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

Breydon, Yarmouth & Strumpshaw

30th May 2009

Following a frustratingly birdless week (although I did go and see all 50 hippo sculptures in North Walsham, so it wasn't all bad), news broke Friday night of a Short-toed Lark on Blakeney and a Great Knot at Breydon. It was on the cusp of us being able to get the train to Yarmouth, so we decided to go early Saturday instead. Whoops. Having not seen the bird I cannot comment on it's identification, however I am going to make two points:

1) On Saturday morning there were at least 5 (Red) Knot. As can be the case at large twitches, people arriving later can often find or be put on to the wrong bird, and it is quite possible that the original bird seen well by local observers was a Great Knot, whilst the bird seen distantly and photographed later was a Red Knot.
2) The individual that reported the Great Knot as "very distant" at 21:55, that's got to be a joke right? Picking out a potentially tricky wader, distantly, at Breydon, in almost pitch black? And being certain it wasn't a Red Knot, or a stone, or a streetlight, or a star? Hmm.

Oh, and I know it's my fault for reading so many blogs, but please, no more knot jokes, seriously, no.

Anyway, having got used to dipping whatever I try and twitch, we decided to try the old fashioned find your own route. Yarmouth cemetery unfortunately failed to deliver any migrants or even a SpotFly. It does appear that the squirrels or yarkos have taken to pushing gravestones over for fun, which was a shame.

Making the most of our all day train tickets we stopped at Brundall on the way back and walked to Strumpshaw. No sign of the Swallowtails that had been flying that morning (the suggestion being they like it warm, but rest when it's too hot) but a few interesting plants in flower, such as Marsh Cinquefoil and Marsh Pea. My first Banded Demoiselle and Black-tailed Skimmers were also on the wing. The tower hide produced lone Pochard, Shelduck and Tufted Duck, and with a bit of patience a Hobby skimming over the reeds. The meadow trail was open, but with literally one orchid flower spike, I'd give it a few weeks.

Having a 45 minute wait for a train we popped over to the Yare pub in Brundall for a pint of Wherry before arriving back in Norwich to watch the FA Cup final.

The artistry is great, but the coypu is rather outdated! Also, on the reverse side below a Swallowtail is a Wigeon. Maybe I shouldn't be so fussy.

Marsh cinquefoil at Strumpshaw

Year list largely irrelevant.

Bird Race!

24th May 2009

Gary, Adam & Myself decided to have a a whole days birding in and around Norfolk (not 24-hours, we're not that mental) to ideally see, but if not then hear, as many birds as possible. As we weren't "racing" any other teams it wasn't technically a Bird Race, so I have made up some other teams so I don't have to call it a "Big Day" or somesuch nonsense.

Our (imaginary) opponents:
The Suppressormen - A good score, but as half the birds were rare, breeding and on private land, they refused to give me their list. Total - Disqualified.
Dick Dastardly & Mutley - An obsession with one bird meant a very poor list. Total - 1 (Feral Pigeon)
Dudes & Dogs - Great views obtained with top-notch optics, but wasted valuable time trying to call their dogs back from attacking wildfowl. Total - 100
The Stringermen - A very good score, but did they really hear a Kookaburra at Sweetbriar Marshes? Total 120.
Bill Oddie On Acid - He took a year off Springwatch to prepare, drove at an average of 98mph and only missed House Sparrow having never gone near built up areas. Total 171. *

We Norwich at 5.30, and had a modest 12 for the journey to the Brecks. A stop off in the layby near East Wretham Heath to scope Langmere failed to give us hoped for Ruddy Duck, but did add Little Grebe, Tufted Duck, Shelduck & Whitethroat. A meandering drive through an area of Brecks gave distant views of Stone Curlew and Lapwings, before arriving at Lakenheath. Common stuff was picked up around the car park, and Hockwold Washes had GC Grebe, Grey Heron, Gadwall and a Barn Owl in the distance.

The Golden Orioles were singing in the distance, and we defied everyone else by watching from the river side of the plantations to get a greater field of view. Gary managed a brief glimpse of one in the poplars before I noticed a male perched at the top of a poplar, glinting in the sun! An excellent view of an excellent bird. Adam managed a view in the scope before we watched it fly to the first plantation. We picked up flight views of Cuckoo, Marsh Harrier, Bittern (over Joist Fen) and Turtle Dove, and heard a Water Rail.

As the conditions were good, we decided to try Mayday Farm, which was quite frankly pants. Blackcap, Coal Tit and Song Thrush were seen, and this started an obsessive spell of Woodlark hunting that lost us time. At Weeting we dipped Spotfly, and didn't even pick up Green Woodpecker. A sight near Grimes Graves was better, with Stonechat, Tree Pipit and Siskin, although still no Woodlark. Pentney Lakes were home to a lovely Farmyard Goose, which in no way made up for the lack of Black Terns, or anything good, actually.

