Thursday, 31 March 2011

Garden Feeder to-day

Thursday March 21
Not the first time for a Great Spotted Woodpecker, this female is fairly regular at the moment.

BUT, the first for a non flyover Redpoll. These look like Mealy Redpoll to me. I had to take the photos through the kitchen window and into the light - and they refused to respond to my pleas that they turn round and show me their rumps and tails. Certainly very pale birds. I've had to rule out possible Arctic because of the front only views. Maybe they'll return. Oh for a Hornemann's.....

Lee Evans has confirmed that they are indeed Mealy Repolls.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Very Few birds to the Mile

Wednesday March 28
Weeting Heath reserve doesn't open until 10 a.m. so we didn't make an early start on a warm and sunny morning. Finding both the drive-in and the pedestrian gate padlocked at Grimes Graves, which we went to first as we were early, we arrived on time at Weeting.
We were the first - and only - visitors and had the sole attention of the 'major' - Frank we now know. It was the warden's day off and he was in sole charge. He escorted us to the hide, failed to find any Stone Curlews and with a humph strode off. He did tell us that there were two pairs over the ridge (as always) and a couple had been seen early on by some RSPB staff. Fat lot of use when the reserve opens so late.
He also asked us to listen for Woodlark as his hearing had gone and none had been seen.
During the hour we spent in the hide, the only species seen were Lapwing, Rooks and Goldfinches.
Lakenheath Fen held the usual ducks and grebes, The Great Crested  made a noise I hadn't heard before, at a pair of Tufteds getting too near the nest site. Hearing our first Sedge Warbler was a bonus but neither of us nor a warden could see it.
Back to Grimes Graves. Still padlocked. But..... a report had come through on the pager. The fence only stretches about 20 meters from the gate, the woodland beyond is open so, we parked roadside and made our way through to the entrance track. This is amazing for Pam, this sort of venture is usually a big no, no.
Half a mile down the road, admiring yet more Brimstone butterflies, we saw over a dozen in total to-day, the woodland to the west opened out into a clearing dotted with oaks and gorse. Whilst I was putting up the tripod, Pam spotted the Great Grey Shrike sitting on a three foot high and sparse hawthorn bush. It soon flew into an oak tree, further away but excellent scope views of a very handsome spring bird.
To our surprise, a car drew up and the Geesons plus two friends got out. They'd found the gate open, probably the lavatory lorry which passed us had left it so. Having re-found the bird for them and had a moth discussion, incuding the fact that Orange Underwing had been found here, we trudged back, being passed by the lav. lorry again. Yes, what we'd suspected, the gates were padlocked again ! How did the Geesons get out? Did they? I expect that the house inside the gate would have a key, if they were in.
After lunch at St Helens we drove home via North Walsham Sainsbury's to top up on fruit and veg.

Monday, 28 March 2011

New Garden Moth

Monday March 28
Over a 100 moths trapped again last night. Mainly Quaker sp. A few Hebrew Characters, 1 Oak Beauty. 
Grey Shoulder-knot and Satellite new for 2011, Double-striped Pug new for our garden.

Double-striped Pug

Friday, 25 March 2011

Migrant Hope

Thursday March 24
Waking to another perfect spring day, we opted for Titchwell.
No sign of any hirundine at Gunton Lake, cheap (!) petrol at Morrissons in Fakenham, therefore arrival at Titch was not until 11.00 a.m. Tuesday saw the usual parked car across our preferred parking place, empty to-day, we cheered......
Singing Chiffchaffs accompanied our walk out to the first viewing seat for the freshmarsh. All the expected waders and ducks - Avocet, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Ruff, teal, Gadwall, Shelduck and Shoveller - no sign of yesterday's Garganey.
I enjoyed photographing a superb male Teal feeding in the channel below.

From a seat overlooking the seaward end of the marsh, I experimented with taking photos by holding my Ixus upi to the scope lens. Most of the shots were not sharp enough, this Pintail is reasonable.

