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Whitlingham - last visit of the year

28th December 2010

Firstly I would like to thank everyone who took part in the Lesser White-fronted Goose poll. The poll attracted 22 votes (one of them mine). Views were polarised, with ten people believing the goose to have arrived from a foreign population and ten believing it to be an escape. Of the remaining two, one was mine (I'm reserving judgement to see whether it leaves with the Bean Geese or moves to a feral flock) and the other was content to wait for the BBRC to judge the occurrence.

So, back to actual birding. With Gary crocked, Adam & I decided to spend the day sliding around Whitlingham. The first birds of note were Greylags, a flock of 145 on the meadows alongside Whitlingham Lane. They were accompanied by the usual little hybrid goose. At least two of the birds had a domestic goose white "belly-band". This could allow them to be tracked later in the year, which will amuse me as I look at geese in the Yare Valley. The flock was the largest I can remember at Whitlingham, although it appears there was a flock of 260+ there last winter.

Walking along the edge of the Little Broad my second patch Coal Tit of the year was in the alders, as were a small number of Lesser Redpoll. With most of the Little Broad frozen, we moved on to the Great Broad, which also was mostly iced over. Scanning through the gulls Adam spotted a bright red leg, which turned out to be a ringed juvenile Herring Gull. The ring was on the left leg and had YZC in white lettering. The right leg had a more subtle metal ring. Preliminary research suggests that it was ringed at Landguard, so I have emailed them for confirmation. The first of two large holes in the ice was jam-packed with birds. I click counted 375 Coot and 125 Gadwall, whilst Adam saw a female Goldeneye which we failed to relocate.

[Edit] I have heard back regarding the ringed gull pictured above. It was ringed as a pullus at Havergate Island, and has been reported twice in the autumn from Southwold. So now you know!

Following up on a report of a Nuthatch in the bit of woods near the carpark, we kept watch on the bird feeders. Around ten Long-tailed Tits surrounded a fat ball, and then hurrah, a Nuthatch! My target of 110 Whitlingham birds for the year was achieved, and a patch tick to boot. In the second ice hole a lone drake Teal and loads more Coot and Gadwall, taking the overall counts to 560 and 303 respectively. Further along on the ice were two Shovelers, and a Fox ran across the frozen east end of the broad. The woods held little of interest, although a few Redwing flew over.

A good year all round, how to top it in 2011? A few targets:

Whitlingham - List target 112. Realistic patch ticks include Garganey, Bewick's or Whooper Swan as a flyover, Black-tailed Godwit, Little Egret, Slavonian Grebe.

Birds to try and find myself - Marsh Warbler, Icterine Warbler

Birds that realistically I'm not going to find, but would like to see: Blue-winged Teal, Bee-eater, White-winged Black Tern, Red-footed Falcon.

As well as following my progress with these, there will be more pub birding, more moaning about canoeists, some lifers for Cathy as she begins her third year of birding and probably some pictures of bees when she gets annoyed with her third year of birding and switches interest to insects. Heres to a productive 2011!

Merry Christmas!

A big thank you to everyone who reads and/or contributes to my blog! I'd probably do it anyway, but it is nice to think that somebody out there reads it. Even bigger thanks to those I've spent time with in the field or have given me lifts etc, it is all much appreciated.
Merry Christmas, and a Happy New year to all!

Ps. One more day left of the goose poll and it's a close-run thing, if you haven't cast your vote yet stop dithering and go for it ;-)

Cantley to Strumpshaw

22nd December 2010
Adam had the day off work so we agreed to get the train to Cantley and have a look at the Lesser White-front. I may on occasion moan about the trains, so it is only fair to say that this one was running on time and was not affected by the temperature or snow. Taking the path down from Burnt House Lane we located the Bean Geese, but due to the lay of the land we couldn't see them all. Moving further round we got a better view, and eventually found the Lesser White-fronted Goose with a group of 90+ Bean Geese. There was also one White-fronted Goose with a smaller group of Bean, providing a pitfall for the unwary.
As well as admiring the snowy landscape, we continued scanning as we walked along the riverbank to Buckenham. We saw a ringtail Hen Harrier, two Peregrines and a Buzzard at the Cantley end, whilst a Barn Owl ghosted across the path nearer Buckenham. Large numbers of Wigeon were on the river, as was a Black Swan. At least four Chinese Water Deer were wandering in the snow. We checked out the new hide at Buckenham (it looks nice, but is there really a need for one here?), and saw two Dunlin flying over. In the woods at Strumpshaw we saw a couple of flocks of Redpoll fly over and had a chat with Ben, before walking on to Brundall where we got the train back to Norwich.

Frozen Station Marshes

21st December 2010

With the Wensum frozen over (for the first time since 1987 according to the EDP), I didn't hold out much hope for a productive day. I decided to have a look at Thorpe Station Marshes in the hope that a displaced Bittern may be lurking. Thorpe Broad was completely frozen, with 52 Lapwing, 24 Moorhen and a number of Black-headed and Common Gulls standing on it in discust. A mixed flock of Goldfinch and Siskins were in the alders along the railway line, whilst the bird of the day was Meadow Pipit, at least six trying to feed near the path across the grazing marshes. In a hole in the ice on the river a Little Grebe, 2 Tufted Ducks,6 Malland and 6 Mute Swans were keeping the cold at bay.

Local stuff and a Goose poll

18th December 2010
With more snow overnight I contented myself with a walk around the Golden Triangle, finding three Waxwings, a Fieldfare and three flyover Cormorants.
Looking on Birdguides as I listen to the Norwich match on the radio I see that the Lesser White-fronted Goose has been seen again today, but a caveat has been put on that there has been an escaped one at Buckenham since August. From what I understand, this is not the case. The bird that has been there since the summer was a hybrid, and not the bird that is with the Taigas. That certainly doesn't prove that the LWFG is wild, but it seems that people are going over the top in dismissing it. If I am wrong and there has been a feral pure Lesser White-front seen regularly at Buckenham this year then feel free to correct me. I would be interested in peoples views in general, so have set up a poll (on the right hand side). You have until Christmas Day, please vote for something or I'll be sad looking at a load of zeros at Christmas.

Lots of Gadwall

11th December 2010

I sniffed and sneezed my way around Whitlingham on Saturday, still trying to see two more species to get me up to my years target of 110. There was a large number of Gadwall, a count of 800 according to the Broads Authority board. This was slightly surprising, as the board usually just has a generic "it's spring, look out for Swallows and spring flowers" type message on it. Maybe closing the Ranworth office means we'll get some proper conservation efforts. They may wish to start with building up the path to the bird screen, which is once again flooded. Other than the Gadwall, a drake Wigeon swam the length of the broad, a Water Rail squealed and one of the Red-crested Pochards was in the conservation area. I had a chat with another local birder who said that a couple of redhead Goosander have been on the river west of Norwich recently, might be worth a look if you patch around Sweetbriar. On the way back to Cathy's a small flock of Waxwings were near Lakenham Way before flying off towards Sainsbury's.

