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.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Local Garganey and White Stork

A visit to Ryburgh on 21st March revealed that 2 drake Pintail had been seen on and off recently (and possibly also 2 females).  That would be a good bird for the site and it wasn't long before one drake Pintail appeared from behind one of the islands.  But as it upended at the back of the scrape I was sure I could see something amiss - one of its legs was bearing a white plastic ring.  There were no metal rings so this hadn't been rung in the wild - it was surely an escaped bird.

escaped Pintail, Ryburgh, 21st March

There were at least 31 Teal on the scrape too including a copulating pair.

Teal, Ryburgh, 21st March

Other wildfowl included at least 52 Wigeon but they were mainly out of view.  Also a single Snipe on the scrape.

There were more Wigeon at Bintree Mill (at least 112), and another Snipe, but almost the first bird I saw when I first put my bins up here was a lovely drake Garganey!

Garganey, Bintree Mill, 21st March

My first singing Chiffchaff of the year was at Bylaugh on 23rd and a Coot flew over the house calling on the night of 24th.  I took the scenic route home from Norwich on 25th March pausing to look over Sparham Pools from the Lyng Easthaugh road.  The Great White Egret was present and a Siskin was calling.  A Nuthatch was calling at Bylaugh.  I also saw my first butterflies of the year on this drive - what was probably a Small Tortoiseshell and 2 Brimstones.

Later on that afternoon I headed over to the patch where the first highlight was a Dunlin in with 75 Lapwings (and Starlings).  A wander through the boggy parts produced a total of at least 40 Snipe, my highest count to date at this site.

Dunlin flying off with Lapwings and Starling, Bittering, 25th March

leucistic Egyptian Goose, Bittering, 25th March

Nearby there were still 69 Wigeon and an interesting Peregrine.  I'm not overly familiar with the various plumages (ages, sexes, races) of Peregrine but the broad reddish barring on the rear belly and flanks seemed odd.  Unfortunately my views of it in flight were too brief to see the detail and then when it was on the ground this bit of the bird was largely obscured.  I moved round to get a better view but as I did so it must have flown without me seeing as I never found it again.  I grabbed some photos when it was on the deck and they seem to confirm my impression of the markings, but the detail is not clear enough for me to really see what's going on.  Are these markings normal for any age/sex/race of Peregrine?  I think it's probably just an adult Peregrine of the local race but I would like a closer look at it.

Peregrine, Bittering, 25th March

The next site had Green Sandpiper and then the final site had perhaps the rarest bird in patch-terms, a Redshank.  While I was watching that I received news from Matthew Shore of an escaped stork on Bintree Mill.  I decided to head up there next and could see before I'd even turned into the road that the White Stork was still up there.  It remained up there until dusk when it flew around and then down to feed on frogs in the flood on the other side from the main pool.

White Stork, Bintree Mill, 25th March

The drake Garganey I'd found a few days earlier was still there along with Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail.

I had to head over to east Norfolk on 28th.  I wasn't birding but did see another Peregrine perched up on a dead tree next to the A1151 at Beeston St Lawrence.

I saw 2 Barn Owls on the way up to Burnham Overy on 31st and then another 2 Barn Owls when I got there.

Barn Owl, Burnham Overy, 31st March

A number of Snipe were getting flushed off the saltmarsh as I walked down - the tide was very high and still coming in.  One bird caught my attention and proved to be a Jack Snipe.  Other waders included a flock of 444 Golden Plovers, many of them starting to look quite stunning.

There was just enough going on in the dunes to keep me interested.  There were quite a few Blackbirds scattered around, a couple of Song Thrushes and my first 2 Wheatears of the year (one at Gun Hill, one in the east dunes). 

Wheatear, Burnham Overy, 31st March

I could hear a Firecrest at the east dunes but it took a while to get views of it.  Eventually I got a nice view of it, and later either the same or another bird in a different place, this time accompanied by 2 Goldcrests.  A Siskin flew around here and earlier a Redpoll sp. had flown over.  Looking over to Holkham I saw a Spoonbill and a Great White Egret briefly.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Snowy Owl

A report of Snowy Owl at North Wootton early on 5th March had been intriguing - was it really a Snowy Owl, a misidentified Barn Owl, or given what one person investigating it found in the area, perhaps even a very pale Buzzard?  It was seen again at Heacham the next day but this only came to light on Thursday when someone showed a photo to Lizzie at Titchwell - she reported that it was indeed a Snowy Owl and people's interest picked up a bit.  But days had passed now - would it still be in the area?

