Paul and I start the year in New York visiting his brother Mark, a resident of Brooklyn. We manage to persuade Mark to take us to Central Park for the day (read afternoon, as after all it was a late night for some!) . The day is bitterly cold but clear and sunny as we wander around this huge park. Having been to Central Park before I am impressed with the bird variety that this park offers right in the middle of a bustling city. A flock of Common Grackles are too quick for me as I grapple with my camerabag to extract my camera gear.
Blue Jays call as a Tufted Titmouse flies from tree to tree above me. We watch in fascination as a woman stands loaded with differing types of bird food. Many birds take advantage of her offerings as squirrels throng around her. On the lake Ruddy Ducks preen along with Black Ducks and beautiful Hooded Megansers. Nearing dusk we admire a Cooper's Hawk sat quietly near a Red-tailed Hawk. All too soon our afternoon draws to a close and we retreat once more to the underground for our return jourmey to Brooklyn.
Here in New York it is cold and grey but Mark, Paul and I decide to wrap up warm and brave the elements against a biting wind. Mark drives us to Prospect Park in Brooklyn where all the trees are looking very bare indeed. Dog walkers also brace themselves against the elements and quite frankly I thought the outlook for any birding was slim. Spring however must be fantastic. Soon a blast of Arctic snow blows across us and I feel sorry for a Northern Mockingbird braving the elements without a coat!
On the frozen lake a few Ring-billed Gulls were taking advantages of all the people feeding them. However the Christmas bird for me was a Northern Cardinal definitely cheering the place up!
We drove out to Jamaica Bay, a nature reserve located on one edge of Brooklyn overlooking Manhatten. Luckily although it was once again bitterly cold it was at least sunny with clear skies. Many of the ponds were frozen with geese and ducks standing forlornly around conserving energy. A Great Blue Heron stood watching us. We were surprised to find a Yellow-rumped Warbler at one of the feeders. We carried on down to the beach where it could easily have been any beach in Norfolk as Sanderlings ran along the tide-line and Purple Sandpipers graced the rocks. Great Northern Divers (Common Loons) dived amongst some Mallards as we reached the end of the penninsula.
Great Blue Heron Jamaica Bay
Back in Norfolk and now free from the constraints of having to report for work I can now please myself at last at how I spend my time. I decide to have a wind-down day as jet-lag seems to be playing havoc with my waking hours. A late start to the day means I have missed many of the daylight hours so I kept very local and visited Abbey Farm Hide at Flitcham. I usually start my Norfolk year-list with common garden birds but I am surprised at the first bird on my list being a Common Buzzard as I leave home. All the usual birds are at Flitcham including a Brambling and Yellowhammer in the hedgeline. I watched a Barn Owl at Anmer and finished the day with a Green Sandpiper in a ditch near my home.
Waking hours still seem to be a problem so after Paul had set the alarm for 5am I decided not to make the same mistake as yesterday and set off early for Holme. A walk across the golfcouse revealed eight Long-tailed Ducks on the sea with four Red-brested Mergansers. The Sea Buckthorn was dripping in Fieldfares except fot a lone Stonechat and a walk besides the River Hun revealed hundreds of Wigeon on Redwell Marsh. A Marsh Harrier soon put them all to flight. After a chat with Sophie and Jed, I made my way to Titchwell to replenish the stocks of birdfood.
By 2.30pm I was at Blackborough End Tip where I had my work cut out sifting through the hundreds of gulls for an Iceland Gull. I located a Caspian Gull and cursed I had not brought my camera (I considered the light too poor when I had left the car). Eventually by perseverance I located the Iceland Gull swimming right against the back edge of the water. Two Green Woodpeckers landed in a close-by tree.
Paul wanted to walk Lynn Point and I stupidly forgot my fleece. It must have been one of the coldest days of the year with the wind now blowing, making it even colder. A Hen Harrier drifted across the river and disapperared over the marsh. Walking the public footpath we both laughed at the antics of a Water Rail skating on the ice as it made a dash away from us. All of a sudden Paul spotted two raptors heading straight for us. We were delighted to watch a courtship display of a couple of Peregrines. The tiercel was making a trilling sound to the female. I instantly forgot how cold I was.
Paul had decided to birdwatch around Castle Acre but I had to watch my son play hockey at Long Sutton at 1pm so decided to bird watch around the Saddlebow area in the morning. I joined Connor Rand and Irene Boston on Saddlebow Bridge. We summised that the reported Smew must be down nearer Wiggenhall Bridge and so drove straight there not stopping to look at the channel that cuts across this area en-route as I usually do. How I was to regret that decision later on. At the Wiggenhall Bridge, we watched 2 redhead Smew and 2 Goosanders as well as a Goldeneye. After a visit to Blackborough End Tip, Watlington and Tottenhill Gravel Pits I drove to Long Sutton. Upon arrival I could not believe my ill luck as Dave and Jacquie Bridges had located a Killdeer at Saddlebow! By the time the hockey match finished the Killdeer had flown. grrrrrrr
Meeting up with David Norgate at Saddlebow for first light we checked the channel once again. Many Common Snipe, a few Redshank and a Ruff were present but no sign of a Killdeer. I continued on to Welney, where after seeing plenty of Whooper and Bewick's Swans, I ended up in WWT's marketing material in front of a photographer for quite a while.
A stroll around Norfolk produced a Dartford Warbler and a pair of Stonechats after watching three Roe Deer.
Starting at Hunstanton clifftop I scanned through the ducks and was amazed to see lots of Eider Ducks, the most I have seen for quite a few years. At Titchwell a Water Pipit walked amongst 30 plus Common Snipe near the pathway. Down at the sea 3 Red-throated Divers kept several Goldeneye company. Sue and Ron Johns located the Jack Snipe which was lurking behind a thistle near the Parrinder hide. Eventually it showed well and we all had excellent views as it fed actively in front of us. At Holkham, a photographer showed little fieldcraft as he flushed the Short-eared Owl off from its post. He was certainly shamed as a warden told him off as he was evicted from the field!
Siskins sat up a tree in my garden as I topped up all the feeders.
I started the day at Weybourne beach where the Glaucous Gull looked as if it had made itsef comfortable keeping all the fishermen company for the day on the shingle. Moving on to Glandford, I joined the other birders in a fruitless search for the Black-bellied Dipper. The shoot that took place displaced a Woodcock that managed to avoid the guns. After having my lunch at the (now-even-smaller) car park at Salthouse beach I walked along the top of the diminishing seabank and around many of the pools back towards the road. A Little Egret and hundreds of Wigeon were out on the marsh as a pair of Marsh Harrirers were hunting. Redshanks joined the Turnstones in the pools feeding. A long walk at Morston produced a hovering Kingfisher as it sought its lunch. Several Little Egrets flew from drainage channels.
Paul and I were out on a bird survey all day around the Raynam area. We watched a pair of Barn Owls quartering a patch of rough ground as we tried to find snipe without luck. By the end of the day we commented about the lack of birds in general during this cold spell.
Paul wanted to take part in the Narvos bird race and so I kept him company. We started at Sandringham where we were delighted with several small parties of Crossbills chipping away as they flew over. We also heard about 6 different Treecreepers. At Wolferton triangle we were lucky to see a Golden Pheasant from the van as we drove around on our way to Dersingham Bog where the Great Grey Shrike had been wintering. It was in its usual spot not far from a couple of Stonechats. We visited many of our usual sites but were very pleased with a big flock of Bramblings, Lesser Redpolls and Mealy Redpolls at Nar Valley Fisheries.
I started my day trying to see a Black-bellied Dipper without success on the River Glaven. Moving onto Salthouse I watched a Great Northern Diver and Razorbill on the sea as well as 4 Snow Buntings on the seabank. At Sheringham a Purple Sandpiper posed on the rocks at the end of the high street before I drove to Felbrigg to watch a Hawfinch.
A walk with John and Judy Geeson brought delight as we watched a Dartford Warbler pop out of the heather and chided us as we approached. Several Goldcrests fed on the ground nearby as they flitted in and out of the heather. A Stonechat kept our interest before we drove to Holme to watch 3 Long-tailed Ducks off Gore Point. At Holme Marsh Pink-footed Geese fed on the grass as a Barn Owl flew over.
Driving through Burnham Over Town, six Waxwings sat on wires above a store of Rosehips in the hedge. I just about managed a couple of photographs before a council lorry drove under them flushing them all away over the fields.
I carried onto Buckenham Marshes before stopping at Cantley where a light aircraft did me a favour moving the Bean and White-fronted Geese where I could watch them feeding on the marsh. At Waxham thirteen Common Cranes were feeding in the distance.
Starting the day at Flitcham I felt sorry for the Little Owl sat out in the rain. The ducks however took no notice! Moving on to Holkham and Wells I watched the skies fill with Pink-footed Geese as I searched in vain for the Ross's Goose. I met up with Dave that I last saw whilst watching a Blue Rock Thrush in Cornwall in 2000 and we shared some stories in the rain.
Moving on to Brancaster Staithe I opened the car window whilst I poured myself some soup. All at once I recognised the call of some Twite. I leapt out of the car and realised that they were behind me. I quickly grabbed my camera just in time to watch them take off and land the otherside of the channel. Another birder and myself had good scope views before they once again took off over the marsh. A Little Egret and a Kingfisher were in the drainage channel. Later at Thornham Harbour 2 Rock Pipits were around the barn before I pointed out a Mediterranean Gull in amongst the other gulls on the beach to another birder.
Kingfisher Little Egret
Water Rail A Bittern takes a flight across Titchwell Marsh
It was pouring with rain as I left home but I wondered if I had made the right decision to go to Titchwell to 'sit it out' for the Bittern at Fen Hide. It got decidedly murkier as I got nearer the coast and visibility was getting poorer. However I sat in the hide and waited. A Water Rail appeared and played 'hide and seek' for over an hour as visitors came and went. Most of the time I was in the hide on my own, it poked around in the mud and disappeared back into the reeds, as soon as newly arriving visitors clonked their way over the wooden floor. At 10.45am a Bittern launched itself into the air and flew nearer to the main footpath.
Meeting up with Steve we watched the Black Redstart at its usual spot in King's Lynn. Steve picked out an immature male Scaup amongst Tufted Duck and Mallards. A Grey Wagtail flew over our heads as we listened to a pair of Dunnocks.
I joined John and Judy for a trip to Southwold where Dave Holman had a Lesser Yellowlegs all lined up in his scope for us. Thanks Dave! After watching the yellowlegs we enjoyed the close views of Bearded Tits and Reed Buntings feeding on theseed heads of the reeds. Moving on to the town marshes we watched the huge flock of Barnacle Geese where John also found a Red-breasted Goose of dubious origin. A Tundra Bean Goose was amongst the Pinkfeet.
It was a beautiful (if cold) day. I helped a visiting couple at the cliff top at Hunstanton sort through the wintering ducks. I don't think I can remember a day where the visibility was so clear and the sea calm, so that features of Common Scoters and Velver Scoters could be seen so clearly at a distance. A few Eider ducks kept the scoter flock company with the gulls.
A Tawny Owl flew over my car as I made my way to the gym. I was surprised that this was the first one of the year that I have seen as they are frequent visitors to my garden.
After many hours of trying I eventually caught up with the Black-bellied Dipped this year at a ford just downstream of Hunworth. This bird seems to like frustrating birders attempts to see it! I carried on to Felbrigg where I had an extremely cold walk around Felbrigg Lake. I had little reward save for a few Tufted Ducks, Moorhen, Coot and a motley collection of various shades of Mallard. However there were fabulous views of Golden Plover, Redwings and Fieldfares. With the easterly winds I felt sure there must be an interesting Thrush but it was not to be.
The day started well as Paul picked out a Goshawk not too far from our home. We watched it fly over the fields and out of view. We made our way to Sculthorpe where the Willow Tit was singing its heart out behind the hide and a Water Rail was actively feeding under the birdtable. There were many Siskins in the Alders. We walked down to the river to watch the big machinery make a new scrape. The Willow Tit was still singing on our return walk so I fetched Major from the hide as I knew he wanted to see it. It certainly put on a good performance!
Paul and I carried on to Guist where Major had directed us for the Mandarin. We walked the Wensum and watched 6 Common Snipe and 2 Jack Snipe fly ahead of us. A few Mallard and Teal flew along the river as well as a Mute Swan. Back at the bridge we walked the river the otherside where 2 Mandarin took off with a few Teal and Mallard only to re-land a little futher along the river. After a visit to Binham Mill, where I wanted to check out some moth information that I had been given, we slowly made our way home stopping at various interesting points. It was a circuitous route home to say the least as Paul is always keen to find his own birds.
Just south of Rougham on the B1145 we had our best sighting of the day as 400 plus Yellowhammers were feeding in fields eitherside of the road. They took sometime to count! It reminded me of my childhood days when sights like these were commonplace. What a shame that a flock of this size is now so scarce!
After a day of enforced staying at home due to the snow, my neighbour and I walked over Roydon Common. It was a beautiful day and we made the most of it. A Hen Harrier and 4 Common Buzzards thrilled my neighbour as I pointed out some of the other birds on offer. We were upset at the sight of a dead Roe Deer in the ditch by Roydon Crossroads, another road casualty no doubt!
Brambling Long-tailed Tit Marsh Tit
Another day out with John and Judy. Starting at Sculthorpe Moor we watched the Willow Tit behind the second hide after watching the antics of the Bramblings on the feeder. Sculthorpe have mounted many cameras around the reserve in nesting boxes, bird tables and around the reserve giving general views. Pictures from these can be seen in the reserve visitor centre.
Later at Swanton Novers, a Barn Owl disappered into a Barn after flying very close to us. At dusk I stood with Stuart at a well known spot to wait for owls. Although an owl was seen it was too distant for identification purposes.
Mute Swan Willow Tit
I felt somewhat intrepid as I stood in the cold and murk waiting at the owl spot once again. After several Woodcock emerged from the tangled scrub at dusk, I read a surprised Muntjac's mind as he stared at me in the field wondering what I was doing there! As I was getting colder I wondered what I was doing there myself ! However armed with some good information from Nigel, a Long-eared Owl flew right infront of me and followed the hedgeline along until it disappeared.
As Paul and I were awaiting family for the weekend we had a quick tour of local spots. The only unusual bird was a Ruddy Shelduck at Pentney busily preening itself.
Returning from the gym I passed Roydon Common where 3 Hen Harriers were going to roost. Whilst I sat in my car a Barn Owl flew towards me and perched on the fence 3 metres away. I reached for my camera and realised that I had left it on the kitchen table. Oh how I cursed!
I decided to brave the cold and made an early start to arrive at Strumpshaw before 8am. I was joined by a regular band of Norfolk birders all telling tales of dipping the Penduline Tit that had been present here. Whilst we all shivered and laughed at various jokes we were treated to 4 views of Bitterns involving at least 3 different birds. A Peregine added to the raptor tally as we watched at least 3 Sparrowhawks and 3 Marsh Harriers. After leaving the hide I went to investigate the Reeve's Pheasants that are in a nearby copse. These introduced birds are certainly pretty birds. Two males and a female scuttled their way over the ground at the side of me.
