Thursday, 29 December 2016

Blue Rock Thrush

Something like 20 years ago Colin and I were up in Norfolk when news broke of a Blue Rock Thrush in the less than likely surroundings of the BP building in Hemel Hempstead. Unfortunately the bird was less than inspiring with a deformed bill and foot and only one eye. Needless to say it was never accepted as a wild bird.
There have only been a few accepted records, with several escaped records of the far eastern subspecies, and it has never been an easy bird to get so when news broke a couple of days ago of one in Stow on the Wold it was met with some scepticism. Funny time of year, some plumage details seemed to be questionable, and it didn't seem quite right for the usual expected sub species. But with the many extraordinary records of asian birds this autumn it is assumed to have arrived with them and    is likely to be one of the asian forms.
Colin and I went there today and it was a pleasant day out. There were a few problems on the road-one car embedded in a lamp post in Milton Keynes, another upside down in a tree on a very icy stretch near the Rollright Stones, and a bit of fog, though nothing like as bad as yesterday.
When we arrived at Stow on the Wold mid morning it was nice and sunny, and not too cold, though with a bit of frost in the shade. It was only a few minutes stroll from the car park to the assembled crowd, but no sign of the bird. One calling Nuthatch, a few tinkling Goldfinches, plenty of Jackdaws and a few Starlings trying hard to deceive us.
Eventually after about half an hour it was found on a roof not too far off, but rather hard to see. It then flew off and I joined a small group behind the house in a garage complex where it posed quite nicely for a bit a lot closer this time. The local Blackbird wasn't too keen on it and flushed it a couple of times and over the next half hour we got some lovely views of the bird perched on roofs, chimneys and window sills-not quite the usual mountainous habitat but it seemed perfectly happy with the houses as a substitute.
I eventually found myself back on the main green where we were treated to very close views and I managed to get a few great images-only need to post this one as I cannot better it.

Before we left Jay Ward turned up so I had a quick chat and we also bumped into the Cheshire guys from way back in the 90's again.
Several interesting Stonechats look like being an attraction for New Year-will make a change from the usual Norfolk run.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Sea Ducks and Shorties

Colin and I had a rare day out birding on Saturday. While the Masked Wagtail in Wales was tempting, the thought of ten hours on the road was not, so we did the usual thing and headed off to Norfolk.
 Over the last few weeks, the sea between Holme and Brancaster has been very good for wildfowl, with (for the southern North Sea) very large numbers of Long Tailed Ducks, among a number of species, and with divers and grebes on offer Titchwell was the destination.
 The car park was pretty quiet for a change, with only the inevitable Robin turning up hoping for a bit of a sandwich, and a few tits Chaffinches and pigeons. W e missed a Merlin on the grazing meadows by a few minutes which was rather annoying. It was seen flying into the nearby bushes but never reappeared. We stopped off briefly to see the Water Pipit on the drain Thornham pool and then went straight to the sea. joining a rather large crowd of locals and visitors.
 Something like 40 Long Tailed Ducks were feeding close in, often just off the breakers, the Common Scoter flocks were also very close with a good 15 Velvets (also a higher than usual number). The small number of Eiders were remarkably the first we had seen here for over a year, and the four Scaup were a nice bonus as well.
 Divers were tending to keep a long way off with maybe a dozen seen over the course of 90 minutes. Red Throated were frequently seen, one Black Throated flew through fairly closely and at least two probable Great Northerns were also seen. An unusual bird was the Shag that flew west-not a regular off this part of the coast.
 Apparently there was a Red Necked Grebe sitting on the sea, though few saw it, and unfortunately the Slavonian Grebe seen yesterday had gone. There were a few Gannets of course, and one or two Kittiwakes were following the two trawlers among the more regular gull species.
 We eventually made our way back to the car picking up a variety of waders and wildfowl, had another look at the Water Pipit and spent a bit of time in the woods trying to find and failing, Siskin and Redpolls. One Brambling was on the feeders though.

 After lunch we went to Burwell Fen, having got directions to a small car park south of Reach Lode. This enabled us to cross over onto the fen using the footbridge and we could walk north to where most of the other birders were congregating. One Short Eared Owl was hunting over the field to our east, often perched up in a Hawthorn, and over the course of an hour or so we saw maybe four more birds. Some were hunting a way off up towards Burwell Lode but two approached quite closely at times and proved to be very entertaining.

 The above sequence is the best of the bunch when one of them suddenly popped up from a drain and unexpectedly flew past at pretty close range.
Unfortunately apart from a pair of Kestrels there were no other raptors or owls showing, and rather unusually we never saw any deer either.