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, 27 April 2015

A few migrants

A busy week at work restricted my ability to witness the spring migration that others have been enjoying during the last few days.  I did manage to get out Friday lunch time but could only find common migrants.

Sedge Warbler, Heacham, 24th April

Whitethroat, Heacham, 24th April

Yesterday I headed up to Burnham Overy for first light.  I had a very enjoyable morning seeing a good range of common migrants, though it sounds like I might have done better if I'd waited til the afternoon.  I didn't see another birder until I was leaving, which was nice, but those I saw arriving managed to find a fair bit more than me, and someone else arriving later (presumably) even reported an Ashy-headed Wagtail - which I would have loved to see.

But I won't let others' successes spoil my day.  The first migrants were immediately obvious even in the half-light as I parked my car - Whimbrel calling from beside the car park.  Hard to say how many I saw altogether - I put 10+ down but it might have been nearer 20.  

 acrobatic Whimbrel, Burnham Overy, 25th April

A Spoonbill was feeding in the saltmarsh and this was another species I kept seeing but which it was hard to know how many different birds I was seeing.  Possibly as many as 5, but some sightings could have been duplicates.

Spoonbills, Burnham Overy, 25th April

The dykes were full of Sedge Warbler song, and 2 Reed Warblers could also be heard among them.  The first of 7 Wheatears had appeared before I'd reached the dunes, but had I stayed longer this is one of the species I may have seen more of, judging from later visitors' accounts.

 Wheatear, Burnham Overy, 25th April

As I approached the boardwalk I could see 3 Ring Ouzels in the field adjacent to the dunes.  They were gone when I passed here again later but I did find 3 Ring Ouzels behind the fenceline just east of the end of Holkham Pines - the same birds I guess.

Ring Ouzel, Burnham Overy, 25th April

Linnet, Burnham Overy, 25th April

A few birds were moving west, though not hordes.  Among them were a handful of Swallows, 2 House Martins and at least 10 Yellow Wagtails.  Two Sandwich Terns flew past, followed by 2 Little Terns, while a Common Tern was hunting in the channel.

I flushed a Cuckoo from the dunes by the Sea Buckthorn patch and 2 Mediterranean Gulls flew over.

A broad-wing raptor moving west low over the sea looked interesting.  Wasn't sure if I saw a forked tail when I first picked it up but this was no Red Kite.  But neither was I convinced it was any kite, and I couldn't see that forked tail again.  It was pretty uniformly dark brown except for a slightly paler base to the primaries on the underwing.  The upperparts were very plain, though the wing-tips and trailing edge were a fraction darker.  Marsh Harrier probably, but  the head was paler - not pale-crowned like a female-type Marsh Harrier, but generally looking slightly paler, like a Black Kite actually... And there was no sign of pale on the leading edge of the wing... could it really be a Black Kite?  The way the wings bent back at the carpals looked sort of Kite-like and then I noticed a reddish wash to the rear underparts - I've seen that on warm-looking Black Kites before.  But where's the tail action?  Something wasn't right.  I never actually thought this was a Black Kite, despite more and more bits of the jigsaw apparently pointing that way.  It disappeared behind the dunes as it came in closer so I ran up to a higher point.  I couldn't see it at first but then picked it up - further out than I thought.  But it was coming in and getting higher - now I could get a better look at its tail... its long straight and not even remotely forked Marsh Harrier tail.  And at this point I finally got to see some pale on the leading edge of the wings too.  An educational bird, and one that I could well imagine getting misidentified as something more interesting.

Oystercatcher, Burnham Overy, 25th April

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Ring Ouzels

I headed up to Burnham Overy last Sunday morning, seeing 3 Barn Owls on the way in the Fakenham area.  My first Sedge Warblers of the year were singing along the dyke and a party of 4 Mediterranean Gulls flew over.

Some evidence of visible migration included over 40 Carrion Crows west.  Also a wagtail which sounded like White Wagtail, though I'm not confident enough to claim these purely on call yet.  A single Swallow flew west as did 2 more Mediterranean Gulls; I'm sure if I'd been at Gun Hill from first light and concentrated on vis mig I'd have seen a lot more.  The wind was always meant to get up later on but it started off windier than I was expecting and hearing birds calling above the wind became increasingly difficult as the morning progressed.

There weren't huge numbers of grounded migrants around - a Goldcrest by the boardwalk, 5 Wheatears in the dunes and best, a party of 4 Ring Ouzels.

Ring Ouzels, Burnham Overy, 12th April

As I headed back this Spoonbill was feeding in the saltmarsh:

Spoonbill, Burnham Overy, 12th April

Here are some other snaps taken during the course of the morning.

Linnet, Burnham Overy, 12th April

Pochards, Burnham Overy, 12th April - no sign of the hybrid today

Cormorant, Burnham Overy, 12th April

Since last Sunday there has been plenty more Ring Ouzel action for those fortunate enough to get out.  I've been stuck indoors, either working or sick, so until yesterday I hadn't managed anything better than hearing a singing Willow Warbler at home on Wednesday.

Now on the mend I decided to pop out for an hour or so yesterday afternoon, primarily to see Emperor Moths attracted to the pheremone lure Dave has borrowed.  Got a singing Dartford Warbler followed by a singing Woodlark as well as the moths.  Back to bed exhausted as soon as I got home!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Patch 'hatch

A visit to the patch yesterday didn't deliver much.  Pairs of Avocets and Little Ringed Plovers remain, and 3 Snipe were new - lots on the patch in the previous couple of springs but these are the first I've seen on the patch this year.

