Thursday, 30 December 2010

With the prospect of heading to the sales tomorrow, today was the 'last chance saloon' for my yearlist.

The day started well with an adult Ross's goose (of unknown origin!) with the pinkies and a close adult black brant on my goose walk at Snettisham this morning.

Getting into work I was confronted with the news that there had been a flock of white-fronted geese over the reserve, another one missed! I spent a couple of hours on the computer and then headed out after lunch to spend some time showing people a bittern that had been showing well on the edge of the frozen grazing marsh. Not the best shots but you get the idea!
As I walked down the path, I picked up a group of geese flying west. They didn't sound like 'pinks' but I couldn't focus my scope on them and by the time I got Dave onto them they were too far away - probable white-fronts missed! As we were showing people the bittern, a group of geese flew towards us. The sun was out by now and you could clearly see the white foreheads and black belly bars, 28 white-fronts (209)!! Amazingly we had another 12 about 30mins later.
What was even more satisfying was the fact we managed to show at least 20 people their first ever bittern just standing around on the ice - a fitting way to end the year.
I wasn't sure what would happen with yearlist and writing a blog but I have really enjoyed it. There have been many highlights including the day of Iberian chiffchaff, displaying arctic terns and ending with bee-eater, alpine swift, finally catching up with buff-breasted sandpiper, 5 black-winged stilts, 2 summer plumaged black-necked grebes in May, the opening of the new Parrinder Hide, Pallas's warbler, 200 waxwings in a week and a male Monties on my birthday to name a few. I have ended the year beating my target and it would have been nice to have caught up with at least 4 species over the last week but you can't have everything!.
So am I going to 210 in 2011? In a We are going to be away for 2 weeks in the spring and to get anywhere near this target you need to be here in May so I am setting some different goals.
1. Find a 1st for Titchwell
2. Take my British list to 400 (391 now)but not to leave Norfolk
3. Do more ringing
4. Do more moth trapping.
5. Keep the blog going and post more photos
Hope it hasn't been too dull and you have found something of interest to read.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Had an early start with a goose count at Snettisham. Decent numbers present although I think they are a little lower than a few weeks ago. Thankfully the birds left in small groups making it easier to count 13,000 (or just under) that were there. An extra surprise was a flock of 26 waxwings feeding in the hawthorns alongside the track on the drive back.

With the news of at least 4 yearticks (hooded crow, bean goose, BT diver, purple sand) on the reserve in the last couple of days I decided to head there for a few hours. The hooded crow is also a reserve tick so I decided to spend some time on the beach and saltmarsh (where it had been) looking for it. On the walk down, the Northern harrier was hunting over Thornham Point but everywhere was still frozen and quiet. A nice group of linnet were feeding along the tideline but the surprise was bumping into the shorelarks from yesterday on the edge of the saltmarsh. They were very confiding but wouldn't stop moving making digiscoping difficult but with the wonders of Photoshop, I have some reasonable images.

The sea and beach were very quiet so I decided to get in some digiscoping practise on some of the waders. As with the shorelarks, I am still trying to work out the best settings but at least I can edit things when I get home. It will be good to see how things come out when the light is better. Having said all that, I don't think that this grey plover is that bad.
6 long-tailed tits and a sparrowhawk in the garden this afternoon and another black-headed gull caught yesterday.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas morning stared off well with a 2nd for the garden. Lying in bed I could hear the blackbirds going mad in the garden at what I assumed to be one of the bloody cats from next door. As I stood at the window trying to see it, a little owl flew off our roof and across the garden with the blackbirds in hot pursuit - nice!! A brambling was in the trees again and there were 3 lesser redpolls around this afternoon. Someone told me that there are still some waxwings in the village so I have put out some apples and put a tape on this afternoon. One would make a nice Boxing Day present!
We decided to go for a walk around the Burnham Norton area as the weather cleared into a cracking sunny day. Things were pretty similar to a few weeks ago but the marshes were frozen and very few wildfowl or waders were about. Things started well with a cracking mealy redpoll feeding on some roadside weeds, a common buzzard roosting in a plantation and 8 barnacle geese in a field near the carpark. Bird of the day however, was a decent sighting of the Northern harrier over the saltmarsh. With my new camera I was able to get some reasonable record shots.

A couple of Lapland buntings, barn owl, spotted redshank and 5 marsh harriers added extra interest.

Managed to try out digiscoping with my new camera with some success. It is going to take a while to get used to it and find out what the best settings are but I am pleased with the first attempts below.

Friday, 24 December 2010

A very clever man has managed to fix the computer. A virus had corrupted Windows and our hard-drive. Thankfully he managed to recover everything!

Started the Christmas break with a ringing session in the garden. Didn't get a great deal but did manage to get another black-headed and common gull. A woodcock flew through late morning but a pair of bramblings in the trees couldn't be tempted down. With milder conditions I should be able to get a bit more ringing in over the coming days.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Computer crashed last night and we ended up with the 'blue screen of death' so there probably won't be much news in the near future.

Hopefully the computer isn't knackered!!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A bitterly mild day today with sunshine and the temperatures actually getting above freezing!

While out for a walk at the weekend, we found a game cover that was planted full of sunflowers and had loads of finches feeding in it and using the hedge for cover. There were at least 100 birds but I didn't have a scope to check through them so I decided to head back for another look.

