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.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Hybrid Sheldgoose and funny Moorhen

On 21st as I drove towards Burnham Market a single Pink-footed Goose flew low over the road having just come up off the fields ahead.  As I passed a gap in the hedge I glimpsed a flock of geese in the field with a white bird among them.  Worth checking, I figured, so I turned the car around and stopped next to the field.  It was immediately obvious that the majority of birds in the field were feral geese (mainly Greylags but also a few Canadas and quite a lot of Egyptian Geese) and the white bird was a domestic.  There were a few Pink-feet at the back, but not many (and no white birds among those!).  It proved worth stopping though as I picked up an orangey-looking bird among the Egyptian Geese.  Not the solid orange colour of a Ruddy Shelduck, but this was no ordinary Egyptian Goose.  With its all-black bill and distinct orange tones this had to be an Egyptian Goose x Ruddy Shelduck hybrid - the first such hybrid I have ever seen, although they do turn up from time to time.

Egyptian Goose x Ruddy Shelduck hybrid (with Egyptian Goose), Burnham Market, 21st September

When I arrived at the car park at Burnham Norton I saw various heavy plant machinery on the marsh instead of flocks of birds, so decided this might not be the best plan after all.  I contined on towards Burnahm Deepdale, pausing in a gap in the hedge to scan across to Deepdale Marsh.  A lot of birds there including some Greenshanks and while I was watching them I heard a Yellow-browed Warbler calling 5-6 times from the direction of Marsh Barn Carr.

I parked up at Burnham Deepdale and set out along the sea wall towards Burnham Norton.  A Lapland Bunting called but I couldn't see it, and I thought I might have heard a Richard's Pipit very briefly, but despite giving it some time it never cooperated.  A Wheatear was among the Reed Buntings and 2 Grey Wagtails flew over.

Wheatear, Burnham Deepdale, 21st September

Skylark, Burnham Deepdale, 21st September

Curlew, Burnham Deepdale, 21st September

Scanning over to the big pool I could see at least 22 Greenshank and 14 Ruff.  A Yellow Wagtail got up from one of the closer fields and flew off east.  Lovely to see and hear  lots of skeins of Pink-footed Geese flying over, some seemingly coming in from the north west.

Pink-footed Geese, Burnham Deepdale, 21st September

I went as far as Norton Marsh - further than I had remembered it being.  The larger pool there contained an impressive flock of 33 Spoonbills.  Plenty of Bearded Tits vocalising here and a Red Kite flying around.  As I headed back along the sea wall to Burnham Deepdale there were 3 Pintail on Deepdale Marsh, a Kingfisher at the sluice and the same or another Red Kite.

More Red Kites (at 3 locations) over the next week or so and a Grey Wagtail over the house.

On 1st October I headed up to Cley to help with the usual group, although on this occasion that only consisted of 3 of us.  It was a bright morning and I heard a party of Bearded Tits seemingly overhead as we left the vistor centre.  A little further on and another group of 6 Bearded Tits flew up from the reeds, gained height and then went back down again.  A Stonechat was seen briefly en route to Dauke's Hide but the scrapes seemed rather quiet.  Perhaps the most interesting bird was this Moorhen with the red on the base of the bill much reduced and appearing orange rather than red.

Moorhen with reduced red on bill, Cley, 1st October

Teal, Cley, 1st October

House Sparrow, Cley, 1st October

Better views were obtained from Bishop Hide with the sun being behind us, but still nothing of particular note.

Teal, Cley, 1st October

Gadwalls, Cley, 1st October

As we walked down East Bank a Spoonbill graced the Serpentine and two parties of Swallows totalling around 100 birds flew east.

Little Egret, Cley, 1st October

I didn't see anything to shout about during a quick stop at Salthouse afterwards.

Little Grebes, Salthouse, 1st October

Gadwall, Salthouse, 1st October

I returned via the local patch where the highlights were a flock of 55 Golden Plovers over and a Barn Owl.

Next morning my first Redwings of the autumn flew over the house.  I could hear some calling as I got out of bed having overslept (at 7.30), then saw a flock of 21 as I emptied the moth trap and heard more later on.  More birds were heard over the following days.

Long-tailed Tit, Thornham, 3rd October

With a couple of days off and easterly winds I headed up to coast on 5th October.  I had considered going up to Yorkshire for the Eastern Crowned Warbler, a bird I would dearly love to see.  But with all these easterlies I couldn't bear to be away from Norfolk so plumped for Burnham Overy.  There were 3 Spoonbills on the saltmarsh opposite the staithe when I arrived.

Spoonbills, Burnham Overy, 5th October

Greenshank and Common Tern were in the channel and a Peregrine was seen over towards Gun Hill.

Curlew, Burnham Overy, 5th October

There was a Rock Pipit and along the seawall north of the reedy pool 4 Wheatears and a Stonechat.  A Brambling flew over when I reached the dunes. The dunes were disappointing though.  A few Song Thrushes, a couple of Chiffchaffs and 4 Goldcrests were all I could find by the time I'd done Gun Hill and returned to the boardwalk.