Spring migrants including 2 singing Willow Warblers and a singing Blackcap but the rarest bird for the patch nearly got away.  A single note sounded like the start of a Nuthatch call, but nothing carried on - was it, or if not what was it?  I looked around and sure enough there was a Nuthatch, the first I've seen on the patch (though I have heard one here before).

Willow Warbler, Bittering, 12th April

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Some migrants!

On the patch yesterday evening, nearly a month later than I've first seen them some years, 4 Sand Martins.  They were among a small flock of about 8 Swallows, and my first Willow Warbler of the year could be heard singing at the same time.

The Avocets remain along with a Green Sandpiper but nothing else much of note.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Avocets back

Dave and I were pleasantly surprised to find breeding Avocets on our inland patch two years ago.  They raised three young but although they returned last year the habitat was less attractive and we don't think they stayed to breed.  The pit where they bred remains unsuitable so the chances of them breeding successfully this year is low, but even so it was nice to see a pair back yesterday evening.

Avocets, near Dereham, 8th April

Also on the patch were 2 Little Ringed Plovers, my first 3 Swallows of the year and, at dusk, 2 Curlew.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015


A cold frosty morning but a Blackcap is singing in my garden (well, the neighbour's garden probably) this morning.  Robins have laid eggs in the shed and Goldcrests have also been nest-building.  It could almost be spring.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Breckland birding

Dave and I headed to the Brecks again yesterday.  We started at dawn at the Great Pingo Trail - a new site for me.  A nice place despite the drizzle but we didn't see much in the way of birds apart from Red Kite, singing Treecreeper and Chiffchaffs.

Longhorn Cattle, Great Pingo Trail, 4th April

Next up was another site-tick - Cranberry Rough.  More Chiffchaffs, a flock of Siskins, Marsh Tit and a couple of Little Egrets was about the lot but it's a site with good potential - the mere is one to watch.

A quick drive by Threxton Hill produced both male Reeves's Pheasant x Pheasant hybrids but the surrounding area failed to deliver any pure Reeves's Pheasants again - is anybody still seeing them?  A Stone-Curlew and a pair of Tree Sparrows were nice to see in the process of looking.

At Santon Downham Keiran had seen a hybrid goose that from his photo looked likely to be Swan Goose x Canada Goose.  We arrived just in time to see it flying over.

presumed Swan Goose x Canada Goose hybrid (with Greylag Goose), Santon Downham, 4th April

The riverside path also produced 2 pairs of Nuthatches, 3 Mandarins, Kingfisher, Water Rail (heard), 8 Siskin, more Chiffchaffs but Green and Great Spotted were the only woodpeckers.

Mandarins, Santon Downham, 4th April

Another hybrid goose flew over the fishing lakes at Wissington, this time a domestic Greylag x Canada.  A wander down the path produced another singing Treecreeper, at least 4 more singing Chiffchaffs and a flock of 40 Fieldfare.  Back at the fishing lakes a Kingfisher called and the domestic Greylag Goose x Canada Goose hybrid was now settled.

domestic Greylag Goose x Canada Goose hybrid, Wissington, 4th April

I was surprised to see 5 Pink-footed Geese at Pentney though Dave tells me they're often seen there.  We decided to head up to Leziate/Bawsey area and on the way discovered a fantastic lake that we didn't realise existed.  It's presumably fairly recently flooded - it's not on the maps and it certainly wasn't there last time I birded this area, though it didn't look very fresh so has presumably been there a while.  It's near Ashwicken - not 100% sure but I'm guessing it's Ashwicken Fen, a site I've heard mentioned in reports a few times. As we headed to a viewing point from the car we flushed a Small Tortoiseshell, only my second butterfly this year, and a Barn Owl paraded up and down giving us some nice views.  

Barn Owl, Ashwicken, 4th April

Looking out across the lake I picked up a female Goldeneye and a dozen Curlew flew over with more on the bank across the lake - at least 26 Curlew in total.  As we scanned through the many large gulls (I imagine they're birds off the tip at Blackborough End - perhaps a good place to watch them from) a pair of adult Mediterranean Gulls flew over, along with a first-year bird.  Round the other side we saw more Treecreepers and Chiffchaffs.

Past week

Not a great deal to report from the past week.  Last Sunday I visited the patch in the rain.  Little Ringed Plover and Green Sandpiper at one site and a record 26 Shoveler at another, a couple of singing Chiffchaffs and this white Pheasant were the highlights.

Pheasant, near Beetley, 29th March

Nothing better than a pair of Mediterranean Gulls (at Burnham Norton) during the week before another attempt at the patch on Good Friday.  This produced a pair of Little Ringed Plovers and a Green Sandpiper at one site, another Green Sandpiper at another site, and now 35 Shovelers at a third site.  Having remained faithful to pretty much the same field for a while now, the white Pheasant shown above has moved across the main road to a different site about a mile away - major migration for a Pheasant!

Not sure what these mushrooms were - maybe Fairy Ring Champignons?  Not necessarily the same species but growing close to each other so I guess they are.

Mushrooms, perhaps Fairy Ring Champignons?, Creaking Gate Lake, 3rd April