Dave has seen a couple of Pink-footed Geese on the local patch a few times this winter but on Friday a fortnight ago (gosh, is that how long it's taken me to write this) he got a bit confused noticing that at least one bird looked a bit like a Bean Goose. He saw them again on Saturday and there were three birds, but still the situation wasn't clear, not helped by him not having a scope at the moment. So I rocked up on Saturday afternoon to see what was going on...
A scan of one gravel workings area produced 5 Dunlin among the Golden Plover and Lapwing. A good local record but not what we were looking for. Nearby we found the geese. The pair were lying down (so we couldn't see the legs) and asleep (so we couldn't see the bills) but I wasn't seeing anything to suggest they weren't Pink-feet. Eventually they woke up and, although they didn't stand up and show us their leg colour they were clearly Pink-footed Geese. But they didn't look like at least one of the birds in Dave's photos and Dave had seen 3 birds... so was there a Bean Goose here as well?
Eventually we found the third bird, but this was clearly a bog-standard Pink-footed Goose as well. A good local record as we don't see many Pink-feet here, but not what we were hoping for. But something wasn't right. Dave's photos weren't great, he won't mind me saying, but there was at least one bird in there that really did look like a Tundra Bean Goose. Even if the colours etc.weren't true and it was just a Pink-footed Goose, it didn't look like any of these Pink-footed Geese here. But here were the 3 birds all accounted for, and all Pink-footed Geese. And there weren't any more small geese.
Some while later as we were still standing there, resigning ourselves to the fact that there were just Pink-footed Geese and not Bean Geese here, but still scratching our heads as to how this identification wasn't pretty obvious to Dave when he saw them earlier or how they looked so Beany in the photos, and I picked up two small geese flying around. The three Pink-feet were still on the deck so these were different... and what's more they hard dark forewings, and more dark in the tail, and orange legs, and pale bellies, and Bean-shaped bills... these were 2 Tundra Bean Geese! They flew round and round numerous times but never came down, at least not anywhere we could see them, but the prolonged close flight views left us in no doubt whatsoever. A great local record - the first Dave had seen in the Wensum Valley (I think it just about qualifies as that here). The only ones I've seen in the Wensum Valley before were 2 at Sparham Pools on 20th March 2009 - interesting that these were at the same time of year which is later than any of the 200 or so I've seen elsewhere in Norfolk.
Educational birds too as I don't often get to see them in flight, at least not for a prolonged period. They looked even more compact than Pink-footed Geese but I was trying to work out why. Not sure it was entirely down to the length of the neck - wondered if the wings were shorter too? And maybe more barrel-shaped bodies, bulkier at the rear?
Tundra Bean Geese, near Bittering, 12th March
Still some 150 or so Wigeon here, and still can't find an American among them.
Last weekend didn't give much birding opportunity either, but a visit to the patch was in order. One field is in a strictly private and dangerous working gravel pit with no general access. It is not viewable from any public right of way and even if it was no birds are visible without flushing them. But 3 of us had an opportunity to give it a look on Sunday. After Ian's preliminary count of 7 Jack Snipe in the morning Dave and I gave it a thorough search in the afternoon. We couldn't better that, but 7 Jack Snipe, all flushed and impossible to see on the ground, was a great local record - in fact a pretty good record anywhere and the most Jack Snipe I've ever seen in one day.
Jack Snipes, private site, 20th March
Midweek birding has been pretty restricted recently - a couple of lunch time wanders round Syderstone Common have produced the likes of Marsh Tit, Treecreeper and Green Woodpecker, but nowt to shout about. Otherwise a leucistic Curlew, Barn Owl, Red Kites and Bullfinches have been the closest it's come to excitement. The room I've been working in over the last week has had a nice view though, with plenty of avian activity outside the window to keep me entertained, if only the likes of Stock Doves, Long-tailed Tits, Mistle Thrushes, Treecreepers, etc.
leucistic Curlew, Burnham Norton, 21st March
Long-tailed Tit, Syderstone Common, 14th March
The only other thing of note was hearing an Egyptian Goose at home one morning - my first for the house.