Happy New Year!
I hope that 2021 will be a better one for all my family, friends, colleagues and readers and hope we can soon beat this pandemic and get our lives back to normal. Good birding to you all!
Whooper Swan (at back)
Bewick's Swan (at front)
As I was still suffering from a head cold I did not have an early start this morning but filled up my bird feeders and watched from the kitchen window as all the usual garden birds filled the first ten spots on my new year list. A Blackbird was the first on the list followed by Blue Tit, Great Tit and Starling. A lone Greylag Goose flew over as I added, Black-headed Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, House Sparrow and Magpie.
Inertia nearly got to me as my cold was leaving me a bit lacking in energy and the cold grey miserable morning was not inspiring me to get outside. However it is January 1st and I am a birder which dictates that I must make the effort to at least start a year list even if I don't stay outside for long. I wandered up West Newton lane where instead of the 200 strong Brambling flock that I saw yesterday there were only ten Brambling in the hedge along with a few Chaffinch. A Siskin flew over and a Bullfinch called as it alerted me to its presence. It was a while before it showed itself though.
I was frozen and needed the warmth of the car and took a short drive to Tottenhill passing through Ashwicken where I saw a Red Kite. There were a couple of Pintail on the lake but not the expected Tundra Bean Geese. Grr. Mallard, Wigeon and Tufted Duck were present at Runcton Holme. I took photos of a Bewick's Swan and a Whooper Swan before a message came through on the WhatsApp group which I run of an Eastern Black Redstart at Snettisham.
When I arrived the bird had gone missing and so I decided to go and look for it. Luckily it had not gone far but the rain did not make photography very easy as I had to keep wiping my phone as I phone-scoped it.
On the other side of the road a Yellow-browed Warbler was calling. It took a few minutes to locate it before it flew along the bank and promptly disappeared!
The tide was well out at Snettisham but I added a few waders to my year list including, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Knot, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Common Redshank and Lapwing as well as a few other birds including Barn Owl, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. I enjoyed seeing Goldeneye on the pits and the usual skeins of Pink-footed Geese flying over. I had stayed out far longer that I had intended but it was good to see many friends on my travels who are also keen birders enjoying the day.
Eastern Black Redstart
Eastern Black Redstart
I started my day at Kelling Heath where after a walk, there was a rather confiding Waxwing sitting in the hedge. It was not at all bothered as walkers passed within a few feet of it. I took a few photos and left it in peace. I drove to Cley and after speaking to Trevor he alerted me to an Iceland Gull flying along the beach (thanks Trevor). I walked along the shingle on the beach where the gull had flown to. The bird eventually settled in the Eye field and I walked along to see it and hopefully get a few photos. I met Richard a former colleague and we caught up with recent events in our lives. Together we enjoyed good views of the Iceland Gull.
I scanned the scrapes and watched Pintail, Gadwall, Canada Geese, Shoveler and Brent Geese as well as a Marsh Harrier . A flock of Teal flew by as we looked out to sea but we could not find the reported Snow Buntings. I drove onto Wells North Point where I added Meadow Pipit, Rock Pit and Lesser Black-backed Gull to my year list. On the way home I stopped to admire the White-fronted Geese along with skeins of Pink-footed Geese flying towards Burnham Market. I could not find the Little Owls at Flitcham but did add Grey Partridge to my list.
The first Sunday in the new year has often been the NarVOS bird race where a team of four birders has raced around the NarVOS area seeing how many species of birds we can see which goes towards our winter count for our 10 x10 km squares that we cover. Over the years this has been a lot of fun which my partner and I have enjoyed. However life moves on and circumstances change. This year a pandemic has engulfed the world and we can no longer have teams or travel very far because of the rate of infection of the Corona virus. So it was decided that we would do the best that we could and just make it a count with everyone deciding for themselves how far to travel around their own home. I looked at the map and decided to keep within TF62 and TF72 which would hopefully give me enough scope for seeing a few good birds but realised that I would not get many of the birds that I would see on a usual race. I am lucky to have a birding partner with whom to do the count.
We started at Lynn Point but although the tide still had and hour and a half to run to high tide it was an unusually high tide being pushed higher than usual by a northerly air flow meaning that there was almost no exposed mud left uncovered. This had an impact of the number of waders that we were expecting to see with only Redshank and Curlew being seen. A Merlin was sitting on a distant post as we logged Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard. Reed Buntings and a Yellow Hammer were sat in their usual bush. We noted all the gulls and geese but the Brent Geese were missing!
