Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Pre Christmas present - Siberian chiffchaff

Whilst working at the broad dyke in a boat today with Matt I was very aware of a call which I thought sounded very good for Siberian chiffchaff. I managed to ignor it for 20 mins as I was working, but then had to give in and see if  it really was a sibe chiff and not an over excited dunnock. After landing the boat I soon saw the bird making the call..... It was indeed a chiffchaff! I signalled to Matt to get his camera to get some record shots as I did not have my camera. The bird showed every now and then but was very flighty and sculky. I did get several good views of it, at first I thought it was not the usual grey tones I was expecting, it was quite bonellis like in some ways. It did have a very prominent supercillium though, far stronger than on a normal chiff. Subsequently I have seen on Martin garners website that some sibe chiffs can indeed show a slightly bonellis like colouration... But that call seals the deal! No shots achieved but I did make a couple of sound recordings, not easy in the wind! I'll try to get shots tomorrow morning, but the way it was moving about I'll be surprised if it is there in the morning, however it is the first time I have walked past the sluice area in a week so I have no idea how long it has been there, fingers crossed it will be seen again. Slightly disappointed that it's just 2 points on the patchwork challenge list, but this year they are 2 very useful points.... Poor year for many patches it would seem.
To top it all off on the way back down the river two waxwings flew over the boat, giving me another year tick, my fourth of the month and most probably my last, I think that puts me on 148 species for the mid yare so far this year.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Pre Birthday Present Snow goose

I took Friday off work as I worked the previous Saturday, as a birthday present to myself I had a full days birding, my first in ages!

I decided to stay local, partially as there was not a lot going on elsewhere in Norfolk and partially because I have not had a good look at the patch in a while.

Buckenham 07.30
At dawn Buckenham held;
2 peregrines
1 Merlin- my first patch bird this year
2 Shelduck
1 water pipit
1 grey wag
800 wigeon
850 pink footed goose

As I was watching towards Cantley I saw a large flock of pinks, within it I saw a pale goose very briefly (c.5 seconds) all I saw was the top side of the bird as it banked before landing (at Cantley). I noted a pink foot like back colour black wing tips and secondaries with a pale panel in the middle of the wing. I thought it looked interesting, but wasn't sure it wasn't just a funny looking pinky. I got back in my car and went to burnt house lane, where I failed to see the pale goose again.
Burnt house lane
1020 pink footed goose
93 white fronts
2 (different?) peregrines
2 buzzard

On to the beet factory, first visit for at least 3 months.
16 Shelduck
3 pintail
3 green sand
780 wigeon
2 goldeneye
1 kingfisher
1 grey wag
15 curlew

I then went to Ormbsbry little broad, which was quiet apart from 3 goldeneye.

Back to Buckenham I saw the pale goose again, with around 900 pinks. Initially I thought wow its a snow goose, but it was an odd plumage so wasn't sure. A check of Collin's showed it was not a pale or blue phase so I took down some details (see below) and took some pictures, the sun had already gone down so pictures were very difficult, especially combined with distance. Whether it was because I'd not slept well the night before or had been in the field all day for some reason I had completely forgotten that snow geese also come in an intermediate phase!

White head, neck, breast and underparts.
Dark smudge on forebreast.
Mantle/back dark grey variegated pattern, slightly darker than pink foot. As the photos show the rear of the upperparts were paler the nape area which was a touch darker, the exact detail of greater coverts hard to judge due to light.
Flanks dusky grey, uneven pattern all the way along flanks.
Legs dull pink.
Bill hard to be sure of colour but appeared pink with a slight orange hue, photos have exaggerated the orange compared to real life in my opinion. bill was a typical snow goose shape. Compared to the Ross's type which has been present at the site for years it was much larger in all proportions.
Wings- dark/black primaries and secondaries pale grey on forewing with a silvery pannel between the grey forewing and dark trailing edge (seen on initial sighting at distance, quite different to the white phase snow goose that I know, which is why I partially dismissed the first sighting) ... learning curve!
Tail was seen on this short flight view, it was paler than a pinky but I seem to recall some grey in the tail somewhere, but I cant be sure of the extent (brief view) the rump was white.
Size- appeared slightly taller than the pinks it was with (or maybe longer necked)?

It was very alert, constantly looking up between feeding. I returned at dawn the following morning, when at 07.30 the first dog walker up the track scared a small flock containing this individual. They headed NW and I followed them until they went over the horizon, I'm surprised its not been seen elsewhere this weekend.

After some research on the net I'm fairly confident that it is an intermediate phase snow goose. It is a particularly pale individual but within range of genuine snow. It would be good for it to be found somewhere else in the country for confirmation/better photos but I will be submitting a description and photos (for what its worth!) to the county recorders.

Photos (as stated- sun had already gone down, cloudy and distant so poor shots but you get the impression)