More snowy bird fun

4th December 2010

With snow still on the ground I had initially planned to stay in the city over the weekend, but a Hume's Warbler at Wells seemed to be worth a morning out. Having got the early train back to North Walsham, Gary drove us to Wells. There were only a couple of cars in the carpark when we arrived, so we set about searching the area around the toilet block. This proved more hazardous than you might expect, with large lumps of snow falling like missiles from the branches of the trees overhanging the path. We notched up flythrough Woodcock, Sparrowhawk and Barn Owl, but no sign of the Hume's. A thorough search of the undergrowth revealed a large number of Wrens, plus Goldcrests, Treecreepers etc. With more people now searching we went to check the redpoll flock, but only succeeded in seeing Mealys, whilst not too far away the trumpet of a Northern Bullfinch sounded. In the end the conclusion was that the Hume's Warbler had probably snuffed it, although what excuse the Arctic Redpoll had for leaving I don't know. As we went to leave a man with a voice as loud as Brian Blessed was returning from the beach with a shovel announcing that when he died he'd like to be buried in Wells Woods. "It's lovely here, isn't it?" his wife said. "YES. SUPERSONIC!". He replied. Strange times.
With a bit of time left until we had to be in Norwich, we stopped at the Dun Cow for a quick drink (only coffee, the ambient temperature was too cold for ale). We got a welcome pub tick as a Woodcock was flushed by a walker along the iron road, and a saw Snipe for the second time in a row here. Back in North Walsham, two Brambling were on Gary's feeders, and finally a small flock of Waxwing were in a tree near Anglia Square carpark.

The Dun Cow garden had seen busier days...

The view from the Dun Cow

Northern Birds & Pubs

Apologies if you have been diverted here looking for the Yorkshire page of the Lonely Planet guide.

27th November 2010

Having spent the week humming and harring about trying to see the Northen Harrier, the fact that it was being seen regularly in the Thornham area was enough to make up my mind to give it a go. Titchwell takes about the same time to get to as London via public transport (seriously, both are c2.5 hours from Norwich), so it was fortunate that Gary "I laugh in the face of driving in snow. Ha ha ha. Just like that" White agreed to go and give me & Adam a lift. After an uneventful journey (Buzzard near Worstead, an exclusion zone of no snow around Sheringham the two points of interest) we arrived at Thornham Harbour and set up our 'scopes near Connor. We had to wait a little while as the harrier was sensibly sheltering from the cold wind and occasional snow flurries, and were entertained by a covey of Grey Partridges that flew overhead. Eventually the Northern Harrier flew up and gave a nice flypast, the dark upperparts particularly standing out. We tracked it around the marshes and across Holme before losing it in the distance.
After waiting a while there was no sign of the harrier returning, so we went to Titchwell for a hot drink. As the cafe had only just opened, I even managed to get a sausage roll, a real rarity. Our vigil by the bird feeders was productive, with a Brambling in the leaf litter and a Lesser Redpoll on the feeders to add to an unseasonal Chiffchaff in the woods between the carpark and seats. We decided to work our way back along the coast, next stop Wells.
Arriving at the carpark in Wells we scanned Abraham's Bosom (ooh matron) and found some Goldeneye and Little Grebes. The word on the street (woodland path) was that there was a male Northern Bullfinch doing its trumpety thing, plus a possible Siberian Chiffchaff and Northern Treecreeper. On our first walk down the left hand track we heard a number of "normal" Bullfinches, but no Northerns. We walked back down the track and finally heard it, a Bullfinch with a toy trumpet. We located the bird, which flew across the path and into the trees. Perched up it was big and bright, everything you could want in a Bullfinch. We managed to locate the Bullfinch flock, but heard no more trumpeting. A few of the females may have been Northerns too, but at distance there was no easy way of telling. We also saw some Redpoll sp. before setting off to have a look for the Chiffchaff, which we had been told was in scrub near the toilet block. There was no sign after a brief search, and deciding that it probably wasn't a good idea to keep loitering around the toilets, we moved on.
With some good birds under our belt, we hoped to continue the good work from the pub garden at the Dun Cow. For some reason we had the garden to ourselves, and soon clocked up some common stuff. Adam picked out a Snipe, a pub tick for both of us (Gary had one here previously), and soon they were everywhere, including three which flew over the pub. That was to be our only new pub bird, although I picked out a flock of Snow Buntings on the shingle ridge west of the Little Eye, and a Barn Owl made a welcome appearance. Arriving in North Walsham with 45 minutes to kill before our train we went to the Bluebell for another drink. The garden was snowbound and we saw very little, House Sparrow the dubious highlight.

Cley AGP

21st November 2010

After a trip to Cley Spy and lunch at the Three Swallows (Highly recommended. Has anyone tried the Wild Boar, Turkey, Hare & Pigeon pie?!), Dad & I headed to Cley for a quick look round. We were greeted in the carpark by an enthusiastic Northerner imparting the directions "third bird from the right" to a couple nearby. A quick glance revealed that the 3rd bird to the right was the long-staying American Golden Plover. After getting our permits and some Christmas cards we went to Bishop's Hide, where I digiscoped this effort. The AGP had moved a few birds in, but bearing in mind there were 1000+ Golden Plover, it was still behaving very well. A Water Rail on Carter's Scrape and a Little Grebe in the roadside dyke were the other birds of note. We stopped off at Salthouse beach carpark for a coffee (the only coffee sold from the back of a van endorsed by Birds and Beer) and watched a lone Turnstone patrol round the outside of the car.

Earlham Cemetery

20th November 2010

Waking up to a drearie and foggy day I decided to spend a bit of time in the cemetery rather than go further afield. In the past few days a Tawny Owl has been audible from my house, so I hoped to pin it down to a roost tree. This proved easier said than done, and despite checking some likely looking trees and investigating any "mobbing" calls, we didn't find any owls. Cathy did spot a couple of Treecreepers that would have been visible from my garden had I been there, and a couple of Nuthatches were nice to see. We came across one Long-tailed Tit flock, with no birds of interest attached to it.

Whitlingham wildfowl

14th November 2010

A drizzly walk around Whitlingham on Sunday. For the first time in many weekend visits there was no boating, and as a result the birds had spread out across the Great Broad. Highlights included the hybrid goose mentioned in the post below, Kingfisher, c35 Cormorants and a Grey Heron. On the Little Broad there was an increase in Shoveler numbers, the Black Swan was still with its adopted Mute family and the two Red-crested Pochard drakes are still present and have almost finished moulting. Whilst the Waveney valley remains the most likely origin of these birds, late autumn is the best time to see migrant RCPs, with groups gathering in Germany and Holland to moult. There has been a notable increase in records recently, which I may have a look at if I get round to it. Whatever their origin, they represent a welcome addition to the regular stuff, and if they move away from the far end of the Little Broad I may even get a photo!

Hybrid Geese revisited

Trawling through some old posts I noticed an interesting comment from this month about the small hybrid goose that periodically turns up at Whitlingham. The comment relates to the bird depicted in the top three photographs, which has been seen on-and-off since at least January 2008.


The little hybrid goose cannot be a cross between an Anser and a Branta species, as these generally have a mainly dark tail (and also often darker bills or bills with black blotches). This means with that brightly coloured bill and legs and a typical Anser geese tail it has to be a cross between two anser species. It shows a clear indication of Ross or Snow goose parentage with the white-rimmed tertials and secondaries. As the bill is very small, I´d favour Ross goose as one parent. The other then should also be a small-billed species, probably with a pink bill also. Lesser whitefront seems to fit here best, so the most likely explanation would be Ross goose x Lesser whitefronted goose."

If the person who added this comment reads this post, I would be grateful for your opinion of the hybrids shown in the other two photos, both from Whitlingham. Bird 4 looks similar to a bird seen at Swanton Morley by Dave Appleton (possible Lesser White-fronted x Barnacle) whilst the bird in photo 5 has a similar wing pattern to the first hybrid but a larger bill and overall size, perhaps Ross' Goose x Greylag? Any comments most welcome.