Two hours later, after a stint in Parrinder Hide trying to explain to an elderly woman why a passing flock of silent, lacking any ruddiness, no obvious white outer tail feathers and just, well, the jizz, were Twite and not Linnets.... we made our way back for a late lunch at Brancaster. A banana had suatained us ....just.
I successfully photographed the shoals of Rudd viewable in the pathside fresh water, lovely fish with their orange-red tails and fin tips. For some reason and, after several hours of puzzling and investigation of various options, these images were saved in RAW not the usual JPEG, as were the ones of Avocet and Ruff. What a puzzlement. I can now view them but they will not load to my Blog nor to my editing programme.
The Little Owl was sitting in its hole in the dead tree at Felbrigg. My photos weren't good enough, I'll see what the ones I took through the scope with Pam's camera are like, hers has a bigger zoom.
Not a great improvement.........more practice required. was a long way away.

We loved our outing again, in the sun and warmth. Shame about the migrants !

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


Tuesday March 22
A perfect day for birding - the first with Sue since early 2010, the weather has been appalling every time since then. Cloudless blue sky, virtually no wind, the temperature rising to 18C by lunch time.
As we approached Choseley Barns from Docking, a soaring raptor brought us to a halt. Through binoculars, we could see that the Common Buzzard was being buzzed by a Merlin which soon glided fast out of sight. Our first sighting this year.
We spent all morning at Titchwell, after being forced to park in the overflow car park by the volume of people present. Soon after leaving the Centre, a Red Kite drifted overhead, my favourite raptor (or is it a Peregrine, or....White-tailed Eagle ) showing beautifully in the warm sunlight.
Nothing untoward on the marshes, several year ticks for Sue though and a few late Goldeneye. More Avocets than on our previous visit, spread widely, taking up territory I guess. Chiffchaffs singing well on the Fen Trail. Good views of Sue's favourite bird, Bearded Reedlings, calling and chasing in the reeds, oblivious to watchers, more interested in the chase.
Sea watching from a perch in the dunes, on an ebbing tide, the thousand or so Common Scoter showing as a black line, too distant and sun hazed to distinguish any Velvet. Paired Red-breasted Mergansers, several Great Crested Grebes and, at last, a singly very blotchy looking Common Eider. The shoreline was unusually bird-free apart from one Sanderling and a few Oystercatchers. As we left, the mussell beds were becoming exposed and more birds were flying in.
Parrinder Hide was new for an impressed Sue, despite the acres of empty mud on the shoreward side. The brackish marsh had over 200 Golden Plovers, cuddled up on two islands, their mass making their gentle contact calls very obvious. A few were well into their black, bib and apron, summer plumage , yet most were not.
After the usual coastal calls, a CleySpy visit to fix Sue's broken Tripod/scope mount and a visit to Cley church to see the White-crowned Sparrow window, we drove to Salthouse beach. The Spoonbill flew off east and landed half way to the Quags, it's head still visible.
What a lovely day - shame I forgot to carry my camera. Quite unbelievable that I left it in the car......
Weds March 23
Chiffy singing in the garden this morning, G Spot drumming away in the woods and a Tawny calling in broad daylight.
143 moths in the moth trap last night. Mind boggling. Mostly Quaker sp., a few handsome Oak Beauties and a few unknown -or forgotten - the photos of which I'm about to process.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

