Happy New Year. I hope that you will all have a good year and enjoy your birding as much as I do. Let's hope that we will all be able to see some good birds and be able to travel far and wide once again. I am certainly looking forward to some foreign travel and will hopefully do the trips that have been cancelled from the last two years.
Great Northern Diver
Teal and Black-necked Grebe
I had absolutely no intentions of doing any birding today as I have just so much to catch up on as I have been either away in Mozambique, imprisoned in an isolation hotel, away with my children and grandchildren at Christmas or ill with covid. However the lure of a couple of scarce local birds will always pull me out and so I made my way to Pentney GP where I have never seen so many birders! It was good to see them all as we shared tales and wished each other a Happy New Year. The Great Northern Diver came close to the front edge as did the Black-necked Grebe but shamefully I could not be bothered to walk along to get a better photograph. My fatigue from covid is making me very lazy! I hope it soon passes!
I watched a Siberian Chiffchaff with Tim and Trevor this morning by the visitor centre at Titchwell this morning before I started work. I also saw a few Red Kites at Anmer today too.
I couldn't find any Bean Geese or the Todd's Canada Goose on my way to work this morning south of Barrow Common but I did see a beautiful Barn Owl on my way home. It was good to see so many friends at Titchwell today. Thanks for calling in to see me folks!
Needing petrol on my way home from work I stopped for a while at Roydon Common and watched eleven Marsh Harriers in the air together from the car park. After more than 20 years of bird watching here I have never seen so many in the air together all at the same time. Some of the interactions between the birds were just fascinating to watch.
Still not very well after the effects of covid I knew I would struggle to do a full day's birding. I usually start the year like all my fellow birders rushing around the county picking up as many year ticks as possible but with terrible fatigue I have to prioritise. Many of the birds I know I will see at some time during the year anyway and so I only felt the need to see any rarities available. The only bird that falls in this category in Norfolk at the moment is the Iceland Gull and so I planned a very short visit to Cley before heading back home. However not all goes to plan and John and I failed to see the gull where John had said it would be along the shingle by Arnold's Marsh. After battling with the wind along East Bank that made me breathless and enjoying a flock of 30+ Snow Buntings, I admired a quartering Marsh Harrier and returned to my car and drove down Beach Road where James said he had recently seen the gull along the beach towards North Hide. Oh good, just what I wanted another battle with the wind!
After about 600 metres along the shingle John picked out the Iceland Gull and I walked another 200 metres and took a few photos of it feeding on a dead seal. It was sad to see it had broken its leg after getting entangled with discarded fishing line.
Lighting Lucy's candle after her Christening
My hands are full with 7 grandchildren!
A proud mummy with her children, Jonathan Kathryn and Mark
After a wrecked family Christmas with 5 of us testing positive with Covid it has been wonderful to have spent the last few days with my family ending with the highlight today of my seventh grandchild's Christening. Lucy was welcomed into the family on a beautiful day that we could all share together. What a day we had with all the children playing so well whilst the adults all tucked into a lovely celebratory meal. My family will always come first but nethertheless the grandchildren and I still managed to watch a Red Kite come swooping down overhead as we played outside. A few 'wows' were heard from them too. Some of them already love watching the birds!
I saw a big flock of Brambling on my way to work this morning at bend south of the Choseley Barns.
With Black-necked Grebe, Great WhiteEgret and Great Northern Diver having already been noted in the NarVOS recording area this year I was surprised to see that no club members recorded any birds of more interest in the winter bird count that took place yesterday and only submitted very common birds to the website. Such a shame as I know that there are some much more interesting birds around. What has happened folks? Did you not find any or have you just not submitted them? Sadly the fun has gone out of the event that we used to have but good that birds are still recorded.
I took a few walks down the west bank path at work today and helped various visitors out. My year list has barely started and I was soon adding several common species that I have not seen this year yet. I was staggered at the number of Golden Plover and Lapwing that were roosting on the islands. It must run to nearly a thousand of each species. The water levels were high after all the rain and the ducks were loving it. Many Shelduck were up-ended as Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall and Mallard were flying around along with a few Shoveler. Common Snipe and Dunlin joined a few Avocet to represent waders on the Freshmarsh as a few Meadow Pipits flew overhead. A Reed Bunting sat atop a bush and a Cetti's Warbler called from somewhere deep in the reedbed. I wandered a bit further watching Redshank and Little Egrets.