I got there just in time to see a sparrowhawk go through the cover and scatter the birds far and wide - always the way! There were still a few finche flocks dotted about and I ended up with a respectable 130 (60, 40, 30) linnets by the afternoon. With everthing gone, I decided to lengthen the walk and head back via Barmer.

This was a good move. On the first part of the changed route, 3 geese caught my attention. Not sure why I looked at the as there were loads of pinkies on the move. Thankfully I did as they were a family group of white-fronted geese! In the wood just past the chicken farm, the birds were going crazy at what I assumed was probably an owl and sure enough, sat in a tree on the edge of a garden was this fella.

He wasn't having the best of times being mobbed by 5 jay, 2 blackbird and a load tits. After 5 mins he had enough and headed back into the wood. As I was trying to photograph him, I heard the familiar call of 'wild' swans and 3 adult Bewick's went over and dropped into the fields behind the wood.

Seeing as the light wasn't too bad and this fieldfare was fairly close, I tried a spot of digiscoping with reasonable success. I have a new camera on the way so hopefully I can get an improvement in results.

The rest of the walk home produced 3 woodcock, 2 bullfinch, treecreeper, buzzard and 2 marsh tits.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Another very cold day, min of -9.7 and a max of only -1.2. The reserve was still completly frozen and shrouded in freezing fog. The only bird highlight was a flock of 50 barnacle geese over which I managed to miss.
The heavy frost did make the reserve look nice though!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Man, it's cold but thankfully we have missed the snow...for now.

Left for work yesterday at 8am and it was -9.8 and it didn't get above freezing all day! With the new Parrinder Hides opening on Friday afternoon, I decided to spend most of the day on the reserve guaging the reactions for our visitors. I was pleasently surprised that all comments were positive and a great tonic after the hard work over the past few months and the grief we got over the Island Hide.

This started well with the Northern harrier hunting close to the west bank and a large numeber of passerines feeding on the brackish marsh outside the hide. A count revealed 87 skylark, 55 meadow pipit, 5 water pipit and a snow bunting. As I was leaving for lunch, 2 Lapland bunting dropped right in front of the hide.
As I was nearly back to the centre I noticed a flock of probable 'wild' swans coming in from the East. As they got closer I realised that they were whoopers with a small bird 3rd from the end - it was a Bewick's, very nice.

Just as I was about to head out after lunch a visitor came in to say that there was a jack snipe stuck to the ice near Island Hide. I was pretty sceptical but headed out to have a look. As I got to the spot and small group were watching a jack snipe sat on the ice. I climbed down the bank and got within a foot of picking it up when flew onto the grazing marsh, it was OK after all!

After an adult med gull on the fresh marsh and several raptors hunting over the saltmarsh, I was frozen to the core so I headed back. A water rail and barn owl near the centre ended the day.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Pretty decent weekend considering I didn't do much birding.

Nipped into the reserve yesterday morning and managed to jam into another yeartick. As I drove down the access road there was a group of geese and swans in the adjacent field. Stopped to check for whoopers (still need them) but only mutes were on view. As I was leaving I bumped into Jim and had a chat about what was about. Nothing on great interest until he said there were 6 whoopers in the field! A quick dash to the hedge and 3 adults and 3 juvs (208) were added to the list. They were feeding in a small hollow which I couldn't see from the car. News of 32 barnacle geese and a possible hooded crow could have swelled the list further.

With the freeze finally giving up, we were about to get out ringing this morning. Finally the new birds have all but ended (only 17) but the numbers of birds caught was still impressive. A final figure of 90 re-traps and the 17 new was amazing. Highlights were 2 goldcrest, nuthatch, woodcock (at least 8 other flushed) and a flyover waxwing.
When I got home I decided to open my nets for the first time in weeks. There wasn't a great deal about but as there was a load of gulls about again I decided to give them a go. A slice of bread later and I had 2 ringing ticks! Single 1st winter black-headed and common gulls blundered into the nets. After a lot of scratching and pecking, both flew of with shiny new 'E' rings.

Black-headed and common gulls

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Another waxwing over the garden calling this morning

Monday, 6 December 2010

With the still freezing conditions we have missed out on another weeks ringing session and my nets in the garden are still frozen. The way things are going, we may not get much more in before the end of the year.

Decided to head out the Burnham Norton/Brancater Staithe area yesterday to see what was about. Wasn't really expecting much but you never know what may be out there. I walked from Burnham Norton along the field margins to Brancaster Staithe and then back along the seawall. The fields inland had loads on pinkies and they spent most of their time being disturbed and flying to and from the marshes. Apart from that the fields were quiet.

The walk along the seawall was better and there were loads of waders feeding in the flooded fields. There has been a lot of habitat improvements going on here and at the moment it looks cracking. Lots of splashy pools and grazed grassland. Looks good for breeding waders next spring. Most of the birds were lapwing and golden plover but I was surprised to see over 250 dunlin also. There were smaller numbers of ruff, redshank and snipe along with 3 black-tailed godwits.

Further towards Burnham Norton there was a big group of wigeon, probably 3000+ and a selection of geese including 18 barnacles. On Burnham Norton marshes itself there wea a family party of 3 pale-bellied brent geese, water pipit and a dodgy, although nice looking, bar-headed goose!

Raptors were the stand-out group with rough-legged buzzard, 2 merlin, peregrine, 5+marsh harrier, kestrel, sparrowhawk and 2 barn owls seen.

