Yesterday I headed up to Burnham Overy early, seeing a pair of Barn Owls at Hempton on my way up. As I headed down from the staithe 2 White-fronted Geese flew over and there were 18 Avocets in the channel. There were loads of Wigeon in the fields but light was awkward for searching through them. The big field south of the reedy pool contained 7 Ruff and 153 Dunlin and a Bearded Tit called from the reeds.
At the mouth of the estuary there were 6 Red-breasted Mergansers and 4 Goldeneye, along with 2 Common Seal on the end of Scolt Head island. Offshore a couple of Red-throated Divers flew east and a Fulmar west but the sea was quiet.
Grey Partridge, Burnham Overy, 6th March
A Stoat scurried through the dunes and I decided to skip the east dunes and head on to see the Pallid Harrier. As I returned to the car a Red Kite flew over.
Dunnock, Burnham Overy, 6th March
Reed Buntings, Burnham Overy, 6th March
Red Kite, Burnham Overy, 6th March
Next stop New Holkham where the Pallid Harrier flew past 2-3 times giving good scope views but rubbish camera views. Lovely bird to see.
Pallid Harrier, New Holkham, 6th March
Lots of other raptors in the sky too including up to 10 Buzzards at a time and at least one more Red Kite.
My next stop was Thursford Wood, an NWT reserve that I'd never visited before. It's quite a nice spot and I think it would be worth moth-trapping there sometime. Birds included Marsh Tit and Nuthatch calling.
I then popped in to Great Ryburgh where I've been meaning for ages to see what the Ryburgh Wildlife Group site is looking like now. Conveniently my arrival coincided with that of a member who kindly invited me in to the hide. The group have done a great job here and it looks like there's plenty of scope for some good birds so when the chairman of the group turned up I paid up to join the group there and then. I ended up spending quite a few hours there and saw lots of interesting birds. There were 3 White-fronted Geese there the whole time and 2 Stonechats for a while. Among the hordes of Teal and Wigeon I picked up what looked like a Wigeon with pale cheeks and a dark greenish headband, which at first I suspected might be a Wigeon x American Wigeon hybrid or something similar. It disappeared before I could resolve it but eventually it reappeared and gave good if distant views. The tertials were not Wigeon-like ruling out aberrant Wigeon or any Wigeon sp. x Wigeon sp. hybrid and it showed white sides to the tail and pale uppertail-coverts or rear rump feathers. That made me wonder about Pintail and the dark-centred scapular pattern did indeed recall that a bit, although Pintail influence wasn't immediately obvious. I've seen Wigeon x Pintail before but the head pattern was nowhere near so distinct on that individual, but I've also seen photos of birds with a more distinct head pattern (although still not quite like this one). The pale crown stripe was divided by a narrow diffuse dark crown stripe and in the end I concluded that Wigeon x Pintail is the correct ID.
Wigeon x Pintail hybrid, Great Ryburgh, 6th March
I heard and then saw a pair of Mediterranean Gulls flying over, apparently the group's first this year, and 10 Barnacle Geese flew through. A Pink-footed Goose appeared with some Greylags along with a fourth White-fronted Goose.
Today I headed down to Haddiscoe Island, somewhere I've only ever watched from afar, either the road at St Olaves, or from Burgh Castle, or from Waveney Forest. There is a public footpath all the way round the island but it's a long way! After seeing Little Owl near Swanton Morley en route I arrived at St Olaves and saw the first of 5 Barn Owls (3 on the island, 2 on Fritton Marsh). I walked out through the boatyards at St Olaves hearing the odd Bearded Tit in the reeds as I headed north.
As I approached the bungalow about a mile down the footpath it became clear that there were some works going on that completely blocked the footpath, forcing me to retrace my steps and take the track down from under the bridge to the bungalow. I could have done without adding another couple of miles on to the walk - it was going to be long enough already! Anyway, I saw a Kingfisher where I turned round and a flock of 19 Bewick's Swans flew east on their way back to Russia.
I saw the first of 4 Stonechats as I continued on and heard 2 Water Rails calling. A Green Sandpiper flew away and I saw an interesting Buteo land on a post. I just glimpsed it in flight before it landed, thought I saw some white near the rump and/or base of the tail but didn't get a clear view of that. At rest it looked like the Rough-legged Buzzard, and may well have been, but it was a long way off. I watched it for about half an hour and it refused to budge or show me its tail, but I was pretty confident it was the Rough-leg. I really wanted to see it fly - maybe I would see it again as I passed back down the other side of the island - I'd probably be nearer if it was still in the same area.
I picked up a couple of Short-eared Owls across the island and later one much closer which conceivably could have been one of the same but I doubt it. A third or fourth Short-eared Owl was present at the very north end of the island from where I could see a Spotted Redshank among the waders opposite Burgh Castle.
Short-eared Owl, Haddiscoe Island, 7th March
The walk back down the other side was relatively uneventful, but a pale Buzzard was perched on what may well have been the very same fence that I'd seen the Rough-leg on earlier. At first it looked like the same bird, I thought, but as I got closer I felt the head wasn't as pale as I had thought and the belly not as strongly marked. I went from having doubts about my original ID to concluding that it had to be a different bird. But then as I moved further away from it and looked back it started looking exactly like the Rough-leg had done originally, so maybe it was the same bird after all, and maybe it wasn't a Rough-leg after all. The bird must have been in view for well over two hours all told and despite seeing it from both sides of the island it never flew again and never showed me its tail. It seemed to be front-on no matter what direction I looked at it from! Even at its nearest when it looked most like a pale Buzzard it was still a long way off and in the end I couldn't make up my mind. If these are the views it was giving when I was on the island with it I shudder to think what sort of views people were getting from Waveney Forest! The Rough-legged Buzzard was reported from there this afternoon - I hope they got a better view than me.
Other birds seen on this leg included a few Snipe and a couple of Greylag Goose x Canada Goose hybrids, one being a normal bird with normal Greylags and the other obviously being the offspring of a domestic Greylag with a flock of white domestic Greylags. There were lots of Chinese Water Deers on and around the island - must have been at least 25 but very probably more.
Chinese Water Deer, Haddiscoe Island, 7th March
Afterwards I nipped down to Lound Lakes in the hope that the Scaup x Tufted Duck hybrid that I heard about recently might still be present. It was...
Greater Scaup x Tufted Duck hybrid, Lound Lakes, 7th March