Santon Downham again, 9 December 2017

Despite the sub-zero temperatures we headed to Santon Downham for a walk today. The main aim was to try for Otter but despite much searching we failed with that. The whole area was pretty quiet as the Brecks so often is in the winter. Eventually I did manage to see c10 Parrot Crossbills at distance from the road near the level crossing carpark but was glad I'd seem them well before! A walk along the river yielded 3 Grey Wagtails, Little Egret, Redwings, 2-3 Little Grebes, 2 Nuthatches and c20 Siskins but that really was it.

 Grey Wagtail


September 2018 - South Africa here we come!

We booked flights for our next adventure a couple of days ago. After much deliberation we've opted for a 4 week trip to South Africa which seems to tick loads of our boxes!
For me the birding should be excellent and Belinda has long wanted to do the safari thing.
We'll be flying in and out of Cape Town spending roughly half the trip in the Western Cape/Garden Route and the other half in Kruger/Limpopo with a couple of internal flights.
So far things look very reasonably priced in terms of flights, car hire and accommodation which should mean we can splash out a bit more on safari!
The map below shows our very rough plan

Arctic Redpoll, Hazelwood Common, Suffolk, 2 December 2017

I decided to give this elusive bird a go today and elusive it was indeed! In 3 hours on site I managed just 3 views in bushes beside the track just down from the small carpark. It was with a loose flock of c20 Lesser Redpolls and 2-3 Mealy Redpolls feeding in a weedy set-aside field and popping up into bushes very occasionally. A classic 'exilipes' Coues Arctic Redpoll, very pale with white rump, frosty upperparts, a straw-tinged head/upper breast and very faint diffuse flank streaks. The light was pretty dreadful for photography but latterly the sun came out and I managed one shot in good light! There was also a large and very dark Redpoll present which I managed a shot of. It looks promising for a possible Greenland Redpoll
Also there were a fly-over Little Egret, Curlew, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Redwings.

Arctic Redpoll

    Arctic Redpoll (right) with 2 Lesser Redpolls  

putative Greenland Redpoll

Wot no Horned Lark? Staines, 29 November 2017

Jus and I headed off to Staines yesterday. The original plan had been to wait on news of the American Horned Lark while enjoying the Parrot Crossbills at Santon Downham. The first part of the plan worked nicely with 32 Parrot Crossbills counted around the carpark and even seen coming down to drink in a puddle by the toilet block. News from Staines didn't come through so with time getting on we decided to go anyway.

After the drive we got there at lunchtime. Walking up the slope onto the causeway, dodging the dog shit, past the dog poo bags hanging on the pallisade fence and turning right at the abandoned supermarket trolley (you get the picture!) we were greeted by negative news from those on site. Under leaden skies and with darkening moods we gave it about an hour and a half until we almost froze to death and gave up. At least the view was nice, oh wait, it wasn't! Joking aside we did get some nice views of a Black-necked Grebe on the south basin plus a Peregrine, 5 Pintail, Goldeneye and c60 Pochard but were glad to leave in the end.

With a bit of time left before dark we called in at Stockers Lake, Rickmansworth on the way back round the M25. After a long walk all round the lake we eventually found 8 Red-crested Pochards plus a handful of Ring-necked Parakeets, 2+ Kingfishers, 3 Goldeneye and 8 Siskins. Around the M11 and M25 while driving we also clocked up 7 Red Kites and 3 Common Buzzards.

Red-crested Pochards


Parrot Crossbills etc, Santon Downham, 28 November 2017

A little short day trip to the Brecks that I'd put off from the previous day because of the weather.
If only all birding could be as easy  - I pulled up on the St Helen's Well carpark at Santon Downham and walked just a few yards to watch c30 Parrot Crossbills in the sun! And very entertaining they were too with their feeding antics involving ripping pine cones off branches whole and holding them in their feet to extract the kernels. Some even flew carrying cones in their bills! The flock consisted of about 70% males. A couple of Nuthatches were calling, a Grey Wagtail and a Stock Dove flew over and on a short walk I found a flock of c45 Siskins in alders by the river.

Parrot Crossbills

I moved on to Grimes Graves next but a cold walk later only yielded Sparrowhawk so I cut my losses and headed for Lynford. The reported Scaup on Lynford Water turned out to be a Tufted Duck (!) but a walk down to the paddocks and around was much nicer. I eventually found 2 Hawfinches in the NW corner of the paddocks and also had a Kingfisher by the bridge, c25 Siskins, 3 Marsh Tits, Coal Tits, 2 Nuthatches, Treecreeper and Little Grebe.    

Marsh Tit



Gadwall pair

Sotterley, Suffolk, 23 November 2017

I spent a very pleasant hour wandering around Sotterley Park this morning. Despite it being a bit blustery I was able to find 2 Hawfinches without too much difficulty. They both allowed close approach as I just stood still and watched them feeding in a Hornbeam at the far end of the Dell. While there I also had Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit and Mistle Thrush, all nice woodland species which reminded me of my childhood days watching these.
Later on near Thwaite (near Ditchingham) 2 Sparrowhawks were sparring c5 Fieldfares flushed from the hedge and there was an even later Red Admiral.

 The Dell, Sotterley Park

North Warren area, 19 November 2017

Really not too much to write home about but a very pleasant walk around Thorpeness, Sizewell, Aldringham Walks and North Warren in the sun yesterday.
Wildlife was restricted to some late insects in the form of c6 Red Admirals and 2 Common Darters plus a fly-over Grey Wagtail at North Warren. Despite a paucity of winter thrushes there were a few Fieldfares at Leiston Abbey and then an albino Common Pheasant near Metfield on the way home.

  Lengthening shadows at Leiston Abbey

Dodgy Pheasants, Hemblington, 27 October 2017

With the absence of any real birds to look at I took a detour to Hemblington on my way into Norwich this afternoon to look for some plastic pheasants!

They were rather skittish but I managed some decent shots of Reeve's Pheasant out of the 6 or so I saw but even though they were more numerous the 'Green' Pheasants (actually 'tenebrosus' ssp) were even more nervous so I need to return to get better shots of those!

There were loads of Red-legged Partridges with the pheasants, a female Marsh Harrier circled overhead and Long-tailed Tits were remarkably numerous with c50 seen. A Sparrowhawk, several Redwings and 2 Fieldfares were also recorded.

Reeves Pheasants

 'Green' Pheasants

London, 21 & 22 October 2017

A weekend in London to celebrate Belinda's 50th so no birding as such.

However, in Richmond there were no shortage of Ring-necked Parakeets about when I did an impromptu explore near Richmond Hill. A Grey Wagtail flew over Brick Lane on the Sunday and over the M11 in Cambs on the way home were a Red Kite and 3 Common Buzzards.

A week off work now so I'm betting nothing turns up... 

What a boring autumn on the East Coast!

What to say? My first blog entry for 3 weeks and still there's bugger all to get excited about.
The east coast has had very little this autumn so far although we continue to live in hope that a mega is just around the corner. Well, there's a Mugimaki Flycatcher in Norway!
A year ago tomorrow we were getting het up about the Easington Siberian Accentor, that seems along while ago now.
This week I've been working locally in Pulham Market. On Wednesday c45 Redwings and 2 Song Thrushes moved west over the village and on Thursday a Grey Wagtail was circling calling and a Brimstone was also seen.

Thank goodness for my foreign trips because without those I'd be desperate by now.
We're currently investigating Cambodia and South Africa!