Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The dark side of the Wash

A birding day took me, Simon and the Colonel across the county boundary and into the badlands of Lincolnshire to Frampton for a boys' day birding. There has been so many birds about again this year and we had high hopes for a good day especially as Les hadn't bee to the reserve before.

As well as a bit of quality #bants with the team in the visitor centre there were a few birds from the windows to get us started. An adult and juv tree sparrow were showing nicely on the feeders right outside the window, adult yellow wag on the waters edge and a nice wood sand feeding on one of the close islands.

The water levels from 360 hide were nice and low but most of the small waders had moved onto the grassland near the seawall as the water levels had just been dropped there exposing a nice load of new food so we have to be content with close views of both little and great white egret along with the whooper swan that has been hanging around for the summer.

East hide was the best spot for the waders, according to Toby who was now giving us a personal guided tour while he checked the water levels and tweaked the sluices, so we headed in that direction. A small group of dunlin were feeding by the path on the way up to to the hide but we need the the height of the seawall later to see the area properly. From the hide, another small wader flock contained several ruff and 2 smart juv curlew sands. A small group of brents, the 1st I've seen of the winter, dropped in.

From the seawall it was much easier to see the birds both on the grassland and the saltmarsh. A nice little group of ca25 yellow wags were feeding at the bottom of the seawall although they were very flighty, probably because of the hunting kestrel and sparrowhawk we saw later in the morning. 
The great thing about viewing the grassland was the extra height to look down into the vegetation where many of the small waders were feeding. 80 dunlin in a couple of groups along the bank contained 8 little stint, 20 ruff and a nice little party of 4 spotted redshanks. Wigeon numbers were already building up with several hundred feeding close to the back. Before heading off for lunch, a group of other birders pointed out a distant peregrine perched out in the saltmarsh.

Following a rather filling lunch of sausage, chips and curry sauce, we ended the trip at the Roads Farm reservoir looking for the red necked grebe. Amongst the wigeon and little grebes the bird was actually quite hard to locate especially as it was diving loads to start with. Once it had managed to swallow a tricky fish it settled down and showed well. Although they are a regular species off the Norfolk coast in winter it was good to get some nice  to get such good views. We didn't manage to add any more wood sands to the list (there had been 3) but we did have a calling green sand close by that we didn't see.

All in all it was a good day. Lots of birds, plenty of bants and good company.

Friday, 15 September 2017

A day too late...

Sadly that always seems to be the case with me that I am always busy when it comes to decent seawatching off Titchwell and this week was no different. 

Although I did manage to sneak down to the beach for a short while (seeing a couple of Manx and a flock of 11 bonxie) most of the day was spent sorting out the last of my things in the office so missed out on all the action once again. A calling yellow browed warbler outside the office was decent compensation though.

Although the winds had dropped by the evening I still decided to get out early and see what was moving. Despite it being still very dull on the walk down to the beach the 2 juv little stints were still present on the fresh marsh with the dunlin flock but light wasn't really good enough to look for much else.
The wind really wasn't going to help bring any birds in close now it had gone the west and died but there were still a few bits about. The short eared owl was still about hunting around Thornham Point along with a couple of marsh harriers.

There wasn't much movement on the sea with only 9 bonxie and 2 arctic skuas in the 90mins I spent watching although the wildfowl passage was good. Without the strong north wind, many of the duck flocks were staying far out and the haze meant that identifying them impossible. On jizz, most of the flocks looked like teal and wigeon. I must admit I was a bit fed up with missing out again so headed off. 

My brief watch did record
8 pintail
173 teal
31 wigeon
6 RB merganser
3 shelduck
1 razorbill
3 sandwich tern.

On the walk back down the path, the juv curlew sand that had been found by Alan Davies was showing well right under the path with the dunlin flock.

On the way home I decided to have a little walk around the Choseley barns arrea, Although the area around the barns is much quieter these days for birds, the field margins in the whole area are excellent. The farm have been planting wild-bird mixes along many of the field margins and they are really doing the trick. In the 'dip' south of the barns with millett content within the mix id proving very popular with the small finches. 20 linnet, 20 goldfinch, 10 yellowhammer and a rather smart corn bunting were feeding by the road. The margins run between the barns south to the village and I'm sure will only get better as the winter weather arrives. Fingers crossed that is something good turns up in the flock that people behave...

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Flying visit

Popped up to Cley yesterday for the first time in ages to catch up with Simon in the CleySpy shop and to pick up my new bins (more about this in the coming weeks). Having been all over the place in the morning there wasn’t really time to go out onto the reserve but the birding from the shop was pretty good all the same. The panoramic view over the reserve despite being distant gave some good views.

The small wader flock had included several curlew sands and it was just about possible to pick out one of the juvs feeding with a ruff on the back of the closest lagoon. It was good to see a lot of dunlin about as it seems to have been a quiet period for them recently at this end of the coast. Everything got stirred up when a young harrier did a fly past and then the hobbies arrived. Having a big panoramic view meant you could follow both hobbies at they took turns chasing the dunlin flock; both birds taking in turns doing stoops onto the flock from high up. After 10 unsuccessful minutes they have up and disappeared.

While we were checking out some of the bins, both Simon and I called a hobby coming over the carpark and flying straight towards the CleySpy shop and going over the roof. The large size and brown plumage meant it wasn’t a hobby but something more interesting. We rushed outside expecting to see the bird heading inland over the fields but were rather surprised to see it sat on the roof staring back at us!! The initial shock wore off as it was soon apparent that the bird had escaped from somewhere as it was sporting a full set of leather jessies and bells.

Overall the bird was brown with dark brown markings on the breast, upper belly and thighs pointing towards one of the parents being saker but presumably it is a hybrid. 
Whatever it is, it was impressive to see at such close quarters and attracted much attention for the short time it was present.