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Sunday, 28 December 2014

Superb Snettisham

Black-necked Grebe, Snettisham RSPB
Still feeling stuffed from all that Christmas food & alcohol. Time for a stroll!
I decided on Snettisham RSPB as I hadn't been there for quite some time. I parked the car at the fishermen's car park and headed South to the Wash and the hides. There were a few flocks of Fieldfares overhead but little else. The Wash held its usual, amazing, variety of waders and wildfowl. Hundreds of Knot, Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Golden Plover, Teal, Wigeon and others all competing for the best feeding grounds. Two Avocet and five Pintail just added to the mix. I turned around to view the pit behind me and as I did so a female Long-tailed Duck took off and flew slightly inland over the sea wall, probably to the small river there.
I carried on to the Shore hide as a Stoat played hide and seek amongst the Brambles. The name "Shore Hide" is, perhaps, a misnomer as, although it sits almost on the shore, it faces in toward the south end of the Southern pit. The light was almost perfect as I joined an old friend trying to find the Black-necked Grebe. We looked everywhere and then it appeared almost in front of us. It was most obliging, as you can see. There were also several Goldeneye, Wigeon and Little Grebes amongst the resident feral Greylag Geese.
Black-necked Grebe, Snettisham RSPB
Goldeneye, Snettisham RSPB
After the hide I spent a fair bit of time looking over the saltmarsh and farmland that runs between Snettisham and Lynn Point looking for raptors. Marsh Harriers and Common Buzzards were the commonest there was also a ring tailed Hen Harrier, Peregrine and Kestrel. There were no Short-eared Owls to be seen. Little Egrets in abundance but also something that looked like a "long, white, snake" stood out above the saltmarsh vegetation. My suspicion was confirmed as a Great White Egret took off and flew towards Lynn Point. It landed between the two sites. This is probably the same bird that has been noted at Admiralty Point, across the river, during the past few weeks.
Great White Egret (honest!), Wootton Marsh Farms saltmarsh
I wandered off back on the return journey to the car and I had reached the north end of the south pit when I looked at the pager. You all know "Murphy's Third Law of Bird Watching" the one that means something will turn up when you leave. Never fails. "Glaucous Gull on saltmarsh at Snettisham" was the message (near enough). Up goes the scope and sure enough there sat a juvenile Glaucous Gull. Easy enough to find as it was almost the only Gull there. A very nice day out.
Sanderling, Snettisham RSPB
Great Grey Shrike, Roydon Common


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Northumberland- "Sibe" Chiff & Glaucous Gull

"Siberian" Chiffchaff ssp. tristis Cresswell Pond 
The weekend was supposed to be a trip up to the North-East to see the Isabelline Wheatear, under the pretence of taking my youngest daughter, Saffron, to see her grand parents. Unfortunately, the bird did a bunk and I was left to decide how best to salvage my birding.
Cresswell Pond, indeed the whole coast between St. Mary's Island and Hauxley, was my birding patch over 30 years ago, long before I moved to Norfolk and it still remains my favourite birding spot. Birding with Andy, Frank & Martin was always a high point of the week. So naturally that is where I headed off to.
Saturday was dreary, damp and quite breezy and I had a quick sea watch from one of the cliff top car parks South of Cresswell village. Not a lot of birds but 2 Little Auks moving South were nice. At Cresswell Pond I had a slow walk down the track to the hide. Lots of Tree Sparrows here and mixed finches. An unusual, thin "peep" caught my attention and pointed me to a grey looking Chiffchaff with the hint of a wing bar.  A nice "Siberian" Chiffchaff. It showed well to a number of visitors and came quite close. A pair of Stonechats were feeding along the fence line.

"Siberian" Chiffchaff, Cresswell Pond
The water level was high but the pond held a large number of mixed waders plus Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye. A Little Egret was also present. An unseen threat flushed out a lot of waders and a Jack Snipe was seen flying off with 3 Common Snipe.
From Cresswell I headed to Newbiggin to have a look at the Black Redstarts. There were 4 of them flying around the beach and adjacent caravans.

