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.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Ring Ouzels galore

I thought the SW wind forecast last Thursday might produce some good vis mig so headed up to Burnham Overy early, walking out in the dark to get to Gun Hill by first light.  Despite the darkness I could make out the shape and action of a Spoonbill feeding in one of the pools next to the path, and I could hear at least 7 Sedge Warblers and a single Reed Warbler singing as I headed down.

Vis mig was really disappointing at dawn - a single Yellow Wagtail west and 2 Carrion Crows in were the only passerines I could clearly put down as being on vis mig in the first couple of hours.  But there was plenty of action.  There were flocks of Scoter constantly flying west - some may have been on vis mig but a lot of them seemed to be coming out of Holkham Bay so I assume it was mainly a local feeding movement.  Anyway, I ended up with 3020 Common Scoter and 8 Velvet Scoter.  There were about 100 Sandwich Terns passing by and over the estuary a group of 5 Whimbrel (2 more flew west later) and I heard a Greenshank calling.  A female Hen Harrier appeared briefly, flying west through the saltmarsh.

I could hear the odd chack of Ring Ouzels now and then and after a while 3 Ring Ouzels flew west off over towards Scolt Head.  I suspected they'd come up from the Sibe Thrush bushes from where another 2 Ring Ouzels headed off towards the east dunes.  There were still 2 Ring Ouzels there when I started headed off to the east dunes myself.  The first of 15 Wheatears were also near Gun Hill.

Ring Ouzels, Burnham Overy, 20th April

Stonechat, Burnham Overy, 20th April

As I walked through the dunes it became apparent that the vis mig I'd hoped for had now started, but it's hard to get a handle on what's happening in the east dunes - birds are moving on too broad a front here and you don't get a good view across the whole front.  There didn't seem to be vast numbers but a reasonable passage of Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches, the odd Yellow Wagtail (I had 5 in the end) and Swallow.  I also had 3 Tree Pipits move through and noticed several Redpolls (most heard only so hard to know how many - at least 12).

From one vantage point in the east dunes I could see a group of at least 7 Ring Ouzels one way and 3 Ring Ouzels another way.  Later on the seven moved round and I walked through finding another 2 Ring Ouzels.  Allowing for the possibility that the two from Gun Hill were among the ones I saw in the east dunes I must have seen at least 17 Ring Ouzels this morning - one of my best counts ever.

One of the Holkham Great White Egrets was on view for a while and a pair of adult Mediterranean Gulls flew over.

Whimbrel, Burnham Overy, 20th April

Nothing much to report from the rest of the day which included Blakeney Friary Hills (nothing better than a Lesser Whitethroat) and local patches.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Local birds and a good day in the Broads

A visit to the local patch the day after I returned from Cornwall (Sunday 9th April) produced nothing better than a pair of Little Ringed Plover.  I headed out to Foulden Common that evening with a view to looking for moths.  There was a Marsh Harrier there and I heard my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year singing.  This was a full week earlier than my previous earliest Lesser Whitethroats.  A Marsh Tit was singing and a Green Woodpecker called.  As it got dark I heard a Snipe drumming - the first time I've heard one drumming for over a decade.  There were also a number of Woodcocks including one seen feeding before it noticed me and scurried away.  Both Barn Owl and Tawny Owl were heard calling and a Teal could also be heard calling from one of the wetter areas of the common.

A Blackcap was singing in the garden (or more accuarately, the neighbour's garden) on Monday and it or others have done so many days since.

Regular visits to Great Ryburgh have been a little bit productive though hardly earth-shattering.  Up to 3 Pink-footed Geese and a White-fronted Goose have remained along with up to 7 Barnacle Geese.  A Coot one day was apparently a rarity for the site - possibly only the second record ever!

Coot, Ryburgh, 11th April

Mallard, Ryburgh, 17th April

Shovelers, Ryburgh, 19th April

Little Egret, Ryburgh, 19th April

Herring Gull, Ryburgh, 17th April

Early or late visits have often produced a pair of Mandarin once and a single drake Mandarin three times, always flying up or down the river.  Waders included 2 Snipe but frustratingly I didn't quite nail what appeared to be a Dunlin seen fleetingly in flight (would have been an excellent record for the site). Raptors have included Red Kite and regular Sparrowhawk.  A Kingfisher put in an appearance three times and a Grey Wagtail twice.

