Description


A diary of my birding activity covering highlights and photos from my birding adventures. Mainly Norfolk (UK), occasionally beyond. I might mention the odd thing that isn't avian, but for moth and other insect news check out my mothing diary.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Iberian Chiffchaff, Grey-headed Wagtail and Short-eared Owl

On Friday 12th I headed up to Burnham Overy in the hope of finding some spring migrants.  I arrived early and had Whimbrel, 2 Common Sandpipers, Spoonbill and 3 Bearded Tits on the way out.  The apparent Pale-bellied x Dark-bellied Brent Goose hybrid was still paired to the colour-ringed Dark-bellied Brent BYB=.  A pair of second-summer Mediterranean Gulls flew over and I heard 2 Cuckoos.

Cuckoo, Burnham Overy, 12th May


From Gun Hill the sea was dead and overland migration quiet - I eventually managed 55 Swallows and 3 Sand Martins through along with 1 Grey and 2 Yellow Wagtails west.  But the weather never looked great for vis mig - it looked much better for grounded migrants - that was what I was really hoping for and expecting.  At this time of year I don't expect big falls, just the odd bird, and maybe the odd good bird.  Well sadly there wasn't the odd bird - practically nothing new at all.  Ok I did hear what sounded exactly like a Tawny Pipit calling once quite close to where I was standing in the east dunes but it never called again and despite 2.5 hours searching the area I never found it.  There were a handful of migrants remaining from previous days - 2 Ring Ouzels and 5-6 Wheatears - but it was pretty dire.  A Stoat and a Natterjack were more interesting.

I stopped at Ryburgh on the way home which was also quiet.  This Grey Wagtail was the highlight.


Grey Wagtail, Ryburgh, 12th May


It still was the next day...


Grey Wagtail, Ryburgh, 13th May


Actually I lie - a distant Marsh Harrier was my first for the site, although they're meant to be regular here.  I remember seeing Stickleback, Three-spined I think, when I was little, but haven't positively identified any for a long time.  I'm pretty sure the tiddlers this This Little Egret was catching were Three-spined Stickleback.







Little Egret with Three-spined Sticklebacks, Ryburgh, 13th May


Common Tern, Ryburgh, 13th May


These House Martins have been busy collecting mud for their nests in Great Ryburgh village.

House Martins, Ryburgh, 13th May


Wren, Ryburgh, 13th May


Little Egret, Ryburgh, 14th May


I was surprised to hear a Barn Owl calling a couple of times from my study on 14th.  I once saw one at the bottom of the road but have never seen or heard them here before. Other local birds around this time included a Kingfisher at Mill Street (Elsing) and Little Ringed Plovers at some gravel pits.

I was tempted up to Walsey Hills on Friday 16th to see (and hear) an Iberian Chiffchaff.  It was singing strongly when I arrived and continued to do so for some time.  It was much harder to see though, but I did get a few good views of it.  My photos don't do it justice.




Iberian Chiffchaff, Wasley Hills, 16th May


As I chatted to Mark G on Old Woman's Lane news came through of a Grey-headed Wagtail on the Eye Field.  It seemed rude not to pay it a visit so popped down and found about a dozen 12 Yellow Wagtails among the cows.  Eventually we picked out the Grey-headed Wagtail from among them - a stunning bird as always.  Someone called a 'Channel' Wagtail while I was there but I certainly didn't see anything I consider identifiable as such.  Having said that I'm never quite sure about the ID of some of the greyer-headed/backed female-type Yellow Wagtails that occur in late spring, like these two for example.

Yellow Wagtails, Cley, 16th May


Little Egret, Ryburgh, 18th May



Shelducks, Ryburgh, 20th May


Another trip up to Burnham Overy late on Wednesday 21st May produced little in the way of migrants - 3 Wheatears, a Willow Warbler and a Whimbrel.  This Short-eared Owl was nice though.






Wheatear, Burnham Overy, 21st May



Linnets, Burnham Overy, 21st May


A Great White Egret was also seen at Holkham.

Barnacle Goose, Ryburgh, 22nd May


House Sparrows, Ryburgh, 22nd May


Starling, Ryburgh, 22nd May

Friday, 19 May 2017

Stilts and Bitterns

I started off locally on Friday 5th May seeing Dunlin and hearing Greenshank at Bittering.  I then headed into the Fens and Brecks where I planned to spend the day checking a number of different sites.  In the end things didn't go according to plan, but not in a bad way.  Anyway, I had walk along Methwold Lode which overlooks High Fen.  There was a Green Woodpecker in the area, a Cuckoo calling and a pair of Stonechats along the path, but the best bird was in the large pool half way along to Wissington - a Grey Plover.  Must be a good local bird I thought, though found out later that it or another had been seen in the area already.

I moved on to Wissington where a family of Otters was playing in the river west of the beet factory.  From the north side of the river I looked over to Hilgay Fen seeing Common Sandpiper, 2 Greenshanks and 8 Avocets.  Good to meet Ben Rackstraw along here too - a name I've known for ages but not been able to put a face to it.