Pied-billed Grebe

13th November 2010

Ever since I first went birding as a seven year old I have had a mental list of birds ("in my head" rather than "crazy") that I would like to see. One of these is Pied-billed Grebe. It could well have been because it was so close to the start of my bird book, but was undoubtedly also because of the charismatic look of the bird. I therefore jumped at the chance to go and see the Pied-billed Grebe that has taken up temporary residence at Hollingworth Lake in Manchester. When we arrived it was showing well, diving and shooting backwards and forwards along the bay. This was obviously tiring work, as it then swam to the back of the bay and snoozed against the reeds. Over a prolonged period we watched as the grebe preened, scratched, yawned, collected weed and swam along with a Moorhen-esque clockwork movement. A cracking bird and I for one will be keeping a close eye out for another Norfolk record.

Pied Billed Grebe at Hollingworth Lake

Back in Norfolk with a few hours of daylight left, Gary & I headed to Titchwell to have a look at the new path and search for the Pallas' Warbler seen in the week. A Treecreeper was the only bird of note in the trees near the visitors centre, and as suspected there was no sign of the Pallas' Warbler around the meadow trail. The new hide looks interesting, and just past it three Twite flew onto the saltmarsh, feeding near some Skylarks and oddly two Chaffinches. Incidentally Gary picked up the Twite by call, which he described as a "broken Linnet". We also saw a Cetti's Warbler before more searching of the bushes around the carpark. With the light fading we called it a day.

Twite. Note: "Titchwell Twite" is often used to refer to Linnets.


7th November 2010

Birding during the week is now down to about 15 minutes of light in the morning, enough to confirm that Waxwings are everywhere and all the Long-tailed Tits flying through the garden are rosaceus. Once the rain had stopped on Sunday I wanted to get out to the coast, and Cathy's mum offered to give us a lift to Cley. It was very busy, but after getting our permits and having a chat with John Furse we headed to Bishop's Hide. I got some half-decent photos of a Common Snipe close to the front of the hide and we admired the Teal and Wigeon. After a while a head bobbed up in the reeds, and Cathy had seen her first Jack Snipe. It took a while before I could get the 'scope on it, but we got there eventually. No sign of the leucistic Brent Geese in the flocks I scanned, and the sea was similarly quiet. The amount of people on the shingle probably accounted for the lack of a bunting flock, but there was one more lifer for Cathy, one of the Grey Phalaropes was still spinning on Billy's Wash.

Snipe at Cley

Showy Ibis

29th October 2010

Following a night at Norwich Beer Festival the morning was a write-off, and it was agreed that we would go out only if walking was kept to a minimum. Accordingly Cathy & I got a lift to Welney to see the Glossy Ibis that has made a flooded field its home. Reaching the site we found it showing beautifully, having decided to snooze close to the road. Unlike Spoonbills, the Glossy Ibis decided to play ball and not sleep the day away, taking a couple of steps and then concentrating on preening. Cracking views, making up for my previous sighting which upon being discovered promptly flew off. The fields around Welney held some wild swans (a flock close to the road were Whoopers, didn't attempt to ID those further away), Stock Doves and a covey of Red-legged Partridges.

A few days in Wales

25th-27th October 2010

The main purpose of this brief foray into Wales was for me & Dad to see the spectacle that is the Red Kite feeding station at Gigrin Farm. Dad wanted to get some good photos, I had prepared myself for some digiscoping mayhem. We stayed at the Brynarfon Country Hotel, handily supported right at the bottom of the Gigrin access track. The number of Kites increased as we approached feeding time, and once the meat was deposited over a hundred swooped down to feed. A breathtaking sight, and as we soon discovered a difficult one to photograph. The Kites almost exclusively fed in flight, swooping down to pick up a chunk of beef, sweeping it from claws to beak and eating in one motion. One bird that did settle was a beautiful leucistic Red Kite. A loud "kronking" alerted us to a Raven perched nearby, and another two flew in later. After feeding time the Kites dispersed slowly, and were still seen from the hotel grounds and restaurant, and over Rhayader throughout the evening.

Having taken advantage of the sunny weather on the first day, we then had a rainy day to occupy. We took a picturesque drive through the Snowdonia National Park, ending up at a misty Anglesey. Visibility was rubbish but it didn't matter, two Choughs were feeding in a field along the roadside. The toilets were shut (there appears to be a nationwide consensus that people don't need the loo between October and March) but the cafe was open. After lunch the mist had cleared a bit, and we located a further three Choughs before leaving the island.

Timing is everything

23rd October 2010

One of the good things about bird news services is the ability to view records of scarce birds around the country, telling you when a particular species is migrating in numbers. A cursory glance this week showed that it was prime time to catch a migrating Rough-legged Buzzard, and that a mini Waxwing invasion had begun. With these two birds in mind I set off for Whitlingham in the rain, hoping that when it cleared there would be hordes of aforementioned birds soaring above me, possibly with unexplained orchestral music playing from somewhere. Unsurprisingly that never happened. Not a single bird of prey, and the only flocks overhead were small numbers of Redwing, which probably arrived weeks ago but flew over to make me feel better.
Wildfowl counts were tricky because canoeists going up and down the broad were constantly flushing or moving birds, particularly the flighty Tufted Ducks. A male Shoveler and three Little Grebes were of note in the conservation area. Whitlingham Marsh was barren as always, maybe someone should recommend removing all of the vegetation and having a giant wader scrape. Or how about a reedbed? The highlight of the day was my first Whitlingham Coal Tit of the year (long overdue), bringing the list ever closer to my 110 target. Marsh Tit and Kingfisher were the other decent birds of the day, and with more rain falling I gave up and went home.

Whitlingham list moves on slowly

16th October 2010
I had every intention of getting up early, getting the train to Sheringham, bus to Stiffkey then walking to Warham to see what would be my first Pallas Warbler. When it came to it, I just couldn't be bothered. I transferred Pallas Warbler from my "birds that I should really be finding myself in 2010" list to my "birds that I should really be finding myself in 2011" list, and went for a walk around Whitlingham instead.
Starting near the Yacht Club I stood in the drizzle sorting through the Long-tailed Tit flock, which still doesn't have any Coal Tits or Goldcrests in it. I've even had Goldcrest in my garden this week damnit. Looking over the Little Broad to start my wildfowl count two big red beaks immediately stuck out. Red-crested Pochards (105)! Not particularly nice ones, I presume 1st winter or coming out of eclipse, but still only my second patch record and the first semi-decent bird I've found this autumn. I put the news out in case any local birders were interested. The good thing about Whitlingham is that its so busy a few more birders makes no difference at all. The Black Swan was still accompanying the Little Broad Mute Swan family.
Scanning the Great Broad the thing that stuck out immediately was that there had been an influx of gulls. Lesser Black-backs have ranged from 2-15 over the past few months, mostly around the posts, but today there were rafts of 41 and 26 birds. Careful scanning revealed one Yellow-legged Gull (106) that I was happy with, although there may have been another. Black-headed Gulls were also very common, with 190+ spread out across the broad. Flocks of Redwing and Goldfinch flew over, and better from my point of view were two Linnet (107). Constant scanning of the far shore rewarded me with three Kingfishers around the broad, and 81 Tufted Ducks were at the eastern end, completely segregated from 60-odd Pochard on Thorpe Broad. Not a bad mornings birding all in all.


