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, 10 November 2016

Burnham Overy, the local patch and the old patch in September

Time to start catching up on my diary posts!  Apologies for the lateness of these, but autumn got in the way.  Anyway, a visit to Burnham Overy on 5th September produced just a few migrants - a trickle of birds moving overhead including a few hirundines, 2 Grey Wagtails and a Tree Pipit.  Waders included Common Sandpiper, 2 Green Sandpipers and 2 Greenshank while the high tide roost on the end of Scolt Head contained at least 138 Ringed Plovers and 75 Sanderlings (and 44 Sandwich Terns).  Also an overhead flock of 569 Golden Plovers (counted from photos).  A single Spoonbill seen heading off towards Burnham Norton.

Stonechat, Burnham Overy, 5th September

Linnet, Burnham Overy, 5th September

Starling, Burnham Overy, 5th September

You know things are slow when you start photographing racing pigeons...!

Racing pigeon, Burnham Overy, 5th September

There had been a few gulls on the local patch recently but they don't hang around for long.  There were 2-3 candidates for Yellow-legged Gulls among them on 14th September but after examining photos of a couple of them I'm not convinced.  Also 36 Wigeon there and an incomplete but still impressive count of 966 Greylag Geese.  Not all birds were on view so I'm pretty sure the total number present exceeded 1000.  I counted about 80 Stock Doves here too, though this was an incomplete count as I couldn't see the whole flock from one point and they were quite mobile.

Stock Doves, Bittering, 14th September

Buzzard, Bittering, 14th September

Chiffchaff, Bittering, 14th September

I headed back up to Burnham Overy on 15th September.

Stonechat, Burnham Overy, 15th September

There were a few common migrants around the boardwalk and I flushed a Redstart from the suaeda as I headed over to spend some time checking the Sibe Thrush bushes.  Marcus had appeared the other side of the bushes when I saw a small warbler flit over the top not far from him.  As I moved round to get a better view, Marcus called over to say he had a Yellow-browed Warbler which eventually showed quite nicely.  Quite likely it was the bird I'd seen though there was also a Willow Warbler in there.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Burnham Overy, 15th September

My first migrant Siskin of the autumn was also there, the first of 3 I saw that morning.

Siskin, Burnham Overy, 15th September

There was another Redstart near the chimney, at least 3 Garden Warblers altogether and a Whinchat (also still several Stonechats there).  Earlier on Marcus had found a Wryneck just east of the boardwalk on his way over which I hadn't seen when I'd checked that area just a few minutes earlier.  As we walked back that way it appeared again briefly.

Wryneck, Burnham Overy, 15th September

After that things quietened down markedly.  I only glimpsed a Spotted Flycatcher that Marcus picked up on the south side of the pines before I headed back through the dunes failing to find anything new except a flyover Tree Pipit.

Wheatear, Burnham Overy, 15th September

I had seen this Starling on the path along the seawall near the reedy pool on my way down.  It was incredibly tame and I was reminded of the bird I photographed at Gun Hill 10 days earlier (see near the top of this page) as it had a single white feather on the right side of the upper tail coverts.

Starling, Burnham Overy, 15th September

Later on what I presume was the same bird again was north-east of the boardwalk.

Starling, Burnham Overy, 15th September

Chiffchaff, Burnham Overy, 15th September

I tried the path between Brancaster Staithe and Brancaster but the only migrants I could find here were Chiffchaffs.  Also 2 Spoonbills on the saltmarsh.

On the way home I stopped at the patch where one small pool held Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Snipe and Little Ringed Plover.  The latter was interesting as it seemed to be an adult (black breast band, probably a male in view of its breadth) but in, or transitioning into, non-breeding plumage as the ear-coverts were brown (browner than even a female in breeding plumage) and the upperparts were blotchy.  The yellow eye-ring didn't seem to stand out as much as it does in breeding condition either.  I couldn't recall ever seeing an adult in non-breeding plumage before so checked my records.  I used to see a lot of Little Ringed Plovers in the late 80s but although they often lingered until late September it was always the juveniles that stayed this late - I don't have any records of adults as late as this.  Also a Barn Owl here.

Saturday 17th September was a good seawatching day in north Norfolk.  Sadly I wasn't in north Norfolk, I was hearing Ring-necked Parakeets fly over the in-laws' house in Kent.

The adult Little Ringed Plover was still on the patch on 18th along with a juvenile Dunlin and at least 13 Snipe.

