Monday, 20 February 2017

Norfolk and a Bluethroat

On Saturday Colin and I went out with a view to catching up on the large number of seabirds off the North Norfolk coast and picking off one or two things on the way back.
The drive up was rather uneventful and a stop off at Choseley was rather brief due to work around the barns. We had a flock of Corn Buntings on the lane north of the houses, and there seemed to be an awful lot of partridges around. The hedges appeared to be very quiet as well, and about the only other birds of note were a distant flock of Golden Plover.
Titchwell was rather busy when we arrived. There has been a bit of work and some of the more mature trees have been removed producing a few more open areas between the centre and the car park. There wasn't much on any of the feeders-there are supposed to be a few Mealy Redpolls and Bramblings around so we headed up to the sea.
One of the Water Pipits was rather elusive on the Thornham pool. It was pretty close but tended to hide in the sedge and reed clumps. Another at the back of the pool was very flighty and never settled down to give good views. The fresh marsh held large flocks of Avocets and Golden Plovers with a few Black Tailed Godwits and Knot. Lapwing, Curlew Redshank and Grey Plover were present in small numbers in various spots and I picked up a couple of Spotted Redshanks on the tidal lagoon.
As expected most of the birders were on the beach sea watching. There were two big flocks of Common Scoter with maybe a dozen Velvets among them. Only a few Eider this time-numbers seem to have been low to non-existent for several years now, but I don't know why. After some time four Scaup dropped in-a nice bonus, and a single drake Long Tailed Duck flew in briefly saving us a trip to Holme where most of the birds are currently. There were a lot of divers and grebes, though most were very distant, and tough to identify. One or two Red Throated Divers were a bit closer in one of the scoter flocks, and some saw a Great Northern there as well. We saw four Slavonian Grebes fairly easily, but the Red Necked Grebes weren't reported, though I did see a slightly smaller grebe a long way out with a couple of Great Crested Grebes.
No Bearded Tits, Cetti's Warblers, and more surprisingly no herons, egrets, Dunlin Ruff or Snipe either. The only raptors were a pair of Marsh Harriers, so a bit of an odd morning with a lot of missed year ticks.

We left after an early lunch and headed off to Willow Tree Fen near Spalding and its over wintering Bluethroat that had been found the previous week. We arrived just as many were leaving and the news that we would have to wait 40 minutes for its next appearance. While waiting, the occasional scan of the pools and reeds produced a few duck species, one Marsh Harrier and a pair of Kestrels. Skylarks were singing over the sheep grazed fields.
Sure enough, after about 40 minutes the Bluethroat popped out and put on a good show.

  Our final stop was Deeping Lakes. There had apparently been a Cattle Egret somewhere on the reserve though information was vague, but more importantly there is a Long Eared Owl roost viewable from the main hide. We picked up a few Goosander and met a couple outside the hide with an owl sort of showing. It raised its ear tufted and opened its eyes occasionally but remained rather obscured. My first proper digiscoped attempt with the GX8 was not a great success though using the phone app as a remote control did help.

Its is a Long Eared Owl. Honest.
I think I will need to put in a bit more work-the Zeiss 35mm is big and heavy and only covers about 60% of the sensor. Might actually get better results with the 500mm lens and stacked converters, but I might even try the Questar as well.

We stopped off in the industrial area in Stevenage but there were no sign of the Waxwings. They were reported again on Sunday in several locations but no-one appears to have seen them today although there seemed to be a few birders searching.
I did however see the Peregrine briefly at lunchtime low over the Leisure Park. We assumed that the refurbishment of Southgate House most of last year had driven the bird off, but it has been seen a few times over the last few weeks.

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