Song Thrush, Burnham Overy, 5th October

Goldcrest, Burnham Overy, 5th October

There were quite a few other birders around and it was getting quite windy making it difficult to see things.  Rather than continue on to the west side as normal I decided to head off and find somewhere more sheltered with fewer birders, somewhat fed up that I hadn't gone to Yorkshire where not only was the Eastern Crowned Warbler remaining but also a close Black-browed Albatross passed by offshore from the same spot - and with a bit of luck I might just have been able to nip up and see the White's Thrush in Northumberland afterwards as well.  Saw another (or the same) Peregrine on the way back.

Peregrine, Burnham Overy, 5th October

Gypsy Lane wasn't quite devoid of other birders but it was a little bit more sheltered.  Very little bird activity though - just a few Song Thrushes.  I headed back east and tried Stiffkey, the path past the flood that goes to Cockthorpe Common.  Slightly - very slightly - better here with 2 Blackcaps and Redwing as well as the obligatory Song Thrushes.  I decided to call it quits and save my energy for the morning - tomorrow looked better with more cloud, less wind and maybe a bit of rain.

The forecast was still saying 100% cloud cover and much less wind as I headed up to Burnham Overy on Thursday 6th, although it looked more like 50-60% cloud cover to me.   As I parked the car at the staithe a Marsh Harrier flew over the saltmarsh, oddly the only one I saw.  As I put my boots on another harrier drifted by, right over the staithe - and this one was a cracking adult male Hen Harrier!  Fantastic start to the day!  The 3 Spoonbills dropped in to the same place I'd seen them yesterday but didn't stick there long before heading off towards Burnham Norton (maybe they didn't get that far as later there were 2 in the estuary).  Perhaps the same Common Tern as I'd seen yesterday was flying around the staithe and a Brambling called from the bushes near the staithe.  Another Brambling flew south overhead as I headed down the seawall.

There were 2 Chinese Water Deer on the marsh but only 1 Wheatear along the seawall this morning, and 1 Stonechat still.

 Wheatear, Burnham Overy, 6th October

By the time I reached the dunes the wind had picked up - it was far windier than the forecast had said it would be this early, and far brighter.  More to the point there weren't far more birds around.  A few more Goldcrests, perhaps some more Song Thrushes, a Blackcap and that was about it.

Looing out to sea I picked up a Pale-belled Brent Goose flying east with 2 Dark-bellied Brents, and there seemed to be a few Razorbills moving, so when I reached Gun Hill I settled down for a bit of a seawatch.  Maybe the Albatross would have come south...  Well apart from a steady trickly of Razorbills the sea was pretty quiet.  A Great Skua was the only proper seabird apart from the auks, a small number of distant Gannets and 3 Red-throated Divers.  A Short-eared Owl flew east a very long way out but there weren't many wildfowl moving and just a couple of passerines seen.  This wasn't what I was hoping for!  Little did I know my prediction about the albatross coming south to Norfolk today was right - I was just a few hours too early.

With even more birders than yesterday and not significantly more birds I again decided to abandon Burnham Overy for more sheltered and less birded places.  I counted 99 Egyptian Geese on the way back to the car.

I stopped at Burnham Deepdale and had a look round the churchyard - plenty of crests and thrushes, and a Treecreeper.  I wasn't planning to walk along the coast path here as I expected it to be too windy, but had a quick look at the start of the path to Brancaster Staithe, a bit of the coast path I've not done before.  It was more sheltered than I expected so I ended up walking all the way to Brancaster! There wasn't much doing along the path - 2 Pintail on the marsh, the odd Song Thrush and Goldcrest, and a couple of Bearded Tits.  The highlight was the ice cream cone I picked up from the van at Brancaster Staithe!

view from the footpath east of Brancaster Staithe, 6th October

Things picked up as I reached Brancaster.  The garden of the first house on the edge of Brancaster had a Yellow-browed Warbler in it and a little further on I heard a Ring Ouzel calling.  Further on I took the track into the village and then the short path that runs parallel to the coast path.  I heard another Yellow-browed Warbler calling, though wasn't sure where the call had come from.  Saw a Blackcap and then reached a copse with a few Goldcrests and another or perhaps the same Yellow-browed Warbler.  A Red Kite flew low overhead.

I then took the short L-shaped track west of the Beach Road, Broad Lane, a spot I've never birded before.  It's definitely a track I will return to.  The hedgerows were teaming with birds - far more than I had seen all day.  Lots of Song Thrushes, quite a number of Redwings, loads of Robins, several Chiffchaffs, etc.  Another Ring Ouzel called, and then showed briefly.

Ring Ouzel, Brancaster, 6th October

What was possibly a second, and then perhaps a third Ring Ouzel were seen briefly, one of which flew off towards Gypsy Lane.  Then another Yellow-browed Warbler appeared, silent but showing better than either of the others I'd seen earlier, if only for a short while.  As I walked back the original Ring Ouzel was still there, proving that I'd seen at least 2 here in addition to the one I'd heard the other side of the village.  This area felt so good for a Radde's Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail or a rare thrush, but sadly I couldn't find it if it was here.

By now the wind had strengthened and turned slightly north of east so that the coastal path was no longer as sheltered as it had been, and the walk back to Deepdale was uneventful, save for a couple of singing Cetti's Warblers, a Stonechat and a small number of additional Redwings.  News that the Black-browed Albatross had flown east past Cley didn't help either - I was at Brancaster at the time, my car was at Deepdale and I had heard the road was blocked east of Wells.  Not a chance of catching that up!

Wren, between Brancaster Staithe and Burnham Deepdale, 6th October

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