The Whitlingham Bird Report 2020 is available now (click here)

For previous years (2012-2019) see the links on the Whitlingham Bird List page.

100th patch bird of the year...

30th December 2009

I was still in bed when I got a text from Adam, telling me there was a Black-necked Grebe at Whitlingham. After a half-asleep "are you sure?" message, it was established that the bird was indeed a Black-necked Grebe, and I had to see it. I left without any breakfast and walked down to Whitlingham in the drizzle. I spotted a Kingfisher and a redhead Goosander close in to the shore as I walked along, stopping level with the island. At first I couldn't see any grebes other than GC, but a second look revealed the Black-necked Grebe, which promptly dived. I watched it for a while, periodically wiping my telescope and glasses. A local birder came over and we watched the bird for a bit longer, before continuing round the broad. There was no sign of the GN Diver, although it had been seen ealier in the morning. Through the flooded north-east corner, and along the back path we saw little, until a Bullfinch flew out of some brambles.
When I got home I had a tot up and found that the grebe was my 100th Whitlingham bird of the year. I had been aiming for 100, so to finish on 101 (Bullfinch was also new) was particularly pleasing. I had missed a fair few birds; Garganey, Mandarin, LRP, Wood Sand, Brent Goose, all the terns, plus fly through Crossbill and Whooper Swan, but all in all a good year. My best self-found bird was probably an Avocet on Thorpe Broad. Here's to 110 next year!

Goose watching

28th December 2009

Gary & I had originally agreed to go to Wayland Wood to see if there are still any Golden Pheasants there, but on the day we decided to head for the coast to fill in a few gaps in my year list. We arrived at Docking and scanned through thousands of Pink-footed Geese in the hope of finding the Snow Goose, but no luck. On to Holme, and we suceeded in seeing Long-tailed Duck, Gary picking up three just offshore. We cut inland towards Wighton to look for more geese, and duly found another flock. We scanned this one for a while too with no luck. I later found out the Snow Goose was at Holkhma, but hey, you can't win them all.

Giving up on geese, we called in at Cley, where a flock of Twite have been recently. Suffice to say they weren't there whilst we were, but we did see a Kigfisher and a Jack Snipe, whilst a Kestrel proved an obliging subject for a while. The last target of the day was Merlin, so we headed to Stubb Mill. We were doing well, Gary called 4 Cranes and I spotted a ringtail Hen Harrier, but banks of mist/fog rolled in and put an end to the fun.

Fudge & Diver

...the new detective series starting on ITV3. Not really, they only show repeats.
27th December 2009
With Cath & her mum having joined the NWT over Christmas, they wanted to go to a reserve. I suggested Barton Broad, certainly not just so I could have a look at the Fudge Duck. After braving the boardwalk, slippery with water and ice, we reached the viewing platform where four birders were looking fairly close in. I soon found the male Ferruginous Duck with a small group of Pochard near the tern platforms. As the bird was giving good views, I took the chance to use one of my Christmas gifts, a hardbacked sketch book. This is useful because a) my digiscoping is crap, and b) I realised this year I don't take enough notes, and if I want to get birds through rarity committees I need to start taking more! Below is todays masterpiece (yep, I took pencil crayons too!). All in all a success, but I don't think many birds are going to make as obliging subjects. There were 20+ Goldeneye on show too, and lots of Fieldfares.

My Fudge notes. The blue line on the left is a scanner artefact.

We took a slow drive along the coast as far as Walcott, but didn't see the Cranes. Lots of Lapwings around Brograve farm though. Back in Norwich we stopped at Whitlingham, and after a short walked along the south shore my scope was full of diver. Presumably the Strumpshaw bird, I had hoped it would drift along to Whitlingham before Christmas, but better late than never. It was diving a lot, and will hopefully make its home there for a while so I can get better views later in the week. The broad was full of Coot and Gadwall, and a Grey Heron looked uneasy on a post, as if it was minding the space for a Cormorant and hoping it wouldn't be long. I might put a photo of the diver up, but its hardly worth it, it was so low in the water you can only see a third of its body!

Merry Christmas!

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog, those who have left comments or that I have met in the field this year.

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!


Whitlingham snowy extravaganza

19th & 21st December 2009

Saturday was still snowy, so I ditched any ideas of heading to the coast and instead went to Whitlingham. A flock of around 30 Siskin and Goldfinch were in the alders, and Cath noticed a Water Rail skulking near the path. At the end of the Little Broad a Grey Heron and a redhead Goosander (a long overdue patch tick) were standing on the bank.
The Great Broad held a vast number (400+) Gadwall, and probably a similar number of Coot. Cath spotted a Weasel near the path to the bird screen, whilst a Cetti's Warbler flew up out of the reeds. The north-east corner of the broad had flooded the path, so we hurried around the final part of the lap to go home and dry off!
On Monday I decided to spend a whole day at Whitlingham, hoping to catch some winter migration. The Little Broad had frozen almost completely, but along the back 11 Shoveler represented an increase on previous numbers. I started counting the Gadwall, when I heard some children chanting ho-ho-ho. Never a good sign. The ducks started moving as Santa arrived on a boat. I bet people who patch-bird at Cley never have these problems. A few Teal and Wigeon were on the Great Broad, but no sign of anything better until I stopped to talk to a fellow birder who picked up a redhead Goosander flying past us.
Small numbers of Lapwing flew west all day, the biggest group around 55. There had clearly been an arrival of Snipe recently, I saw 15, several in flight but most flushed. More impressively was my first patch Woodcock, making a nice change from Snipe! A group of 13 Skylark also flew west, a notable record. Other decent birds included 3 Kingfishers (Trowse Meadows, Little Broad and Great Broad), a Marsh Tit, several Song Thrushes and some Redwing. The snow may be over, but hopefully there is still time for a rare grebe or diver to find a temporary home.

A white-bearded dude goes duck spotting

Winter Blackcap

13th December 2009
A shopping trip in between the showers took me & Cathy past Grove Road, where we found a male Blackcap in the trees opposite the mini-roundabout. It takked a bit and then flew off into the gardens behind. My first overwintering one, although many do now apparently.

Sleeping Ducks in West Norfolk

6th December 2009
Having decided to have a pre-Christmas birdwatch with Gary at the weekend, I was pleased to see that a female Ferruginous Duck had been found on Friday. To add to this, an American Wigeon was found on Saturday, so we set off in the rain for a wildfowl extravaganza. On the way we stopped at Denver Sluice to look for Goosander, but with no luck. I did spot a Barn Owl flying across the channel, which was some consolation. The approach road to Welney held large flocks of Whooper Swans, with some Bewick's mixed in too. We arrived, I coughed up the £6.30 entrance fee (they get you to pay before telling you the whole reserve is flooded too ;-o) and we proceeded to the observation hide, where the guide/hostess/volunteer cheerily told us she had seen the American Wigeon earlier but had no idea where it was now.
After a few false starts, Gary "eyes of a hawk (or hwak, which I originally typed)" White, spotted the American Wigeon about 6 miles across the lagoon, sleeping on the bank. We spent about 30 minutes staring at the side of a sleeping duck, until it indulged us for 30 seconds with it's head up, showing the pale face and green facial stripe. Gary managed to record this feat, and leaving a number of birders to stare at the yank wigeon until it woke up again, we left, rubbing our eyes.
Next stop was Snettisham RSPB and the long walk to the pools. We slipped along the path (Adam's balance being particularly suspect) until we got to Rotary Hide, noting Goldeneye and Little Grebes on the way. A first scan of the bank turned up nothing, but a second scan turned up the female Ferruginous Duck, asleep. Lazy things, ducks. It woke up a few times, stretching its wings and going for a quick swim and walk, enough to note all of the fudgy features (chestnut colour, white vent, white belly patch, white underwing, sloping forehead, longish grey bill and dark eye). A large flock of Greylags held two hybrids (presumable with Canada), both looking like Greylag but with white on the face, unlike the commoner "brown necked Canada" type.
On the way back we cut through via Docking in the hope of catching up with the/a Snow Goose. We did find a pre-roost flock of thousands of Pink-footed Geese, but no rarer stragglers. These were flushed by something behind the field and flew over us, a spectacular sight. We arrived at the Dun Cow as the sun was setting in the hope of getting an owl for our pub list. No such luck, but we did manage Little Grebe, Shoveler, Brent Goose, Lapwing and Pink-footed Goose amongst others, before we left in the dark.