A sat-nav malfunction (which saw it later replaced by Adam, with the bonus of a less annoying voice and less "turn around when possible") saw us trapped in traffic in King's Lynn, before breaking free and ending up at Roydon Common. My major contribution to the day, a raptor approached being mobbed by crows, I called "pale buzzard!" but as it came closer and passed almost overhead, it became evident it was a very late Rough-legged Buzzard! A brilliant bird to get. Having decided to give up on Woodlark for the day, one took pity and showed from 20 yards from the car. It didn't show that much pity, flying off as I focused my camera on it.

On the way to Flitcham I saw Curlew in a field, which the others missed, but this was temporarily forgotten as we sped up to find a layby to pull in to look at an interesting raptor being mobbed in the direction of the farm. The jizz said Kite, but it clearly wasn't red. We got a decent view of it, ruling out Marsh Harrier and Buzzard, leaving the unanimous conclusion, Black Kite! Gary called it in along with the R-L Buzzard from earlier, and I was slightly concerned that RBA would think it was a windup, but news got out quickly. A look at Birdguides this morning suggests no-one else managed to see it, which is a shame, but it could well be the same bird that was seen at Breydon or Swanton Novers in the past few days.

We arrived at Swanton Novers in the early afternoon, and after a number of Common Buzzards, we got distant views of a longer-tailed bird, which luckily engaged in brief wing-clapping to confirm Honey Buzzard. We stayed a little longer, seeing up to 8 Common Buzzards soaring in a column together, before shooting off. We saw a male Montagu's Harrier over fields from the top-secret-how-does-anyone-ever-find-it? watchpoint. 

Choseley gave Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting and Grey Partridge, and on to Titchwell. The female Red-crested Pochard with 9 chicks was on the freshmarsh pool, along with a close couple of Ruddy Ducks. We also clocked up summer plumage Grey Plover, Med Gull, Little Gull, Sandwich Tern, Little Tern, Arctic Tern and Eider offshore. Incidentally, there was an intersting duck behind the island with a small brick wall on it, it had a sandy coloured head but it didn't look like a wigeon or RC pochard, maybe a hybrid or escape? I didn't have time to have a proper look, anyone seen it?

Still needing a number of woodland birds we tried Holkham Park, but frustratingly I only added Treecreeper, although Gary also saw Goldcrest. A call in to Morston gave us Short-eared Owl, Brent Goose, Knot and Little Egret (I missed one at Titchwell). Arnold's Marsh added Dunlin, and a seawatch provided a distant Guillemot. Salthouse Heath was quiet, and in the absence of a singing Nightingale from the road we shot off for Sparham Pools. No Kingfisher or Grey Wagtail, but a bonus Bullfinch and as sundown drew close we ran down the river for a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

We finished the day at a heath near Reepham, where we failed to see Woodcock, but were more than rewarded by good flight views fom around 5 churring Nightjars. Final bird of the day was Tawny Owl, bird number 116 (113 seen, Goldcrest, Water Rail & Cetti's heard). Due to a miscount or omissions during the day, Gary thought he had only seen 111, equalling his day record, so congratulations, it looks like you beat it!

A really great day out, four British ticks and good views of them too. A number of common birds missed, the lack of waders was a crippler and almost no rares or passage birds to go for. Still, sets the bar for next year!

Adam, Me & Gary. Guess who got sunburnt?
* Bill Oddie does not take drugs, it's a joke. Some people don't like his presenting style, but I do. He won because he is great. Deal with it.

Pratincole 2nd dip

23rd May 2009

Having hoped that the Pratincole would hang around until the weekend so I could have another go, I got the 7.15 train to Sheringham and arrived at the Eye Field at around 8.45. By this time, the bird was wandering its way up to Yorkshire. Bother. The Avocets were chasing any other birds of the scrapes, and there were hardly any waders at all. A distant Short-eared Owl and the head of a Spoonbill were all that was to be seen from a wait around, so I had a quick seawatch, picking up Arctic, Sandwich and Little Terns. Annoyed, I went back home to recharge my batteries for Sundays bird race.

Pratincole dipping

16th May 2009

Having been unable to twitch anything of note recently due to prior commitments or logistics, news that the Collared Pratincole had appeared just before the weekend seemed to be a blessing. An early morning train and Coasthopper got us to Salthouse and a crowd along the road, informing us that the bird had flown east. Me & Adam decded to try and relocate it on the marshes between Salthouse and Kelling. Seeing only a smart summer plumage Golden Plover, we decided to give up and continue on to Weybourne, the only bird of note being a possible rubicola Stonechat in the scrub near the radar station.
A call from Gary told us that the Pratincole had been seen at Kelling, but was now at Cley. This means at some point it probably doubled back past us! By the time we got back to Cley it had gone again, and scanning of the marshes between Cley and Salthouse turned up nothing. We carried on to Blakeney freshmarsh to hunt for it, but found nothing. I had to return home at this point to go to an art exhibition (ooh err), and wasn't at all frustrated to find that the Pratincole later turned up on Blakeney Freshmarsh, albeit from further along than we were. Maybe I'll get the next one in another three years.
After the exhibition a Grey Wagtail flew across Duke Street.