Wigeon at Burnham Norton

Flushed a snipe out of the garden on Saturday morning while filling my feeders. It looked like it had been feeding under one of the larger bushes! Species 85 for the list

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Fu*king blog!!! Just spent nearly an hour writing a nice account of my day and it has decided to delete the lot. For those of you who will say 'well you should have saved it', I did the only problem was that it deleted the text it also autosaved so I could go back to the saved piece.

Instead of a long rambling entry, I am just posting the images.

Waxwings in Titchwell village

Coues arctic redpoll (right bird) at Wells Woods

Female Northern bullfinch in Wells Woods

Humes yellow-browed warbler in Wells Woods.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Had a garden tick this morning in the rather surprising form of 2 Bewick's swans (84). They came out of the mist and headed west over the garden. Not much else about despite the snow and cold temperatures.

Friday, 26 November 2010

With our first snow on the ground this morning I decided not to join all the idiots on the road and go out for a walk locally. There is a good circular walk that follows the roads between here and the Creakes where there is lots of good looking habitat. Many of the fields have game covers and there are lots of small pockets of woodland. It looks good for thrushes, finches and raptors.

It was quiet to start with and at the first farm where there are sometimes tree sparrows, they were working and nothing was there. It felt quiet so I was surprised (but not unexpected) when 13 waxwings flew overhead. I managed to see the perched in a hedge but they soon flew north. More unexpected was 2 lapland buntings overhead with a small flock of skylarks. On the 'inward' leg of the walk I found a large stubble field with over 200 skylarks but unfortunatly you could only see them in flight so anything could be hiding amongst them. 8 tree sparrows not far from home would have made a nice addition to the garden list.

With the roads clearing and the prospect of poor weather over the next few days, I decided to head to Thornham to look for the Northern harrier. As I arrived the bird was distantly hunting around the Thornham Point bushes with a couple of marsh harriers and a buzzard. The viewing was cut short by the arrival of a snow storm so I headed home.

Parrinder hide in the snow and a blizzard

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The record has fallen!!!

While talking to some visitors on the main path this morning, something caught my eye over the reedbed. It turned out to be a cracking rough-legged buzzard (207) being mobbed by a couple of marsh harriers. Unfortunatly I didn't have my radio on me as as I tried to get my mobile out to phone the office I lost the bird. A few people were now stopping and after about 10mins I spotted the bird heading west towards Thornham with a marsh harrier still in pursuit.
A couple of the people asked what other interesting birds were around. I said that there were lots of marsh harriers about and looked through my bins. I said that I had 4 in the same view when I realised that the closer one was a hen harrier. They were very pleased as they hadn't seen one before. I then realised that it was the probable Northern harrier and managed to get good scope views as it hunted over the reedbed for about 10mins.
This was the first time I have seen it for a couple of weeks and with all the info now on the net, I was able to study it a bit more. The primary pattern is smoething that can only be done from photos but I did the narrow dark bars that run along the underwing coverts to add to the heavily streaked head and orangy, unstreaked underparts. The bird headed off inland but was seen again later in the afternoon.

Seen to be doing well for waxwings again at the moment. As I was driving through Docking this morning, I noticed a bird flying ahead. I was sure it was a waxwing and managed to pull over. As I opened the door I could hear it calling and got my bins on it.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Pretty good day today.

Started with 9 waxwings over the garden as I was leaving for work so I decided to drive around the estate to look for them. Found 5 in some trees near the house but a sparrowhawk went through and they buggered off.
A radio message of a 'white redpoll' feeding with the twite on the brackish marsh got our attention so Rob and I headed down to check it out. As soon as we arrived the bird was showing and even with the naked eye it looked very pale. Our initial thoughts were that is could be an arctic redpoll and that we need to get some photos. The bird was very pale with a pink flush to the breast. However, as we watched the bird we were then unsure of it's ID but 'put it out' as a possible arcitc. There were a couple of things that didn't seen right, especially the rump. Arcitc redpolls should have a large white unstreaked rump and only light flank streaking. This bird had dark uppertail coverts, the lower rump was pink and unstreaked but the upper rump had fine streaking. After sending the photos to someone for advice, we changed the ID to a male mealy
redpoll although a very pale one. As someone I know once said...'it's an educational bird!'

3 barn owls on the way home was nice

Monday, 22 November 2010

Missed the king eider again!
Down at Minsmere for the weekend and failed again to connect with the eider and the waxwings in Eastbridge so had to make do with a pint of Broadside in the Eels Foot - can't all be bad then! Did get the compensation of an adult Caspian gull and 3rd winter yellow legged gulls on the scrape.

Waxwing over the garden this morning while feeding the chickens so hopefully the predicted cold snap may bring one into my nets, fingers crossed.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The record is in sight.

Had a bit of a jammy day and I know that others who are yearlisting are trying to ban me from going out of the office.
While I was testing the new windows in Parrinder Hide there was a message on the radio to say that someone had just seen a great white egret on the saltmarsh. Now this is one of the most mis-identified species on the reserve and usually turns out to be a little so I didn't really take any notice and continued with what I was doing.
About 30mins later I was heading back to the main path when the radio went again to say that the bird was showing. As I got to the main path I could see the bird about half way out to the concrete building and even with bins I could see the yellow bill. A quick look through someones scope and it was on the list.
This has equalled my record of 206 and was also my 256th species for the reserve.