Wet weekend wildfowl

28th & 29th November 2009

On Saturday me & Cathy took the train to Hoveton and walked to Wroxham Broad. I was surprised that no other birders were there when we arrived. To the left (west) of the car park a group of Pochard were partly visible, and I found the Ring-necked Duck with them, although it had it's head down so i couldn't make out the beak. It drifted out of sight towards the yacht club jetty, so we settled down to wait for its re-emergence. A local birder joined us for a while, but decided to leave looking through the fence to us. Standing in the scrub at the edge of the car park and 'scoping through the metal fence I watched the Pochard flock around the jetty, and was eventually rewarded with a better view of the R-N Duck as it swam through my field of view. Not as good views as Whitlingham last year, but at least we saw it. Back in Hoveton a Black Swan was on the river near the Tourist Information Office.
On Sunday me & Adam went down to Whitlingham. As we arrived it started to piss it down with rain, a feature of the trip. Conclusions are that my new coat is waterproof, but this makes my trousers very wet. A Kingfisher flew across the Little Broad, and a Grey Heron stood close in to the path. We saw little other than the usual geese and Coot along the southern edge, and almost turned back as the rain strengthened and it became apparent that the path was flooded near the east end. We carried on (my new walking boots are waterproof too, thankfully) and were rewarded with a large number of birds in the conservation area:
Lots of Coot, Mallard, Tufted Duck & Gadwall
Pochard - 57 (33m, 24f)
Teal - 12 (7m, 5f)
Little Grebe - 7
Wigeon - 4 (2m, 2f)
Shoveler - 3 (2m, 1f)
Adam picked out a Snipe preening on the edge of one of the islands, and Cormorants had displaced all the gulls except one LBBG from the posts. Another Grey Heron was on the main island, and a couple of Common Gulls were loafing with the Black-headed Gulls. A walk up the tree avenue failed to produce any signs of mythical Tawny or Little Owls, but did turn up Green Woodpecker and Jay. Two pairs of Egyptian Geese argued over the road, one pair having the field as a territory, the others settling for the Little Broad carpark. The field pair won, so the carparkers don't even have access at the moment! Still no sign of any Brambling or Waxwings, but Northerlies forecast this week.

Sculthorpe Moor

22nd November 2009

As part of Cathy's birding education, we went to Sculthorpe to get a better look at Water Rails, Marsh Tits and possibly Brambling. As it turned out there were no Brambling yet (much to Cath's annoyance, if anyone sees any around Norwich in the near future please let me know. UEA bird feeders is usually a good site). We did see all the usual woodland fare minus the Golden Pheasant, which had obviously migrated to the Himalayas. No sign of any Willow Tits either, but the rain put us off from looking too hard. In terms of non bird life, we saw a Bank Vole, 2 Muntjac Deer and some Wood Blewitt fungus. Gary & Claire joined us in the scrape hide, but by then the rain had set in and everything had gone to ground.

Marsh Tit from the fen hide

A Water Rail strikes a characteristic pose

Red crested Pochard, but should I feel bad about counting it?

21st November 2009

I nearly missed out on another patch tick today. Following the reappearance of the broads Ring-necked Duck, I planned to get up early and hit Whitlingham at dawn to look for scarce Aythya species before the whole county descended on the country park. My alarm went off at 6, then went off full stop. I slept in until 10 and thought bugger it. Settling down in the afternoon, a text from Gary alerted me to a Red-crested Pochard that had been seen the previous day (presumably this news was from RBA, there was no news on BirdGuides). The light was poor, but I figured I could get there with 45 minutes of light left, so I power walked down, arriving at 3.15. No sign in the conservation area or on Thorpe Broad, and I was on the verge of giving up when I found the drake RCP, attacking a Gadwall. I watched it as the light faded, unfortunately too dark for a record shot. I then walked home in the dark for a celebratory beer.
The first question should be whether the Red-crested Pochard comes from a sustainable population or is an escape. Unfortunately I can't think of a good way of finding this out. November has seen a large increase in wildfowl numbers at Whitlingham, and if a "wild" bird was to turn up, now would be the time. I'm happy either way really, but should I be? To explain this, with ironic timing fellow UEA alumni the Punkbirders have written an article for Birdwatch about whether it's ok to tick category C species. To be honest I don't really understand it. The suggestion appears to be that as many introduced species negatively impact on native species, ticking them is unethical. I don't really see the link between the impact of a species and its "tickability" personally. Maybe I've missed the point, but in answer to the sub-headline "Is it really ok to tick those Category C birds?" I can't see past the obvious answer. Yes.

No birds, but a Bird's Nest

15th November 2009

The "no birds" bit isn't strictly true, although no interesting birds probably is. A walk around Whitlingham after the strong winds was notable only for a female Goldeneye, the first I've seen there this autumn. The best part of the day was finding a number of Bird's Nest fungi (Crucibulum laeve) on twigs near my house. (Well worth looking up on google). These tiny fungi are apparently not uncommon, but due to their size are just rarely recorded. There are 39 records from Norfolk up until 2007, from only 7 observers and none since 2002, although I think specimens have been found at one other site this year and are yet to be added to the database. Later I participated in a fungus foray at Whitlingham. I committed a schoolboy error in forgetting to take a pen, and listed everything we found using Cath's eyeliner pencil, which worked surprisingly well.
Common Birds Nest (Crucibulum laeve)

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) in Whitlingham Woods

Return To Pegwell Bay

Yes I am aware the title sounds like an Enid Blyton book.
7th November 2009
Following our previous disappointment at missing out on the Zitting Cisticola, its subsequent re-appearance tempted Gary to drive back to Kent this weekend. Me, Adam & Claire all went along, on what may ultimately be a waste of time if they colonise the UK in the next few years. As before we arrived at Pegwell around 8. There was no dog show, so we walked straight to the edge of the saltmarsh, where Gary recognised the sound of the Zitter. We got a brief flight view, but over the next 15 minutes got super views as it climbed up thistles and grass stems.
We did a mini-lap of the sight to look for perched Parakeets (a flock of eight had flown through already), and had another quick look at the Zitting Cisticola, still showing well. I had a cup of tea and a bacon roll from the friendly owner of the Dog Walkers Cafe, who joked he would be releasing a Siberian Thrush in a fortnight to keep up trade. This will of course provide a dilemma if one were to turn up, but luckily I think thats unlikely.
Despite having seen it on the way to the Scillies, Gary sportingly agreed to go and have another look at the Brown Shrike at Staines. We slipped and slided in the mud on the way down, churned up by thousands of birders and a week of rain. The shrike showed well in the hedgerow to the right of the bridge, showing off the huge black and white facial mask. Excellent.
Following two megas, we then stopped off in Southend to hunt for the Ring-billed Gull. Once again we spectacularly failed, along with another few birders also present. We patrolled the seafront, I threw half my roll at the gulls, but the best we got was 4+ Med Gulls. Incredibly annoyingly we were asked "what are you looking at?", "what are you photographing?" (we had no cameras out) and "what's going on?" by every other pedestrian walking past, which really got on everyones tits. But there we go.

