Tuesday, 21 March 2017

South-West road trip

Although family live a long way from Norfolk, it does give us a good opportunity to sneak in a spot of birding on patches old and new. This recent trip was no different with a new site visited in Dorset and an old favorite in Somerset.

First stop on our trip was Canford Heath on the edge of Poole for Dartford warblers. Although they are resident in Norfolk, it is always nice to see them in good numbers on the Dorset heaths. 
The dark foggy weather put pay to any chances of seeing any reptiles but the birds did perform. A walk round a large part of the heath produced 3 male Dartford warblers and 5 pairs of stonechats. It was interesting the see at least one of the male darties in the company of a pair off chats, presumably feeding together in a small 'flock'. A singing chiffchaff on the edge of he housing estate was the only sign that spring is around the corner.

Friday was much better, bright and breezy, for a look around part of Poole harbour in the company of Shaun Robson and Terry Elborn. 
The long staying lesser yellowlegs and green-winged teal were on the agenda for the day along with visiting the new reserve at Lychett Fields. Despite being seen the day before, we couldn't find the yellowlegs amongst the feeding redshank although good numbers of blackwits and a couple of greenshank were about.
As we arrived at Lychett Fields, a female marsh harrier had spooked all the teal but thankfully the didn't go far and the drake green-winged teal was soon located. After a spot of displaying it went to sleep!
Although there were not many birds, it was good to look at the habitat and talk to Shaun about the ideas behind the habitat design. The tidally flooded grassland with the ridge and furrow, to me, looked similar to that a Ryan's Field at Marizion in Cornwall. My first swallow of the summer put in a brief appearance but I managed to miss the sand martin.
A quick look around Canford Heath saw a couple of new darties, both singing males, but it was too breezy for much else.

The journey across the border into Somerset produced plentiful buzzard sightings and even a couple of flyover sand martins just over the border. Apart from adding a calling med gull and green woodpecker to my sisters new house list, much of the day was spent holiday planning and being a climbing frame to my two nieces!

Sunday had an unexpected bonus. Not only did we manage to get out with my other two nieces, we went to one of my old haunts for a walk. I have seen much talked about all the great work that has been happening at Steart Marshes so it was good to get a glimpse of it. The site used to be one of my regular sites (saw a fantastic Wilson's phal there) but it had been over 20 years since my last visit. I was very impressed by the developments but didn't really have time to do it justice.  The highlight was a single LRP but the strong wind and low tide probably didn't help the birding.

All in all, a good few days combining family and birding.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Roosting waders and spring sunshine

Having had the car checked over at the garage I decided to check the coast between Heacham and Hunstanton for early spring migrants.

Having heard about the recent purple sand at Hunstanton I thought I'd have a good chance of seeing a few waders as the tide was high.
Sadly I'd forgotten how disturbed this part of the coast is and a combination of people and high water meant that there were very few birds about.

I did find a small flock that was rather approachable and allowed good views. I did manage to pick out a few colour ringed turnstones but it was only possible to get a bunch of incomplete combinations. Very nice to get close views and get a few phonescoped shots.

The field on the inland side of the inner seawall on the way back towards Heacham looked very good for an early wheatear but it wasn't to be. Plenty of feeding pipits and wagtails around the horse paddocks and several territorial reed bunting.

The ploughed fields beyond the golf course produced 61 golden plover and 180 curlew. I managed to read 6 colour flag combinations on the curlew before 2 red kites flushed them!

Surprisingly no chiffchaff but a gorgeous in the spring sunshine ☺

Sunday, 12 February 2017

From (nearly) Russia with love

Blimey a blog post, not done one of these for a while!

Making the most of calm conditions and a decent break at Christmas I managed to open my mist nets on several occasions. 

At the end of December there were good numbers of starlings about in the garden and I hoped that we might catch a few. Normally they are very clever and manage to evade the nets but I was catching a few.

Rachael was extracting a bird that was already ringed and assumed to be one of the birds we had caught here in the past so it was quite a shock when she said that it was wearing a Lithuanian ring! The bird was processed, photographed, released and the details were submitted to the BTO.

It was good to get the details back quickly and find out more about the bird.

It was caught on the Baltic Coast, north of Gdansk at the Ventes Ragas Ornithological Station in June 2016 before heading 1361km west and ending up in my garden.

A pretty cool record and my best control (someone else's bird) by a mile.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Great Knot!!

Today was 'just another'day' until lunchtime.

Spent the morning dodging the crowds strimming along the west bank path but headed back a bit earlier for lunch as it was getting busier.
I was sat at my desk when Chris Booth rang from the west bank saying he had a great knot on the fresh marsh!!

The phone went down rather quickly and I headed out to find him. When I got to him I was greeted with 'it is one'.

Sure enough, through his scope was a very smart looking summer plumage great knot, I couldn't believe my eyes!

