A diary of my birding activity covering highlights and photos from my birding adventures. Mainly Norfolk (UK), occasionally beyond. I might mention the odd thing that isn't avian, but for moth and other insect news check out my mothing diary.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

A slow end to summer and then some Caspian Gulls

After the Great Knot, July was dominated by moths not birds.  Mothing activity went crazy leaving little time for birding, so not much to report here for July.  Highlights were:
  • singing Corn Bunting at Ringstead on 6th;
  • Green Sandpiper, 2 Greenshanks and Whimbrel at Brancaster on 16th (when looking for moths);
  • a superb adult Hobby carrying prey back to where I presume it was nesting, and then another or the same bird heard calling and seen again;
  • a Nuthatch added to the house list - heard then seen in my neighbour's garden (while I emptied the moth trap early on 18th);
  • 2 Common Terns over the house on 24th & 26th;
  • A Skylark over the house on 29th;
  • various Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Treecreepers at different places either at home or in my lunch breaks.

Red-legged Partridge, Beacon Hill, 20th July

August kicked off with a Hobby near Horningtoft on my way to work.  Then on 4th August I joined up with Pete Wilson and Dawn Balmer for some gull-watching in the Livermere area.  I'm keen to sharpen my skills in gull identification so am always grateful for opportunities to spend some time with gull gurus.  It proved to be an excellent evening with at least 4 Caspian Gulls the highlight, along with a likely 5th bird, a juvenile bearing a yellow ring, that was too distant to be quite sure about.  Also a probable Caspian Gull x Herring Gull hybrid and at least 28 Yellow-legged Gulls.

Caspian Gull, Great Livermere, 4th August

Yellow-legged Gull, Great Livermere, 4th August

Yellow-legged Gull, Great Livermere Lake, 4th August

There was also a Barn Owl by Great Livermere village hall and a Grasshopper Warbler could be heard reeling at the lake for most of the time we were there.  Also at the lake Barnacle Goose and Common Sandpiper.

A moth event at Claxton on 6th produced Barn Owl, Tawny Owl and what looked like a Hobby in addition to moths.  A Red Kite near East Rudham was growing its outer tail feathers making it look very weird.

Then on 11th I returned to Livermere with Pete for more gull learning.  We saw 5 Caspian Gulls - an adult, a 3rd calendar year, 2 2nd calendar years and a juvenile.  Also a possible Caspian Gull x Herring Gull hybrid and at least 34 Yellow-legged Gulls.

Caspian Gull, Great Livermere, 11th August

A third go on 18th produced 6 Caspian Gulls and about 25 Yellow-legged Gulls.  Excellent stuff, and really grateful to Pete for his help.  Still tonnes to learn though!

The local patch produced a juvenile Shelduck and 2 Mandarins on 21st August, along with Common Sandpiper, 4 Green Sandpipers and a Snipe.  Next day 3 Green Sandpipers were still present.

A Willow Warbler heard singing and then seen while I was emptying the moth trap at home on 23rd was an unusual record for here.  Also Bullfinch and Green Woodpecker heard that morning.  Next day a Turtle Dove was on wires at Wighton and a Common Sandpiper was on the local patch.

25th August saw my first trip to Burnham Overy this autumn.  A Peregrine was carrying something big away over the saltmarsh as I arrived.  Walking down to the dunes I saw 6 Spoonbills on the saltmarsh over towards Burnham Norton and a Water Rail preening on the edge of the reedy pool.  Whimbrel and Greenshank were heard calling, Common Sandpiper seen and 60 Golden Plovers flew over.  Later a Green Sandpiper flew over having come up from Holkham Freshmarsh.  A flock of 16 Common Terns flew over relatively high.

Common Tern, Burnham Overy, 25th August

Marsh Harrier, Burnham Overy, 25th August

At least 2, probably 3-4 Whinchats were in the dunes along with at least 6 Stonechats and 2 Wheatears.  Other migrants included various common warblers (all in low to middle single figures) and a Hobby was seen.

