Sunday, 18 January 2015

Cloudy Cley, Sunny Salthouse

We decided to head along the coast last weekend for a circular walk taking in a bit of sea and farmland. We headed from Cley along the shingle ridge to Salthouse, inland across Salthouse Heath and back to the coast road.

It wasn't meant to be a birding walk but we did pick up a few things. Along the East Bank we came across a party of 15+ bearded tits feeding right next to the track. They didn't seem bothered by all the people walking by although I am pretty sure many didn't even see them.
Along what is left of the shingle ridge was a pair of stonechat and a large flock of 70+ goldfinch but the highlight was a flock of 63 snow buntings. They were very approachable and didn't seem bothered by us being there. Most of them were preening and one even looked like it was sleeping! We dropped onto the beach so not to disturb them and headed onto Salthouse.

The walk up through the village and up onto the heath was quiet. Several small groups of pinkies flew over and a couple of mistle thrushes feeding with some horses.

The sun started to come out on the heath showing up the flowering gorse nicely. A bit of pishing pulled out several goldcrests from the scrub but otherwise it was quiet.

Nice weather and a nice walk

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Spring-like Holkham

After all the winds of the last few weeks, it was a relief to see the trees barely moving this morning. I decided to head to Holkham with the plan of doing the park and the grazing marshes.

It already felt like spring was close with lots of early birdsong in the woods. Great tits were very vocal along with a couple of nuthatch by the memorial. By the time I had walked most of the way around the lake the sun had come out producing a lovely soft light.

Good numbers of duck were still on the lake. 65 tufted duck, 47 gadwall, 33 shoveler and 21 pochard. Territorial egyptian geese were very much in evidence and its always bizarre to see them perched high in the trees!! Marsh tit was a nice surprise on the feeders by the gatehouse.

Quick early lunch then off down Lady Ann's Drive. Bumped into Ashley Saunders with his Oriole Adventures group who put me on to where the whitefront flock was hanging out.

At the start of the path along edge of the marshes I bumped into a large tit flock. Loads of long tailed and a good number of goldcrests. Highlight was a firecrest moving through with them. Despite calling over another couple of birders we couldn't relocate it.

I was hoping to see the wintering rough legged buzzard from the Jordan Hide but alas no sign. Several common buzzards and marsh harriers were hunting including a very pale patterned female marsh that I have seen at Titchwell this winter too.
I did locate the flock of whitefronts (21) but they were hard to see feeding amongst the tall vegetation.
To end the afternoon a barn owl flew right in front of the hide and dropped onto a small vole.
By the time I got back to the car the rain was just starting, by the time I got home it was snowing! Perfect timing :-)

Friday, 21 November 2014

The end is nigh!

Its now getting towards the business end of the year when it comes to undertaking a yearlist. There are not many species on offer and every opportunity needs to be taken.

Had a bit of a lucky week with little auk and Richards pipit added so I though I would keep the momentum going and spend the day on the reserve. There are still a few seabirds I haven't seen yet, although its getting a bit late for most, so I decided to spend the morning staring at the sea.
Before I settled down I had a lovely confiding flock of 11 snow buntings (saw a further 3 during the day) feeding along the tideline.
The sea was pretty quiet actually. There was a small passage of duck but not a great deal else. A bonxie battering a GBB gull and a woodcock in/off were the highlights. A walk down to the Brancaster creek was successful with a flyover twite added to the yearlist.

Spent the afternoon in Parrinder Hide going through the ducks and golden plover but couldn't find anything out of the ordinary. The white headed golden plover was within the flock, returning for its 4th winter at least. The water pipit was still about but always distant at the back of the lagoon.
A nice ringtail hen harrier appeared south of the reserve circling over Choseley drying barns before drifting west and was probably the same bird hunting over Thornham Point later.

A fairly quiet but ultimately successful day. The addition of twite takes my yearlist to 188. Not going to break my 214 but 200 may be possible.

Pics 1-4 snow buntings
Pic 5 white headed golden plover on the fresh marsh

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

My Precious

After seeing a report of a large movement of little auks north past the Farnes on Monday, Simon, Chris and I met up early on Tuesday morning on a mission to see one before work.
The morning started well with a lapland bunting along the beach calling but other than that the sea was fairly quiet. A couple of red necked grebes were still about and the odd little gull and kittiwake were following the trawlers. I then picked up a small auk flying away and right, either a puffin or little auk, but i couldn't get anything on it.
We then picked up a distant peregrine with a kill being mobbed by some gulls. The prey was small, dark and still flapping, most probably a little auk!! The falcon dropped most of the kill into the sea but did come into the beach and feed on a small piece it had left.
There is not much time for birding before work and we soon had to leave without seeing any auks.
As we did, Chris picked up the peregrine again and this time is spent at least 5mins chasing a redshank. Completely out of the blue, a male hen harrier appeared and even joined in the chase for a time!!

Fast forward to this morning and I had a tweet showing a photo of a little auk sitting on the beach. We were working on the fresh marsh so unfortunately couldn't go down and see it straight away. The bird was reported to be ok and eventually flew south towards the saltmarsh. After about an hour we had a radio message to say the bird had been relocated on a saltmarsh pool so we headed up to see it.
When we arrived the bird was actually in the saltmarsh vegetation and not on a pool and was also not in view. As we were waiting for it to show I jammed in on a Richards pipit flying east along the dunes calling!
After a few minutes I picked up the auk flapping and trying to get out of one of the small creeks in the area. I decided that as the bird couldn't get out of the vegetation I would catch it and put it across the path onto the tidal pool.
With an audience I managed to not fall in the mud and quickly caught the bird. It was in good condition, very strong and had a good amount of pectoral muscle. The visitors got a few quick snaps before I released the bird.
The bird spent the rest of the day on the pool and was seen diving for food. Hopefully it will be gone tomorrow

It was a new bird for Dan, Cara and Chris so everyone was happy.

