Friday, 27 April 2012

Pied piper?

Well it did feel like that a bit today. Just after lunch a report came in of a male pied flycatcher the the trees by the main path and as spring males are pretty unusual on the reserve, we went out to look for it. The bird was reported to be mobile and sure enough, it had moved off. Despite the poor weather for migrants (strong northerly with constant rain) there did seem to be a few birds about. Loads of swifts (100+), swallow and house martins were moving through, there were yellow and white wags on the fresh marsh and a couple of greenshank were reported. David also had seen another osprey moving through west early morning. At about 4pm the pied fly (151)was relocated and we were able to get cracking views as it fed low in the trees. The contrasting brown wings showed it to be a 1st year bird. Fingers crossed the weather will change for the better soon!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Need to pull my finger out!

Not really sure what has been happening recently but I have been missing loads of birds. Probably been a combination being distracted and the poor weather but I need to get it sorted. David was in early this morning and found a black-necked grebe on the sea along and along with spoonbill and the hawfinch he has nearly caught up with me in only 2 months!
From next week (unless it is chucking it down)before and after work birding is a must.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

150 up

A singing male grasshopper warbler on the edge of the reedbed takes the reserve yearlist to the 150 mark but it could have been even better. David had a hawfinch in the carpark on his way home but despite searching there was no further sign.
Swallow over the garden moves that list onto 42.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Bye bye Bluebell :(

After 4 years of excellent egg production and hours of amusement for us, I arrived home to find that Bluebell had died during the day! Being one of our original 'girls', it wasn't the nicest of things to find.
RIP Bluebell

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Farming and wildlife do go together

Driving through the agricultural heartland of the Fens (and much of East Anglia) you never seem to see much if the way of wildlife apart from the odd kestrel and dead rabbit!
As soon as I arrived I was greeted with at least 3 singing corn buntings around the farm buildings and then a couple of fly-over yellow wags (local breeders). Part of the day was a farm walk to look at some of the work that has been going on. It was great to see the skylark using the 'skylark plots' left in the cereal fields and there was loads of lapwing displaying over the fallowed area. Despite frequent hail storms there were good numbers of linnet, yellowhammer, corn bunting in all the fields and even a couple of buzzards over the local woods.
Where there is a will....there is always a way!
This fallowed area had a lapwing nest, 30 linnet, 5 corn bunting and a yellowhammer feeding on it
A small 10x6m bare area in a cereal crop is all you need for a skylark plot - this one has a male displaying over it
The water levels are not great but the wide margins are stuffed full of small mammals. Barn and little owls along with kestrel all nest in boxes about the farm.

Trying to be 'arty' with an oilseed rape field!
After the event, Simon took me on a mystery tours of some very bumpy backroads to look for some common cranes. Despite another sharp shower we managed to see 2 distant birds.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Damm north wind

The plan was to ring in the garden first thing and then head out to the coast. The hard frost put pay to opening my nets so I headed to the reserve. The weather was nice around the carpark but as soon as you got out of the shelter of the trees it was a different matter!

I wanted to get out to Thornham Point first to check for migrants and thankfully there wasn't many people about. As I got to the beach I met Stuart who was twitching the black guillemot so I soent a bit of time with him chatting and looking at the bird. Despite the sea being petty choppy the light was really good but it was too windy to digiscope.
The walk to the Point was very uneventful and I didn't even see a's mid-April for gods sake!!!!! Things didn't get much better, the Thornham Point bushes held 2 dunnocks and 3 woodpigeon and a sample hour vis mig count from the dunes produced 12 linnet and 2 swallow! The morning was saved by a fly-by male ring ouzel (146) that sadly didn't stop. A yellow wagtail (147), 15 swallow and 3 house martins on the walk back did brighten my mood a bit.

An hour looking for raptors from Choseley barns failed to produce anything but I did have yet another red kite on the way home.

Friday, 13 April 2012

The weather make all the difference

Easter weekend and the weather was wet and more importantly the wind was in the north. A couple of days later, the wind swings around to the south and the migrants pile in.
First wave was on Wednesday morning when were out bearded tit surveying. A singing sedge warbler (6 in the end) and 3 willow warblers gave a clue that a few birds had dropped in overnight. Next to be added and the least expected was a common swift west over the reedbed. This is the 2nd earliest record for the reserve and probably more amazing was the fact I still hadn't seen sand martin! That didn't last long a several small groups of swallows passed through including a couple of martins. An osprey west in the afternoon was the 2nd in a week.
With cloudy conditions and showers on Thursday were were expecting a fall of migrants. Sadly this didn't happen although I did add whimbrel (143) to the list. I had been in since 04:30 surveying bitterns so I was planning to leave early. We had been tracking 3 cranes down the Lincs coast but when they had turned and headed south over the Wash I headed off. From the gateways on the ridge you can get a good view over the reserve and the coast to the west so I stopped on the off-chance I could see the cranes. I was very surprised to see they were flying over Holme towards the reserve. I phoned David and raced back to get them on the yearlist. A couple of minutes later they were on the list (144)
The 3 cranes drifting off east.
Maybe not very obvious in this shot but the one in the bottom left was much smaller in the field and probably a female?
Now they would have been the highlight of the week if it hadn't have been for Friday 13th. Normally a day to stike fear into you but not today.
I was actually on the phone when the initial radio message came in and I could see people coming in to see if I was still talking. I knew something was up but not what it was. When I had finally finished the words 'black guillemot on the sea' were spoken.
'Are you sure' and several other words that souldn't be repeated were said and waterproofs were quickly donned. I could barely keep up with David and in no time we were watching the bird close inshore. It was moulting into summer plumage, the body was pretty black with the white wing patch but the head was still mainly in winter. Being a reserve tick for all and a Norfolk tick for many, there was a bit of a mass exodus from the office. Yearlist goes to 145, reserve list to 265 and Norfolk list 283. Short-eared owl and red kite made it a pretty good day.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Grey day