The last few days of August and start of September got me Little Owl calling at home, Nightjar heard calling on a central Norfolk heath, a couple of Tawny Owls from the car and live Badgers near Reepham and at Old Beetley.  Also a migrant Wheatear inland at Marsham Heath on 1st September.

Wheatear, Marsham Heath, 1st September

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Great Knot at last

This might feel like a 'blast from the past' post given how far behind I am, but it's not meant to be!  If you've read previous diary entries you'll know that I had several attemptes to see the Great Knot this summer mostly with no success and once with just poor views.  Well eventually I did see it well!

The Great Knot had spent some time at Gore Point, Holme over the previous couple of days so I started off there early doors, after seeing a Barn Owl on the way up at Brisley.  It was a lovely morning, very pleasant, all the better for the Hobby that whizzed through and 2 Spoonbills that flew west.  But there didn't seem to be any waders on the beach. There were a few scattered waders on the estuary, like this Ringed Plover, but no big flocks of roosting Knot.

Ringed Plover, Holme, 2nd July

Eventually I did find a flock of waders on the beach: 17 Sanderling.  They were very nice of course, but they weren't a Great Knot.  Robin Chittenden had indicated that he'd seen the Great Knot further round towards Old Hunstanton early morning a day or two earlier so I tried the beach opposite the golf course.  Nada.

Titchwell was the next place to try and there were plenty of Knot on the freshmarsh here.  From the bank I couldn't see a Great one among them so I went down to the hide for a different angle.  No-one there had seen it so after a quick scan I continued on to the beach.  Surprisingly, given how much time it has spent on the beach during its stay, and how many birders were on site, there was only one birder on the beach ahead of me, Mike Buckland.  He was already well down to the east where I could see a small flock of Knot and Oystercatchers.  I couldn't immediately pick out the Great Knot but needed to get closer, so headed down towards Mike, not feeling very optimistic given the quite small number of Knot in the flock.  As I reached Mike he indicated that the Great Knot was there and indeed it was!  It tended to keep to the back of the flock, often hidden from view but often appearing at one end of the flock.  The three of us now present moved further round to view the flock in better light and eventually we all got really good views of it.

Great Knot (with Oystercatchers and Knots), Titchwell, 2nd July

Eventually the entire flock took off and flew towards the freshmarsh.  The Great Knot is the lone bird top left in the flock shot below.

Great Knot (with Oystercatchers and Knots), Titchwell, 2nd July

I returned to the Parrinder hide where the bird was showing nicely at the front of the flock, although by the time I set up for photos it had moved round to the back of the flock where it stayed for most of the next couple of hours or so.

Great Knot (with Knots), Titchwell, 2nd July

Lots of Swifts were flying past the hide close by so I made a few attempts at snapping them.

Swifts, Titchwell, 2nd July

Avocet, Titchwell, 2nd July

There were at least 6 Red-crested Pochards on the freshmarsh and we heard a Bittern booming.  A couple of Bearded Tits showed.  Rob eventually turned up and saw the Knot - must have been the first time he's twitched anything for years!  We headed round to Patsy's Pool where we found 2 Little Ringed Plovers.

A successful morning after which I returned home knackered to catch up on sleep.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Great Knot but not great

Having dipped on the Great Knot three times I thought it was about time I saw it.  It was on the fresh marsh at Titchwell on 27th June while I was at work.  Did I have enough time to see it in my lunch hour?  It would be touch and go, but I went for it.  Racing out to the freshmarsh I looked a bit out of place all togged up for work, a fact that was confirmed by the various comments I received, but I got there with 5 minutes to go before I needed to head back to work.  The flock of Knot was still there, but was the Great Knot?  Yes, but it was asleep in the middle of the flock. All I could see was what looked like a dark breast on a bird more or less front-on, but views weren't great - I wasn't quite sure which side its body was on for a start!  Then briefly it woke up and stuck its head up - that's better, I can see it's a Great Knot now, just.  Then immediately it went back to sleep.  It woke up again once or twice more, and then I had to go.