All I need now is some of the commoner species to show themselves...missed a flock of 25 whooper swans yesterday!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Ooops....maths was never my strong point!!!
While putting my list onto a spreadsheet I realised that I had added you my list. Thankfully I have missed out several species and am now on 205 needing only 2 species to beat the 206 from 2007. Still need whooper swan, black-throated diver and purple sandpiper, to name a few, which could all be about in the last few weeks.

Ringing in the garden this month have produced an unusual number of coal tits with 11 trapped so far. Another amazing species has been goldfinch. Since I started ringing in the garden in late June I have rung 105 with only 1 being re-trapped! Two interesting birds caught so far have been a great tit that Kevin rang in his Brancaster garden earlier in the summer and a blue tit from an unknown location.

Egyptian goose over the garden this morning was a new species taking the garden list to 83. 4 mute swans yesterday was only the second record.

Monday, 8 November 2010

After the low of missing a Pallas's warbler on the reserve yesterday afternoon, I jammed in on it this morning.
With calm conditions I decided to spend the rest of Sunday (after my WeBS count) ringing in the garden. It was fairly quiet but a collared dove and 7 (5 re-traps) coal tits provided some interest, then my voicemail rang. It was Dave saying that a Pallas's warbler had just been found in the sueda bushes along the main path. Nets were packed away sharpish and I swiftly made my way to the reserve. Once on-site the bird was still showing and I met Dave on his way back having seen it. As I got there, people didn't seem to be watching the bird and were now looking at a short-eared owl - a nice bird but not the warbler. Nobody seemed to know where it had gone and by dusk I gave up!

The harrier sp, possibly northern, was around at the roost again and although nothing will ever be confirmed without good photos, it does look interesting. The bird is very orangy below with only light flank streaking and a very heavily streaked head making it look 'hooded' from a distance. It may only be a hen but it certainly has caused some interest and debate.

Back to the warbler. I was in the office on the phone when one of the volunteers was trying to get hold of me to say that the bird had been re-located. Thankfully (or not) my phonecall was about a problem with the new hide and I had to go and sort it out. The bird had been in the bushes by Island Hide and as I got there it wasn't showing! A small bird then moved through the bushes but never clear enough to get anything on it. At the end of the bushes it flew to the reed edge. I was able to look through a scope, central crown stripe, yellow rump, PALLAS'S WARBLER (201) finally. By now it was very windy, the bird fed along the reeds and then moved into another clump of willows. Even better news was that it was a reserve tick (255) and my 5th of the year.

All we need to do now is pin down this harrier.

Friday, 5 November 2010

200 up this morning!!

Over the last few days it has been frustrating sitting in the office listening to the radio crackling into life to report another good bird out on the reserve.
With 7 shorelark on the brackish marsh yesterday afternoon I decided to come in early to see it I could catch up with them. I was the first person on site so I headed straight down to the beach. After a few minutes I noticed 3 larks flying near the far creek but they were too far to tell which. I started to walk towards them and after about 100m flushed a bird that I hadn’t seen. It flew onto the strandline and was a cracking shorelark (199). Later in the day, all 7 were relocated feeding near the tanks but were very flighty.
As I walked back I decided to have a look through the gulls (someone has to!) on the fresh marsh and was very shocked to see a juvenile dotterel (200) on the edge of the golden plover flock. I managed to phone Dave but there was no-one else to tell. As one of the hide contractors drove along the edge of the fresh marsh, the plover flock took off and started to circle over the lagoons. A birder came out of Island Hide but hadn't seen the bird on the deck but he did manage to see it as it circled before heading inland. With no work being carried out on the hide this weekend, hopefully the flock will settle down.

The possible Caspian gull from the other evening was one after trawling books on gulls and the internet and Dave had two birds this evening including a bird that was also present briefly on Wednesday.

All I need to do now is see as many species as possible in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

After big invasions in the last two autumns, I couldn't really not go and see the glossy ibis that has been at Welney for the last few weeks especially as it was a British tick (391) for me.
After a couple of hours ringing, things had gone quiet, so I decided to make the most of the decent weather.

Got to Welney and the bird was showing on the far side of its favoured field but according to other birders present, it had been much closer. After about half and hour the bird flew towards the road and started to feed near a small pool. What was surprising, was the bird favoured feeding in the longer rank grass rather that around the edge of the pool. This habit made it a nightmare to get any photos.
We a load of gulls about yesterday afternoon I decided to try the roost again today. Things were scuppered slightly when I got a call from a friend to say he was watching 7 shorelark on the beach and that they had just flown to the saltmarsh. Despite walking to Thornham Point and back, I couldn't relocate them. This made me later getting to the fresh marsh but there were still 4 yellow legged gulls and an adult med gull present. Another 'yellow-legged' gull was also present and looked good for Caspian. Not being an expert, I text Dave who came straight down. He agreed the bird looked good but a trawl through the literature tonight may help us to pin it down, fingers crossed...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Getting close now!
A corn bunting west over the brackish marsh on Saturday morning and 3 adult yellow-legged gulls on the fresh marsh this afternoon have taken the yearlist on to 197.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

You see some and you miss some, that is the joy (or not) of yearlisting. On the whole it has been a pretty good week with jack snipe (194) and Bewick's swan (195) added and 200 is now in sight. Having said that I have missed shag, purple sandpiper, whooper swan and shorelark in the last few days which would have made things look a bit better. However, the highlight from the last coupe of week has been the waxwing passage. In the last 10 days we have had just over 200 birds moving west over the reserve. Mainly in small groups with the peak of 28 last Friday. Along with the waxwings there has been a massive movement of starlings. Yesterday I decided to do a sample count as there was a stong movement and had 945 west in only 3omins - in the whole day there must have been well over 10,000 through.

