Saturday, 31 December 2011

Not much of a birdy Christmas period I have to say, but I have managed to get out a few times. Managed to dip on the lesser white fronted goose in the Broads but the fact that it was blowing a gale and the birds were keeping low in the vegetation didn't help. Having said that, it was good to get decent views of the taiga bean geese to compare to the tundras I have seen recently and there was at least 170 white fronts about. Ended to day with the starling roost (40,000+) at Strumpshaw.
Ringing sessions have been busy although we are not getting many new birds now. Two sessions over the last week have produced over 150 re-traps but only 28 new birds! The highlight of yesterday's session was 8 re-trap bullfinches.
Finally go round to looking for the possible homeryi great grey shrike near Morrisons this morning. A cracking little bird showing pretty well. With my limited knowledge, the bird looks to have all the necessary features quoted in the Shrikes book. In flight it showed a large amount of white in the tail and wing and when it was perched you could see the pale uppertail coverts, pale scapulars and large wing patch. The eye mask appeared narrower and the was a small pale supercillium above the eye mask and over the bill. The underparts looked warm at times although the light wasn't great.
poss homeryi great grey shrike (top 5) compared to a nominate bird (bottom 1) I saw just before Christmas. You can see the larger whire wing patch and pale uppertail coverts.
Despite the bird showing well and there being plenty of room, this twat still decided that he would move closer and stand right in front of me! Reminded me why I can't be arsed with twitching these days.

Friday, 23 December 2011

2nd time luck, managed to catch up with the western sand at Cley this morning. Got to Cley at about 9am and was greated with all the birds from the scrapes in the air and I could hear dunlin calling in flight, not the best start.
Straight around to teal hide and sure enough the bird had been flushed by a marsh harrier and was currently missing. Disturbance was high and as soon as the bird settled, a peregrine went through followed by a sparrowhawk! As the birds dropped back in the sandpiper flew in with a dunlin and landed on one of the back islands but toook off straight away and disappeared. After an age, the bird re-appeared at the back of the scrape but apart from being very small, not much else could be seen as it kept going behind the island. I decided to move to the hide on the south side to see if it was showing better. The island was much closer and the bird was feeding along the edge with the dunlin. I have followed the id dedate on BirdForum and it was certainly tricky to see all the features. The bird was a bit too distant to digiscope but here are some, rather poor, attempts.
If you look (very!) closely, you can just see the orange fringing to the upperparts
Very small compared to dunlin
Great grey shrike on the way home.
These shots came out OK considering they were digiscoped resting on a beanbag on the car window and not using a tripod.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Pre-Christmas Ho-Ho-Ho visit to Minsmere allowed a few hours birding amongst fighting with the boys and trying to keep them entertained.
The Levels was the area and the bean goose flock was the target seeing as Adam hand't managed to get down to see them yet. Unfortunatly they were nowhere to be seen so we had to make do with 68 white-fronts, peregrine, bittern and 2 fly-over Bewick's swans. A quick look at the Scrape at dusk produced an adult Caspian gull.
Two future BBRC chairmen checking the finer plumage details on a peregrine!
Caspian gull on the Scrape taken at nearly 4pm
Konik ponies used to graze the Minsmere reedbed - always great to see up-close
Our hen harrier roost count this afternoon produced the goods despite the poor weather conditions. Standing in the rain for 2 hours is not really my idea of fun but it was worth it. The count ended with 2 ringtail hens (only 1 roosted), 25 marsh harrier, peregrine and 9 white-fronted geese on the Gypsy Lane grazing marsh.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Just heard back from the BTO with the details of the ringed herring gull (below) that I found at Brancaster Harbour. The bird was ringed by the Landguard Ringing Group as a nestling on July 1st 1995 at Orfordness in Suffolk. That means that the bird has moved 117 km from its ringing site and was found 5989 days after ringing. I am glad I made the effort to read the ring!
Coue's Arctic redpoll at Titchwell taken yesterday by Andy Thompson. The bird has gone very elusive probably due to the windy conditions and has only been seen briefly once (when the photo was taken) in the last 3 days. It is not helped by the tail being nearly fully grown again making it a bit trickier to locate.