After a lie in bed this morning I discovered that the roaming Norfolk Cattle Egret had been re-located near Holt. As I wished to visit the outdoor clothing shop in Holt this was a perfect excuse to get going a little earlier than I had planned. After a spot of map reading I found a few die-hards already on site taking photographs. I am sure the tractor driver wondered what was going on and relayed the information that the egret had been present since Monday. I didn't stay long and made my way to Holt. After a major purchase of a new hat I made my way to Cley where a Stonechat was making good use of a newly cut area outside Daukes Hide. On East Bank the Brent Geese were happily munching their way through the grass as a Marsh Harrier circled over the reeds.
Later at Warham Greens I had a phone call from a friend that had me dribbling about our future foreign birding holidays this year. For once I will not have to go in school holidays and it will certainly be warmer than Warham Greens was right now. A Barn Owl flew by and landed within a few feet of me terminating my phone call as I stood glued to the spot. Soon harriers were coming in to roost. Two Marsh Harriers were soon followed by five Hen Harriers. Over the marsh a Merlin flew before all too soon snow stopped play. I was frozen once again and retreated to the car.
Needing some more bird food for the gareden feeders, I made my way to Titchwell. High tide was due at 0938hrs so I timed my arrival to be on the beach platform just before this. Tony Gray and myself were glad to see that the sea was clam with just a little swell that made seeing the birds easy. I soon picked up 5 Long-tailed Ducks not too far out towards Holme as well as a couple of Red-breasted Merganzers along with a few Eider Duck. Tony searched through the Great Crested Grebes and soon located a Red-necked Grebe. It was so clear we had good views of the birds. Goldeneye and Red-throated Divers added to the scene.
After leaving Titchwell I walked down
Spending the morning down King's Lynn docks and Lynn Pont we talked with Bob and Gill who had located the Rough-legged Buzzard at Sandringham yesterday. We vowed we would look later in the day. Moving on to Saddlebow we worked our way through the gulls and then made our way to Tottenhill . A Yellow-legged Gull was amongst the gulls and four Pintail were amongst other wildfowl.
Arriving at Brancaster we walked Gypsy Lane in the opposite direction that I had walked yesterday. Paul lagged behind examining all the Linnets and Skylarks whilst I made my way up the bank. The Black-necked Grebe swam beside me and seemed quite happy diving for food.
At Flitcham we failed to find any snipe or owls and so staked out the field by Sandringham wood yard. Here we met Dave Appleton who felt as frustrated as we did. Just as he left a female Hen Harrier flew in front of us right over St. George's School.
Hen Harrier over St. George's School
Hen Harrier over St. George's School
Starting the day at Holme, I joined a little band of regular sea-watchers. We had good views of three Long-tailed Ducks and a small passage of Fulmars. I walked the Thornham bank where there were plenty of Ruff, Lapwings and Golden Plovers on the flooded field. Two Water Pipits were a nice surprise feeding at the edge of one of the big puddles. The air was full of Skylark song as I carried along the bank.
Driving on to Burnham Overy Staithe I ventured along the bank as my usual route from the main road definitely needs wellies at the moment. There was very little in the channel but once I reached the big pool I was delighted at the sight of a Ruddy Duck that has escaped the cull. Brent Geese and Wigeon came in for a 'wash and brush up' but didn't stay long leaving the pool once again to the Coot. I returned via Sandringham where two Common Buzzards were calling overhead the Queen's stables.
I took a picture of a Stonechat today instead of going to the gym as I had promised myself ! Why oh why do I just prefer eating my homemade chocolate cake and taking pictures to running on endless machines?
An early appointment in town at the bank and a lovely lunch date with a friend (some of us ladies that lunch, you know!) left little time for birding. So I stayed very local and took a few pictures of the Ross's Goose at Hillington. As the geese were still arriving as I left, I only manage to find one Tundra Bean Goose but believe there may be up to six here.
Later in the day, still searching for the Rough-legged Buzzard in the area I disturbed a Common Buzzard from a tree near Ingoldisthorpe.
Ross's Goose with Pink-footed Geese
Meeting up with Stuart and being joined by Peter, Connor and David we watched the female Ring-necked Duck on a Norfolk Broad. It had a nasty habit of constantly disappearing down a channel. There were many ducks to look through as Pochard and Tufted Ducks were numerous. A few Mallard, Gadwall and Teal also added interest as we listened to Lesser Redpoll calling without seeing them on the Alder trees. Two Scaup put in an appearance later on as we sorted through a few scaup-faced Tufted Ducks.
Enjoying a glimpse (well at least a micro-second) of the sun, a walk produced a Long-eared Owl. It did not however enjoy the exposure to it as we did! Thank heavens for long lenses and scopes!
A well hidden Long-eared Owl
Whilst Paul cooked himself a breakfast I ventured out to Roydon Common just in time to see the Great Grey Shrike before it flew even further from the car park. Wood Lark were singing beautifully as I got out of the car. I hurried back to Paul and we made our way to Cley where a weird-looking Brent Goose was swimming on a pool. Looking through the brent Goose flock we located a Pale-bellied Brent Goose. Moving on to Salthouse we were greeted with the sorry sight of the Glaucous Gull with a droopy wing. It will suely die of starvation eventually as it will be unable to feed itself. For now it seems to be living off scraps donated by the fishermen.
Great Grey Shrike A peculiar looking Brent Goose
Later at Felbrigg we watched four Mandarin Ducks on the lake before moving on to Sheringham wher a Purple Sandpiper was once again gracing the rocks just below the end of the high street.
The Glaucous Gull in a sorry state Purple Sandpiper
Before boarding the train to London I had just enough time to visit King's Lynn Docks where a Shag had taken up residence with the local Cormorants. Paul and I watched with great delight the two Peregrines on the tower making dives after the pigeons. Later in King's Lynn we photographed a leucistic Blackbird. It was ceratinly a very smart-looking bird.
A wait at Wolferton produced little in the way of bird species. However the Grey Partridges were rather cross that I had disturbed their nap.
I spent the day in and around Wolferton watching Common Buzzards. At one point I had seven in my scope at once. A pale Common Buzzard with a pale rump area caused some comment amongst the assembled birders.
After taking delivery of a new fridge-freezer I made my way to the Castle Rising cycle track. After watching Lapwings and Wood Pigeons for quite a while I joined Dave Appleton at North Wooton Marsh. I watched a Hen Harrier fly close by over the fields before studying buzzards once again. After watching Common Buzzards, a Rough-legged Buzzard put in an appearance before disappearing along with the Common Buzzards. I moved on to another location nearby and was delighted by two Goshawks causing havoc amongst the pigeons. To my surprise they stayed in the air for quite a while and I could enjoy them in the sunlight.
After watching the antics of a Rook on our bird feeders Paul and I made another trip out to North Wootton Marsh where we watched the Rough-legged Buzzard. We also watched a Harris Hawk with jessies on mob a Common Buzzard. A walk through a local wood disturbed two Woodcocks and a Barn Owl. I admired the carpet of Snowdrops and some early Primroses.
Starting out at Santon Downham I was delighted to be watching a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker within a couple of minutes of arriving. It was busily drumming on dead branches in the sunlight. From here I decided I needed a walk and chose the riverside where a Grey Wagtail was flycatching at the side of the river.
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Grey Wagtail
I decided that it was such a beuatiful morning that I could do with some exercise and chose to have a walk all around Lynford Arboretum and Lynford Lakes. I could hear Crossbills calling as I walked through the paddocks as well as a good selection of woodland birds. On the lakes Tufted Ducks and a Great Crested Grebe braved it out on the water competing with various feral geese. My first butterfly of the year flew across in front of the hide. It was a Red Admiral and looked wonderful in the sun as it gave a hint that Spring was in the air.
I made my way back through The Brecks where I almost ran over some Reeve's Pheasants as they strolled across the road in front of me. I noticed that one had already lost its life earlier on.
Great Crested Grebe
Later at Great Cressingham thirty Tree Sparrows sat in a roadside hedge whilst four Common Buzzards displayed overhead. John and Judy had already counted twenty Common Buzzards that morning and wondered if there was a small migratory passage happening. I have certainly noted a lot of buzzards in the last few days. I counted another four on my way home.
At North Wootton Marshes, Stuart White and I watched the juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard. Although it was distant it was good to see it behaving as a Rough-legged Buzzard should. Later at Wolferton cliff top we had thirty Crossbills fly over our heads. The Great Grey Shrike must have sat in the bush by the car park for hours as it was there at lunch time and again several hours later when I returned from the gym.
This was a sad day as my favourite Barn Owl that has given me so much delight for so long at the top of the road by the common was squashed flat in the road.
A phone call had me scurrying to Cley but on my way I was saddened to hear that the bird had been taken into care and was in an aviary. Stopping to take another phone call I was undecided as to what to do. I eventually decided to continue to Natural Surroundings as it was a nice afternoon and a jolly good bird. The Siberian Thrush was not in a poor condition as I had expected, but was in fact flying about and had quite clearly recovered and wanting to get out! I took a few photos before moving off with all the other birders whilst the cage was cut open for the bird to escape. It flew across the meadow to the nearby stream where it hid in the understorey foliage of the trees bordering the stream. After a while I crossed the stream with other birders and we watched the Siberian Thrush from the adjacent field before returning to the stream for closer views. It was good to see that the bird was feeding normally and seemed quite happy.
Black-bellied Dipper Harvesting the Reeds Tractor load of Reeds
After the excitement of yesterday I was going to have a quiet day at home but the pager indicated that the Black-bellied Dipper was behaving itself for once at Hunworth Ford. I arrived to be told it was still showing and at long last managed to get some record shots of it before I went for a walk at Walsey Hills where the Reed harvest fascinated me. After a sea-watch at Salthouse I returned to the River Glaven where I had the dipper all to myself and could take a few more photos.
Another day at Strumpshaw getting cold in Fen Hide!
Reed Bunting, Bearded Tit Grey Heron
Starting at Wolferton Church we admired all the Redwings feeding in the sheep field. In actual fact I spent more time watching the adorable black new-born lambs. One little lamb seemed very unsure who his mother was, as it skipped between two different ewes making me laugh at its antics.
Moving down to North Wootton Marsh we watched a Common Buzzard, two Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk. Later at Lynn Point we could see the fast approaching storm and just as it hit us, two Peregrines flew at lightning speed after Woodpigeons. After a quick visit to home we walked the back track at Roydon Common, where a Stonechat was hanging on for grim-death in the gale-force wind. A Meadow Pipit sat in a tree before we once again took refuge at home.
Later in the evening we assembled in King's Lynn Arts centre with other birders for Alex Horne's stand-up comedy show on Birdwatching and 'twitching' for a 'Big Year in world birding'. It was very funny especially when he picked Paul out at random from the audience. What a mistake! Paul and I have beaten his 'Big Year' list every year for about the last 20 years! Oh dear! It got even funnier when he started on about Ghana (let's face it, what are the chances of someone picked out at random from the audience has stayed in the same hotel and employed the same local guide in Ghana as he has?) However we got stumped at one of the bird calls from Ghana he played (he had had enough of us clever-dicks by then!). We could not identify it (even though we had identified Jackass Penguin calls from Robben Island in South Africa---winning Paul a chocolate penguin bar!). The call turned out to be a tree frog!!! Oh well, can't win them all! For those of you in time, Alex is appearing in Norwich with the same show in Norwich on Tuesday 10th March.
Having been away with my son in Cheltenham, I saw how the other half live at the Cheltenham Races. I have never seen money change hands so quickly and so much Guinness drunk in all my life. Now I know what the Irish spend their money on! I have returned somewhat poorer and confirmed what I already knew that gamblng is a mugs game, having lost my money on every single race! I shall stick to birding in the future!
Starting at Lynn Point, Paul and I listened to the first of the migrant Tree Pipits as it sang tunefully at the top of a bush as a Stonechat kept it company nearby. Four Little Egrets and fifteen Avocets were amongst the Brent Geese lingering by the river. A Marsh Harrier preceeded a Hen Harrier flying around the marshy area before a Hen Harrier settled in one of the Poplar trees.
Stonechat Tree Pipit Crossbill
Moving on to Holme we enjoyed the warm sun as it made a lovely change to the bitingly cold winds that we have suffered during the winter. However the birding front was quiet but we did locate two Crossbills that have been lingering around for a while.
Later at Titchwell a Chiffchaff flitted across the path before disappearing into path-side bushes. A Little Ringed Plover popped out from behind one of the islands as 250 Black-tailed Godwits preened in the late afternoon sun. We searched for a reported Greenshank without sucess but enjoyed the spectacle of all the birds roosting on the Freshmarsh. Our walk back up the path produced another two Chiffchaffs, a Merlin and a Mediterranean Gull calling overhead before we settled down to a meal and drink in the Lifeboat.
Before driving to York for a few days I walked down to the pits at Snettisham where a 'pink gull' was showing well with a few Mediterranean Gulls.
Mediterranean Gulls with Black-headed Gulls
After an early morning start to drive home I was delighted at a roadside view of a Barn Owl hunting to catch his food.
After being treated to a lovely Mothering Sunday meal in Oxford by my children we were all treated to a Red Kite flying overhead.
A very windy day saw a Redpoll swinging around on my neighbour's Niger feeder. Later at North Wootton I watched a Hen Harrier swoop down and catch a small rabbit which as it was lifted it into the air, the unfortunate rabbit found itself skydiving without a parachute! A Marsh Harrier was also battling against the wind over the fields.
Upon waking, I cursed as yet another migraine had attacked me. Medication took a couple of hours to kick in before I finally made it to Lynford to search for Firecrests. Dave had kindly told me where to search. It didn't take long as they were singing in the hedgeline.
I searched the brecks for Stone Curlew in vain but had good views of Tree Sparrows and Buzzards and my first Wheatear of the year. Unfortunately I had to return home for a rabies injection ready for my forthcoming birding trips and a review of other inoculations. Not all birding is pleasurable as I often end up in unsavory places!
With a throbbing arm I eventually made it to Titchwell too late to see the reported Spoonbill. However I needed the exercise and I had a pleasant walk. Common Snipe were having a 'set-to' in front of Parrinder Hide.
On my way home at dusk, I was surprised to see a leucistic Fallow Deer in a field near Anmer. It certainly stood out in the gloom.
Still wracked with a migraine, I could not venture out until my medication kicked in. I find them so debilitating at times. However by lunch time I felt well enough to make my way to Stiffkey where it was bright and sunny although the stiff wind was very cold. I examined all the birds present on the fen and was pleased with the numbers of waders present. I thought I saw a Common Sandpiper fly to the far corner but could not relocate it once it had landed. I found a spot out of the wind and decided to sit and just take in the peace of the place in the sun. I think I must have dozed in the sun as I was awoken by a calling Cetti's Warbler in the ditchline. A Common Stonechat watched me for a while before I realised how time had slipped by and I decided to make my way back to the car. I met Mike Ottley who kindly let me look through his scope at the Common Sandpiper that was playing hide and seek in the corner where I had seen it fly earlier. We watched a Common Buzzard overhead before I returned to the car. I saw another 3 Common Buzzards on my way home.
After a swim, I stopped at Roydon Common where the Great Grey Shrike was still hanging on to the tops of bushes in the strong winds. A male Hen Harrier flew in the distance as two Common Buzzards circled overhead. This was accompanied by the song of a Woodlark and a Green Woodpecker calling as it flew to a Silver Birch tree.