Decided to head out early to beat the dudes and have a look for the rough legged buzzards that have been haning about the Burnham Overy area for a couple of weeks. Got there about 9am ( after a couple of hours ringing in the garden) to find that there were already a few people there. It was pretty murky and it wasn't until I got nearly out to the dunes that a bird was spotted. At distance the 'buzzard' looked pale and good for a rough leg but as it gradually got closed it turned out to be a common. Luckly a cracking juv had just landed in a field fairly close to the path giving good views. It then decided to have a fly around and head over to the dunes where it was still sitting when I left. The only other highlight was 7 barnacle geese feeding close to the path on the way back.

When I got back to the road it was amazing that there were people watching and ticking the buzzard. When I put my scope on the one in the dunes you could barely tell if it was a bird or a rabbit but that was good enough for some - I didn't stay any longer!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Up and down couple days but two new species added to the yearlist. Walking down the West Bank with Rob yesterday morning we had 4 waxwings (190) flying west...very nice. The bad news for the day came in the evening with a pager message of an ortolan bunting on the brackish marsh - another new bird for the reserve missed. From talking to someone who was on site but didn;t see it, it was feeding with the twite and Lapland buntings on the brackish marsh until something flushed everything. It was the only bird not to return!

Today brought new hope and it started well with 3 waxwings south down the west bank first thing. There were lots of thrushes, finches and starlings moving west and we scored another 15 waxwings over the reedbed where we were working (another 10 were also seen). A whooper swan south would have been a nice addition but we couldn't get onto it. Sitting around at lunchtime, I got onto a passerine flying towards us. Lark, short tail, then it called and flew right over us, it was a woodlark (191) and only my second record at Titchwell. A walk out at dusk produced merlin, ringtail hen harrier, 5000 roosting starlings and a good count of 140+ roosting LBB gulls.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Having had a few birds there already this autumn, I decided to spend yesterday at East Hills near Wells. I was feeling good as there was a Pallas' and yellow-browed warblers close by and there had to be something out there.
Walking down the track there were a few thrushes and crests and it looked like there were a few birds in. On the way over there was a female marsh harrier but little else. Got over the main creek fine and headed out to the trees. The first few sycamores and pines held more crests, a good sign, but then things started to 'go wrong'. The main problem of the day was the numbers of raptors in the area. By the end of the day I had counted 3 marsh harrier, ringtail hen harrier, 2 merlin, kestrel and 3 sparrowhawks all hunting in and over the Hills! At one time there were 2 sprawks hunting through a peachy patch of sycamore - no bluetails today. The bushes and sycamores held a few migrants (3 chiffs, 4 blackcap) and there were still plenty of crests and robins but nothing of note. 3 lapland bunting and 7 bramblings added some quality.

After saying every week that the number of birds at our ringing should be dropping, today broke the site record for birds processed. By the end of the morning we had done 93 new and 64 retraps! As well as the numbers, the species variety was good with 16 species handled. Highlights were nuthatch, 4 redwing, 16 blackbird, 4 chiffchaff and 3 blackcap. The/another yellow-browed warbler was still on site but again evaded capture.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

It is pretty amazing that we are still picking up so many birds every weekend at our ringing site. This saturday we managed over 100 birds again with 58 rung. Most of the species were limited to tits and finches although 2 late blackcaps and a redwing were trapped. Lots of birds were on the move overhead with 1000 redwings, several hundred song thrush, bramblings and lots of starlings. Star bird was a calling yellow-browed warbler between two of the net rides but uunfortunatly is managed to evade capture.
Things have been very quiet on the garden ringing front for a couple of months now. Nets have been open for hours and not a bird caught. Playing tapes seems to bring in the birds on our other sites so I have bought a CD player and played some calls for the first time today....what a difference if makes!

Between 7am and 12pm I caught 54 birds, the most ever, and birds were coming is from everywhere. By the end of the morning I had ringed 2 dunnock, 18 goldfinch, 4 blackbird, 10 blue tit, 7 great tit, 1 robin, 2 chaffinch, 3 greenfinch, 7 coal tit (2 un-rung birds present this evening) and this cracking 1st winter siskin.