At Castle Rising a Song Thrush flew out of the hedge before we arrived at Wolferton. We walked Dersingham Bog where a Green Woodpecker was sat on a distant tree as another Merlin sat on a post. In the village we stopped to admire a few Redwings. One thrush turned around to reveal a black throat and promptly dropped to the ground and out of sight. Despite further searching we could not re-locate it. Grrrr. I know exactly what I saw and what it was but had neither a photograph or another view of it.
We walked the Babingley River at West Newton which was beautiful in the sunlight. It was a great day to be out and about. A lone Stonechat kept us company but we didn't see any of our target birds. After a stop at Flitcham we decided to end our day early and went to Roydon Common where it was just a delight to watch a ringtail Hen Harrier flying around the common.
After a shower and a cup of tea I joined the NarVOS zoom meeting where most members taking part enjoyed some banter for an hour and talked about our experiences of the day. .............Gil.....you still make us all laugh and thanks for volunteering in the way that you did to co-ordinate the count records!
Having recently decided to purchase another car and having looked at the weather forecast I had set today aside for completing all the necessary paperwork and finances to enable me to acquire the car. I have bought and sold countless cars in the past and know the necessary routine and thought a few hours should be enough to complete this. How wrong I was! With extra security layers in place because of Covid and fraudulent transactions, I was met with a barrage of questions, texts, phone calls and online form-filling. And as for for a huge variation in insurance quotes.....don't even get me started! So most of the day has been spent sitting on my sofa with my laptop and only the constant stream of Blue Tits and occasional Great Tit and Starling on my bird feeder has given me any pleasure today.
After a morning of taking down Christmas decorations inside and outside my house and a spot of cooking, I watched a Sparrowhawk swooping in my front garden, scattering all the Blue Tits and finally sitting on top of my bird feeder by the lounge window. After a bit of a rest I had a late afternoon walk on Roydon Common. .For once it was not crammed with dog walkers and dogs off their leads. In the distance I heard what initially I thought to be Common Cranes calling but could not see anything. Eventually 12 Bewick's Swans flew over my head calling, an unusual sighting for here. I watched 6 Common Buzzards spiralling over the common as well as a Kestrel hovering. A Roe deer fed on the heather in front of me. Another Common Buzzard flew over as I waited for the ringtail Hen Harrier to show, which it did. It only flew for about 300 m before landing out of sight.
Ten years ago today I was sitting at San Francisco airport waiting for a flight to take me home from one of the best adventures of a lifetime. I had spent the year travelling around the world for the whole year birding all the way visiting Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Namibia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and California. How different today was being confined to home in the midst of a pandemic. I love travelling around the world, watching birds and wildlife and cannot wait for the day that I can continue with my quest. We only have one life and I hope to live mine to the full. I am lucky enough to have had a good career, family and partners with which to share my passion and struggle with the confinement of being indoors.
The weather did not look promising but I had a Teams meeting to take part in as since our Prime Minister made his announcement it has made the running of RSPB reserves tricky to say the least. Luckily by taking my phone with me I could get out for my exercise whilst listening in to the meeting on my mobile phone. Once again, abiding by the rules to keep local I walked up the lane and down one of the footpaths. Goldfinches and Blue Tits twittered away and a Greenfinch called from the hedge. Overhead a Marsh Harrier flew but the hedge obscured my opportunity for a photograph. I continued down the lane but my attention was diverted to my meeting. I saw little else as I stopped to talk to a friend who also being a birder had also seen little.
Back at home a family of Starlings were singing on my telegraph wires. They really are a splendid bird and very underrated in their winter plumage.
With my head cold now nearly better I ventured as far as the supermarket with my new face mask. I now have several friends with Covid and am so am keen to protect myself as much as possible and so did an early-morning shop when the customer numbers are fewer. On my way I saw a couple of Common Buzzards but the mist on Roydon Common was much thicker upon my return that I saw little and so my birding today has been restricted to my garden. My neighbour and I watched many Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits, a Great Tit and a Dunnock on my feeder as I have subsequently watched many Starlings extracting the suet pellets which they seem to enjoy. Hopefully John and I will see a few more exciting birds tomorrow but after hearing that police fined two people £200 for travelling 5 miles to exercise I don't suppose we will be going far! Apparently car registrations are being checked as to where people live!