A Foggy Day

March 15
Setting off in thick fog, it persisted - in slightly variable density - until we reached Holme, where we'd arranged to meet Bridget and Aileen.
We took refuge in the NOA hide overlooking Broadwater, where it was sheltered from the NNE wind. Nine Avocets back on the distant pool, a lone Little Grebe paddling fast left and a calling Cetti's were the highlights. Until a small flock of Pinkfeet sprang up from behind a distant murky group of bushes, the Ross' showing briefly before dropping, again out of sight. Unfortunately only Pam and I saw it but, Bridget saw it later, as we were preparing to leave.
After a very low key and rather disinterested discussion, we decided to have a hot drink in the Feeding Station and then walk to the sea. I checked the book whilst they walked to the loo, finding that a Chiffchaff had been reported this morning from the Fen Trail.
I went on ahead, stopped to suss out a black-headed bird which became one of a pair of Bullfinches at the back of the trees. I stood guard waiting for the others to arrive when a bird flitting about in the willows caught my eye. My first ChiffChaff of the year. Apart from a couple of January sightings, it's the first time I've SEEN a spring Chiffy without hearing it. We all saw it well but the Bullies had disappeared.
Sat on a bench with Bridget, scoping the Freshwater Pool, finding Ruff, Pintail, Dunlin, two Lesser Black-backs and a dozen Avocets, a shout from Pam alerted us to a fast fly-past from a Sparrowhawk. She and Aileen were on a further bench, binoculars only, with a wider view, good thing too.
Lunch parked at Brancaster Staithe, the tide well on its way in, added Grey Plover, Bar-tails and a pair of Mergansers to the day list.
One Black Brant amongst the 500 dark-bellied Brent on Wells Putting course, and a lone Pale-bellied amongst a similar number at Cley Coastguards. No sign of Sunday's Wheatear, they tend to be pass-throughs here.
Cold and very dull/foggy still, we repaired to Cley cafe for a hot drink and a chat before a short stop at Salthouse beach, making our farewells and driving home. Again, a very enjoyable outing, despite the weathet.

Sunday, 13 March 2011


March 13
Mid morning before we left home for Cley. Salthouse first to scan the Eye lump - not helped by a birder wandering all over it.We often see our first Wheatear here, not to-day.
After a visit to the Cley deli, it was time to scan the large flock of Brent geese from a very muddy gateway at the junction of Beach Road and the 148. At least two Pale-bellied Brent for the month list, couldn't find any Black Brant though. 
Parking at Beach car park (Coastguards), facing the Eye Field, I scanned left and Pam looked straight ahead. She immediately saw a lovely spring-fresh male Wheatear. Excellent. One of our earliest Norfolk birds, arriving on the forecast southerly wind.
Back to Salthouse for another look and a hot drink from Julian, the van man, whilst eating lunch. Don't ask...... This is one of Brenda's favourite weekend stops for a coffee and there she appeared. Pam went off to tell her about the Wheatear which was her aim too, hope it was still there for her.
Gunton Lake is our nearest place to see early Hirundine, not usually as early as this but you never know.  No Hirundine but, our first Grey Wagtail,  which flew off as soon as we saw it, not to be found again.
Three Siskins on the niger again to-day and the Tawny Owls are being very vocal - for Pam !

Friday, 11 March 2011


March 11
I didn't fancy the proposed trip to Titchwell, after a poor night's sleep. It was mainly so that we could buy bird food anyway, our birds have really taken to Buggy Nibbles and the RSPB is cheaper than CJ Wildbird Foods (debatable after the petrol costs!!).
Instead, we went to Felbrigg in search of Mandarin, which we'd been planning to do for a while. Yesterday's strong wind had abated and the morning felt spring-like. The path down through the woods was almost completely dry, a nice surprise. Nuthatch calls rang out, as usual. Great and Blue Tits were singing well.
Our usual vantage point is from the gate at the far end of the lake, from which we can view the heavily wooded and brush lined shore. The ducks like to roost amongst the roots, seldom venturing forth for long. A lone fisherman was a surprise too, never seen one here before. He had 4 rods set up for Pike and Roach. The Rudd had been decimated by the large number of Cormorants which wintered on the lake (he said...).
I stayed, scanning constantly. After a while, Pam walked off to inspect the wooded shore from the footpath, it sometimes succeeds in flushing them into the open for a while.
Meanwhile David (Geordie)  and new black Lab, Ben - the last one was called Ben too - stopped for a chat. He was looking for Little Owl and Kingfisher. I put him on to the nesting tree in the car park area and he told me that the Mandarins could be viewed from the fenced off area near the footpath.
Pam arrived back having seen a pair at the site mentioned. Walking to the area, we had very good views through the scope, good through bins and badly obscured - by branches - ones through my camera. When did that ever stop me.....
A Treecreeper did its thing nearby and a pair of Long-tailed Tits flitted through the trees overhanging the water. We eventually saw 3 Mandarins, one male and 2 females, before home via Sainsbury's.