All around Norwich

9th-15th May 2009

A great week for birding at the coast (Kentish Plover, Collared Pratincole, Citrine Wagtail etc etc) but not such a great week around everybody's favourite fine city. A series of afternoon and evening walks around UEA, Mulbarton, Whitlingham, Whitlingham Thorpe Marsh, Mousehold Heath and Earlham Marshes was not enough to catch any of the clouds of Black Terns filling the place. Highlights (trades descriptions act warning) were Kingfisher, Muscovy (!), Greenshank, Common Sandpiper (a confiding bird on the slipway at Whitlingham) and loads of Whitethroats and Blackcaps.

Whitlingham (15)

4th May 2009

I managed to catch up with Garden Warbler following a recent mini-influx, one singing in the hedge between gardens and the little broad. Other warblers around were Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Cetti's and Sedge. Breeding is now in full swing, with broods of Canada Geese, Greylag Geese, Coot, Great Crested Grebe x 2, Mallard and Egyptian Geese x 4. The cloudy weather helped bring the hirundines closer, and around 10 Swifts were catching insects over the great broad. A pair of Pochard lingered in the conservation area.

Incidentally, it appears that the finder of the Weybourne Cowbird has previous experience of the species, and with the recent find in Shetland, good luck to anyone searching for it!

Ranworth at dawn

3rd May 2009

Turning down the chance to twitch the Dungeness Lark, me & dad took the Broads Authority electric boat trip out for a dawn chorus day ride. Malthouse Broad produced two Kingfishers, a number of Grey herons and Common Terns. The most interesting bird was a male Wood Duck, which was paired up with a female Mallard and had 6 ducklings. I'd be interested to see them when they grow up. Along the Bure we saw Barn Owl, Common Sandpiper, Marsh harrier, Teal (a male with green on the back of the head, possibly a hybrid) and another Kingfisher. A spell in the hide overlooking Cockshoot Broad was largely birdless.
A leisurely route back to North Walsham took in Salhouse Broad and Crostwight Heath, but there was little of interest at either. After lunch and beer at the Goat Inn (Skeyton) we decided to head for West Runton to check out the Short-toed Lark. Initially I thought I'd re-found it, but unfortunately this was just lark inexperience, and as it hasn't been seen since, i suspect I narrowly missed it. The bird I saw was pale, but had a marked breast with a clean line between streaking and white, more like a Lesser short-toed lark, and certainly not the right bird. I guess it was just a "neat" looking Skylark. I made a mental note to add Lark and Pipit ID refresher to my bird call homework. Also, apologies to anyone I was grumpy too, this was around the time Norwich were getting relegated! Grrr.
Continuing my unauspicious evening, it appears that Mark Richardson has left Feeder (my favourite band) and a White Stork was in the Norwich area yesterday, but has just been put on BirdGuides. I think a motion should be passed that if you can't/don't want to put out news of a bird on the day it was seen, you should keep it to yourself.


2nd May 2009
Trying to fill in a few gaps in the year list, me & Adam took advantage of the new Coasthopper timetable to beat the crowds to Cley. A few nice photo opportunities from a singing Sedge Warbler and a Kestrel along the road, before we reached the middle group of hides. There was very little around, and not much more from the east bank. We were the only people in North Hide, and Adam picked out a resting juvenile Spoonbill, and with more effort in the heat haze, Little Ringed Plover. A few Ruff and a Common Sandpiper were also on the scrape.
Further round, I was watching a lone Brent Goose on the Eye Pool when Adam spotted a Short-eared Owl flying over the marshes towards Blakeney. It went down below the ridge before I saw it, but luckily it reappeared before flying down the marshes behind the point. We went back to the visitors centre for lunch, before heading back to Sheringham. We walked up to Beeston Bump to check for migrants, but with every member of the ramblers and their families out, we gave up and got the train home.

Year list 185 species.

Carey's Meadow and Thorpe Marshes

30th April 2009

An after work jaunt to see if any more migrants had trickled Norwich way. Carey's Meadow was relatively quiet, although it took me about 5 minutes to recognise a Whitethroat call, which doesn't bode well. I was quicker with the second one! Walking further along to Thorpe Marshes, I walked around the path, doing my best to stop, scan and scowl at the guy that decided that it was a great idea to ditch jump and wander along the waters edge. I almost forgave him when he flushed a Greenshank, giving good flight views and distinctive "chew chew chew" call, but not quite. It's not like he gained anything, it was quite clear that he didn't see it, he was too busy staring at the back of Tufted Ducks (56 still around) as they swam rapidly away from him. I despair sometimes. Two Cuckoos were calling distantly, although no hope of seeing either, and still no sign of any Swifts.
Year total 182 species.