With north-easterly winds I had been contemplating getting up very early and going seawatching, but a late night put paid to that idea. Instead I contented myself with a trip to Whitlingham in the hope of some windblown Scoters. As it happened the best bird of the day was a Common Gull in with the Lesser-black backs, which a quick notebook check suggests is my first August record here. There is still an uncut cereal field at the top of the lime tree avenue, so when that gets cut it could push some Red-legged Partridges into the meadows, but I'm struggling to amuse myself here at the moment. Plantwise some Hops are growing near the river. A large beetle wandering along the path was a Great Diving Beetle, a normally aquatic species, but one I have seen on land before. One of the Whitlingham Lane residents told me he'd seen a Grass Snake on the lane in the week, which would be good to see locally. And thats about it.
I know it doesn't look too spectacular here, but they are a pretty hefty beetle, with a good nip too.
After a fairly quiet August (so far) I didn't take any tempting to go to Graffham to see the White-winged Black Tern that has taken up recent residence. Gary & I arrived to see a few birders on site, and took advantage of a close Black Tern to get some pictures. It wasn't until it flew off that the comments around us made us aware that some individuals thought it was the White-winged Black Tern. The bird we were after was actually flying around with some Black Terns on the far edge of the reservoir. Eventually they made their way round to the sailing club, and the White-winged Black Tern treated us to some close fly-pasts before settling on the pontoon. After giving far better views than 90% of vagrant species* it set off on another lap, and we took our cue to head back to Norfolk.
After getting stuck in traffic near King's Lynn, we headed inland then north to Titchwell. We had a look through the waders, where Gary earned himself hero-worship status from a nearby birder by locating three Curlew Sandpipers near the back of the freshmarsh. Whilst this birder told his friends how he could hardly see the bird, let alone an eye-stripe, another well-meaning birder committed a cardinal sin. He tried to express his doubts about a recent Buff-breasted Sandpiper sighting (on-site this was changed later to Dotterel, I'm not sure on what basis) but insisted on only calling the bird a BBS. Don't do it folks. Maybe use acronyms when writing to save time, but not when speaking. You have time to say "Buff-breasted Sand(piper)". What if we think you mean Broad-billed Sandpiper? Or Big Balled Stint? More importantly, it justs sounds really really silly.After calling in at Stiffkey campsite carpark (a couple of Spoonbills on the saltmarsh), we went to the Dun Cow, hoping to cash in on the wader bonanza around the coast. The best bird was pretty much the first one, Gary spotting a Yellow Wagtail get up from near some cattle and fly west. I picked up a Hobby soaring above us, and at one point four were circling together, a lovely summer sight. A kettle of gulls over Cley seemed to be highlighting where we should be, so we finished the evening in the central hides. We were treated to some very close Common and Green Sandpipers, whilst further out six Spoonbills slept, and amongst the waders were one each of Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper, plus three probing Snipe. The whole lot was put up by a marauding Sparrowhawk, and some Swallows flew into a nest they had made inside the hide! Always a great place to end a days birding.
* This, like pretty much any unreferenced statistics on the blog is a completely made up stat.
With a Black Tern at Rockland and a variety of interesting raptors reported within a 10 mile radius I decided it was worth putting a few more hours in at Whitlingham. It wasn't. With autumn approaching I can hear the coast calling, and as a result visiting less often until the ducks start coming back. That said, if anyone sees any collections of large gulls at Whitlingham then give me a shout, Yellow-legged Gull is possible late August, and I still haven't seen Med Gull here (ever) or GBB Gull (year).
Ps. If you want a laugh at my expense, I thought I had found a Grey Plover across the river at Thorpe. At 8x I spotted a black band, edged with white, and what appeared to be a grey back. What could it be? Not convinced but ever hopeful I phoned Cathy to bring my telescope, upon which point I hurried back and saw this very nice flint. Click to enlarge the embarrassment.
