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.