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

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.