Great Grey Shrike
A trip to Nar Valley Fisheries in the cold miserable weather with Paul, produced our first Swallows of the year. They disappeared all too soon ahead of yet another rain belt hammering in from the North. Four Goldeneyes looked more at home than we did in the wind and rain.
Starting at Cley, Paul and I had good views of a Cetti's Warbler calling in a ditch-side bush just opposite the visitor centre car-park. We walked along to East Bank and eventually to North Hide. The sea was deserted of birds! Marsh Harriers were putting in good dispalys and Bearded Tits were calling and flying around over the reedbed.
At Pentney, Paul and I watched our first Sand Martin of the year flying over the lake as a Little Ringed Plover sheltered by the nearside bank. Two Mediterranean Gulls were amongst the Black-headed Gulls. At Lynn Point 11 Avocets were of note as was a Marsh Harrier.
The day dawned bright and sunny with full of promise. So I made my way to Snettisham Coastal Park where I hoped to see a few early migrants. Within five minutes a Swallow flew over my head and so I set off in hope towards Heacham along the bank. Chiffchaffs filled the air with song as did Chaffinches, Meadow Pipits and Linnets. Nearing Heacham another Swallow flew over but it was apparent there was little else in the way of early migrants except for a Wheatear that soon flew off as I approached.
Oystercatchers Barn Owl
As I made my way back a Barn Owl landed near my feet. I stood mesmerised as it seemed to disappear in the long grass clearly trying to catch something.
Walking back along the seafront I was surprised to see that it was high tide. The view was stunning as the sea was like glass. I was quite taken by the reflections of the Oystercatchers were making as they flew along by the side of me. All too soon I was feeling the start of yet another migraine and had to retreat home for medication. Grrrrrrrrr
With Paul having left for work at 5am, I decided to make and early start and headed for Lakenheath. I walked along the riverbank and was delighted to see a pair of Garganey on Hockwold Flashes. It was a wonderful morning with the mist just lifting revealing a beautiful sunny day. Mute Swans, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Gadwall and Mallards were all going about their business before the Garganey decided to take off and land the other side of the river. After watching for sometime I made my way back to the car-park and went in search of the lingering Great Grey Shrike.
Great Grey Shrike
At Weeting I watched a lone Stone Curlew being chased by a rabbit which was quite funny before heading up to Heacham where once again I missed a Ring Ouzel. Chatting with Geoff and Pat, they told me about the Red-crested Pochards at Titchwell. As it was a lovely afternoon I made my way there where Dave and Jean directed me to the birds. I was just in time to see them fly out of the ditchline and head towards the beach.
I made the mistake of leaving my anorak in the car as I headed through Snettisham Country Park. I heard several Willow Warblers singing and soon located one not too far from the gate. It was a misty morning and should have returned to the car as it soon became apparent that it was colder than I had allowed for. Being brave I carried on towards Heacham but just before the halfway point I located a Ring Ouzel at the top of a bush over by the bank. Later on at Roydon, Woodlarks were singing by the carpark as I searched in vain for the Great Grey Shrike.
Needing to have a little flutter on The Grand National I drove a circuitous route to Hunstanton via the Heacham trackway behind the chalets. Here I searched for a reported Ring Ouzel before placing my bet in Hunstanton. I should have stayed put as not only did I lose my money on the horses but I also missed the Ring Ouzel and the Short-eared owl that showed whilst I was in the betting shop. That will teach me! However not all was lost as the reported Black Redstart transformed itself into a Redstart and Mike had kindly waited to show me the area it was flitting about in.
With Paul not feeling well we had a very late start and decided to head for the coast. After a short visit to Cley where I watched a Common Buzzard emerge from the reedbed along with a Marsh Harrier I drove to Friary Hills at Blakeney. Here it was sheltered from the wind and I watched in fascination as a pair of Jackdaws collected rabbit fur for their nest. A Cetti's Warbler kept up the interest as it flitted down in the ditchline singing its heart out.
Lesser Black-backed Gull (graellsii)
Overhead a Lesser Black-backed Gull flew.
Later I walked out at Bunham Norton where Avocets were courting as dozens of Meadow Pipits flitted around the flooded fields.
I took a photo of the two horses that I should have backed for the Grand National and perhaps have retained my money!
At Brancaster I watched as two Common Cranes flew over Titchwell before deciding where they were going next!
Future Grand National winners in waiting!
Meeting up with Simeon, we walked Snettisham Country Park where our first House Martin of the year flew over our heads along with a Swallow. We watched a Common Buzzard as well as a couple of Marsh Harriers before heading off to Holme. Here we searched the forestry for a Common Redstart. After a while it showed itself but was shy of the camera as were the invisible Ring Ouzels that were reported. At Choseley Barns we seached in vain for a Ring Ouzel but enjoyed a few Yellowhammers. At Titchwell, Sand Martins were battling through against the wind as Simeon scoped the Knot and Black-tailed Godwits.
A long planned day out with my friend Jill had us heading towards Cley. It was lovely to share some time together as we walked the whole way around the reserve. We watched Marsh Harriers sky dancing in the sun as well as a Little Ringed Plover from North Hide. Sandwich Terns were a welcome sight returning to Blakeney Point for the breeding season once again. A Common Snipe ran in the grass as Black-tailed Godwits fed in the mud nearby as Swallows, Sand Martins and a House Martin indicated that summer is not to far away now.
John, Judy and I started the day with 2 Little Owls just outside Barnham Broom before heading towards Breydon Water to see the Lesser Golden Plover that was giving rise to a few headaches for identification purposes. It was squat down with its head tucked under which did not help us at all. Soon it moved giving us better views. Ben managed to capture a photo which led to several discussions, some fence sitting as well as some hybrid laughs! A Black Redstart was showing on the railwayline behind us before we headed off to Winterton. After pounding the dunes we walked the horse paddock lane where a Blackcap was singing and a Goshawk surprised us all flying across the lane, before causing alarm to the local pigeons on the church tower. At Rush Hill Scrape, Marsh Harriers flew around as 75 Avocets and 6 Black-tailed Godwits completed our day.
A short afternoon walk at Snettisham added a Yellow Wagtail to my yearlist.
With only an hour to spare before family commitments I added Sedge Warbler to my year list at Snettisham.
A cold northerly wind meant birding was once again not as pleasant as it could be. Paul and I stopped in Lynn Docks to watch the Peregrines on the tower. We stayed inside the van at Lynn Point but got out quickly when we were surprised by a Common Crane flying over the river towards Lincolnshire. A Common Sandpiper, two Marsh Harriers and seven Avocets added to the list of birds seen. At Pentney a Common Tern reminded us that the weather was meant to be a lot warmer.
The pair of Peregrines in King's Lynn
After being woken up by a Mistle Thrush singing in our tree at home we enjoyed a lovely walk at Holkham with Paul and Kathryn. This meant that we did little birding as Kathryn enjoyed the paddling in the sea!
John and Judy spent the day with me birding NW Norfolk. Starting at Snettisham Coastal Park we watched a Grasshopper Warbler reeling before locating a Lesser Whitethroat. A Ring Ouzel flew over before we left for Holme. At Gore Point we had quite a walk before I spotted The two Slavonian Grebes on the sea opposite the pay hut. We walked along the beach to get good views of these lovely small grebes in their summer plumage.
A search at Choseley produced another Ring Ouzel in the hedgeline as well as some Corn Buntings and a Wheatear.
Moving onto Titchwell we enjoyed the summer plumaged Spotted Redshanks as well a a Red-crested Pochard. Marsh Harriers were also putting on a good display. From Parrider hide, I picked up the call of Mediterranean Gull and sure enough two gulls landed on one of the spits.
Later at Hunstanton we watched a Black Redstart in one of the gardens by the lighthouse flitting on the garden wall.
Corn Bunting Northern Wheatear
Leaving home in good weather I was surprised to find Snettisham Country Park with swirling sea mist and wind. Conditions were horrible as I watched another Grasshopper Warbler reeling away in the Hawthorn bush. Lesser Whitethroats were calling as I listened to at least 3 Whimbrels call overhead that I could not see in the murky conditions. At the RSPB reserve later in the morning the sun appeared and a couple of Common Whitethroats sung to stake their claim to a territory.
On the way home I watched several pairs of Buzzards now seemingly fairly common in NW Norfolk. How times have changed!
A visit to Pentney had me watching a Lapwing displaying at the back of the lake rolling around the sky as it not only showed off but was unhappy that two Whimbrel had flown in and landed nearby. They were soon shown who was boss! After watching Chaffinches collecting goose feathers for their nest I was distracted by my first of the year Cuckoo calling. It too was shown the door as several corvids gave chase. I walked the lane in hope of a Nightingale to no avail but was rewarded by a beautiful Bullfinch, Blackcap and a low-flying Sparrowhawk.
Passing Boughton Fen on my way to fetch some rockery stone I could hear a Grashopper Warbler reeling and a Nightingale singing before walking Foulden Common where Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats were singing. After loading the stone and taking it home I made my way to Stiffkey where I watched a Greenshank before heading to Friary Hills where I searched in vain for a reported Wryneck. I did however watch a Green-veined White Butterfly and a Dunnock whilst listening to a Cetti's Warbler singing at the top of his voice!
Green-veined White Butterfly Dunnock Hoverfly
I returned home via Pentney where 3 Black-necked Grebes had taken up residence along with four Little Gulls.
With the day spent gardening yesterday Paul was keen to do some local birding today. We started at Boughton Fen where we had good views of a Grasshopper Warbler reeling in an Elderflower Bush in the reedbed. A Nightingale was also seen from the same spot giving excellent views from the top of bush before disappearing back into the Blackthorn bushes. Blackcaps were singing as we made our way to the channel where we had good views of a Kingfisher as it darted down the channel. Our next target took sometime to find but determination paid off as I located a pair of Stone Curlews in the brecks. We walked at Cockley Cley where Orange Tip butterflies abounded in the shelter from the Northerly winds.
At Pentney we watched a Little Gull along with 2 Mediterranean Gulls and four Little Ringed Plovers before touring Nar Valley and Ashwicken sites ending up at Roydon Common where a Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard finished our day.................or so I thought!
After Paul had watched the FA Cup semi-final at home we headed to Lynn Point where we watched a couple of Marsh Harriers and gulls going out to roost. We were actually en-route home when a phone call had us scurrying to Wereham where a Dotterel had been seen earlier in the day. With the last remnants of light I managed to pick out the Dotterel as all the Golden Plovers got up and amazingly started running towards us. Paul was really pleased that he saw the bird after his efforts of getting to the site before dark and we celebrated with a couple of drinks on the way home!
After a morning of domestics (just to let you all know I do some.......well as little as I can possibly get away with that is) I decided after lunch to head for Holme. It had been a beautiful morning at Roydon but Holme was shrouded in grey, dank cloud. After a 50 metre walk the pager alerted me to the fact that the Hoopoe has been refound. In hope that the weather might be better along the coast I joined lots of other birders all stood at various points in Upper Sheringham around the church. After establishing where the Hoopoe was last seen I stood with some friends and waited. Stuart and Robin soon located the Hoopoe flying towards us where it went over our heads towards the woods behind us. After Robin kindly let me look through his scope at the Hoopoe I made my way to East Bank at Cley where I watched Bearded Tits and Sedge Warblers. Nearing Daukes Hide, Stuart, his Dad and I watched a Reed Warbler singing before watching 2 Little Ringed Plovers from the hide.
After reaching home I had a phone call that had me scurrying down to Lynn Point. I phoned Paul who joined me and after a bit of a search located a Green-winged Teal in the Babingley Channel where it joins the river. A Grasshopper Warbler reeled from a small patch of reeds as a Grey Heron flew overhead.
A long-distance poor record shot of Hoopoe
Starting the day at Lynn Point, I failed miserably to get a photo of the Green-winged Teal. The weather was heavenly as I watched Marsh Harriers come and go.
Walking with Stuart for an early morning start at Snettisham we quickly located 2 Cuckoos in the bushes calling as they flew away from us. Grasshopper Warblers were reeling as we stopped to watch one of them. Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats were singing as the Pink-footed Geese flew over our heads. At Holme we saw little before moving on to Titchwell where the Red-crested Pochard was asleep in front of Parrinder hide. It was still mid-morning as my day was curtailed by a desperate phone call from Paul who was being surrounded by 2 fire engines and an AA man as his van was billowing smoke in Baldock. After being rescued by them, my taxi services were required.
Another early morning start at Happisburgh looking for a Hooded Crow saw little in the way of unusal birds except a Tree Pipit and Yellow Wagtail. For a few minutes I watched the activities of the Sand Martins busily collecting mud for their holes in the cliffs. At Beeston Bump three Wheatears were running around before I made my way back to a well-know site for Montagu's Harriers. After and hour or two of watching Marsh Harriers resplendent in their Spring plumage, Geoff Barker and I moved to a better vantage point near by. Here we watched the same three Marsh Harriers we had seen earlier and several Common Buzzards before picking up a Red Kite soaring above them.
My car was due for its MOT and service today and so another early morning start was necessary to visit Redwell Marsh at Holme. Here a Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Common Snipe and several Avocets were very active on one of the scapes in the early morning sun. After collecting my car I received a phone call that had me running along the Snettisham bank just in time to see a Spoonbill in one of the channels. I really must get fitter for all this birding!
After a morning of chores Paul, Steve and I headed for Pentney where Common Terns, Greenshanks and Little Ringed Plovers were being badly disturbed by a jet-ski. Why is it these mindless idiots are allowed to disturb schedule 1 breeding birds? A Yellow Wagtail and Mistle Thrush were feeding on the grass infront of us.
Yellow Wagtail Mistle Thrush
A Nightingale sang in full voice nearby.
At Nar Valley Fisheries we studied a white-winged Gull that has been mooted as a Kumlien's Gull. It certainly looked an interesting gull. Paul and Steve added several year ticks to their lists before we returned to Pentney for another look.
At this time of year we are always blessed with some colour in the way of Yellow Wagtails. Birders take great delight in searching through them in the hope of one of the colour headed ones. At Titchwell birders were delighted at a Black-headed Wagtail by the car park. It was a delightful evening and we decided on a meal out at one of our favourite pubs before movimg on to Holme where we searched in vain for the reported Whinchat.
Starting at Roydon Common we were surprised to see 5 Whimbrel feeding by the car park. A Cuckoo flew over calling as 4 Woodlark flew around. Down at Lynn Point we listened to several Common Whitethroats and a Blackcap before watching a superb male Whinchat gleaming in the sunlight. Marsh Harriers were calling and displaying overhead. They were a real joy to watch. Paul and I were joined by Steve and Grahame as we watched a male Montagu's Harrier fly through. In the Babingley channel 2 Greenshanks were feeding as well as a Green Sandpiper and 3 Avocets.
Moving on to Flitcham, the Little Owl was sat in his usual spot as we took in the sights of all the balls of fluff that were running around in the way of chicks. A pair of Kingfishers kept us amused as they dived for small fish.
Spot the Little Owl !
With my forth-coming foreign birding trips nearly upon me now, I realised that I had to prioritise some shopping for some new footwear. Walking boots and walking shoes were purchased at Holt and being keen to wear them in before I go I walked down to Kelling Quags where a Lesser Whitethroat was calling in the hedgeline. In the meadow a summer plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit was in its red dress and a Wheatear was on the shingle bank. On Kelling Heath a Sparrowhawk shot infront of me before I saw nine Siskins at the railway cottage. As the wind whipped up I took shelter at the garden centre, which proved an expensive option as I was considerably poorer as I left than when I went in!