Southerly winds this weekend. Hoping for an early Wheatear and /or ChiffChaff/ Sand Martin.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

3 Hour Moth Trapping

March 8/9
Warm day, a good chance of catching some moths. We left the trap out until bedtme, trapping 1 moth IN the trap and two on the wall outside!
Pale Brindled Beauty

Early Grey
Oak Beauty

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Ollie's Farm

March 9
In the car park before 9 a.m. It was full ! Very badly parked cars, three taking up the space for 4/5. As we were trying to work out whether or not we could park on the verge without dropping into a hole or running over a sapling, a birder returned and we were able to take his space.
The 25-30 minute walk to the vantage point was a pleasure to-day. The sun was shining from a cloudless sky and it felt spring-like  - despite leaving home in -3C with heavily frosted windows and countryside.
To our surprise, there were already 8 people there, scopes at the ready. We were joined by 20 others within the next hour, we've never seen as many birders there before. Neither have we had to wait so long for any raptors at all, the Geesons, JP and the Honda man said the same.  On such an ideal flying day too. Three Woodlarks gave us some entertainment, sporadically rising from the now very tall broom and conifers between us and the distant bank of trees. They sang well but were very difficult to see as they rose high into the sky.
During the two and a half hours we waited, a Red-tailed Hawk idled through in the distance, two Sparrowhawks did the same rather more rapidly. The Hawk is one of three in the Breckland region, they never meet up though. Two separate flocks of Crossbills flew through over our heads, alerting us with their calls. Not exactly crippling views! The same goes for the Siskins.
Eventually we were rewarded for our patience - a male Goshawk appeared briefly above the bank of trees before bombing what turned out to be a very large female. He soon disappeared but she showed for at least fifteen minutes. Doing a spiralling display flight, landing in the top of a tree so that we could admire her very pale front and impressive size before taking off again. The white undertail coverts showed really well in flight, appearing to meet above, making her look like a Ringtail. I read in a book that they fluff them up when they're displaying.
It was a contented group that packed up and wandered back to their cars.
Halfway back I saw two people coming the other way and said to Pam 'that looks like Bridget and Aileen'. It was ! They'd already had a good morning in the Santon Downham area, seeing Mandarins and a Kingfisher on the river along with some nice woodland birds.
Debating what to do in order to make the most of the last lovely day before another predicted cold spell, we  had a quick look at the Paddocks at Lyndford before lunching at St Helens, near the church, admiring a male Bullfinch.
Our riverside walk was curtailed by JP and, other birders from the Goshawk site, telling us that the Mandarins had gone and they'd seen little else.

Riverside view at Santon Downham
A lovely day. Hope A and B saw a Goshawk, it was their first visit to the site.

Sunday, 6 March 2011


March 6
Two Siskins on the niger seed feeder in the fig tree feeding station. We had a single female in January, a pair this time, the male moulting into breeding plumage.
Coal Tits are often present, Marsh Tits occasionally, ever present are Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chaffinches, Blackbirds and up to a dozen pheasants (b. nuisance, they trample the flower beds and leave droppings everywhere). A small flock of House Sparrows is usually noisily present too.Daily visits from Greenfinches and Goldfinches. The Long-tailed Tit flocks must have gone off to pair and nest.
Maybe a visit to Winterton this afternoon - after the Man U/Liverpool match.
Really exciting cricket this morning, England beat South Africa by 7 runs in the end. Phew.......
Must proof read the GYBC Newsletter before posting it to-morrow.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Lovely Day in Breckland

March 4
Why does the NWT website state that its Weeting Heath Reserve is open 'March to October' when it patently isn't ?  It opens when the Stone Curlews return, sometime in March. We drive past on the way to Lakenheath Fen RSPB which is what we did yesterday.
Only Pam and I to view Hockwold Washes from the viewpoint at 9a.m., finding the Black-necked Grebe preening against the far reeds. The Washes are extensive, even more so after all the rain.