Cracking 1st winter Caspian gull that has been on the fresh marsh intermittently this week. I lied the other day saying that I hadn't seen one before. Well I had found one at Blackbrough End tip last year.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Maybe I should have gone and fought with the crowds last weekend to see the Western sandpiper as I managed to dip the bird at the weekend!!
It was a mixed start to the weekend as all of our nets were frozen due to afternoon rain and the an overnight frost so we headed to Kevin's mums garden in Titchwell village. Despite is being bloody freezing we managed to get 21 new birds including a young male sparrowhawk. I opened the nets in the garden in the afternoon (the only still day this month so far) but didn't catch much.
Sunday was earmarked for the trip to Cley but it didn't get started very early. By the time we got there the bird hadn't been seen for a couple of hours. We spent a load of time in the hides (probably the worst in the Western Paleartic) but there was no sign of the dunlin flock. It did drop in briefly when we were in another hide and then flew towards Arnolds Marsh. We walked around to check but the was only 4 dunlin. 4 snow buntings east was a bonus but didn't really make up for missing the sandpiper. Hopefully it will stay around until the festive break.
Had my first 1st winter Caspian gull in the fresh marsh roost this evening. A cracking bird and the head/bill profile was much more distinct than I was expecting. It was also seen on Monday so hopefully it will put in a regular appearance.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Almost a year late but my 2010 yearlist now has a new addition.

Last November a pale redpoll was found with the twite on the brackish marsh and the id features led me to say that it was a mealy. Unknown to me, the bird was seen by some people far more experienced that myself and it had been submitted as an Arctic.

Fart-forward a year and I was talking to Andy Stoddart this morning about the Coues's Arctic redpoll that is about at the moment and it was he who had identified last years bird. Andy has kindly commented on my photos and I am now able to change the identification and increase my 2010 yearlist to 210.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Unfortunatly, some numpty in high-vis managed to cut through the phonelines at the end of last week hence no recent updates.
I was nice to get the whole weekend out birding (once the windscreen cracked was repaired) and although not amazing I caught up with some decent birds. The only place I didn't go was Cley. I just couldn't be bothered with fighting to get into the hides with a bunch of idiots but will probably go this weekend when it is quieter.
Saturday started of with a tour of the back roads looking for goose flocks. They seen to be flighty this year but I did manage to find a small flock containing 2 tundra beans. Two adult med gulls were the highlights at Brancaster Harbour but I did manage to get a few photos of some of the gulls and waders that were present. The rest of the day was taken up around Gypsy Lane (2 barnacle and 2 white-fronted geese) and a walk out to Holme and back producing 2 short-eared owl and 19 marsh harrier.
Birds @ Brancaster Harbour
Ringed herring gull
Close-up of ring GG93791 (details to follow when I get them)
Juv herring gull
Roosting ringed plover
Don't know where this bird if from yet but it has been present on the last 3 visits
Sunday was an early start as I was leading a Pinkie Breakfast event with Dave at Snettisham. The geese performed pretty well with ca25,000 leaving the roost plus 25 snow bunting and 4 whooper swans.
After an Overdraft (monster cooked breakfast at the Old Bank) it was off to locate some goose flocks. The only big flock I found (2000) contained a single barnacle and at least 3 tundra beans. A quick walk around Burnham Norton produced very little, it is very dry at the moment, apart from a ringtail hen harrier so it was off to Warham Greens for the roost.
On arrival, a short-eared owl was hunting along the edge of the saltmarsh giving great views showing down to 20m. The highlight was a flyby rough-legged buzzard that was mobbed by a male hen harrier but unfortunatly neither bird stayed. By the time it had got too dark to see I had added peregrine, merlin, kestrel, marsh harrier and a ringtail hen harrier to the raptor list!
Tundra bean geese near Anmer

