Saturday, 17 December 2016

Earthstar

Friday December 16

One of the December days when I long for spring. Low grey overcast, fog, damp air to breathe, the once vibrant Autumn leaves a soggy dull brown carpet. 
Not knowing exactly where they were, what they looked like and their size. I found the Earthstar fungi very quickly. They didn't look exactly like the photograph in the Daily Telegraph but are purported to be Geastrum Britannicus.

''A new type of mushroom shaped like a fisherman has been discovered in Norfolk – just don't try to eat it.
The fungi, first spotted in the remote Cockley Cley, almost 15 years ago has been confirmed by scientists as a completely new species.
Its appearance has been compared to a fisherman because it has a little round head that could be a seafaring hat and two protrusions that look somewhat like arms inside a Mackintosh.
The fungi have been given the name Geastrum britannicum, recognising that, so far, they have only been found in Britain''.

Maybe the ones we saw were not fully grown as they were not fully standing up on their unfurling 'legs'. There were at least 50 in groups around the base of a very large churchyard conifer, nestling in the leaf litter.


My first Earthstar species and one only found in Norfolk.
After a week of socialising, it was more than time to get out there. No point in walking to the sea at Titchwell as planned, low tide and the fog made for poor visibility. We did enjoy our lunch in the reserve's feeding station, whilst watching a video of the reserve ! 
The minute Candlesnuff Fungus on dead tree stumps along the path from the car park was interesting if common. Tiny white stems, some antlered at the top. This photo is one I found - not the best but gives an idea.

 
As we drove the approach lane to Thornham, a small flock of about 30 Twite appeared doing their usual, apparently aimless, circling, restless, bounding flight. They landed out of sight behind the car park.
Walking to the bridge, the birds were in view, feeding on the top of vegetation.  Pam had her camera, which, considering the distance and the poor light, performed well.


We'd arrived at the coast via Choseley Barns, where half a dozen birders were scanning the 'dotterel field'. Thousands of Pink-footed Geese were their focus. When the pager messaged that the Todd's Canada Goose, form interior, was amongst them, we returned that way. Leaving the car and starting to put my tripod up, a car stopped and the driver told me that the goose could be seen from the parallel road. We and the other two cars present, hastened to the described lay-by - a field entrance really - set up our scopes and.......scanned.  Several thousand constantly moving Pink-feet , deeply layered in an undulating field, the most distant a mist enshrouded blur. Lovely. I found two Tundra Bean Geese whilst scanning and hardly gave them a glance !
After twenty minutes, my knee locked and I returned to the car for a respite. Almost immediately, an exultant Pam called that she'd found it. It took another quarter of an hour before all three men and I had located it in our scopes. One just had to be looking at the right place when the Todd's put its head up.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
B. c. canadensis (sometimes called "Atlantic" Canada Goose) -- This is a large goose, averaging about 7.5 to 9 lbs., lightest in color, long neck, sometimes showing a whitish collar, a strong contrast between the breast and the black of the neck. This is the common subspecies of eastern North America.


B. c. interior (sometimes called "Todd's" Canada Goose) -- Similar in size to canadensis, about 7.5 to 9.5 lbs.; somewhat browner and darker, contrasting less with black of neck; long neck, and seldom with a white collar. Breeds mostly in eastern and central Canada, winters in the east and Midwest.

B. c. maxima (sometimes called "Giant" Canada Goose) -- This is a very large goose, about 14 to 15 lbs.; rather pale overall, especially on the underparts; white on cheeks extends somewhat farther up on sides of head than in canadensis. The neck is very long, it rarely has a white collar, and the bill is very large. This subspecies is found mostly along the Mississippi Flyway.


B. c. moffitti (sometimes called "Moffitt's" Canada Goose) -- This subspecies is only slightly smaller than maxima, about 8 to 14 lbs.; and is similar in general coloration; may have white markings on forehead and, in intermountain birds, a dark chin strap. It is long-necked, and often has a whitish collar. This is the common subspecies of the west.