So many geese

31st October & 1st November 2009

Saturday started with rain, and I was considering not bothering to leave the house until Gary called to say he was already at Sheringham. Sportingly he came and picked me up from the city, and we headed to Burnham Market to search for the Snow Goose that has been in the area for the past few weeks. To cut a long story short, we searched between 6000-7000 Pink-footed Geese, in three large flocks and a number of small ones, over the course of a day. The possibilities are extensive, Snow, Barnacle, Tundra Bean, Whitefront, Ross' etc. We saw one Pale-bellied Brent Goose. Bugger. But at least we were out looking. We did detour to Holme briefly in the hope of picking up the Rose-coloured Starling seen heading West from Titchwell, and managed to see two Shorelark for our troubles. On the way back Gary relocated the GW Teal at Cley, along with a Water Pipit.
On Sunday the weather was even worse, but me & Cath joined Gary & Claire for a trip to Minsmere. We got soaked in Island Hide (the window seals have gone, leaving a large gap for water to spray in), but consolation was the long-staying Great White Egret standing at the back of the pool. Other decent birds included Bewick's and Whooper Swans, leucistic Mallard and Moorhen, Water Pipit and a 3rd year Caspian Gull. The GW Egret was my 2nd, the first being a trip to Cley with my dad 15 years ago!

Great White Egret in the rain.

Well done to all of the birders involved in settling the Greenish Warbler dispute. I think we've had enough Phylloscs for one year now (except maybe a Hume's at Holkham, fingers crossed).

More half-term birding

I've lumped wed-fri together so people don't get sick of the constant updates.

Wednesday saw me & Adam brave the crowds for another patch visit to Whitlingham. The birds were all crammed into the conservation area, and amongst the Coot I saw a Wigeon with what looked like a green Teal-like stripe on its head. I was thinking Teal x Wigeon, although American Wigeon x Wigeon would look similar. Either way, I moved to get a better view and couldn't pick it up again. The bright sun on the water could well have created an artefact, so although exciting at the time I won't be dwelling on it. The only other sighting of note was three flocks of Redwing over going determinedly west (10, 21, 22).
On Thursday Cathy & I got a lift to Snettisham via Flitcham. Unfortunately the Little Owl wasn't showing, but we did see a Bullfinch, a number of Red-legged Partridges running (always an amusing sight) and a Common Buzzard. At Snettisham we both noticed a Water Rail simultaneously in the reeds, and picked out eight wader species whilst waiting for the Knot to flock. We left before the last remaining birds had taken to the air, but were still pleased with the views of Knot and Golden Plover flocks twisting and turning above us. We diverted via Brancaster in case the Snow Goose was still around, but were just in time to see the remnents of the Pink-feet fly North.
By Friday I was ready for a more local trip, and took the bus south to the village of Shotesham. I waited on the edge of the common with a small group of birders (seeing Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher by the ford), until one of them located the Siberian Chiffchaff in a hedge. I saw it flitting about in a willow before it emerged from the top and flew across the road into someones garden. The call seemed to be straightforward tristis, although I don't think I've heard abietinus calls to compare it with. The residents very sportingly gave us permission to go down their drive, but as it hadn't called in a while I had a quick scout of the nearby trees and then got the bus back home. The bird has been heard to sing and has been recorded, so it should get clinched either way. I had planned to have a drink in the local pub, but it was shut when I got to it. Later in the day a possible Parrot Crossbill was reported from Wells Woods, which sounds like a tempting trip for Saturday!

Cley & Salthouse

27th October 2009
After a complaint from Cathy that I wasn't finding her enough birds, we went to Cley to look for Snow Buntings. A compromise look through the waders failed to turn up the White-rumped Sandpiper, but there was a nice looking white-headed Ruff. We sat in Dauke's Hide scanning the Teal and Wigeon, and eventually found the Green-winged Teal sleeping on an island. A slightly surreal moment happened earlier when a woman who followed us into the hide asked us straight away where it was, and when I replied "I don't know, I've only just got here" muttered "you mustn't be able to see it from here, there's not enough people" and walked out. Notwithstanding the old way of doing things (i.e. looking for yourself), it seemed an odd principle that a bird is only present if a crowd is watching it. Very odd actually.

Great. Now where's my Blue-winged Teal?

A few Bearded Tits flew over, and flocks of 30-50 Redwing and Fieldfare were flying over regularly. We heard a Water Rail, but didn't see it, much to Cathy's dismay, and unsurprisingly the Snow Buntings had gone. A seawatch was poor, however in addition to a lone adult Gannet going east, a Great Northern Diver sat offshore. We walked along to Salthouse, then back to the village. A flock of around 200 Greylags was on Arnold's Marsh, and a (tame) Snow Goose and at least 4 Canada x Greylag Geese joined a Canada Goose flock. A Barn Owl hunting over the marshes was a nice end to the day.

Whitlingham & Mousehold

24th & 25th October 2009
A patch visit to Whitlingham saw the usual crowds of walkers and dogs. The Egyptian Geese had mostly buggered off to Thorpe Broad (51 on the spit), whilst everything else had made for the conservation area. Large amounts of Coot, too mobile to count, and the first Wigeon of winter, 4 males and 6 females. No sign of Adam's female Mandarin. Whitlingham Lane was covered in ladybirds, mostly 7-spot, but a reasonable number of Harlequins as well.
Following that unsuccessful visit it was back to Trowse Woods to get a sample of the bracket I found last week. It is still on to be Ganoderma resinaceum, which would be about the 5th Norfolk record. Other notable fungi included Polyporus durus, Mycena arcangeliana and Mycena adscendens.

Bearded Tooth Fungus at Trowse Woods

The following day a wander around Mousehold saw the customary number of birds (it varies between 5 and 6), and a surprising lack of fungi. We failed to see Fly Agaric, my main reason for going. The fenceposts were covered in ladybirds, but in contrast to Whitlingham, most were Harlequin.

Eastern Crowned Warbler

24th October 2009

I had planned to go on a local fungus foray today, but the offer of a lift to see the latest addition to the British List provided to strong a temptation. Me and Adam met Gary & Phil at six o'clock, and we headed off to Lincolnshire. Here we stopped for breakfast at a Little Chef whilst awaiting news from the quarry. First news negative, but by the time we had finished our tea the ECW had been seen again, and the journey was on.
A largely traffic-free journey to South Shields and we eventually found Trow Quarry. We walked down to the crowd and had brief views in the scrub before the Eastern Crowned Warbler flew to the next stand of trees. A Yellow-browed Warbler called and showed well, but it took the next flight of the ECW before it showed well. I was able to watch it feeding, during which it performed a nice roll around a branch, demonstrating the key features; pale underparts, yellow vent, crown stripe, long bright supercillium and thin wingbar. Happy and not too wet, we decided to wind our way home via Bempton.
We drove across the corner of the Yorkshire Moors, in the hope of seeing Red Grouse (probably the most common British species I'm yet to see - I don't leave Norfolk much!). Unfortunately the rain was pouring down, and we soon gave up. We also didn't see any Dippers at a favourable looking stream, and had a nice bacon roll in a cafe in the middle of nowhere. We arrived at Bempton Cliffs RSPB in the mist, and walked around the corner towards the feeding station. Here we crouched down and watched a Red-flanked Bluetail foraging in the undergrowth close in. A small child was particularly excited, chanting "there it is" long after the bird had gone (a stringer of the future?) before wandering into my telescope.
We decided to attempt one last bird, a Dusky Warbler at Flamborough Head. We walked down a muddy track alongside the Viking Pub (unfortunately it wasn't visible from the pub) and stood in the rain for what seemed like an age, without success. Eventually the rain stopped, and a birder found what looked like the Dusky in a stand of scrub behind us. We spent a while getting brief flight views before the bird called. I managed to get a 30 second view, enough to pick out the facial markings and colouration to go with its "Tek" call, and decided it was unlikely I would get any better views. Before leaving I scanned a large flock of Starlings (no RCSs) and saw a Yellowhammer on the wires. Off home, and back by 9:30. A long and successful day!

