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.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Eagle surprise and Savi's

I arrived at Potter Heigham church at dawn on Saturday and walked out to Rush Hill scrape where I hoped to see the Savi's Warbler.  Almost the first bird I heard, and certainly the first Locustella, was the Savi's Warbler and it proved reasonably easy to get some kind of views of it.  I must have stayed with it for at least an hour and a half and during that time it sang continually, and was usually visible, if only just, as it did so.  It tended to keep quite low in the willows so it wasn't easy to see, and was pretty much always a bit obscured, but it was visible and views were perfectly adequate.  It wasn't as distant as I'd imagined, but with it being quite obscured and low down it was very hard to photograph.

Savi's Warbler, Potter Heigham Marsh, 22nd April

While I was watching this a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling close by, from the bushes adjacent to the hide I think.  At least one Bearded Tit kept appearing and a Water Rail called.  Another Grasshopper Warbler reeled further away into the reeds the other side of the hide.  There were 2 Spoonbills sleeping on Rush Hill and a Pintail among the Shovelers.  As I continued along the footpath to Potter Heigham Marsh a Cuckoo was calling and a third reeling Grasshopper Warbler showed.

Grasshopper Warbler, Weavers Way near Rush Hill, 22nd April

As I approached Potter Heigham Marsh I saw a group of 3 waders flying off - two were clearly Grey Plovers but the other was much much smaller and had a short straight bill.  I've an inkling it was a Little Stint, or at least Stint sp., but I can't be certain on the views I got.  A pair of Cranes were on Heigham Holmes but flew off north from there.  Another Cuckoo was calling over towards Potter Heigham and there were 31 Avocets on the marsh.

As I headed back from the far end I found a drake Garganey in the SE corner.  It was my intention after finishing here that I would head down to Ormesby Broad to see the White-tailed Eagle that had been there yesterday and it had been confirmed as still present this morning.  The thought occurred to me that I might get really distant views of it from here if it were to get up high, though I thought that fairly unlikely.  However as I scanned in that direction I was surprised to see the White-tailed Eagle - not miles away over Ormesby but not far away at all - my side of Martham! It was circling around but soon disappeared behind some trees at which point I lost it for a while.

White-tailed Eagle, Martham, viewed from Potter Heigham Marsh, 22nd April

A little while later I picked up a flock of 16 Cranes over to the SW.  They spent a while circling before eventually coming towards me, over me and off to the north-east.  I've seen larger flocks than this before but I think only on the deck or low in flight - the sight of such a large flock spiralling around high in the sky seemed like an exciting and novel experience for me, although I'm sure Broads locals see it all the time.

Cranes, Potter Heigham Marsh, 22nd April

The 2 Spoonbills, presumably the ones from Rush Hill, dropped in on the marsh.

Spoonbills, Potter Heigham Marsh, 22nd April

I found another 2 drake Garganey sleeping with some Teal.  At least I had only just left the first one in the corner behind me so I assume they were probably both different to that one, but in an attempt to make sure I retraced my steps the check the first one was still there.  It wasn't, or at least it wasn't on view, so I shall have to put it down as 2 in total, though I suspect there were 3.

After a while I picked up the White-tailed Eagle again, this time somewhere over towards Horsey, and now a long way off.  It was still visible quite some time later, mobbed by corvids and now seemingly drifting south slowly.

I noticed that there were now 3 Spoonbills on the marsh before I headed off back along Weavers Way (hearing Kingfisher along the way).  There were 2 Cranes on the fields north of Potter Heigham Marsh (is this Candle Dyke Marsh?) - I can't be sure if they were the original 2, 2 of the 16 (two had split off from the rest) or additional birds.  Another or the same pair of Cranes were later seen in flight as I neared Rush Hill.

Cranes, near Potter Heigham Marsh, 22nd April

After this I had a quick look at Rollesby Broad where the Blue-winged Teal x Cinnamon Teal hybrid was still present, along with a female Mandarin.

Blue-winged Teal x Cinnamon Teal hybrid, Rollesby Broad, 22nd April

Ormesby Broad had 5 Common Terns and a Sparrowhawk flew over.  Lastly I headed off to the local patch where 4 Little Ringed Plovers (2 sites) and a Snipe were the highlights.

On Sunday I popped into Longwater on my way back from Norwich and saw the 16 Waxwings that have been hanging around there for a while.  They failed to come down to the berries for photos though, and instead headed off towards Longwater Lane.

Yesterday I went up to Burnham Overy, again arriving in the dark so that I could get to Gun Hill by first light or thereabouts.  Once again a Spoonbill was seen in the dark feeding in one of the pools just across the dyke, and a Barn Owl was visible as it started to get light.  Vis mig was relatively slow early on so I didn't spend too long at Gun Hill before wandering round the dunes.  It included a Marsh Harrier west at sea, at least 7 Yellow Wagtails and single figure counts of all 3 hirundine species.

