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.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Hybrid hunting

Last Monday I headed up to Blakeney for a walk round the Freshes.  Partly inspired by a report of a putative Scaup x Tufted Duck hybrid and partly just because it's a great place.  I walked round from the duckpond to the corner at the east end where the path turns back to Cley.

A Spoonbill flew down Blakeney Point and seemed to go down on the reserve at Cley and a Whimbrel flew in the opposite direction.  One or two Barn Owls were hunting over the marshes.  Good to see lots of breeding wader activity with chicks seen of Avocets (at least 3 broods), Lapwings and Redshanks.  Also a pair of Little Ringed Plovers there.  No sign of any hybrid ducks though.

Redshank chick, Blakeney, 16th May

Reed Bunting, Blakeney, 16th May

Skylark, Blakeney, 16th May

I couldn't resist a quick look at the collection on my way back past.  Interesting to see how the first-winter birds have progressed.  I thought the Smew and Hooded Mergansers would have got further than this by now.

captive Hooded Merganser, Blakeney Collection, 16th May

captive Smew, Blakeney Collection, 16th May

captive Blue-winged Teal, Blakeney Collection, 16th May

I headed to Cley next, starting off at Dauke's Hide.  There wasn't much doing here at all - a Knot and a single Dunlin were the only waders of note.

Avocet, Cley, 16th May

Gadwall, Cley, 16th May

A couple of Bearded Tits were seen as I headed back to the road, along with this Sedge Warbler.

Sedge Warbler, Cley, 16th May

I then headed down to Babcock hide, my first visit to this new hide.  Getting my lungs full of the spray a farmer was depositing on the field opposite wasn't the most pleasant experience and I didn't see much from the hide to make it worthwhile, but I can see the potential here and will certainly visit it again.  Another Bearded Tit was the best bird seen here, but also good to see a brood of 8 Pochard ducklings.

I returned to Blakeney Freshes next, this time walking to the corner from the Cley end.  The Little Ringed Plovers had moved on and again no sign of any Scaup hybrid on the pools in the corner.  But as I walked back towards Cley I did see an Aythya hybrid in the ditch nearby - no Scaup involved though, this was a Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrid.

Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrid, Blakeney, 16th May

Dave and I went to the Brecks in the evening with a view to moth-trapping.  By the time we got there conditions proved not to be as forecast so we soon abandoned that idea, but in the meantime we did get several sightings of at least 2 Woodocks, Cuckoos and heard Nightjar and Tawny Owl.

With poor conditions for migrant birds I spent the rest of my holiday in search of moths or brownie points and didn't get a great deal of birding in.  The mothing was quite successful with finding one first confirmed vice-county record (Bluebell Conch Hysterophora maculosana) and a county first of Pine Cone Tortrix Gravitarmata margarotana.  The latter involved 3 individuals but may only be the 4th or 5th UK record although that is not quite yet clear.  If you're interested in the moths then check out my mothing diary.

One trip to the local patch produced a good number of gulls though and a second-year (third calendar-year) Yellow-legged Gull was quickly located among them, a good record for the local area.

Another mothing trip to the Brecks produced the same species as before with the nice addition of a singing Tree Pipit.

Tree Pipit, Norfolk Brecks, 20th May

Back at work this week and on Monday I had a nice surprise at work.  In a meeting with my boss I just had to interrupt proceedings to point out a Spotted Flycatcher on the fence outside the window.

Today I saw a Red Kite in my lunch break from Coxford and perhaps the same Red Kite on my way home at Dunton.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Stork and Shrike

A Peregrine was the first noteworthy bird I saw at Burnham Overy on Monday 9th.  Among the lingering Brent Geese on the saltmarsh was the overwintering Black Brant x Dark-bellied Brent Goose hybrid.