Roe Deer Corn Bunting Muntjac
Needing somewhere to test my new walking boots I walked along the river at the J E C nature reserve. A Hobby was busy catching all the newly emerged flies as a pair of Marsh Harriers were displaying overhead. Five Common Buzzards were soaring to the south of me as another three were calling to the north. A pair of Kingfishers made a noisy announcement as I watched a pair of Grebes in the river. A Roe Deer surprised me as I passed by, as did a Corn Bunting sat on wires near Hockwold. Another Hobby was perched by the fisheries eyeing up all the insects being disturbed by various animals.
At Wretham Heath warblers were in abundance. Blackcaps, Garden Warblers, Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers all sang to enhance my morning as a couple of Muntjac fed close by. At Narborough railwayline more warblers were singing. A male Blackcap's luck was in as he had found a lady friend which he gave his utmost attention to! Arriving at Pentney, a Greenshank ran along the near edge of the lake as a Common Sandpiper annouced its arrival. Two Little Ringed Plovers ran around as a Little Gull joined the Common Terns picking flies of the water's surface.
It was forecast to be a good day weather-wise and so I decided upon a good long walk. Starting early I ventured out to Gun Hill at Burnham Overy where it was wonderfully peaceful. Once the tide had reached it maximum height it was a lovely scene as Little Terns dived for fish and Oystercatchers made the most of the protective fences around the breeding colonies. Sedge Warblers were singing well in the dykes and posing to be photographed. Northern Wheatears were running on the short grass catching insects as Linnets sang joining in with the Skylarks filling the air with song.
Sedge Warbler Northern Wheatear
I was surpried to see a Short-eared Owl flying over the sea. I sat for ages enjoying the peace and scenery. Walking once again, this time towards Holkham, more Northern Wheatears were posing on top of mounds. I sat watching them before walking back to my car as a migraine starting forced me back to the car in search of my medication. I cursed as it meant an early retreat back home.
An evening visit to Dungeness saw Paul and I joining many others in a search for the Crested Lark that has hopped across The Channel. I was keen to see this bird as I had missed the last Crested Lark in Britain by a matter of minutes. Soon Justin had located the bird and I had brief views of it before it flew across the road. A cat and mouse game ensued but after a while it was relocated to give excellent views where all the birders present obtained good views as it fed on a shingle ridge.
Arriving back home at 11pm from Dungeness last night meant I was not too sprightly when the alarm went off for my 4am start to meet Stuart at Barton Mills. However I was soon under way and after a circuitous route we arrived at Portland Bill in fine weather soon locating a stunning Collared Flycatcher in Southwell. We certainly enjoyed the views of flycatcher as it gave short but good views as it flitted between various gardens. I have had the good fortune to have stayed at the Portland Bird Observatory during the May Bank holiday for several years and the birding is excellent around The Bill. Stuart and I made the most of our opportunity and watched the sea for a short while seeing Manx Shearwater, Puffin, Gannet, Razorbill, Guillemot and Kittiwakes before scanning the fields where we found Northern Wheatears and a Whinchat.
Because we were on a limited time-frame we made our way to Radipole Lake where we had good views of the Hooded Merganzer which after staying over winter had developed adult plumage. We were just about to leave when a fellow birder told us about a possible Eastern Bonelli's Warbler back at Portland. A quick dash back had us scanning every bird in the sycamores, locating Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Wood Warbler as well as a Blackcap. We commented upon a very grey Chiffchaff but had to leave before the Bonelli's Warbler was refound. We had a very exacting drive back home through all the May Bank holiday traffic but it had been an excellent day's birding. Thanks Stuart!
Awaiting the arrival of family and friends, Paul and I had an early morning walk at Roydon Common where we enjoyed views of a Green Woodpecker and a Jay but little else. Late afternoon saw another walk on the common where Mark, Suzi and I listened to a Grasshopper Warbler reeling away as a Cuckoo sat in nearby trees calling for a mate. As it got dark several Muntjac passed in front of us viewing us with great suspicion!
Suzie had never been to Blakeney Point and wished to see the seals and so dressing up for winter Mark, Suzie and I braved the cold winds and rough sea on Bean's boats sailing from Morston Quay. The sea was determined to get us a little wet but it was all good fun as we watched Common, Little and Sandwich Terns. Unfortunately the terns were being harassed by the gulls on the point as we drew level with the Grey Seals lounging around on the sand. A lone Gannet flew close inshore as we made a hurried visit to the beach the otherside of the visitor centre. A Swift flew over us in Morston battling against the winds.
Glad to be leaving the cold winds that have been a feature of the weather in Britain this year, Paul and I headed to Gatwick where we joined our team of Rob, Lee and Joan for a trip to sunny Morocco. I will post a trip report when I've done it!
Arriving in Marrakech we headed for the desert down the coast road towards Agadir. House Buntings were our first birds at the airport and White Storks were all nesting on various buildings and pylons.
Still heading south we studied the Magpies with their blue ear coverts and Crested Larks everywhere. At Oued Massa we delighted at the hot sunny weather and abundant birds not knowing which way to look first. Warblers seem to be in every bush as we sorted through them admiring an Olivaceous Warbler and Sardinian Warbler. A Barbary Partridged flushed out from a bush just after a Quai flew down the sandy slope. Further south at Oued Syed, Thekla Larks and Desert Wheatears joined Trumpeter Finches as we searched a Wadi for a Streaked Scrub Warbler. Near Guelmin we had a lark bonanza as I was thrilled with the sighting of Thick-billed , Temminck's and Bar-tailed Larks.
Arriving at Tarfaya, Lee and Rob were keen to locate the small colony of Kelp Gulls which were an addition to their WP lists. After a search Lee located them and we all added them to our WP lists! I was more delighted with the sighting of a Hoopoe Lark nearby! Still heading south we crossed into Western Sahara and one of many border and police checks. The endless questions about our professions got a little boring after ten stops, especially when Rob livened it up with a different answer every stop! It was a long drive but at least we have discovered where all the Spotted Flycatchers are. Every bush had one not to far away as they flew around for insects. I don't blame them for not arriving in cold damp England!
After a night in Daklar we found our furthest point south in the Sahara Desert. It was 115 degrees and the birds were wonderful. Desert Warblers and Black-crowned Finch Larks kept our interest as we searched for Cricket Warblers. It didn't take long to see one for our WP lists but it took much longer to try and take a photo as it flitted from bush to bush.
Desert Warbler Cricket Warbler
After a quick sea-watch we began our long journey back north.
Travelling back along the coastline and having a few stops en-route for seawatches we arrived at Cap Ghir. After a few photos of the near-extinct Northern Bald Ibis we arrived at the nesting site on the cliffs and a very unwelcoming official. We ended the day with one of the sights of the trip with 30 Eleonora's Falcons hunting above our heads as dusk fell.
At Sidi de Bourhaba we arrived at a lagoon with a good variety of duck including Marbled Teal, Red-crested Pochard, White-headed Duck and Red-knobbed Coot. Black-necked Grebes were hard to locate as they dived in the distance with Little Grebes. Driving towards the Atlas Mountains we travelled through an amazing migration of Painted Lady Butterflies. Millions were on the wing and it was impossible to avoid them as they pitched on the road. Near Azrou Paul located a pair of Atlas Flycatchers before driving up into the moutains for Seebohm's Wheatear.
Lee drove up and over the Atlas Mountains and back down into the Sahara Desert. Here we searched the outcrop of rocks for Pharaoh Eagle Owl. We had good views of White-crowned Wheatears and Desert Larks.
White-crowned Black Wheatear Pharaoh Eagle Owl
Our drive back through the Atlas mountains was very scenic with biblical style villages en-route. For once we left the searing heat and encountered some cooler weather. Up in the mountains it started a light drizzle of rain making conditions a little misty for out search of Tristam's Warbler. However after a little scrambling around we eventually located one that gave good views.
All too soon it was time to head for the airport at Marrakech and a homeward flight back to England.
Arriving back home in the early hours of the morning I was housebound with chores. However the pager would not let up and Paul and I made a late afternoon visit to Cley for some stunning views of all the Black Terns that were gracing the reserve. The Citrine Wagtail was obseved from Bishop Hide before we made our way to Dauke's Hide for better views of the Temminck's Stint and Kentish Plover. On the sea a couple of Arctic Terns passed by that had been part of a good passage that day.
A short walk down at Lynn Point produced a couple of Common Terns and a Cuckoo flying over the river.
We needed some bird food for our garden so I made a short visit to Titchwell where eleven Black Terns were flying around the wildfowler's pool. A Spoonbill was keeping Common Shelduck company whilst it was preening on the freshmarsh.
Spoonbill and Shelducks
An early morning visit to Salthouse had me watching the Collared Pratincole that had arrived. Later at West Runton I enjoyed the Grey-headed Wagtails before meeting up with John and Judy to admire five Green Hairstreak Butterflies and May Lillies.
Paul and I made some brief visits to local spots in poor weather. A Marsh Harrier at Lynn Point kept us amused as he was 'sky dancing'.
Paul and I have been away in Cheshire for a few days and besides watching a young Pied Wagtail being fed by one of its parents in a car park we have not done any birding whatsoever. I have however managed to upload a trip report of our recent trip to Morocco on this web site for those of you that are interested. Just click on the Morocco 2009 tab.
An evening visit to Sandringham meant that I had fabulous views of 3 Nightjars that were churring and flying about my head. This watching is not for those who don't like midges, they were voracious!
Paul and I had a quick stop at Sculthorpe Mill where 2 Spotted Flycatchers were in the Willow Tree by the mill. At Great Ryburgh 3 Hobbies were putting on a marvellous display as well as 2 Marsh Harriers. A Harris Hawk joined in the fun! Many hours were spent watching Common Buzzards at Swanton Novers and a probable Black Kite caused much debate! At Fulmodston a Turtle Dove was added to my Norfolk year list.
An early morning visit to Swanton Novers paid dividends as several of us watched the male Honey Buzzard rise out of the woods at 8.45am. A quick phone call to Stuart had him arrive in time to watch a marvellous wing-clapping display above the woods. It was a marvellous display as the male hunted around for a female. Moving on to the infamous secret site in Norfolk, a pair of Montagu Harriers performed well with the female eliciting food from the male. Several food passes were seen from the concrete stand as we watched in awe.
Walking up the hill the Painted Lady Butterfly migration was still taking place with many pitching down on the track. It was good to see and know that from all the millions I had seen in Morocco some had made it this far. Driving down to Titchwell for some bird food supplies, Corn Buntings were singing well from the hedges and wires near the Choseley Barns. I knew I needed to get home as I felt a migraine starting.
After returning home early yesterday because of yet another migraine I still felt very woosey and so stayed in bed until late morning. Eventually I felt in need for a short walk and ambled along Narborough Railway line with John and Judy. A couple of Spotted Flycatchers were good to see as were 2 Hornets. Several Latticed Heath Moths were noted as well as Burnet Companion Moths. Brimstone Butterflies were in good numbers as were Common Blue Butterflies.
By 2.30 pm I returned home and slumped on the hammock in the garden still not feeling too well. However by 5.30pm I felt much better and made my way to Titchwell. I was not to get there as the pager alerted me to a possible Great Knot at Breydon Water. After a few phone calls I joined Steve and Grahame and motored to Breydon Water where we joined the assembled birders to admire another Great Dot (sorry....Knot)!.....or is it?
An early morning start to get to Luton to fly to Turkey joining up with our usual crew of Lee, Rob. Joan with Paul and myself. Arriving in Istanbul we were delayed by a hired car turning up with a puncture! With 3000 miles to cover this did not bode well. Two hours later we were on our way as Alpine Swifts flew overhead. (I will write a full trip report later)
Lee drove through the night as we made our way from Istanbul to the Black Sea. Crested Larks and Black-headed Buntings were fairly common as we stopped at a few point to admire the birds. Turning south we climbed up through a gorge to high altitude where Snow Finches were added to our list.
Suffering from altitude sickness I was still able to haul myself to Lee's scope as he picked out a Caspian Snow Cock sitting at the top of one of the snowy crags. The scenery at 2640 m was stunning in the glistening snow. A Caucasian Black Grouse was also found by Lee hugging the edges of the Rhodedendrons.
We travelled most of the day to Kurdistan and the borders of Armenia and Georgia. We witnessed a horrible dog fight that left us in no doubt how dangerous the ferel Anatolian Sheep Dogs could be. Rob managed to stop the fight with a few well directed stones that certainly saved the life of one dog being savaged by the rest of the pack! The scenery continued to be stunning as we motored on admiring flocks of Rose-coloured Starlings flying overhead.
Staying the night at Dogubayazit (nick-named by us all as dog biscuit) we were now in muslim territory within 5 miles of the Iranian border. After travelling 30km we climbed up high to see military tanks on the peaks as we were withing a few hundred yards of Iran. Crimson-winged Finches took off as we searched through the Causian Twite. Many Eastern Black-eared Wheatears were singing in the delightful high-altitude meadow. At Serpmetas it took us a while to find Mongolian Trumpeter Finches. We were lucky to have a delightful local who was also interested.
Mongolian Trumpeter Finch
After my blond hair deterred 3 hotels from accepting us as overnight residents we emerged from a hotel who agreed to have us slightly tired. At Van Marshes we watched Paddyfield Warblers before climbing up for stunning views of Grey-necked Buntings 7 km out of town. How I cursed at not having my camera as one perched within a few metres of me! At Menrut Daygi, the volcanic crater gave us a few heart stoppin moments as we descended into the crater over the snowy pecipice-like road. Once inside the caldera the wind was against us, whipping up sand and grit in our faces. We failed to find Radde's Accentor. Grrrrrr
Using a ferry crossing with no apparent organisation we made it to Nemrut Dagi. On the way up we stopped to watch Cinereous Buntings along with Pale Rock Sparrows.
After a lovely time with Upcher's Warblers, Red-tailed Wheatears as well as yet more stunning scenery we travelled on, admiring Blue-cheecked Bee-eaters along the way, finally arriving in Birecik and a chance meeting with Arnoud van den Berg. He was studying owls and took us to the Striated Scops Owl site where we saw a young family of Long-eared Owls!
Dead Sea Sparrows and Iraq Babblers were star birds in Birecik but unfortunately we failed to find Striated Scops Owl even though we searched for hours.
Motoring on Lee drove along near the Syrian Border to the Meditteranean and we arrived at Tasucu where we were just in time to see Marbled Teal and Purple Swamphen (grey-necked) before dusk.
Dead Sea Sparrow
After a good night's sleep Lee drove along the famous Aseki road. It was a delightful route through craggy hills and small villages affording some excellent vistas of remoteness in the sun. Arriving at a wonderful meadow we de-camped the vehicle and had a relaxing few hours delighting in the birdwatching. A Kruper's Nuthatch kept us amused as we searched in vain for White-backed Woodpecker. Paul was the only one to see Levant's Sparrowhawk. Grrrrrrrr
We were still in South Turkey but our flight was from Istanbul the following day in the North of Turkey. Lee drove through the night arriving at Kucenetti Milli National Park early in the morning. Here we admired 700 White Pelicans before picking out a Dalmatian Pelican. We observed them breeding from a tower hide over-looking the reserve. All too soon we made it to Istanbul and our flight home. My thanks to Lee once again for a marvellous trip!