Monday, 28 November 2011

I have to say that the Snettisham WeBS count doesn't always inspire me with much joy but today was different. The morning was bright and crisp after a light frost and the tide was high enough to bring the birds in close. The only downside was the results of the surge tide last night. The main access path to the end hides were blocked by flooding and there was even water coming through the shingle bank onto the pits!
A change of route allowed me to pick up part of the white-fronted goose flock that has recently arrived with 65 flying out onto the local fields. The pits were quiet, so it was the long walk along the seawall to the count the saltmarsh and mud. By the end of the count the knot figure (partly counted by Jim) was just under 30,000, 1300 dunlin, 3000 oystercatcher, 2 peregrine and a further 21 white-fronts on the Sandringham farmland.
Once I got back to Titchwell, it was apparent that we had not escaped the tide with 4-6' of dunes being lost and also a small amount of water on the main path at volunteer marsh! A nice adult whooper swan dropped onto the new reedbed pool and a male hen harrier roosted.
Just heard from Keith that one of the chaffinches we re-trapped on Saturday morning was originally rung on the site in September 2003!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Despite very windy conditions this morning we had a very productive ringing session with 92 bird processed of which 27 were new. The main highlight came from the first bird of the day, a Danish ringed blackbird! Other goodies were the 2nd kestrel in the last 2 weeks (an adult male), 3 redwing, 4 bullfinch (+4 re-traps) and a goldcrest.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Thankfully, the weather on day 2 was far better and it was nice to be able to see more than 100m!!
I started early with a quick look at Gypsy Lane. Most of the geese from earlier in the week had moved on but the 8 barnacle geese were still present along with the Dutch neck collared (green SXX) greylag. 5 marsh harrier, ringtail hen harrier and a barn owl madeit worthwhile.
First stop with the group was to overlook the marshes at Burnham Overy. Straight away we picked up a common buzzard perched in a hedge and then noticed 2 birds together over the dunes. Although distant, we had good views of a rough-legged buzzard and marsh harrier interacting.
Holkham was quiet with still no geese along Lady Ann's Drive. Another common buzard put in an appearance but the highlight was a vey mobile flock of 45 snow bunting. While waiting for the minibus to pick us up, I picked up an adult peregrine on the ground.
A quick stop at Brancaster was well worthwhile with a nice close flock of turnstone but best of all, 45 twite.
After lunch I headed back to the harbour for another look. The twite had moved further out onto the saltmarsh but I did manage to read a herring gull BTO ring and get 2 colour ring combinations from the turnstone.
Ended the day with 3 short-eared owls and a male hen harrier at Thornham.
Cracking couple of days again.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Another 2-day tour with Stuart started off in very different conditions to the last one. The day started with thick fog but that quickly cleared, unfortunatly that was due to the heavy rain that arrived soon after we got to Titchwell! A sit in the minibus while the heaviest passed over and then off. First bird of the morning was the calling yellow-browed warbler but it didn't show due the heavy rain again! Fen Hide produced 3 very wet looking marsh harriers but not a great deal else. We split the group and I headed off to Parrinder Hide. The fresh marsh was again covered in birds with 1000 golden plover, 5 snipe and loads of wildfowl. A call from Stuart alerted us of a male hen harrier over the saltmarsh but unfortunatly we missed it. The sea was good with at least 60 red breasted merganser, 10 eider, 20 goldeneye and a fly-over snow bunting which could be seen in the low mist! Water rails on the tidal pool and by the visitor centre completed a damp but productive morning.
An increasingly murky afternoon started well. Just as we got out of the minibus at Thornham harbour I picked up the male hen harrier flying over the saltmarsh towards us. It showed really well and the whole group had now seen it. Almost straight away I picked up 2 short eared owls in together over the seawall behind us. Although the light was now very poor and it had started to drizzle, we had good views of the two birds hunting over the rough grassland.
Final stop was the Thornham harrier roost but despite the conditions we did see the hen harrier again.
Hopefully the weather tomorrow for Holkham will be better!!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Despite an impending heavy night in Boston, I managed to get out and have a look around Frampton with JB. Last time I saw the site (in April) it was very dry and there wasn't a great deal to see. This time was very different. The reedbed was hooching with wildfowl, loads of teal and wigeon and a nice female scaup with the tufties. The scrapes were also covered in wildfowl including 23 barnacle, 300 brent and 21 white fronted geese and a fly-over snow bunting. The reserve is looking awesome with lots of water on and is only going to get better as the reedbed becomes more established - bittern this week proves it.
Views over the scrapes from 360 hide
Scaup on reedbed
Barnacles and brents on scrapes
Decent ringing session included an immature male kestrel (ringing tick), male bullfinch but surprisingly no blackbirds given the numbers around at the moment.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Would anybody out there care to make comment on this gull that was present on the fresh marsh yesterday afternoon. When I initially saw the bird the combination of the bright yellow legs and dark grey mantle looked good for yellow-legged gull but the heavy head streaking doesn't seem to fit with what I know about them (but that isn't much). That has made me move towards a lesser black backed gull but which race? Looking in the books (Gulls) I would go for an adult winter graelsii as a much darker bird joined it later (no photos) which I would assume to be intermedius.
After all that, I may be wrong so feel free to make and suggestions