After work I wandered down the West Bank path again to watch the harrier roost. Only 14 harriers came into the roost, a low number for us at this time of year. I left work and watched a Tawny Owl at the side of the road. It was a good job that I was not going very fast as I nearly ran it over as I di not realise it was there until I was level with it!
It was my first full day's birding since the new year but I woke up not very well yet again because of the legacy Covid has left me. However it was a beautiful day and my car was due an MOT and service and it was being picked up to be taken to the garage. After my car had gone John picked me up and drove to Cley where we met up with Trevor Ellery who was keeping an eye on the Waxwing for us. After a bit of a wait we had good views and walked back to the car. I scanned a rooftop and found a Black Redstart! It was a bit of a surprise but a good year tick. We drove onto Holkham where after watching a Nuthatch in the park as we walked through John called out a Carrion Crow which I had asked him to look out for. However I knew it was too large and once it had 'cronked' my suspicions were confirmed. It was a Raven! A bit further on John spotted another sitting on the monument.
Scaup.........at least the male Tufted Duck is listening!
We walked to the lake where it took me a while to locate the Scaup which was asleep with its head tucked under alongside many Tufted Ducks. Pochard and Gadwall were present along with Mallard and Greylag Geese. Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker were all seen too.
We drove along the road and stopped to see White-fronted Geese, Barnacle Geese and a Great White Egret. I also saw a Carrion Crow!
At Brancaster Staithe we watched Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Grey Plover, Oystercatcher and Redshank before walking the seabank at Thornham harbour. Here Linnets and Lesser Black-backed Gull were added to my yearlist.
On the way home we stopped at Hunstanton clifftop where we watched Great Crested Grebe, Red-breasted Mergansers and Fulmars. Later we stopped and drove a track near my home where I had watched so many Hawfinch last year. As this was during lockdown last year the news was kept to only a few of my local friends. I stopped to add Siskin to my list.
Towards the end of the day we watched a wonderful sunset at Roydon Common. The sky was full of swirling reds and pinks against the blue. Such a beautiful scene as the mist was coming down. I am so lucky to live here. We watched a Male Hen Harrier, twelve Marsh Harriers and a Merlin all coming into roost.
It had been a wonderful winter day's birding and I was pleased to be out and about without collapsing and my car passed its M.O.T !
After a frustrating morning sorting out some new tyres for my car taking up much more time than it should have done I took a short walk down to Lynn Point where a Marsh Harrier was hunting. There were a few Shelduck, Teal, Brent Geese, Dunlin and Redshank out on the mud and a huge flock of Lapwing in flight out towards of the river mouth. After a bit of shopping, I stopped off for a walk on Roydon Common. Here I watched a male Hen Harrier flying around as well as a male Merlin flying around before settling on a short post where we had distant but good views in the good light. A Stonechat sat for a while but soon disappeared. Two Red Kites were flying over towards Grimston Warren before the Marsh Harriers started to come into roost as I left.
it was a very foggy start to the day but by the time John and I arrived at Buckenham the sun was out and the low-lying mist was clearing. We watched a group of White-fronted Geese near to the track with more flying in that totalled over 200 birds. I managed to pick out a Taiga Bean Goose in a far off ditch before all five bean geese took to the air and flew over the railwayline and disappeared behind the trees! We admired flocks of Wigeon and Lapwing before making our way to Ludham airfield where we saw 49 Whooper Swans and 9 Bewick's Swans. Sadly we arrived just too late to see the Cranes at Thurne as a crop sprayer had obviously spooked them just before we arrived. Grrrr! At Ormesby Little Broad we met up with Murray and together we enjoyed good views of the Red-necked Grebe and 6 Goldeneye.
On the way home we stopped at Whitlingham Great Broad where after an hour of searching the Shag that has been present all week flew in and perched on the pontoon.
After the early-morning mist cleared at Frampton Marsh RSPB, John and I watched a White-tailed Eagle (probably G471) fly across the marsh and out towards Hunstanton. The huge bird dwarfed all other birds that we were watching. Hundreds of Brent Geese, Canada Geese and Greylag Geese along with Wigeon were everywhere. Lapwing and Golden Plover flocks added to the stunning scene as we watched Skylarks, Linnets and Greenfinches that were either feeding on the marsh or sitting around in the bushes. A pair of Stonechat were a joy to watch as a lone Reed Bunting hopped out of the reeds. A lone juvenile Whooper Swan was hidng in the reeds as we watched Dunlin and Redshanks feeding on the pool edges. From the 360 hide we found 2 Little Stints which were a bit out of season. Once back at the Visitor Centre another birder had found a Peregrine sitting on a post all fluffed up from the cold. Oh to be back in Africa where it will be a bit warmer. Still only a few weeks to go until we will be there again! Can't wait!