B. c. parvipes (sometimes called "Lesser" Canada Goose) -- This is a medium-sized goose, about 5 to 6 lbs.; the same size as the largest subspecies of Cackling Goose, or about the same size as a Snow Goose. It is similar in overall shape and color to moffitti, with a pale to dusky breast. Breeds in Alaska, with winter records for Washington. Oregon, Idaho, and Utah.
B. c. occidentalis (sometimes called "Dusky" Canada Goose) -- This subspecies is medium to large, about 8 to 10 lbs.; generally dark overall; underparts chestnut to dark chocolate brown; seldom with a partial white neck collar. Breeds in Alaska; winters in Washington, Oregon and possibly isolated birds in Idaho.
B. c. fulva (sometimes called "Vancouver" Canada Goose) -- Similar but slightly larger than occidentalis about 6 to 13 lbs, has a relatively small bill. Breeds in western Canada; winters in coastal British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon.

What a success, one of the men had tried five times previously. Especially for Pam who normally shies away from scanning large flocks. Those men should have been more grateful.
I wish now that one of us had photographed the flock, by far the largest I've seen since the spring gathering at Holkham a few years ago. 
Man U playing again to-night (written on Sunday). Another hour and a half of anxiety ? 
NO. We won 0-2 against West Brom - Zlatan scored both goals. Rooney still needs that one goal to get the club record, Bobby Charlton and his wife are attending all matches......

 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Goose Bonanza

Sunday December 4

What a beautiful December day. Cloudless with very little wind but seasonable chilly. Where should we go? Buckenham Marshes is near enough and offers a good chance for some month birds.
I spent all the time we were there scoping from the car, gradually making our way from the railway crossing to the Fisherman's Car Park. All the geese were distant, fewer Wigeon that I anticipated as the norm, with a good sprinkling of Lapwing and corvids.
The end result was : 12 Taiga Bean Geese, a few Whitefronts, 100+ Canada Geese, a few Barnacles, 2 Egyptian Geese and Pink-feet. Pam spotted a Snipe which I eventually got after some good instructions - it was on the ground and distant. Two Marsh Harriers over Cantley, Shelduck, Teal, Shovellers and...... an adult winter Yellow-legged Gull  ..... on the main pool.
We missed the Taiga Beans in January as Pam was still on crutches after her hip operation. 

Home in time to suffer with Man United. I groaned when Fellaini got undressed towards the end of the match, he's a liability card-wise. Unfortunately, I was proved right. With almost his first kick he gave away a penalty. Another 1-1 draw and two points lost. Damn the man - and Jose for putting him on. Everton were pressing hard and I suppose JM thought that he'd bolster the defense. Wrong.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Swans

Friday December 2

There's something magical about Northern Swans. The first ones on the east coast marshes are few and transient, en route to Welney and /or Slimbridge. Yesterday, the  pager reported 20 Bewick's.
The drizzle was barely there when we left home after lunch. It gradually increased until it was like thick mist hanging on Ludham Marshes. Tree trimming in Ludham had meant an approach via Hall Road in Johnston Street, a detour much resented by Pam. It didn't look like an pfficial tree trimming operation, two men on a cherry picker and two men manning the cones either end. None of them wearing HighVis clothing nor looking 'official'. I think it was the imperious and impatient turn round hand signal from one of the men atop that got her going. 
Having identified a family of four Whoopers, two adults and two young, very distantly near the beginning of the track out to St Benets, we drove to the car park. A short scan, getting rather damp through the open car window, found four Fieldfare and two Grey Herons to add to the month list. No Cranes viewable in the murk and owls wouldn't be flying in this.  We drove back to the swans so that I could scope them from my side.
Two Bewick Swans on the left of the Mute Swan flock, the four Whoopers on the right. I turned up the ISA on my camera to 1.000 and gave it a go with my 3-600 lens. 
These are the only ones near respectable, much enlarged from an enlargement.



The Bewick's disappeared left when we weren't looking - I stopped photographing when Pam got out to photograph a tractor ploughing with hundreds of gulls in attendance. Then, the Whooper family and the one Pink-footed Goose present, exited right.


Ludham Bridge was not the flight destination, no swans at all there.