West Runton (2)

17th October 2009

With no further sightings of the Pied Wheatear, my attention was caught by a report of a possible Veery. I'm still not entirely sure of the order of events, specifically if there was also a Swainson's Thrush or a re-identification, and also whether it/they were seen later on but not reported, as one BirdForum poster says he saw both birds in the evening. Either way I decided to head for West Runton and hope that any Catharus thrush reports would reach me by word of mouth.
I walked up to the field west of the derelict buildings, where around eight birders were looking in different places, suggesting no-one was on the bird. Having seen about 30 Skylarks, a birder approached me and asked if I'd seen the Short-toed Lark yet. Saying I hadn't, he pointed out an area of the field where he had seen it last, and sure enough as we neared the area it flew up and did a loop of the field. I managed to keep it in my binoculars until it landed, by which point more people had come over and managed flight views the next time it took off. To confuse matters some people got on a Skylark sitting on the fence and thought that was the S-T Lark (it would have been ironic getting that good views, everyone I spoke to had only seen it in flight). I stayed a while, hoping to get a view of it in a furrow, but unlike the Skylarks it seemed determined to remain in the stubble.
I then walked west along the coastal path, past some handgliders towards Beeston Bump. A number of Cormorants were in the shallow foreshore pools, and a Lapland Bunting stopped briefly on the cliff edge before flying off eastwards. A Kestrel and two Meadow Pipits were the only other birds I saw inland, whilst the low tide meant seawatching would have been pointless.
Back in Norwich I went to Trowse Woods to have a look at a fungus known as "Bearded Tooth Fungus." I eventually found it on the end of a Beech log. As far as I know this is the only site in Norfolk, and it wasn't seen last year (it could be that the dry conditions this year have been beneficial for a change!). There were a number of other species , mostly brackets, but also large quantities of Honey Fungus and Sulphur Tuft.

West Runton (1)

16th October 2009

Earlier in the week a Pied Wheatear had been found at Horsey. The east coast is difficult to get to by public transport, but I had managed to organise a lift on Friday night after work. Of course, the wheatear buggered off Thursday night. Typical. Instead of calling the trip off, me & Neil went to West Runton to look for the Short-toed Lark. A few other birders were looking, but seeing only Skylarks and getting drenched in a sudden downpour, we returned home via the King's Head in Hoveton.

Two patch ticks and a Buzzard

12th October 2009
Upon getting home from the cinema on Sunday, I saw just how much had been seen on the North Norfolk Coast, including a Rose-coloured Starling. However, being seen on a Sunday afternoon, I couldn't have got there anyway. Possibly more annoying, was a Common Scoter on Thorpe Broad, which I could have seen (mind you, "Up" is a very good film, I recommend it). Anyway, after getting home from work on Monday, I saw on BirdGuides that the scoter was still there a few hours ago, so I powerwalked down to Whitlingham.
Upon arriving, I was alerted to a Common Buzzard over the woods by a flock of circling Jackdaws, taking turns mobbing it. The Buzzard kept on soaring, completely nonplussed. I watched it for five minutes (Buzzards still aren't very numerous in the area) before carrying on along the broad. Another stop, as a V of Pink-footed Geese flew NW, a belated patch tick for me. Eventually I did make it to the end of the broad, and looked across the river to Thorpe Broad. After a couple of minutes, a drake Common Scoter swam into view. I watched it until the light started to fade, then walked back, directing another birder who had been looking on the main broad on both evenings rather than Thorpe Broad. I counted 82 Mute Swans as I hurried back home. On the way back from the Waterfront later that night, he odd Redwing call could be heard above. A productive evenings walking!

More local wandering

10th October 2009

With an uncharacteristic October lull (I was dipping a Wilson's Phalarope this time last year) I decided to head back to Whitlingham. Following a mini-influx of Yellow-browed Warblers, I scrutenised all of the Long-tailed Tit flocks I could find, but no luck. The best part was whilst watching some on Trowse Common, a Kingfisher dived through my binocular view into the river! A large amount of canoeists were on the main broad, and further up I saw a group of old people power-walking sideways along the path. Puzzled, I walked up to them (it took a while, they were surprisingly nimble) and found that they were having a model yacht race, but were worried about the yachts going out of range, and were keeping parallel with their boat. So anyone that thinks birding is a bit odd, there are odder hobbies out there.
In the conservation area a large amount of Coot, about 50 Tufted Duck and some Gadwall were joined by three pairs of Pochard. About a third of the Great Crested Grebes are now in winter plumage. I walked up the tree-lined avenue looking for roosting Tawny Owls (I heard two calling last month, but couldn't pinpoint them), but saw nothing other than a few Jays. Lets hope we get a few rares next weekend, to make up for not being able to go to the Scillies with Adam, Gary & Phil.


4th October 2009

In a fairly foolish move I agreed to social engagements for the first weekend of October, and feared the worst with regards to rarities turning up. Luckily the weekend was fairly quiet, the westerly winds not bringing in much. Saturday I watched Norwich destroy Bristol Rovers 5-1, and Sunday I went to Whitlingham for Cathy's mum's birthday meal. A quick walk around yielded two interesting birds, a returned Black Swan and the second-generation Chinese Goose x Greylag, which unlike its parents has a black beak. The conservation area was packed with Coot, but a lack of binoculars prevented me from scanning the banks.

Pegwell Dog Show

27th September 2009

With a shortage of lifers for Gary this year, he decided to drive to Kent to look for the Fan-tailed Warbler. Me, Adam & Phil all came along for the craic, and we arrived at Pegwell Country Park around 8. The sign at the entrance told us of the "fun dog show" on that day, and we joked we should go. After 30 mins of inaction, a mini-stampede set off, presuming that someone had located the warbler. They hadn't, a dog walker had whistled to his dog, which set everyone off. That was as close as we got to a cisticola. It wasn't seen all day, except by the guy that saw a Wren in a different way to the 100+ crowd.
In between burgers, tea, and pointing at freaky dogs ("that doesn't count, it's a rat!", "it's got a vest, why has it got a ****ing vest?" etc etc) we did a few laps of the site and a lot of staring at saltmarsh. Some of the more interesting moments were digiscoping opportunities for Ring-necked Parakeets and Whinchats, a number of Roesel's Bush Crickets, and a Clouded Yellow spotted by Gary. A large number of Blackcaps were gorging themselves on elder berries. At 2:30, all the other birders had left, it was just us and the dog owners. They started the fancy dress competition and we left. Everyone has limits.
On the way back we spent two hours in Southend looking for the Ring-billed Gull. It's always there apparently. A local gave us some useful gen, it likes the area near the ice cream parlour apparently. No s**t it does. But not today. Gary picked up the same Med Gull about 5 times as we worked backwards and forwards along Westcliff seafront, and I found a Mistle Thrush, but couldn't string a White's Thrush out of it. My first twitch out of Norfolk & Suffolk, and not a successful one, but hey-ho, better luck next time.

Spotted Crake

26th September 2009

An early morning trip to Caister St Edmund, and finally an ibis! It won't live long in the memory, brief views as I inadvertantly flushed it from the river, and watched it fly downriver towards Soke Holy Cross. I walked as much of the river as was accessable and hung around for another hour, but it didn't return. A bright morning and a couple of Kingfishers made the morning even better, although between 7:30-9 I didn't see another birder, which I found odd.
I had considered staying the day at Caister, but I wanted to see the Spotted Crake at Cley, following a few years without a visible one in Norfolk. I walked back from Caister and straight to the station, arriving at Cley just after 12. The crake wasn't showing, and a number of birders gave up or went to look for the Snow Buntings. Eventually I was the only one looking from the hide, and after a Water Rail (no confusion thanks to the big red beak) I saw the crake come out of the reeds in the ditch close in to the hide. I got the rest of the people in the hide onto it (they had been watching a Green Sandpiper on Pats Pool) and had another look, before going outside and calling in another 10 or so birders who were waiting near the pool along the path. The Spotted Crake re-appeared from behind some overhanging vegetation and strolled up the ditch. A cracking bird, probably my favourite bird of the year.
I walked along East Bank, hearing lots of Bearded Tits and 2 Water Rails. Walking along the shingle bank I came upon a flock of around 20 Snow Buntings, which came close when I stood and waited on the ridge. I also found what I presumed was a seal carcass (suggestions so far are Harbour Porpoise or Tuna), and had a dark-phase Skua sp. past west.

