Tuesday 21 December 2010

The Big Chill

Well, the weekend before we moved in to our new house in Bishopthorpe, someone left the freezer door open, and it consequently got a bit parky. No birding done, save for a bit on a family trip to Scarborough (Great Northern Diver), but a few things seen around Bish including Woodcock, Green Sandpiper, Waxwing, 37 Goosander, Water Rail and a big flock of Pinks over the village - like being back in Norfolk!
So the weather. Everybody is talking about it. Heavy snow in first two weeks of December, with temps down to -16 C on the night of 2-3 December. At the time of writing it is c -6 at 3pm and it was down to - 11 c last night. Pretty parky. Birds etc must be really suffering, though I have seen a few Wrens, Goldcrests and Long-tails about. The Ouse has frozen completely in Bish for the second time in a fortnight. Mad! Oh yes, 10 Waxwings near work on 3 December.

Sunday 14 November 2010

I hate gulls

Spent two afternoons at Wheldrake - fantastic!
Today (Sunday) I hooked up with Russ. Sadly the gulls didn't perform, instead dropping over towards Swantail. Earlier, Russ almost trod on a Jack Snipe with his new centrally heated wellies (they are really warm he tells me); it flew off all stripes and stealth, before dropping furtively back in over the bank. We also had 8 Curlew, 33 Ruff, 16 Redshank and a single Pink-foot over. An enjoyable afternoon, with a Little Owl on the Crockey Hill road to round things off.

Yesterday was gloriously sunny. No other birders about, I hunkered down in the Tower Hide to watch the gulls come in. Little of note really, though nice to be out. Hordes of thurshes (mostly Fieldfares) towards Storwood and a few Willow Tits buzzing in the riverside scrub. Couldn't pick out the American Wigeon, though presumably still around. An interesting gull came in which looked on the face of it like a 1cy Caspian, but didn't really feel right. The bird seemed to have too much white on the tertials (2w?), not long enough in the rear end, and perhaps too much of a gonydeal angle. The contrast between the mantle and wings didn't seem good enough either. But what is it?

Sunday 31 October 2010


The day after my last visit to Wheldrake, a male American Wigeon was found. This must have been there when I was, so a bit gutted. Nevermind.
Anyway, spent an enjoyable afternoon with me Dad; just like old times. Quickly found the Wig, feeding in the shallows in front of Tower Hide. The black and white rear end seemed to really stand out, allowing the bird to be found easily. I also noted the longer tail than Eurasian Wig, a feature I had not really noticed before. Nearby, 14 Pink-feet were with the collosal Greylag/Canada flock, all of which soon departed; 9 north, 5 south. 20 Whoopers were hanging out and today 18 Ruff were joined by 6 Dunlin. Willow Tits buzzed in the riverside willows, and sadly I got back into Woodthorpe too late for the Waxwings that had been found on Alness Drive. Maybe tomorrow...

Sunday 24 October 2010


Snook out after lunch, back to the old patch. Hopped out of the car at Bank Island, my mind full of American Wigeons and Baikal Teals. A flock of birds shot out of a patch of scrub just down the slope – Waxwings! I got my bins on them and counted twelve as they flew north towards Wheldrake village. I lost them behind the trees after a little while and despite driving back to the village failed to relocate them. A fab start!

On to the Ings proper, two birders in the tower hide asked me to have a look at a small wader they had found, feeding with some Ruff. Back on I was alarmed to see a hint of a white rump – my heart raced, then the bird turned and revealed itself as a Curlew Sandpiper, a LDV tick for me, but not the hoped for Yank…Shortly, all the Wigeon got up, along with two dozen Snipe, before a rufous juvenile Hen Harrier shot past low, being mobbed by Lapwings. Wow – this place is better than I remember! In the distance, a line of Whooper Swans loafed, occasionally getting a bit excited and heads up and wings out whooping, a top sight!

I walked round to the pool, which was quite, and didn’t seem to have changed in 20 years and then on to Swantail. The view from here was great, and the Hen Harrier came past again, causing chaos. Half a dozen Pintail were hanging out among the hordes of Wigeon and Teal. I headed back and added Bullfinch, a couple of flyover Siskin, lots of Redwings and pair of Willow Tits in the car park. A cracking start to my York birding.

Whooper Swans

Juvenile Hen Harrier

Juvenile Hen Harrier

Curlew Sandpiper

Curlew Sand with Ruff

NNOBS 16-17 October – Sunday

Having enjoyed our one-way walk yesterday, we got seriously logistical and organised, leaving one car at Holme golf course, and the others at Thornham, enabling us to walk between the two without retracing steps. No sign of the Yellowlegs from a few years ago in Thornham harbour and the guys seemed to have much more fun trying to look at me peeing in the middle of the saltmarsh.

It was pretty quiet until we reached Holme, though I did hear a Lap Bunt with the Skylark flock in the stubble near Thornham. After a chat with Gary in the Firs, we went down on to the beach, where, after a tip-off, we picked up the male Black Redstart which was zipping around frenetically on the dune edge, along with some more relaxed Bramblings. A little further on a flock of Snow Buntings drifted on to the beach, c12, giving good views. Back on the boardwalk, I decided to look at a group of three birders who just seemed to be looking that bit too intently at a patch of scrub. The middle guy saw me looking and suddenly beckoned. I shouted to the lads and said that these guys might have got something. I joked that it would be nice if they had something really good, not just a Yellow-brow or a Brambling.