10th October 2010
In addition to the disappointment of finding diddly-squat the previous day, I thought I had probably missed seeing the Olive-backed Pipit that had been found at Stiffkey. After a lay-in there was still no news, but we decided to head there anyway and have a look along the coastal path. On the way we stopped at Cley Spy where a male Black Redstart was sitting on top of one of the buildings. A smart bird, and Cathy's 200th bird of the year. Upon arriving at Stiffkey I was surprised by the amount of cars, and soon found out that the pipit had been seen again.. Excellent. I was a bit concerned about Cathy and her mum walking out to the gorse along the muddy path, but they both said they wanted to go, so we all set off.
Having slid our way to the gorse, we positioned ourselves at a good viewpoint and waited. We soon got flight views, but rather than moving off with what was by now quite a crowd, we waited, presuming that the bird would be flushed back our way. It was, and then back the other way. After three flight views we became aware from the looks of other birders that it was coming our way again. Cathy uttered the immortal words "oh, is that it right in front of us?" and indeed it was. The Olive-backed Pipit was showing brilliantly in an open patch of grass at the edge of the gorse, about 10 feet away. As a number of birders who hadn't seen it yet came round behind us, I sat down and allowed people behind to get decent views. After a minute or so it went back into the vegetation. We skidded happily back to the car, and went to Wells for chips.
Postscript: The privilege of finding one of the few British spiders that bites humans was soured by the fact I hate spiders, and it bit me. Feeling a sharp pain on the back of my neck, I swatted a spider resembling an orb-web spider onto the back seat of the car. We pulled over and I literally kicked it out - well I wasn't going to touch it again! The bite swelled up like a mosquito bite, but went down soon after. First ladybirds, now spiders. Who knows what will bite me next.

Attempt at finding a decent migrant

9th October 2010
With easterly winds and the offer of a lift, Winterton seemed like as good a spot as any to kickstart my autumn from a birdfinding point of view. Starting off in the South Dunes, we spent a long time staring into trees and the bankside scrub, finding loads of birds or very few species. Large flocks of Meadow Pipits were feeding all along the valley, confirmed as the most he had ever seen by one of the residents of the houses near the Hermanus. Almost every bird that wasn't a Meadow Pipit was a Robin, including one recently deceased bird, presumably dying of exhaustion. It wasn't all bad, a small number of Brambling had also arrived and allowed us close views.
We didn't go too far into the North side, but the bushes west of the totem pole held at least one Redstart. Further along a number of Goldcrests, some still flying in off the sea were collecting in the hollows. A number of Chiffchaffs were in the same bushes, but despite some variation in colour I couldn't turn any of them into something more interesting. We went the scenic route home, and were barely out of Winterton when I spotted a ringtail Hen Harrier hunting along an adjacent field. We pulled into a side track and watched it fly across the road and continue parallel to the car. Further along three Cranes were out in the open a few fields south of Horsey Mill.

A load of Crickets and a Phalarope

2nd October 2010
Having neglected Whitlingham for a couple of weeks to spend some time at the coast, I decided to give both sides of the river an early morning grilling. Water has returned to the scrapes at Thorpe Marshes, but no waders. A couple of Wigeon and 30+ Teal were enjoying the wetness. I had hoped for at least one migrant grounded or over, but was to be disappointed. 13 Snipe over (3, 2, 7 & 1) were of note and two Swallows west could well be my latest record. I flushed two Chinese Water Deer from the flooded grassland, whilst there looks to have been a small arrival of Pochard since the last count.
On my way round to the C.P. I stopped at Carey's Meadow, no birds of note but I found a colony of Roesel's Bush Crickets, a recent colonist of Norfolk, maybe a first record for the site? Whitlingham was quiet, although 150+ Coot are still present, mostly at the east end. The ivy flowers were popular, with Red Admiral, Comma and Hornets competing with hoverflies. Showing how little there was about I got another orthoptera record for the day, my first Long-winged Conehead. The Grasshopper Atlas of Norfolk (yes there is one!) published in 2001 has them from a single site (Beeston Common), so possibly another site record. It was at this point when I was saved from ditching birds for insects by a call from Gary, offering a lift to see a Wilson's Phalarope.

Wilson's Phalarope is a bird that I had failed to see twice before when the last one turned up at Cley, so I had a vested interest in seeing this one. We drove quickly but safely to Welney (except for one bit of road where a bump sent us clean into the air) and arrived to find lots of people and not a lot of Phalarope. 15 minutes or so later it emerged back into the open, and we got good scope views. We didn't spend too long because news had broken of a Melodious Warbler at Holkham, a rare bird for Norfolk. Suffice to say we didn't see the bird, and it is therefore completely academic whether it was Melodious, Icterine, Willow or an actual Hippo. It was a good exercise in thoroughly grilling a small area of scrub, but a few Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warbler and Garden Warbler later we were all out of warblers. The stay was made more tolerable by the conversation, notably with Phil, Paul, Jim and Stuart.

Some photos that won't be making the Countryfile 2011 calendar

Late September 2010
Having seen loads of top-notch photographs of the Empid flycatcher in the past few days, I have decided to strike back on behalf of everyone that only has a compact camera and no photographic talent. Behold:

I call this one "Nuthatch in a tunnel". This Nuthatch has learnt that sunflower seeds are nicer than peanuts, but is yet to comprehend that it can stay and eat them rather than removing them one at a time and flying off.

This is a personal favourite, entitled "Deer in the garden, oh it's gone". The composition is aided by framing the photo with bits of wall and window, whilst shooting through the glass in poor light signifies the murky sadness of the deer leaving.

This photo, entitled "Nice spinny birds in the pouring rain" tries to show how being out in the rain can be fun, and how different species can get along together. By photographing pale birds in bad light you can save money on expensive black-and-white filters.

None of these pictures have been published yet, however I have set aside an old mug for royalties should they get snapped up.

Oh and yeah I saw the flycatcher if anyone was wondering, but as I can't add anything useful to the ID, I'll just keep my powder dry for now and leave it to others to debate.


18th September 2010
Having finally decided in the week that I would make the 3 hour journey to Holme to see the Arctic Warbler, it inevitably buggered off. Personally I blame the Pope. I decided that I'd spend the day at Cley & Salthouse instead, the weight of being the only Norfolk birder not to have seen a Lapland Bunting this year weighing heavily on me. Unfortunately no Quails from the train. At Sheringham I met Adam, who had just got a 4-skua haul on the seafront, and we watched loads of people in 1940s costumes wandering around.
From the central hides it looked like a flock of Canada Geese had eaten everything, but we did find two Little Stints and a few Dunlin. Two Carrion Crows were trying to eat an injured gull alive, which was a bit gruesome. Lots of Wigeon too, maybe a recent influx. The wind had died down completely and there wasn't much of interest on North Scrape. Walking towards Salthouse a Lapland Bunting called somewhere above us, and we eventually got good views of four birds feeding amongst the sea poppies. A couple of Wheatears and a Greenshank were the only birds of note as we walked back to Salthouse. Nothing new from the Dun Cow, although some nice flypasts from Swallows and House Martins still delaying the flight south.


17th September 2010

My last house had a small paved back garden, which only really attracted Goldfinches with any regularity. Whilst not being much bigger, my current garden is close enough for flocks of birds to pass through from Earlham Cemetery, with nothing so far beating a beautiful Nuthatch on the peanut feeder today. It didn't stay long, pecking at a few nuts before bending its head out in characteristic "L" shape and flying off. It's nice to be able to look out of the window and not know what may be lurking!

Anyone know much about snails?

12th September 2010
Not much change on the broad from Friday, although no terns today. I took to the woods to hunt down a Coal Tit, probably the commonest patch bird that I have yet to catch up with, but no luck. Whilst looking at some cup fungi I found these interesting-looking snails. Tony Irwin has suggested they are probably Plaited Door Snails, but I would welcome confirmation from any Snail-experts out there.