The consensus appears to be Harbour Porpoise, another dead mammal tick!

Tame Snow Bunting

More Ibis dippin'

23rd September 2009

After work I managed to get a lift down to Stoke Holy Cross mill, where there were no ibis. I walked along the road to Caistor St Edmund Roman Town, scanning the ibis-less fields, before bumping into Gary and Nick Elliston at Caistor, to be informed that there were no ibis on the stretch of the river there. We teamed up and looked out at all possible vantage points between the mill and Caistor, with no joy. I never liked ibis anyway. My hopes are now pinned on early morning Saturday.

Me & ibis in happier times

Birds, Moths & Fungi

Mid-September 2009

A brief catchup post. Two trips to Wells, with satisfactory results. I finally caught up with one of the Red-breasted Flycatchers in the Dell, and also saw Pied Flycatcher, Bullfinch and Firecrest amongst the commoner stuff, although still no Redstart. The second time the woods were much emptier (seemingly), with a Chiffchaff the only interesting bird, although skeins of Pink-feet were starting to fly over. The harbour held one Grey Plover, and towards Warham two Kingfishers and an out-of-place white Domestic Goose were pleasant enough. I also went crabbing (joining the legions of people who have caught crabs at Wells, ha ha etc etc).
Saturday 19th was National Moth Night, but as the only Norfolk event was at Lynford, we settled for moth-catching in Cath's garden. Predictably we did badly, catching only three species, but one of them, Large Ranunculus was new for me. Pictures to follow.
On Sunday I went to St Faith's Common for the first fungus foray of my ID course. We got 22 species, which was fairly good considering the lack of rain. Best one was Leccinum variicolour. More impressive was a find from a fellow mycologist, who brought along the 2nd Norfolk record of Devil's Bolete (Boletus satanicus). It is thought to be lethal, for soem reason there are a lack of people wanting to test how poisonous it actually is.
Unfortunately, all of these fun things meant that I missed out on going for the Glossy Ibis on Saturday. A brief trip with Cath on Sunday ("I know what would be nice, a good old walk around some ruins. No, son't stop and read the posts, we're not at the river yet!") was fruitless. If anyone knows where they are going in the evenings please let me know so I can run down there after work!

North Norfolk

13th September 2009

Following a non-birding week (one heard-only Tawny Owl at Whitlingham the only bird of note), me, Gary & Adam started at 7. The idea was to have a look around autumn's adopted patch of Trimingham, before moving west looking for our own birds whilst being within reach of any rare stuff found by others. Trimingham clifftop wood was completely windblown, with only a small flock of Long-tailed Tits. Other areas of woodland were also barren, so we attempted a brief seawatch. Loads of Gannet, a few Kittiwake, and flocks of Common Scoter and Teal flew by. We then walked down the hedgerows around the church, with similar barren results.
We moved along to Happy Valley woods near Cromer along with Phil, who had joined us at Trimingham. The woods were less windblown, but still almost birdless. Another quick seawatch and obligatory explanation to curious passers by (sooner or later I will reply to "ooh, what are you looking at?" with "The Sea", but I'm trying not too give birders a bad name). It was now gone 10 and we'd found **** all, so decided to bite the bullet and go to Wells Woods.
After paying £3.50 for the privilege of parking on a field of flints, we left the dog-fouled paths and joined half of the birders in Norfolk camped out around the Dell. We picked out Coal Tit, Goldcrest and Treecreeper amongst the commoner tits and Chaffinchs, but no sign of any Icterine Warbler. A Wheatear up a pine tree was odd, and I saw the back end of a Pied Flycatcher as it dropped down into the undergrowth. The first Pink Footed Geese of the autumn flew over. We followed the tit flock, finding a Chiffchaff, then decided that it would be better to find a vantage point and wait for the birds to come to us. Well it wasn't any worse, and we even heard a Bullfinch. Phil found a Lesser Whitethroat in the landward scrub, and amongst the disappointed birders we saw our aquaintance from Herts ("Ortolan Man") and Dave Appleton. A Muntjac ran in front of us, followed shortly by a dog. Hopefully it was being led into a deer ambush.
We decided to end the day at Cley, getting decent views of the Red-necked Phalarope right in front of North Hide. We failed to see any Leach's Petrels, but a Puffin flew through the bottom of my 'scope view, and we were able to relocate it on the sea close in. Loads of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Cormorants, and a few Manx Shearwaters and Sandwich Terns passed by, and 2 Greenshanks were on pools near the eye field. Not a bad day, but my first decent seawatch at Cley in strong northerlies made me appreciate the Shelters at Sheringham that bit more!

Red-necked Phalarope at Cley

Ortolan & some skuas

5th September 2009

With good seawatching days at a premium, me & Adam got up at 4:30 to get an early train to Sheringham. Arriving at 6:50, we found that half of the birdwatchers in Norfolk had similar plans, and settled for a vantage point on the top of the main shelters. Signs were good, Gannets were passing close in, and further out a number of Arctic Skuas were tern-bothering. As it turned out, the views were good but little out of the ordinary was seen. Two Great Skuas flew slowly west at close range, as did a Red-throated Diver. A single Balearic Shearwater was flew east, whilst an auk sp. flew west. Adam watched it for longer than I did and suggested Puffin, but without seeing the bill it has to go down as a possible. Whilst we were there a Long-tailed Skua was reported, but we didn't see it.
I was talking to a birder who had made the journey up from Hertfordshire (although ironically leaving not much earlier than we did from Norwich) when news that the Ortolan Bunting was still present at Cley. He kindly offered us a lift, and we fluked a carparking space at East Bank. The bunting was a smart-looking bird, which would have been worthy of prolonged views if it wasn't for the fact that only about eight people could view it at once. After having a decent look we retreated to allow others in, and returned for another hour at Sheringham. A decent day, and a first (of hopefully a few) lifer of the Autumn, all five days of it.

I forgot my camera, so here is a nice drawing I did when I got home.

Birds & Beer Tour 2009

30th August 2009

In honour of our combined love for birds, and beer, myself, Gary & Adam decided to do a bank holiday trip combining the pubs and birding habitat of North Norfolk. Gary's wife Claire came with us to Titchwell via Choseley (not a bunting in sight) to ensure we started the day with a few birds. Titchwell was relatively poor, the resident Eider,a Bar-tailed Godwit, one Greenshank and two Avocet were probably the pick of the bunch. Having spent too much time, we decided to give up on Holkham and move straight to Wells.
At Wells we were dropped off at the Buttlands, and went into our first pub, The Globe Inn, where we began our second bird list of the day, birds seen from the grounds of pubs. After half an hour or so we walked down to the quayside and into the Golden Fleece, which offered a good viewpoint. Pub-bird lifers included flyby Curlew & Little Egret, and GBB Gull in the harbour. Our next stop was Stiffkey Red Lion, where the valley view promised much. In the end we had to make due with Kestrel, Pheasant, Swallow, House Martin & Greenfinch.
Our next stop was Blakeney, which was heaving with people. A quick look at the wildfowl collection failed to yeald anything we were sure was wild (Pochard maybe?) so we went up the street to the White Horse. Whilst here we heard of a possible Citrine Wagtail at Cley, which would have been a lifer for me, but would have meant probably missing the last bus back to Sheringham. Luckily (although it would have been better if it had been one and had stuck around a few days) the decision was removed when it was re-identified as a White Wagtail.
Feeling that we hadn't actually added many birds to the main days list we popped in to Cley (8 minutes on the reserve then out!), adding Yellow-legged Gull, Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper. On to Salthouse and the pride of place, the Dun Cow. Unfortunately a covers band were playing, and the garden was full of revellers. Ignoring the strange looks we carried on scanning the coast, and were rewarded with excellent pub ticks like Teal, Black-tailed Godwit, Wheatear (scoped near the Little Eye! Pity we couldnt find the Whinchat) and Meadow Pipit.
Last bird of the day was a Snipe, seen from the bus-stop at Salthouse. We crammed on the last bus back and went to the Lobster in Sheringham for some food. I then got the train back to Norwich, whilst my fellow alcoholics lingered another hour, also visiting the Robin Hood.
An enjoyable day out, and being a relatively new list, its nice to be able to get a lot of lifers for my "from pubs list." As ever, if anyone knows of a pub with good birdwatching potential, let me know in the comments!