Two Reed Buntings trying to out-do each other in their 'song' from bushes either side of the path, Pintail and all the expected ducks on the washes.
I'd planned a visit to the Ouse Washes from here but changed my mind, opting for St Helens car park area, driving straight on to the small church instead. The sun was out by now, giving a little much needed warmth. I wandered about as Pam ate her breakfast. Attracted by movement, I found a party of  Long-tailed Tits fossicking about behind the car in a spread of low detritus, left from tree and bush felling. I never get tired of watching them, especially when they're joined by at least three Goldcrests, also feeding on the ground. No sign of any Hawfinches..... Bridget had heard a birder say that they'd moved to this area from Lyndford. Neither could we find any Crossbills here nor in our other usual places.
We did have excellent close views of a Marsh Tit - still not good enough to see the colour of the upper mandible! Must look at a stuffed one I reckon.
On what was now a lovely blue sky day, I regretted not visiting Ollie's Farm for Goshawk, early in the morning is best and it would have been a bit late by the time we got there now.  Especially after the longish walk to the watching place.  A must in the next week or two though, they

prefer sunshine in which to display.........
Marlingford is a new place for us. We turned off the A47 and drove on B roads via Barford. It didn't tell us that the lane to Marlingford was closed! Via a pretty long detour through very attractive hilly and wooded countryside, we eventually arrived on the outskirts of Marlingford to park roadside in a small layby, alerted by a couple of birders walking up the road. I scanned the water meadows opposite and there it was, the Great White Egret, standing in the middle of a field, preening. I attempted some photos with my 400 lens and then got out to set up my scope to try some digi work.
 No sooner had  I done so that it flew off, even further, to feed in a small tree-lined stream. I had excellent views of it fishing, stamping its feet to disturb prey and catching a good lunch. I counted 3 fish in the first  minute.
Not late home to do some more work on the Bird Club Newsletter.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

St David's Day

March 1
It was Great Yarmouth Bird Club last night, some excellent photos from Steve and Dot's trip to Ecuador in search Of Antpittas - they saw ten of those available.
We left as soon as the talk was over but it still meant latish to bed  so it wasn't a terribly early start to our birding day - 6.30 a.m. on a very dull and dark morning.
We did well for common garden birds on the way, achieving 40 by Abbey Farm Hide, including a Barn Owl and Tree Sparrows.
The Red-legged Partridges are looking especially handsome, strutting their stuff along the verges and fields.

We didn't spend long in the hide, long enough for Pam to eat her breakfast and then off for a low tide Snettisham. Very few birds viewable on the vast expanse of mud to-day, I've seldom seen it as empty. A flock of 40 Avocets on the pits was nice. Several Goldeneye on the pits still, the males displaying and chasing each other around.

Plenty of Fulmars at Hunstanton Cliffs, I could here the pairs chatting to each other on their nesting ledges. The mussell beds were exposed at the Lighthouse car park viewpoint, inhabited by hundreds of feeding waders including Sanderling and Grey Plover. Not a single duck on the sea.
At last, the long planned walk to Gore Point. Into a brisk NE was COLD. I gave an inaugural outing to my new furry eared spaniel cap. My ears were warm ! We were rewarded by views of an empty sea, no ducks, grebes, at all. We stuck it for nearly half an hour. At least the wind was at our backs on the return journey. It may be difficult to persuade Pam to make this walk in the near future.
NOA Broadwater Hide is now dry but we couldn't open the flaps. Eventually, after a struggle involving both of us, we managed to open the lowest one. No Brent flock but good views of three soaring Buzzards and a male Marsh Harrier. Still a good sized flock of Pinks in the far fields.
Hot chocolate at Thornham whilst waiting for.... anything really...... was most welcome. The seemingly ever present Spotted Redshank fed avidly in the rapidly emptying creek but no sign of any raptors.
A dozen Corn Buntings at Choseley with a flighty flock of startlingly yellow-headed Yellowhammers.
We kept picking up the odd species whilst making the usual stops along the coast but saw nothing 'good' all day until a lone Pale-breasted Goose in the Brent flock at Cley, viewed from the road. Snow Buntings at Salthouse Beach car park ended the day on 81. A respectable total on , as always, an enjoyable yet unspectacular day. Wheatears soon, I really look forward to the first one, it augurs spring migration.