Whitlingham Sept counts & another Black Tern

10th September 2010
With the coast dripping with Redstarts earlier in the week, if ever I was going to find an autumn patch migrant, this should be the time. After spending far too much time checking the tit flocks along the edge of the Little Broad (one Chiffchaff, its a warbler bonanza) I revised my expectations to "nothing" and began my wildfowl count. A Black Swan that turned up a couple of days ago was the first of the year here, presumably last years pair were the ones that bred at Strumpshaw. Count:
Black Swan - 1 (Little Broad)
Mute Swan - 86 (6 Little Broad, 80 Great Broad)
Greylag Goose - 3
Canada Goose - None, but three Thorpe side of the river
Egyptian Goose - 6 (Mass exodus, now only 3 pairs)
Mallard - 140 (including Domestic Mallard types)
Gadwall - 28 (increase on last count)
Tufted Duck - 5 (flew over)
Great Crested Grebe - 5
Coot - 234 (5 Little Broad, 229 Great Broad)
Moorhen - 4
Cormorant - 31+ in roost trees
The walk around the broad was uneventful, with no watersports going on and few other walkers. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was the only bird of note along the south shore. The Coot were rather flighty, continuously half flying/half running along the water, particularly a group of 117 near the centre of the broad. I was scanning the conservation area bay to complete my Coot count when I spotted a Black Tern hawking along the east end of the broad. Going back round to the south shore I watched it near the island, marvelling at each swoop and soar up just above the water surface. Having twitched one here a couple of days ago it was nice to see this one and spend some time watching it. I called Cathy, who came and had a look, her first Black Tern.

Patch tick, Wryneck and some bats

7th & 8th September 2010
A couple of evening trips after work. On Tuesday I got a lift down to Whitlingham where a juvenile Black Tern was flying back and forth along the Great Broad. We then went to Cley where we got good views of the obliging Wryneck, which seemed happy to sit up and bask in the evening sun. We saw a Redshank/Spotshank/Greenshank treble on Arnold's Marsh, but probably passed the Lapland Buntings about 100m away. No new migrants around Salthouse in a quick search, but Gadwall (95) and Avocet (96) from the Dun Cow edged me closer to my Pub 100.
On Wednesday Cathy & I went on a rescheduled walk at Mousehold with Norwich Bat Group. Only Common Pipistrelles (45kHz) were seen & detected, but there were quite a few of them around.

Lots of red things and some more pub birds

5th September 2010
The last day of the summer holidays, and an opportunity to look at some migrants whilst Gary kept the yearlist ticking over. We started at Holme, becoming day members of the NOA to have a look at their Red-necked Phalarope. It seemed to have found the pool on Redwell Marsh to its liking, a view not shared by many other birds, and the circling feeding behaviour did make it look like it had been tied to four partially-submerged posts. A nice little earner ;-) The second red bird of the day was a stonking male Redstart spotted by Adam on the posts to the left of the hide.
A walk around the forestry was stopped to allow a parade of ramblers through, but eventually we found a Pied Flycatcher. Little else of note, even in the NOA part of the reserve (my first walk around, I'd consider membership if there was a reserve closer to home). Walking back along the entrance track we saw a close Garden Warbler, Stonechat, female Redstart and finally a Red-backed Shrike (one of two present) before two Peregrines soared above us and then flew off south-eastwards.
Next up was a bit of pub-birding from everyones favourite beer garden. Keeping our eye on the shingle ridge failed to provide a cheeky Lap Bunting, but we did get Common Tern, Sandwich Tern and Gannet passing through. Two more excellent pub ticks flew in, a Greenshank onto one of the scrapes and then three Whinchat (although there were four initially) on brambles straight out from the pub. A Hobby was a pub tick for Adam, whilst a couple of easy birds missing from my list were picked up in the form of Tufted Duck and Canada Goose.
Refreshed we set out again, doubling back to Stiffkey. We waited on the saltmarsh for a while for a furtive Barred Warbler to show itself, seeing yet another Garden Warbler. Eventually the Barred Warbler did come out in the open, working its way down a small tree before vanishing again. We stopped briefly at Cley, seeing a couple of Wheatears on the Eye Field and getting some good views of passing Arctic Skuas. Two times one of the Arctics landed on the sea, and it made a nice change that the winds allowed us to watch them bobbing up and down. The downside of course was that nothing else was being blown towards us, so we left for Weybourne.
We headed west from the main carpark, fighting our way through swathes of Pied Wagtails. No sign of the Wryneck seen earlier in the day, but a second Red-backed Shrike of the day was hunched low in the scrub near Moss' Pool. The vast expanse of the camp was inhabited only by Rabbits and Wheatears. We walked back, swotting more Pied Wags out of our hair. By the time I got back to Norwich it was dark - not only is it autumn, winter is coming!

First seawatch of the autumn

30th August 2010
I decided to put in an appearance at Sheringham for my first sewatch of the year. A combination of Bank Holiday trains and not wanting to put Cathy off before she'd started meant that we didn't arrive until 8.45, which as suspected was too late. Having been informed that I had missed Long-tailed Skua, Pom Skua and Sooty Shearwater, we stood to the left of the seawatching shelter and hoped. Nothing amazing, a few Great Skuas, 2 Manx Shearwaters, Gannet, Fulmar, Common Scoter, Teal, Oystercatcher and Tern spp. flew past . We went up to the boating lake to see if we could get better views, but the winds were too strong to keep the 'scope steady. Back to work next week, so I'm going to need some North-easterlies on a Saturday if I'm ever going to catch up with a Long-tailed Skua!

N.N. Coast with bonus lark

28th August 2010
Friday night a Booted Warbler was seen on Blakeney Point. There was no chance of me being able to get there at the time, so I decided to head to the coast on Saturday. Predictably it had cleared out overnight, so I turned to my secondary target of Icterine Warbler. Arriving at Walsey Hills there was no sign of the warbler, and no-one there had seen it either. Maybe it was going to be one of those days. Paul W introduced me to John Furse, who offered to give me a lift to Wells Woods, as long as I could deal with his puns. I agreed, and we set off for Wells.
We reached the beautifully maintained and reasonably priced carpark at Wells after a short stop at the Stiffkey Scarecrow Festival (for John to buy Jam). We went a long way in before finding a single bird, and lunch in front of the Dell produced one Wren. Finding nothing in the woods we looked around the scrub on the landward side, seeing what was probably a Garden Warbler dart into cover. Shortly before this a phonecall had told us there was a Greenish Warbler at East Hills. Why there and not here darnit.
Following this complete lack of success, it became us vs. migrants. Warham Greens, Friary Hills, Cley beach carpark and Gramborough Hill were all checked, giving us one Whinchat. It was at Gramborough that John got a "no further sign of Short-toed Lark" message. Having not got the first one this was a surprise, but it also meant that whilst we were at Cley it had just been found. We went back, determined to see something half-decent. The lark had gone to ground when we arrived, but I saw it fly up and west. Most of the group missed it, so we walked further along, only for it to fly again. At this point no-one could find it, and after walking much further along the shingle and a couple of false-starts we were beginning to think "sod it". Luckily the Short-toed Lark was relocated as we walked back to the carpark, and showed nicely running along the shingle near some yellowy-green vegetation. Ending on a positive note we left, and I managed to get a lift back to Norwich. Many thanks to John for an entertaining day!

Common Sandpiper passage

27th August 2010
Having opted for a lay in rather than seawatching (thats another chance of L-T Skua gone!), I decided to see if the northerly winds had blown any Common Scoter inland. At the start of Whitlingham Lane I walked across a rather soggy Trowse Meadow, and on reaching the eastern end I heard a sandpiper call, followed by two Common Sandpipers flying past and onto the riverbank. Walking quietly along I located them, and noticed four more bobbing up and down near the first two. I watched them for about a minute before they got restless and all six flew downriver, followed shortly behind by another two. I can't recall seeing 8 Common Sandpipers at the same site before, and certainly not at Whitlingham.
For once there wasn't a single car parked along the lane, so I was hopeful that there wouldn't be much watersport going on. I stopped along the edge of the Little Broad to look through the Long-tailed Tit flock, turning up two silent Chiffchaffs. Leaving the Little Broad behind I began my wildfowl count, which was made harder by a fleet of around 30 small sailing boats. Great.
Mute Swan - 100 (6 Little Broad, 94 Great Broad)
Mallard - 107 (45 Little Broad, 62 Great Broad)
Hybrid-type Mallard - 9, "Peking" Duck - 1.
Coot - 151 (4 Little Broad, 147 Great Broad)
Egyptian Goose - 3
Hybrid/Domestic Goose - 7
Moorhen - 2
Great Crested Grebe - 2
Cormorant - 10
Notably not a single pure Greylag, Canada Goose, Tufted Duck or Pochard, presumably because of the disturbance. Large numbers of hirundines (mostly House Martin) were hawking low because of the cloud cover, whilst Sparrowhawk, Common Tern and Bullfinch were also decent birds for the area.