A microlight, or "large eagle sp." as they are commonly known in Norfolk. Maybe.

Miscellaneous observations from North Norfolk

My last full week on holiday before going back to work, and an attempt to get a bit of variety in. A trip back to my home town of North Walsham on Wednesday, from where I walked to Edingthorpe, round via Knapton and back along the Paston Way. Bugger all about bird-wise, but if you like churches then I heartily recommend Knapton, it has one of the best examples of ornate roof carvings in the county.
Whilst watching the weakest link, my faith in human nature reached new depths when a science student, when asked "which mammal beginning with P is similar to a dolphin" answered "umm, Pelican?" Idiot.
A trip on Thursday to West Runton involved a drive through Cromer, where someone had painstakingly covered over the "Twinned with Crest" to read "Twinned with Royston Vasey". Vandalism isn't big or clever, but it does seem that bit less offensive if it makes a valid point. Rock-pooling was good fun, but we didn't catch anything that was more than an inch long.
Seawatching on Saturday produced a moderate Manx Shearwater, Gannet and Fulmar passage east, with one Red-necked Grebe west. Kelling Meadows held a Wood Sandpiper and a Green Sandpiper, Gramborough Head had one young Willow Warbler, and the hillock west of Salthouse had 7+ Wheatears. I have genned up on American Black Terns in case these westerlies carry on for the next month.


25th August 2009

Despite being taken over by lethargy, I autopiloted my way to Cley on the train and Coasthopper. The only two interesting bits to the journey were the resident Black Swan at Salthouse duck pond, and being sat in front of the only remaining person in Britain to use the phrase "Top Banana" without irony. A look into each bush along the paths failed to produce a lingering Pied Flycatcher, and the scrapes held the same waders as a week ago, with added Knot (this isn't strictly true, apparently a Bittern showed well and moonwalked backwards and forwards in front of Daukes shortly after I left).
I succumbed to the inevitable and nestled into the shingle to seawatch. Almost everything was moving west, the best being one Manx Shearwater and six Common Scoter, along with quite a few Gannet, Sandwich Terns, Cormorants, 2 Whimbrel and several specks along the horizon that I couldn't get down to the family level, but were definitely birds. Oh for some North-easterlies.


24th August 2009

As Black Terns are on the move (large numbers at Grafham and Rutland), I decided against a trip to the coast in the hope of finally adding Black Tern to my Whitlingham list. No joy, partly because of how busy it was I would suspect. I'm going to the pub to watch Norwich v Sunderland tonight rather than check out Bawburgh Lakes, Norwich's premier Black Tern site, but if any are seen there this evening, I predicted it. Two families of Great Crested Grebes had young, presumably second broods, and I need to check pictures I took of a duck to decide whether its just an eclipse domestic male Mallard, or a "Brewer's Duck." Thats how exciting it was. Still a few Swifts about, and a Sparrowhawk over Thorpe.

Bird Fair

23rd August 2009

Dad gave me, Adam & Cathy a lift to the Birdfair at Rutland Water. It was good, but I don't think I'll be going regularly. Having walked past most of the foreign holiday stands, we met Simon King, who was very nice, and caught the end of the Wildlife Brain of Britain, won by Chris Packham. Adam scraped together all of his coppers and bought himself a new telescope and tripod, whilst I limited myself to the "Birds New To Norfolk" book.
After a couple of hours we went and did the hides, seeing two Osprey and a Wheatear on Lagoon 4, and a hunting Osprey from one of the other hides. The resident Scaup was in fron of the main birdwatching centre, as was a Green Sandpiper. We went round to the Lyndon reserve, where I got a few record shots of Tree Sparrow on the feeders. We saw 6+ Buzzards and 2 Hobbys throughout the day.

Hickling NNR


A leisurely stroll around the NWT reserve, initially in the rain. We managed to find a lone Swallowtail caterpillar, but the wind was too strong to see any adults. The habitat on view from Secker's Hide looked much better than when I was last there (admittedly this was ages ago), and there was 6+ Snipe, 4 Greenshank and a party of Bearded Tits. Not much seen around the rest of the reserve, other than 2 Little Egrets and a Grey Heron from the Cadbury Hide. Back in the meadow near the visitor centre, a Peacock was strutting around. I can't quite work out why, unless its a recuperated and then escaped bird from the nearby animal sanctuary.

Hickling (Lucky Pony evening)

18th August 2009

Last night a Red-footed Falcon roosted near Hickling, and even though there had been no further sightings since lunchtime, me & Gary felt fairly confident that it would come back to it favoured trees to roost today. There was a surprising lack of birders around (2 all evening), but the lack of waders on Rush Hills may go some way to explaining it. A walk as far as the fields near Heigham Sound produced 3 Kestrels, a Sparrowhawk and a Marsh Harrier. A sillouetted dove was eventually clinched as a Turtle Dove thanks to Gary's perseverance.
Near the hide two Bearded Tits and an Emerald Damselfly (although I'm going to check to see if I can string Willow) lightened the evening. On the way back Gary said that he hadn't seen the (konik) ponies for ages, so when I spotted the herd I yelled "PONIES!" We had stopped abruptly, and were about to set off again when an owl flew out of some bushes. A Long-eared Owl! It flew into a small woods, where it was promptly mobbed by Jays, briefly flying back out and then out of sight. Only my second LEO, and my 206th Norfolk BOU bird of the year, modest, but my record (which should grow nicely when the northerlies start).
Walking back to the car, we noticed hundreds of geese collecting between bales in a cut field. I estimated around 700, about 200 of which were Canada, the rest Greylag. At least three hybrid geese were present, two long-necked and white faced, whilst one looked like a brownish Canada Goose. Probably all Greylag x Canada, but Gary took some photos to check. Whilst watching the geese I thought I'd got the red-foot, but a second pass showed the bird in question to be a Hobby. A dip, but a very satisfactory evenings birding.

Year list 215 species (206 Norfolk)

Winterton & Horsey

15th August 2009

Overcast with south-westerlies? That'll be prime conditions for migrants and butterflies then [/sarcasm]. With no better ideas, me & Adam went to Winterton more in hope than expectation. The South Dunes were overrun with Grayling, birdwise Sparrowhawk, Green Woodpecker, Stonechat, Whitethroat and a single Willow Warbler. The North Dunes were devoid of all birdlife until the track separating Horsey and Winterton, where a family of Stonechats were munching dragonflies. A Fox Moth caterpillar was apparently a first for me, and a few Wall butterflies were around, but no fritillaries. A family of four Kestrels put on an aerobatic show over the dunes. My first noticeable Gannet passage of the year, mostly going west.

London trip - photo special (!)

13th & 14th August 2009

A brief but eventful trip to London left me with the chance to have a look around the inner London parks, before getting my 3 hour + coach journey back to Norfolk. Fortunately the train strikes have now been called off, lessening my need for vitriol. Anyway, most of what I saw was plastic, so not much good for reviewing, but some good photo opportunities. Here are a few highlights.

Juvenile Reed Warbler at Regent's Park

Ring-necked Parakeet at St James' Park. Easy to hear, but I was chuffed to actually find it amongst the leaves.