Had my first waxwing of the winter over the reserve yesterday and the redpoll flock is beginning to build up (20 today) so hopefully something good will join them if it ever turns cold!

Monday, 14 November 2011

A good start to the day, a short eared owl hunting over a roadside field south of Brancaster, got better when there was a report of a desert wheatear at the end of the beach boardwalk. The rest of the office cleared out but I had a meeting coming up soon. The bird was confirmed and I managed to get out to see it. Thankfully as I arrived the bird flew back from the tanks to the boardwalk where is started to feed. The bird was much more active than on Saturday and moved off in the direction of Thornham Point.
A great bird to see again and reserve tick 262.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Day 2 got off to a good start with a 1st winter white-fronted goose in the field opposite the hotel as we were leaving but the 7 waxwings that had been in Brancaster had moved on by the time we got there.
By the time we got to Holkham the sun was out and it felt more like spring especially as there was a chiffchaff singing as we walked down Lady Annes Drive. Despite the earlier white-front there we none in the fields by the road although there was a nice flock of pinkies. The main target of the day was shorelark and snow bunting so we headed out into Holkham Bay and east onto the saltings. 7 grey partridge were a tour tick and after a fair walk I picked up some distant birds feeding in the longer vegetation. Unfortunatly they were flushed by some dogs and 50 snow buntings flew over the dunes and out of sight. We walked over to the dunes and picked up another small group (ca20) feeding along the strandline. Eventually the birds move closer and ended up showing down to 10m before heading further up the beach. The sea was quiet apart from a few little gulls.
Back through the woods produced a small tit flock including 2 treecreeper, 10+ goldcrest and a couple of coal tits but nothing else of note.
I unfortunatly managed to miss the best bird of the day. While the group were waiting to be picked up, a late ring ouzel was found feeding in a field along the edge of the woods.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Finally managed to get out and do some birding today and start on the slippery slope of bird guiding. Stuart had asked me if I could help out with a large group he had so day 1 of the weekend was spent in the Holme/Titchwell area.
The day didn't get off to the best of starts with low cloud and a fairly stiff southerly breeze. Before meeting up with the group I spent an hour looking for the rough legged buzzard around Choseley but no luck.
Met up with the group and decided to head for Holme and the desert wheatear. The walk out produced big numbers of starling and lapwing moving west, a couple of flyover Lapland buntings and a male stonechat on the edge of the broadwater.
The wheatear wasn't hard to find (follow the crowd) and was showing really well feeding and resting on the tideline. Unfortunatly I didn't get great photos, not the done thing when guiding, but it was cracking bird and nice to see with a northern at one stage.
By this time the weather was improving and the clearer conditions and flat sea produced a few additions to the list. Highlights offshore were a juv pom skua west, 4 long-tailed ducks and a drake velvet scoter. The walk up to Gore Point added a cracking short-eared owl to the list and a large flock of pinkies on the grazing marsh but unfortunatly the hoopoe was found too late in the day for us. Back to the Titchwell Manor for lunch and then onto Titchwell.
No sign of the waxwings that had been present earlier in the day but Stuart did manage to pish out the yellow-browed warbler in the picnic area. The idea was to watch the harrier roost which didn't leave much time to do the reserve. With the sun now out the golden plover looked fantastic and we added goldeneye, female scaup and spotted redshank to the list. Final stop at the harrier roost gave us good views of at least 8 marsh and a single hen harrier. Barn owl on the way home was the final bird of the day.
Tomorrow's destination is Holkham for shorelarks and geese...fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Burnham Overy was todays destination and despite a strong wind there were a few birds about. Highlight was the juv rough-legged buzzard hunting over the grazing marshes at the west end of Holkham Pines but I didn't see the adult that was reported. 6 common buzzards were also in the area for comparison and 2 marsh harrier. Loads of geese about and a nice juv pom skua west offshore.
A bit too windy for ringing this morning but I did manage to catch a control (not one of mine) goldfinch so it will be interesting to see where it has come from.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Weekend visitors + clocks change = not much time for birding recently!
Decided to spend the day on the reserve with the primary aim to spend some time seawatching and bag a late pom skua or early little auk.
First stop was the moth trap which contained 2 new species for me (streak and dark chestnut) and a nice merville du jour along with the yellow browed warbler calling close by. A walk around the Meadow Trail paid off with really nice views of the bird and a bonus of a fly-over woodlark. These little fungi were growing near the Fen Hide.
Straight down to the beach and as soon as I got there it was obvious that there was a good movement of little gulls and auks. I decided to do an hour (09:15-10:15) sample count and ended up with:-
little gull - 542
kittiwake - 16
common scoter - 50
eider - 5
red-throated diver - 7
red breasted merganser - 3
puffin - 1 east @ 10:10 and another close inshore.
hen harrier - ringtail east
harbour porpoise - 3 east
The puffins were a nice surprise and only the 3rd and 4th I have seen at the reserve following 1 in 2002 and a wrecked juv on the beach last autumn.
After a warm up with cuppa I decided to have a look around the Choseley area. There has been a large goldie flock in the fields recently but I still haven't managed to locate anything with them and today was no different. The only things of note were a Lapland bunting in the same field, 3 buzzards and a peregrine.
Back to the reserve for the roost and the fresh marsh is currently covered in duck. I didn't count them but there must be at least 1000 birds present at the moment many of the showing really well.
Loads of gull were dropping in until there was a massive explosion, everyone rushed out of the hide to see a plume of black smoke over the beach at Holme - must have been blowing up a bomb. Despite the disturbance most of the gulls came back and the roost included 3 adult yellow-legged gulls and a 2nd winter med gull and a juv spoonbill!
Final stop was the harrier roost but only 1 ringtail and no sign of the male. Last bird of the day was kingfisher over the grazing marsh pool.
1st winter female bullfinch ringed a few weeks ago