Strumpshaw Fen

25th August 2010

With the holidays nearly over and sunshine at a premium, I headed out with Cathy to find her a first Swallowtail butterfly. Second broods are difficult to predict, but as I also wanted to have a go at locating Ben Lewis' Willow Emerald Damselflies we decided to try our luck at Strumpshaw. We got lucky with the Swallowtails, with a flypast in front of the Tower Hide. Although never seeing more than one at a time, there were probably two present. In the scrub along the path tens if not hundreds of Dark Bush Crickets were calling, and a Garden Tiger Moth was trying to look inconspicuous at the edge of the path.
Unfortunately from a damselfly point of view, the path along the Lackford Run all the way from the Tower Hide to the railway line has been shut for conservation work, and will remain so until the spring. This area is by the far the best Willow Emerald habitat, and a search of the other ditches only turned up large numbers of Common Emerald (mostly males). Bird wise it was quiet, three Common Terns, three Grey Herons and a couple of Stock Doves from the Tower Hide and heard only Bearded Tits and there flyover Green Sandpipers from the Fen Hide. The Osprey was seen whilst I was there but was apparently seen off by a Marsh Harrier.
Notice 1
The Pelican Inn in Tacolneston has opened an Ale shop promising to sell beers from all 31 Norfolk breweries, which sounds worth a visit.

Notice 2 has papers up for download relating to a recent conference on non-native species in Britain. A few interesting bits there, for me it seems a complete cop-out that we are now five years from the time when the Ely Muscovy population was shown to meet all of the criteria to be elevated to category C (it even recovered from a cull) but apparently more information is required as to their reliance on supplementary feeding. Presumably the idea is that as people will continue to feed them this study will be impossible and they can be kept in Cat E indefinitely. Yes they look horrible and have a restricted gene pool, but why have criteria for inclusion on a list if you don't act on it?

A photographic catch-up

24th August 2010

Finally I am settled into the new house, albeit with no sofa and lots of boxes of tat that I refuse to throw away strewn around the place. My garden almost backs onto Earlham Cemetery, so I am hopeful of some good garden ticks come the winter. So far I've had Coal Tit and Long-tailed Tit on my new feeders, and a pair of Sparrowhawks have flown over. I haven't found much info about birds in the cemetery other than a lone report of a Firecrest a few years ago, so if anyone has seen anything of note (yellow-browed warbler maybe?) in there I would be interested to hear about it.

In between waiting in for appliances to be delivered I have been out a few times, firstly to have a look at the Lesser Grey Shrike. Unfortunately it was Cromer carnival week, which added some time to the journey (as did the homicidal Romanian at Salhouse who tried to de-rail the train by putting concrete blocks on the track). At least at Sheringham I got to watch some of the Red Arrows flypast whilst waiting for the bus.

Red Arrows

The Lesser Grey Shrike ducks to avoid the Swallows that were mobbing it. A rubbish digiscoped shot, but it shows the breast contrast nicely.

I also canoed down the River Bure between Skeyton and Coltishall. A pleasant stretch of river, but only one Kingfisher to show for it.

A whole field to graze in, but no, it wanted to be in the river.

After several years of thinking I should go, me & Cathy finally went to Warham Camp to see the Chalkhill Blue butterflies. If anyone from the council is reading this, an important historical site is probably worthy of some sort of sign directing you towards it. The butterflies are at the end of the flight period and rather tatty, but it was a nice place to spend the afternoon.

Chalkhill Blue

Overnight rain has meant that we hadn't put the moth trap out for a while, but of the few that came to the outside light there is only one record of Orange Swift on the Norfolk Moths website this year, making it of particular interest.

Orange Swift

Thats enough for now, I'm off to learn Greenish Warbler calls.

The end of an era

August 2010

After four years of Trinity Street fun, it is time to move. Adam has moved into a house made entirely of large John Lewis cushions with his girlfriend Laura, and this weekend I will be moving too. Of course this is all entirely over-dramatic, I'm still going to be living in Norwich. However, due to all of the stuff that comes with moving house and sorting out internet access, I will probably not be updating the website until the end of August. In the nicest possible way, I hope that nothing good turns up in Norfolk until the autumn. Enjoy the rest of the summer!

The Rose Tavern, a quality local pub.

Whitlingham August counts

5th August 2010
A visit to Whitlingham to do a wildfowl count, particularly of the Coot, which have been accumulating steadily over the summer. Almost all of the Greylags had gone (presumably onto the river at Thorpe) as a result of intensive sailing over much of the broad. A strange-looking vehicle was also motoring around the broad, apparently removing waterweed on a barrel at the front.
Anyway, main counts:
Mute Swan - 121 (6 Little Broad, 115 Great Broad). 9 birds were large cygnets (4 & 5).
Mallard - 177 (84 Little Broad, 93 Great Broad) All eclipse-type, 9 obvious black-and-white type "domestic Mallards"
Egyptian Goose - 31
Tufted Duck - 7 (all conservation area)
Pochard - 1 male (Conservation area)
Great Crested Grebe - 4
Gadwall - 7
Moorhen - 4
Coot - 156 (133 in the conservation area)
Little other birdlife, one Cetti's Warbler and one Chiffchaff called briefly from near the Little Broad. Butterflies included my first Painted Lady of the year, Red Admiral, Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Small White and Large White.

Cley again

2nd August 2010
Another visit to Cley, this time with Cathy. Birdlife was similar to my previous visit, a large number of Spoonbills on North Scrape (one actually moved!), a summer plumage Curlew Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, c150 Dunlin and three Whimbrel. We had a brief seawatch, seeing one Fulmar west along with a few Terns and Cormorants. The large numbers of Swallows and Sand Martins that had been on the fences along the Eye field were gone, presumably on their way back to Africa. After lunch we checked out the central hides, one Spotted Redshank the pick of a meagre bunch. On the way back I had a chat with Andy Musgrove before we got the bus back to Norwich.