I watched a big flock of Brambling on my way to work today down the lane to Choseley barns. At lunchtime I watched a Water Rail in the ditch down the West Bank path. It was good to see a few friends too as they are all still scurrying around for year ticks. Titchwell is still one of the best sites for so many scarce birds in Norfolk.
I added Goldcrest to my yearlist at work today that was keeping a few of our visitors amused. I wallked down the West Bank path at lunchtime where the Fresh Marsh was covered with Golden Plover and Lapwing. It was a beautiful day if a bit chilly, but our visitors were soaking up the sun. It was good to see David Pelling who used to be a volunteer at Titchwell as we swapped news. Together we looked out from Parrinder hide where we saw Teal, Avocet, Shoveler and Shelduck all feeding. As I made my way back up the path a Water Rail was busy feeding in the ditch.
One of my twitching WhatsApp groups announced a recent BOURC decision to accept a British first of the North American Horned Lark that I saw on St. Agnes back in Oct 2001. It's only taken 20 years!!!
It was beautiful day and John and I fancied a walk. We chose to head along the beach at Holkham where we watched two Great Northern Divers, three Red-throated Divers,a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers, a flock of Eider and two flocks of Common Scoter where we picked out two Velvet Scoters. A flock of 120 Snow Buntings landed beind us and I cursed not having my camera with me as some of the males were stunning in the sunlight. As usual the day was marred by people bringing thier dogs to the beach. Why people bring dogs to a National Nature Reserve is beyond me. So many dogs were off their leads and scaring the feeding birds. Its about time fines were issued to these irresponsible owners.
As we walked back to the car a group of Sanderling were feeding in the saltmarsh vegetation, a most unusual sight as they are usually out on the tideline. Red Kites were in the air above us as were a few Common Buzzards. Back by the cars the marsh was covered in Wigeon, Pink-footed Geese, Brent Geese as well as a couple of Grey Partridge and a lone Common Snipe.
At Stiffkey we sat and watched a couple of Marsh Harriers before heading for home. It had been such a lovely day to be out and about in the fresh air, something I have come to appreciate after a long confinement.
John and I headed out from home and stopped at Tottenhill where we watched 20 Redwing, 2 Treecreepers and a small flock of Long-tailed Tits. At Magdalen we saw 2 Goosander before making our way to Stowbridge where we watched 3 Goldeneye flying towards us before we went to Welney for the day.
After establishing that the Tundra Bean Geese were still present we decided to bird along the road first and enjoyed good views of a pair of Stonechats and four Cattle Egrets. It was exceedingly cold and I fancied birding from a nice warm hide instead and so we paid our dues and walked over the bridge. Here there were many male Pochards, Wigeon and Teal, Greylag Geese as well as many Black-tailed Godwits. However the prize was 9 Tundra Bean Geese. However we remained perplexed on some of the colouration on the bills of some of the Bean Geese. A Common Snipe was also probing the mud.
Tundra Bean Goose
After enjoying our time watching the Tundra Bean Geese and watching the feeding Pochards we made our way back to the cafe for a cup of tea and spent some relaxing couple of hours watching all the birds out of the cafe window on Lady Fen. Down below Tree Sparrows, House Sparrows, Goldfinch and Reed Buntings were flitting between the feeders and brambles as Cattle Egrets, Little Egrets and Great White Egrets were flying around. We could see huge flocks of Bewick's Swans, Whooper Swans, Woodpigeons, Jackdaws and Rooks covering the fields. Six Common Snipe flew over as we watched.
A Green Woodpecker provided some entertainment as it proded for ants and grubs as a Sparrowhawk flew through.
After a very late night sorting out a foreign trip for next year, as we have to get our names down early I had a bit of a lie in before making my way to West Newton where I met up with Keith and together we watched a Coal Tit, Marsh Tit, Goldcrest and a few Blue Tits before I searched for the Song Thrush that oftern seranades me by the mill. I could hear Goldfinch and Siskin but could not see a single one of them. The Song Thrush sat, sang and posed beautifully though as a Bullfinch added some colour to our day. We walked along to the pool and watched two groups of Teal in flight totalling 160 birds with 2 Shoveler and 6 Mallards. Three Common Buzzards were in flight over the trees and 3 Egyptian Geese were by the corn crop. A Red Kite flew over as a Common Buzzard sat atop the barn. I could hear a Mistle Thrush rattling as two more Common Buzzards were seen as we walked back to the cars. A flock of 51 Siskins flew in as a couple of Nuthatches played around the trees.
