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, 26 February 2017

Half a ton of Corn Buntings

A wander round Sparham Pools on Monday was pleasant but uneventful - a Kingfisher was the highlight.  I had a good look for the Great Grey Shrike that's been commuting between here and nearby Sparham but couldn't find it at either location, once again.

On Tuesday I headed up to Blakeney and had a wander round the freshmarsh.  The Lesser Black-backed Gull x Herring Gull hybrid was at the duckpond on my arrival.

Lesser Black-backed Gull x Herring Gull hybrid, Blakeney, 21st February

A ringtail Hen Harrier was hunting over the saltmarsh and a Kingfisher was flushed by dog walkers.  There were 2 Stonechats along the path.

Stonechat, Blakeney, 21st February

Skylark, Blakeney, 21st February

Reed Buntings, Blakeney, 21st February

There was a flock of at least 73 White-fronted Geese sleeping on the freshmarsh and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose flew over with Dark-bellied Brent Geese.  Bearded Tits were calling as I returned to the car.  I'd seen a flock of Goldies on the marshes but when they took to flight they gave an opportunity to photograph the whole flock and count them later - 1796 Golden Plover.

The duckpond is always worth a look and it was fun watching and listening to the pair of Hooded Mergansers displaying.

captive Hooded Mergansers, Blakeney collection, 21st February

There are always lots of Collared Doves around the wildfowl collection...

Collared Doves, Blakeney, 21st February

From the entrance to Friary Hills another (or the same) Kingfisher perched up and showed nicely for a bit while I studied variation in female Wigeon plumage.  Quite a lot of variation in the extent of internal markings in the scapulars and two out of 22 had obviously grey outer secondaries.  No real contenders for American Wigeon though... I'll keep looking.

Kingfisher, Blakeney, 21st February

I headed up to Kelling Heath where Woodlarks were singing and Dartford Warblers were chasing Stonechats (well, two of the four were).

On Wednesday there were still 12 White-fronted Geese on the local patch.  Wigeon numbers seem to be falling though they do move around sites so they may not be going far; Shoveler numbers were up slightly.

I spent Friday in the Fens, starting at High Fen, a site I'd discovered recently and been impressed by the number of birds present.  It wasni't quite as good today but it wasn't dead by any means.  The plover flocks were more distant, but I counted 268 Golden Plovers.  I also heard a Curlew calling - perhaps one of the birds that breed in the Brecks area.  A lot of duck on the flash I didn't have time to reach last time - mostly Teal but I also counted 105 Shoveler, and that was almost certainly an incomplete count.  There were also 14 Pintail on there.  Passerines along the lode included a singing Treecreeper and Bullfinch.  Good to meet one of the local farmers here too, a chap who was clearly interested in the birds and wildlife on his land and doing his bit to encourage them.

I moved on to Wissington where a large flock of swans were feeding south of the beet factory.  Some were out of view so I didn't do a proper count but there were at least 120 Whooper Swans and the odd Bewick's too.  There were 5 Greylag Goose x Canada Goose hybrids on the fishing ponds which I walked round, finding Kingfisher and a nice drake Goosander on the river.

Goosander, Wissington, 24th February

I walked through the beet factory where a Grey Wagtail fed in a puddle but the pools visible from the path were far quieter than last time.  This time I continued along the riverbank (north side) until I could look across to NWT's new (not publicly accessible) reserve, Hilgay Fen.  There were another 6 Whooper Swans, a Glaucous Gull and a Yellow-legged Gull.  I failed to read the tag of a green wing-tagged Marsh Harrier.  Another Treecreeper was singing in one of the copses.

Glaucous Gull, Hilgay Fen, 24th February

By now I was getting hungry and had forgotten to bring any snacks with me, so I decided to move on to Welney for lunch.  As I drove out of Ten Mile Bank a small field was heaving with birds - Fieldfares and a very impressive 50 Corn Buntings.  That's by far the biggest flock of this declining species I've seen in Norfolk for many years - in fact I haven't seen more than single figures since the end of the last decade.  A little further on I spied a Short-eared Owl quartering the fields.

As I walked into the cafe at Welney one of the staff asked me if I'd seen the Kingfisher.  It was showing nicely just outside the cafe.

Kingfisher, Welney, 24th February

I didn't see nearly as much at Welney as I had on my visit earlier in the month but of course there are always plenty of common birds to enjoy.  I also ambled down Cock Fen Road at Lakes End but didn't see much except lots of Whooper Swans.

Tufted Duck, Welney, 24th February

Buzzard, Welney, 24th February

Next I checked the various bridges between Stowbridge and Saddlebow, the highlights being 2 Goldeneye and a Barn Owl at Magdalen and 3 Scaup (all drakes) at Saddlebow.  Another Barn Owl was by the road at Massingham on the way home.

Barn Owl, Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen, 24th February

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