Monday, 17 October 2011

Awesome harrier roost this evening with no less that 19 marsh and 4 hen present at dusk. Most of the birds were over the Thornham side with 10 female and a male present, the rest were in the main reserve reedbed. The first ringtail bird arrived soon after we started at 5pm and went into the saltmarsh and roosted fairly quickly. A 2nd ringtail soon arrived followed by a male over the grazing marsh pool and they both headed towards Thornham Point and dropped on the saltmarsh. At about 5:30 a 4th ringtail arrived and spent most of its time grappling with the marsh harrier group when the male re-appeared and headed east into the main reserve reedbed. By 6:20 all the birds had gone into roost.
Unfortunatley there was no sign of the pallid harrier that had been seen in the morning near Brancaster and apparently over the reserve.
A late swallow, sparrowhawk and kingfisher added further interest to the count.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Bit of a mixed week really. Had Tuesday off which turned out to be the wrong day especially given the weather conditions at the end of the week. Sadly I was in the office on Thursday and missed the short-eared owl passage (did manage 2 at the end of the day) and could only watch the messages about the robin at Warham as the light faded. Saying that I finally managed to catch up with the elusive yellow browed warbler on the Meadow Trail and had what was probably a 2nd bird calling. We have been clearing some 'migrant holes' in the willow bushes to make viewing easier although the red flanked bluetail or sibe blue robin hasn't shown in the best one yet...fingers crossed.
Ringing on Saturday produced 52 new birds including another 4 redwing, pied wag, green woodpecker, 7 goldcrest and another 10 blackcap. Only 2 of these were females and most were on their way weighing over 20g and carrying large amounts of fat.
Today was our celebration event for the completion of the Coastal Change Project with Chris Packham taking the starring role. Thanks to some late sunshine the event was a great success.
Chris telling a bearded tit story or showing how to decide