Friday, 21 November 2014

The end is nigh!

Its now getting towards the business end of the year when it comes to undertaking a yearlist. There are not many species on offer and every opportunity needs to be taken.

Had a bit of a lucky week with little auk and Richards pipit added so I though I would keep the momentum going and spend the day on the reserve. There are still a few seabirds I haven't seen yet, although its getting a bit late for most, so I decided to spend the morning staring at the sea.
Before I settled down I had a lovely confiding flock of 11 snow buntings (saw a further 3 during the day) feeding along the tideline.
The sea was pretty quiet actually. There was a small passage of duck but not a great deal else. A bonxie battering a GBB gull and a woodcock in/off were the highlights. A walk down to the Brancaster creek was successful with a flyover twite added to the yearlist.

Spent the afternoon in Parrinder Hide going through the ducks and golden plover but couldn't find anything out of the ordinary. The white headed golden plover was within the flock, returning for its 4th winter at least. The water pipit was still about but always distant at the back of the lagoon.
A nice ringtail hen harrier appeared south of the reserve circling over Choseley drying barns before drifting west and was probably the same bird hunting over Thornham Point later.

A fairly quiet but ultimately successful day. The addition of twite takes my yearlist to 188. Not going to break my 214 but 200 may be possible.

Pics 1-4 snow buntings
Pic 5 white headed golden plover on the fresh marsh

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

My Precious

After seeing a report of a large movement of little auks north past the Farnes on Monday, Simon, Chris and I met up early on Tuesday morning on a mission to see one before work.
The morning started well with a lapland bunting along the beach calling but other than that the sea was fairly quiet. A couple of red necked grebes were still about and the odd little gull and kittiwake were following the trawlers. I then picked up a small auk flying away and right, either a puffin or little auk, but i couldn't get anything on it.
We then picked up a distant peregrine with a kill being mobbed by some gulls. The prey was small, dark and still flapping, most probably a little auk!! The falcon dropped most of the kill into the sea but did come into the beach and feed on a small piece it had left.
There is not much time for birding before work and we soon had to leave without seeing any auks.
As we did, Chris picked up the peregrine again and this time is spent at least 5mins chasing a redshank. Completely out of the blue, a male hen harrier appeared and even joined in the chase for a time!!

Fast forward to this morning and I had a tweet showing a photo of a little auk sitting on the beach. We were working on the fresh marsh so unfortunately couldn't go down and see it straight away. The bird was reported to be ok and eventually flew south towards the saltmarsh. After about an hour we had a radio message to say the bird had been relocated on a saltmarsh pool so we headed up to see it.
When we arrived the bird was actually in the saltmarsh vegetation and not on a pool and was also not in view. As we were waiting for it to show I jammed in on a Richards pipit flying east along the dunes calling!
After a few minutes I picked up the auk flapping and trying to get out of one of the small creeks in the area. I decided that as the bird couldn't get out of the vegetation I would catch it and put it across the path onto the tidal pool.
With an audience I managed to not fall in the mud and quickly caught the bird. It was in good condition, very strong and had a good amount of pectoral muscle. The visitors got a few quick snaps before I released the bird.
The bird spent the rest of the day on the pool and was seen diving for food. Hopefully it will be gone tomorrow

It was a new bird for Dan, Cara and Chris so everyone was happy.

If you didn't get the blog title, it was a subtle (or not) Lord of the Rings reference after the Auks. I was watching the films again last week :-)

Pic 1-3 little auk
Pic 4-7 habitat management work on the fresh marsh

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Banded birds

While we were away in Cape May we were fortunate to catch up with a few colour ringed birds. I have now had all the information back and it makes interesting reading.

In all, we found 7 sanderling, 2 western sandpiper, 1 American oystercatcher and a great black backed gull.

Great black backed gull OX4 - ringed on Appledore Island in Maine on July 18th 2012. My sighting at Cape May was the 1st since it was ringed

American oystercatcher M3 - ringed as a chick in Northhampton, Virgina on July 15th 2008 and my sighting was the first since it was ringed.

Western sandpiper - lime green PT3 and HU3 were both ringed together at Stone Harbor in New Jersey on October 3rd 2007. Both birds have been seen in New Jersey several times since

Sanderling - all lime green flags and ringed as part of the same scheme.

Y6X, T0K and O1Y- all ringed on May 19th 2014 at Villas Beach, New Jersey. T0K has also been seen in Delaware.

H3K - ringed at Stone Harbor on May 31st 2011.

2AT - ringed on Villas Beach, New Jersey on June 1st 2010.