I was woken up early by a text message from the NHS telling me that my Covid test was negative. Huge relief, all round! I have suffered from a head cold since Christmas and have been taking part in the King's College study on the Corona Virus pandemic who had asked me to take a test since I was feeling unwell. After a cup of tea and a quick breakfast, John and I were soon out of the door with the expectation of the early-morning mist clearing. We walked along the lane towards West Newton as we all have to stay within our local area. John was keen to see the Brambling flock along the lane. We flushed a few Grey Partridges out from the hedge as we walked as well as a couple of Bullfinches. We crossed over the main road and walked down the lane where more Bullfinches flew out of the hedge. There was little to be seen in the fields and it did not look promising as we approached the cover crop either. The mist was still lingering but all of a sudden birds burst from the crop of maize. They alighted in the trees and hedge along the lane but frustratingly we were the wrong side of the glimmering sun that was doing its best to burst through the low cloud. We walked back a few metres and realised that most of the birds were Chaffinches with a few Bramblings and some Goldfinches. John stopped to admire the Crab Apples whilst I took a photo or two.
We continued down the lane and turned down the public footpath towards a small shooting pool. Here we watched Teal and Gadwall but the Mute Swans were missing. By the Babingley River a female Stonechat sat in the field but was too far for a photo. Back at the road we stopped by the mill bridge where the water level of the river was higher than I have ever seen it. We stopped to have some soup and a mince pie when the mist suddenly got much thicker and it was pointless continuing our walk. We turned around and headed for home, seeing more Bullfinches but little else.
Sue at West Newton
Once back at home, John and I submitted our sightings of our NarVOS winter bird count to the NarVOS website. It was certainly interesting to see that some members had not kept close to home as we had been encouraged to, to keep within the government guidelines and I was glad we had kept to the rules as it made the day more of a challenge and fun.
As I was due to 'click and collect' my new car today there wasn't much time left for birding by the time I had exchanged all the paperwork outside all socially distanced and had the very helpful sales assistant try to assist me as best as he could with all the instructions stood outside whilst I sat in the car trying my best to follow all instructions as to which button did what and trying to 'sync' my phone via Bluetooth. This did not quite go as planned but we got there eventually! My afternoon was spent playing with all the controls sat on my driveway, with no instruction booklet as all instructions are now online, 456 pages of them! By 2.30pm I had achieved as much as I could and quite clearly needed to do some 456 pages of reading!
Sat on my sofa with some late lunch I watched the family party of Long-tailed Tits which appear on my feeder every day. I know its the same family as there is one very distinctive bird amongst them which is easily distinguishable from the others. They are such wonderful little birds that give so much joy to watch.
John and I went for a walk around the country lanes and across fields today from our home. We watched Red Kites, Common Buzzards and a big flock of Linnets making use of a cover crop. I heard a Bullfinch calling in a hedgeline and went to investigate. Sitting in the hedge were several Yellowhammers but I never saw the Bullfinch.
After another spell of trying to figure out what some of the buttons do on my new car, sitting on the driveway I wandered down the lane. Blue Tits were singing the in the hedge as Blackbirds flew up the lane in front of me. I stopped to admire some of the views and explored the churchyard where a Robin was perched and sang for us. Back at the T junction 5 Bullfinches called from the thick hedge before flying away.
The birders quiz was good once again on Twitter. Thanks to Ash, Mark and Nick for arranging the questions tonight.
As I opened the curtains Jack Frost had paid a visit! I was soon out of the door and walked down my lane. I could hear a Nuthatch calling but it took a short while until Iocated it. Getting a photo was impossible as there were too many tree branches and twigs in the way as the bird made its way up the tree. In a field I counted 9 Skylark either displaying or flying over and landing before counting 43 Curlew feeding In another flooded field. I crossed the road where there were at least 40 Reed Buntings feeding in a crop of maize. There were probably more here but I did not want to disturb them as they flew around looking for more food. There were a couple of Yellowhammers with them too. Three Red Kites were nice to watch as they majestically flew over.
I met a lady who was keen to know what I had seen, who had recently acquired a dog which she was walking on a lead. She was upset that now she had a dog she no longer got birds in her garden. I really didn't want to point the obvious out to her !!!!
In the evening I received a lovely message from one of my bird club members, thanking me for my efforts for one of my articles. Thank you.
