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.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Night Heron - but where from?

On Friday 2nd June I headed over to Potter Heigham where the pair of Black-winged Stilts were nesting.  I counted 35 Avocets but I'm sure a more careful count would have produced a higher number.  There were 8 Spoonbills there and at least 18 Little Egrets.  There was still a Wigeon there and I eventually picked out a drake Garganey.  A single Crane showed well across the dyke.  Also several Swallowtail butterflies.  There were a couple of Bearded Tits and I heard Cuckoos here and later at Catfield Common.

Black-winged Stilts, Potter Heigham Marsh, 2nd June

Skylark, Potter Heigham Marsh, 2nd June

That night I found what was potentially my bird of the spring on some private land locally.  Late in the evening I was surprised to see a Night Heron flying low towards me and land on a bank just a few metres away.  I immediately switched my camera to its highest ISO setting (as it was getting dark) and fired off a burst of 4-5 photos.  I picked up my phone to text a friend but had barely started typing when I glanced back up to see that the Night Heron was no longer there!  I looked up in the sky to see it flying towards me.  I didn't think my eyes had been off it long enough for it to have flown up, away, turned and started flying back towards me, but they must have been!  It flew right past me and disappeared over a hedgerow never to be seen again.  I and others have searched extensively for it since and there hasn't been a sniff.

Night Heron, private site, 2nd June

The excitement of finding a late spring overshoot from the contintent is somewhat tempered by the distinct possibility that it had not travelled nearly so far.  Many years ago there was a breeding population in semi-captivity at the Great Witchingham Wildlife Park and birds from here were frequently see in the mid Wensum Valley, especially at Sparham Pools.  The wildlife park closed many years ago but Night Herons continued to be seen in the area for quite a few years.  Reports have gradually dwindled and it seems hard to believe that there might still be any left, but it is a possibility.  This one was quite a bit further away from Witchingham than most of the sightings and I don't think I've heard of any sightings at all in the valley since 2015.  But they are famously difficult to find being mainly nocturnal in habits and it is perhaps possible that one or two birds from Witchingham are still surviving, perhaps further away from Witchingham than they were originally.  Had it not been an adult I think the case for it being a wild bird would have been stronger, but there is still a case to be made.  There were southeasterly winds in progress and the same day a Glossy Ibis was seen in north Norfolk proving that at least one large heron-like bird had arrived in the county that day.  There had been up to 3 Night Herons on Scilly during the previous few days and an adult in County Cork (as well as the long-staying adult in Shropshire), reports in Warwickshire and Gloucestershire and a confirmed immature in Suffolk all three days earlier.  Another was found in Norfolk (Potter Heigham) less than a week later, so it does not seem hard to believe mine could have been a wild bird.

Next morning I headed up to Titchwell to join the usual group, seeing Red Kite at Choseley on the way up.  Once there we headed first to Fen Hide.  A Cuckoo was audible and was seen by some of the group and at Fen Hide a Kingfisher put in the briefest of appearances.  Patsy's Pool held the first of 5 Red-crested Pochards.  I think our first Mediterranean Gulls of the day were seen in flight from here too, and a Bearded Tit briefly.

Coots, Titchwell, 3rd June

A family of Little Grebes were on the pool next to the Meadow Trail.

Little Grebes, Titchwell, 3rd June

On our way up through the reserve we paused to admire the Little Gull which was hanging around very close to the footpath.

Little Gull, Titchwell, 3rd June

There were also some Black-headed Gull chicks out of the nest.

Black-headd Gull, Titchwell, 3rd June

Just up from here we watched this family of Shovelers.

Shovelers, Titchwell, 3rd June

A pair of Swallows entertained us for a bit, this one being the singing male.

Swallow, Titchwell, 3rd June

We continued on to the beach from where apart from the odd distant Fulmar and Gannet and a very distant flock of 10 Common Scoters west, there wasn't a great deal to be seen.

From the hides there were two drake Garganey visible, now starting to moult into eclipse plumage so not as smart as usual.

Garganey, Titchwell, 3rd June

A single goose was interesting, but due to its unusual appearance and having to look into the sun it took me a while to be convinced of its ID.  But it had to be a Pink-footed Goose, presumably an injured or sick bird that had not migrated (one wing seemed to be drooping a bit).  Not only was its head, neck, belly and vent stained giving it an odd orange colour but its bill was entirely pink with a pale nail.  I saw one with a bill like that among the Pink-foot flocks in the winter but it's quite unusual for a Pink-footed Goose to lack any black on the bill, especially even on the nail.

Pink-footed Goose, Titchwell, 3rd June

Red-crested Pochard (and Shoveler), Titchwell, 3rd June

Another bird that proved harder than it should have been due to the light was a Little Stint.  I eventually concluded that it had to be a Little Stint but there were others present who disagreed - the difficulty was we were looking straight into the light and it was a bit distant.  Then some folk came in who'd been watching it from the bank - from that angle it was a perfectly straightforward Little Stint.  We then headed back along the bank and indeed it was a whole lot easier from there!  Nice to see it side-by-side with a colourful Ruff too.

Little Stint, Titchwell, 3rd June

Ruff (and Little Stint), Titchwell, 3rd June

The Pink-footed Goose was in much better light from here too, though more distant.

Pink-footed Goose, Titchwell, 3rd June

We'd seen 2 Little Ringed Plovers from the hide and one was showing very nicely close to the path on our way back.

Little Ringed Plover, Titchwell, 3rd June

Next day I saw a Little Owl near Sennowe and a silhouetted flock of 59 Barnacle Geese flew over Ryburgh towards Pensthorpe when it was almost dark at just after 10 pm.  Earlier this Buzzard had been drying out in the evening sunshine following a shower.

Buzzard, Ryburgh, 4th June

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