Local Hawfinches, 19 January 2018

As I had a bit of time to spare this afternoon and the location conveniently tied in with my other activities today I popped along to a local churchyard to look for some Hawfinches that have been seen there recently. Unfortunately it has been asked that the location be kept undisclosed and I have to accept the finders wishes.

Upon arrival there was no sign but after about 10 minutes a single bird flew in and lingered for a couple of minutes. That was it for a whole hour when I finally got onto 3 more, then 4, then 6. They never entered the actual churchyard, always keeping their distance, often in treetops.

The hours they were absent wasn't wasted though - a Red Kite flew over, 2 Grey Wagtails flew low over the church roof, there was plenty of Nuthatch activity plus Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, a couple of Song Thrushes and a handful of Redwings. Snowdrops were out too.



North Norfolk mop up, 14 January 2018

A day out with Jus to try and get a few of the long-staying winter goodies in North Norfolk. We didn't want it to be an all-out dash around so played it cool at a fairly leisurely pace.

We decided to start at Holkham which would give us the option of going either east or west from there. On the way we had 2 Red Kites and 1 Common Buzzard south of Holkham. Unlike last weekend the 9 Shorelarks were really easy on the saltings east of the bay in their usual spot. On the walk back along Lady Anne's Drive a flock of c200 Brent Geese held a nice Black Brant plus a hybrid. The same meadow also held a few Fieldfares


Black Brant

We headed east next - to Sheringham where a splendid male Black Redstart performed beautifully near the lifeboat station at the west end of the promenade. A female Stonechat was also there and 8 Ringed Plover were on the beach.

Black Redstart

Cromer golf course was next were we found the juvenile Iceland Gull on one of the fairways looking from the cliff top path. Attempts to get closer were thwarted when it was flushed by golfers just before we got to it!

To extend the day as long as we could we finished proceedings at Warham for the roost. Here we were entertained by 3 Hen Harriers (including a superb male), a Merlin hunting Meadow Pipits out on the saltings plus 2 Common Buzzards, 3 Marsh Harriers, plenty of Little Egrets, Curlews and a mixed flock of Lapwing and Golden Plovers.

Yearlist = 108

Hume's Leaf Warbler, Waxham, 11 January 2018

Despite the very dingy, misty conditions I had a day off today so made my way up to Waxham for a certain warbler species I hadn't seen for a number of years.

A Barn Owl near Horsey corner was the first notable bird of the day. Arriving at Waxham at 09.30 I spent a rather fruitless few hours hearing it call just once north of Shangri-la and clocking a wintering Chiffchaff as my 100th bird of the year along with a couple of Song Thrushes and Goldcrests. I walked south of Shangri-la for the 3rd time and Dave Holman waved at me to indicate he'd got it. Within a minute or two I was enjoying some great views of the Hume's Leaf Warbler, indeed it went on to show more or less continuously for about 40 minutes until I left to grab some lunch in my van. With the light and visibility still very poor I decided to grab my camera and go back to try my luck. Again it showed nicely although photographing it was really difficult. I did manage a couple of passable shots in the end after much trying! A single Fieldfare flew south and along the Horsey straight on the way back I counted 220 Mute Swans which unfortunately didn't contain any wild swans.

Still, 2 phylloscs on a January day isn't something I've done before I think. It was also nice to meet and have a chat with Marcus Nash and Carl Buttle. 

Hume's Leaf Warbler


A Patch Tick, Weybread GPs, 10 January 2018

A lunchtime stroll along the fisherman's path on the north side of Ocean Pit at Weybread resulted in a very satisfying patch tick today.
Initially a Kingfisher was along the edge of the pit followed by Song Thrush, Little Grebe and good numbers of Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants then a group of swans flew in and circled the pit. Fully expecting them to be Mutes I raised my bins to discover 7 Bewick's Swans, a really good patch bird for south Norfolk! They circled over my head but flew east and didn't ever land. Despite looking I was unable to add anything else to my yearlist although 122 Tufted Duck was my highest site count and a single drake Wigeon was also locally noteworthy. Both Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker were also seen but the place was curiously devoid of geese.  

Wells, Holkham & Thornham, 6 & 7 January 2018

We had a budget weekend on the North Norfolk coast staying just one night at Wells Youth Hostel with a night out on the town there on Saturday night.
Birdwise I pretty much dipped everything I wanted to see (Shorelarks, Cattle Egrets and Twite) and the birding was generally pretty dull. But as Belinda kept reminding me it wasn't a birding weekend!
Nevertheless I added a few yearticks on a circular walk taking in Wells and Holkham but nothing more exciting than a couple of Grey Partridges and a Sanderling! In Holkham Park we got some great views of loads of Fallow Deer and c10 Red Deer including some seriously impressive bucks with full antlers. The next day we went back with my camera but only saw the Fallows. A Tawny Owl calling in Wells that night was a welcome yeartick.

On the Sunday we had a Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker, 2 Mistle Thrushes and several Redwing in Holkham Park and very little at Thornham apart from a close Black-tailed Godwit and c3 'Scandinavian' Rock Pipits. A wander along the track at Titchwell was blustery and freezing but I did add Brambling, Spotted Redshank and a nice close Pale-bellied Brent Goose.