Upon opening the curtains this morning I felt like getting straight back under the duvet as I could see that I wasn't going to need any sun cream! The weather forecast had predicted rain for most of the day with the threat of some sleet as well. Luckily I had been asked to do produce a short talk for one of my bird clubs via Zoom and this seemed an ideal day to get it together. It has been nearly a year since I last gave a talk to a bird club and technology has moved on. Many years ago I used to give talks using slides, most of which went in the bin when they came back from the processors but any reasonable ones that were fit to show simply went into a slide holder with each slide labelled and I either relied on my memory or used to keep a few notes nearby which I hoped to be able to see in the dark! Nowadays it is so much more complicated as each photo has to be sent through photoshop, cropped, lightened, sharpened and finally labelled to put in a file. It takes hours! When all the photos have been filed, the ones to be shown have to be chosen and then put into Powerpoint. Powerpoint has changed over the years and they are loaded differently than they used to be with compression instead of resizing like they used to be. At each change I have had to learn new ways of doing things, mostly self-taught. However having mastered all this to the extent that I can confidently give a talk along comes the pandemic and it all changes yet again. Now we have all had to learn how to use Zoom so that we can all keep in touch. I have listened to many talks given last year but giving one requires yet another layer of mastery!
However after many hours of work my St. Lucia talk is now ready! This also means that my birding has all been from my sofa today, which means that I have only seen, Blue Tits, Starlings and Blackbirds. I was expecting a few wading birds as once again my lawn is under water!
Blue Tit (taken through the lounge window!)
Blue Tit (taken through the lounge window)
It was a grey, misty, murky day as John and I set out for our walk from home today. We walked along the old railway line at the bottom of Rydon Common and watched a tit flock alongside the stream. I could hear a Marsh Tit calling which I needed for my 'lockdown walk from home list' . It took some time before I saw it amongst the Blue Tits, Coal Tits and Great Tits. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over as we were looking, which I also needed for my list. Eventually I located the Marsh Tit and managed to point it out for John. A finch flock flew into the trees above us and I counted 40 Lesser Redpoll. I attempted a few photos but the light was very poor. Two Stock Doves were sat in a tree by the horse paddocks.
After being turned back by a very stroppy lady who did not want us walking along a lane that I have used for the last 20 years we walked up onto the common where we added Green Woodpecker to the lockdown list. Across the common we saw very little except for a lone stonechat and adding a Little Egret to the list. Two Red Kites were sat in a distant tree before flying around over the common. We crossed the road and walked the track back down to the farm where we saw a flock of 45 Skylark over the fields. In the hedgeline there were 30 Chaffinch and 10 Linnets with a few Goldfinch, Blue Tit and Wrens present. Three Fieldfare sat atop bushes as 5 Meadow Pipits sprang out from the Sugar Beet crop. The only other count of note was 34 House Sparrows sat in hedges alongside the church. We were now starving as we arrived back home so I quickly made us some flapjack to accompany our sandwiches. Yummy!
Waking up to falling snow it was soon apparent that I was going nowhere today. I have been set a project to complete and so it seemed a perfect day to make a start on it. It will take some time to do and so a few winter's days staying indoors will not go amiss. But where to start? I will certainly need some research time. This meant that I did almost no birding today with the exception to look out of my lounge window occasionally fetching cups of tea from the kitchen. My Blackbirds were struggling to find the food that I had put out, mainly cake crumbs from all the baking of cakes that I have done recently plus a few sultanas which they seem to like. Blue Tits came and went all day on the feeder with the usual family part of Long-tailed Tits visiting.
I phoned my excited grandson who had his 5th birthday today only to discover that home schooling is proving problematical due to the lack of laptops that they all need to complete their learning. As my son who is working from home needs two screens to do his work and my daughter-in law also needs one to work, the children only have one tablet to share between them causing squabbles. My evening was spent sorting out my laptop so that they could have it as I can't bear to think that they can't do their schooling. There must be lots of families in similar positions. So do you have one lurking in a cupboard somewhere? Why not donate it to a child that needs it somewhere?
After posting off my laptop to my grandchildren, I went for a walk at Congham Heath Wood. It has been a few months since I have been this way but the paths were much muddier today and many trees have fallen across the pathway meaning that I had to make lots of diversions. A good job I am used to forging my way through jungles as I had to push my way through vegetation and leap water-logged mud. Marsh Tit, Coal Tit and Goldcrest were all seen as well as the usual Blue Tit and Long-tailed Tit. I did not do the whole of the circular route as I intended but diverted onto Eastgate Drove as I knew that there was a farm reservoir along it that might hold a few water birds on it. I was right it was full of birds. It held Black-headed Gulls, Common Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Mallard, Gadwall, Coot, Greylag Geese and a lockdown list tick of a Little Grebe.
I continued on my way and turned down a track back to the road. I saw almost nothing on the fields except for a few hares which were all hunkered down. Along the road I stopped to admire a flock of Siskin as Skylarks sang over the fields. A few Common Buzzards flew over before I stopped to count the Curlews in the field near Grimston. There were 38 today. Once again the Reed Bunting flock was in the cover crop. I suspect there are hundreds of them but difficult to count as they are constantly flying up and down. I saw at least 30 again today.
