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, 30 March 2018

Winter birding

After my return from Oman in mid November life seems to have got ridiculously busy what with one thing and another.  Sadly that has meant I spent horribly little time in the field this winter.  I did spend some time looking for geese in the week after I got back, but performed miserably missing the Grey-bellied Brent Goose, the Taiga Bean Goose and the Greenland White-fronted Goose in the flock at Bircham Newton.  I did manage to see the showy Long-tailed Duck at Brancaster Staithe at this time though.

Long-tailed Duck, Brancaster Staithe, 23rd November

The likes of Little Owl, Grey Wagtail and regular Tawny Owl were about the level of birds I was seeing most of the winter but during a trip to the in-laws in Kent I met up with my brother in Ramsgate Harbour where we saw the Iceland Gull (and a Kingfisher).

Iceland Gull, Ramsgate Harbour, 16th December

A visit to the Lake District didn't leave enough time for birding but I did enjoy the Nuthatch on the birdtable next to the window at the Mary Mount Hotel (and 2 Siskins).

A visit to Titchwell on 6th January produced 2 Water Rails in the ditches near the visitor centre (one on either side of the path), a Water Pipit and a Stonechat.

Water Rail, Titchwell, 6th January 2018

Our saunter out to the beach unfortunately coincided with the worst of the weather - it's hard enough showing the group birds on the sea at the best of times let alone in wind and rain so we quickly retreated back to the hides.  I did see a couple of Long-tailed Ducks out there and a few Goldeneye (there was also a pair of the latter on the fresh marsh).  I took the scenic route home seeing Barn Owls at Coxford, Brromsthorpe and Tatterford.

My first visit to Ryburgh for ages was quiet - a distant flock of 70 Golden Plovers was the highlight apart from this white-crowned sparrow (ho ho).  On the way home there were at least 6 Brambling at Guist Common.

leucistic House Sparrow, Ryburgh, 8th January

This Long-tailed Tit spent a short while attacking its reflection in my patio door windows.

Long-tailed Tit, North Elmham, 10th January

I heard Pink-footed Geese flying over the house 3 nights running on 10th, 11th and 12th January - I don't record many here so that's quite impressive, though everyone was getting them in the foggy conditions around this time.

My brother was visiting Norwich on 20th January and had some time for birding in the morning, so I joined him at Santon Downham in the hope of seeing the Parrot Crossbills.  We saw a flock of 17 Parrot Crossbills in the large oak (?) tree immediately NW of the picnic site car park but I was dismayed to discover that my lens wouldn't extend.  With it stuck at 100mm this was the best I could manage of the flock in flight (well, 16 of them).

Parrot Crossbills, Santon Downham, 20th January

They flew off towards the level crossing (where they had often been seeing coming down to puddles) but must have headed over to Santon Warren instead as they flew in from that direction when we eventually saw them by the level crossing quite a while later.  They never came down to drink at the puddles as they had done on other days but instead flew off back towards the picnic site.  We walked back down the river having seen a Brambling by the road, hoping to see Otters.  No luck, but we did bump into the flock of Parrot Crossbills again.  They were showing really well now, but unforunately it was now raining.  With the lens malfunctioning I had to resort to digiscoping them which never gives the best results even in good light (which it certainly wasn't today).  Still, here are my best efforts.

Parrot Crossbills, Santon Downham, 20th January

Other birds seen that morning included Nuthatch, Treecreeper (heard), Marsh Tits, Siskins and Bullfinches.

We then decided to head down to Burrell Way Industrial Estate in Thetford in the hope of seeing some gulls.  There weren't all that many present but we did see the second-winter Caspian Gull briefly.  It soon disappeared and while we were trying to relocate it my brother heard a Raven calling.  Eventually I saw and although I never heard it call I managed to get a good enough look at it to satisfy myself about the ID.  We realised there were in fact 2 Ravens going through - they had flown SW over the estate and were now heading off over the pine belt beyond the warehouse at the bottom of the hill.  We drove round to Thetford Heath in the hope of picking them up again round there but that was to no avail.

A flock of around 70 Pink-footed Geese flew over the house on 26th, only the second time I've actually seen them here.  I also saw Canada Geese and Mute Swans over that day, both species I only occasionally record from home, and Great Spotted Woodpecker which is a little less unusual.

I saw a Peregrine round the back of Sennowe on my way to Ryburgh on 29th.  Not much on the scrape but a Little Grebe was relatively unusual there, and a Barn Owl was seen.  I'd agreed to meet Dave at Sculthorpe Moor to look for the Arctic Redpoll that had been reported there the day before.  We joined Jason in the hide and had a good look at a few Redpolls one of which was a particularly good contender for Arctic in a number of ways.  But there were a few problems with it, not least the pattern of its undertail coverts, and we were satisfied that it was just a Mealy Redpoll.  There were a number of other Redpolls, all Mealy and Lesser.

Mealy Redpolls, Sculthorpe Moor, 29th January

Lesser Redpolls, Sculthorpe Moor, 29th January

Also always good to see 4 Bramblings here, along with Siskins, Bullfinches, Nuthatch and Marsh Tit.

Bramblings, Sculthorpe Moor, 29th January

Bullfinch, Sculthorpe Moor, 29th January

leucsitic Goldfinch, Sculthorpe Moor, 29th January

That evening a Coot was heard flying over the house - a decent bird for the garden.

The first 3 weeks of February were very quiet for me birding-wise - an over-wintering Chiffchaff at Bylaugh on 17th was the highlight.  A visit to St Faith's Common for the Crossbills (or Parrot Crossbills?) on 24th failed to deliver anything better than a few Siskins and 3 sightings of Sparrowhawk.

At the end of the month the "beast from the east" brought Fieldfares into the garden - well, certainly into the neighbour's garden and if the rather badly-described "thrush thing" my wife saw on the birdtable was one, which I suspect was the case, then also into our garden.  Lots of other common birds in the garden during this time too.

Greenfinches, North Elmham, 28th February

Long-tailed Tit, North Elmham, 28th February

Woodpigeon, North Elmham, 28th February

Blackbird, North Elmham, 2nd March

Blue Tit, North Elmham, 2nd March

Pied Wagtail, North Elmham, 3rd March

Highlights at the Bittering patch on 3rd March included Dunlin, 2-3 Woodcocks and 16 Snipe.  Wildfowl counts included 77 Wigeon (not so many wintering here this year - probably something to do with the highland cattle not being kept here - and more importantly fed here - any more), 7 Shelduck and 100+ Teal.  There were 41 Tufted Ducks on Roosting Hills Fishery at Beetley and a Grey Wagtail at Dereham Sewage Works.

Snipe, Bittering, 3rd March

A couple of days later I headed up to Fakenham to look for Jason Moss's Arctic Redpoll.  Sadly it didn't play ball and we had to settle with perhaps 3 Mealy Redpolls (and a few Siskins).  It was a great little area though - a bit of the valley I've not birded before.  There were Treecreepers everywhere, some showing, others calling and several singing.  Hard to say how many but we reckoned there must have been at least 10.  We also flushed a Woodcock nearby.

I then moved on to Ryburgh where not much was doing and stopped briefly at Bintree Mill where there were at least 30 Gadwall and 28 Shoveler.

Buzzard, Great Ryburgh, 5th March

Pheasant, Great Ryburgh, 5th March

Blue Tit, Great Ryburgh, 5th March

Chaffinch, Great Ryburgh, 5th March