Black Redstarts, Newbiggin-By-The-Sea
I headed back toward the bay to look for Andy's Grey Phalarope but there was no sign. There were however, 19 Mediterranean Gulls. That was Saturday.
Sunday was pretty similar except for the lack of Little Auk but 2 Red-throated Divers in their place. The Siberian Chiffchaff was still at Cresswell Pond but not seen after 9:15. I flushed a Jack Snipe from in front of the hide as I opened the shutters and it flew to the North side of the pond.  A good mix of waders and wildfowl were still present including several skeins of Pink-footed Geese. An unseasonal visitor appeared in the form of an Avocet which fed along the pond edge. Also notable was a flock of almost 100 Goldfinches feeding in the dunes.
Next stop, almost ritualistically, was Church Point at Newbiggin. More great views of the Black Redstarts and also a flock of 12 Purple Sandpipers feeding on the rocks newly exposed by the receding tide. Time to rescue my parents from Saffron and get some home cooking into the bargain. It was then that a 1w Glaucous Gull was found on the breakwater just a few hundred yards away. The first of the winter.
Stonechat, Cresswell Pond
Purple Sandpiper, Church Point, Newbiggin
Glaucous Gull, 1st winter, Church Point, Newbiggin
All done you might think. No. A small detour was required as we headed South. A few minutes after starting the journey we were watching 2 Waxwings in trees at the entrance to Blyth Docks. Best not mention the missed "5 minute Bonaparte's Gull" at Swallow Pond. Grump.
Common Buzzard, Thornham


Monday, 17 November 2014

A Desert, A Dip & A Dusky

Female Desert Wheatear, Gorleston
There are masses of Desert Wheatear pics about at present so I only have a couple before moving on to todays birds.
Desert Wheatear, female, Gorleston
A very early start today. Early enough that I drove from Kings Lynn to Bawdsey over 2 hours in the dark to catch some views of the Hume's Leaf Warbler. However, despite lots of searching it was not to be found. It was not all doom & gloom as there were at least 4, perhaps as many as 7 Firecrests feeding adjacent to the picnic site. I also had a rear end view of a Tawny Owl after I stumbled upon it.
Firecrests, Bawdsey
I then decided to make a bee line for the Dusky Warbler at Landguard. It looked dire on arrival with several birders looking in several directions. I set off on my own and heard the bird calling about a hundred metres from the other birders. I must have been too close because it then sat out on a Bramble and scolded me for a few seconds before heading to another clump of Brambles. Although shy and elusive at times, this plucky little Phyllosc did actually sit it the top of an Elder allowing for a few bad photographs. My first Dusky Warbler photographs.

 Dusky Warbler, Landguard, Felixstowe

Song Thrush, 1st winter, Titchwell

Friday, 7 November 2014

Desert Wheatear & Black Redstarts

Desert Wheatear (1w male), North Links, Lowestoft
I left for work early today just so I could try my luck for the male Desert Wheatear at Lowestoft. Things didn't look good as I left Kings Lynn, rain & wind tried their best to put me off.
Things were even worse at the North Links car park! the rain was horizontal and the wind very strong. Too bad for a suit! I watched the sea for a while and had one Little Auk whizzing off to the North, one Bonxie and several small skeins of Dark-bellied Brent Geese.
Eventually the rain eased to just a drizzle and I headed off to look for the Desert Wheatear. There were several people in cars but no one on the promenade looking. I had gone 50 yards and found it, looking very bedraggled, sitting on the sea wall.
It tended to feed and shelter in the undercut below the sea wall. Sometimes being completely out of sight. However, it was confiding and at one point walked below me, no more than 5 feet away. Cracking bird.
Desert Wheatear, Lowestoft
Black Redstart, male, Ness Point, Lowestoft
Black Redstart, female, Ness Point, Lowestoft

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Steppe Grey Shrike

Steppe Grey Shrike, Burnham Norton, 7 & 9 Oct 2014
A bit of a detour on the way to work today. A bit damp and a bit breezy. The Shrike was distant on arrival but soon came quite close but the dismal conditions didn't allow for decent photographs I'm afraid. Also, this is my first attempt at uploading video so I hope it works!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

FINALLY!...Masked Shrike (plus OBP & Glossy Ibis)