Winter Birding

Thursday December 1

Setting off at 7.50,  the dial reading 2C in an - as yet - unheated car it was easy to believe the date. It looked lovely. Blue sky, no wind and an overnight frost silvering the verges and their carpet of brown leaves. The cold stillness was not encouraging the steady, slow- fluttering shedding of leaves, it must have been gravity.
To complete the weather report...... the temperature varied from 2, rising to 6C then dropping again throughout the day, dependant on the thick fog patches we hit and the cloud cover at Snettisham.
We decided to breakfast in Sculthorpe Mill car park, birding whilst our porridge pots cooled. A Sparrowhawk flew through the other side of the mill, no small birds to be seen after that, until a pair of Grey Wagtails flew onto a cottage roof.
If there is no traffic, Pam dives across the double white lines onto an old lane on the right, near the top of the hill before the Doghotel. No Hares to-day but a very worthwhile diversion. A Red Kite made its leisurely way across the top of a field, banking whilst it hunted. Lovely.
The first of the day's Red-legged Partridges walked across the lane.
Valley Farm Lane's Tree Sparrows were already inspecting vtheir nesting boxes on the exposed end wall of the last cottage. At last we can see the Gamekeeper's bird feeding station again, now that the hedge and the walnut tree have shed their leaves. Coal Tit, Chaffinches, Blue and Great Tits and Goldfinches (he calls them King Harry). No Marsh Tit to-day in the short while we were there.
Abbey Farm lane and hide always have possibilities but often disappoint. To-day was disappointing apart from three pairs of glowing Yellowhammers in the same tree. Back onto the entry road, five Grey Partridges posed on top of the estate wall. Didn't like to disappoint them, despite the back lighting.

The others were in the sunlight on the left.

Female - funny colouring - back lighting
A pasture on the back lanes leading from Flitcham to Sandringham, had seven Roe Deer quietly feeding - until we stopped and they became a scattered group of white rears racing into the distance. Always sorry to disturb them but, they are so easily spooked, one's natural instinct is to stop and look. Theirs is flight, survival code.



Snettisham was dull and overcast. It was a Weston Super Mare mud vista, the water's edge not discernible. We added the commoner waders before getting out to scope the last reserve pit, where intermittent shafts of  light cast an eerie glow.


There's a Redhead Smew in there somewhere, towards the Shore Hide on the right. Also, several pairs of Goldeneye, one of my favourite ducks, innumerable Wigeon, Greylags, Cormorants and Lapwings.
No geese on the mud, we'd  seen a flight of Pinks on the way and added Brent later.
Already losing daylight at only mid-day, we added Fulmar at Hunstanton, nothing at Holme, and Choseley, Black-tailed Godwit at Brancaster. Maybe Stiffkey Marsh was worth a look. Only half an hour, during which I had a few inadvertant power naps, at Stiffkey in very poor light. 
At one awakening I said 'I've got a Harrier' . It was a ringtail Hen, juvenile male or female. Great, always a pleasure to see a Hen Harrier. That made five raptors for the day. Kestrel, Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and the Hen. Still no Marsh Harrier, usually a banker, that's why we left after half an hour, hoping for one at Cley. We always see at least one on Mothing mornings. Not to-day, almost dark at 3.50. 
The day's total was a pleasing 74 species.



Sunday, 27 November 2016

Randoms

Sunday November 27

I haven't posted for ages. Not because we haven't been birding, we have, twice a week after mothing and several short outings to Winterton and Ludham Marshes. Mothing has now finished for the winter. We were still finding 30+ moths in the four traps at Natural Surroundings but none or one at Cley. The moths were repetetive and of limited species too.
A Greenshank at Morston was the week's highlight. 
One drive at Felbrigg found a clump of mushrooms on a tree stump beside the entry road. We weren't able to stop long, too much traffic. I believe that the main clump is Deer Shield but cannot convincingly identify the smaller, umbrella shaped fungi on the left.

We still have skeins of geese flying over the village. To-day, about two thousand Pinks flew over and we actually found them on the ground in two fields on the way to the main road. I tried to scan the very spooky flock, they didn't like us stopping, nothing different in the short time I was able to look.
We then drove to Ludham via Winterton on a very grey afternoon with few birds about.  Hundreds of Lapwing at both sites plus a large 2k flock of Golden Plover over Thurne.
A partial rainbow over Thurne produced an eerie effect.


