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.

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