Black Brant x Dark-bellied Brent Goose hybrid, Burnham Overy, 9th May

I've known for a long time how these things morph their appearance according to the light and the angle to the observer but the effect was really dramatic today as the bird showed in sunshine and at close range.  Some times it looked really black-and-white, very confusable with a pure Black Brant.  In fact if Black Brants can show that much dark in the flank patch (which I believe they can) you'd be hard-pushed to tell it from a pure bird at those times.

Black Brant x Dark-bellied Brent Goose hybrid, Burnham Overy, 9th May

At other times it hardly looked any different from the surrounding Dark-bellied Brent Geese... no wonder I don't pick it up every time I come here if it looks like this!

Black Brant x Dark-bellied Brent Goose hybrid, Burnham Overy, 9th May (it's the right hand bird in the lower pic)

At least one Pink-footed Goose remains and a Barnacle Goose was on the freshmarsh.  There were 2 Common Sandpipers in the channel and a Whimbrel, while a distant summer plumage Knot was among 55 Grey Plovers.  A little more unexpected was a flock of 5 Greenshanks flying east over the sea.  At least 3 Cuckoos were seen or heard and a Hobby.

Not many birds were moving through: 2 Yellow Wagtails and just the odd hirundine.  Not many grounded migrants around either though I did see the Ring Ouzel east of the boardwalk.  I also found another Whinchat and a single Tree Pipit in the dunes.  I could only find 3 Wheatears but 2 Lesser Whitethroats at Gun Hill were new in and posed nicely for photos.

Lesser Whitethroat, Burnham Overy, 9th May

Meadow Pipit, Burnham Overy, 9th May

Heading back to the car along the sea wall I saw my second Red Kite of the morning.  I also noticed a lot of birds get up from the heronry at Holkham in the distance.  I think I saw 4 Spoonbills among them but before I could give them a proper look my attention was diverted by a massive bird soaring above them, presumably responsible for the unrest.  It was being mobbed by a Grey Heron and the heron looked minute against it!  Sadly this was no eagle or vulture though, it was a White Stork.

There have been a number of reports of White Stork around the county recently, probably all involving escaped birds.  Unbeknown to me at the time this one has apparently been photographed in the Wells area recently and proved to be the polish-ringed bird, but it was way too distant for me to pick out any such details - I could only just see through the haze that it was a Stork!  It continued circling for ages, eventually coming marginally closer over the wood between the freshmarsh and the coast road, before finally disappearing behind that wood.

White Stork, Holkham (viewed from Burnham Overy), 9th May

Although polish-ringed, this bird was apparently taken into a wildlife rehabilitation centre following a collision with overhead powerlines in eastern Europe.  Among others, it was then transported to Shorelands Wildlife Centre at Diss in south Norfolk, apparently due to fears that the Polish winter would prove too cold for them.  I can't help thinking that if Shorelands don't have the means to look after these birds securely they shouldn't have accepted them in the first place, but given that it was allowed to escape presumably they don't.  Either that or they released it deliberately which is equally irresponsible and illegal.

That evening I heard a Woodcock calling while looking for moths near Anmer.

Next day the rain promised rain all morning and NE winds.  I hoped the rain would bring down migrants and planned to go out after the rain to find them.  In the end the rain continued much longer than had been forecast so I didn't have enough time to give justice to Burnham Overy.  Instead after a quick look round the patch (2 Avocets but little else) I headed up to Salthouse and Kelling.  Gramborough Hill was a migrant-free zone apart from a fly-by Greenshank with only the presumably local Stonechat making my notes.

Lapwing, Salthouse, 10th May

Kelling was just as bad.

Whitethroat, Kelling, 10th May

Chaffinch, Kelling, 10th May

Shoveler, Kelling, 10th May

On Wednesday I headed back up to Burnham Overy hoping to find some migrants.  When I arrived this pale Collared Dove was with a normal bird at the staithe - have seen a few such birds in various places before but not here.