Back at Wissington I bumped into Carl Donner - had a good chat with him about all sorts of things and ended up popping round to his place to see his very impressive wildfowl collection.  Some really interesting birds there and a great opporunity to learn things.  A shame most birders look down on wildfowl collections with such disdain as they offer an oppotunity to find out all sorts of things that can be relevant to study of wild birds.  I particularly valued seeing the various forms of Bean Goose, White-fronted Goose and Cackling Goose, had some good discussion about Ruddy Shelduck plumages and mutations, and a whole lot more.  He showed me some amazing taxidermy too - Pallas's Sandgrouse and Great Bustard for example, and one that was bound to interest me - an American Wigeon x Pintail hybrid.

mounted American Wigeon x Pintail hybrid (captive origin)


captive White-winged Wood Duck, private collection, 5th May



captive Thick-billed Bean Goose (serrirostris), private collection, 5th May


captive 'Sushkin's' Tundra Bean Goose, private collection, 5th May



captive Ring-necked Ducks, private collection, 5th May


Once I left Carl's I knew I had to get home to label the photos I'd taken or else I'd have no chance of remembering what was what, so I abandoned my original intentions for the afternoon.  I did manage to get out again locally later on - this Common Sandpiper at Ryburgh being the highlight.


Common Sandpiper, Ryburgh, 5th May


Pied Wagtail, Ryburgh, 5th May


Next day I was scheduled to help with a group at Minsmere, but with easterly winds and rain I was keen to do some proper birding beforehand.  I arrived at Rush Hill Scrape at around dawn to find the Savi's Warbler continuing to sing and 3 Grasshopper Warblers reeling in the area.  A Cuckoo called and a Spoonbill was on the scrape but there were no passage waders there at all.  I walked on to Potter Heigham Marsh where there were lots of waders.  Two Whimbrel flew off with a Curlew.  There were 2 Dunlin, 4 Ruff, at least 6 Greenshank, the odd Snipe (6 flew over later), c30 Avocets and some Grey Plovers.  A flock of 21 Grey Plover flew around with a Bar-tailed Godwit and then at last the pair of Black-winged Stilts appeared from nowhere.  There were 6 Ringed Plovers, a Little Stint and a Curlew Sandpiper (plus 2 Spoonbills) on the farthest pool and a Common Sandpiper on the river.  Finally 3 Wood Sandpipers rounded the impressive list of waders off (others not mentioned were Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Redshank).  There were also 3 Garganey (a pair and a drake) there and one Crane flew past while another was calling.  What a fabulous site, for now at least.




Black-winged Stilts, Potter Heigham Marsh, 6th May


Now I needed to get a move on in order to get to Minsmere on time.  We headed up to Island Mere hide first, pausing to look at a couple of Treecreepers and a Whitethroat on the way.  I glimpsed a Bearded Tit and we kept hearing a Bittern booming.  There were 3 Hobbies on view and some Swifts over the back.  As we entered Bittern hide a Bittern was on view in front of the hide - we got fantastic views of it for ages, as well as at least 2 other Bitterns seen in flight.  At one point a Water Rail crossed in front of the Bittern.

Bittern and Water Rail, Minsmere, 6th May






Bitterns, Minsmere, 6th May


Hobby, Minsmere, 6th May


A find drake Mandarin was parading about in front of the first of the hides overlooking the scrape and other dodgy/feral wildfowl included 2 Bar-headed Geese and the inevitable Barnacle Geese.


Mandarin, Minsmere, 6th May


There was a lovely Whinchat near the sluice and a Stonechat nearby.  There were a few Kittiwakes and lots of (50 in a very quick count) Mediterranean Gulls.  One of a number of Knot was particularly obliging as it fed close to the hide.




Knot, Minsmere, 6th May


I dipped the main bird at Ryburgh that evening, which was initially annoying until I discovered it had had a red ring on its leg so presumably only travelled from as far as Pensthorpe.  Still annoying actually, in a weird sort of way I'd have quite liked to have seen it anyway.  It had only dropped out of view too, never to emerge again.  Sounds like it might have walked back to Pensthorpe going on a report from there a few days later.

Next day I finally saw the Greenshank at Ryburgh which had been popping in briefly several times over recent days (I'd seen it on a small roadside pond nearby but not on the scrape).  The Common Sandpiper was still there.

Greenshank, Ryburgh, 7th May


Common Sandpiper, Ryburgh, 7th May


Kingfishers are sometimes seen here too but while I've been down they've rarely perched close enough for photography, and when they have done they've stopped there barely long enough to focus the camera.  I just managed to get one slightly shaky shot this time.

Kingfisher, Ryburgh, 7th May


Dave's Wood Sandpiper and 2 Ringed Plovers were still present at Bintree Mill - very good local records.  The day after there were 2 Wood Sandpipers along with Greenshank and Snipe.  I had another Greenshank at Bittering the following day.

Not much else to report locally or from further afield up to 11th May - Little Ringed Plovers, Avocets, the odd Grey Wagtail, a pair of Hobbies and the same singing Firecrest were the best.


House Martins, Ryburgh, 11th May


Little Egret, Ryburgh, 11th May


Whitethroat, Brancaster, 11th May