On 22nd I popped in to the local patch for the first time in ages. Not much doing on the whole except for one exellent local record - a flock of 26 White-fronted Geese. Not the first time I've seen this species on the patch but a flock this big is very unusual. The flock comprised 18 adults and 8 first-winters.
White-fronted Geese, Hell Pit, 22nd December
A drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker was great to hear - I thought it might prove to be my earliest but checking through my records I've heard them drumming this early several times before. On my way up to the coast I paused briefly at Bintree Mill. Not much doing there but a flock of 20+ Brambling opposite the end of the road.
I headed up to Cley hoping to see the hybrid sparrow that's been knocking around there. I spent a good deal of time in Cley Spy looking at the feeders but with no luck. Eventually I gave up and headed along the road to look in the hedgerows and gardens (I gather it was first seen at Steve G's place). A party of 3 White-fronted Geese flew around, eventually heading inland with Brent Geese.
White-fronted Geese, Cley, 22nd December
Once I'd given up on the sparrows I headed to Dauke's where a Water Pipit appeared briefly. Interesting that it seemed to be quite heavily streaked (especially above) which made me doubt my ID slightly, but in the end it has to be Water, unless I'm much mistaken.
Water Pipit, Cley, 22nd December
Lots of duck there, but I failed to find anything unusual among them. A Bittern flew low over the reeds and a Kingfisher sped past. A Stonechat perched up in the distance.
Shoveler, Cley, 22nd December
Wigeon, Cley, 22nd December
On Christmas Day Vitty and I headed up to Burnham Overy for a picnic lunch after church. Two Red Kites were trying to feed on roadkill north of Sculthorpe. The walk out to the dunes and back was a bit more rushed than usual (with Vitty not being interested in standing around in the wind while I looked at birds), but I had time to pick out the Black Brant x Dark-bellied Brent Goose hybrid, an odd-looking Pink-footed Goose with very dark head and neck (stained?), at least 46 Barnacle Geese (far and away the largest number I've seen here - perhaps wild but with a feral population nearby I'm not sure) and at least 2 White-fronted Geese. Finally a single Stonechat was seen in the dunes, and we headed back home for another goose, cooked this time.
We headed up to see family in the Lake District on 27th, stopping en route at Skinnigrove (ok, Cleveland isn't exactly en route, but near enough) to see the Eastern Black Redstart. A thoroughly lovely bird it was too, although the sun was some way off rising enough to shine on it before we had to leave so the photos are a bit grainy.
Eastern Black Redstart, Skinningrove. 27th December
Amazing the number of birds feeding on this unvegetated pile of boulders - Wren, Dunnocks, Robins, Pied Wagtails, Rock Pipits and the Redstart.
It's grim up north, and whether it was the air or just a bug, I was pretty unwell for the rest of the day, which was a shame as it rather spoilt the lunch we had at one of the best restaurants in the country.
Feeling a bit better next day I ventured out around the south Lakes, stopping first at Windermere where one of 3 Goosanders was very tame.
Goosander, Windermere, 28th December
Also a hybrid between a domestic Greylag and a Canada Goose here. From the Roa Island causeway a large mixed flock of Dark- and Pale-bellied Brent Geese contained at least 220 of the latter. Also 319 Eider.
Hodbarrow held another Greylag x Canada Goose hybrid, at least a dozen Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser and 12 Scaup. 2 Greenshank flew over the causeway to the beach.
I had just a short amount of time to kill on the morning of 29th before meeting family for lunch and had a drive round Ullswater. Not much doing there - just a couple of goose flocks and a one Wigeon flock. The former included 40 Barnacle Geese and 5 Greylag x Canada Goose hybrids.