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.