These different shaped and formed rainbows all have particular names, I don't know about this one.
Still no Bewicks or Whooper Swans around, I would expect some by now. 
A delightful cameo..... I noticed a Chinese Water Deer in the far corner of a pasture as we left St Benets. Scoping it in order to make sure that it wasn't a Muntjac, it lowered its head and something brown leapt into the air. There followed five minutes of fun.The deer would pretend to be uninterested before quietly getting nearer to the hare, extending its head slowly for a sniff. Noses actually touched on one occasion, both animals jumping vertically and backwards a foot simultaneously. Occasionally, the deer would do a skittish little pronk and run before returning to continue the face to face. The Hare just faced it out until the deer tired of his game and wandered off.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

More Waxwings

Thursday November 10

Zero moths in the Cley Centre trap this morning. Greg held the opening until a couple of minutes to ten - the cafe opens at ten.
It had stopped raining but the sky was pewter grey, the light appalling. A real test for my new lens, which I was field testing for the first time. A Tamron 150-600mm zoom. Hand held with the ISA raised to 600.
 What would we find at Beach Road to-day? The flock of Brent Geese held two newly in Barnacle Geese and a single adult Pale-bellied Goose.  I tried the lens out on the distant Barnacles.


Then, on a Common Gull and a Lapwing.



We had to be patient and I succeeded in a short view of one of the Short-eared Owls hunting west of West Bank.
News of Waxwings at Holt, a short distance from Cley, sent us off to look for them. We found the one parking place in the school road and waited....... Not long, before a group of 8 Waxwings flew into the top of a tall tree at the end of the road. 



I walked nearer and a few flew down into a Rowan tree, against what little light there was. Delightful birds.




Back to Cley Beach road where the geese were even further away but Pam was able to get her glimpse of a Short-eared Owl.
Why now ? The sun came out and the whole day looked different. We had one of Julian's hot chocolates, no birds of note, before driving home in time to put the moth trap on at dusk. We had one Feathered Thorn this morning and a host of midges.
Lens verdict?
Impressive in the lighting conditions, not expensive either.


Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Wot, No Moths, some Birds

Tuesday November 8

After several days of chilly wind and torrential showers, I was not hopeful of finding much in the moth traps at natural Surroundings this morning. I was not wrong. The highlight was three different variations of Mottled Umber, a real pitfall for the inexperienced. Apart from this, just one Satellite and a Chestnut.
 I didn't take my camera down, Pam did. here's two of the Mottled Umber.




A good attendance this morning, despite the parking warning re a group of 30 walkers turning up at 10.30. The parking is very limited. A and A are off to Oman to-morrow but still turned up. Andy was there too after his 300 mile cycling week with his wife. He joined K and M and us for coffee afterwards and was as entertaining as always. His account of a 90+ uncle who owned a 2,000 acre farm of prime arable land in Yorkshire, taking up with ' a prostitute from Wakeham and leaving the farm to her'  was an example. I liked the hoarder uncle who wore a Sikh turban whilst riding his scooter too. When challenged by police he justified it by saying that Sikhs could do it, so could he.

Home via Cley as always. We both saw a close Great Northern Diver from beach car park followed by two Little Grebes in the western dyke ending at Salthouse Duck Pond.



Nothing of note along Salthouse beach road, apart from Julian's delicious hot chocolate, until a second winter Glaucous Gull flew along the dune top, giving us extensive views. David N and John F joined us for a chat, David had seen it pass Sheringham earlier . A lucky look by Pam.
Home via Sainsbury's to spend 8p off a litre of petrol voucher to fill an almost empty tank. We only had to buy £15 worth of clothes to attain the voucher ......Easily done, Pam needed another pair of denims.
Home to see if my new lens had arrived. A Tamron 150-600 mm zoom which has had good reviews.Not expensive either and relatively light in weight. At least I can use it from the car.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

