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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