The pigeons are coming - war is imminent

This looks like a Peruvian Ruddy Duck, but have I eliminated Maccao Duck?

St James' Park Pelicans - welcome at Whitlingham any day lads.

A very tolerant Grey Heron, one of 16 at Regent's Park

Bar-headed Goose x Greylag Goose
(Both parents present nearby, otherwise it could have been more tricky to tell)

More Cley near misses

11th August 2009

Following reports of a possible Semipalmated Sandpiper at Cley the night before, me & Adam decided to go along early morning to have some Calidris ID fun (or not). Probably for the best, the bird was long gone, although there were a lot of Dunlin, each checked thoroughly. All Dunlin. A few Greenshanks and Green Sands were dotted around on Simmond's Scrape, but Pats Pool was almost empty. My first Wall Butterfly of the year flew past on the path beside the main road, and I was looking at another on east bank when about 60 people walked past, presumably some sort of walking tour. Shortly after that we gave up at Cley, and walked towards Salthouse. We fluked a Roseate Tern on Arnold's Marsh, watching it for about 5 minutes before it flew west.

We put in 30 minutes seawatch, seeing a few gulls and terns, plus a Fulmar west. At about this time and unbeknown to us, a probable Slender Billed Gull flew east past Cley. The times were about right, but we didn't see it pass us! Our "easterly" count was 1 Sandwich Tern and 2 Cormorants. Que sera sera. The Ruddy Shelduck I saw last week was still kicking around on the marshes near Salthouse. Having received a text from Gary informing us it had passed and we obviously weren't looking hard enough, we went to Sheringham seafront to check any loafing gulls. This took ages, as there were vast amounts of really slow walking people. Some of them probably started walking down the high street in July. Anyway, people were everywhere, gulls were not. We did get a Gannet diving near one of the buoys, but that was it. Hopefully 3rd time lucky with Cley flybys.
Wall butterfly at Cley

"And remember, you'll see most things if you walk along the skyline wearing garish colours and shouting. What's that Brian, you have a drum? Excellent!"

Breydon & Rush Hills

10th August 2009

The offer of a lift to Rush Hills to see the Baird's Sandpiper saw me & Adam go to Yarmouth to meet Gary. With time to kill, we walked around both parts of the cemetery in the drizzle, seeing bugger all. The highlight was a Herring Gull trying to bring up worms by dancing on a grave. After this we still had time to kill, so we went to Breydon Water, where we met a birding tramp. As I walked into the hide, I thought "ah a birder. Hang on, why does he have a 2 litre bottle of cider? Oh no" He then surprised us, by saying something about how many Avocets there were (500+ at a rough count), and proceeding to tell us how he couldn't see some of the waders because his binoculars had been stolen. He must be a few years off the birding bandwagon, because he asked if we'd seen the Wood Warblers at Kelling.

Having made our excuses and left, we walked round to the Tern platforms (1 Arctic, 20+ Common), seen a juvenile Cuckoo and 16 Little Egrets. We had time for a cup of tea at the station, before meeting Gary and going to Rush Hills. A birder at the hide helped us onto the Baird's, which was on a dark stretch of mud with a Little Stint, some Dunlin and Ringed Plover. Distant views, but a life bird nonetheless, thanks to Time Allwood and Andy Kane for finding and IDing it. On the way back to the car we stumbled across a mimicking Acro warbler, annoyingly another Reed. Adam noticed a smart Garden Tiger Moth near the path.

Back to North Walsham, chips for tea, then off to the White Swan for drinks and pool.

Rush Hills

8th August 2009

Me & Adam got a lift to Potter church, and walked along Weaver's Way to the hide overlooking Rush Hills. It quickly became apparent that the Pec Sandpiper had gone (either to Swim Coots or just left!). Nevertheless we spent an hour and a bit trying to identify waders in the heat haze before giving up. Of what we could see, a Wood Sandpiper was the best of the bunch, being a long overdue year tick. We walked back along the footpath towards Hickling, seeing lots of fungi, and a pale-phase Buzzard being mobbed by a wader. As we waited to be picked up, a number of Yellowhammers were singing.
Note: A Baird's Sandpiper was seen at Rush Hills after we left. Damn.
A Shag along the River Wensum in Norwich (make up your own "Shag on Riverside" joke) would be my first for the Norwich area, but as Norwich City are currently 1-6 down, I don't think visiting that area is a good idea at the moment!
We lost 1-7. Darn. After giving the crowds an hour to disperse, I did go for a look, with negative results (i.e. no Shag). Snigger.
It was then seen in the exact place we were looking 30 minutes later. Double damn.


4th August 2009

Once again I came close to a scarce migrant, a Pec Sand turning up on the 5th! My timing has to improve sooner or later. I had planned to spend a day walking around North Walsham, but the offer of a lift to Titchwell with Cathy and her family swayed me. The pool to the west of the main path held two Ruddy Duck (both female/juvenile types, unless male eclipse looks like that too) and the family of Red-crested Pochard. The new Island Hide looks similar to the old one, with the exception of a full length window pane, which a wheelchair-bound lady soon turfed other birders away from. Common Sandpiper, Golden Plover, Little Ringed Plover and Spotted Redshank were all present.

The Parinder Hide is now a pile of wood, and the pools to the North were almost completely dry, maybe deliberately drained. A bright male Linnet called from the scrub along the path, but we had to wait until the shore for more birds. A Little Tern flew past offshore, and a few Whimbrel were on the edge of the shore. A party of 20+ Eider took a bit of identifying, I'm not familiar with the black-and-white eclipse plumage, made more difficult by the bobbing up and down in wave troughs. A Reed Warbler was the only thing of note from the Fen Hide, although Cathy's mum was befriended by a poet, who proceeded to sell her a book of his poetry. Whilst drinking tea in the picnic area a Marsh Tit flew briefly onto one of the feeders.

Enjoy the pond scum whilst you can...

Cuckoo at last


Present and visible for a 5th day (2 originally, 3 this spell), I had somehow managed to be busy for the first four, and was desperate to see the Great Spotted Cuckoo now, rather than wait 10 years for another one. It seemed like I was doomed to fail, a lorry hitting a bridge outside North Walsham meant a 45 minute delay on my train, which then terminated at Cromer. A quick walk around Cromer (or "Ladybird Plague Town") failed to find a bus going to Sheringham, so I had to wait another 30 mins for the next train. The Coasthopper was full, but luckily I managed to stand near the front. I arrived at Kelling an hour and a half late, but the steady stream of birders coming from the beach looked content, which was a good sign. I needn't have worried, the cuckoo was showing well, and even when it disappeared from view, the constant mobbing from Linnet and Meadow Pipits helped relocate it.

I watched for a while, however the Ladybirds were now nipping with increased ferocity. You may laugh if you haven't experienced it, but it is a decent nip for an insect! And bizarrely they almost all went for the back of my neck. Little buggers. A seawatch on the still sea was almost birdless, a few Sandwich Terns and 8 Cormorant west was it. I walked west, past Gramborough Head and back to Salthouse, seeing 12 species of butterfly (Small Heath was first of the year) and watching some young Swallows flocking on an elder. On the way back to Salthouse village I picked out a distant Ruddy Shelduck, my first of the year, although its not BOU admissable yet.

Year list 210 species.



A tale of what might have been (but ultimately wasn't). Following the recent influx of waders, a trip to Buckenham was in order. The stretch of road between Strumpshaw and Buckenham was alive with butterflies and dragonflies, and I lingered to take a few photos. At Buckenham a family of Goldfinches sat on top of a bush, and Swallows swooped low over the railway. At the Fisherman's carpark we stopped and scanned the pools, finding two Green Sandpiper, an Avocet and a few families of Shelduck. Further round the path we were stopped by an unfamiliar song and the back of an Acro warbler disappearing into the reeds. Me & Adam both thought of Marsh Warbler, but the song didn't fit. Probably mimicry of another species, but on that song we had to urr on the side of Reed.
The other side of the mill a number of waders were feeding on the pools. A decent amount of Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit, along with 7 or 8 Green Sandpiper and 3 Snipe. We debated long and hard over a leggy wader with a dark back and white underside, clearly bigger than Green Sand. Since arriving back we hav agreed on juvenile Greenshank, although it still isn't a textbook example. We walked back to strumpshaw, Adam pointing out a pair of Spotted Flycatchers, before going through the woods to the visitor's centre. A few 2nd brood Brimstone butterflies and some Small Red-eyed Damselflies made good subjects for the camera.

