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.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Stilts and Bitterns

I started off locally on Friday 5th May seeing Dunlin and hearing Greenshank at Bittering.  I then headed into the Fens and Brecks where I planned to spend the day checking a number of different sites.  In the end things didn't go according to plan, but not in a bad way.  Anyway, I had walk along Methwold Lode which overlooks High Fen.  There was a Green Woodpecker in the area, a Cuckoo calling and a pair of Stonechats along the path, but the best bird was in the large pool half way along to Wissington - a Grey Plover.  Must be a good local bird I thought, though found out later that it or another had been seen in the area already.

I moved on to Wissington where a family of Otters was playing in the river west of the beet factory.  From the north side of the river I looked over to Hilgay Fen seeing Common Sandpiper, 2 Greenshanks and 8 Avocets.  Good to meet Ben Rackstraw along here too - a name I've known for ages but not been able to put a face to it.

Back at Wissington I bumped into Carl Donner - had a good chat with him about all sorts of things and ended up popping round to his place to see his very impressive wildfowl collection.  Some really interesting birds there and a great opporunity to learn things.  A shame most birders look down on wildfowl collections with such disdain as they offer an oppotunity to find out all sorts of things that can be relevant to study of wild birds.  I particularly valued seeing the various forms of Bean Goose, White-fronted Goose and Cackling Goose, had some good discussion about Ruddy Shelduck plumages and mutations, and a whole lot more.  He showed me some amazing taxidermy too - Pallas's Sandgrouse and Great Bustard for example, and one that was bound to interest me - an American Wigeon x Pintail hybrid.

mounted American Wigeon x Pintail hybrid (captive origin)

captive White-winged Wood Duck, private collection, 5th May

captive Thick-billed Bean Goose (serrirostris), private collection, 5th May

captive 'Sushkin's' Tundra Bean Goose, private collection, 5th May

captive Ring-necked Ducks, private collection, 5th May

Once I left Carl's I knew I had to get home to label the photos I'd taken or else I'd have no chance of remembering what was what, so I abandoned my original intentions for the afternoon.  I did manage to get out again locally later on - this Common Sandpiper at Ryburgh being the highlight.

Common Sandpiper, Ryburgh, 5th May

Pied Wagtail, Ryburgh, 5th May

Next day I was scheduled to help with a group at Minsmere, but with easterly winds and rain I was keen to do some proper birding beforehand.  I arrived at Rush Hill Scrape at around dawn to find the Savi's Warbler continuing to sing and 3 Grasshopper Warblers reeling in the area.  A Cuckoo called and a Spoonbill was on the scrape but there were no passage waders there at all.  I walked on to Potter Heigham Marsh where there were lots of waders.  Two Whimbrel flew off with a Curlew.  There were 2 Dunlin, 4 Ruff, at least 6 Greenshank, the odd Snipe (6 flew over later), c30 Avocets and some Grey Plovers.  A flock of 21 Grey Plover flew around with a Bar-tailed Godwit and then at last the pair of Black-winged Stilts appeared from nowhere.  There were 6 Ringed Plovers, a Little Stint and a Curlew Sandpiper (plus 2 Spoonbills) on the farthest pool and a Common Sandpiper on the river.  Finally 3 Wood Sandpipers rounded the impressive list of waders off (others not mentioned were Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Redshank).  There were also 3 Garganey (a pair and a drake) there and one Crane flew past while another was calling.  What a fabulous site, for now at least.

Black-winged Stilts, Potter Heigham Marsh, 6th May

Now I needed to get a move on in order to get to Minsmere on time.  We headed up to Island Mere hide first, pausing to look at a couple of Treecreepers and a Whitethroat on the way.  I glimpsed a Bearded Tit and we kept hearing a Bittern booming.  There were 3 Hobbies on view and some Swifts over the back.  As we entered Bittern hide a Bittern was on view in front of the hide - we got fantastic views of it for ages, as well as at least 2 other Bitterns seen in flight.  At one point a Water Rail crossed in front of the Bittern.

Bittern and Water Rail, Minsmere, 6th May

Bitterns, Minsmere, 6th May

Hobby, Minsmere, 6th May

A find drake Mandarin was parading about in front of the first of the hides overlooking the scrape and other dodgy/feral wildfowl included 2 Bar-headed Geese and the inevitable Barnacle Geese.

Mandarin, Minsmere, 6th May

There was a lovely Whinchat near the sluice and a Stonechat nearby.  There were a few Kittiwakes and lots of (50 in a very quick count) Mediterranean Gulls.  One of a number of Knot was particularly obliging as it fed close to the hide.

Knot, Minsmere, 6th May

I dipped the main bird at Ryburgh that evening, which was initially annoying until I discovered it had had a red ring on its leg so presumably only travelled from as far as Pensthorpe.  Still annoying actually, in a weird sort of way I'd have quite liked to have seen it anyway.  It had only dropped out of view too, never to emerge again.  Sounds like it might have walked back to Pensthorpe going on a report from there a few days later.

Next day I finally saw the Greenshank at Ryburgh which had been popping in briefly several times over recent days (I'd seen it on a small roadside pond nearby but not on the scrape).  The Common Sandpiper was still there.

Greenshank, Ryburgh, 7th May

Common Sandpiper, Ryburgh, 7th May

Kingfishers are sometimes seen here too but while I've been down they've rarely perched close enough for photography, and when they have done they've stopped there barely long enough to focus the camera.  I just managed to get one slightly shaky shot this time.

Kingfisher, Ryburgh, 7th May

Dave's Wood Sandpiper and 2 Ringed Plovers were still present at Bintree Mill - very good local records.  The day after there were 2 Wood Sandpipers along with Greenshank and Snipe.  I had another Greenshank at Bittering the following day.

Not much else to report locally or from further afield up to 11th May - Little Ringed Plovers, Avocets, the odd Grey Wagtail, a pair of Hobbies and the same singing Firecrest were the best.

House Martins, Ryburgh, 11th May

Little Egret, Ryburgh, 11th May

Whitethroat, Brancaster, 11th May

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