Little Ringed Plover, Bittering, 18th September

There was also a hunting juvenile Marsh Harrier which was a good local record.  There are always lots of Mallard here at this time of year - mostly released birds.  I didn't get an exact count but there were somewhere in the region of 600 Mallard, if not more.

I was hopeful that another trip up to Burnham Overy on 19th September would produce a few good birds with high pressure over Scandinavia and an easterly airstream.  There was a very high tide peaking soon after my arrival so the channel was well covered as I walked down from the staithe.  The 2 Great White Egrets were very obvious here, feeding among the Little Egrets.  Also in the channel was a Red-throated Diver (another on the sea later on).

Great White Egrets, Burnham Overy, 19th September

This ridiculously tame (exhausted? sick?) Wheatear was along the sea wall near the first bend - the first of at least 6 seen this morning.

Wheatear, Burnham Overy, 19th September

Redshank, Burnham Overy, 19th September

Eventually the Great White Egrets flew off back to Holkham where I saw one of them again later on.

Great White Egret, Burnham Overy, 19th September

At the dunes a Lapland Bunting flew west calling.  It wasn't going straight through so could conceivably have been the same bird as one heard calling later on, and as one that dropped into the freshmarsh briefly before flying off over the saltmarsh as I walked back in the afternoon.  I suspect 2-3 birds involved but no way of knowing.

There were a few migrants in the dunes but it wasn't exactly heaving with them.  A total of 4 Redstarts was nice, and 4 Garden Warblers.  A variety of other common warblers and things, plus a Grey Wagtail over.  Marcus had had a Yellow-browed Warbler south of the fence as he had come through in the morning - we found what may perhaps have been the same Yellow-browed Warbler in the big sycamore at the west end of the pines.  Another 2 Yellow-browed Warblers called very briefly but remained stubbornly hidden as we approached Meals House.  One or two more Yellow-browed Warblers behind Washington Hide were equally hard to see.

Shelduck, Burnham Overy, 19th September

As I walked back along the seawall towards the staithe I saw at least 4 Spoonbills drop in to the channel.  Further on I scanned back over that way and saw a small grebe in the distance, close the where the channel passes between Gun Hill and Scolt Head.  At that distance establishing the ID wasn't easy but after watching it for a while I'd seen enough to convince me beyond any doubt that it was a Black-necked Grebe.  A nice find as it's a scarce bird in Norfolk - not my first at Burnham Overy but I think it may be the first one I've self-found in Norfolk.  A very pleasing end to an enjoyable day. While I was watching the Grebe a Sparrowhawk flew along the channel past it and a Peregrine flew overhead.

On 20th September I headed up to Sheringham in the hope of seeing the 2 juvenile Dotterels that have taken up residence on the golf-course.  As I walked up Skelding Hill from the town I picked up a broadwing coming up over the cliff at the top of the hill.  Obviosuly a Buzzard type but it looked interesting.  I struggled to make out the clinching plumage details but it showed a small head protruding way out to the front and it had a long tail.  Its flight was unlike that of a Buzzard and as it flew away from me (as it was for most of the time I was viewing it) it never held its long wings in a V.  It was obviously a Honey-Buzzard, but had I seen enough to put together an acceptable description?  I'd elected to watch it rather than photograph it, so I had no proof, and even as I mulled it over while I was still watching it fly away I struggled to remember even the little detail I had been able to make out on the underwing pattern.  I was sure, but I really hoped someone else had seen it.  As I continued up the hill Kayn Forbes and John Furze were coming down.  I was mightily relieved to hear that they had seen the Honey-Buzzard too.  In fact it turns out that Jacquie Bridges had picked it up coming in off the sea and several of the Sheringham birders had seen it from further west.

There were just 3 birders watching one Dotterel when I reached the top of the hill.  It was a real cracker of a bird, and perhaps surprisingly as such occurrences aren't all that rare, the first time I've ever had prolonged close views of a juvenile Dotterel.  A bit disappointed by the photos though - they'd looked much better on the back of the camera!

Dotterel Sheringham, 20th September

After this I continued down to the Bird Observatory which used to be my patch.  Great to catch up with the guys down there and have a mooch round, even though grounded migrants were few and far between.  At least 5 Wheatears appeared on the golf-course and there was a light passage of Swallows.  Over the sea 2 Bonxies and a pale Skua that was too distant to identify and a few duck flocks passing by included one party of 17 Pintail.  Nice to see 3 Hobbies too, one of which was being chased around by a Kestrel for a bit.

Kestrel (left) and Hobby (right), Sheringham, 20th September

Kestrel, Sheringham, 20th September

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