In Search of Waxwings

Saturday November 5

What a day to choose. Stormy northerly winds, the torrential squally showers almost continuous. Towards the afternoon, some contained nearly fully formed hail. 
The journey west was almost birdless. The road down to Sculthorpe Mill completely so, a particularly heavy shower brought a hasty retreat. At the end of the road, the sun came out. Back down to the Mill, an incredible experience. A huge wind squall from behind the car enveloped us in yellow, brown and orange Autumn leaves. It was like a colour blizzard. The leaves continued to roll across the car park like a fast retreating tsunami. 
This became the pattern of the day. Rain followed by short spells of blue sky and sun which were small oases in a mass of purple-grey cloud with the occasional partial rainbow.
A field at the entrance to Valley Farm Lane held a few Redwing, Fieldfare, Red-legged Partridges, two hares and one Mistle Thrush. My partially open window still let in enough wet to soak my left leg. Wiping down the car surfaces was a good thing, from  the amount of dirt showing on the tissue.
Abbey farm approach lane held no birds at all, the view from the hide only a few Teal and Mallard. Not even any Greylag to-day. Two Common Buzzards drifted across a far field, hassled by the ever present corvids.
As we were giving Snettisham a miss, we drove down to the sea front car park west of Hunstanton town, soon after Tesco. The sea was still pounding the walkway, no chance of waders there. Until two surprise Purple Sandpipers flew past, close in.
The sea was sensational, as was the skill of the sail boarders negotiating the turmoil. I couldn't resist a few photos, the sails are so colourful.






A short scan from the cliff top only produced Gannets. Where were the reported Auks etc that came through on the pager? 
Anticipation rose as we neared Holme NOA and NWT approach track. The toilet block parking places were full, birders wandering around the parking area opposite. Many were leaving. We left too, to drive down to the nature reserve, scanning all the bushes and trees, hearts leaping at every starling flock. The horses were backsides in to a thicket, trying to escape the weather. The birds must have been somewhere doing the same thing.
Back to the toilet block where we only waited about twenty minutes before a small flock of Waxwings flew into a bare tree opposite the toilets. Waw. Pam couold see them from her window. I got out, using the car as a shield and saw them fly down into the hawthorn hedge to feed. I'd only managed a couple of photographs when a youngish man, wielding a giant lens, appeared in the open alongside me. 

Shaky hands....
 The birds flew back, high into the tree. 'Was that me?' he said. I did not answer.
My other pics are of groups in the tree, thick branches making focusing difficult for my camera. 



Kevin the Teenager?





By now, the tree was engulfed by birders and photographers. No chance of them coming down again.
Pam counted about 27 birds, the other reported 40+ not present this time. We did see several groups fly distantly. Magical birds which never fail to take my breath away. Charismatic and beautiful, a true birders' bird. They also bewitch the general public.

Early afternoon and already drawing towards evening light. Blasted clocks going back. We drove home via Titchwell to pick up a late lunch before eating our sausage and onion baguette at Brancaster Staithe. Most of the boats have gone for the winter. Bar-tailed and one Black-tailed Godwit fed on the 'mound'. Humpy Grey Plovers did their dots and dash food hunt and the Turnstones and gulls fed on a half loaf of white bread left by a visitor. It's bad for you boys and girls. 
One of the Bar-tails was incredibly pale, apart from the leg colour and bill, it looked like a winter Greenshank.

Various pretty unproductive calls along the coast, apart from a Kingfisher flying along the Salthouse Beach Road drain.
I kept an eye on the pager for news of the Tree Swallow at Minsmere. We missed the St Mary bird by two days. Could I hope for a visit to-morrow?

Sunday November 6

The Tree Swallow was seen early morning before flying off south. Disappointment. One should always go on Day 1, I bet P did.

One Hour's Chill

Thursday November 3

Immediately after moth-ing at Cley - and tea and a scone - we joined many of the other moth-ers on top of the shingle bank at Coastguards. 
I find it difficult to focus when several others are calling out birds seen. Do I stop what I'm doing and try to follow their directions?  Or, do I do my own thing? I ended up doing a mixture of both. The initial panic of missing stuff - which one does anyway when the birds are fast, distant blobs and there aren't any ID points apart from far out wind turbines and moving ships - relaxes to finding one's own. Not to mention lobster pot flags which I tried to memorise, in addition to the number and placements of the groups of turbines .
David N's shout of 'Woodcock coming in, straight towards me', did produce a view of a shattered bird only just managing to raise itself to clear David's head by a centimetre or two.
An incoming Blackbird was knocked down and taken by a Greater Black-backed Gull. Nature. That did produce some expletives from Ian. There was a regular incoming of thrushes too.
I saw at least ten Little Auks and missed half a dozen, other Auks - where I only identified Guillemot - a Red-necked Grebe, many Gannets of all ages, one Goldeneye, two small skeins of Common Scoter  and two Red-breasted Mergansers. I missed the calling Snow Bunting (hearing aids not in) and everyone, apart from Greg, missed the Puffin which passed when we were fixated by the kamikaze Woodcock.
A very enjoyable hour after which we all departed for the warmth of the car. The wind was cutting.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

