Sunday, 28 March 2010

Another day in Norfolk

This weekend, the choice for twitchers seemed to be Alpine Swifts in various places through out the south and east. As Saturday was the only day available, and inspired by the fantastic photos, I thought that the best bet would be to visit the long staying bird in Hunstanton.
First one up on the pager was the bird roosting about twenty miles east, at Cromer, but despite that we carried on to Hunstanton. We arrived to find a few groups of locals and no bird. After about half an hour, some of us decided to head off to the beach huts in Old Hunstanton where several Black Redstarts had been seen the previous evening. Despite a thorough search, none were seen and I was annoyed to hear that the Alpine Swift had made a brief appearance at 0925. We returned and after another half an hour it appeared over the beach huts and flew straight towards the waiting crowd before vanishing beneath the cliff edge and that was the last anyone saw yesterday.
While waiting for the non re appearance, the local Fulmars put on a good show and there was a constant stream of Meadow Pipits, Finches and Wagtails heading west.

With little else available on the coast we decided to go to Titchwell and see what would turn up. A nice surprise on the feeders were two or three Tree Sparrows, the first I'd seen here for a good five years or more. Winter wildfowl was still present in small numbers, with a handful of Wigeon and Pintail. Small flocks of Brent were scanned but no Black Brants were found. Waders were confined to a few Godwits and Ruff starting to come into breeding plumage. The Water Pipit also moulting into breeding plumage was seen on the bank which will become the new Parrinder Hide.
The sea held several large flocks of Scoter still, along with a few Mergansers and a single Eider. Coli's clicking shutter puzzled me for a while until I noticed a Black Headed Gull feeding around my tripod. Too close to focus most of the time but it's slightly more distant companion posed well.

On the way back, the regular Water Rail was watched at very close range, feeding and washing in one of the ditches.

Our last stop at Lyndford Arboretum enabled Colin to get a couple of Hawfinch. Plenty of singing Siskin and Chiffchaff, but no Crossbills or Firecrests. On the way to the new lakes, several Muntjac posed for us. The wind over the lakes was very strong and rather cold. Not much in the way of wildfowl, but a few Sand Martins and my first Swallow of the year was nice to see.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

First Butterfly

I was at Amwell this morning, and had a very interesting time. Last Sunday we had two Bitterns that were showing and one red head Smew remained, and the first of the Ringed Plovers had arrived. Apart from that spring seemed absent.
Both Bitterns seem to have gone now, as have most of the wintering duck apart from a few Teal. The Ring Plover remains, and there are now a number of singing Chiffchaff. Several people had brief sightings of Peacock and Small Tortoiseshells, but both eluded me. A small party of Sand Martins over one of the pools was nice, but even better were the eleven or more Buzzards being joined by one or two Red Kites, in addition to the usual Kestrel and Sparrowhawks. Unfortunately they were not in the same league as yesterdays two Osprey and Marsh Harrier.
No sign of any migrants apart from the Sand Martin-the weather is just too nice today.

I have just finished dinner, and looking out into the garden , I saw my first butterfly of the year-a Comma. While getting the camera out, it was joined by another before flying off.

Friday, 19 March 2010


I planned to take today off-having a few spare days to use up, with the intention of visiting Norton Green and getting the first Wheatear of the season. I was beaten to it as three were seen yesterday.
I spent an hour there this morning, meeting up with a couple of regulars. One male Wheatear was still present, and there were also around 25 Redwing in the trees. A few Grey and Red Legged Partridge were nice to see, but apart from an abundance of singing Skylark and Yellowhammer, we did not see much else.
I had hoped that with the reasonably mild conditions that we would hear at least one Chiffchaff and maybe an early hirundine would go over. Sometimes the pools hold Little Ring Plovers and Stonechat and Black Redstart is possible too.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Not Norfolk

Another weekend and another trip out, and this time East Anglia does not feature at all. It was a toss up between South Wales and the Lesser Scaup, Bonaparte's Gull or Dorset, and the latter won out, so we headed off to the new 'wildfowl reserve' of the Fleet (see and the drake Bufflehead.
We arrived at Moonfleet Hotel around 0930 and set off west. A canoeist had flushed the bird from the nearest bay and we had to walk about a mile to Langton Herring coastguards and join the crowd. Initially the Bufflehead was a long way out, and seemed to be feeding in the deep channel, but was harassed by gulls. It did eventually move closer to us, associating with the Mergansers and we had pretty good views. Unfortunately even with 1.4 and 2x converters on the 500mm it was a bit too far away. Nice views in the scope though, and a lot better than what we got at Roadford reservoir back in 1998.
We also saw a few Yellow Legged gulls out towards Abbotsbury (plenty of Mute Swans of course, and a Black one), and I heard my first calling Chiffchaff for the year-not having been able to locate any wintering birds this year.

On to Portland Bill, we soon got onto auks-the Razorbills and Guillemots were in full breeding plumage, but unfortunately the Puffins remained out of sight. A flyby Black Throated Diver was nice, and the Purple Sandpipers showed very well for once on the rocks in front of the memorial.

