the scope but a bit distant for photography. It had an odd charactor for a shrike, with its long tail and the sun gleaming from its pale front as well as fast jittery flight it reminded me of an oversize long tailed tit! We watched the bird for about an hour taking in all the plumage details and then had a walk around the local area, before heading back.
Not sure the BBRC would accept this photo as sole identity!
I admit I was so intent on looking at the shrike that I told Ian 'it's on the fence just right of the cow!'

This morning I was lured by the Little Crake at Minsmere. I woke up at 5.15 and thought to myself....if I were to see it before work I'd probably leave about now.... and with that I got up grabbed my bins, scope and camera and got in the car!
I saw the bird within 10mins of entering the hide but it was half light and through the tops of swaying reeds, it was countable but not very satisfying. I told myself that I had until 7.30 then had to get to work. It got to 7.30 without another view but I couldn't go just yet (the amount of times I leave and the thing I want to see shows well is annoying!) Sure enough 5 mins later the crake reappeared right out in the open. Like the shrike, it showed superbly through the zoom lens on my scope so that all plumage detail could be seen, but not so good for the camera.

So whats next??  My money is on Steppe Grey Shrike if it hangs around 'till my day off on Wednesday! Other gaps which can be filled include;

Boneli's warbler
Bonapartes Gull
Franklins Gull (grr missed the one up the road this yr!)
Humes Yellow Browed Warbler
Paddyfield warbler
PG tips
Pallid Swift
Red eyed vireo
Ross's Gull
Rustic Bunting
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Siberian Stonechat

This list is more for me but it may be of some interest for you?
So apart from a few tarts ticks they are all pretty rare!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

If you go down to the fen today....

You will be rewarded with fantastic views of 40-60 Bearded Tits at the river end of sandy wall, Otters have been seen regularly and Kingfishers are feasting on the small Rudd congregating by the sluice.

I don't think I have seen so many people enjoying the wildlife at the fen as I did this morning. Lots of nice positive comments too, including one person saying 'we now know where the best place to be in Norfolk is today! fantastic stuff- the one problem is that the bearded tits gathering symbolises their eruptive behaviour so while its great to see them, it probably means that we are 'losing' many of this years' young as they go and colonise other areas of reedbed. Still a great sight after their demise a couple of winters ago!

The lower image shows a male and female preening each other- Now thats something I have never seen or even ever heard of, but was nice to see this sort of behaviour at close range

Monday, 22 September 2014

Following the herd

After doing the point a few times and heading to the east coast a number of times recently I decided to have a look at some rare birds which I knew were there... yes I was a bit of a sheep and went to Burnham Overy Dunes, there I've said it I went and twitched some scarce migrants and I enjoyed it.

I headed up the BO dunes path in pitch black at 06.00 with a mist and light drizzle hitting my right cheek, something that many a birder walking north on the north Norfolk coast gets excited about! I arrived at the end of the track and immediately heard a Yellow Browed Warbler closely followed by a red breasted flycatcher, not a bad start. It was still too dark to really see the birds so I headed for Gun Hill.

I got about half way to the hill when I saw an odd looking bird fly in off and flew in front of me at about 30m... the unmistakable oddity that is Stone Curlew! This continued inland (07.06) and into the murk, it was certainly not a bird I was expecting to see on a misty morning in late September but I was pretty chuffed with that. Heading on further a few waves of song thrushes and Robins came into the scrub adding their seeping calls to the huit of the many redstarts that were also present. A few willow warblers showed themselves along with small numbers of goldcrest too, one of the WW's had a really clear yellow throat with sharply marked white underparts, given brief views my mind was thinking Wood, Bonellis etc, but it turned out to just be a willow (pictured below). Things were certainly arriving especially wheatears, redstarts, then a spotted fly hopped into view followed by a pied fly, whinchat, Garden Warbler and redstart, my kind of birding indeed (and I still had the place to myself!). I spent an hour wandering about adding to my growing tally of migrants.

I then decided to check out the East side of the dunes and soon heard another RB fly takking in a small gully, this one was pretty hyper and would not sit still for a second and when it did a fine male redstart would chase it off!... onwards slowly, again more of the same migrants, onto Holkham crosstracks and another tit flock contained more warblers and crests but not the biggy I'd hoped for.

On returning to the dunes in the large hollow next to the pines I heard a loud harsh jjiickkk x3 (like a harsh ZIT), no idea what it was at all, I also saw that 2 people were also looking perplexed, they say that they saw a large pale yellow warbler make the call and fly into the sycamore, after an hour of searching, sitting, eating lunch etc the bird was not relocated. No idea what it was, but it sounded strange and if a large warbler I hate to think what it may have been...not my fabled Icterine warbler again I hope!

Heading back towards the boardwalk a Barred Warbler decided to briefly show itself before flying into a better spot. I have not seen a Barred for ages so was great to get a decent look at it, it was even in a bush with a garden warbler for an excellent comparison, it was a monster! Very difficult to photograph but I think I got all necessary parts in 3 photos.

Back at the boardwalk bush I spent a bit of time sitting and waiting to see what was there, I was rewarded with some very nice views of the Yellow Browed Warbler (finally being able to take my first semi acceptable shots of this lovely sprite, if only it wasn't such a dull day my new camera would have performed better) as well as the red breasted flycatcher. There was also a slightly interesting looking Lesser Whitethroat present in the bush too. It had a very contrasting white throat compared to its darker almost buffy underparts, had a slightly browner mantle and wing to the others I had seen that day, however the head is a typical blue grey rather than sandy brown colour I was hoping for!

Totals for the day
Stone Curlew- 1 S @ 07.06
Wheatear- 17 (many Greenland types)
Spoonbill-3 flew over West
Redstart- difficult to accurately say I recorded 17 but believe there were many more (25+)
Yellow Browed Warbler- 1
Red Breasted Flycatcher- 2
Spotted Flycatcher- 2
Pied Flycatcher- 3
Whinchat- 4 (a lot less than the day before)
Tree pipit- 2
Garden Warbler- 17 (a personal day record surely)
Barred Warbler- 1
Lesser Whitethroat- 3

Wow what a great day, I don't usually twitch the more common scarcities (if you see what I mean) but given that I had the day off and have been trying to find my own stuff for the past few weeks I'm really glad I treated myself to what was on offer at a site that was clearly in form (strange how patchy the bird distribution was on Friday!). I don't think I have ever seen so many Garden Warblers at one location and the bird life, especially first thing in the morning was really quite fantastic, I'm glad I made the early start as I was rewarded with a Stone Curlew and the sights and sounds of many birds passing through. Waxham and Blakeney point will be next on the menu as seems to be pretty standard practise for me... with a little Yarmouth Cemetery mixed in of course just for variety.