I considered heading out that way on Friday but instead opted for starting at the local patch where 102 Wigeon was my highest count this winter.   It was very quiet though and I soon headed back home - until I heard the news I was hoping for - the Snowy Owl had been pinned down.  It was now on Scolt Head Island, viewed from Burnham Deepdale.  My first Snowy Owl had been the wintering bird in Lincolnshire in December 1990 - that bird had moved to Norfolk the following March before heading back north but its brief visit to the county that counts coincided with me being in Scotland.  I saw another in Suffolk in 2001 but there hasn't been another chance to see one in Norfolk until now.  So I didn't hang around and soon joined Chris on the seawall beind the White Horse car park.  The Snowy Owl was sitting on the shore at the edge of Scolt Head.  We watched it for a couple of hours or more during which time it never flew but shuffled around a little.  A few Carrion Crows showed an interest and more surprisingly so did a couple of Red Kites, one of which kept swooping down at it.  There were also a few Mediterranean Gulls in the harbour and at one point I had Snowy Owl, Red Kite and Mediterreanean Gull in the same field of view.

It was way too distant for photos, but that's never stopped me trying...

Snowy Owl (and Red Kite and Carrion Crows in the lower photos), Scolt Head from Burnham Deepdale, 9th March

Next day a Woodcock was the highlight on the patch, along with 49 Gadwall, Treecreeper and Marsh Tit at Creaking Gate Lake.  Later that day my wife alerted me to a 'funny bird' on next door's lawn just behind our property.  It was a Buzzard feeding on frogs from their pond - a bird I've not seen on the deck here before.  A Grey Heron also put in a brief appearance, another species I don't see from here all that often.

Buzzard, North Elmham, 10th March

A visit to London on 16th/17th produced a number of Ring-necked Parakeets at several locations.  A brief stop at Hyde Park failed to turn up any exciting species but a couple of Starlings posed for the camera:

Starling, Hyde Park, 16th March

Nearby St James's Park was more interesting, if only for its non-native wildlife. I'm not 100% sure but I think this White-fronted Goose x Bar-headed Goose hybrid is the same bird that hatched in 2006 making it nearly 12 years old.

White-fronted Goose x Bar-headed Goose hybrid, St James's Park, 16th March

This hybrid bred with a Bar-headed Goose in at least 2015 and 2016 producing at least one juvenile in 2015 and at least two goslings in 2016.  I'm not sure which ones survived but presumably this bird is one of those backcrossed hybrids - very similar to a pure Bar-headed Goose except for scattered dark feathers in the white areas and the body being just a touch darker and browner than normal.

(White-fronted Goose x Bar-headed Goose hybrid) x Bar-headed Goose backcrossed hybrid, St James's Park, 16th March

Here is the pure Bar-headed Goose, most likely this bird's parent I should think.  At least I am assuming it is pure but backcrossed birds can be very variable (more so than first-generation hybrids) perhaps potentially being unseparable from pure birds.  One side of its nail (bill tip) is pale which isn't typical for pure Bar-headed Goose, but on its own I don't see that as enough to suspect it is impure.

Bar-headed Goose, St James's Park, 16th March

Red-breaseted Goose, St James's Park, 16th March

Ringed Teals, St James's Park, 16th March

Smew, St James's Park, 16th March

Whtie Pelicans, St James's Park, 16th March

There were some birds here naturally, including a small flock of Carrion Crows.  The first bird below had raised its crown feathers giving it a steep forehead like a Rook.

Carrion Crows, St James's Park, 16th March

Little Grebe, St James's Park, 16th March

Pochard, St James's Park, 16th March

Leucism (or perhaps more likely some other kind of pigment deficiency) in this Egyptian Goose revealed some interesting markings in the feathers that are not normally visible.  I guess the dark marbling is always present but masked by a dark background so you can't make it out.

Egyptian Goose, St James's Park, 16th March