The day looked bright and sunny and so I got my bike out of the garage once again. It was good to back cycling but the lanes were a bit muddy to say the least. Fifty Siskins flew into a roadside tree as a Kingfisher flew under a bridge like a dart travelling to a dart board. It did not stop. Further along I watched a Chaffinch flock and noted 6 Tree Sparrows and a single Brambling amongst them. Two Common Buzzards sat in distant trees as I pedalled along. As I climbed a hill I could hear another Tree Sparrow but it flew before I could get a photograph. A Red Kite alighted from a tree and glided down low over the field as I started my return journey. It was nice to see a friend who recognised me as I was cycling as he was driving by from a work appointment, who gave me some useful information about other birds that I might go looking for later in the year when hopefully we will all be vaccinated.
On my way home I watched a Nuthatch on a feeder until a Sparrowhawk came zipping through and disturbed all the birds. What an enjoyable day it has been!
After an article that I wrote for one of my bird clubs I had some lovely messages. Thank you all.
It was a late start because of the rain this morning as I set out for Sandringham on my bike. A few Common Buzzards flew over me along my route and two Jays were having a dispute in the woods. I stopped for a breather and watched over 200 Siskins in a flock fly over the trees. The visitor centre was deserted, not a tourist in sight! I continued on my loop and felt sorry for the bedraggled sheep sitting in the field....they did look sorry for themselves.
When I got back home, I received some very exciting news. I was thrilled. More later in the year! Yah!!!
For those of you on Twitter the birders quiz was good tonight. I actually knew a few of the answers! Tom, your account of the White-throated Robin twitch was so funny. It brought back such memories of climbing on top of the van to peer over the wall. It is a twitch that will remain in our memories for years to come! Thanks to Mark, Ash and Nick for arranging the quiz once again!
I had a bad start to the day as I have lost my Canon SX60 camera which I think I left on the lookout platform at Sandringham, or it has fallen out of my bicycle basket. After a search John and I had a walk along local lanes and had a practice run with Nick back at home to present our two Zoom talks to one of our bird clubs; it seems straight forward....we hope!
This evening was the joint meeting on Zoom for two of my bird clubs. It was nice to see so many familiar faces and good to see James Robinson again and have a quick chat as James was a former colleague of mine. The talk on the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and the efforts to save the species that is critically endangered, was excellent and although I have seen it twice before it was good to have an update on its progress. A big thanks to James for his efforts. Thank you too for those of you that thanked me for my newsletter article. I enjoyed doing the research for it.
Can you spot the owl sitting on the log pile?
Little Owl (heavily cropped photo)
It was cold walk at West Newton this morning with frost and a light dusting of snow coating everything. It was certainly a wintery scene that greeted me with everything white. Seventeen Fieldfare were running around the field as I scanned the woods from the public footpath that runs along the hedgeline. I walked to the mill and watched a small flock of Goldfinches that alighted into the top of a Silver Birch and was surprised to see a Great Spotted Woodpecker sitting there too. A pair of Stonechat flitted around in front of the barn which I scanned once again. I generally have a look every time I pass. I could hear Mallard on the lake as well as Greylag Geese. I walked back to the woodpile and changed the angle I was watching from and spotted the Little Owl.
My evening was spent with the Great Yarmouth Bird Club where I was giving a Zoom talk on my trip to St Lucia. I was asked to concentrate on the endemics and Lesser Antillean endemics. Luckily I had photographs on most of them. It was a members evening and so there were a couple of other interesting Zoom talks too. Great Yarmouth Bird Club is a small club where all the members are birders and there is much discussion as we are holding the meeting. It was a very enjoyable evening appreciated by all those attending.
After trying to sort out a few issues with my lost camera John and I went for a short walk and watched a few Goldeneye, Wigeon, Gadwall and Mallard. As I walked in some grass a Common Snipe emerged and flew around us calling as it went. I scanned the horizon and watched a Marsh Harrier fly in the gloom.
John and I took part in the Birders Quiz last night that Ashley Saunders runs along with Nick Acheson and usually Mark Golley. On round one we were doing quite well for a change as it was all related to 'blue' and brought back memories of birds with blue in their name of birds that we had seen around the world. Unfortunately the quiz masters had wifi/signal problems and the later rounds had to be abandoned which will be rescheduled. However this will give us a bit more time to sort the anagrams out! The banter that goes along with the quizzes keeps Norfolk birders all connected and is great fun.