When the Great Knot arrived I decided I wasn't bothered about seeing it unless I could get good views of it.  Now I'd seen it, but I still hadn't got good views of it.  I enjoyed the Mediterranean Gull that flew over the visitor centre as I raced back to the car just as much, and the Corn Bunting that was singing at Choseley as I drove past without stopping, just as much.  I'll just have to keep trying with the Knot, I figured.

It stayed on the reserve most of the afternoon, long after high tide had been and gone.  It was a nice evening and I didn't have to be back home for anything so I decided to have another go after work.  Needless to say I arrived a few minutes too late - it had just flown off.  But I did have a very pleasant evening chatting to Paul and watching a few bits and pieces.  The reserve was teaming with birdlife in fact and it was a wonderful bright warm calm evening.  Among the highlights was a fine female Spotted Redshank parading around in front of us.  This is a Dutch-ringed bird that has returned for the third consecutive year.

Spotted Redshank, Titchwell, 27th June

Other waders included a pair of Little Ringed Plovers and about 3-400 Avocets.  A Red Kite flew over in the distance and both Little Gull and Mediterranean Gull put in an appearance (a different Med Gull to the one I'd seen at lunchtime).  2 Bearded Tits showed briefly but the bird of the evening for me was a Teal.  At this time of year I often get sent pictures of Teal with brown cheeks which the observers think might be hybrids, but in fact they are pure Teals moulting in to eclipse plumage.  This was one such bird but it was a more distinctive example than any I've seen before with really strikingly pale cheeks.

Teal, Titchwell, 27th June

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Third time lucky - (K)not!

In my last post I mentioned two failed attempts to see the Great Knot at Titchwell.  Here are some pics from those trips which I've only just got round to processing.

part of the Knot flock (without a Great Knot), Titchwell, 17th June

Common Tern, Titchwell, 17th June

Blackbird, Titchwell, 17th June

On Saturday 18th I went up to Holkham for moth trapping with the Norfolk Moth Survey.  We saw 2 Barn Owls on the way up and while we were waiting for the key 5 Spoonbills flew over and a Great White Egret dropped in.

The following Wednesday I went searching for gulls in my lunch break.  There were plenty in the pig fields near Houghton though I couldn't find any interesting large white-headed gulls (a possible immature Yellow-legged Gull, but I wasn't convinced).  A total of 6 Mediterranean Gulls was good though, for such an inland location.

There is a pair of Swallows nesting in my neighbour's property and one has been singing outside my study window all summer.

Swallow, North Elmham, 24th June

On 25th June I headed up to Burnham Overy early, passing this Barn Owl on the way.

Barn Owl, south of South Creake, 25th June

There had been a couple of recent reports of Savi's Warbler at Burnham Overy, although the circumstances (twice reported early afternoon, but not evening or early morning) seemed a bit odd.  Anyay I learned that locals had not seen or heard a Savi's there, but there was a Grassshopper Warbler in the area.  Well today I didn't venture into the east dunes so I didn't even see or hear that, but I did see a few things worth noting.

Best was a juvenile Cuckoo in the hedgerow running along the dyke north from the staithe.  I heard it calling first, though didn't recognise it - I don't think I've ever heard a Cuckoo's begging call before.  It flew along the hedge a bit before landing in view, albeit partly obscured.  A while later it flew a short distance further and disappeared from view.  I could still hear it though and looked out for what might be feeding it.  At first I could only see Blue Tits and Sedge Warblers in the area and was pretty sure they weren't responsible.  Eventually a Reed Warbler appeared, carrying food.  The Cuckoo wasn't in view now so I can't be 100% sure it was feeding the Cuckoo, but I presume it was the Cuckoo's foster parent.

