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.

Saturday, 28 March 2015


Headed out to Burnham Overy early this morning, expecting a mainly dry morning with the rain forecast to arrive late morning.  It wasn't dry - drizzling for most of the first hour or two - and windier than I was expecting too.

Anyway, spirits weren't too dampened as I headed towards the dunes.  A Chiffchaff was singing at the staithe and a Fieldfare chacked away as a pair of adult Mediterranean Gulls called overhead.  The Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid I saw last time (two weeks ago) was still present.

By time I'd reached Gun Hill and returned to the boardwalk I hadn't added much to the day's tally - Barn Owl and 5 Red-breasted Mergansers was about it, and the only migrant was a Chiffchaff in the sea buckthorn.  

Barn Owl, Burnham Overy, 28th March

Now more raptors were showing - a Red Kite or two and the Rough-legged Buzzard being the best.

Rough-legged Buzzard, Burnham Overy, 28th March

I birded the east dunes more in hope than expectation but it proved worthwhile.  Best was a Firecrest skulking in brambles at the east end. These photos are quite representative of the sort of views it was giving.

Firecrest, Burnham Overy, 28th March

As I walked back through the valley on the north side a smart male Wheatear showed.

 Wheatear, Burnham Overy, 28th March

There are still a few Golden Plover around.  A minority are starting to look quite summery like the first one below, but most are more like the second photo.

Golden Plovers, Burnham Overy, 28th March

As I returned past the reedy pool I noticed a Spoonbill feeding in a wet area beyond the main pool.  Back near the staithe I watched a Red Kite feeding on the ground.  Couldn't tell what it was eating - a Pheasant maybe?

 Red Kite, Burnham Overy, 28th March

Booted Eagle...

On Sunday I didn't really have time to get out birding but when I saw a message informing me that a Booted Eagle had been seen at Cockley Cley that had to change.  I have never seen Booted Eagle in the UK, let alone in Norfolk, and while I was somewhat sceptical (given past claims that have been decidedly suspect), this wasn't broadcast with any implied uncertainty, or as 'reported', and it was only 20 minutes away.  I had to act quick.

I was half way there before I read the message carefully enough to realise the news related to about 2.5 hours earlier.  I am not always the quickest to get news out and do not subscribe to the view that it's a twitcher's right to hear about rare birds the second they are seen, but a delay like this inevitably prompts questions.  Lots of plausible explanations though, and frankly no reason why I should expect an explanation at all.

I arrived to find two carloads (4 people) present.  The two pairs were separated and I parked between them.  My immediate enquiries were met with silence.  Maybe each thought I was talking to the other, or perhaps they just didn't hear, but anyway my second attempt was more successful and a chap from Leicestershire fessed up to being responsible for the report.

He described seeing the bird coming towards him, thinking it looked interesting on jizz and then seeing its plumage, above and below, clearly and well - an obvious pale-phase Booted Eagle.  He was experienced with the species and knew what it was straight away, and had enough time to see that it had yellow legs - and even that it didn't have jesses.  The only thing he hadn't seen was the 'landing lights' but a second person (someone from Essex - he had his name but I didn't ask) had said he'd seen the landing lights.

Evidently no-one else present (I'm not sure how many people that was) had got on to the bird - including the finder's mate he'd travelled with.  It had gone down behind the trees so no reason to think it wasn't still in the area.

Was it a Booted Eagle?  Well the observer seemed to know what he was talking about and people on BirdForum seem to think he's competent.  What he described sounded like a Booted Eagle.  Inevitably one wonders why no-one else managed to get on it, why it didn't reappear given it didn't seem to be going anywhere, and I'm sure some might read into the fact that despite apparently being confident from the outset a good deal of ooing and ahing took place about what to do with claiming it and putting news out.  And then throw in the fact that just two days earlier a very competent raptor-watcher had been there and seen an "amazingly pale Buzzard" with "virtually all white body and underwing-coverts and tiny carpal 'commas'", i.e. about as close to a Booted Eagle as a Buzzard can be (perhaps a bit like this one?).  The observer is experienced enough to know that some will be sceptical, and I'm by nature (and experience) sceptical about Booted Eagle claims in Norfolk.  That doesn't mean it wasn't one.

On one level it wasn't, and isn't, up to me to judge whether it was a Booted Eagle or not.  Having said that, I did have to make some sort of judgment on the spot as on the one hand I didn't want to miss an opportunity to see a Booted Eagle in Norfolk and on the other I still had lots I needed to do that day.  I had to make a judgement whether to stay and look or go home and get stuff done.  I drove down the road to somewhere that had a good vista in the general direction of where it might have gone if it wasn't showing from the original spot and gave it a few minutes from here.  A Red Kite or two were the best of several raptors on view from here.  I guess the fact that I didn't give it all that long says something about my judgement.  Whether this was right or wrong I don't suppose I'll ever know, though it probably was right in respect of how I best used my time, given that it wasn't seen again during the rest of the afternoon.

I then headed back, passing through the patch where I bumped in to Dave.  Had literally a two-minute stop at one of the gravel pits where Dave had seen Little Ringed Plover and Green Sandpiper earlier.  Both were still present and I returned home.