The fun of wader ID

31st July 2010

I was settling down for lunch on Saturday when I got a call from Gary offering a lift to look for the Hooded Crow that as been seen in the Cley area for a while. Deciding to go (HC was a Norfolk lifer) I got to the train in time and was picked up from North Walsham station. Handily the bird was relocated around the time we got to Sheringham, but some incredibly slow driving along the coast road limited our progress. We got there nonetheless, to find a crowd of 12-15 birders watching the Hooded Crow showing on-and-off in a stubble field. It flew off along with a flock of Woodpigeons, however it doubled back and perched in a coniferous tree nearby. Finding a decent vantage point we were able to watch it for some time, getting decent views and checking that it wasn't a hybrid.
As we were in the area, we decided to take a look at Cley. The large flock of Spoonbills was still on North Scrape (I counted 16 on most sweeps, but am assured that there were still 17, and the other one was directly behind one of the front birds). As we went back to the car I picked up 11 of them flying west. They flew past a birder who came up to ask if the Spoonbills were still there, but luckily once we'd told him he managed to spot them flying off! One more flew past before we left to try the middle hide complex. A Snipe has feeding in the open, and a number of Green Sands, Spotted Redshank (1 black bird) and Greenshank were obvious. We then began the unenviable job of checking through the Dunlin.
Most of the Dunlin were in summer plumage and very straightforward. A few weren't, but were still straightforward. We then came upon a bird with its head tucked in. It was noticeable initially because of its size, it was slightly larger than the Dunlin running around in front of it. Nowhere near as large as nearby Ruff, but enough to be larger than every other nearby Dunlin. The second point we noticed was the paleness of the underparts. There were no blotches, merely a few pale streaks on the upper breast and side. The bird occasionally lifted its head up to preen, revealing a long, black beak, slightly downcurved at the end. The bird had pale lores but no supercilium. The back was made up of black on chestnut, with cream fringes. There appeared to be small amounts of white either on the back or at the edges of feathers on the wing. As a Sparrowhawk flew over, the Dunlin flock shot off as a group. Our bird showed no intention of joining them, instead crouching low to the water.
By this point we had decided that the combined appearance and behaviour of this bird was odd. What we hadn't decided was what it could be if it wasn't a Dunlin. The lack of a supercilium and size ruled out most waders, and the bird lacked the jizz of Curlew Sand or White-rumped Sand. We hoped that it would give us a nice flypast, to check the rump and be on the safe side. As luck would have it after 45 minutes of not moving (despite a Marsh Harrier clearing te rest of the waders for a second time) it chose to fly when Gary was re-adjusting the 'scope. I kept on it with binoculars and picked up white on the tail area, but I was unable to be certain how far up the back it extended. The bird settled down in its new position, staying put low in the mud. It would sometimes swivel round on one leg, and also had "fit" type episodes of shaking and moving its beak.
Not wanting to leave in case we were missing something, we watched the bird for 2 hours+. A few birders came into the hide, but we realised that none of them had a great deal of experience with waders. Eventually Gary found two more experienced birders in Daukes who came and had a look. The conclusion was that the bird was a Dunlin, a slightly atypical one, but within the variation of the species. The non-flock behaviour, along with the inclination to not flush and shaking was suggested to be the result of a recent close encounter with a bird of prey. So there it was. We had spent the evening watching a Dunlin. Whilst there will undoubtedly be people that may scorn that, it was a useful excercise. It highlighted that by identifying common birds by jizz alone you miss out on seeing subtle differences in plumage, gave an insight into the variability of the species, and also showed the difference that light conditions can make (we went from 100% cloud cover to bright evening sun, with a noticeable difference in perceived colour of the crown and throat). It was also a good opportunity to make some field notes (attached below).

Wader notes. Ignore the bottom left flight drawing, the bird didn't show a white rump, I saw some white and was unable to be sure where. I also have to work on my "side-flight" views, as for most of its brief flight it was side on to me.

To end the day we went for a quick half at the Dun Cow. As we watched a pair of Linnet, the local Barn Owl flew in and landed on a post. We thought it couldn't get any better, until a Hobby flew in from the direction of Cley, swooping past before returning west. Pub tick!

Sandringham area

29th July 2010
No, I didn't go to the flower show. The main focus of the day was a social visit to West Newton, on the edge of the Sandringham estate. This left me able to explore east to Flitcham and west to Dersingham (I didn't say I was being sociable!) whilst Cath's parents met friends. The time before lunch was spent in the hide at Flitcham Abbey Farm. The local cows were pressed up against the fallen oak tree, but a scan along the posts behind located one of the family of Little Owls. Turtle Doves were calling, but it wasn't until a pair flew into a bare tree to the right of the hide that I could locate some, and we watched the male sing away for a while. Good numbers of Stock Doves were feeding in the area. On the way back young pheasants and rabbits chanced their luck along the edge of the road.
After lunch we set out in the other direction to Dersingham Bog. Despite a pleasant walk the heath was bird-light. A Kestrel perched at the top of a lone conifer was visible a mile off, whilst the call of Stonechats alerted us to at least four males. A lap around the boardwalk with not a dragonfly in sight was notable only for the amount of Round-leaved Sundew around the edges. A couple of Linnets later and we were walking back through the woods. Family groups of Coal Tit and Long-tailed Tits were calling, but nothing else stirred. Just before we headed back to Norwich we watched hundreds of gulls flying over towards the Wash, many appearing to have begun to moult primary feathers.

King Eider

27th July 2010
The start of the summer holidays had been uneventful up to this point, filled by house-hunting and local walks around Norwich. Mothing had been good, passing the 100 mark for Cath's garden (Iron Prominent and Chocolate-tip being the pick of the recent ones), but bird wise the only thing of note was a July-high of 107 Coot in the conservation area bay at Whitlingham.
I was at home filling out forms on Tuesday morning, when I brought up Birdguides and saw that a probable 1st-summer drake King Eider had been seen off Sheringham. Total time to get there (walk to the station, train, walk to the seafront) is about an hour and 45 minutes, and I had to go into the city to see a letting agent, so I consigned myself to not seeing it. By the afternoon the eider was still being seen, and rather than wait in hope that it would still be around on Wednesday, me & Cathy decided to give it a go. This seemed a bad decision as rain began to pour from the skies 10 minutes later, but thankfully by the time we reached Sheringham it had subsided to persistent drizzle.
As we headed along the promenade I was struck by the lack of birders. I know at least one of the previous birds was a long-stayer, but even for a weekday it seemed odd. I spoke to the one birder who was still there, who told me that he had been watching it for a while but then it had vanished, presumably drifting west. We walked along to the seawatching shelter, which was similarly devoid of birders, but then got a bit of luck when a guy walking past asked if we'd found it yet. He had just relocated the King Eider near the lifeboat station, and got me onto it via a long sequence of coloured flags. We then walked further west and got slightly closer views, although it was always distant. When light shone through the clouds it was possible to see paler areas and the bill colour, and the structure of the head was discernible against a pale sea. King Eider was a bird that I missed in Scotland ealier this year, so I am grateful to the finder and the birders on site for relocating the bird. I also hope that it went far enough west for a couple from Weybourne that I spoke to be able to "garden tick" it!

Station Marsh anti-wader scrape

18th July 2010

As wader passage is now underway I decided to give Thorpe Station Marsh a look. The only wading birds I saw, and this is using the term loosely, were Lapwings. The scrape was completely dry. Whilst obviously the lack of rainfall has played a major part in this, the relatively high water levels in the ditches suggests that the site may have been too well drained. The paths have been built up with gravel, but a new one along the eastern edge of Thorpe Broad has barbed wire across the southern end, presumably someone has forgot to take it away or put a "path closed" sign at the other end. Birdwise a few Stock Doves, 60 Canada Geese and a Kingfisher were the avians of choice. Two White-rumped Sandpipers were found at Breydon today, so very much a question of right idea, wrong (and overly optimistic) location.

Giving up on birds for the day I walked around Carey's Meadow, where a large number of plants were in flower. 16 Burnet moths were flying, 1 Silver Y, Red Admiral, Comma, Small Skipper (FOY) and loads of Ringlets and Gatekeepers. A couple of Brown Hawkers were patrolling the edges as well.

Nightjars & Moths

16th July 2010

The main purpose of the evening was to show Cathy some Nightjars. She wanted to see a perched one, but I've only managed that once, so I persuaded her that flight views would be just as good. Standing at our chosen heathland location we picked out a Noctule Bat each before the churring started at around 9:30. Despite at least three churring males and occasional flight calls, we failed to pick out any as darkness fell. Finally we saw a Nightjar, as a female ghosted across our path. We saw presumably the same bird in flight another two times, but by now picking up birds against the dark trees was becoming impossible. Whilst waiting I heard my first Turtle Dove for the site and a Tawny Owl called from nearby woodland.