There was great excitement for our visitors at Titchwell this morning as Chris spotted a White-tailed Eagle landing near Thornham Harbour which could be seen from the West Bank path at Titchwell. It was a glorious day as I walked down the path with Matt and together we admired the huge bird sat on the beach.
I had a lovely jovial morning doing the Nar Valley WeBS count along with the other NarVOS regular members. Wildfowl numbers were very low for the time of year and whilst making my way to one lake I flushed out a Woodcock. In amongst the Siskin flock John found a couple of Lesser Redpoll which he managed to put in the scope for most of us to see. Brian located a Great White Egret sat on distant trees and we also saw a couple of Little Egrets. After sorting out a future day trip together for some of us we enjoyed a wonderful Sunday lunch in a local pub.
At Pentney I had a look at the Red-crested Pochard amongst the Tufted Ducks.
I had a quick walk down to the sea at work today after passing the Island Hide where I watched the Siberian Chiffchaff briefly along with Roger and a few visitors at Titchwell. On the sea there we a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers and a Great Crested Grebe. Back at the Fresh Marsh the workers were sorting out the predator fence as I watched a male Marsh Harrier hunting.
After work I gave a talk to the Great Yarmouth bird club about my trip to St. Kilda. Several members are wanting to go but I'm not sure that they fancied the rough sea that I encountered to get there. I showed photos of the Snowy Owl and the St. Kilda Wren as well as a few other birds and the historical village and scenery. The meeting went well and Justin gave a round-up of all the birds that we will lose/gain on our British and Norfolk list shortly. Lumping all the Redpolls will lose us some ticks! I'm glad I aligned my list to IOC some time ago, which the BOU now follow which will make life easier. I enjoy the Great Yarmouth bird club meetings as the members are all ardent birders and very knowlegable people willing to share their knowledge. Paul showed a few video clips of the River Martins that he took in Gabon. I can see that this will be on the shortlist for a visit soon! I also enjoyed Steve's photos of his 2021 year as I too had twitched many of the birds he had seen. Bird of the year was undoubtedly the Black-browed Albatross, it was only matter of time and I'm glad that I saw it so well along with many friends. What a day it was!
After a visit to the dentist John and I started at Cantley where we saw thousands of Pink-footed Geese, twenty plus Common Snipe, six Green Sandpiper, two Pintail and many Teal. Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits flitted around as we walked around. Ruff and other waders were good to see as they prodded the mud and walked around.
Next we drove to Winterton where the Purple Sandpiper was on the concrete blocks on the beach near where the beach cafe used to be before this area of coastline fell into the sea. We searched for the Iceland Gull at Waxham without success but we did see eight Common Cranes at Sea Palling.
We spent the evening at the monthly NarVOS evening. It was good to see so many people at the meeting where several members are still recovering from Covid. Paul Fuller gave an excellent talk on Spitzbergen with some stunning photography. As this is one of my bucket-list destinations to see Polar Bear we were very interested and hope to do this trip in the next couple of years.
I drove to Titchwell in the dark and met up with Paul and together we walked down the West Bank path at dawn and watched all the Marsh Harriers and Little Egrets fly out of roost and over the reedbed. A Great White Egret also landed down the newly cut channel. I walked down to the sea and watched a Slavonian Grebe fly towards me and land on the sea. By the time Paul and I had set up on the beach Trevor had joined us and together we saw Great Crested Grebes, Red-breasted Mergansers, Oystercatchers, Brent Geese, Curlew, Dunlin, Sanderling and Grey Plovers. Paul and Trevor had to leave to open the shop and I made my way to the Parrinder hide where after Lizzie had checked all the pipes I showed a visitor a Water Pipit which had dropped onto one of the muddy islands. Linnet and Skylarks were also present. There were many Teal and a few Shoveler returning too.
As I had a problem with one of my cameras I drove to Watton where after a few questions and some advice from ACS I managed to sort the problem out and all was well. I stopped by Threxton Sewage Treatment Works where I year-ticked 2 Grey Wagtails in amongst 40+ Pied Wagtails. They were difficult to count because of their mobility as they flew and flicked around.