A quick trip up to Thornham had me watching another Black-winged Pratincole after obseving severving several in Turkey just days before!
After a call from Adrian I made my way across Holkham Marshes to the Washington Hide where Adrian and Ashley had found a Red-backed Shrike. It was not on view but another call from Adrian had Robin and I scurrying a little further along the track where they had located a Marsh Warbler singing. We had a brief view before Adrian rang again to say that they had re-located the female Red-backed Shrike a few hundred metres away. We enjoyed it sitting on top of the brambles before returning to watch more short views of the Marsh Warbler singing. Black clouds and rumbles of thunder made me depart back across the marsh before hail and flash flooding gave me cause for concern as I drove towards Brancaster Staithe for a late lunch!
Meeting up with a film crew that wanted to film a woman birder I made my way to Holkham Marshes where I watched Marsh Harriers, Little Egrets and Avocets on the pools whilst being interviewed. After returning home I found my garden Jay had once again completely emptied my peanut feeder. It is amazing how it hangs on the feeder and manages to unpick the metal mesh that I carefully re-thread every day. My Jay is becoming an expensive bird to keep fed. The trouble is he now has an attendant Wood Pigeon gang that wait patiently underneath gleaning all peanuts that fall to the ground! The trouble is that the Jay is incredibly shy and I have yet to obtain a photograph of its antics.
Being away for a week in the West Country visiting my father and relatives, I made the most of an oppotunity to visit the Polden Hills near Glastonbury where it is possible to see the Large Blue Butterfly. It was an interesting journey amongst all the travellers to the Glastonbury Festival! I went to school in Yeovil where the academic year above me had the opportunity to help with the conservation effort being made with the re-introduction of the Large Blue Butterfly at a secret site. No amount of begging on my part would they let me join the other girls as I was in the wrong year group! So after all these years it was a lovely walk to see the fruits of thier labours coming to fruition as I walked amongst Large Blue Butterflies and many Marbled White Butterflies. The site is no longer secret and information about when and where to see them is freely available on the web. I can recommend the walk as it has marvellous views over the Somerset countryside.
Large Blue Butterfly
I joined my daughter Kathryn at Stansted Airport to fly to Sicily as we both have another passion in life, that of geographical landforms in the shape of volcanoes. This trip is destined to be a treat for Kathryn's 21st birthday to visit Mount Etna. I have been lucky enough to visit the world's highest active vocano in the world, Cotopaxi in Ecuador and have made abortive attempts to see Mount Etna when it has erupted in the past, but work has always got in the way.
Pitching our tent Italian Sparrows chirp all around us as Serins sing in the campsite trees. Common Swifts scream overhead as we try in vain to knock the pegs in concrete-like ground. The heat is unbearable as we give up and just hope the tent will survive the night with just us as ballast!
At Torre National Park we watch European Bee-eaters call overhead as Crested Larks sing from rocky perches. Several Crag Martins whizz around as Fan-tailed Warblers 'zit' from reed-beds. Travelling on to Punta Braccetto, a Hoopoe flies across the road.
After pitching the tent and cooling off in the sea, Kathryn and I wander along the cliff-top where we watch a pair of Sardinian Warblers feeding in the bushes before a Great Tit catches our attention. After night-fall I hear a Scops Owl calling from the tent but despite my best efforts I fail to locate it in the noise and lights of the campsite.
Travelling along some very narrow but wonderful scenic roads, Kathryn and I take a break at a lake where at Lago s Rosala we add Turtle Doves to our list as well as a Common Buzzard near Giarratana.
The day we had been looking for had arrived as we travelled up the cable-car, before transferring to the 4x4 buses to drive us over the lava and ash near to the summit of Mount Etna. The wind was incredible as we battled to stay on our feet. We walked to the 2002 eruption crater and watched as steam was emitted below us. We were enthralled at the scene in front of us as it seemed so unreal.
Sue and Kathryn on the summit of Mount Etna
At Punto del Faro one of the nearest points to mainland Italy, we watched several Blackcaps as they sang repeatedly over out heads at the campsite.
Finding a wonderful campsite near Milazzo we were awoken each morning by a new family of Great Tits as they accompanied Sardinian Wablers in the trees.
Another treat today as Kathryn and I boarded a boat to Panarea, an island just off the Sicilian coast where we spent a couple of hours sight-seeing. From here we continued our journey on the boat as it made its way to the volcano Stromboli, where steam was issuing from the crater forming a cloud overhead. After landing for a couple of hours, where I took a swim from the volcanic beach of black ash and lava, we re-boarded the boat and stayed until night-fall.
Stromboli erupts every 20 minutes and what a sight it was to see fire, lava and ash being thrown up into the atmosphere illuminating the night-sky! Absolutely fabulous !!
The volcano Stromboli emitting gaseous plumes of smoke and ash.
Climbing up moutainous roads near Isnello we watched a pair of Nuthatches whilst listening to Golden Orioles calling down in the valley below us.
A quick trip to Titchwell was taken as I needed to replenish birdfood for the feeders in my garden. Along the pathway I looked at the Red-crested Pochard on the wildfowler's section that now has five almost fully grown youngsters. I met Stuart who kindly showed me where the Curlew Sandpiper was lurking on the Freshmarsh before making my way to the Parrider hide where a Little Stint could be viewed running amongst other waders. The Black-tailed Godwits were stunning in their summer plumage as were several Spotted Redshanks. A Marsh Harrier kept my interest as I walked back up to the carpark. At Choseley, Paul and I watched a Kestrel feeding on a rabbit that had been a roadkill.
An early morning start as Paul and I motored up to Fort William and Glen Nevis passing Common Buzzards sat on motorway posts. Arriving at the Glen Nevis campsite we watched Ravens overhead as we pitched our tent before watching Black Guillemots on Loch Lihnne. Paul and I were joined in the evening by my son Mark and his girlfriend Suzie. Our aim was to climb to the top of Ben Nevis the following day. After checking the weather forecast it seemed we had chosen well as it was predicted to be a good day on Saturday.
After a good breakfast Mark, Suzie, Paul and I made our way to the Youth Hostel path in Glen Nevis. Luckily the day had dawned bright and sunny as we climbed the path (???) up Ben Nevis. Mark and Suzie soon disappeared up ahead as youth and fitness soon told. I needed constant stops (every few yards, or so it seemed). Paul had to keep waiting for me as his muscles were in better shape than mine! The cameraderie on the mountain was excellent as many walkers passed me. A few oldies like me, inspired me to keep going. At 500m up I was ready to give up and could not believe how much further there was still to go! The rocks underfoot were not exactly easy as I picked my way through. The scenery was stunning as I shared it with Meadow Pipits and a lone Wheatear. After five and a quarter hours I made it to the top. Mark and Suzie had made it in three hours and had waited for Paul and I. We were rewarded by a summer-plumaged Snow Bunting sharing his mountain with many other exhausted climbers.
Suzie Mark Sue and Paul at the top of Ben Nevis Sue celebrating on the top of Ben Nevis
Paul celebrated by opening a couple of beers he had carried all the way to the top. We watched Ravens wheeling around wishing we had their wings to get us back down. A Rock Pipit picked its way around one of the derelict buildings as we admired the scenery. I hoped to see a Golden Eagle but it was not to be. The descent was not easy as my legs had other ideas and did not want to seem to co-operate as they should. However I was so thankful when back at the campsite, Mark and Suzie had a Bar-B-Q underway and all I had to do was collapse and eat it, swilled down by a glass or two of wine!
Our journey home from Scotland produced an Osprey flying south.
A trip over to John and Judy had us taking our time to Rush Hills Scrape on Hickling Broad. Maybe we should have hurried our drinks as the White-rumped Sandpiper decided to fly off before we arrived. Grr..Never mind. We enjoyed two Little Stints and numerous Ruff as we commented on all the juvenile Dunlin present. It was good to see Penny and Gordon there too!
Feeling guilty as I left Paul to the decorating, I made my way to Weybourne where last weekend's Great Spotted Cuckoo had been relocated. It soon showed itself in the Brambles at the end of the Kelling Quags track a few hundred metres along the beach. It was also nice to see Rob and Joan here too.
A visit to Roydon Common yielded a flock of over 75 Mistle Thrushes, this is the largest flock of Mistle Thrushes I thing I have ever seen. Moving on to Flitcham, Paul and I were enthralled as a juvenile Marsh Harrier hunted low over the water close to the hide affording excellent views. Another Marsh Harrier hunted over the fields at the back as did a Common Buzzard. The Little Owl was all tucked up sheltering from the rain in the tree stump. We commented in an unseasonal Pink-footed Goose with a damaged wing amongst the ferel Greylags.
Another trip to Rush Hill Scrape meant that I connected at last with the Pectoral Sandpiper out by the tern platform. Several Curlew Sandpipers were also present. A White-headed Ruff was still present from Saturday amongst quite a large flock of Ruff and Lapwing. It was good to see that Dunlin have obviously had a good breeding season as there were many juveniles there.
An afternoon visit to Lynn Point with Paul was productive on the wader-front as at least four Common Sandpipers and four Green Sandpipers flew along the inlet by the sluice. A Greenshank also flew along the muddy inlet. A Little Egret emerged out from the drain as we watched a Kingfisher and a Marsh Harrier in flight.
My car must know its own way to Rush Hill Scrape at Hickling by now, as another visit had me watching a Baird's Sandpiper amongst all the Ruff, Dunlin and Lapwings (or Peewits as we preferred to call them today!). Moving on to Winterton South Dunes I took shelter from the drizzle before locating a Pied Flycatcher amongst the many juvenile birds on show. A fluffy Stonechat kept me company for a while as did many young Blue Tits and Common Whitethroats. I watched a few Common Swifts and wondered whether they would be the last I would see this summer.
I started the day at Holme as a notherly breeze (unusually warm) suggested to me that it might be quite good for a sea-watch over the high tide. I was amazed to find that I was the only one there. It was a fabulous day and I enjoyed the serenity as 27 Sanderlings picked their way along the tideline. A couple of Fulmars flew west along with seven Sandwich Terns. A few Gannets added interest far out before a Pomarine Skua lifted itself off the sea. Fifteen Bumble Bees flew over my head in the dunes as I packed up my scope. After a chat with Roger at NOA, I headed towards the forestry as it was quite clearly a good butterfly day in the sunny weather. I was rewarded with sightings of four Wall Browns, one Grayling, several sightings of Brown Argus, Small Coppers, Small Heaths, Painted Ladies, Peacocks and numerous Common Blues. However the star butterfly was a Clouded Yellow in the dune-slacks by the old air-raid shelter.
In the afternoon I walked along several fields where I have heard Quail in the past without any luck at all!
Waking up to a dreary day with pouring rain I decided to get some of my butterfly and dragonfly records in order on the computer. Paul shouted for me to look out of the back window and my day brightened considerably as I watched a Sparrowhawk devour a Collared Dove on the back lawn. I don't suppose it was a good day for the Collared Dove though!
Sparrowhawk feeding on a Collared Dove and after perching on one of our feeders
After having a new carpet fitted in the morning I decided to go for a walk along one of the many farm tracks. It was a beautiful day and butterflies were in abundance. I was pleased to see several Wall Browns, as this is a butterfly that seems to be hard to find now, especially over the last few years. Painted Ladies continued to flit along in front of me as did a selection of Gate Keepers, Meadow Browns and a surfeit of Common Blues. A male Marsh Harrier with some missing primaries was quartering some of the wheat fields.
Paul and I started at Kelling Quags where a Greenshank was wading on the pool. Moving on to Kelling Hard we watched a Whinchat amongst a family of newly fledged Stonechats. Out at sea little was moving except a Fulmar. At Salthouse we sat atop Gramborough Hill where there was still nothing on the sea! On the shingle bank a Wheatear was being kept busy moving by various tourists walking by.
Moving on to Cley we moved around the various hides searching through all the Dunlin for a reported Curlew Sandpiper without success. Common and Green Sandpipers called as the flew from the mud to relocate to another feeding area. From Bishop Hide, Robin pointed out a young Garganey right in front of the hide. Moving on to North Hide we watched two more! There were many Dunlin and we watched a couple of Little Stints, one of which caused some discussion in the hide.
A walk down to Lynn Point to pick some blackberries I watched two Common Sandpipers fly to the edge of the River Ouse as the tide was rising. I managed to find some delicious apples too and so returned home to make a blackberry and apple pie for tea!
A hopital appointment in the morning delayed my drive over to Hickling where I was just in time to watch the Red-footed Falcon from the Bittern Hide. The hide was well named as a Bittern flew by twice in the time I was there. Three Common Cranes flew by before Stuart and I made our way to Rush Hill Scrape to see if the Red-footed Falcon had relocated there. We saw a sleeping Greenshank from the hide amongst the Lapwings and Ruff and by continuing along Weaver's Way we saw a falcon approaching. It was a Hobby. We commented about the numbers of dragonflies as we recorded: Migrant Hawker, Brown Hawker, Ruddy and Common Darters all in good numbers.
The aim of today was to complete a butterfly transect for the Butterfly Conservation Society in Pott Row. Walking down the road a Marsh Harrier flew over the wheat fields just before I caught in surprise by a Barn Owl emerging from out of the hedge at the side of me. Returning back along the road before entering Sugar Fen I watched a Sparrowhawk mobbing a Common Buzzard. Along the River Gaywood on Sugar Fen a Grey Heron stood fishing as a Green Woodpecker made its distinctive yaffle.
Butterflies abounded as Common Blues, Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers tried to keep up with the Large White numbers in flight. It was good to see Painted Ladies, Red Admirals and Peacock Butterflies amongst a few Speckled Wood and Small Copper Butterflies. Migrant Hawker Dragonflies also added to the beauty of the day as the sun shone.
A walk at Titchwell produced a crane where the Parrinder hide used to be.
R.I.P. Parrinder Hide.
A big thank you for all the wonderful hours I have spent watching from you!
After spending the day playing French Cricket on the beach at Holme with my son and his girlfriend we retired to the local pub for a very late lunch. Feeling the need to walk some of the indulgence off, Paul and I walked some of the tracks and fields near Ringstead where we saw two Quails that flew from under our feet as we approached. A few butterflies were struggling in the strong southerly winds.
Leaving my beloved Norfolk, John, Judy and I ventured into foreign territory in Suffolk. At Bromeswell we searched for a recent colonist in the shape of a Willow Emerald Dramselfly. After watching a Migrant Hawker for a few minutes, John saw a brief flight of what he thought migt be our quarry. With a little searching with our binoculars I located a Willow Emerald Damselfly perching briefly on foliage before it settled on a small branch. Photographing it was another matter though because of the windy conditions!
Willow Emerald Damselfly
Moving onto Sizewell we watched 30+ Little Gulls feeding around the old outfalls as well a Black Tern as we ate our lunch. At Kessingland we played a cat and mouse game with a Red-backed Shrike as it kept disappearing in and around the bushes.
