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.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Scotland day 1

Having got horrendously behind on my diary entries during the summer I was glad when I eventually caught up - only I didn't quite, because I missed out my trip to Scotland.  So here you go, a few days in bonny Scotland, 31st May to 4th June, staying at a very nice chalet in Braemar we'd booked through Airbnb.  Shame we couldn't book the weather to go with it!

The journey up was uneventful bird-wise - a Red Kite over the A1 in Yorshire and a Comon Sandpiper just before we got to Braemar.

The cottage we stayed at has a lovely garden complete with Birch woodland and pond and my first job on arrival was to have a mosey round.  Five minutes later I'd found 2 Cuckoos, a pair of Spotted Flycatchers, a pair of Willow Warblers, a pair of Bullfinch and a pair of Siskin.  Not bad in the cold wind and rain.

Willow Warblers, Braemar, 31st May

Cuckoo, Braemar, 31st May

Robin, Braemar, 31st May

An evening drive down to Linn of Dee coincided with a brief interlude of sunshine and a sunny edge was heaving with Spotted Flycatchers - at least 3 pairs - and Tree Pipits (at least 3).  Towards the end of the road was a herd of 70+ Red Deer and a Wheatear.

Spotted Flycatcher, Linn of Dee, 31st May

Mistle Thrush, Linn of Dee, 31st May

Wheatear, Linn of Dee, 31st May

Tree Pipits, Linn of Dee, 31st May

(Move on to day 2)

Post-Christmas back in Norfolk

I didn't intend to spend the whole day out on Tuesday but planned to look round a few sites.  James had found a Dusky Warbler at Holkham on Christmas day and I figured it must be wintering in the area somewhere.  Holkham Park is adjacent to where I think he saw it and there's some suitable wintering warbler habitat in the park - I saw Chiffchaff and Blackcap together there 3 years ago in December.  So after some quick and uneventful stops elsewhere along the coast I headed to Holkham Park.

I enjoyed the wander round - seeing Nuthatches everywhere is always fun (only 1 Treecreeper though).  A Barn Owl flew through the trees, stopping briefly, and a Crossbill called overhead.

Barn Owl, Holkham Park, 29th December

Didn't see any warblers but ventured to parts of the park I'd not been to before, including around the church...

Holkham Church, 29th December

There were plenty of ducks on the lake including counts of 118 Shoveler and 114 Tufted Duck.  A Goldeneye was the only remotely noteworthy species though.

Egyptian Geese, Holkham Park, 29th December

I could see lots of people on the road presumably looking for the Red-rumped Swallow (not seen all day) or at the Great White Egret (I couldn't see that from where I was).  Among the Buzzards was this pale bird.

Buzzard, Holkham Freshmarsh, 29th December

After Holkham I had a quick drive round a few likely spots looking for goose flocks, via fish & chips from The Mermaid at Burnham Market.  Drew a complete blank on the geese.

Christmas family visits: Waxwing and American ducks

I spent Christmas with the in-laws and family in Broadstairs.  There were 4 Waxwings in Broadstairs on Christmas Day so as they were just down the road we popped in before we left on Boxing Day.  At least one Waxwing was still there but after a couple of hastily grabbed shots through the car window it flew off over the houses on the east side of the road.

Waxwing, Broadstairs, 26th December

A quick stop at Oare Marshes produced Avocet and at least 22 Ruff, but no sign of the Little Stint that has been wintering here.  Plenty of Pintail there but I couldn't pick out anything more interesting among the wildfowl.

Next day we were in the Lakes visiting my parents.  A drive round SW of Keswick produced plenty of nice scenery but not many birds - Grey Wagtail and 5 Goldeneye.

On Monday we all headed up to Caerlaverock where we would meet my brother from Dundee.  I went up early to do some birding beforehand, heading to Milton Loch where a Ring-necked Duck has been.  I had a look at nearby Auchenreoch Loch first, the site where I saw my first ever Lesser Scaup 25 years ago when it was still a 'mega'.  Plenty of duck on there including 10 Goosanders and 22 Goldeneye but I couldn't pick out anything among the large raft of Tufted Duck.  A quick drive round some nearby roads to see if another small loch had anything on it (it didn't) produced a Red Kite.

Now heading over to Milton Loch I tried looking from the east side first.  Not much viewable from here, hardly surprising given the brightly-clad shouty-man walking a noisy dog round there.  Back on the south side a quick look out soon produced the hoped-for drake Ring-necked Duck

Ring-necked Duck, Milton Loch, 28th December

It was out to the left and I knew there was another viewpoint further down the road so I moved here for a better view but was disappointed when I got there as none of the birds that had been there were still there.  There was a load of shooting going on at the back of the loch and I figure they'd scared it off.  A few Tufties had moved to the east end but the Ring-necked Duck didn't seem to be among them.  There was a female Scaup, and I counted 44 Goldeneye. A Tree Sparrow called behind me, a Siskin flew over and 2 Ravens flew over too.

Not being able to see the Ring-necked Duck here I figured it may have moved off to Auchenreoch Loch, being as it's so close.  I stopped by the cafe (where a Nuthatch was seen) and could see that nearly all the ducks were at the far west end (as many of them had been at dawn).  The layby further west provided better views so I headed down there and scanned the flock.  Very quickly I picked up the Ring-necked Duck.  Slightly concerning was the apparent absence of white round the base of the bill, except at the top, but everything else looked fine.  From this distance the white seemed to be restricted to the portion directly above the culmen, not down the sides as is normally the case with Ring-necked Duck. Restricted white here is sometimes a sign of hybrid origin but everything else looked so perfect I'm loathe to play the H card on this one.  Maybe closer views would have revealed some white down the sides of the base of the bill - or maybe they would have revealed a hint of a tuft...