Oystercatcher, Ryburgh, 17th April

Kingfisher, Ryburgh, 12th April

Grey Wagtail, Ryburgh, 17th April

I had a bit of trouble resolving the identification of a White Wagtail.  The mantle and scapulars didn't seem as pale as I'd like and the situation was complicated by the appearance of a second bird, when the first was absent, that looked almost identical in head pattern and tone of upperparts, so causing me to assume it was the same bird.  It turned out that they were different birds - one a grey-rumped White Wagtail and the other a black-rumped Pied Wagtail.  There was a slight difference in the flanks (the Pied being darker of course) but this could be hard to see and at times when the rump is hidden the only difference I could detect between the two birds was the presence (Pied) or absence (White) of grey streaking below the bottom of the black breast.

 White Wagtail, Ryburgh, 11th April

White Wagtail, Ryburgh, 12th April - two photos showing how different it looks at different angles/lights

Pied Wagtail, Ryburgh, 17th April - a very similar bird to the White Wagtail with its grey centre to the crown and similar-toned upeprparts but this one has a blacker rump, a few grey streaks below the black breast and a tiny bit darker flanks/breast sides

All 3 hirundines were recorded there, 4 Sand Martins north on 12th apparently being a good local record.  Both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were recorded and a Lesser Whitethroat sang on 19th.

Coal Tit, Ryburgh, 15th April

Chiffchaff, Ryburgh, 20th April

Greenfinch, Ryburgh, 16th April

Regular visits to the other local patch have produced Little Ringed Plovers, the odd Snipe but not a great deal else.  Other local records include a pair of Grey Wagtails at Bintree Mill a couple of times and a Marsh Harrier.

Little Ringed Plovers, 17th April

Little Ringed Plovers, 20th April

On Good Friday after visits to Ryburgh and the local patch early morning I decided to head over to the Broads.  First stop was Rollesby Broad where a Blue-winged Teal x Cinnamon Teal hybrid is hanging out with 3 Mandarins.  It spends a lot of its time displaying, often to the female Mandarin whose company it seems to quite like, but also to Mallards and just on its own.  I imagine they're all out of the same cage and suspect they were released their deliberately rather than escaped from somewhere and flown there.

Blue-winged Teal x Cinnamon Teal hybrid, Rollesby Broad, 14th April

Mandarins, Rollesby Broad, 14th April

I then headed over to Barton Broad where a tern was bouncing around the lake visible from the platform as soon as I arrived.  It was an Arctic Tern which made for a nice surprise - I don't see many of these in Norfolk except on autumn seawatches.

Arctic Tern, Barton Broad, 14th April

This Kingfisher flashed by...

Kingfisher, Barton Broad, 14th April

As I passed between Smallburgh and Stalham I noticed a lot of gulls following the plough by the layby.  I thought it might be worth a look through them and so it proved - there was a first-winter Glaucous Gull among them!  There has been one along the coast around Winteton/Hemsby recently and I guess it may well be the same bird.

Glacuous Gull., between Smallburgh and Stalham, 14th April

Next stop was Hickling Broad, first checking from the Pleasure Boat Inn (nothing) and then the NWT reserve, a place I don't go to very often and rarely seem to see much there.  Today was no exception, though plenty of commoner warblers in.  My first Common Tern of the year was probably the highlight, though if you belong to the school of thought which says a Grey Heron with rusty colour on its wing-coverts is a Great Blue Heron then maybe not.  Sadly this isn't always the case - I've seen a few Grey Herons with rusty or brownish wing-coverts and/or rusty thighs.

Grey Heron, Hickling NWT, 14th April

With moderate NNE winds I headed up to Sheringham on last Tuesday (18th) for a seawatch.  Seawatching in Norfolk is rarely good in spring (here I am referring to seabirds really - there can be some excellent vis mig days at least some of which can involve birds flying over the sea) so my expectations were low.  I arrived at first light and there was almost nothing moving at first.  Things picked up slightly but I only got about 80 Gannets, 30 Sandwich Terns and 24 Common Scoter.  A few Fulmar were moving but hard to tell which ones as local birds were also passing, and other seabirds included 2 Kittiwakes and 8 larger Auks, at least 2 of which were Razorbills.  There were 4 Red-throated Divers and one group of 3 waders west included Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit.  A distant party of 3 birds flying east eventually proved to be the birds of the day - a scarce species flying over the sea, Black-tailed Godwits.

From my study I could hear  Lesser Whitethroat singing on Wednesday - a house tick.  Another house-tick followed the next evening when I heard a Coot flying over (with a second Coot on Friday night).