Collared Doves, Burnham Overy, 11th May

A Barn Owl was hunting as I walked down the sea wall and a Spoonbill was seen.  One Barnacle Goose remained on the marshes and a pair of Mediterranean Gulls were seen.  Waders included 3 Common Sandpipers, Whimbrel, Greenshank and 14 Knot

Whimbrel, Burnham Overy, 11th May

Turnstone, Burnham Overy, 11th May

I was standing with Marcus when he picked up a Short-eared Owl flying over the saltmarsh, and we also saw a Hobby.

Marcus had seen some Willow Warblers on his way down from where he parked and we continued to find more Phylloscs.  I saw at least 6 Chiffchaffs and 3 Willow Warblers.  Not a huge fall, but enough to keep us hopeful for finding something good.  Well there was something good, but we didn't find it.  Marcus received a message from Ashley who was leading a tour and he'd found a female Red-backed Shrike.  We eventually got views of this, albeit a bit too distant for photos.  Apparently there was a Wryneck there later too.

This Reed Warbler showed on the way back to the car.

Reed Warbler, Burnham Overy, 11th May

On Thursday I headed up to Kelling Heath for a walk with the better half.  I was hoping to find some moths but also bump in to some birds.  Not a great deal doing from either perspective but my first Garden Warbler of the year (at last) was singing in the car park.  Heard a Woodlark singing in the distance and a Grey Wagtail flew over.  We also went round East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens - some great birds there...

Red Jungle Fowl, East Ruston Old Vicarage, 12th May

Helmeted Guineafowl, East Ruston Old Vicarage, 12th May

I didn't get out much for the rest of the week, but one of a number of quick visits to the local patch revealed that Little Ringed Plovers had  managed to produce a few chicks - at least 3 tiny balls of fluff running arond one parent bird.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Wood Sand and a showy Bittern

Last Friday evening Dave and I headed over to Hilgay Fen, a normally inaccessible reserve but which we have permission to moth trap at.  As we've got permission we feel we should try to use it regularly in order to supply plenty of good data, so despite the forecast looking a bit weaker than it had been looking we did our first moth session of the year there as much in hope than expectation.  The mothing proved poor indeed, but the trip was worthwhile - the highlight wasn't a moth at all, it was this Wood Sandpiper.

Wood Sandpiper, Hilgay Fen, 6th May

Also a single Common Sandpiper and after dark we heard both Whimbrel and Dunlin fly over.

Common Sandpiper, Hilgay Fen, 6th May

On Saturday lots of good birds turned up at Burnham Overy, so no surprise that I wasn't there.  Instead I was helping with a group at Minsmere.  We saw some good birds there too, but not so much in the way of scarce migrants.  The clear highlight was a Bittern that plonked itself down in front of Island Mere hide for a bit.  We'd heard a few booming during the morning but not seen any at all until this one turned up, but this was way better than the usual brief views of one flying over the back of the mere.

Bittern, Minsmere, 7th May

After showing well for a bit it hopped across the channel...

Bittern, Minsmere, 7th May

...after which it continued to show well.

Bittern, Minsmere, 7th May

Then it came even closer...

Bittern, Minsmere, 7th May

...before finally flying off into the reeds.

Bittern, Minsmere, 7th May

As usual Marsh Harriers provided constant entertainment...

Marsh Harriers, Minsmere, 7th May

Bearded Tits showed frequently, but only ever giving quick flight views.  We saw 3 Hobbies distantly from Island Mere hide but as we walked back one showed much more closely, albeit a little hard to see as we were looking into the sun and it kept disappearing behind the trees.

Hobby, Minsmere, 7th May

On the scrapes a pair of second-summer Mediterranean Gulls showed well.  During scans I also picked up a third second-summer bird, an adult and a first-year bird, so at least 5 Mediterranean Gulls in all.  Also 15 Kittiwakes on the scrape, a Common Sandpiper and of course plenty of Barnacle Geese.

As I drove out along the exit road after leaving the group I heard a Nightingale in full song in the roadside blackthorn.  I stopped briefly, but couldn't see it.

Finally on the way home a Red Kite flew over the road near Easton.