I heard Tree Pipit a few times but wasn't convinced they were different birds moving through - maybe one bird knocking around in the dunes somewhere.  Eventually I located it at the east end of the dunes.

Tree Pipit, Burnham Overy, 24th April

Not the best photo, I know, but I was happier with this hastily grabbed shot of a Meadow Pipit.

Meadow Pipit, Burnham Overy, 24th April

There were still a few Ring Ouzels around - I saw 8, others saw more.  Also 9 Wheatears and 7 Whimbrels and, at last, my first Whitethroat of the year.  Hanging on from winter were 20 Pink-footed Geese and a Golden Plover.

Wheatear, Burnham Overy, 24th April

Pochard, Burnham Overy, 24th April

I also found a pair of binoculars lying in the dunes - if you have lost them or know of someone who has get in touch!

Next I headed to Burnham Norton where there were at least 9 Wheatear and 7 Yellow Wagtails including a party of 5 which were the first I've seen on the deck this year.  Also at least 4 Whimbrel, 3 Mediterranean Gulls and, on Deepdale Marsh, 2 Little Ringed Plovers.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Ring Ouzels galore

I thought the SW wind forecast last Thursday might produce some good vis mig so headed up to Burnham Overy early, walking out in the dark to get to Gun Hill by first light.  Despite the darkness I could make out the shape and action of a Spoonbill feeding in one of the pools next to the path, and I could hear at least 7 Sedge Warblers and a single Reed Warbler singing as I headed down.

Vis mig was really disappointing at dawn - a single Yellow Wagtail west and 2 Carrion Crows in were the only passerines I could clearly put down as being on vis mig in the first couple of hours.  But there was plenty of action.  There were flocks of Scoter constantly flying west - some may have been on vis mig but a lot of them seemed to be coming out of Holkham Bay so I assume it was mainly a local feeding movement.  Anyway, I ended up with 3020 Common Scoter and 8 Velvet Scoter.  There were about 100 Sandwich Terns passing by and over the estuary a group of 5 Whimbrel (2 more flew west later) and I heard a Greenshank calling.  A female Hen Harrier appeared briefly, flying west through the saltmarsh.

I could hear the odd chack of Ring Ouzels now and then and after a while 3 Ring Ouzels flew west off over towards Scolt Head.  I suspected they'd come up from the Sibe Thrush bushes from where another 2 Ring Ouzels headed off towards the east dunes.  There were still 2 Ring Ouzels there when I started headed off to the east dunes myself.  The first of 15 Wheatears were also near Gun Hill.

Ring Ouzels, Burnham Overy, 20th April

Stonechat, Burnham Overy, 20th April

As I walked through the dunes it became apparent that the vis mig I'd hoped for had now started, but it's hard to get a handle on what's happening in the east dunes - birds are moving on too broad a front here and you don't get a good view across the whole front.  There didn't seem to be vast numbers but a reasonable passage of Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches, the odd Yellow Wagtail (I had 5 in the end) and Swallow.  I also had 3 Tree Pipits move through and noticed several Redpolls (most heard only so hard to know how many - at least 12).

From one vantage point in the east dunes I could see a group of at least 7 Ring Ouzels one way and 3 Ring Ouzels another way.  Later on the seven moved round and I walked through finding another 2 Ring Ouzels.  Allowing for the possibility that the two from Gun Hill were among the ones I saw in the east dunes I must have seen at least 17 Ring Ouzels this morning - one of my best counts ever.

One of the Holkham Great White Egrets was on view for a while and a pair of adult Mediterranean Gulls flew over.

Whimbrel, Burnham Overy, 20th April

Nothing much to report from the rest of the day which included Blakeney Friary Hills (nothing better than a Lesser Whitethroat) and local patches.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Local birds and a good day in the Broads

A visit to the local patch the day after I returned from Cornwall (Sunday 9th April) produced nothing better than a pair of Little Ringed Plover.  I headed out to Foulden Common that evening with a view to looking for moths.  There was a Marsh Harrier there and I heard my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year singing.  This was a full week earlier than my previous earliest Lesser Whitethroats.  A Marsh Tit was singing and a Green Woodpecker called.  As it got dark I heard a Snipe drumming - the first time I've heard one drumming for over a decade.  There were also a number of Woodcocks including one seen feeding before it noticed me and scurried away.  Both Barn Owl and Tawny Owl were heard calling and a Teal could also be heard calling from one of the wetter areas of the common.

A Blackcap was singing in the garden (or more accuarately, the neighbour's garden) on Monday and it or others have done so many days since.

Regular visits to Great Ryburgh have been a little bit productive though hardly earth-shattering.  Up to 3 Pink-footed Geese and a White-fronted Goose have remained along with up to 7 Barnacle Geese.  A Coot one day was apparently a rarity for the site - possibly only the second record ever!