This and That

Sunday October 23

On Sunday, October 9th, an Email from Greg alerted us to a Norfolk first moth at Judy and Giles Dunmore's in Beeston.  We waited until the afternoon - after yesterday's long day for the Sibe Accentor - and eventually found their house on Beeston Bump. Worth it for the lovely Cypress Carpet. I had to take it in the pot as others had yet to see it, a poor excuse for a less than good photo.

First found on the south coast in 1984, it's gradually making its way north. 
Dot and Steve arrived, having been alerted by Dave H and Christine who had been told by Dave N !!  D and C get everywhere.......often uninvited.

After Moths

We always go home via Cley. 
Beach Road where we've seen a Wheatear and a Stonechat 
Iron Road for a few Eurasian Whitefronted Geese.

We've had flocks of Grey Geese flying over our house for a couple of weeks, I love their flight contact calls, we always go out to watch them.  


Last Wednesday, the 19th, Pam found the flock a quarter of a mile away  in fields either side of the church loke, off the North Walsham Road. We drove part of the way down the loke, without disturbing the birds, so that I could scope the flock. At least 800 Pink-feet fed my side. Amongst them,  I identified two definite Greenland White-fronts in the nearest group, the others were too well hidden to be sure. Their orange beaks and dark breasts gave them away. Pam found one definite Eurasian Whitefront in the smaller flock on her side 

Friday October 22

The Winterton run yielded very little. We drove via Happisburgh, Eccles, the back road to Sea Palling, Somerton and Winterton Beach. No flocks of geese and an empty sea apart from one Shag
The return journey, north of Somerton, we stopped to search and I found a Peregrine sat on the ground, preening.

Saturday October 23

Another pretty birdless outing. Ludham Marshes this time. A small flock of Fieldfare with a few Redwing were the only birds seen. 

Time to watch Man U play Chelsea, fingers crossed tightly. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Siberian Accentor - So Far - Plus 2 More For the UK

Dutch Birding article

 

Update: Unprecedented influx of Siberian Accentors in Europe

17 oktober 2016  ·  Łukasz Ławicki  ·  5567 × bekeken
Unbelievable! 59 Siberian Accentors Prunella montanella have been recorded in northern Europe (outside Russia) within 13 days (4-16 October 2016)! No doubt this is not yet the end of this amazing influx and I am certain that in the next days other individuals will turn up. An astonishing amount of 12 more birds were discovered on Friday 14 October!
October is a great time for rarities in the WP. In recent years, we looked at the Azores for the most extraordinary vagrants, coming from North America. But in this autumn, our attention focused mainly on rarities from Siberia. Large numbers of rare warblers, thrushes and buntings daily enthused many observers. However, probably no one expected an influx of Siberian Accentors, as the previous one was found... five years ago!
Siberian Accentor Prunella montanella, Scousburgh, Shetland, Scotland, 10 October 2016 (Rebecca Nason)
The first turned up on 4 October and stayed also the next day at Peijonnsuo in Finland (the country's 12th record, and the first since 12 years!). After two days, another individual was reported from Rödkallen in Sweden (the seventh, and the first since 16 years!). On 9 October, the next two birds were found - another one in Finland and, in Shetland, the first for Scotland and Britain! Amazing but that was not yet the end of it! In the following four days as many as 20 individuals were seen: two on 10 October (both in Sweden), two on 11 October (Sweden and Finland), seven on 12 October (four in Sweden, two in Finland and the first for Germany on Greifswalder Oie, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) and nine new ones on 13 October (three in Sweden, three (including two new birds) on Greifswalder Oie, Germany, one in Finland, one at Easington, North Yorkshire (the first for England!), one at Hel, Poland (the country's second) and one trapped on Christiansø (the second ever for Denmark). 
Today an astonishing amount of 12 new birds were found. Including the first for Estonia, the second and third record for Lithuania , the third for Poland, a new bird in Finland and an amazing seven new birds in Sweden. Of this total of 36 Siberian Accentors in 11 days, eight were trapped (and ringed); as of 14 October, the totals of this 2016 influx stand on 18 for Sweden, seven for Finland, three for Germany, two for Britain, Poland and Lithuania and with singles in Denmark and Estonia. Wow!