If you didn't get the blog title, it was a subtle (or not) Lord of the Rings reference after the Auks. I was watching the films again last week :-)

Pic 1-3 little auk
Pic 4-7 habitat management work on the fresh marsh

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Banded birds

While we were away in Cape May we were fortunate to catch up with a few colour ringed birds. I have now had all the information back and it makes interesting reading.

In all, we found 7 sanderling, 2 western sandpiper, 1 American oystercatcher and a great black backed gull.

Great black backed gull OX4 - ringed on Appledore Island in Maine on July 18th 2012. My sighting at Cape May was the 1st since it was ringed

American oystercatcher M3 - ringed as a chick in Northhampton, Virgina on July 15th 2008 and my sighting was the first since it was ringed.

Western sandpiper - lime green PT3 and HU3 were both ringed together at Stone Harbor in New Jersey on October 3rd 2007. Both birds have been seen in New Jersey several times since

Sanderling - all lime green flags and ringed as part of the same scheme.

Y6X, T0K and O1Y- all ringed on May 19th 2014 at Villas Beach, New Jersey. T0K has also been seen in Delaware.

H3K - ringed at Stone Harbor on May 31st 2011.

2AT - ringed on Villas Beach, New Jersey on June 1st 2010.

X0Y - you will have to stick with me on this one. This bird was originally ringed on May 14th 2007 with the flag code YL0 on Reeds Beach in New Jersey and was sighted in Mexico in 2011. The bird was recaptured in New Jersey in May 2011 and was found without its original colour flag so was retagged with X0Y. Hope you followed all that!!

Pic 1 - great black backed gull OX4
Pic 2 - sanderling X0Y (YL0) in Mexico in 2011
Pic 3 - sanderling H3K at Stone Harbor this October

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Double Dip

Lightening seemed to strike for a 2nd time yesterday afternoon while I was wandering around the fields close to home. In the spring it was a twitter message about the slender billed gull on the reserve, this time it was a message from James Shergold saying there was a penduline tit present!
I called Dave to let him know but I was at least 20mins walk from home!
Made it home as quick as poss but it was after 5 by the time I made it to the reserve by which time it hadn't been seen for at least 40mins. Dip 1!

Ironically,  I had commented to Dave last Wednesday that the bulrushes along the Parrinder bank looked good for a penduline tit!

Forecast rain for this morning meant that ringing was cancelled so it was a dawn appointment with a penduline tit. I arrived just before 7 and was slightly surprised that there was only one car in the carpark. I know it was still dark but penduline tit is a good bird. Waiting for pagers to beep I presume...
It was still too dark to bird when I got to the Parrinder bank but I was in position. A good count of 52 roosting little egrets and a stack of gulls were present.

Sadly, between 7am and 9am there was no sign of the bird. A nice stonechat entertained and 2 lapland buntings (179) over west were highlights.
A walk to the beach saw a strong movement of skylark offshore,  a couple of possible lap bunts (too far out to be sure), tufted duck and a handful of lapwing.

The bird was reported again late this afternoon so maybe it will be 3rd time lucky...

Pic 1 - Titchwell at dawn
Pic 2 - stonechat trying its best to entertain while no tits were on show ;-)

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Murky Autumn Day

Typical autumn weather on the Norfolk coast today with calm but foggy on the coast, not great for our WeBS count.

We were fortunate enough to have got most of the count completed when the fog suddenly descended taking it from bright sun to visibility down to 50m!
Numbers of duck are building up now with at least 500 teal present along with 6 spotshank, 2 greenshank and a couple of juv little stint. Beardies were good value although views weren't great due to conditions.

The fog wouldn't lift so we had to finish the count early. By the time I'd finished a cuppa the fog was lifting fast so Dave and I headed around the Meadow Trail in search of the yellow browed warbler. Our Cape May catch up was cut short when I heard the bird call. Despite being elusive, we had good views so headed for the sea.

I was hoping to catch up with some of the divers and grebes and wasn't disappointed.
Neither of us had seen the sea so calm and with the fog about, at times you couldn't tell if you were looking at sea or sky and judging distance was really hard. Good views were had of 2 slav grebes, at least 2 red necked grebes and a nice group of little gulls but I couldn't get onto any of the black throated divers that were being called. I yearticked guillemot and razorbill before getting onto a pom skua flying east. Two further skuas were called chasing a gull. They turned out to be an Arctic and great and we even managed to get the pom flying back into the Wash, 3 skua sp in the same scope view!!

We decided to head off to Thornham Point in search of the 'big one'. A group of linnets (70+) drew out attention but we couldn't see any twite so we checked the sea again.
We were both following a young little gull when I picked up a small bird sat on the sea. I didn't really think but just said to Dave that I had a grey phalarope. The bird was feeding in one small area but did fly a short distance.  We radioed it in and a small group of people twitched it

We left them to it to search the bushes but apart from a few reed buntings, the cupboard was bare.

Yellow browed, red necked & slav grebes, 3 spp of skua, a self found grey phal and 8 new species for my yearlist (176), not a bad day at all.

Pic 1-2 - foggy morning WeBS count
Pic 3 - sunny yellow browed warbler bushes on the Meadow Trail
Pic 4 - flat calm sea conditions and some good birds proved popular!
Pic 5-7 - the Thornham Point bushes only produced a handful of reed buntings this time