Coot, Ryburgh, 11th April

Mallard, Ryburgh, 17th April

Shovelers, Ryburgh, 19th April

Little Egret, Ryburgh, 19th April

Herring Gull, Ryburgh, 17th April

Early or late visits have often produced a pair of Mandarin once and a single drake Mandarin three times, always flying up or down the river.  Waders included 2 Snipe but frustratingly I didn't quite nail what appeared to be a Dunlin seen fleetingly in flight (would have been an excellent record for the site). Raptors have included Red Kite and regular Sparrowhawk.  A Kingfisher put in an appearance three times and a Grey Wagtail twice.

Oystercatcher, Ryburgh, 17th April

Kingfisher, Ryburgh, 12th April

Grey Wagtail, Ryburgh, 17th April

I had a bit of trouble resolving the identification of a White Wagtail.  The mantle and scapulars didn't seem as pale as I'd like and the situation was complicated by the appearance of a second bird, when the first was absent, that looked almost identical in head pattern and tone of upperparts, so causing me to assume it was the same bird.  It turned out that they were different birds - one a grey-rumped White Wagtail and the other a black-rumped Pied Wagtail.  There was a slight difference in the flanks (the Pied being darker of course) but this could be hard to see and at times when the rump is hidden the only difference I could detect between the two birds was the presence (Pied) or absence (White) of grey streaking below the bottom of the black breast.

 White Wagtail, Ryburgh, 11th April

White Wagtail, Ryburgh, 12th April - two photos showing how different it looks at different angles/lights

Pied Wagtail, Ryburgh, 17th April - a very similar bird to the White Wagtail with its grey centre to the crown and similar-toned upeprparts but this one has a blacker rump, a few grey streaks below the black breast and a tiny bit darker flanks/breast sides

All 3 hirundines were recorded there, 4 Sand Martins north on 12th apparently being a good local record.  Both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were recorded and a Lesser Whitethroat sang on 19th.

Coal Tit, Ryburgh, 15th April

Chiffchaff, Ryburgh, 20th April

Greenfinch, Ryburgh, 16th April

Regular visits to the other local patch have produced Little Ringed Plovers, the odd Snipe but not a great deal else.  Other local records include a pair of Grey Wagtails at Bintree Mill a couple of times and a Marsh Harrier.

Little Ringed Plovers, 17th April

Little Ringed Plovers, 20th April

On Good Friday after visits to Ryburgh and the local patch early morning I decided to head over to the Broads.  First stop was Rollesby Broad where a Blue-winged Teal x Cinnamon Teal hybrid is hanging out with 3 Mandarins.  It spends a lot of its time displaying, often to the female Mandarin whose company it seems to quite like, but also to Mallards and just on its own.  I imagine they're all out of the same cage and suspect they were released their deliberately rather than escaped from somewhere and flown there.

Blue-winged Teal x Cinnamon Teal hybrid, Rollesby Broad, 14th April

Mandarins, Rollesby Broad, 14th April

I then headed over to Barton Broad where a tern was bouncing around the lake visible from the platform as soon as I arrived.  It was an Arctic Tern which made for a nice surprise - I don't see many of these in Norfolk except on autumn seawatches.

Arctic Tern, Barton Broad, 14th April

This Kingfisher flashed by...

Kingfisher, Barton Broad, 14th April

As I passed between Smallburgh and Stalham I noticed a lot of gulls following the plough by the layby.  I thought it might be worth a look through them and so it proved - there was a first-winter Glaucous Gull among them!  There has been one along the coast around Winteton/Hemsby recently and I guess it may well be the same bird.

Glacuous Gull., between Smallburgh and Stalham, 14th April

Next stop was Hickling Broad, first checking from the Pleasure Boat Inn (nothing) and then the NWT reserve, a place I don't go to very often and rarely seem to see much there.  Today was no exception, though plenty of commoner warblers in.  My first Common Tern of the year was probably the highlight, though if you belong to the school of thought which says a Grey Heron with rusty colour on its wing-coverts is a Great Blue Heron then maybe not.  Sadly this isn't always the case - I've seen a few Grey Herons with rusty or brownish wing-coverts and/or rusty thighs.

Grey Heron, Hickling NWT, 14th April

With moderate NNE winds I headed up to Sheringham on last Tuesday (18th) for a seawatch.  Seawatching in Norfolk is rarely good in spring (here I am referring to seabirds really - there can be some excellent vis mig days at least some of which can involve birds flying over the sea) so my expectations were low.  I arrived at first light and there was almost nothing moving at first.  Things picked up slightly but I only got about 80 Gannets, 30 Sandwich Terns and 24 Common Scoter.  A few Fulmar were moving but hard to tell which ones as local birds were also passing, and other seabirds included 2 Kittiwakes and 8 larger Auks, at least 2 of which were Razorbills.  There were 4 Red-throated Divers and one group of 3 waders west included Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit.  A distant party of 3 birds flying east eventually proved to be the birds of the day - a scarce species flying over the sea, Black-tailed Godwits.

From my study I could hear  Lesser Whitethroat singing on Wednesday - a house tick.  Another house-tick followed the next evening when I heard a Coot flying over (with a second Coot on Friday night).