Cuckoo, Burnham Overy, 25th June

Other notable birds included 2-3 Spoonbills and at least 4 Bearded Tits.  Young birds included this Lapwinga and at least 2 Pochard ducklings surviving.

Lapwing, Burnham Overy, 25th June

Pochard with ducklings, Burnham Overy, 25th June

Afterwards I went back to Titchwell hoping I would be third time lucky with the Great Knot.  Saw 2 Mediterranean Gulls, a Peregrine and heard a Cuckoo, but not a Knot.  Well not a big Knot anyway.

Little Egret, Titchwell, 25th June

There will be some better news from Titchwell in due course, I promise...

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Summer birding

On Wednesday 8th June I got up early and started going through the moth trap before dawn so that I could get up to Burnham Overy early.  I had a day off and wanted to spend it completing what would probably be my last serious search for spring migrants this year.

I was still going through the trap at home when it started to get light and became aware of a peculiar noise.  Something was flying over and as it came closer I recognised it, then saw it flying low over the garden - a Ruddy Shelduck!  There must be a resident Ruddy Shelduck nearby because this is now the third time I've seen one from the house in less than 2 years - and that compares with a grand total of 1 other duck (either a Mallard or Gadwall but not seen well enough to identify).

On arrival at Burnham Overy I was greeted by a Spoonbill in the staithe, with a second bird flying over soon after (I ended up with at least 3 Spoonbills).

Spoonbill, Burnham Overy, 8th June

Spoonbill, Burnham Overy, 8th June

There were 2 Bearded Tits in the last few reeds at the very northern end of the dyke right be the staithe carpark - not the first time I've seen them all the way up here.  Among the feral geese were 3 Barnacle Geese, presumably the same birds I was later to see flying over the dunes.

At Gun Hill I watched a Marsh Harrier carrying in some prey, a chick of something, but before I could identify its prey I was distracted by this Hobby.

Hobby, Burnham Overy, 8th June

It wasn't getting as much grief as a Kestrel had earlier, with a horde of Lapwings and Redshanks in pursuit.

Kestrel (with Lapwing and Redshanks), Burnham Overy, 8th June

Kestrel, Burnham Overy, 8th June

Lapwing, Burnham Overy, 8th June

Meadow Pipits, Burnham Overy, 8th June

There are still Lesser Whitethroats at Gun Hill, presumably settled in now.

Lesser Whitethroat, Burnham Overy, 8th June

My serach for passage migrants drew a blank though.  Today's birding was pretty much all about resident and breeding birds.  I can't tell how many Oystercatchers are in this photo - a closer look would have revealed the answer but it didn't seem worth disturbing them.

Oystercatcher chicks, Burnham Overy, 8th June

This Lapwing took its chicks for a walk along the sea wall footpath...

Lapwings, Burnham Overy, 8th June

A pair of Mediterranean Gulls flew west past towards Scolt and a third bird, a first-year, was around the beach briefly.

A few days later in my lunch break I rocked up at a site for Monties.  Not the same place as I'd been told by birders that they were present at this year, but another site where they were formerly present and which a non-birder tipped me off about so I wanted to check.  This ringtail Montagu's Harrier appeared literally as I pulled in.  Photos not the best as I concentrated on looking at it first.

 Montagu's Harrier, undisclosed location, 13th June

The same day I had a look round Whin Hill quarry.  A Barn Owl flew away from there carrying a mouse or similar and a Green Woodpecker was feeding on the slopes of the quarry.

Not much else to report except for various sightings of Red Kites.  Oh, and two failed attempts to see the Great Knot at Titchwell.  A nice Spotted Redshank and a couple of Spoonbills but no Great Knot.  I must try again - it's still around and a cracking bird.

PS: last night stood at the end of Lady Anne's Drive waiting for the start of a moth evening we saw a total of 5 Spoonbills fly over and a Great White Egret drop in east of the drive.