Having watched the weather forecast, Paul and I decided to have an early start and start our day at Sheringham in the sea-watch shelter. Dave Appleton kindly made room for me as we watched a few Gannets and Fulmars go by. Soon a Manx Shearwater was called as it sheared by on the horizon followed a little later by a small party of more Manx. Arctic Skuas were harrasing the Sandwich Terns as a Boxie flew really close in. After a while we watched a party of Manx going the 'wrong way' with a Balearic Shearwater amongst them.
Paul and I then walked down to Kelling Quags where a Wood Sandpiper and a Green Sandpiper were on the Quags. Looking out to sea we watched more Manx Shearwaters and another Arctic Skua. As we rambled up the track a family party of Stonechats took flight before perching on various brambles. Young Swallows also kept us amused as we watched an adult bringing food to them as they perched on the fence in the wind trying to keep their balance.
At Salthouse I searched Gramborough Hill whilst Paul slept in the car, where a Whinchat surprised me popping out of a bush before sitting on the fence. Another couple of Arctic Skuas harrased more terns on the sea. Returning home we had just entered the house when the pager announced a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Cley! Grr............
Starting at Rockland Broad, John Judy and I sat in the hide at 9am watching a Marsh Harrier as well as a few Great Crested Grebes on the broad. We soon decided to amble alongside the channel leading down to the river where we watched another Marsh Harrier and a Hobby being mobbed by a Common Tern. A Sparrowhawk flew across the marsh but we were disappointed at missing the Osprey that had flown over an hour earlier. After several hours we returned back to John and Judy's home.
As I was leaving I checked the pager only to learn that the Osprey had been seen not long after we had left the broad and so I retraced my steps back to the broad once agian where I met Roy and Ruth in the hide. Mike Ottley joined us and made the suggestion that we would have a better view from the riverbank. How fortuitous this suggestion was because as we rounded the bend the Osprey winged its way over towards the broad from the Strumpshaw direction. We shared the sighting with a couple of tourists who were delighted as we were!
Needing a supply a birdfood for the garden I drove up to Titchwell where work on the reserve was continuing. The beloved Parrinder Hide has now gone and work is progressing on the bank ready for the installation of a new hide. This leaves just the pathway and the new Island Hide for viewing the birds on the marshes. They are now very distant in most cases but I suppose this is inevitable whilst development progresses. Whilst the old Island Hide needed replacement the design of the flaps is trully awful as once they are open the shelf disappears! How birders are meant to lodge their elbows, place equipment, cameras, whilst looking I do not know! You would think that by now bird hide design would have been cracked. The moans and groans in the hide at the poor design by all concerned was beyond belief.
Where is Parrinder?
I wandered down to the sea where little was moving save a few Sandwich Terns. I met a delightful couple who were quite clearly enjoying their holiday. Back up the path two Common Snipe were hiding in the vegetation as hundreds of Dunlin and Ringed Plovers were feeding on the mud.
Work in progress where the Parrinder Hide used to be.
Making my way early to Cley I walked along East Bank where an Ortolan Bunting was feeding along the pathway. A few Reed Buntings were also making use of the pathway.
Leaving Cley I made my way to Sheringham where I joined the usual gang of sea-watchers in the shelter. Arctic Skuas were performing well. It was good to see pale morphs as well as dark phase birds. Some distant dark Arctic Skuas were shearing on the horizon and gave the impression several times that they might have been something more interesting. However after seeing a couple of Manx Shearwaters, several Arctic Skuas and one Great Skua the action seemed to die down. We were joined by Pete and Stuart who had been watching at Cley when a Long-tailed Skua flew through relatively close accompanied by an Arctic Skua. It was good to see how small the Long-tailed Skua was compared to the Arctic Skua.
Having had another rough night with a migraine I did not venture out until late afternoon when I took a short walk around the back of Roydon crossroads where I had seen little until I heard alarm calling from sevaral birds. On looking up I was just in time to see a Hobby overhead. Continuing on to the pond a Southern Hawker and three Ruddy Darters were gracing the pond surrounds. All of a sudden a Grey Wagtail flew in perching on an overhanging Willow Tree. Contiuing up the lane I sat in one of the newly harvested fields and watched the antics of the Jackdaws and Rooks wheeling around in the sky.
Arriving just after dawn at Sheringham I joined the local hardy sea-watching crew and settled in for a long stint. The wind had turned northerly and was full of promise. A Manx Shearwater was coasting by not long before a Sooty Shearwater did a long flight along the horizon. A few auks were zooming by and I was pleased to be able to tick Puffin for the year. A few Kittiwakes put in an appearence before spiralling around at half distance. Gannets were pouring by and after several hours Giles and Rob had logged over 700. A couple more Puffins were called before a call was made that a large shearwater was moving west. Luckily all present managed to get it in view as it passed slowly by making huge arcs as it went. This was to be my only second Cory's Shearwater in Norfolk even though I seen hundreds in the Mediterranean and Atlantic. I have even disturbed at night by their calling in my hotel grounds as they came into their holes in the Azores. My daughter and I crept out one evening to get even better views! Another closer Sooty Shearwater showed well as another Manx shearing on the horizon that kept doing a disappearing act.
After leaving Stuart and I had a long walk (made even longer by my mis-managing the start of a certain trackway) down to the Dell in Wells Woods. Here we searched for the reported Pied Flycatcher. Luck was on our side as we soon located a birder that had seen it twenty-five minutes earlier. With a bit of a search I located it giving Stuart a year tick!
Struggling with yet another migraine I made my way to Holme where I joined the usual crew. Gannets were pouring past and we watched several Arctic Skuas as they harrassed the terns for their food. The affternoon was spent searching the bushes for little reward except for a skein of Pink-feet as they returned for the winter. A Common Buzzard gave us all something to ponder over as it hovered above trees near Thornham.
A very frustrating day as Paul and I followed pager information about brief, elusive maybe sightings of maybe birds. The best bird of the day was a Red-necked Phalarope on Stiffkey Fen that did the usual antics of circling around after flies on the surface of the water. Our best part of the day was sharing a drink in the sun with Kathryn and Glyn at the Red Lion listening to their tales of adventute in Africa.
After the frustration of yesterday Paul was determined to spend the day away from the maybe identification crowds and birds so we set off down to Lynn Point where it can be guaranteed to have the birds to ourselves. However with a strong north-easterly wind blowing I was less than sure that this was the correct decision. Never mind we did at least have the place to ourselves. Gannets were pouring by at the mouth of the river as waders were making thier way across it. Common Sandpipers landed nearby as a Greenshank called alighting from a pool. Down at the sluice a Grey Wagtail put in a good performance struggling against the wind as did four Goldfinch. The bushes were birdless except for twenty Long-tailed Tits that all flew through the bushes in one long stream. We gave each Little Egret a good look as they flew over as Great White Egrets were reported just the other side of The Wash yesterday.
Starting the day in the shelter at Sheringham, it wasn't long before the first Manx Shearwater was called. Parties of Gannets were still pouring by as we logged a few more Manx. There were many auks going east including lots of puffins. A few Arctic Skuas added to the greater number of Great Skuas passing by. Suddenly an interesting Skua was called as we noted the slimmer wings of a Long-tailed Skua as it went west. Divers were also flying by but a Great Northern Diver gave us something to comment on. We had a bizarre sighting of a bat that was logged flying high above the horizon just as a passer-by asked what we were all looking at (a common question to those in the shelter by visitors walking by) So when we replied we were bat watching a look of disbelief came over her face! A wonderful adult Pomarine Skua gave a stunning performance just before I left for Wells Woods.
After a wander down the path at Wells Woods watching a tit flock and a Gannet over the marsh (!!) I made my way up into The Dell. Stuart had sent me a 'wind-up' text to say that he had seen the Icterine Warbler and wondered where I was. Hearing Josh and Stuart pishing surrounded by lots of Chaffinches, tits and warblers I searched through the birds and located the Icterine Warbler. Pointing it out to them as they were stood the otherside of the trees, having assumed that they had already seen it, they were rather disappointed when it took off with the other birds!!! Later we watched two Pied Flycatchers both brought in by pishing. Our walk back to the cars across the marsh produced a Willow Warbler in the reeds as well as a flock of Golden Plovers.
I spent the morning at Holme sea-watching where I managed to miss a Leach's Petrel. Gannets were pouring by still as Arctic Skuas were chasing Sandwich Terns. By the obsevatory a beautiful Common Redstart put on a flicking display as it flitted in the Buddlia. Later at Wells I watched a Pied Flycatcher whilst listening to all the exciting news of large shearwaters at Sheringham.
Arriving at Sheringham at 5.30am I settled in the shelter for another sea-watch. Due to it being still dark the banter in the shelter was good humoured as dawn broke. Kevin Shepherd picked up an Arctic Tern before a trickle of Gannets started the morning's viewing. A few Manx Shearwaters were noted as a couple of Bonxies flew through. Mick Saunt picked up a Storm Petrel but try as I might I could not locate it in the surf. I was so disappointed! However half an hour later Kevin picked up another and I was very grateful to him as he kept calling out the flags as it made its progress across our line of view. Eventually I managed to get on to it, obtaining good views as it battled the wind. I wish here and now, after nearly 20 years of trying to add Storm Petrel to my Norfolk List to give a BIG THANK YOU to Kevin for all his help yesterday. Little did he know that I actually felt like a 3 year-old child just after Santa had arrived!!
After noting a fewSooty Shearwaters a Leach's Petrel was called and before long I managed to pick it up as it too battled away against the wind. Luckily with a big ship on the horizon, many of us managed to locate it as it flew 'underneath'. Ships, flags and buoys ('the tower') are ofter used as markers and it all helps with locating a bird. The passage of birds seemed to 'die down' a little earlier today as the NNE wind dropped a little and I had a circuitous route to Wells Woods where once again I did not see the Red-breasted Flycatcher except in the viewing screen of Julian's camera!!!
After domestic chores Kathryn and I decided on a walk around Wells Woods before a walk along the beach. The Red-breasted Flycatcher performed well in The Dell before we caught up with a Common Redstart along the main pathway. After a lazy stroll along the beach Kathryn and I delighted in a Kestrel that hovered above the beach-huts.
The day started well as a Grey Wagtail was in the back garden in our stream whilst a Blackcap was helping itself to berries in the front garden. After leaving home we made our way to Snettisham where Kathryn, Paul and I met Penny as we made our way to the steps where a Wryneck had been located. After a quick ring to RBA Penny established where it had been seen. Eventually Paul managed to relocate it and we all saw it well as it flew from bush to bush.
Later at Wells Woods we watched a Pied Flycatcher and a Common Redstart before retiring for a few well earned drinks in a local hostelry.
A walk down Lynn Point for one of the highest tides of the year produced very little except a very confiding Chiffchaff flycatching.
Arriving at Roman Town near Caistor St Edmund my hopes of seeing Glossy Ibis looked slim as the news was that two Glossy Ibises had flown east an hour before I got there. Other birders on the scene told me that they had walked the length of the River Tas without any luck. As it was a beautiful morning I decided I might as well enjoy a walk anyway. Walking north a Grey Wagtail flew over me calling, not long before I was graced with the presence of a beautiful Kingfisher. My journey north was cut short as the local bulls were getting closer and I didn't fancy my chances of getting back to the gate before them!
Turning south I found the sheep friendlier and saw the Kingfisher once again. After a while I glanced up just in time to realise that one of the Glossy Ibises was in flight heading up over the trees in front of me. After a visit to the shops I returned for better views but it was not to be!
The Autumn equinox always produces one of the highest tides of the year. You have to be up early to be in position about an hour before before high tide. At Snettisham the effect of the high tide means that the waders get pushed off the mud in The Wash and fly around in huge numbers sometimes settling in the pits and sometimes swirling around like wisps of smoke before taking off to either Holme or other local sites. Today was no exception and the sunny weather made it a joy to be out as the waders flew around. Thousands of Knot were being disturbed by a Peregrine that was tearing into them. The pits were covered in Redshank as they waited for the tide to fall. From the second hide a Greenshank was preening as a Spotted Redshank stood amongst the Common Redshank. Oystercatchers added to the spectacular sight.
A morning trip to Stiffkey Fen failed to produce the expected Spotted Crake. I was supposed to be packing the car ready for our journey to John O'Groats but as it was another beautiful day I decided a walk along the coast path towards Stiffkey. A Little Egret emerged from a channel before I searched Stiffkey woods where I saw very little for my efforts. Returning home I packed the car and by 3.45pm Paul and I were on the road for the long journey up to John O'Groats.
Driving through the night Paul and I arrived at John O'Groats at 2 am, where we managed a few hours sleep before boarding the short ferry crossing to South Ronaldsay, Orkney Islands. Gannets were diving into the sea as Guillemots were dashing by. Paul saw a Storm Petrel that disappeared before I could locate it. After our arrival at the small harbour at South Ronaldsay, Paul and I stood with forty other birders as we negotiated with coach drivers who took us part way towards our destination. Luckily for us I had met a birder in the harbour who agreed to show us exactly where to go in his car. So as soon as Paul and I were off the bus we jumped in his car and he took us to Windwick. There across the field was a Sandhill Crane feeding quite happily with Pinkfooted Geese, Lapwings and Golden Plovers. We were delighted to be rewarded after our efforts of driving through the night. Soon we were joined by the other birders who were equally delighted. Justin Lansdell was particularly delighted the crane being his 700th WP tick!
After having satisified our delight at seeing the bird, Paul, Justin, Andrew and I wandered around the coastal path towards the Bistro! A flock of over 120 Twite was quite a sight as they flew around settling on thistles on the cliffedge. Meadow Pipits called overhead whilst Skylarks sang. We disturbed Common Snipe in wettter parts of the terrain as we trudged towards some lochs containing Mallard and Common Teal. With the Bistro in sight, we were accosted by a local farmer who had lost his cows and could not work out where they had gone! After telling us they were due to go to market on Monday we were not surprised they had legged it! We had a circuitous route to the cafe but eventually Justin celebrated with a Sticky Toffee pudding and Paul with Orcadian Beer!
A kind local couple gave us all a lift back to the harbour where in the sun we enjoyed good views of a Hen Harrier and a Stonechat. Several Wrens called before we boarded the ferry back to John O'Groats. On board we watched 3 Storm Petrels and a few Puffins before docking back at John O'Groats and driving to Aviemore.
After another night in the car we drove up to Cairngorm. Here two Red Grouse were surprised to see us so early as we got out of the car. Climbimg up one of the trails we failed to locate any Ptarmigan. Returning to Aviemore we enjoyed a good breakfast before entering the woods by the campsite where we located a Crested Tit in a tit flock. Our drive south was punctuated by a visit to friends who very kindly provided us with Sunday lunch and a look at Darren's wonderful wildlife artwork. Darren had recently returned from leading a trip to Spitsbergen. I really must put a visit to see Polar Bears on the agenda!
At Cley a walk along East Bank to the sea produced a Curlew Sandpiper on Arnold's Marsh. On the sea bank a small flock of Snow Buntings were feeding on the shingle. Bearded Tits were in fine voice as I returned to the car. From Bishop's Hide a Mediterranean Gull preened before taking off and flying above my head as I left.
Parking the car near the Burnham Market junction on the A149 at Holkham I made my way across Bone's Drift trackway before it is closed for the winter to protect the geese from disturbance. Thousands of Pink-footed Geese have already arrived and I was treated to the sight of many fresh arrivals. In the hedgerows dripping with succulent Blackberries Long-tailed Tits were noisily feeding as I made my way to the woods. I was amazed how quiet it was with only the usual tit flocks for company except for three Chiffchaffs and one Blackcap. I met Mike Sidwell and we reminisced at 'the good ol' days' when we would be hard pressed to see all the falls of newly arrived migrant passerines in September after easterly winds and showers.