Masked Shrike, Spurn
At last! Some time to spare for a trip to see a new bird.
Spurn was the destination (of course) so this meant I was up and away by 4:45am...weighed down by gallons of Red Bull.
It was a great days birding. Two very nice but suicidal Barn Owls played chicken(?) on the A17 and a large Badger was watched meandering along the verge of the A15 between Spalding and Lincoln. These were the only things I noticed until I reached the Well field and parked up. 
The Masked Shrike has been increasingly mobile and was in hedgerows North of the road but showed well for a few minutes before disappearing. It was over an hour before it was relocated again, along Beacon Lane.
While at the original site a call over someone's CB said there was a Common Rosefinch also along Beacon Lane but this was equally as elusive. It was while looking for the Rosefinch that the Masked Shrike was relocated and it showed well before moving back into the hedgerows. As I was about to follow it I noticed a flock of Greenfinches on nearby Hawthorns. The Rosefinch was associating with the Greenfinches and I had brief views of it perched before it too headed into neighbouring fields.
Masked Shrike, Spurn

Migrants were few and far between with only one Northern Wheatear, a Chiffchaff and small flocks of Meadow Pipit and Sky Lark noted. I decided to head back home via Frampton RSPB reserve near Boston.
At Frampton there were very few waders compared with recent days. Common Snipe, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Avocet and Ruff being noted. Three was the highest number seen of any of these species.
The Wet Grasslands part of the reserve held the most birds with a flock of Wigeon, 2 Pintail, a female Garganey, Yellow Wagtail , 21 Little Egrets and the now obligatory, showy, Glossy Ibis. A nice Sparrowhawk caused a bit of consternation amongst the Linnets before flying off with one of their number.
Glossy Ibis, Frampton Marsh RSPB
Sparrowhawk, Frampton Marsh RSPB
No blog last week but I did get to see the Olive-backed Pipit at Wells Wood and a bonus Tawny Owl as well.
Olive-backed Pipit, Wells Wood
Tawny Owl, Wells Wood
Stone Curlews at their Autumn gathering site.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Sooooo Many Birds!

Male Common Redstart
Today was always about Burnham Overy Dunes on the North Norfolk coast. Thick fog overnight and Easterly winds held so much promise.
I arrived at 06:15 and it was still foggy though this lifted quite quickly. I headed straight for the end of the sea wall already noting good numbers of small birds in the bushes. As I reached the Brambles at the North end of the wall it was clear that the fog had held back most of yesterdays birds. Two Red-breasted Flycatchers gave themselves up  but the Yellow-browed Warbler took a bit longer. Lots of common migrants here such as Lesser Whitethroat, Common Redstart and Garden Warbler.
First winter Red-breasted Flycatchers
Yellow-browed Warbler
A walk toward Holkham Pines proved fruitful with a THIRD Red-breasted Flycatcher showing well. The long staying Barred Warbler was a bit more elusive but eventually showed itself. More and more common migrants were seen with huge numbers of Northern Wheatear and Common Redstart. I sat on a dune overlooking the Sallows and heard a high pitched whistle which drew me to another Yellow-browed Warbler. Overhead it was plain that birds of all shapes and sizes were on the move, groups of Eurasian Jays, ThrushesCommon Buzzards, Sparrowhawks and two Eurasian Hobbys were all seen. A Great Bittern was seen flying East over Holkham Freshmarsh.
Barred Warbler
Eurasian Jay...on the move.
Heading back toward the sea wall I could see birds that seemed to be flying in from the sea and diving into the nearest bush. A kindly gentleman pointed me in the direction of my second Barred Warbler of the day.
Back at the sea wall crowds were building to see the Red-breasted Flycatchers and Yellow-browed Warbler so I headed off toward Gun Hill to look for the Lapland bunting. I hadn't gone 50 yards when the flew thing flew East over my head calling loudly. Still...onwards. More migrants were noted including new birds such as Blackcap and Goldcrest. The number of Tree Pipits was also increasing. A Spotted Flycatcher was new here.
Time to head back. Another quick look around the sea wall added Pied Flycatcher and the pools gave up Black-necked Grebe and Green Sandpiper.
Photographs of some of the commoner migrants are posted below.
Some impressive numbers noted today are 30+ Common Redstart, 17 Whinchat, 3 Red-breasted Flycatchers, 49 Eurasian Jay and 11 Tree Pipits amongst others.
Garden Warbler
juvenile Willow Warbler
Lesser Whitethroat
Pied Flycatcher
Common Redstarts