Siberian Accentor Prunella montanella, Hel, Poland, 13 October 2016 (Marcin Sołowiej). The second for Poland!
Siberian Accentor breeds on both sides of the Ural mountains and in Siberia, mostly north of the Arctic Circle. Its winter grounds are in south-eastern Asia: from southern Manchuria, Korea and Japan to central China. In autumn, it is also frequently recorded as a straggler in Alaska, USA. In Europe, there were c 32 records up to 2015, of which more than half in Finland and Sweden. The species has also been recorded in Austria (19th century), Italy (1863, 1884, 1901), Czechia (1943), Greece (1965), Poland (1988), Denmark (1992), Slovakia (1994), Belarus (1997), Lithuania (1998), Luxembourg (2005), Turkey (2006, 2007) and Norway (2011).The vast majority of these records are from October.
So, this year's influx doubled the total number of records in the previous 100 years! And, maybe, there will be a FIRST for the Netherlands as well...

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Easy Easington

Saturday October 15

The news came through on Thursday afternoon, too late to go there and then. Otherwise we could have taken P and made sure not to miss a world lifer. Should we go on Friday the 14th ? I left the decision to Pam as it was her birthday. Her decision was to go to Snettisham late morning, where we saw not a lot. We'd hoped that the tide would be on its way back in from the far distance. We did see an always delightful and, very bright, Grey Wagtail at Sculthorpe Mill and a flock of wildly flying Redwing and Fieldfare along the hedge approaches to Abbey Farm.
On the way home, the decision was made to go to Easington, a small village in East Yorkshire, on Saturday if the wanted bird roosted to-night. I was wary of Saturday traffic and the undoubted crowds of birders. 1200 yesterday and a queue system in place, 40 birders at a time to view the bird from a restricted area for about 5-10 minutes before the next were shown in. Hm. Dodgy. Surely there would be even more to-day, not all birders took the day off work yesterday.......?
We left home at 6.15 a.m., neither of us got much sleep last night, I don't think I managed 2 hours. My hope was that the initial flush of birders would have left by the time we got there. The SatNav took us on a route which did not have any motorway cafes and we had to stop at a garage in order to use a loo before arriving at Easington.
The advice, via the pager, was to park in a designated field east of the village and NOT IN THE VILLAGE. We drove to the field entrance, finding it to be quite a walk from the village, turned round and parked very tactfully and safely in the village Very near to Vicars Lane, which was blocked by bollards and attended by members and staff of Spurn Bird Club.
As we left the car, Paul N and Fizzy from Yarmouth Bird Club crossed the road to speak saying that the crowd was quite small now, they'd been back for a second visit.
It was a 400 metre walk up Vicars Lane, a 'nice' residential area, the lane lined on one side by deciduous trees full of migrant passerines. Dripping eith Goldcrests and the occasional Firecrest and Lesser Whitethroat. Greg B from our moth group passed us - most people do - as we trudged along the road. A left turn at the top took us past a Gasworks enclosure, the donation bucket and more helpers who directed us straight to the viewing area. The latter was a small area of trees and grass overlooking the old school car park. An anxious first scan saw the Siberian Accentor feeding busily on the patches of lichen which covered most of the old concrete surface. Waw. The first for the UK was found in Shetland last week, this is the second ......and a third turned up in Cleveland to-day. An unprecedented movement of this bird into western Europe, several in Scandinavia.
A pretty bird, very like Dunnock in its movements, never still for a second, constantly looking for food, flicking leaves over like a Turnstone does with stones. The distance away, its constant short-hopping movement, taking photos against what little light there was, meant that I was very disappointed with my results. The sun did come out later but that made the back-lighting worse. These are the least bad of my results  - just imagine how bad the others were. .






