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, 7 December 2018

Singing Greenish, White-winged Black & Pied Fly

It's been a long time since I updated my diaries...  a busy summer got in the way I'm afraid.  Actually I did write most of this at the time, but never managed to finish it off and post it.  Well, now I have, but no promises as to how soon it will be before I'm fully up to date.

The forecast for Friday 25th May showed a cloudy start following pre-dawn rain combined with winds coming from far to the east and clear skies to the east.  It looked perfect for late spring migrants!  I got up early, checked the moth trap in torrential rain and thought I'd better do a last minute check of the weather.  If it was going to be raining like this at the coast I'd be better off going back to bed and heading up later.  The forecast for here was heavy rain for the next 3 hours, so going back to bed seemed a good bet, but the forecast for Burnham Overy painted a different picture.  There it was fine - just light rain on and off over the next 2-3 hours - enough to drop some migrants in maybe but not so much to make birding difficult.  So I resistsed the temptation to return to bed and headed up to the coast.  The roads were like rivers and the rain showed no sign of letting up by the time I reached Burnham Overy - and another check of the forecast and it had changed completely.  Now it was showing heavy rain for the next 3 hours.  So I put the seat back and went to sleep.

Some time later I awoke.  It was still raining but I'd had a message from a friend to say the Greenish Warbler was still singing at Titchwell.  After my snooze I really needed some facilities, the likes of which are pretty hard to find in and around Burnham Overy at 6.30 in the morning, so I opted for driving over to Titchwell.  By now the rain had eased right off so I figured it would be worth a quick squint at the Greenish Warbler - I'd particularly be interested to hear it singing as I don't think I've had a singing bird before.  I headed straight to Meadow Trail as that's where RBA had been saying it was, and found no sign of the Greenish Warbler or any people looking for it.  A quick check with some friends on site and it became clear that it was actually nearer the visitor centre, and sure enough as I joined Fen Trail and started walking towards the visitor centre I picked up an unfamiliar song that was surely the Greenish Warbler.  There were a couple of others looking and in no time I got some good views of it fairly high in the trees, constantly singing and frequently showing.  In the gloom and murk my photos were never going to be much cop, but here are the best.

Greenish Warbler, Titchwell, 25th May

There was a constant backdrop of calling Mediterranean Gulls which was lovely, but rather than head out on to the marsh I was keen to resume my original plan of finding rares at Burnham Overy.  So I hopped back in the car and headed over.  It was like the rain hadn't actually stopped that side of Brancaster - still chucking it down there, but conveniently it did start drying up on my arrival at the staithe.

I wanted to see the White-winged Black Tern that had been present there for the best part of a week.  Yoav had already seen and photographed it this morning so it was looking hopeful as I walked down.  But I arrived at the reedy pool to find one forlorn twitcher bemoaning the fact that he hadn't seen it and had only seen one other birder who also hadn't seen it.  It clearly wasn't around, but that didn't overly concern me as I know it comes and goes from time to time.  I wandered on to the dunes in the hope that it would appear by the time I went back.

I bumped into Yoav in the dunes - he'd already done the Gun Hill end and been disappointed by the lack of migrants.  I tried to reassure him that it was late in the season for numbers - "the big one travels alone" and all that.  I don't think it helped!  What may have helped is when I wandered over to one of my favourite clumps of spindle and a superb male Pied Flycatcher popped up on the top.  As soon as I got my bins on it and pointed it out it flew, again perching out in full view on the top of some bushes.  Unfortunately it was now directly behind Yoav for me and due to the nature of the path we were on I couldn't manouevre to a position where I could see it quickly enough to get any shots before it flew again.  So if you want to see a very nice photo of it, you won't find one here so check out Yoav's blog instead.  I had a quick attempt to relocate it but failed, and didn't see it again when I came back through this area later on either.

Sadly that wasn't the padder before the mega, it was the star of the day.  I managed a few other migrants like Reed Warbler, Tree Pipit and Wheatear, but it was hard going - certainly not the arrival of rare and scarce migrants we were all hoping for.  Other nice birds included Spoonbills, Great White Egret(s?), Mediterranean Gulls, Cuckoo, Barn Owl, etc. but wer were all a little bit disappointed given the seemingly favourable conditions.

Fortunately though the White-winged Black Tern did return.  I heard it was back over the marsh but it took a while to pick it up from the dunes.  I did eventually see it distantly but hoped it would stick around until I headed back.  Conveniently it did - it was performing nicely at the reedy pool as I returned past there.

White-winged Black Tern, Burnham Overy, 25th May

Pleased enough with having seen and heard my first singing Greenish Warbler, found a stonking spring male Pied Flycatcher and seen the equally stonking White-winged Black Tern I decided to call it quits and head back home.  I went out again locally, but nothing better than Nuthatch and Green Woodpecker to report from there (bird-wise - plenty of non-avian interest that I've written about in my mothing diary).

Red-legged Partridge, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 25th May

Since then I've been hearing a Cuckoo calling from home some mornings but most of my birding activity has been confined to the Cathedral Meadows in North Elmham.

OK, so that's as far as I got writing this up to the end of May, before things got crazy and I had to stop.  So now the catch-up begins...

On 1st June I headed up to Brancaster where migrants on the golf-course included 2 Wheatears and a Reed Warbler.  A Cuckoo was calling and a Spoonbill was on the saltmarsh.  There was another Cuckoo along Gypsy Lane, along with Yellow Wagtail and an unexpected drake Garganey.  Also plenty of Bearded Tits showing along here.

Garganey, Brancaster, 1st June

Bearded Tits, Brancaster, 1st June

Most of my birding throughout the rest of June was restricted to the local North Elmham Cathedral Meadows where the highlight was a pair of Spotted Flycatchers on 6th.  Other observations here included Hobby, Nuthatches, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Bullfinches, Little and Tawny Owls, Sparrowhawk and Kingfisher.

Little Egret, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 3rd June

Spotted Flycatcher, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 6th June

Magpie, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 6th June

Black-headed Gull, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 11th June

House Martin, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 11th June

Apart from that Barn Owl at Derby Fen, Red Kite in Lenwade and a Curlew over the house one evening were about all I found in June.