X0Y - you will have to stick with me on this one. This bird was originally ringed on May 14th 2007 with the flag code YL0 on Reeds Beach in New Jersey and was sighted in Mexico in 2011. The bird was recaptured in New Jersey in May 2011 and was found without its original colour flag so was retagged with X0Y. Hope you followed all that!!

Pic 1 - great black backed gull OX4
Pic 2 - sanderling X0Y (YL0) in Mexico in 2011
Pic 3 - sanderling H3K at Stone Harbor this October

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Double Dip

Lightening seemed to strike for a 2nd time yesterday afternoon while I was wandering around the fields close to home. In the spring it was a twitter message about the slender billed gull on the reserve, this time it was a message from James Shergold saying there was a penduline tit present!
I called Dave to let him know but I was at least 20mins walk from home!
Made it home as quick as poss but it was after 5 by the time I made it to the reserve by which time it hadn't been seen for at least 40mins. Dip 1!

Ironically,  I had commented to Dave last Wednesday that the bulrushes along the Parrinder bank looked good for a penduline tit!

Forecast rain for this morning meant that ringing was cancelled so it was a dawn appointment with a penduline tit. I arrived just before 7 and was slightly surprised that there was only one car in the carpark. I know it was still dark but penduline tit is a good bird. Waiting for pagers to beep I presume...
It was still too dark to bird when I got to the Parrinder bank but I was in position. A good count of 52 roosting little egrets and a stack of gulls were present.

Sadly, between 7am and 9am there was no sign of the bird. A nice stonechat entertained and 2 lapland buntings (179) over west were highlights.
A walk to the beach saw a strong movement of skylark offshore,  a couple of possible lap bunts (too far out to be sure), tufted duck and a handful of lapwing.

The bird was reported again late this afternoon so maybe it will be 3rd time lucky...

Pic 1 - Titchwell at dawn
Pic 2 - stonechat trying its best to entertain while no tits were on show ;-)

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Murky Autumn Day

Typical autumn weather on the Norfolk coast today with calm but foggy on the coast, not great for our WeBS count.

We were fortunate enough to have got most of the count completed when the fog suddenly descended taking it from bright sun to visibility down to 50m!
Numbers of duck are building up now with at least 500 teal present along with 6 spotshank, 2 greenshank and a couple of juv little stint. Beardies were good value although views weren't great due to conditions.

The fog wouldn't lift so we had to finish the count early. By the time I'd finished a cuppa the fog was lifting fast so Dave and I headed around the Meadow Trail in search of the yellow browed warbler. Our Cape May catch up was cut short when I heard the bird call. Despite being elusive, we had good views so headed for the sea.

I was hoping to catch up with some of the divers and grebes and wasn't disappointed.
Neither of us had seen the sea so calm and with the fog about, at times you couldn't tell if you were looking at sea or sky and judging distance was really hard. Good views were had of 2 slav grebes, at least 2 red necked grebes and a nice group of little gulls but I couldn't get onto any of the black throated divers that were being called. I yearticked guillemot and razorbill before getting onto a pom skua flying east. Two further skuas were called chasing a gull. They turned out to be an Arctic and great and we even managed to get the pom flying back into the Wash, 3 skua sp in the same scope view!!

We decided to head off to Thornham Point in search of the 'big one'. A group of linnets (70+) drew out attention but we couldn't see any twite so we checked the sea again.
We were both following a young little gull when I picked up a small bird sat on the sea. I didn't really think but just said to Dave that I had a grey phalarope. The bird was feeding in one small area but did fly a short distance.  We radioed it in and a small group of people twitched it

We left them to it to search the bushes but apart from a few reed buntings, the cupboard was bare.

Yellow browed, red necked & slav grebes, 3 spp of skua, a self found grey phal and 8 new species for my yearlist (176), not a bad day at all.

Pic 1-2 - foggy morning WeBS count
Pic 3 - sunny yellow browed warbler bushes on the Meadow Trail
Pic 4 - flat calm sea conditions and some good birds proved popular!
Pic 5-7 - the Thornham Point bushes only produced a handful of reed buntings this time

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Steppe on it

With the nights starting to draw in I was straight out the office door at 5 in the hope of catching up with the steppe grey shrike.

It was thankfully quiet for people and parking was easy. On the walk out it was nice to catch up with a few small groups of pinkies overhead but there was very little in the fields.
There was a small group looking for the bird but unfortunately it hadn't been seen for 20 mins! I decided to walk further up the track to get a different view on the hedgerow.
The bird reappeared after a few minutes actively feeding, dropping down onto insects in the grass then flying back onto the brambles and fenceposts.
The bird never came that close but it was great to watch it. At one stage it sat on top of a post and coughed up a pellet.
The bird eventually flew to the brambles at the back of the field just before dusk, presumably to roost.