The most surprising species were the coal tits. I have recently seen 2 birds in the garden (trapping one) but it was real surprise to catch so many. There must be at least 10 birds about and possibly migrants.
Didn't manage to get much birding done this weekend as I spent most of it helping out a Countryfile film crew at Snettisham get some footage of the knot flocks for an autumn special (Oct 31st if interested). Did get the chance to have a quick look at the Coastal Park with 2 brambling and a ringtail hen harrier the highlights.
Black redstart (189) near the beach on Monday was the latest addition to the yearlist but I have missed long-eared owl and shorelark in the last few days.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Cracking short-eared owl hunting over the saltmarsh this evening. Yearlist creeps up to 187

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Working today but the compensation was that the reserve was hooching with birds. Had to put up a new sign out on the path so took the opportunity to count the fresh marsh. With the water levels low all summer it has allowed lots of new vegetation to grow. Now the water levels are coming up and the plants have set seed, the ducks are loving it. Teal are around in massive numbers and I had 863 on the fresh marsh alone and didn't include the backs of the islands I couldn't see. I am sure there was the best part of 1000 birds making it the 2nd highest count for the reserve. Also about were 60+ pintal, 363 golden plover and stil 2 little stints. Stars of the day were the bearded tits. With the nice weather birds were 'erupting' all over the place and 40-50 birds were showing well in small groups. Had a quick chat with one of our recent staff (not sure where all his hair has gone - probably been rubbed off by a thumb) and spent the rest of the day with paperwork.
Got a call just before 5, 'do you want to process a green woody?' Dropped into see Kevin who had just caught this young female green woodpecker - a nice end to the day

Friday, 1 October 2010

What a week it turned out to be in the end. After the rush of birds early in the week, things peaked on Wednesday with a little bunting being found at Thornham Point. The bird was found late in the morning and showed on and off for the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately I couldn't get down to the Point for this 1st for the reserve. Despite 4hrs searching by Dave, there was no sign on Thursday. The 2nd yellow-browed warbler of the week was found in the picnic area with a nice pied fly.
Dave then made up for his disappointing morning by pulling a barred warbler (186) out of the bag. The bird was as elusive as they always are, skulking in the scrub alongside the main path. Despite 2 radio messages I managed to miss it but 3rd time lucky I did manage to see it.

A good week it has been but my mind has been wandering up to Foula where last years crew have been bagging the rares. From the sporadic texts, they are getting more that last year and with still a week to go have seen paddyfield warbler, lancy and a load of scarce migrants. Looks like autumn 2011 could see a return to the Northern Isles - counting down the days!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Its not very often that you see 4 grey phalaropes in just two days but after seeing two at Blakeney at the weekend, one turned up on the tidal pool yesterday afternoon. The bird (183)showed very well at the end of the day and at times was disappearing under the vegetation alongside the path.

The small white dot is the bird and here it is a bit closer!
With news coming in all last night, it looked like there was a decent fall occurring along the coast. With that in mind I decided to get onto the reserve early and check out some of the more inaccessible bushes. Although there wasn't lots of birds around the variety was good. Several chiffs were moving around the bushes and an immature male redstart popped out briefly. 'Pishing' bought out a couple of lesser whitethroats but my attention was grabbed by something else. Getting my bins onto the bird produced a corking yellow browed warbler (184) - well worth the early start!
With the prospect of more birds dropping in, I decided to take half day toil and head back out to the same bushes. Things looked good with a spotted fly 'new in' around the carpark and upto 5 wheatear on the beach. Some of the birds from the morning were still around but a willow warbler, garden warbler and chiffchaff were new. At times it seemed that thrushes and robins were dropping out of the sky and with them were 2 brambling, 5 snow and 7 Lapland buntings.
As I was watching the bushes a warbler flicked into view. Although the views were brief, it has a very yellow face and breast and very white underparts. I called to Richard that I had a possible wood warbler (185)t had flown into the bracken. The bird was very elusive feeding with a chiff but after about an hour we were able to get good enough views the confirm the ID. Only my 2nd reserve record and my 1st ever autumn record.
On the way back the grey phal was still performing well but amazingly another, more distant, bird had been found on the fresh marsh. 4 in 2 days, 2 in 10mins - can't be bad!!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Been feeling a bit crappy over the last couple of days (probably too much beer last week) so didn't go for the pre-dawn jaunt to the Point. Had a lie in and then got Rachael to drop me off at the Cley beach carpark. Surprisingly there were actually plenty of parking spaces but I wasn't to know.
The first thing was how crappy the weather was. For the entire 6 hours I was out it only stopped raining for about 10 mins - at least it was a good test for my new Paramo coat!

Things started well with a small wader flying fast towards me along the tideline after about 15 mins of walking. With the wind behind it got me pretty quickly and as it whizzed past I realised it was a grey phalarope! It flew about another 50m before dropping onto the sea and I managed to get another birder onto it. In the constant wind and rain, there were several wheatears trying to shelter but nothing else of note along the walk. On reaching the plantation there was a good number of people watching the bird and just an many trying to shelter. I got some initial views and then tried to get out of the storm. Once the worst had passed I headed back to get better views. Despite the conditions, the bird was performing well and didn't seem too bothered by the rain. It was busy flycatching and moving around the edge of the bushes.

As I headed back the weather perked up a little so I decided to bash the sueda in search of migrants. It was tricky with the condtitions and many of the birds were very reluctant to fly and stayed in cover for most of the time. By the time I had got back to Halfway House I had seen 11 wheatear, 3 redstart, 15 redwing, 10 song thrush, 2 blackcap, 19 robin and single chiffchaff and garden warbler. From Halfway House I crossed onto the hard sand for the last push and was rewarded with an adult little gull, 2 arctic skuas and another grey phalarope.

Although the weather was not good, the flycatcher and supporting cast of migrants made up for it.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Thankfully the Wardens Conference passed without me missing a good bird on the reserve. In past years I have missed glossy ibis and Bairds sandpiper amongst others. Unfortunatly the pec sand that was at Potteric Carr when we visited had just be flushed by a sparrowhawk.

