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, 4 December 2016

Wigeon x Mallard hybrid, Brant hybrid and the leucistic intersex Wigeon

I headed up to Burnham Overy on 26th November.  The walk out was uneventful save for my second Barn Owl of the morning and a flock of 7 Bearded Tits.  From Gun Hill I spent a while scanning the sea.  There were quite a few Red-throated Divers on the sea but very distant and it was going to be tricky picking up anything more interesting at that range.  Then I noticed another diver that was a little bit closer - it was a Great Northern Diver.  As I watched it a much smaller bird appeared next to it - a Red-necked Grebe.  I later saw a Red-necked Grebe flying west - not entirely sure if it was the same bird or a different one.  Also a few Great Crested Grebes on the sea and half a dozen Red-breasted Mergansers just beyond the shoreline.

I had a look round the dunes with little to report.  There were 3 Stonechats (all in different places) and a Merlin, but nothing else of note - in particular I didn't see the Isabelline Wheatear that I thought was long gone but which reappeared here a few days later.

Stonechat, Burnham Overy, 26th November

From the east end looking into Holkham Bay the Scoter flock was too distant to identify individual birds until it took to flight.  Then it became apparent that there were somewhere in the region of 20 Velvet Scoters among them, the best count I've had in Norfolk for a while.

As I returned to my car a fabulous male Hen Harrier flew west through the freshmarsh and on towards Burnham Norton.  The Brent Goose flock contained a bird with white speckling on the head - a pattern of leucism I have observed many times though I still do not know why they are prone to this whereas birds with evidence of leucism on the wings/body are so rare.

Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Burnham Overy, 26th November

The Black Brant x Dark-bellied Brent Goose hybrid was also there.

Black Brant x Dark-bellied Brent Goose hybrid, Burnham Overy, 26th November

Next day I didn't have much time but enough to nip up to Stiffkey to see a hybrid duck that Mike Buckland had tweeted about the previous day.  It was still there, on the marsh opposite the Red Lion best viewed from the Muckledyke Way permissive path, with 345 Wigeon - a splendid Wigeon x Mallard hybrid, the first I've ever seen.  It was mainly grazing with the Wigeon but occasionally the whole flock was spooked and came forward to the pool closer to me.  The light was poor so my photos were taken with very high ISO...

Wigeon x Mallard hybrid, Stiffkey, 27th November

Also on the pool were 203 Teal and 123 Black-tailed Godwits.

Yesterday (Saturday 3rd December) I headed up to Cley first thing.  As I got out of my car I heard Bewick's Swans calling and looked up to see a family party of 5 flying east over my head.  Good start!

As I started to walk out a Cetti's Warbler was calling away and, unusually, showing quite nicely.  As I crossed the bridge a Water Rail flew from under it and was then seen swimming in the dyke for a bit.  I entered Dauke's Hide, opened the flaps and there in front of me was a Water Pipit.  The day had started well!  It didn't contine so well.

Water Pipit, Cley, 3rd December

I searched the Teal flocks hard looking for the Green-winged Teal x Eurasian Teal hybrid that Mark had found earlier in the week.  No luck, although I was interested to see one Teal that seemed to show a very faint hint of a pale vertical bar between the flanks and the breast.  On closer inspection I think it was just the light - at any rate it didn't seem to be an actual plumage mark.  I don't think it was a hybrid - in all other respects it was 100% Teal and when it eventually moved the line seemed to disappear and didn't seem to be present on the other side.

Teal, Cley, 3rd December

As I returned to the car there were 2 Stonechats and then I popped along to Salthouse to see the odd Wigeon that's been wintering there for several years now.  It's a fascinating bird, apparently an intersex female, a female that's developed male characteristics, and has a white patch on the head.  Noel E and John M both contacted me recently to say that they had watched it on the duckpond apparently paired to a drake Wigeon and they heard it calling, giving a call that is typical of female Wigeon.  It was still there today, still paired with the drake Wigeon, but I didn't manage to hear it call.

leucistic intersex female Wigeon, Salthouse, 3rd December

It was still early and I had a little bit of time before needing to meet friends in town so I went on to Blakeney Freshes.  The walk out was uneventful save for a lovely Kingfisher in the channel, 4 Goldeneye and 4+ Red-breasted Mergansers.  A Stonechat was seen but not much else at first.  Eventually a small finch flew up and off - I was pretty sure from the call that it was a Twite but I hadn't seen it well enough.  Fortnately a minute or two later it returned and landed on the fence - it was indeed a Twite.

Twite, Blakeney, 3rd December

I had hoped to pop along to Stiffkey to see if the Wigeon x Mallard hybrid was still there but I'd now run out of time and had to race off to Norwich (where I saw a Grey Wagtail).  Fantastic lunch at Baby Buddha - it helps so much having a Chinese person in your group who knows what to order!  After lunch I had just enough time to look for a Ruddy Shelduck x Egyptian Goose hybrid that Dave had seen recently (possibly the same bird I saw at Burnham Market although a long way from there).  He hadn't seen it again during the last few visits and I didn't either - just 71 Egyptian Geese.  Not far away I saw at least 12 Red Kites at a known roost site. 

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