Ring-necked Duck, Auchenreoch Loch, 28th December

I think it was pretty reasonable to assume the bird seen at Auchenreoch Loch was the same bird I'd seen earlier at Milton Loch, but in a twist to this tale I gather via Lee Evans that on Wednesday locals are reporting that there are two birds, one on each loch (both seen at the same time, apparently).  So maybe in fact they were different...?  Can I count it on my self-found list?!

I headed off to Caerlaverock next where a Tree Sparrow was on the feeders as I went in but the star bird was a second (or was it third?) Ring-necked Duck.  This one showed a bit closer, though it tended to keep to the back of the pool.  Still a few juvenile feathers present, especially along the flanks, but a nice strong white surround to the base of the bill, unlike the Auchenreoch bird.

Ring-necked Duck, Caerlaverock, 28th December

On the same pool was this Scaup.

Scaup, Caerlaverock, 28th December

A Peregrine sat in the hedgerow beyond the pool and thousands of Barnacle Geese occupied the fields all around.  I couldn't see the Green-winged Teal from here so moved down to the Folly Pond hide where, eventually, I picked it up (thanks to overhearing someone else who found it first).  It was tucked in to the edge and I grabbed a couple of shots before it swam off behind an island.

Green-winged Teal, Caerlaverock, 28th December

My brother and parents were now here and after seeing some Redpolls in the car park we returned to the Whooper pond where both Ring-necked Duck and Scaup continued to show.  This Little Grebe was close to the hide.

Little Grebe, Caerlaverock, 28th December

I felt it was inappropriate to leave without a couple of photos of Whooper Swans...

Whooper Swan, Caerlaverock, 28th December

After lunch we tried the tower that overlooks Folly Pond and found the Green-winged Teal consorting with Teal below us, though later we couldn't see it from Folly Pond hide again.

Green-winged Teal, Caerlaverock, 28th December

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Lazy day birding mainly from the car

I headed up to the coast a bit late, getting Christmas shopping out of the way in Holt before 9.00 am.  I'd been planning to look at Brent Geese, especially hoping to see the Pale-bellied hybrid family, but it was a sunny day, and sunny days are the worst for looking at Brent Geese.  Subtly different shades of black are lost in bright sunshine, so I decided to leave that for another day.  At Salthouse I had a look for the white-headed Wigeon that Dave had seen in early November.  Easily located in exactly the same place as I'd seen it in at least two of the previous three winters.  And comparing photos with the previous years it clearly is the same returning bird, which of course means it can't be a first-winter male as I had previously assumed.  I think it's an intersex - have a look at this blog post to see why.

presumed intersex Wigeon, Salthouse, 23rd December

Some normal Wigeon there too:

Wigeon, Salthouse, 23rd December

Coot, Salthouse, 23rd December

Next stop Blakeney where the guy who owns the duckpond kindly invited me in to have a look round.

There were 2 Stonechat by the seawall north of the quay.

Stonechats, Blakeney, 23rd December

Reed Bunting, Blakeney, 23rd December

I couldn't find the Twite in the usual place, or the Lapland Bunting, but did get some Bearded Tits on the way back - at least 4, probably a few more.  Photographing them was nigh on impossible in the wind - surprised I managed even this:

Bearded Tit, Blakeney, 23rd December

This Shag was showing well at Wells Quay.

Shag, Wells, 23rd December

A Red Kite was over the estuary and later 2-3 Red Kites flew west over Holkham Pines.  I was going to have another look at the Red-rumped Swallow but it was further away than it had been yesterday so I didn't bother joining the crowd.  I did stop further up to see the Great White Egret though - it was below the trees where I'd seen a large-looking white egret drop into on Saturday - I'd been a long way off at Burnham Overy and only saw it for a nano-second so couldn't be 100% but I was expecting someone else would find it during the course of the week.

After a bit of driving around to find the Pink-footed Geese (which I failed to do) I ended up at Brancaster Staithe so popped in to see the Red-necked Grebe.  Thought with it being sunny I might get better photos, but alas it was miles off today.

Finally another Red Kite across the road as I came out of the fish & chip shop at Burnham Market.

Not sure if these were wild birds taking advantage of the provision of food at Blakeney or if they belonged in the collection...

Tufted Duck, Blakeney Collection, 23rd December

Shoveler, Blakeney Collection, 23rd December

These ones certainly weren't wild!

captive Smew, Blakeney Collection, 23rd December

captive Red-breasted Goose, Blakeney Collection, 23rd December

captive Cinnamon Teals, Blakeney Collection, 23rd December

captive Blue-winged Teal, Blakeney Collection, 23rd December

The Blue-winged Teal's mate looked purer than it did last time!  Pretty sure it must be the same bird but strange how different views give a different impression.  Last time it looked so spatulate-billed and pale-billed that I figured it must have been a Blue-winged Teal x Shoveler hybrid but this time it wasn't so clear.

captive Blue-winged Teal or hybrid, Blakeney Collection, 23rd December

The backcrossed Mallard x Pintail hybrid has matured a bit now - lost its immature feathers on the flanks etc. and grown its tail a bit.  The long centrail tail feathers (actually upper tail-coverts I believe) are still angled up away from the tail though, and widely separated, and of course the breast colour is the more obvious clue to Mallard involvement.

captive Mallard x Pintail hybrid backcrossed with Pintail, Blakeney Collection, 23rd December