A shed load of skuas along the coast yeaterday tempted me out for a seawatch this morning. Despite the seemingly good conditions, the couple of hours didn't produce a great deal. Highlights were 16 bonxie, 1 arctic skua, 1 Manx shearwater west and 261 gannet. A annoyingly distant small skua was probably a juv long-tail but the terrible heat haze put pay to an ID.
A juvenile diver, that was a red-throated in the end, caused a bit of a stir. Initially ID'd as a great-northern, the fact that it was very close on the grazing marsh made it harder ti be certain! If it had been on the sea I am sure it wouldn't have been so difficult. I thought it was a black-throated and had to be convinced otherwise. It is probably the closest juv diver I have seen and although the head shape didn't look right (steep forehead, flat crown, puffed out hind neck and nape) this did change with the light and angle. Several other people said they saw a vent strap (I didn't) when it preened and all the diver species, including pacific, were looked into and rejected. As someone once told me 'it's an educational bird!'

Need to decide if I go for a pre-dawn walk to Blakeney Point for the for the Yank flycatcher - I hope it isn't raining in the morning!

Monday, 20 September 2010

It's been a while but that is probably because I haven't ben up to much recently. Recent highlights have included 4 great skuas off the reserve on Friday (182) and finally managing to get along to Holme for the Arctic warbler. Although elusive and very mobile, I did manage to get some decent views.
With the reserve open to Island Hide there are loads more people about and most of the birds are showing really well.Upto 9 little stints and a couple of curlew sands have been right in front of the hide and there was a brief pectoral sandpiper this afternoon. Not quite so easy to see have been 8 Lapland buntings with the pipit flock. Most of the time they are hidden amongst the vegetation but I managed to get and 'in-flight' count this afternoon.
Off to the Wardens Conference tomorrow so it will be good to catch up with some old friends and generally chew the fat.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The promise of bushes full of migrants sadly didn't arrive this morning. Decided to check the area around the good Thornham garden again. The 2 spooted flys were still present and although there was an imcrease in chiffs and blackcaps there was not a great deal else. Snipe were on the move and I had at least 20 west in an hour. A short look around the carpark before work produced a nice pied flycatcher.
The wind turned northerly with some heavy rain this afternoon and the surprise of the day was a fieldfare over the garden this evening. It circled the garden calling and looked to go to roost in one of the local gardens - winter is not far away!!

Monday, 6 September 2010

With the pager cracking off all day with arctic warbler at Holme and a boatload of migrants arriving at Spurn I decided to check the area around the 'good Thornham garden' after work. The wind was a bit too strong really but I did manage several chiffs and 2 spotted flycatchers on the sheltered side. A merlin shot across the road and through the houses an the way back to the car.

The forecast is for wind and rain overnight so hopefully the bushes will be dripping with birds in the morning, then again....

Friday, 3 September 2010

A planned swallow ringing session was cancelled this evening so I headed over to Holme for a couple of hours after work. Missed a new barred warbler (which I would have been able to ring) by 15 mins but did get a nice immature whitethroat. Shut the nets up with Sophie and dropped into Redwell for the phalarope. Cracking little juv bird spinning around the edge of the pool following a couple of blackwits the were stiring up the silt. Two very vocal green sands were also present.

After not going down to Cornwall, I stayed in Norfolk over the bank holiday with a friend to do some sea-watching. Having not been to Cromer before, we decided to give it a go after being told 'it feels birdy'. I should of known as it is normally crap once these words have been uttered. An hour first didn't produce much apart from a strong passage of teal and 1 bonxie. We decided to check some of the scrub around Trimmingham and go back later in the day when the wind picked up. The woods were very quiet so by 11:30 we were back at Cromer in the shelters. Five hours later and telling god knows how many people what we were doing, we had sore feet but a reasonable total. Nothing special but 51 arctic skuas, 6 bonxies and 17 Manx shearwaters was not bad. It didn't help knowing that an adult long-tailed skua and a Corys shearwater had gone past Holme where Dave (it feels birdy) was watching!
Stong winds and heavy rain saw us head to Holme (after the horse had bolted probably) on Monday morning. Dave was heading off to work but said that there were good numbers of skuas passing. The first hours was good but the wind then changed directly to the north and the blowing sand was a nightmare so we moved into the sea-watching hide. There were more birds moving than at Cromer and the highlights were a probable Cory's west but annoyingly too distant to confirm, 2 sooty and 2 Manx shearwaters, 21 arctic and 36 great skuas, juv black tern and oddly, 2 wheaters.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

With the main access to the reserve closed for the last 7 weeks we have the chance to look at the Meadow Trail/Fen Trail area in more detail. Most visitors (including myself) usually head straight for the lagoons to look at the waders, nothing wrong with that. By doing that, we have been shown that there are loads of good things in a small area that we didn't know about. Apart from several new plant species we have found 3 convolvulous hawkmoth caterpillars, a reed dagger caterpillar (1st record since 2001) and a mystery yellow larva.