Its head markings looked mask-like, bandit bird.
I was lucky too in that the two men in front of me left soon after we'd arrived so that I could set up my seat with unrestricted viewing - apart from the wire fence. Greg beckoned us to look through his scope, thank you. I hadn't carried mine as I was lumbered with the seat and my camera.
We stayed for 45 minutes, enjoying the bird, before returning to the car. Carl reckons that its in a bad way, having a tick below each eye, I couldn't see that, but his excellent photo seems to show them. I applaud all those who managed good shots.
Someone took our picture walking down the road and posted it on Facebook !!  Not one of my 'friends' , Jacquie B phoned from Shetland to tell us. I didn't see anyone I knew...
We breakfasted/lunched in a layby bordering a field full of migrant thrushes. Lovely. So many birds in the area. We didn't have the stamina to go on and add Pallas's, Dusky, Radde's, Red-flanked Bluetail etc  that were nearby at Spurn and area.
After having a hot meal at a Little Chef west of Kings Lynn, we got home at 6.15, 12 hours after leaving. No crowds, no queues, no hassle. Great.
One of the Spurn men stood beside me so I told him that I hoped birders had been generous and thanking him for the services provided. They'd raised  £1200 from a similar number of birders, donations ranging from 10p to £10. There are some parsimonious people about.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Autumn Car Birding

Monday October 3

Still nursing sore knees, even less walking than usual. A later sunrise is good for rest but not for a bird list, it was 7.22 before we left the house. 
I love September in its fading summer glory. Plenty of sunshine and  burgeoning fruits with the anticipation of migration and sea-watching storms. October is either a faded gentlewoman of soft yellows, warm oranges and morning mists, or, a raging  maelstrom of whirling leaves, roaring winds and sudden rainstorms. Both bring their own flavours. One of nostalgia for the year passing, the other a preparation for the winter months ahead.
This was a lovely September like morning, mists rising from the fields around Sculthorpe a pointer towards October. A mist enshrouded Sculthorpe Mill pond, with its overhanging trees framing the Swan family swimming in sunshine at the far end. Pam took a photograph which captures the scene.


A lone Grey Wagtail fed on the lichen encrusted rocks still in the shade - when my eyes adjusted to the two light extremes.

The industry of spiders is made obvious by the over-night  misting of grass, dead plant remains and the webs themselves. 























One example near Abbey Farm showed the muted full rainbow hues glistening, when viewed from the appropriate angle. I don't think that my camera does it full justice.


One male Stonechat along Valley farm Lane was a surprise, a few Tree Sparrows remained in the hedgerow - and I picked some Walnuts ! Well, they hang over the lane, country rule.

We were an hour and a half past high tide at Snettisham. Time to witness the departure of the early birders and the last of the enormous wader flocks, leaving the mud islands at the southern end for the shoreline of the fast receding tide. Several hundreds of thousands Knot smoke-clouding drifts on their purposeful food hunt. All the waders we expect to find here. Huge flocks of Black-tailed Godwits and Oystercatchers, even more Grey and Golden Plovers than last month, wintering flocks of Wigeon on the pits and...... two Black-necked Grebes in front of Shore Hide. 
The several hundred brash and noisy Greylag are not as welcome.
A group of fresh young Meadow Pipits feeding amongst the vegetation outside the Snettisham Yacht Clubhouse were a delight.



My sandwich lunch, eaten at Hunstanton cliff top was overseen by a patient, cold-grey-eyed winter Herring Gull. It was eventually rewarded with a small crust.



 Holme Reserve was inordinately busy, the full car parks indicating that there were 'good' birds present. We eschewed the opportunity to hunt for mobile and elusive (one of the worst birding phrases),  Yellow-browed Warblers and, the equally challenging Richards Pipit in the southern fields. Seven Swallows fed along the Broadwater. We later saw a single House Martin at Cley.
We meant to stop at Holkham to look for the Great White Egret but, Pam shot past, stopping in a very rough lay-by beyond. What turned out to be a very pale-headed Buzzard perched beyond one of the marsh gates. I initially thought it was an Osprey.


Our first Autumn Brent Geese didn't appear until Stiffkey Marsh, a few small groups grazing peacefully along the marsh.
I love chickens, the pretty ones anyway. These are two of the motley collection along the track to Stiffkey Marsh.


No sign of the Shag at Wells. Again, plenty of people to buy and eat fish and chips along the front. We see mainly the white-hair brigade on Mondays, avoiding the weekend crowds -  forming one of our own.