At Cockley Cley I joined Ashley Saunders and Peter Dalton and together we watched two young Goshawks flying and intermingling in the sky. It really was a joy to watch them along with 5 Common Buzzards.
I should entitle today's expedition as 'hidden owls' as that's how John, Alan and myself saw them. Some of them hid a little bit too well! Setting off early we set off for a trip of taking in six different counties. We started in south Lincolnshire in the village of Langtoft where we watched an adult Ring-necked Duck on a private lake from the road along with a few Tufted Ducks. From here we drove to Deeping Lakes Nature Reserve where we failed to find the Long-eared Owl hidden deep in the vegetation, after watching a Green Woodpecker as it flew across us as we walked down to the hide. However it was nice to watch a pair of Goosander, Great White Egret and displaying Goldeneye on the lake from the hide. We walked along the river bank and after remonstrating with two dog walkers that had 6 dogs off their leads, totally out of control which were disturbing the ducks down at the water's edge, we watched a Grey Heron and then eventually found the Little Owl which was also trying its best to hide.
Smew and Mute Swan
Driving through Northamptonshire and Leicestershire we arrived at Eyebrook Reservoir. It has been many years since I have birded here and have forgotten at how many birds there are to see here. We searched through Tufted Ducks, Wigeon, Mallard, Mute Swans, Great Crested Grebes as red Kites flew overhead and after trying several spots I eventually located our quarry. Three pairs of Smew were in amongst the swans. They are such wonderful little ducks.
Crossing into Cambrideshire we made our way to Edernell where I followed some instructions that I had been given and showed the many waiting birders here a roosting Short-eared Owl. Another Short-eared Owl was out hunting over the grassland along with a Marsh Harrier and Red Kite. Along the fence line another Short-eared Owl was roosting deep in the hedge. All the birds liked to make it difficult to find them and certainly liked to hide if they could! We walked along the bank and watched two Common Cranes flying over the far bank. A Barn Owl flew out from one of the barns but was quickly out of sight. As we started to leave a Hen Harrier joined two Marsh Harriers over the rough grassland hunting. It had been a wonderful day full of good humour and banter with some excellent birding.
Whilst baking a chocolate cake this morning I made good use of my time and took part in the RSPB's Big Garden Bird Watch. So in amongst, eggs, sugar, margarine, flour and cocoa I had a pair of binoculars and pen and paper! With the mixer on full blast I could look at my well-stocked feeders and watch the birds coming in. I noted Blackbirds, Blue Tits, Great Tits and to my surprise several Greenfinch which have been in really low numbers over the last few years. Dunnocks were chasing around in the undergrowth as a Robin sweetly sang from the top of a bush. All of a sudden the birds all took off as gunfire started. Woodpigeons flew everywhere over the tops of the houses opposite and I was shocked at how near the gunshots must have been. We have a local farmer who is supposed to be interested in conservation but now and again he invites b........s (I'll let you fill in the gaps) to kill and maim birds, letting dogs loose and off their leads to disturb all the wildlife around. All the birds in my garden disappeared for several minutes and I put my cake in the oven to bake. Whilst waiting for order to be restored I made a pie and luckily a pair of Long-tailed Tits came to the feeders along with a Goldfinch. Two Siskins were a joy to watch before I ran upstairs to count all the Woodpigeons that have been eating all my Pyracantha berries. A few Collared Doves were also perched up high in the trees. After the hour was up, I entered my results onto the RSPB website which for a change did not crash!
After all my baking and cooking was finished I went for a walk at West Newton where the pair of resident Marsh Harriers were playing in the wind. They were joined by 3 Common Buzzards and put up a Common Snipe as they quartered the ground. Three Skylark were valiantly trying their best to sing against the strong wind. I am hoping with a new regime at Sandringham and a change in policy that some of the land here might be re-wilded. Two Bullfinch called from the hedgeline as I walked along with a few Chaffinch and a lone Goldfinch. Down at the pool I watched a few Mallard and could hear Teal calling but could not see them.
I saw several Red Kites on my way to work this morning. The usual flocks of finches were all missing on this very blustery day down the Choseley road. I don't blame them for hiding up. We had a few Bramblings on the feeders by the Welcome Hub today at work. As the road at Cley has flooded this evening I hope the dune edge at Titchwell hasn't taken too much of a batteting tonight.