King Eider (with Common Scoter in bottom image), Sheringham, 5th November
Local birding didn't improve the following week except that there were up to 4 Lesser Redpolls and Siskin at home.
A visit to Burnham Overy on 17th November was interesting enough, though perhaps not as much as I would have liked. There were 20 Barnacle Geese, which are normally assumed to be the local feral flock. That may indeed have been the case for all of them, but I did wonder about these two as I picked them up over the dunes apparently flying in from the NNW. Maybe they were part of the feral flock that had just had a bit of a fly around, or maybe they were genuine immigrants arriving from the north...? I suspect the former.
Barnacle Geese, Burnham Overy, 17th November
There was a large raft of Common Scoter just off the mouth of the Burn.
Common Scoter, Burnham Overy, 17th November
Sadly I couldn't find any more unusual scoters among them, though there were 6 Red-breasted Mergansers knocking around. Also 4 Tufted Ducks east and 3 Razorbills.
There was a Great White Egret in the estuary, and I saw 2 Avocets, Kingfisher, Short-eared Owl and 2 Red Kites. But so far as passerine migrants were concerned it was pretty tough going. There was one Blackcap and at least 100 Blackbirds but precious little else.
Mike Buckland had fared a little better at the west end of Holkham Pines finding a nice Siberian Chiffchaff there, so I went along to join him looking at that. It was an interesting bird. Not quite as obvious as they can be with distinct greenish tones visible in the scapulars in some lights - enough that would once upon a time have disqualified it but apparently not any more. In other lights it looked really good - compare the two images below.
Siberian Chiffcahff, Holkham Pines, 17th November
Mike had tried playing its call in order to elicit a response as the bird had failed to call at all. This hadn't worked but someone else came along and played a quick burst of Siberian Chiffchaff song. The bird's response was instantateous! Immediately it popped up high and started engaging in an amazing wing-shimmering display. It still remained silent, but this was enough to disperse any remaining doubts as to its identity. The other Chiffchaff that was alongside it didn't respond at all (in fact there were at least 3 Chiffchaffs here).
Chiffcahff, Holkham Pines, 17th November
For the rest of the month I stayed local and consequently saw little. I heard Barn Owl from my study and at the meadows heard a Brambling, saw Sparrowhawk, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatch and Treecreepers, Siskins and up to 5 Bullfinches.
Stock Dove, North Elmham Cathedral Meaodws, 21st November
Skylark, North Elmham Cathedral Meaodws, 21st November
Robin, North Elmham Cathedral Meaodws, 21st November
Bullfinch, North Elmham Cathedral Meaodws, 21st November
Mistle Thrush, North Elmham Cathedral Meaodws, 25th November
December started with Pink-footed Geese heard over the house on 1st and 2 Redpolls on 3rd. A quick stop at Wroxham Broad when I was passing on 5th produced 2 Pink-footed Geese among 200+ Greylags.
Local birding was generally slow. Despite overlooking the river Wensum the only duck species I'd recorded at the Cathedral Meadows between the end of April and December was Mallard. So it was a surprise to see a Shoveler and 3 Gadwall fly over heading towards the park on 8th. I don't think I've ever been so excited to see a Shoveler and some Gadwall before in my life!
I went along to Bittering on 17th December where the highlight was these 3 Whooper Swans, a good local bird though not the first time I've seen them here.
Whooper Swans, Bittering, 17th December
Nuthatch and Treecreeper continued to be regular at the meadows, and also Marsh Tits were now appearing more often.
Coal Tit, North Elmham Cathedral Meaodws, 17th December
Blue Tit, North Elmham Cathedral Meaodws, 17th December
Great Tit, North Elmham Cathedral Meaodws, 17th December
A distant flock of 62 Golden Plover were new for the meadows on 22nd (also 213 Lapwings) and 29 Pink-footed Geese flew east on Christmas Eve. Also this day a newly-formed puddle viewable from the corner of the meadows provided some new habitat and with it some new species for the patch - 2 Wigeon and 12 Teal.
Treecreeper, North Elmham Cathedral Meaodws, 22nd December
I could hear a right old commotion in the larger trees behind the chapel ruins with tits, Blackbirds, finches and Jackdaws all making alarm calls. Clearly something was up, but the birds seemed well spaced around the top of the tree and it wasn't immediately clear where their cause for concern was. I wondered if it was a Tawny Owl, but couldn't see one, and then 2 Jays appeared in the tree. I've seen birds mobbing Jays so maybe these were the cause, but I wasn't convinced. The Jays flew off and the noise continued, so I walked round the other side and sure enough, there was a Tawny Owl, sat in full view in a hole at the very top of the trunk - an unusually exposed position for one of these to roost I thought. Well it liked it enough as it remained more-or-less reliable there through into March, and a staggering number of birders came to see it during that time. Interestingly though, I never saw the other birds getting remotely bothered by it again.
Tawny Owl, North Elmham Cathedral Meaodws, 24th December
On the way down to Kent on Christmas morning 2 Ring-necked Parakeets flew over the M25 near Stapleford Tawney. Then on Boxing Day, on the way up to the Lake District, I saw a Red Kite near Harrogate and then 8 Black Grouse at a well-known spot followed by Red Grouse and a Barn Owl around Alston Moor. Not sure how common Barn Owl are up here - I don't recall seeing them up north before.
Black Grouse, up north, 26th December
The final family visit on the whistle-stop tour of the UK was in Dundee on 27th, where we also dipped on Waxwings. Finally it was back to Norfolk on 28th where first stop was Docking to see the extremely interesting Grey-bellied Brent Goose. I've looked at photos of one or two putative Grey-bellied before and thought, why aren't they just Dark-bellied x Pale-bellied? Well, in one or two cases they probably were. You won't be able to tell from my rubbishy photos but this was quite different. Very interesting, and I was very grateful to get a second chance after missing it last winter.
Grey-bellied Brent Goose, near Docking, 28th December