A calling cettis warbler and a flight of 600 pink footed geese into the marsh to roost ended the day.

Pic 1 - Burnham Norton
Pic 2 - steppe grey shrike coughing up a pellet
Pic 3-5 - steppe grey shrike never came close enough for any better shots

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Final fling

Sadly the start of our last day didn't go to plan as the weather was against us for final banding session.  We did manage to open some nets but the rain came and we closed without catching a bird.

We packed and cleaned and the weather cleared so we managed a last visit to the Meadows before leaving. Nothing of real note but there did seem to be a strong passage of tree swallows south along with 9 killdeer and 5 pec sands. Maybe signs of things to come...

As we had a late flight we decided to give Brigantine another shot in the hope we could get a new species for the day. We ended up with 3 leaving us with only one day where we didn't add anything new. Not bad.
The first species was a rather scruffy juv ring necked duck feeding with a flock of wood ducks. Then I managed to pish out the 8th sparrow sp of the trip, the surprisingly smart saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow. A good one to get as it has a fairly limited east coast distribution.
There were a few more waders about that the first visit with a scattering of greater and lesser yellowlegs, a couple of dunlin and a small roost of grey plover that contained 3 dowitcher sp (I could only see their heads) and our final new bird, 7 knot.
Great views of a clapper rail bought out trip to a nice end.

Thankfully the journey to the airport was uneventful!

Pic 1 - observation tower at Brigantine gave great elevated views over the site. Might build one at Titchwell ;-)

Friday, 3 October 2014

They think its all over...

Well sadly it nearly is :-(

With no warbler flight in sight we decided to spend the morning banding with Patti. The right decision as we had the best morning of the trip.

Although we were not getting big catches, there was a really nice selection of birds. I was very happy as I got to band a black & white warbler along with northern waterthrush, several American redstart, eastern phoebe and a couple of yellowthoats.

Two net rounds stick out. The first held only 3 birds but it was magic extracting 2 American redstarts and the B&W warbler! The second was a net of 4 red eyed vireos or that is what we thought. Turned out that one of them was smaller and lacking the bold head pattern of red eyed. It turned out to be a warbling vireo, the 5th species of vireo on the trip!

As we were finishing Patti called one of the raptor banders to see how their morning was going. It had been very quiet but he had just caught a peregrine. 5mins later we were looking at a stunning juv male. I was surprised at how small the bird actually was in the hand. We took a few pics and away it went.

Decided to have a last look at Higbee Wood in the afternoon.  Things were pretty quiet but we did find a lovely little feeding flock of 10 tufted titmouse, 5 carolina chickadee, 3 black & white, magnolia, male black throated blue warbler, couple of red eyed vireo and an ovenbird! Not a bad flock... ;-)

Pic 1-2 - eastern phoebe
Pic 3 - carolina wren
Pic 4 - 1st yr female common yellowthroat
Pic 5 - warbling (left) and red eyed vireos
Pic 6-7 - warbling vireo
Pic 8 - red eyed vireo
Pic 9-10 northern waterthrush
Pic 11-14 - juvenile male peregrine caught by the raptor banders
Pic 15-16 - last evening walk along the beach with the black skimmer flock for company :-)


Its only Monday afternoon but our trip to Cape May already seems ages ago!

It was a fantastic trip and I would encourage anyone that is interested in observing migration to visit for a couple of weeks.
Yes, like all migration sites it can be quiet and our 2nd week was but there are always things to see especially being somewhere where the birds are unfamiliar. There were plenty of waders on the beaches at Stone Harbor,  searching for crakes and rails and getting your head around sparrows! There was also great satisfaction in pulling out a very elusive Connecticut warbler and getting great views.

But when it's good, it's awesome. The weather front in our first few days bought in big numbers of warblers, large numbers of flickers and cedar waxwings and the huge movement of American kestrels. The large numbers of roosting terns, gulls and skimmers on the beach each evening was special.

The place itself was great.  All of the sites were easy to find and in a nice compact location. The roads were great meaning the sites further away were in easy reach. Everyone was very friendly and more than happy to help. It was quite odd at times helping the American birders id 'their' own warblers but that is all part of the fun.

Special thanks must go to hospitality of Richard Crossley and Patti Hodgetts who kindly allowed us to ring with them. It really gave something extra to the trip and was a great learning experience.
The staff and volunteers working for the Cape May Bird Observatory on the Hawk Watch, monarch tagging demos and in the Northwood Center were excellent.

We ended up with a trip list of 171 which I was very happy with. If I knew more of the calls I'm sure I could have added more.

The top 3 species was actually quite tricky but I ended up with...

#1 Black & White warbler
#2 Piping plover
#3 Black throated green warbler

I will be back again soon :-)