White-fronted Geese, Bittering, 16th February
On Friday I had a lovely day in the Brecks. I walked a total of 12 miles and saw plenty of birds along the way. For the most part they weren't rare birds, but they did include some rare breeding birds including 2 Goshawks, 7-8 Woodlarks and, most unexpectedly, a pair of Cranes. If the latter do indeed stay to breed it will be for the first time in this area.
I enjoyed watching one pair of Woodlarks that plonked themselves down on a fence not very far away from me and proceeded to display to each other, each bird dipping its head down and lifting it right back, swinging from side to side as one bird gradually moved closer to the other. I was half expecting to see copulation when they eventually met but in fact they flew up and dropped to the ground out of sight (where who knows what they got up to) before flying up and continuing their display aerially while singing. I'd never seen all that before - fantastic.
Other highlights included several small groups of Bramblings, lots of Siskins, the odd Redpoll flying over, Nuthatches, Treecreepers, Marsh Tits, Green and drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers, etc. Also flushed a Woodcock and saw a Kingfisher.
Beside the A1075 near Wretham Camp I was surprised to see a Ruddy Shelduck paired with an Egyptian Goose right next to the road. It was also next to a minor turn off allowing me to pull in safely and photograph it - it proved to be very tame. On closer inspection I noticed the bird had dark vermiculations on its rear flank feathers and rear upper scapulars - features that should not occur on pure Ruddy Shelduck. It also had a grey spot in the middle of the crown. I've seen a few Ruddy Shelducks with some grey on the head and wondered about their genetic purity, but this one was more extreme than most. Cape Shelduck (now often known as South African Shelduck) has a grey head of course, and also shows dark vermiculations where this bird had. My assumption is therefore that this bird was a Ruddy Shelduck x Cape Shelduck hybrid. I saw an identical bird - I suspect it was the very same bird - near Bittering in January 2015. Maybe these apparent Ruddy Shelduck x Egyptian Goose hybrids that have been seen around the county recently are really trigens (Ruddy Shelduck x Cape Shelduck) x Egyptian Goose hybrids...?!
apparent Ruddy Shelduck x Cape Shelduck hybrid, East Wretham, 17th February
During the day I had a quick look at the gulls at Thetford but they wouldn't settle and if they had settled in the usual place the light wouldn't have been very good, so I decided to head on to Livermere to have a look at all the gulls in the pig fields there. The only problem with that plan was that there weren't any gulls in the pig fields. There were a few in one of the neighbouring fields, but very few indeed - just a handful of large gulls. I had to make do with a tenebrosus Pheasant nearby...
Pheasant (var tenebrosus), Timworth, 17th February
I didn't do much yesterday but Bylaugh sewage treatment works produced Grey Wagtail and Nuthatch but no sign of the two wintering Chiffchaffs.
This afternoon I spent some time on the local patch where at least 11 White-fronted Geese are hanging on. I flushed a Jack Snipe and 9 Snipe from one private field though suspect a more methodical approach would have given a higher tally.
Jack Snipe, private site, 19th February
A wander round Beetley Common produced 1-2 Bramblings, Grey Wagtail and Treecreeper.