My thoughts then turned to mega bird, lots of people and how do we manage the twitch. Made several calls and got the news out.

It took a little while but people started to arrive but it was never too crazy. Everyone was well behaved and the carpark coped nicely with the increase in visitors.

I managed to get back out in better light and get some really nice views although the piccies aren't great.

What a great find by Chris who has been ploughing though the gulls and waders for months now. Not a bad retirement present for him.

Only the 5th record for the UK and obviously the 1st for Titchwell. My 270th species for the reserve

Sunday, 22 May 2016


Just a few pics to whet your appetite.

Been too tired to post at the end if the day so will probably post some more when I get back.

Highlights so far have been good views of great rosefinch, Caspian snowcocks and Caucasian black grouse. Walk up and views at Kazbegi were amazing.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Birding the Brecks

I must admit that my trips to the Brecks always seem to be a bit 'hit and miss' in terms on connecting with the target species. Not sure whether it is down to luck or not visiting the right places...?

Decided to head that way today for the first time this year and it proved to be a decent day.

Started of well with a stop on the way to look for goshawks. I was surprised that only one other car was there given that it was the weekend so there was plenty of space to park. It wasn't long before all the woodpigeons were flushing out of the trees and the first male goshawk came into view and started displaying over the woods. I called over to the other birders who got on the bird. Apparently they had been there for over an hour and hadn't seen anything, we'd been there for about 15mins!
Several buzzards were seen displaying (7 in total) along with a male sparrowhawk. After beeing at the site for about 40mins I picked up another goshawk that quickly turned into two birds. A male and female together for 10mins circling around together occasionally joined by one of the buzzards. A great start to the day.

Into the Brecks 'proper' we had a walk around the forest edge at Santon Warren. Probably unsurprisingly the conifer plantations were very quiet with only the odd goldcrest and coal tit calling. The only place there was more life were the deciduous patches along the rides. A walk back along the river was also quiet but we did get good views of a pair of grey wagtails.

Next stop was a new area for me, the back of Grimes Graves. Following the forest tracks we had a pair of woodlark in a recently planted plantation and then a second pair in a sheep grazed area. We looked over Grimes Graves but there was no sign of the great grey shrike from our vantage point. The 3rd goshawk of the day was displaying over the trees in the distance.

Final stop of the day was a search for hawfinches at Lynford. Plenty of goldcrests were singing in the conifers but no firecrests yet, the food put out on the bridge attracted a marsh tit and a nice male reed bunting and siskins were displaying everywhere. We walked to the edge of the paddocks and scanned the big trees. Very little was happening before Sally (and husband) from work bumped into us. They had already walked around the paddocks and not seen anything. While we were chatting I started to hear a 'tick' call coming from the direction of the trees. Sally and I both looked at one of the trees and saw a hawfinch flick up towards the top of the tree. It showed well for a few minutes before moving in to the next tree. It showed better here and through the scope you could see when the bird was calling. After about 5mins, the bird flew across the paddock and into the tall conifers and wasn't seen again.

A good end to a pretty successful day.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Spain - mopping up day

Following the wash out on Saturday, we decided to revisit the sites we didn't manage to do in the rain.

First up was the lake at Estany d' Ivars. Despite not understanding the signs, the lake is a relatively new thing having been created over the last 10 years. It is mainly a large open body of water with a vegetated fringe. At the west end a small area of reeds and sedge held purple swamphen, 3 calling water rails and at least 2 pairs of territorial marsh harriers. At the eastern end is a larger reedbed, probably bigger that at Titchwell. The looked pretty dry and old although a marshy area next to it looked good. It had been horse grazed and was much more open with lots of muddy wet areas. At least 13 snipe came out and bluethroats apparently have been wintering.

We were able round the whole lake today and although there were still the same waterfowl, there were definitely more migrants about. For my sins I counted chiffchaffs (32) and there was an increase in swallows and a load of house martins (30) were new in. Several white stork platforms were in use and despite the cold wind they were bill clapping, nest building and mating.
The surrounding bushes were quiet, probably heaving in another month, but we had great close  views of a couple of firecrests.

We had heard several penduline tits on the walk round and I was determined to see a couple that I had heard at the start of the walk. I could hear them and see the bulrush seed blowing but they took an age to find. In the end we had decent views of the male.

We then revisited the stony plateau in search of sandgrouse again but by the time we got there the wind had picked up significantly making birding tricky. I had a good walk about but the wind was keeping the birds low. I didn't see and sandgrouse, warblers or wheatear but a green sand was on a small flooded area.

On the way back to the main road, Rachael picked up our last new species of the trip, 2 stone curlews sheltering on the edge of a field.

At the end of 4.5 days we ended up with a trip total of 114 species (8 lifers) which I think is pretty good.

We got to see lots of different habitats all a short distance from our base in Lleida. The roads are good and very quiet making travelling very easy. A short return trip in the spring sometime to see the plains alive with larks is definitely on the cards