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