A couple of weeks ago a young boy brought in the yellow caterpillar (or so we thought) into the visitor centre. After a failed search in the internet, a photo was put onto Ispot and I contacted the Norfolk Moth group for advice. An answer came back quickly that it was probably a sawfly larva. After more looking it turn out to be a very rare and under-recorded species called Cimbex luteus and is only the 3rd modern record and 1st for Norfolk. Much interest has been caused and an expert visited the reserve today. Unfortunatly he didn't find any further signs but amazingly he did find another sawfly. This time is was the commoner Cimbex connatus or alder sawfly in the trees by the picnic area.
It just shows what is out there if you look hard enough!
Work is going well with the reserve upgrades and hopefully the path will be open to Island Hide in the next few weeks. Thankfully, nothing too good has been seen but upto 300 dunlin, 9 curlew sands and 3 little stint has been nice.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Planned trip to Cornwall has been dashed by the weather being too nice! Predicted calm conditions made the long journey not worth it. Going to stay in the county as sea watching conditions look good for a trip to Cromer on Sunday and with a few things turning up today a look in some bushes could be productive.

Nutchtch (178) calling around the visitor centre while emptying the moth traps on Wednesday was a very good bird to get and hopefully a blocker for some of the others. Several arctic skuas (179) offshore today were the only other birds of note.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Things have been pretty manic since for most of the month with visitors, work and a lack of Internet access (again). Not had much time for ringing and the garden has been quiet. A nice tit flock through the garden ( including several long tails and a chiffchaff) but only a coal tit managed to stumble into a net. A hummingbird hawkmoth was around briefly on Sunday and a hedgehog was wandering around in broad daylight this evening.

Work on the reserve is mad at the moment with things changing dramaticaly on a daily basis. The freshmarsh improvements have been finished and the habitat is looking peachy. Nothing good has been seen but a flock of 300 dunlin have been present for most of august and has included 3 little stint (177) and 2 curlew sandpipers.

Off to Cornwall sea-watching this weekend so hopefully plenty of news next week.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Bit of a mixed bag this weekend to say the least.

After about a month of monster ringing catches it had to end eventually and it truly did on Saturday. Although overall numbers were good, over 80% of the birds were re-traps from recent weeks. A couple of re-trap chiffchaff and 2 juvenile goldcrests were nice.

Ended the weekend sat in the chair very groggy after recieving a half inch gash to me head from having a fight with a post banger. Even had an ambulance out but they spoilt it by not having their lights or siren on!! For those who care (I am sure someone does), no further damage has been inflicted.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Been a bit of a busy couple of weeks now the Coastal Project has started. The reserve has changed loads and it is amazing what a digger can do in a few hours.
Not done much birding other than ringing and that has been pretty good. Got a few tree sparrows a few days ago and a nice immature tawny owl, complete with downy head, at the weekend.

Hobby hunting over the garden and male bullfinch at the weekend. Also hummingbird hawkmoth briefly on Sunday.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Two species added to the yearlist this week with treecreeper (175) on Wednesday and pectoral sandpiper (176) this evening.
The strangest sighting of the week was 14 common cranes west yesterday morning. While I was walking back to the office I noticed 14 large birds flying away from me I thought they may be cranes or storks but didn't have bins with me. later in the morning, 2 visitors came in and said they had seen the flock and they were cranes. Amazingly they were never seen again!

Thanks to a sharp eyed reader (thanks James) I need to correct one of my moths from the other day. The gallium carpet is actually a sharp angled carpet.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Muggy, cloudy and still - perfect moth trapping weather. Put my heath trap on last night for the first time in a while and had a decent catch. Minimum count of 89 moths of 34 species. Highlight for me was my first marbled clover but galium carpet and olive were things I don't see very often. Most of the numbers were made up of dark arches (14) and uncertain (11).

top, marbled clover, middle, galluim carpet
bottom, olive
Found this image of the buff breasted sand on the camera, no better than the other one but it give you an idea.
Hobby over the garden this morning.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Doing the Snettisham WeBS count is not always my favourite pastime. It is not easy to ID waders at 1km range in the heat haze when half the time you can only tell if they are a big or small wader!!
Despite a soaking from a sharp shower, this months count on Saturday wasn't too bad. The saltmarsh had a couple of green sands and a greenshank and there were just over 4000 knot on the mud. A change on the day before as we had only had one knot on my guided walk!
The challenge is to be able to count the saltmarsh and then get to the hides for high tide. Sounds simple until you factor the hour walk to the start point before you start. Anyway, got back to the hides and there were already lots of dunlin and oycs present. As I counted the dunlin I picked up a slightly larger bird with them. Thankfully it was near the end of the flock and I could check it quickly. Pale yellowish legs, heavily streaked breast sharply ending on the lower breast, it was an adult pectoral sandpiper. I managed to get Dave and his guided walk onto to it before the flock flushed and it was lost. A good find at the end of a long morning.

Whimbrel over the garden this evening and a cracking white admiral butterfly at our ringing site on Sundau morning for the 2nd week running.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Had a quick look at the fresh marsh this evening at it is still hooching with waders. 15 common sands were new in from yesterday. The buff breasted sand was in a bit closer so had a go at digi-scoping it. Unfortunatly the light was poor and it was a bit too windy but I managed to manipulate one to get a reasonable shot.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Here are some photos from my holiday

male large blue butterfly at Collard Hill, no Glastonbury, Somerset - the best I could do with the breezy conditions and their very flighty nature.

funnel-web spider sp

Somerset (in black) on their way to victory over Glamorgan at the County Ground, Taunton.

Common lutestring moth

Common spotted orchids - normal and white forms

common century