Upon arriving home I see that the Great-spotted Cuckoo has been relocated - hopefully it will stick around this time!

Lady As and Hail

30th July 2009

Usually stumbling across this beauty sheltering from the rain would be a once in a lifetime experience in Britain. Unfortunately, this wasn't in Buckinghamshire, it was at Pensthorpe. Before you snear too much, I would point out that it was unringed and not in one of the enclosures. According to the little I can garner from the internet, there is a small feral population on the Pensthorpe estate. Whether they are the result of releases from surrounding shooting estates, or the Phantom Pheasant Releaser Of Sculthorpe Moor, who can tell. Anyone who knows more, do share. Anyway, although their release was probably illegal, and may eventually lead to hybridisation with more naturalised Goldies, it was still a nice bird to see (well done Cath for spotting it!)

The rest of the trip came under the shadow of several storms, including one with large hailstones, which we sheltered from in the wader scrape hide. On the scrape was a Green Sandpiper, but I missed a Wood Sand that turned up shortly after, and would have been a year tick. A few butterflies about, and I managed to get a lucky shot of a Comma in flight.


Mousehold Heath


A stroll across the city and around the misnamed Mousehold Woods for butterflies. Birds were scarce, as is always the case here (bar that one time when there was a flock of Arctic Redpoll), with a Whitethroat the only thing I stopped to look at. I went as far as the prison on one side and the playing fields on the other, scanning brambles for White Admiral butterflies, but none. I did manage 2 Purple Hairstreaks flying around oaks near Vinegar Pond, but they never came within photographic range. I took a picture of a damselfly that I can't ID, it was a very deep blue and has too much black to be a standard male Common Blue, Azure or Variable. Suggestions welcome.
The damselfly has been identified as a blue-form female Common Blue Damsefly. This was an education, as none of my insect books show any colour forms other than the standard one. Thanks to Simon for the ID.

Pacific Golden Plover


Yesterday afternoon, the American Golden Plover at Breydon started being reported as a Pacific GP. By now used to this sort of to-ing and fro-ing neither me or Adam took much notice. However as the first decent pictures emerged, it appeared that this bird was indeed Pacific, and for once there didn't seem much of an arguement against. This was more than compensated for with debate about where this bird fits in with the Cley AGP and possibly a Dutch PGP, but to be honest I don't give two hoots where it came from. The simple explanation is that a number of Lesser Golden Plover spp. have travelled here under similar weather conditions.

I got up at 6, to find the rain hammering on my window. Bugger. Still, a summer plumage PGP is a big draw, so I walked through the rain to the station, paying extra for the privilege of travelling before 8.30. An hour later I was standing, completely soaked, scanning waders in the rain, with visibility that I would kindly describe as "poor". Having looked through more Dunlin than I care to remember, I walked back towards the tern platforms, where two birders had just relocated the plover. We got good views (I even managed to digiscope a few record shots) before it flew around into the next bay. A few more minutes of it in the open, before decent flight views. Enough to convince all observers that it was indeed a Pacific Golden Plover, and justifying being out in the rain. First good bird of the summer holidays sorted!

Year list 209 species.

Holt & Cley

26th July 2009
Following the cancellation of the Eastern Lights motorbike cavelcade, me & dad were left with a free day. We headed to Holt C.P. to try and photograph White Admirals, but the clouds never broke and we didn't see a single one. A number of other butterflies (Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White and Peacock), plus mating Yellow-tail moths and a Buff Footman were of note, along with some early fungi.

Tricholomopsis rutilans ("Plums and Custard")

After lunch at the Pigs in Edgefield, we went on to Cley, to take distant pictures of the Spoonbills (9 today) and rack up more butterflies (Small Tort, Painted Lady, Small Skipper, Essex Skipper, Brown Argus, Common Blue and 6-spot Burnet moth). A scan of Arnold's Marsh revealed Ruff, Sandwich Tern and Common Tern, no sign of the Roseate Tern that had been there half an hour earlier according to a birder returning from North Hide. We went to Salthouse for a cup of coffee then returned home.

Whitlingham at night

w/c 20th July 2009
Don't mention cuckoos. I was attending a wedding reception Friday night, and did consider whether to go to Salthouse in my suit, amongst other things, but it just wasn't happening. Anyway, at this rate I'll get another dodgy Lesser Golden Plover at Breydon and everything will be fine. Sob.
Having mooched around the house for a couple of days since returning from Latitude, I went down to Whitlingham on Tuesday evening with Adam. Whilst there was very little there in terms of numbers, I did add an overdue Water Rail to my site list, and there was a return for Januarys Barnacle Goose (unringed and with a valid UK passport containing Arctic Circle border stamps, just out of shot). Following a tip off from a man on a train (so slightly more reliable than a man down the pub), we waited until dusk in the hope of Little Owls, but no joy. Maybe one for the winter when there are less leaves on the oaks.

Second generation hybrid goose, something like (Chinese x Greylag Goose) x Domestic Goose. Probably a new low in plastic wildfowl.
Thursday evening it was back to Whitlingham, this time for some moth trapping. A humid evening was punctuated by the sound of chavs screeching their cars around the Little Broad carpark, in some sort of mechanical lek, trying to impress some random girls they met at Tesco Metro. Probably. We managed about 40 species, including some new to me like Small Rivulet and Scarce Footman, before calling it a day around midnight.
A giant Common Footman brings terror to the fields of Norfolk

Birding in August - suggestions please!

Shortly I depart for the Latitude Festival, and after that I am in the unfamiliar position of having August off! However, as birding goes, August wouldn't be my pick of the months. I intend to go seawatching towards the latter end, but I would appreciate any suggestions of places to go in Norfolk to get the most out of the summer break. Failing that, pubs that I can birdwatch from (e.g. the Dun Cow) would also be welcome!

Right Place, Almost Right Time...

12th July 2009

My day plan was simple, first bus to Cley, North Hide to see the Buff-breasted Sandpiper, an hour or two seawatching, a bit of Spoonbill watching then home. I caught the bus in the rain in Sheringham, and walked around the East Bank, clocking up 20+ Burnet moths and a Grayling on the way to North Hide. The Buff-breasted Sandpiper was obligingly in clear view, so I spent a while watching that (a lifer) and a Curlew Sand, when a birder reading a pager message shouted "Lesser Crested Tern, Cley" and left the hide. It took me a few seconds to decide that he wasn't a) joking or b) mad, and I followed a small group to the Coastguards, where we found the birder who had seen it. Unfortunately, the Tern had carried on west, and wasn't seen again. A few hours seawatch produced nothing more than Fulmar and Arctic Tern. So very close to a spectacular bird, but on the other hand I would not have been able to separate Crested and Lesser Crested Terns at sea, so best someone else saw it! That arguement almost convinces me.
Gary arrived at lunchtime and we had another walk around the reserve, seeing 8 Spoonbills and a Yellow-legged Gull amongst other stuff. A walk around Kelling Heath failed to turn up a hoped for bird, but was full of butterflies. An orange and black butterfly was too big for Small Tort, Comma or Wall, and wrong for Painted Lady, arousing suspicions of Large Tortoisheshell, but it flew through strongly and we couldn't refind it, maybe the one that got away? The closest I could get to in size was Dark Green Fritillary, but the jizz was wrong (not to mention there aren't any of those there either!)

Year list 208 species.