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, 25 May 2015

Where's May gone?

I have to say I'm a bit disappointed by May 2015.  I'm disappointed that I've not spent more time in the field and that holiday plans didn't come off, but the weather has been so poor for birding I don't think saving the days for later in the year will necessarily be a bad thing.  The Citril Finch on my coastal patch makes up for a lot, but without that this month would have been a bit desperate.  Mind you, there are still a few days left.

Over the bank holiday weekend the winds were forecast to be between west and north on Saturday and Monday, neither of which were likely to produce many birds, but south-westerly on Sunday.  Not ideal perhaps but can be good, especially for vis mig.  So I decided to make sure I got out early Sunday if nothing else, and nothing else it proved to be.

Sunday morning I headed up to Burnham Overy at dawn.  Most of the 5 Spoonbills I saw were seen during the walk out to the dunes, as were 2 of the 3 Mediterranean Gulls.  A trickle of Swifts and hirundines moved west, but when I say trickle I really do mean it - Swifts and House Martins just about made double figures while Swallows were only twice as many.  Lots of racing pigeons moving west but as these dried up Woodpigeons started to take over.  Well, one flock of about 60 Woodpigeons flew west over the dunes and after that a handful more followed.  Not sure what they're doing moving at this time of year - I usually expect to see spring passage of Woodpigeon very early - March or even February.  Maybe they're early breeders dispersing already?

Some of the Linnets are looking very colourful at the moment.  You could almost grow to like them...

Linnet, Burnham Overy, 24th May

A single Whimbrel was seen and there are still 2 Cuckoos calling.  I found 2 Wheatears in the dunes but no hint of anything scarce.  It was worth a good hammering though - the north Norfolk coast turned up Icterine Warbler and Bluethroat so there was every chance of something like that here too.  Sadly I didn't find it if it was here.

Meadow Pipit, Burnham Overy, 24th May

Wheatear, Burnham Overy, 24th May

Reed Bunting, Burnham Overy, 24th May

pair of Gadwall, Burnham Overy, 24th May

Oystercatcher, Burnham Overy, 24th May

Carrion Crow, Burnham Overy, 24th May

Swallow, Burnham Overy, 24th May

I stopped off at the local patch on the way home - not much doing there either.  One Little Ringed Plover not given up yet and a Kingfisher.

This Swallow spent much of this afternoon singing just outside my study window:

Swallow, North Elmham, 25th May

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Swifts and hirundines

Not much to report for last week as work has been full-on, but Stone-Curlew grabbed in a lunch break one day and Avocet on the patch after work one day.  Also 3 pairs of Avocet at a private site in SW Norfolk on Saturday along with the likes of Kingfisher and Cuckoo.

Sunday saw me up at Burnham Overy again, this time in the afternoon/evening.  I gave it a good hammering but there were very few grounded migrants - about 3 Wheatears, 4 Whimbrel and a heard-only Common Sandpiper were about it (a Greenshank also heard flying through). Lots of vis mig though - my counts are pretty rough and just the birds I saw - the true number passing through must have been far higher.  I recorded 170 Swifts, 4 Sand Martins, 100 Swallows and 75 House Martins moving west.  To be honest it felt like far more than that, and probably was far more than that.

Swifts, Burnham Overy, 17th May

Probably associated with that lot was a Hobby speeding through, though the only bird I saw it try to catch looked like a Meadow Pipit.  Still 3 Cuckoos knocking around, 2 Barn Owls and at least 2 Mediterranean Gulls.  Also saw at least 2 Spoonbills and a Red Kite.

Spoonbill, Burnham Overy, 17th May

Linnet, Burnham Overy, 17th May

Saw another Spoonbill on Monday at Brancaster Staithe.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Citril Finch!

Went out last night to celebrate our wedding anniversary so decided against an early start at Burnham Overy.  Instead I headed off a bit later to the local patch where the avian highlight was a purring Turtle Dove.

I was about to head home to pick up Vitty and head in to Norwich when news came through of a Citril Finch at Burnham Overy!  I could have changed plans and gone in this evening instead but we'd left Vitty's car in Norwich last night and got a taxi home so she'd have been stuck, plus at this point it seemed reasonably likely that the "mobile and elusive" Citril would never be seen again.  So we went ahead with plans.

By the time we were ready to head up to Burnham Overy it was afternoon, the Citril had continued to show on and off and my phone was bursting with messages and tweets about how wonderful it was.  Eventually we arrived at Burnham Overy and began the long walk to the farthest point of the dunes.  A steady stream of happy twitchers were coming back the other way, broad grins and reassuring messages about how well it was showing.  I could see the crowd watching it as I approached - it was all looking good.  They were still watching it as I scaled the last mound before reaching the crowd... at which point I was surprised by the amount of excited chatter that was going on, and how no-one appeared to be looking at anything except maybe the back of their cameras.  A quick enquiry revealed that it had flown off two seconds ago!

I must have spent a good half - three-quarters of an hour hunting for it to no avail when my brother arrived from Kent.  I'd barely said hello to him when someone shouted and the Citril Finch came flying in.  A couple of flight views and it disappeared behind the large sycamore at the west end of Holkham Pines.  We headed round to where we thought it must have gone down but no sign at first.  Eventually Andrew picked it up on the deck.  Excellent scope views were obtained despite the push of people desperate to see it.

Citril Finch, Burnham Overy, 10th May

A pretty marvelous wedding anniversary present, though I'm not sure Vitty was so impressed!  This was the first for Norfolk and the second for the UK following one on Fair Isle in 2008.  