A week into the new year and my yearlist stands at 96

Fallow Deer

Black-tailed Godwit

'Scandinavian' Rock Pipit

          Pale-bellied Brent Goose

Thorpe Marshes and Barnham Broom, 4 January 2018

With the forecast for the morning rain clearing by lunchtime I headed to Norwich for my second visit to Thorpe Marshes this week. This time I remembered my wellies and it was a good job I did - the northern path parallel to the railway line was under water and deep enough to come within an inch of the top of my wellies! It was well worth the effort though because the wintering male Bearded Tit showed very nicely on the near edge of the block of reeds. A wander/splosh around the reserve revealed c35 Pochard, the female Ferruginous Duck x Pochard hybrid, c40 Gadwall, plus Shovelers, Great Crested Grebe and 4 Coot. Away from the main body of water 3 Cetti's Warblers, Reed Bunting, Water Rail (heard only), 2 Jays, Siskins (in alders by the railway line), Great Spotted Woodpecker, female Sparrowhawk and a fly-through Marsh Harrier.

Bearded Tit

Marsh Harrier

Ferruginous Duck x Pochard hybrid

I left the site at about 13.30 and headed along the southern bypass to Barnham Broom where c12 Red Kites came in to roost, c200 Fieldfares were under the poplars and 3 Mistle Thrushes, 2 Song Thrushes and a handful of Redwings made it a bit of a thrush-fest.

  Red Kites      

If you hunt, you're a c**t

A local walk this afternoon turned out to be rather more eventful than I'd imagined - but not in a good way.

Firstly, walking along a lane on the edge of Pulham Market I was nearly run over by a tractor towing a trailer full of sad gun-toting bastards. Then further long my walk when I was on a public footpath (actually one that forms part of Boudica's Way) the same saddos were shooting right by the path. I approached a beater to question why there were doing it by a public footpath and to ask if they were going to stop while I walked past and his reply was 'we can do what we f**king well like'. This was a red rag to a bull for me so I verbally let him have it with both barrels (excuse the pun!)
My views on hunting of any sort that isn't subsistance hunting in places where they have no choice is that it is immoral, blood-thirsty and murderous. Breeding pheasants in pens to release for the sole purpose of blowing them out of the sky is sick and depraved. Those who do it are mentally ill. And believe you me, I made my views on the matter very plain!

It was almost a side issue but I added Sparrowhawk, Mistle Thrush and Goldcrest to my yearlist in the very blustery conditions.      

New Years Day birding, Aldeburgh and beyond, 1 January 2018

With the forecast looking promising and my germs gone at last I decided on a full day out on the Suffolk coast to kick the year off.
The Aldeburgh area was the focus of my attention but things didn't start too well with the Siberian Chiffchaff of the last 2 days at Sluice Cottage, North Warren being conspicuous by it's absence. The bushes there held just Song Thrush and Cetti's Warbler. Nonetheless, 3 White-fronted Geese were on the marsh with good numbers of Pintail, Black-tailed Godwits and small numbers of the iffy Barnacle Geese amongst the common wildfowl. On the beach c25 Snow Buntings were up and down as far as the 'scallop' and offshore were c200 Common Scoter and a single Red-throated Diver.

Snow Buntings

After a quick coffee I headed to Hazlewood Marshes for another look at the Coue's Arctic Redpoll which gave itself up quite readily amongst c20 Lesser Redpolls and 1 Mealy Redpoll. Other than 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers that was about it there.

Coues's Arctic Redpoll

Mealy Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll

A look at the rocks near the martello tower at Slaugden revealed 2 Purple Sandpipers showing really nicely roosting on the top of a rock plus Little Egret, 3 Rock Pipits and 18 Brent Geese.

Purple Sandpiper

To conclude the day I drove up to the harbour entrance at Walberswick for the reported Iceland Gull. What greeted me was a rather strange hybrid gull suoerficially resembling Iceland but definitely a 'Viking' Gull (Glaucous x Herring). Sadly I was on the wrong side of the river for any decent photos so had to settle for a few record shots of this educational bird.

I finished the day on 61 species without really trying 

'Viking' Gull (Glaucous x Herring hybrid)

2017 - Over and Out!

The year finished with a 6 mile walk around Westleton Heath and Dunwich Forest and the highlight was probably a cheese scone in the Dunwich Bridge tearooms!
Literally the only things of any note were a 2 Common Buzzards, Marsh Harrier, small group of Siskins, Marsh Tit, an unseasonal Red Admiral at the tearooms and then 2 Dartford Warblers on Westleton Heath when nearly back to the car.
I live in hope that UK birding in 2018 is better than 2017 has been! 

Wensum Park, Norwich, 30 December 2017

A couple of failed attempts during the day to see Ring-necked Parakeet around Wensum Park. During my 2 visits of the afternoon (13.00 and 15.00 - dusk) I did manage a Grey Wagtail, 3 Little Grebes (including one in full summer plumage!), 1 Cormorant, 4 Mute Swans, 2 Egyptian Geese, 2 Common Gulls and a couple of ringed Black-headed Gulls amongst the masses.
There was plenty of dodgy comings and goings in the wooded area too and the constant smell of weed in the air - oh how I love urban birding!
This rather colourful sign caught my eye too - clearly a lot of work has gone into creating it but does the wildlife of the park really include Large Copper, Swallowtail, Marsh Fritilliary and the completely ficticious 'Dusky Blue'?! I feel an email to Norwich City Council coming on...