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, 28 February 2016

Lapland Buntings showing well

There was no shortage of birds at Burnham Overy last Saturday morning (20th).  There are always lots of Brent Geese and Golden Plover here but there seemed to be even more than usual - maybe pushed off from nearby marshes by the shooting I could hear.  There were a couple of drake Pintail among the many Wigeon 5-6 Goldeneye and 3 Red-breasted Mergansers in the channel (with 3 more Mergansers on the sea).

At least 2 Barn Owls were hunting the marshes (following one at Burnham Market on the way there) and raptors put on a good show.  I got 3 sightings of Merlin, perhaps the same bird each time, and 2 sightings of Peregrine.  There were 2 Red Kites on the marsh as I walked back and Sparrowhawk perched near the reedy pool.  Buzzards, Marsh Harriers and Kestrels of course, making it a veritable raptor fest.

Among the waders were at least 8 Ruff in the usual field with good numbers of Curlew and Dunlin.  A single Avocet joined the waders in the channel.  There were at least 11 Barnacle Geese in the fields too.

I had a quick look for the Shore Larks but with no luck.  They turned up there a bit later though - I told someone where to look and he later told me he found them exactly where I'd said - just a shame I couldn't!  I heard a Snow Bunting calling but couldn't locate it.  Two Siskins flew over the dunes having come out of the pines.

Afterwards I headed back to Ringstead to have another look for the Pine Bunting hybrid.  There must have been at least 80 Yellowhammers there, probably more.  Birds were coming and going between the field (where all were always out of view) and the hedges (where most were out of view but a minority usually showed) but up to a dozen Yellowhammers were on view in the hedges at any one time.  In the time I spent there I imagine I must have managed get a good look at the vast majorty of birds in the flock but at no point did I see anything that gave any suggestion of Pine Bunting involvement.  I did see a single Corn Bunting, though only briefly.

During the last week not much avian excitement - some Red Kites on the way to and from a workshop near Leicester and a few failed lunchtime attempts to see Ravens.  Yesterday I decided to head up to Blakeney to have another look at the Lapland Buntings, what with them showing particularly well by all accounts.  I stopped at Bintree Mill on the way up where there wasn't nearly so much doing as there has been of late.

At Blakeney 2 Stonechats were on the marsh and as I reached the favoured spot of the buntings a Lapland Bunting appeared on the ground just in front of me.

Lapland Bunting, Blakeney, 27th February

I took a few hasty snaps before a couple with dogs reached me, the dog barking its head off at me.  Simultaneously another couple with dogs approached the Lapland Bunting from the opposite direction and unsurprisingly all this was far too much and the bunting made a sharp exit.  A couple of birds were flying around shortly after, briefly landing on the fence before disappearing into the long grass.

Other birders arrived and it was a while before the Lapland Buntings put on a show again.  A female Hen Harrier was hunting over the marsh disappearing up the Glaven valley.  Later on what I suspect was a second Hen Harrier (though perhaps the same) was hunting along Blakeney Point, arriving from the west.

In the end we had great views of several Lapland Buntings, most of them sitting out in the open and some feeding on the ground very close to the path.  Hard to say how many birds were involved, but a bare minimum of 7.


Lapland Buntings, Blakeney, 27th February

No shortage of Reed Buntings in the area too, this one being one of several singing birds:

Reed Bunting, Blakeney, 27th February

A quick check of what was going on at the quayside collection was obligatory, and interesting to see how the first-winter birds are developing.  The Smew has hardly changed since a fortnight ago but the Hooded Merganser is starting to get a bit of colour now...

captive first-winter male Hooded Merganser, Blakeney Collection, 27th February

It's not just the ducks that benefit from the food put down for them...

Stock Dove, Blakeney, 27th February

I went for a walk in the saltmarsh at Morston next - not much doing there and I couldn't pick out the divers in the harbour (a few Goldeneye and Red-breasted Mergansers though).

Finally I had a look round Holkham and Wells for the Ravens, but they were long gone.  A Red Kite was the best I could muster up.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Not half a Bunting but a Barnie

Monday lunch incorporated a quick visit to Thornham.  Not much doing there.

Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Thornham, 15th February

On Tuesday news emerged of a probably Pine Bunting x Yellowhammer hybrid at Courtyard Farm, Ringstead.  I spent Tuesday and Wednesday lunchtimes looking for it, but despite good numbers of Yellowhammers I failed to find the target.  I didn't have long to look on either day and the flock was hard to see, spending most of their time hidden in the field with some of the birds coming up to the hedge, where only a small proportion of them were visible, from time to time.  I doubt if I got a proper look at a quarter of them so chances are the Piney hyrbidy thing was still in there somewhere.

This Barn Owl was a nice diversion when the buntings weren't delivering:

Barn Owl, Ringstead, 16th February

The only other bird of note this week was another Grey Wagtail at work.  Oh, and Oystercatchers are back at work today too.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Hybrid seagull, Grey Wag and Lap Bunt

Last week was a busy one but I managed to see the odd bird.  I've spent several lunch breaks looking for the Pallid Harrier (and Ravens) without success, Tuesday and Friday of last week being examples.  Both visits resulted in Bramblings, and Friday's was more satisfying with 2 Little Owls and close views of a Grey Wagtail.

Grey Wagtail, Flitcham, 12th February

Brambling, Flitcham, 12th February

Chaffinch, Flitcham, 12th February

Blackbird, Flitcham, 12th February

Other than that last week I saw Barn Owls at Tattersett, Summerfield and Brisley.  On Thursday I saw the Red-necked Grebe at Brancaster Staithe again (with a Goldeneye) but it was too far off for photos so I contined along the coast seeing 2 Red Kites and a group of 4 Muntjacs at Burnham Norton (rarely if ever seen so many together).  Also these:

Grey Plover, Burnham Overy, 11th February

Ringed Plover, Burnham Overy, 11th February

Magpie, Hunstanton, 10th February

On Saturday I was helping the usual group again, at Cley, and decided to squeeze in a visit to Blakeney beforehand.  Would have been plenty of time had I got up earlier, but I left it late so was a bit rushed.  No sign of the Herring x Lesser Black-backed Gull hybrid that I wanted to see but I did get to see a Lapland Bunting, thanks in no small part to Marcus.  Rubbishy shots taken in haste...

Lapland Bunting, Blakeney, 13th February

At Cley there didn't seem to be a great deal happening from Dauke's Hide - all pretty standard stuff: 8 Pintail and lots of commoner duck, 29 Avocets and 104 Black-tailed Godwits.  We enjoyed it when a Snipe appeared in the grass just in front of us, quickly dropping into the ditch where it joined a second bird.  In the distance we could see plenty of Red-throated Divers moving west at sea - I imagine anyone watching the sea that morning would have ended up with a good count if they could stick the cold long enough.

Snipe, Cley, 13th February

After this I headed back to Blakeney to have another look for the gull.  Mission accomplished this time, the Herring Gull x Lesser Black-backed Gull hybrid was in the harbour showing nicely.  Interesting bird, and I even got some sound recordings of it calling.

 Herring Gull x Lesser Black-backed Gull hybrid, Blakeney, 13th February