Just a quick walk today, having a look around Winterton North Dunes. A large number of Grayling butterflies were flying around the dunes, along with loads of Grasshoppers. A few gulls, terns and Cormorants were offshore, and there was a steady stream of Swallows flying south low over the dunes and strandline. Two Swifts were also flying south but noticeably higher than the Swallows. On the way back a male Marsh Harrier flew over the road in fron of us and gave crippling views alongside the car, before drifting off inland. In the evening we went down to Carrow Road to watch Norwich reserves, and were treated to a beautiful sunset with tonnes of Gulls flying over to go to roost.
The sky over Carrow Road
Still no sign of a good Tern or Osprey, or anything good birdwise really. Of the resident stuff a Marsh Tit was calling in scrub near the river and a family of recently fledged Pied Wagtails were catching flies along the shore of the Great Broad. A couple of fresh looking Small Tortoiseshells were the pick of the butterflies. Poking about in the grass I disturbed a Mint Moth, and found Meadow Grasshopper, Field Grasshopper and Long-winged Conehead (which sounds more exciting than it looks). Conehead literature suggests it is best heard with a bat detector, but this is the second year I've found them at Whitlingham by ear, maybe they're getting louder?!
A good look around the country park, meadows, woods and marsh still failed to turn up any unusual birds (how I wish the White-winged Tern at Graffham had chosen Whitlingham instead). A couple of Common Terns were flying around the Great Broad, but that was it. From memory the number of Coot should be building up now, but it isn't. A few Blackcaps were eating Blackberries near the river, and a "bull-necked"-looking Marsh Tit may have been strung for Willow in the days of old. Whilst scanning the meadows for partridges I saw a large bug out of the corner of my eye, which it turns out is a Western Conifer Seedbug. Smart looking thing, but apparently a huge pest species accidentally imported to Europe from the USA. On the bright side we are quite low on Ruddy Ducks, so it'll give DEFRA something else to shoot.
We had decided in advance to go to Titchwell to see the moth traps opened, and despite the forecast of rain we decided to go anyway. The catch was predictably small, although it did include my first Ear Moth sp. and two Canary-shouldered Thorns. Peter from Holme (Moths of Holme Website) had brought a few from his trap, the most notable being a Straw Underwing. In the gift shop I had a look at the new Cranes in Norfolk book. It looks nice, but at £30 may well be pricing a number of people out of buying it (including me). It is also possibly bad timing, as British Birds have just published an article on Cranes in Britain.
We spent the morning at Natural Surroundings. I had let them know that we were coming in advance and Andrew had kindly agreed to put the moth traps out for me, so we had a large number of moths to sort through. There were around 40 species, the most spectacular being a Red Underwing. There were large numbers of Setaceous Hebrew Characters and Shuttle-shaped Darts, and some of my favourites like Black Arches and Swallow Prominent. There were also several burying beetles, some black and some orangey-red and black striped ones. Whilst we were sorting through the traps we showed interested visitors some of the catch and talked about moth trapping. As it was Sunday they also got the resident Hedgehog (Cookie) out to show.
Today we visited Baconsthorpe "Castle" (it was a fortified private home) near Holt. Lovely weather, lovely place. It has a moat which connects to a small lake on one side, where we saw a Kingfisher. Scouring the ruins we also found a resting Knot Grass moth blending in well with the lichen. Other stuff of interest were a number of dragonflies and a singing Yellowhammer on the approach road.
The recent Brown Argus sightings have brought up the unlikely scenario that I could see all 34 regular Norfolk butterflies in a year (I'm not counting Silver-washed Fritillary in that as it seems they are yet to establish themselves - I'd still like to see one though!). I reckon I'll bump into Grayling around Salthouse later in the summer, so Painted Lady seems to be the one I may struggle with as they seem very thin on the ground this year. Anyway, that left Purple Hairstreak to see, and luckily enough there are some at Mousehold Heath.
Another one for the "poor record shot" album