Let me be clear, I have no reason to think that the observer was anything other than a competent birder, and I do not know if he saw a Booted Eagle or not - I didn't see it, I wasn't there.  Even if he didn't that doesn't reflect badly on him - the best make mistakes.  He is very likely a better and more experienced birder than me and he thinks he did see a Booted Eagle - and I have no desire to rain on his parade, nor any basis for doing so.  It's not up to me to adjudicate the record and I'm quite happy to leave that to the BBRC chaps if he chooses to submit the record (and if need be the BOU chaps as well, given the species' ongoing failure to make it on to category A).

And in other news, not much to report for the past week.  In fact the only bird of note was my first singing Chiffchaff of the year, at Dougton on Tuesdsay.  Unusual to have heard so few of these by this late in the month - though not as bad as 2013.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Gros beak

I left Saturday's post half way through as I didn't have time to finish sorting the photos for the rest of the day.  Have done now.  The rest of the morning was spent at Lynford where I hoped to get great views of the Hawfinches.  There have been some amazing photos around recently as the birds have been feeding on the ground near the feeders.  Well it seems they aren't quite as close as I'd imagined, and no doubt better light would have made photography easier.  The birds weren't all that showy either, being on view only fairly briefly, but we did see 2 Hawfinches.  This was the duller one, which showed best:

Hawfinch, Lynford Arboretum, 21st March

The brigher one was less obliging still:

Hawfinch, Lynford Arboretum, 21st March

We heard lots of Siskins around the area but this pair dropped down to drink by the feeders.

Siskins, Lynford Arboretum, 21st March

We found a feeding station where somebody has clearly been putting food down for photography.  It was popular with the birds, frequently being visited by Nuthatch and several Marsh Tits (among many other species).  I love Nuthatches!

 Nuthatches, Lynford Arboretum, 21st March

Marsh Tits, Lynford Arboretum, 21st March

Don't know about you, but I don't think it would be too big a stretch to think that some of these Marsh Tits have brown - or at least blackish-brown - nasal bristles.  According to one recent claim that would make them Willow Tits - only they weren't Willow Tits.  Anyway - I've blogged about this over here if you're interested.

Coal Tits, Lynford Arboretum, 21st March

Great Tits, Lynford Arboretum, 21st March

Chaffinches, Lynford Arboretum, 21st March

Robin, Lynford Arboretum, 21st March

This porky chap was in an enclosure on the way out of the arboretum.

Pig/Boar/thing, Lynford, 21st March

On the way home we drove past the copse where the hybrid Pheasants had been - the new one was still there.

presumed Reeves's Pheasant x Common Pheasant (var. tenebrosus) hybrid, Threxton Hill, 21st March

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Tenebrosus x Reeves's hybrid, other Pheasants and a flat tyre

Didn't fancy Burnham Overy in strong cold northerlies so Dave and I headed to the Brecks instead.  Had a look for the Reeves's x Common Pheasant hybrid that I'd seen before at Threxton Hill first.  It was there on cue:

Reeves's Pheasant x Common Pheasant hybrid, Threxton Hill, 21st March

Across the road was this female tenebrosus Pheasant:

Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Threxton Hill, 21st March

Recently Keiran had seen a weird Pheasant in this area that sounded like might be another Reeves's Pheasant hybrid but involving a tenebrosus variant.  I've been keeping an eye out for it with no success, but today, in the same copse that the above hybrid frequents - indeed displaying on the very same log as that bird was displaying on when I first saw it in 2012 - was a dark, long-tailed pheasant.  Presumably indeed a Reeves's x tenebrosus Pheasant hybrid!

presumed Reeves's Pheasant x Common Pheasant (var. tenebrosus) hybrid, Threxton Hill, 21st March

Nearby at the Arms another tenebrosus Pheasant posed briefly for the camera:

Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), The Arms, 21st March

Near Bodney the birding ground to a halt, literally, thanks to a flat tyre.  The fleet car operator asked if the car was driveable so I said no.  I was a little surprised when he offered to send someone to fix it on Monday!  His second attempt was slightly better but three hours wait wasn't really the answer I was looking for either.  Eventually I got through to someone else who, eventually, managed to find an RAC operator who was only 40 minutes away.  We had a wander down the road towards STANTA while we waited, hoping to find Stone-Curlews but only managing a pair of ordinary Curlews.

Tyre fixed we decided to have another look to see if the hybrid had emerged from its cover.  It was still in the copse but then headed into the open across an adjacent garden.  Unfortunately that meant watching and photographing it through the bars of a gate.

presumed Reeves's Pheasant x Common Pheasant (var. tenebrosus) hybrid, Threxton Hill, 21st March

Two Green Woodpeckers were near The Arms and a flock of around a dozen Bramblings near Great Cressingham.

Green Woodpecker, The Arms, 21st March

The male Pheasants are getting a bit confrontational now, though the "fights" we observed today seemed to involve mainly posturing and not much combat.

Pheasants, Little Cressingham, 21st March

Pheasants, Great Cressingham, 21st March

Having had our fill of Pheasants we headed off to Lynford, but that'll have to wait for another day.  Too many photos to process...