In more than one way...

Today was one of our monthly reserve-wide bird counts and the weather forecast wasn't terribly inspiring overnight. Thankfully the forecast rain didn't appear but it was very mcloudy and murky and the light was terrible. The wind has switched to the south and I was counting the Thornham Point section so I was hopeful of some migrants.
Things didn't start well as I found out that two shorelarks had been on the beach earlier in the morning and had flown west. I was walking the whole beach so hopeful of bumping into the them but unfortunatley there was no sign, not an easy bird to get back. In fact, the whole beach was very quiet and I only recorded 7 oystercatchers in over 1km of beach!
Things picked up a little once I reached the Point. The wintering 9 long-tailed ducks dropped in just offshore, the two males are now in full summer plumage, something I have not seen before. Heading to the tower to count the saltmarsh I flushed a pair of grey partridge (135) from the edge of the dunes. The saltmarsh, apart from a couple of RB mergansers was very quiet and I managed to miss the short-eared owl seen by Richard.
A quick stop on a bench overlooking the reedbed produced a swallow (136) west and a good number of displaying marsh harriers but not a great deal else. David has lucked in on a jack snipe that flushed out of the ditch when he sat down, a singing sedge warbler (1st of the year) and a male willow warbler.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Suffolk control

Just had the details back about a goldfinch I caught in the garden in mid-January this year. Instead of being a local bird, this is quite a nice movement. The bird was ringed in Suffolk at a place called Iken Marsh near Aldeburgh in December 2010 making it a movement of 97km and 399 days since it was ringed.
Spent a bit of time preparing a new ringing site on the coast today. It is a mixture of dry reed and scrub so hopefully I should get a few reed and sedge warblers this summer and maybe a goodie amongst them.....finger crossed!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

NE India 2012 pt3

Nameri at dawn
After our first decent nights sleep in a few we were up early (a repeated theme throughout the trip)for breakfast. While we were waiting for our guard for the morning we were introduced to birding India proper. Species such as great hornbill, greater flameback, scaly (White's) thrush, white throated fantail and grey-headed canary flycatcher were added to our growing list.
After a short while our guard arrived. Due to the presence of wild elephant, tiger and buffalo were had to be accompanied by an armed guard...just in case. At one stage in the morning I asked him how old the gun was and if it still worked. He said it was 50 years old and offered to fire a shot, I declined the offer!!
Our armed guard!

The main reason for visiting Nameri is to look for white-winged duck on the woodland pools on the far side of the river. A short boat ride and we were crossing the sandy river bed. Riddy shelduck, river tern and 3 sand larks and a paddyfield pipit were on the 'beach'.
The first of the pools we checked held no WW ducks but we did get a flock of 50 fulvous-whistling ducks. The the surrounding trees we had our first crested serpent eagle, wreathed and Indian pied hornbills. The woods were alive with birds but as with all forest birding is seems, they were a nightmare to get onto. Most of the flocks contained a bunch of green/yellow warblers but there were a few standouts. Little pied flycatcher, sultan tit, Whistler's warbler and yellow vented warbler. After checking a few more pools were struck lucky, finally a white-winged duck. Despite its rarity value, it wasn't really anything to write home about, bit like a flighty muscovy duck!
Fulvous whistling ducks
not the greatest photo of sultan tit - awesome bird though

A slow walk back to the boat allowed us to check the shingle bars for waders. Highlight was a flock of 4 great thicknee followed by 16 Indian stone curlews. We probably could have spent a lot more time walking the trails but by now the heat was getting and the birds were going quiet so we headed back for lunch.
The plan for the afternoon was a boat trip down the river in search of ibisbill. Dave isn't a good swimmer so he decided to dip out so if was left to the 3 of us and Abid to head for the river. The rafts were rather smaller that expected but once used to them they were fine. 2 guys paddling and steeering and were were off.
Our craft!!
The other boat
After a few wet rapids the river flattened out and we had the first birds of the trip, a group of small pratincloes flying upriver, then 3 ruddy shelducks. Abid stopped his boat near an island in the middle of the river where he had spotted 2 ibisbill. We both jumped out of the boats and had great views of the birds.
The rest of the trip was uneventful but we did add Pallas's fish eagle, river lapwing, osprey and Temminck's stint to the list.
This was our last night in Assam (for a while) we are heading for high country tomorrow!
One of many awesome meals