We stopped off briefly at the Fleet centre, but apart from Dunlin and a few Mergansers there was little to see as the tide was well out. Radipole looked very busy, and as there was nothing to tempt us we headed off to the New Forest.

The western section around Burley is not one I know. I have driven through, but never actually visited any of the heathland, but it looks good. The main attraction being the Great Grey Shrike. This was found fairly quickly though distant, ranging between several large trees, but then lost it. We went to investigate assuming it would be behind a ridge but then I suddenly noticed a blob on the overhead wires just a few yards away. It allowed us to get quite close and seemed unconcerned, but I guess that when it realised we were not pony's and not disturbing any insects it flew back to one of it's regular vantage points.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Got it

Got up early this morning, and got a few images of the Goosander in Fairlands Valley.
Had seen it briefly yesterday close to the boat house, maybe due to the partly iced lake. Today I took the camera, but it was a bit further out and the light was not so good.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Spring in the Air

I came home from Norfolk to find out that the frogs in my pond have been busy and there is spawn everywhere. Over the last five years or so, spawning has been in mid February, so they are a bit late. The heavy frost overnight zapped some of it, but they have been busy again today.
The Snowdrops are starting to go over a bit, but the crocuses are at their peak.

Over the last few days, a drake Goosander has been visiting Fairlands Lakes. Due to disturbance it is usually off fairly early. I thought Sunday morning nine AM would be ok. It wasn't, as it departed half hour earlier.
I drove around for the following hour, visiting a few spots. There was no sign of any Corn Buntings over at Deadman's Hill, I had hoped to at least hear one or two singing. Yellowhammer were seen frequently, and there was a flock of Linnet. Fieldfare seem to be present in small numbers everywhere. Apart from a Kestrel, I did not see any raptors in the cold spring sunshine.
A drive down the narrow muddy lanes west of Stevenage and Hitchin was entertaining to say the least hairy as there seemed to be a car rally going on. As a result, I did not have an opportunity to stop for a scan, so I carried on. I had hoped to see one or two Red Kite, as well as Buzzard, and there is usually a Little Owl or two as well.
I eventually ended up at a site where Raven can be seen. As I arrived, one was seeing off a Buzzard before returning to the tree, where it spent the next ten minutes calling.


A nice sunny Saturday was forecast, and not having been out for nearly a month, we decided to hit Norfolk again. This time we might even get to see the sea.
After a very early start we arrived at Thornham around eight AM. Over the last few weeks, this has been a favoured spot for the Snow Goose that spends it's time with the Pink Feet that winter around here. I was a bit unsure as to wether it was still around, as the last sighting had been a week or so back, and there were no geese on view when we were there. A few Grey Partridge foiled my 500mm lens with a 2x converter. (I have fitted a Katz Eye screen to my D2x and it seems to struggle a bit at f8).
We then spent a few hours at Titchwell. It was difficult getting out of the car park though, as one of the Robins decided to use my scope as a perch and would not go until it had eaten part of my sandwich, eventually sitting on my hand and wolfing the last bit down.

High tide was imminent, and the lagoons and marsh were rather full, so there were few places for gulls and waders to loaf. A now rare Ruddy Duck was nice to see, and Avocet and Godwit numbers were starting to build, but duck and geese numbers seemed to be a bit low. We hung around the dunes for a bit, and several Linnet went over, as did four of the hoped for Twite-another species getting hard to see on the coast.
Sea watching was a bit difficult due to the onshore breeze and swell, but several large (~2000 in total) groups of Common Scoter held a few Velvet. Mergansers, and a couple of Red Throated Diver were the only other things of note.
On the way back we bumped into Ray Tipper who was watching a young Common Seal-it had been present for a couple of days.

The feeders held the usual assortment of finches an tits. The Mealy Redpoll was still around but we did not see it. A Dunnock posed for us though.

Salthouse at noon was cold and windy. However the Snow Bunting flock was very obliging-apart from one family oblivious to them and our shouting who flushed them just as they were approaching our set up cameras. We did manage to get a large number of good images though, and the Turnstone flock were entertaining.

Sherringham has a first winter Glaucous Gull at the moment. I did not know how hard it would be to locate, assuming it was ranging up and down the beach. Actually, it flew over just after I got out of the car, and remained on view continuously from the promenade. To put it mildly, the views were fantastic, especially when it flew past at eye level only a few feet away.

Norwich was a disappointment. One of the few places to host Waxwing this winter, the five birds had been seen earlier in the day but had gone missing by the time we arrived. We decided to head to Haddiscoe Bridge, as did a group from Luton to try for raptors.
When we arrived, we heard that the Rough Legged Buzzard had just been seen, but had drifted north, so we all decided to go to the watchpoint overlooking Chedgrave Marshes. We got a bit lost, and soon realised that the track through the reeds was not a good spot. I did see the Rough Leg hovering and managed to get everyone on it. After a while we decided to explore and soon found the observing mound.
Over the course of the next two hours, until the Sun started to get rather low, we managed to see a minimum of four Short Eared Owls. two Barn Owls, several Marsh Harriers, and a very distant perched Rough Leg. The big surprise though was how many Chinese Water Deer were visible-at least a dozen may have been seen and out in the open, not lurking in the reeds as expected.