It was still quite windy after yesterday's gales as Paul and I watched a Whimbrel on the falling tide at Lynn Point. We walked to the Babingley sluice gate where we watched 5 Common Buzzards seemingly playing in the wind. One of them caught my eye as it has a white area on the rump. I wondered if this was the Common Buzzard that I had seen at Holme a couple of weeks before, that is frequently reported as a Rough-legged Buzzard. A Kingfisher dashed by along one of the channels on the marsh before disappearing down in it. However a Little Egret emerged from the channel before it too disappeared.
In the early afternoon we made our way to Beachamwell to visit Allan and Heidi. As we drove out of Grimston, Paul pulled the van up sharply as a Red Kite flew west over the fields. What a glorious site! Nearing Allan's another 3 Common Buzzards were soaring in the wind. Alan has a huge seed feeder in his garden and we were delighted to see a House Sparrow on it.
Lucy from BBC4 arrived to film me at home. We were hoping for a good bird to arrive so we could leap off to film it but after some initial excitement over an Eye-browed Thrush on North Ronaldsay, after some consultation it seemed that the bird had already departed.
In the absence of any new arrivals on the birding front, Lucy and I headed off with her camera for her to film the sea-watching stalwarts at Sheringham. Thank you to Giles, Phil and Stuart for being such good sports in gazing out to sea whilst watching a Manx Shearwater, Arctic Skua, Great Skua and a Great Northern Diver and Lucy who braved the Norfolk wind!
All of a sudden the pager burst into life with news of a Pectoral Sandpiper at Cley. Lucy Stuart and I made it to Daukes Hide just in time to see the Pec Sand feeding with a Curlew Sandpiper before it flew off. We could not believe that Penny walked into the hide seconds after the bird had flown off. Stuart did his best to see if the bird was still in flight but it was not to be.
I returned Lucy to the station in King's Lynn before going to see a talk at the Arts Centre given by Ben Fogle. It was very inspiring on how to push the boundaries in living!
Arriving at Holme in the afternoon Jed and I watched 3 Bonxies flying high over the observatory after a phone call from Sophie who had spotted them whilst doing net rounds. Later I joined Ray for a sea-watch where we saw another five Great Skuas out in The Wash.
At Holkham I joined Chris Mills and John Hopkins behind Washington Hide where we had good but brief views of a Yellow-browed Warbler with the tit flock. It continued to call several times but would not reveal itself from the Holm Oaks and Sycamores where it was hiding. Continuing on towards the dunes Redwings were arriving as Pink-footed Geese were amassing on the marshes. Siskins could be heard in the trees with Goldcrests and Coal Tits before I made my way back to the car.
After an invitation to watch my son play hockey in Lincolnshire I knew my birding time would be limited today so it was just as well I had a little help from John Furse who knew exactly which bush the Barred Warbler at West Runton was. I joined Penny and others as we watched it in the Elder bush before it flew to another nearby bush. Thank you John! Penny and I joined Phil Vines down at the shelter at Sheringham and watched incoming Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal that were arriving for their winter stay. Gannets were also still on the move before I had to leave to watch Jonathan at Long Sutton score a superb goal in their 4-1 win against Norwich!
Starting at West Runton, Lee Gregory, Mick Frosdick and I searched the stubbled field by the deserted farm buildings. Here we watched a Lapland Bunting amongst the many Skylarks and Linnets. After quite a long search I followed Lee Evans up the cliff path where a Richard's Pipit and Short-toed Lark flew over our heads. Wanting a better view, Lee Gregory and Mick also walked up the cliff path where we had several more short views of the Richard's Pipit. I decided to return to the stubble field where I had several more flight views of the Short-toed Lark but it was frustratingly not going to allow anyone to see it on the ground. The Lapland Bunting eventually perched on a fence before being mobbed by several Skylarks.
Later I walked down Kelling Quags where eight Gannets were circling over a good feeding spot in the sea. A Green Sandpiper and a Common Snipe were on the Quags. Eventually I joined Stuart and Will where we watched thousands of Starlings above Thornham but could not find the Rose-coloured Starling that had been reported.
Leaving home at 4.30am with Paul and Trevor Girling we made it through the traffic on the M25 to Staines Moor near King George V1 Reservoir London. The early morning mist had yet to dissipate and it made it a wonderful sunrise stood by the River Colne. After about an hour a Stonechat appeared on the top of a bush just seconds before Trevor noticed a Brown Shrike perched in the gloom lower down in the bush before instantly disappearing. Luckily for us all, the Brown Shrike was hopping around near the top of the bush that gave us all tantalising brief views. However as the mist burnt off the Brown Shrike became more active and gave excellent views to the hundreds of birders that gathered at the site as the day progressed. Trevor and I were treated to views of Ring-necked Parakeets as they flew overhead and Kingfishers calling as they flew down the river.
Lucy from the BBC filmed us as I was aware that all the birders had turned around. Amazingly they were watching a Great Grey Shrike that had appeared in the top of a bush behind us. I rejoined Trevor and Lee Evans and was interested in the discussion that was taking place with a photographer who had managed to capture vital identification details. As Brown Shrike is still posing identification problems it has become obvious that many juvenile birds have probably been overlooked in the past. Many of us are still on a learning curve!
Brown Shrike (photo by courtesy of Trevor Girling)
Trevor and I took Lucy to Terminal 5 at Heathrow only to learn later that she had been stopped by police as a suspected terrorist and to question who Trevor and I were? You look so suspicious Lucy!!!
A Red Kite flying above the M25 on the way home made for a good day out.
After a forced day at home yesterday with yet another migraine I made my way across to Horsey where I saw two Common Cranes feeding opposite the windmill just before the corner taking me to Horsey Gap. After a fellow birder kindly let me look through his scope on the pathway I joined John and Judy watching the Pied Wheatear on the pillbox. I wanted to take some photos but discovered that my camera would not focus. Phil agreed with me that all was not well with it and so after I had good views of the Pied Wheatear feeding and making short hovers I made my way to the camera shop in East Dereham where I left my camera for repair.
Trevor Girling phoned me alerting me to an exciting find he had taken out of his nets in Snettisham Coastal Park. On arrival at Snettisham I was treated to an in-hand view of a Paddyfield Warbler, a species I had seen earlier in the year in Turkey and a few years ago in Nepal as well as Sheringham which had also been trapped. It was good to see it so close as Trevor carefully noted all its details. After thanking Trevor I motored on to Thornham where once again I was despondent about my lack of camera as a Grey Phalarope was giving wonderful close views in Thornham Harbour.
Deciding I needed a good walk, I headed up to Titchwell to walk to Thornham Point. I popped into the Island Hide to see the Grey Phalarope right in front of the hide. By the time I got down to the sea the wind was at sand-blast proportions making any possible sea-watching impossible. I strode on down to the concrete blocks where I tucked myself away against the very strong Northerly wind. The surf was very rough as Gannets and auks were passing through at 90mph! it was an unpleasant experience however so I decided to continue to the point. By the time I had returned to the visitor centre I had seen 12 Snow Buntings (4 just off the end of the boardwalk and 8 near to the point on the Razor Shell wreck) and 6 Shorelarks (2 on the Brackish Marsh and 4 on the flat area just in the lea of the dunes at the point) After buying birdfood I returned home to a welcome cup of tea.
Setting off once more I drove to Lakenheath where a Great White Egret was feeding on the washland area, which being north of the river is in Norfolk! I was pleased with seeing the bird as I had missed several GWEs earlier in the year.
Arriving at Snettisham for first light Paul and I joined Penny, Andy, Justin, Dave and Stuart for a seawatch at Snettisham. Kittiwakes and auks were slow to get moving in the poor light but soon on the move as it tried its best to get lighter. After noting a Great Northern Diver, Justin was on for a Cheese Scone that Penny had promised to anyone that found her a year tick. It was just as well we all agreed on the final decision of the Great Northern Diver otherwise Justin may have left a hungry chap! A Manx Shearwater sheared through as did a Sooty Shearwater that I failed to see. Soon Paul and I moved up to the woods at Beeston Common where Paul located a Firecrest. After searching the woods we located another 2 Firecrests but failed to find any American Thrushes or the Red-breasted Flycatcher that had been reported.
At West Runton Paul and I soon located the Short-toed Lark that was in the stubble field after a search and drove onto Titchwell. Here the birds were playing games with us as the Grey Phalarope played hide-and-seek behind a small island whilst the 2 Shore Larks were playing peek-a-boo in the vegetation on the Brackish Marsh. A Bittern flew out of the reed bed whilst the The Jack Snipe had had enough for the day and was sleeping, hiding in the reed edge. This was just as well as a Hen Harrier swooped low over the reeds looking for tea!
Starting at Lynn Point, Paul and I did our usual walk to the sluice where we had 5 Whooper Swans fly over us. Four Little Egrets were on the marsh and a Common Buzzard was sat in one of the fields. Paul then wished to see the Red-breasted Flycatcher so we made our way to Warham Greens where the bird was making its way up the hedgeline.
After picking up my camera from Dereham I made my way to East Ruston only to be disappointed at the lack of a Pallas's Warbler. There seem to be some confusion as to whether it was Yellow-browed Warbler or Pallas's Warbler depending on who I spoke to. As I didn't see either bird I don't suppose it matters! I was just relieved to get my camera repaired.
I managed to get in a flying visit to the Snow Goose in the Docking/Brancaster area today amongst the thousands of Pink-footed Geese. My thanks go to Stuart who had the bird all lined up in the scope for me as I arrived. Could we make this arrangement for this week's Caspian Plover please?
As I arrived at Holme NOA 5 Redpolls flew into the top of the tree as I cahtted to Sophie. She asked me if I would do a short sea-watched which I was onlt to happy to do. Gannets were still on the move as were Wigeon. Common Scoters were circling around out near the wind tubines as 5 Red-breasted Merganzers flew 'through my scope'. A Red-throated Diver sat on the sea. Up in the beach car-park Stuart ahd located a Yellow-browed Warbler that was calling in the Sycamores. I wasn't keen on having its photo taken!
Leaving home at 4am with Paul and John Geeson, I drove up to South Shields to a small quarry on the coast road. Just after first light a Yellow-browed Warbler popped out of the Sycamores before another warbler was seen chasing around with it. By it perching briefly I could see the other warbler had a different colouration before it disappeared for a while. Soon the assembled masses were treated to good views of an Eastern Crowned Warbler as it perched on various branches allowing for views through the telescope. All the salient features could be admired and we all devoured the views of a 'First for Britain'! We celebrated with a cooked breakfast in a local cafe before leaving.
At Bempton Cliffs RSPB the 3 of us had good views of the Red-flanked Bluetail that was gracing the small copse just behind the visitor centre. This once mythical bird put on a stunning show for all of us, already glowing with satisfaction from our views of the Eastern Crowned Warbler. Motoring on to North Landing at Flamborough Head, Paul, John and I got soaked as we watched a Dusky Warbler flitting around in the hedgeline giving the usual poor views that only Duskys know how to!
A fantastic day with excellent company!
After being confined to bed with yet another really bad migraine, I made my way to Cley where I had missed a White-rumped Sandpiper the day before. Meeting up with Will Soar we checked out all the available Dunlin to no avail on Arnold's Marsh. We watched hundreds of Fieldfare poring in from Svandinavia. Will then checked from North Hide whilst I joined Phil Vines in Dauke's Hide after David Roberts pointed out the Green-winged Teal sitting on Simmond's Scrape. A Water Pipit came and alighted in front of the hide before I made my way to Gramborough Hill where I saw a pair of Stonechats. At Walsey Hills I walked as far as the wood which was full of Blackbirds and Long-tailed Tits.
Meeting up with Stuart on a beautiful sunny unseasonal warm day, we thought we would do a thorough search of The Dell and drinking-pool in Wells Woods. It all seemed rather quiet until we heard a few Lesser Redpolls and a probable Mealy Redpoll that we watched in a Silver Birch Tree. Moving on through The Dell, Stuart spotted a Firecrest that we had good views of. The drinking-pool was deserted. After a return to the cars we tried once again where we were treated to a view of a 'familiaris' race of a Treecreeper and a pair of Firecrests that once again ave us a good show.
After a period of illness and a visit to see my son in London, Paul and I enjoyed a walk to Dersingham Bog where the Great Grey Shrike had once again taken up residence for the winter. It flew from tree to tree around the pond area as a Common Buzzard flew overhead. A female Stonechat added to the scene as did a Roe Deer. Moving on to Wolferton village a flock of Long-tailed Tits kept a Coal Tit company.
Paul and I walked around farmland in Roydon village where a flock of Fieldfares were making the most of the Hawthorn berries in the hedgerows. A Great Spotted Woodpecker kept us company as we looked at Chaffinches, Great Tits, Blue Tits and a solitary Yellowhammer up the trackway. Reed Buntings fed in the stubble before Paul flushed out a lone Woodcock.
Arriving for high tide at Titchwell I joined Robin and Pete for a seawatch. We were expecting a host of goodies but were to be disappointed. Eider Duck were on the move as yet more Pink-footed Geese arrived from the north. Kittiwakes and Red Knot were flying west as well as a few Cormorants. A few Razorbills were seen but there were no Little Auks. A Red-breasted Merganzer added to a couple of Great Crested Grebes but there was little else for our efforts. Back at home a Great Spotted Woodpecker called and reminded me that my bird-feeders need re-filling!
Arriving in Cley I could not believe that the White-rumped Sandpiper had already flown form Pat's Pool. Having tried several times this year to see this wader, another dip seemed to be looming large. However it was seen to be heading towards Arnold's Marsh and so I scampered up East Bank, after a chat with John Geeson who was also having a bad day. I started looking through the Dunlin without success before noticing a small wader tucked down in a near corner. I thought it was my quarry and luckily it flew revealing a white rump. A fellow birder managed to keep on it until it landed as I shifted position for a closer look as Mark Golley joined us. We enjoyed good views and discussed whether it could be the same bird that has eluded me before. Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Knot and Grey Plover added to the wader list. On the sea a Red-throated Diver swam close inshore. Walking back along East ank I heard Bearded Tits but could not locate them. From the hides overlooking Pat's Pool and Simmond's Scrape hundreds of Golden Plovers flew in the sky but seemed reluctant to settle before heading off into the distance once again.
A walk at West Newton on a gloroius but cold day had me a little surprised at how little I saw. A Marsh Harrier emerged from over the Sandringham woods but it never came close enough for a decent photograph. A Barn Owl was doing its best to hide in a hedgeline across the otherside of the fields. A few Mallards were on the pool as were a pair of Mute Swans.
An afternoon visit to Lynn Point saw the river Great Ouse at the lowest water level I have ever seen it. Gulls and geese were making the most of it as they fed on the exposed mud along with waders and herons. Ringed Plovers joined Dunlin, Redshanks and Grey Povers as Brent Geese joined nine Little Egrets and a Grey Heron. A nice surprise was a flock of over 50 Twite that landed at the edge of the riverbank feeding in the rough grass. We watched as several small parties broke away to fly across the river. It brought back memories of the flocks of Twite that I used to watch at Sutton Bridge just a little further up the coastline in winter many years ago. Twite have been a scarce bird in recent years in Norfolk so a flock this size was good to see. A Marsh Harrier created mayhem amongst the waders as the tide came in before we watched a Common Buzzard over the fields.