Didn't see much else at Burnham Overy - 3 Wheatears was about it - but stopped off at Choseley on the way home where as well as another 3 Wheatears there was a marvellous flock of 20 Dotterels.

Not much else to report since my last update.  Best bird during the past few days was a Cuckoo heard calling from home as I emptied the moth trap on Friday morning.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Bittern and singing Tree Pipit

Had the non-birding wife and friend in tow today so was any birding activity was a bit restricted.  But I managed to get them up to the coast where the best of the birds was a nice close fly-by Bittern (with what must have been a second bird booming) and a singing Tree Pipit.  It's been over a decade since I last saw a Tree Pipit on territory in Norfolk.

Bittern, north Norfolk, 4th May

Tree Pipit, west Norfolk, 4th May

We spent most of the morning at Burnham Overy where a Spoonbill was in pools east of the staithe, at least 2 Whimbrels were knocking around and Little Terns were back in business.

Little Tern, Burnham Overy, 4th May

Whimbrel, Burnham Overy, 4th May

Quite a few Swifts, Swallows and other hirundines were on the move, along with a few Yellow Wagtails and a heard-only Tree Pipit.  In the dunes there were 2 Cuckoos (with presumably a third back at the staithe), a female Ring Ouzel (only seen males here up to now) and 6 Wheatears.  Two Hobbies were hawking insects with Black-headed Gulls above the freshmarsh.

Kestrel, Burnham Overy, 4th May

Kestrel with Common Lizard (I think), Burnham Overy, 4th May

We had lunch at Creake Abbey where the food was very nice indeed (and worth the wait).  A Red Kite flew over here.  Later we popped in to Dersingham Bog briefly before taking our friend back to Kings Lynn station.

Stonechat, Dersingham Bog, 4th May

Back at work on Tuesday where I snatched a brief lunch break which included a Spoonbill over Brancaster Staithe.

Sunday, 3 May 2015


Eight of us visited Minsmere today and spent most of the day there.  We started off at Bittern Hide from where most of us got flight views of a Bittern.  The best-looking bird seen from here, at least by those of us who were in the right position as it was right below us just in front of the hide, was this Goldfinch:

Goldfinch, Minsmere, 2nd May

A Water Rail kept running or swimming across the water from one patch of reeds to another, though my best attempt at photographing it was pretty rubbish.

 Water Rail, Minsmere, 2nd May

A pair of Bearded Tits were occasionally seen in flight and a herd of 6 Red Deer put on a show (as did a Stoat for most of the group, though I wasn't close enough to the front to see it myself).

Red Deer, Minsmere, 2nd May

Predictably Marsh Harriers put on a good show with food passing witnessed a couple of times.

 Marsh Harriers, Minsmere, 2nd May

A Cetti's Warbler actually showed itself briefly as it moved along the dyke running just below/in front of the hide, shouting its head off as they do.

Cetti's Warbler, Minsmere, 2nd May

As we headed up to Island Mere hide we encountered Small Copper and Speckled Wood butterflies before being distracted by warblers.  I was sure I'd heard a calling Garden Warbler among the Blackcaps that were belting out their song.  Eventually it showed just long enough for most of those present to see it.

Small Copper, Minsmere, 2nd May

Speckled Wood, Minsmere, 2nd May

Blackcap, Minsmere, 2nd May

Garden Warbler, Minsmere, 2nd May

Chaffinch, Minsmere, 2nd May

A bit further up was the new Adder Trail from where we all got a good look at a female Adder.  Quite a crowd had assembled there and with my 'scope being trained on the Adder and everyone wanting a look, it was a while before I could move on up to Island Mere Hide!

Adder, Minsmere, 2nd May

At Island Mere a pair of Otters kept surfacing and more Bitterns could be heard booming. 

Otters, Minsmere, 2nd May

We'd seen one Hobby from Bittern Hide but here I reckon there were 5-6 Hobbies on show for much of the time.

Hobbies, Minsmere, 2nd May

I heard a Whimbrel calling briefly and the best, or at least the most unusual, bird seen from here was when the Great White Egret did a fly-past.

Great White Egret, Minsmere, 2nd May

Gadwall, Minsmere, 2nd May

Back at the scrapes, West Hide or whatever it's called now provided views of a variety of waders, along with Barnacle Geese.  At the next hide, or at least from the path near the next hide, we could see Spotted Redshank and 3 Greenshank.  A Bar-tailed Godwit disappeared behind a bund before I could get the others on it so they had to make do with Black-tailed Godwits.

Spotted Redshank, Minsmere, 2nd May

Reed Bunting, Minsmere, 2nd May

From near the sluice I looked over towards the levels.  Three white blobs were so far off that I couldn't be sure if they were Spoonbills in the heat haze (which I suspected was the case) or Egrets.  I wasn't even completely sure they weren't Herring Gulls so bad were the views.  I was then distracted by seeing 3-4 Cranes wandering around.  As I got the group on these I completely forgot about the Spoonbills and didn't show them (sorry!) - but then again all that could be seen was 3 shimmering white blobs so they didn't miss much!  Turns out there were 3 Spoonbills there, so presumably my initial gut feeling was right.

Two of us popped in to East Hide from where Common Sandpiper was the only new bird seen.

I find Magpies difficult to photograph so a tame bird on the path back to the centre attracted my attention.

Magpie, Minsmere, 2nd May

At least 3 pairs of Greylag Goose were accompanied by 1-5 goslings:

Looking for Stone-Curlews was unsuccessful though a Wheatear was among the Linnets.  Finally these were taken while back at the cafe before heading home.

Blue Tits, Minsmere, 2nd May

Sand Martins, Minsmere, 2nd May