We spent a further hour-and-a-half around a moth trap that had been set up close by. There was a marked contrast between the species we'd been getting in Norwich and the ones caught, unsurprisingly. Highlights included a number of Rosy Footmen, Pine Hawk Moth, Buff Arches, Black Arches and my first Pretty Chalk Carpet.

Pine Hawk Moth

Swallowtailed Moths

8th July 2010

Presumably the nice weather has encouraged Swallowtailed Moths to emerge. Cathy found this one, and another two came to the outside light once it got dark.

North & South of Norwich

4th July 2010
Part 1 - The North.
With Whitlingham offlimits (triathlon), I walked up to Mousehold Heath, hoping to jam in on the recent emergence of White Admirals. With few flowers out I concentrated on banks of brambles, but with no luck. I did pick up my first Essex Skipper of the year near Zaks. Two Brown Hawkers were flying over the heath, but Vinegar Pond has completely dried up, leaving them with nowhere to lay their eggs. A Green Woodpecker was the only bird of note. I stopped on the way back for a pint at the Murderers. The Woodfordes beer "Game On" (my beer of the month) is a special for the world cup, so I have to make the most of it in the next week.

Part 2 - South-east of Norwich
Like most people who heard that a River Warbler was singing at a site south-east of Norwich, I tried to guess where it might be. I guessed a private bit of the Yare valley, and hoped that it was at Whitlingham Sewage Works so that it would be a patch tick. My reaction to finding out that it was near Haddiscoe was to hope that the person responsible wasn't an estate agent. I managed to get a lift with Adam & Laura and we joked that there would be signs saying "River Warbler this way" up. Then there actually were! Thats real organisation.
Arriving onsite we were waved in by Dick Filby and then greeted by some friendly Americans (the landowners presumably?). We walked out of the parking area and round to the side, where after half an hour or so we heard our first bit of River Warbler song. The sewing machine comparison is a pretty good one, and there are similarities with the first few notes of Yellowhammer song as well. We stood and waited, as did Jim, before murmurs filtered through that it was showing from the carpark area. We walked back round, and sure enough we managed to see the River Warbler skulking low down in a small Alder. At first I could only see the back of it, but it moved slightly when it began singing, still partly obscured by vegetation most of the time.
Laura still hadn't seen it, being too short to look over the crowds, and me & Adam wanted better views, so we stuck around until 9.30. In the meantime David Norgate came over and said hi, as did Connor. The warbler did show again, long enough for Adam & Laura to look down another birders 'scope, but hopes that it would perch nicely on top of the bush were unfulfilled. Still, brief views are better than no views! The evening sun shining on the reeds was a lovely sight to add to the evening, and a Barn Owl briefly hunted the marshes behind the warbler bush.
A big thanks to everyone involved in finding the bird and arranging access, the effort is very much appreciated.

Eaton Park moth night

3rd July 2010
As part of a drive to encourage people to use Eaton Park, the friends of Eaton Park organised a moth night. Around 30 people turned up, and Peter Walton was part way through his introduction when classical music started from the rotunda. Apparently its a new deterrent to stop troublemaking young people from loitering. Rather amusingly despite the people who had it installed being present, they couldnt turn it off, so we passed around moths to music.
So the important question, does it work? No. Two teenagers walked into the rotunda and started to slow-dance, which was quite funny, but most of the other groups of young people (or nomadic tribespeople, it was dark by now) just shuffled through and loitered out of earshot. Most just made tired "I've got moths in my wallet" jokes, although two drunks did come over and pestered everyone for rizzlers. Anyway, a mediocre 14 species of moth were caught, the most spectacular a Lime Hawk Moth and scarcest a Clay Triple Lines.

Flycatcher at last

2nd July 2010
Deciding to finally nail this Spotted Flycatcher I spent a while scanning all of the open areas of scrub along the lane. After giving up with this I walked down the lime avenue, and looking out over the ruined hall I saw a bird fly out and then back to a tree branch out of the corner of my eye. It sat there long enough to get a good look at my latest patch tick, Spotted Flycatcher at last. It then flew onto one of the old walls, within photographic range but facing the wrong way. I didn't mind, a lovely little bird.
In a good mood I conducted a wildfowl count:
Mute Swans - 76 (5 cygnets)
Canada Goose - 30 (1 gosling)
Egyptian Goose - 62* - this is what I recorded but it seems high, maybe I wrote a number in the wrong column?
Greylag Goose - 143
Hybrid Goose - 3
Domestic Goose - 3
Mallard - 113
"Peking" type Duck - 1
Tufted Duck - 14
Pochard - 1 female (unusual for July)
Gadwall - 1 female
Coot - 79 (61 in the conservation area bay, two on nests)
Great Crested Grebes - 5
Moorhen - 1
I also had a good day with dragonflies, including my first site Norfolk Hawker, 3 Emperors, 30+ Black-tailed Skimmers and thousands of damseflies. In terms of butterflies I saw Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Large Skipper, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, Large White and Red Admiral. Last but not least I saw a Honey Bee swarm on a willow branch over the path.

Taswood Lakes

1st July 2010

As last year I accompanied a group to stay the night at the fishing lakes near Tasburgh in order to have a look at the wildlife at this otherwise private site. Unfortunately the grass had been mown short and "tidied" around the edges of the lakes, and I was unable to find any glowworms. Check this link to see last years hot glowworm action:

What I did see was some good typical lakey stuff, a constantly feeding Common Tern was present for the whole time we were there, and a Kingfisher and a Barn Owl were flybys. A Black-tailed Skimmer jostled for possesion of the nearest swim, and a Dark Arches moth made itself at home in Michelle's tent. Unlike last year there was no sign of breeding from the Tufted Ducks.

Whitlingham Orchids & Triathlon warning

27th June 2010
Another quick visit to Whitlingham before the England game. The only bird of note was a Grey Wagtail on the river just before Whitlingham Marshes. I had more luck with insects, seeing my first Ringlet of the year, along with Red Admiral, Comma etc. I went back to photograph the Mullein Moth caterpillars that I found last week, and also saw my first Cinnabar moth caterpillars (and one adult moth) of the year. Between the sewage works and the bypass a lone Bee Orchid spike was on the edge of the path and a number of Pyramidal Orchids are now flowering in one of the meadows.
In case anyone cares, Whitlingham is pretty much a no-go area next weekend as the Norwich Triathlon is on, so people will be swimming in the broad, running around the CP and biking down Whitlingham Lane. Good luck you crazy individuals.

Trowse Meadows & environs

26th June 2010
I decided to follow up on reports of a possible Cattle Egret seen heading in the direction of Trowse on Friday. The bird could well have continued east to Berney or south towards Caistor, but I was content to check the meadows along the river between Old Lakenham and Whitlingham. There was an immediate score with a Little Egret in the river near the Cock Inn. This is only my second record in the Norwich area, and only a mile or so from becoming my first patch record. Not knowing anything more about the Cattle Egret this was probably coincidental, so I kept searching. Walking along the river I saw thousands of small fish, a Lapwing and some dragonflies, and that was about it.
I could think of two more local herds of cattle, the first being at Trowse Common. A quick walk across it was enough to rule it out of the equation. Walking down Whitlingham Lane I encountered my first Meadow Brown of the year whilst scanning the cattle in the fields opposite Whitlingham. I completed my circuit by going up the Lime Avenue, round by Whitlingham Hall and back through Trowse , seeing a number of butterflies but no more birds of interest. On getting home I began to plan for a trip to Strumpshaw to look for the reported Marsh Warbler (a bird I'm yet to catch up with), only to then find that it had been re-identified as a Reed Warbler. Drat.