Later at North Wootton there was little of note except 52 Red-legged Partridges in one covey on a Sandringham Estate field all waiting for the Royal guns at Christmas no doubt!
An exceptionally breezy day saw us with Paul's family taking a walk on Brancaster beach. In the channel by Scolt's Head two Red-breasted Merganzers took off as we approached and flew towards the sea along with a Goldeneye. It was a wonder we ever made it back to the car park as the wind was so strong. After a brief stop for refreshments we watched Dunlin, Turnstones, Curlrews and Grey Plovers in the car park at Brancaster Staithe before heading to Thornham Harbour where 3 Barn Owls were hunting over Holme Marsh.
A miserable looking day had me staying fairly local. I trawled around the Flitcham/West Newton area. I short I wish I hadn't bothered! With the exception of a Barn Owl I saw very little for my efforts.
With a poor weather forecast I took a chance and went to Titchwell. On the sea, Mark, Tracy and I watched a Red-throated Diver, a Red-breasted Merganser, a Common Scoter and a few Eider Ducks but little else. I walked to Thornham Point along the tideline as Sanderling and Turnstones fed on a few dead fish! On the landward side of Thornham Point I was accompanied by a Stonechat that flew from bush to bush just ahead of me until I reached the boardwalk once again.
A local walk today around the Congham area with Paul saw us wrapping up warmly after some heavy showers of rain. We watched a Bullfinch along a disused railwayline before seeing 24 Curlews feeding on one of the fields. Crossing the main road we watched several hares running away along with a small party of Grey Partridges flying out of a beet field. Several Mistle Thushes called from overhead powerlines. Later along a trackway leading through some woodland we watched a Marsh Tit as it called from a hedgeline.
Alerted by Stuart that today looked as if it might be a good day for seawatching I joined John, Judy, Stuart and the usual crew at the shelter in Sheringham. The wind had turned northerly just before dawn and almost as soon as I had got myself set up, I managed a good view of a Leach's Petrel as it flew at the back of the surf. For once I managed to track it for quite some distance, before it disappeared in the trough of the waves. An excellent start.
Kittiwakes were pouring by as they arched above the waves going east. The juveniles are such a pretty bird . Soon a Great Northern Diver attracted my attention giving respectable views. Several Great Skuas added to the delight before two Red-necked Grebes caused debate amongst the birders. Ducks put on a good show as Eider, Wigeon, Pintail, Common Scoter, one Velvet Scoter, Teal and Pochard all added to the fun of some counts. Two Pomarine Skuas flew through as auk species were much debated. Luckily I managed to get onto a Little Auk as it sped through the waves. More were seen later just after a Manx Shearwater flew east.
I was disappointed at not being able to get onto a Blue Fulmar that was called but did see a leucistic-type Gannet that Dave Holman called as it flew close in. It was a peculiar light-grey in colour without any black in the wing tips. It was certainly an odd looking bird. A late Sandwich Tern was amongst a flock of Little Gulls that were also going by in good numbers.
A very sad day today! Two new houses are to be built opposite our house. It was a wonderful piece of wild open ground with lots of scrub and brambles. All good nesting habitat and quartering ground for Barn and Tawny Owls. Back in the Spring the land was cleared (I thought this was illegal during nesting time.........how I wish I had taken pictures as evidence) and today the electricity company switched off our supply so that overhead wires could be taken down and a transformer moved. Never again will I watch Spring Cuckoos sitting on the wires or Swallows gathering out of my kitchen window. The Barn Owl will now have to hunt elsewhere, as the huge pole-moving vehicles have churned the little remaining grass to mud! R.I.P my owl little kitchen window wildlife haven...........you are no more!
A walk in the afternoon with Stuart along the old railwayline at Sculthorpe saw us noting a female Bullfinch and a Robin. Siskins were heard overhead without us seeing them. On the reseve Long-tail Tits put in a good performance before we watched a Tawny Owl in a nestbox on a TV screen in the visitor centre!
A call from Connor had me scurrying down to Snettisham this morning as David Roche had found a Ferruginous Duck yesterday. It was a beautiful day but with the sun low in the sky at this time of year, it was difficult to see anything as I walked up towards the hide. Connor had said the duck was mobile and I checked the ducks flying overhead as I approached in case it flew before I got there! The tide was very low and waders were scattered all over the mud. A few Linnets called overhead as I got nearer. Once in the hide Connor ppointed out the bird and my 4th Ferruginous duck for Norfolk was seen. It certainly was a mobile bird and we had fun with keeping up with it. At one stage it walked up on to the far bank and we were pleased to see it was ring-free !!!
Out on the shoreline, Connor, Ray and myself enjoyed good views of eight Snow Buntings and two Shore Larks. Back in the hide Trevor called two Goosanders that were flying towards us giving excellent flight views. As I walked back to the car in brilliant sunlight I enjoyed watching the Goldeneyes and Little Grebes diving for their lunch.
It was Paul's Paul's Birthday so the choice of where to go was his. Upon waking up there apperared to be a deluge happening outside so plan B (plan A had already been abandoned due to Santa taking up the train!) was soon put on hold. Eventually plan C was out into action late morning when the skies cleared and we walked down to the sea, which was a long way out anong the seabank at Thornham. Fighting a galeforce wind we enjoyed the beach more or less to ourselves. With the exception of a few gulls and Curlews we saw very little. Feeling wind battered we did what any sensible people would do and ordered a bowl of Mussels by the big open fire at Thornham Lifeboat and read the papers!
After an early morning visit to the dentist I motored down to Welney and joined Will Soar in the hide at Welney. We had been assured the American Wigeon had only just be seen and so we set about working our way through a few thousand Wigeon at the back of the flooded area. Stuart, Dave and Christine joined us a little later and after 2 hours we had still not seen the bird. We had good views of 3 Marsh Harriers as they battled with the wind on a very gloomy day. After Will left we watched Shovelers, Teal, Pochard, Ruff, Mute Swans, Bewick Swans and Whooper Swans all in front of the hide. Beginning to feel the cold we pondered on whether we would have to return again in the morning. All of a sudden a pair of birds broke away from the crowd on the island and Stuart called that the left hand bird was it. Thank goodness for that! We watched as it swam quickly right before it turned around and joined the thousands of Eurasian Wigeon once again.
I had promised myself that I would sort out the last lot of flights for my trip next year but the weather looked so good that I jumped in the car and headed for Titchwell, as I reckoned it would more or less be high tide by the time I walked down the path to the sea. Ignoring the hundreds of birds on the Freshmarsh I joined Charlie and Tony in watching the 67 Twite feeding with a few Linnets. Many of the Twite were ringed with a BTO ring and a dark pink ring on the other leg. A few had pale blue rings with one bird with orange rings on both legs.
Down at the sea, the tide was in. Five male Long-tailed Ducks were a nice surprise sitting not too far out. Red-breasted Merganzers and Goldeneye were scattered in small numbers before I located a Slavonain Grebe reasonably close in. It took me some time to locate a Great Northern Diver in amongst some more Red-breasted Merganzers and a Red-throated Diver. Common Scoters and Eider were feeding in small parties before I located a Red-necked Grebe not far from the Slavonian Grebe. The Slavonian Grebe had drifted far right, but whether it was a second bird I shall never know because I could not relocate the original Slavonian Grebe!
Stopping to look on the Freshmarsh, hundreds of Golden Plovers were skittish as they often took flight several times before settling on the marsh. Lapwings and the usual array of Teal, Wigeon and Shovelers added to the scene. Three Little Egrets alighted before a gunshot from the fields inland sent thousands of Pinkfeet into the air above us.
Looking out of the window I was met with thick fog. Not a birding hope then? Never mind I had plenty to do sorting out the muddle on Paul's computer and getting his i-pod sorted for next year. I was also expecting the postman with our passports with (hopefully) some visas for Vietnam in! By lunchtime it was still foggy but after a phonecall from Stuart I braved the elements and set off for Derby Fen in search of wintering species. I felt fairly stupid in the fog as rabbits scurried away in front of me. A Fieldfare called overhead as I glanced at a Redwing in the murk gorging itself on Hawthorn berries. I made my way across the fen as Blackbirds flew from the bushes, quite clearly a wintering population as numbers were higher than I would expect. Crossing the Gaywood River I made my way across the flooded fen and was surprised to find not a single Teal in amongst the Juncus. Two Moorhens swam in the ditch as a Green Woodpecker took exception to my approach.
After a large circuit I retraced my steps as a mixed flock of Redwings and Fieldfares alighted from another Hawthorn tree. Back along the lane 30 Common Gulls were making the most of the food available in the long grass.
After spending the night with my daughter in Oxford we drove to Somerset for a pre-Christmas visit to my elderly father. I always enjoy the journey back to my childhood county as the A303 always produces lots of Buzzards as I get nearer to Yeovil. Kathryn is now well used to me pointing out the Buzzards as I drive and I was surprised to see so many sitting on roadside posts rather than in the air as they sometimes are.
Motoring back home I listened in horror as BA have voted to take strike action over Christmas. This had better not scupper my plans! I watched couple of Crows mobbing a Buzzard as I crossed the fens south of Chatteris. Racing upstairs I discovered our first flights to Chile have been booked with Air France. Phew!
Looking out to the garden through the gloomy December weather, three Lesser Redpolls were clinging on to one of the trees.
I drove up to Titchwell to renew our supply of birdfood. I was going to look at the reserve but with a howling wind and temperatures below zero two frozen visitors persuaded me it was not a good idea. Instead I drove up to Chosely where Golden Plovers were feeding amongst Common Gulls. Thousands of Pinkfeet were also on the move as they looked warily at passing cars. On my way back near Flitcham a Common Buzzard flew overhead. Once at home I filled up the feeders and fixed the Niger feeder. I have not yet persuaded the Redpolls to come down to it but the Goldfinch were thankful!
After heavy overnight snow I was glad I had stocked up with bird food. The birds were ceratinly hungry and were amassing in the garden. The Redpolls were present again along with all my usual common garden birds.
After doing the chores I donned some wellies and went for a walk along one of my usual routes down some local tracks. The new overnight snow had added to yesterday's snow and was now quite deep in places. A pair of Bullfinches called in the lane ahead of me before I turned into the fields. A Redwing looked so pretty sitting in a hedge all covered in snow. I did not have my camera with me but used the camera on my mobile phone to take a scenic shot. However my day was spoilt by the cruel guns of shooters aiming at Pheasants as they tried their best to avoid this barbaric practice. I saw one killed and one that managed to keep going now with damaged wing. I don't suppose the shooters will care one jolt over the birds they will have left maimed that are already struggling with the winter weather.
Roydon in the snow
Paul by the Roydon village sign Paul setting off up the lane
For our birding today it seemed sensible to stay on foot. We set off up thye lane and headed towards West Newton Scrape. Not surprisingly there was little on the completely frozen water except for a few bewildered Moorhens. Retracing our steps a little we followed the public footpath along the hedgeline near the route of the Babingley River which is a favourite walk of ours. The Barn Owl was out hunting as usual as we flushed a Common Snipe from the ditch. It didn't fly far before we saw it again. Pinkfeet called as they passed overhead as gulls seemed confused at the lack of food available in the fields. A female Bullfinch kept us company for a while before we began to struggle with the conditions underfoot!
Paul in deep snow at Sandringham Paul making headway in the woods
We were not the only ones struggling as we inadvertantly disturbed four Woodcocks from a small area not covered by snow under trees. Blue Tits called as we approached a tree they were foraging from. The Babingley River was in full flow as a Grey Heron alighted from it up ahead. Another Barn Owl flew over distant fields before we turned up through the woods near Keepers Lane. We were surprised at how little we saw in the woods but soon found all the birds on a feeder at a cottage tucked in the woods. The owner had certainly done the birds proud as we watched Great Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Marsh Tits, Robins, Blackbirds and Pheasants all having their fill. Taking a route along a pathway up to Keepers Lane listening to a calling Nuthatch, we helped several Robins by clearing small areas of snow away from the side of the road, exposing the leaf-litter below. The Robins did not take long to take advantage of the new feeding spots!
Crossing the main road back over to fields above Roydon we started to see Song Thrushes. We had a count of eight individuals in the next few hundred yards. Luckily we managed to avoid the local gamekeeper who doesn't share our love of country walks and our appreciation of watching wildlife alive. We were blessed by a stunning view of four male Bullfinches in the sunlight against the sparkling snow. The orange of their breasts stood out like a beacon. A wonderful sight.
Back at home I was exhausted. The deep snow had caused my legs to ache but what a walk! I was full of admiration at how the birds survive these conditions and Paul went out to re-fill the feeders for our hungry garden birds that had decimated them whilst we had been away.
The first Brambling of the second winter period appeared at one of the feeders in our garden today. The Rooks are making a mockery of the bird seed I am putting out. I cannot keep up with them. They must be hungry. I hope my little garden birds get some in all this snow.
A Happy Christmas to all and thank you to all those of you that have sent me lovely messages throughout the year.
After a late night at Midnight Mass a lie in was order. Four Bramblings were noted on the feeders whilst we ate our cooked breakfast. Snow is still lingering 4 inches deep on the back lawn, although a sunny morning meant it was beginning to thaw at last. Our 2 foot long icicles had disappeared overnight and there was a lot of bird activity in the garden. As all our family was not arriving until tonight the traditional Christmas lunch was resheduled for tomorrow and we decided a good walk was in order.
With Paul's mother and her dog we set off along the old railway track at Roydon. Birding is almost impossible with a dog as Cindy kept disappearing into the undergrowth which meant she had be to shouted at to come back, thus frightening any birds within miles! However we did managed to watch a couple of Marsh Tits on the old railway cottage feeders. Further onto the common Cindy lurched after several Muntjac that were fortunate to outrun her. A Woodcock took off from one of the few uncovered snow areas. After a good look over the common we returned much further up the railway line and Cindy took off in completely the wrong direction thus giving me an opportunity to watch some Siskins as they fed in the trees. After being admonished Cindy was returned to a lead and peace was restored. Another Marsh Tit called before I located some Long-tailed Tits flying alongside me. It had been a lovely scenic walk but I don't think I shall be aquiring a dog just yet!
A walk on Brancaster beach with Paul, Kathryn and Paul's mum had us walking towards Scolt Head where 12 Snow Buntings lingered by the channel. A Grey Plover flew off as we approached the water's edge. Walking back through the golf course a pair of Stonechats sat near the final green as golfers made their attempt at knocking a little ball into the hole.
Three Lessser Redpolls were feeding on the Silver Birch trees in our garden as we got up this morning before heading to Norwich to buy a tent ready for our trip to Chile and Argentina.
The garden continued to yield some nice birds as 2 Bramblings fed on black sunflower seeds and a Siskin and a Lesser Redpoll fed on the Niger feeder. On the back lawn a Green Woodpecker hopped around looking for food. Up on Roydon Common a Common Buzzard sat in a tree as a lovely male Hen Harrier graced the air swooping over near the Silver Birch trees.
I hope you all have a very Happy bird-filled New Year.