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.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Crossbills, Woodcock, Brant and some plastic ducks

Spent most of the day at Burnham Overy on 27th October.  I saw Kingfisher and heard Water Rail, Cetti's Warblers and Bearded Tit as I walked down to the dunes but there seemed to be few migrants about at first, the boardwalk bushes being quiet.  As I worked Gun Hill things started to pick up and by the time I'd returned to the boardwalk there was a clear increase in number of thrushes (especially Blackbirds) and some Bramblings.

Redwing, Burnham Overy, 27th October

I missed 2 Crossbills flying over at the boardwalk but made up for it later with 2 Crossbills in Hawthorns at the east end of the dunes, before moving up to the pines with a couple of Greenfinches.

 Crossbills (with 2 Greenfinches in lower picture), Holkham Pines, 27th October

On the way I briefly saw a Woodcock moving around beneath a Spindle before it saw me and scarpered, almost flying straight into a couple of birders in the process.

Woodcock, Burnham Overy, 27th October

Coal Tit, Burnham Overy, 27th October

I spent a lot of time at the east end without seeing anything, but just as I was about to give up a Lesser Whitethroat appeared.  At first it wasn't all that elusive but it was quite far off from where I was positioned.  In hindsight I wish I'd just studied it with the scope but I decided to get nearer, at which point it completely vanished.  I got just one photo of it with the camera on the wrong setting, and don't think I'll be able to take it further, but if I were a betting man I'd put a (small) wager on it being one of the eastern forms.  Didn't really fit a textbook example of any of the races though so not sure.  Not a classic blythi and quite a different beast from the presumed halimodendri I found at Burnham Overy a year or two ago, but looking quite un-British too.  Maybe southern-type Siberian blythi fits the pale plumage, brown nape, absence of warm rufousy tones on the wings and greyish colourless underparts?  Not sure what to make of the apparent large size though... maybe it was my imagination, but it was strong enough to make me keep double-checking it wasn't an Orphean (dream on!).

Lesser Whitethroat, Burnham Overy, 27th October

Finest bird of the day was an adult male Hen Harrier that flew west through the freshmarsh.  Later on a Short-eared Owl was circling over the freshmarsh, I suspected having just come in.  Other signs of winter included Red-breasted Merganser in the channel and Goldeneye on the reedy pool.  Didn't see any all morning but by the end of the day I'd logged 3 Stonechats - one in the dunes north of Holkham Pines and two on the way back along the sea wall.

Snipe, Burnham Overy, 27th October

Had Buzzard and Grey Wagtail at home on 29th before heading up to The Neptune at Old Hunstanton.  Great food as always and in the morning we mooched along the coast.  With weather not inspiring hard birding and the Mrs more interested in finding something to hang over the fireplace we spent more time in galleries than in the field, but I did manage Grey Wagtail over Cley village before seeing the Black Brant along Beach Road.

Black Brant, Cley, 30th October

Interesting to see that the wildfowl collection at Blakeney has now been re-stocked following the storm surge that destroyed it in December 2013.  Several young birds there and at least one looking like a hybrid.  Not sure about this one though... this Ferruginous Duck had me wondering with its indistinct belly patch, dull colouration (for a male, given its pale eye) and well-banded bill, but I'm not convinced any of that is out of range for a pure first-winter male.  We'll see how it develops...

captive first-winter male Ferruginous Duck (or hybrid), Blakeney, 30th October

Pretty sure I'd seen a photo somewhere of a Pintail x Mallard hybrid backcrossed with a Pintail that showed a breast like this, but with little else suggesting Mallard influence I wondered if perhaps a stained but pure Pintail (advanced first-winter?) was a better explanation.  Then I got a view of its tail and you can see the central tail feather (actually a long central uppertail-covert I believe) is slightly upcurved.  That should be a sign of Mallard ancestry so my conclusion is that this is a backcrossed hybrid (Mallard x Pintail) x Pintail.

captive (Mallard x Pintail) x Pintail backcrossed hybrid, Blakeney, 30th October

captive Smew, Blakeney, 30th October

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