I arrived after a bit of a detour to avoid the danger of flushing whatever they were watching, to find my old birding mate Dick Newell. Having exchanged pleasantries, he said that he had just seen a Red-flanked Bluetail – Ace! He had seen it for five seconds and hadn’t seen it since and his two mates had missed it. The patch of dense Sea Buckthorn scrub was huge and thick. I wasn’t too optimistic! I decided to give Gary a call to let him know what was going on and he arrived shortly. He brought look as the Bluetail suddenly shot out of the scrub and did a little fly past of the ten or so birders that had gathered. I just got a flash of blue as it disappeared into the bushes. Would this be all we would get? On a hunch, I thought I would leave the group and stand in a little open area where I could see the sheltered sunny edge of the bushes where it had gone. After a few tense minutes, the Bluetail appeared, and flew right past me back into the bushes by the other group. So, it had gone over the clear area and into the scrub on the farside. Thank God it had come back this way! Anyway, I joined the others and we got hidden views of it flicking about in the original spot where Dick had seen it. Dick by this point was visibly relieved that others had seen h
is bird! After a few minutes, the bird again headed towards the clear area. I followed my hunch again, but surprisingly, apart from Terry, nobody came with me. After a few moments, Terry pointed out some movement near the end of the scrub. Then, to our delight, the Bluetail hopped out into the open on the grass. What a little belter! It stood there in full sunlight, only ten metres away for at least 30 seconds, before flying low into the scrub on the far side. We immediately shouted the others who came down. Gary arrived back and started roping the area off. We decided we should head off. What a great finale! On the way back to golf course, we had fine views of a Kingfisher feeding in a saltmarsh creek and a colossal flock of Starlings along the coast path. So we finally got some good birds on a NNOBS trip. Newbie Reg will have to improve on his stamina though if he is to last the weekend in future!

Bluetail photo borrowed from Penny Clarke's fab blog www.pennyshotbirdingandlife.blogspot.com - I hope she doesn't mind!

NNOBS 16-17 October - Saturday

After the YWT crew had headed back north, the NNOBS guys turned up in drabs, meeting us at the Jolly Sailor, for pies and beers, as is the traditional start. Up early, we took a hunch and walked at dawn from Burnham Overy Staithe to the Dunes and then into Holkham. We started well, with a Ring Ouzel in the scrub by the seawall, and a Wheatear on the path. Then Reg called ‘Egrets’ and we marvelled at the sight of 116 Little Egrets heading west along the coast. Presumably all flushed out of their roost over at Holkham. I hope they had had a better night’s sleep than we had had…

It was blowing a hoolie and we were glad to get to the shelter of the dunes. Sadly, due to the clear conditions the night before, the dunes had emptied, and there was very little about. A quick look on the sea revealed it to be ‘going off’ with tonnes of auks, ducks, gannets and other stuff heading west. Best of the bunch were a gang of 5 imm Pomarine Skuas powering east, followed by two more further out. Unfortunately we were not dressed for seawatching or being sand-blasted so we soon headed west to check out a huge pong from the beach. Sadly, no Sperm Whale could be found, just a pile of rotting seaweed. Close to the start of the pines, Reg, who was obviously on form, shouted something inaudible. We all looked up to see a Waxwing hurtling west, calling loudly. Nice one! There had already been one or two singletons reported by that time, mainly from Spurn. The start of something perhaps? Into the pines, more birds about, including Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and some showy Bramblings. Paul, by this stage, was starting to get grumpy, so we needed to find some food. I assured them that there was a butty wagon down the end of Lady Anne’s. Sadly, a few minutes later a devastated and starving Paul rang to say it wasn’t there. We hastened up the drive to catch the bus, which shot past within yards of us. Doh! I feared a mutiny, or a clout, so I pegged it up to the Adnam’s shop and bought the only food they had – some crisps, before returning to persuade Paul not to kill me.

One Coasthopper stop later, we were back at the car and Al was relieved that his BMW hadn’t needed to test its resistance to the North Sea. Having stuffed our faces, we went west to taunt the dudes at the Raspberry Zoo. I enjoyed being shown a Skylark, named as a Lap Bunt, and we all enjoyed seeing the rehoming of the Stansted Terminal 2 building on the site of the old Parrinder Hide. Down to the sea, I was keen to check it out due to our brief success earlier. An hour later, I had nailed a fine pale adult Pom, plus three immatures. Again, all heading west. Several Red-throated Divers, and a number of thrushes, Blackies and Skylarks in-off. The rest of the lazy gits slept in the dunes, while I indulged myself.

Later on, we decided we fancied checking out the Stiffkey roost. On arrival at Warham Greens we found a lot of cars and a lot of anoraks, all busy searching presumably for a Pallas’s Warbler, that Reg had missed the day before. Sure enough, within a few minutes we were enjoying cracking views of the sprite behaving almost lethargically in the late afternoon sun at the top of an oak. A fine Hen Harrier shot overhead, suggesting the roost might come up trumps. We wandered down the track after having our stripy fill, before bumping into several more stripes in the form of an equally showy Yellow-browed Warbler sitting in the sunlit edge of the hedge. Nice.

The roost failed to disappoint. I was quite amazed that none, that’s NONE, of the birders who had been twitching the Pallas’s (c40-50) bothered doing any birding. In an hour, we had 3-4 Hen Harriers, several Marsh and a brief Merlin, plus two Barn Owls and few noisy Grey Partridges. Then the pub beckoned.

Norfolk 14-15 October

A work trip checking out nature-related tourism in North Norfolk. This involved quite a bit of outdoor activity, leading to one or two birds, the highlight being a flyover Richard’s Pipit whilst standing listening to the National Trust warden at Morston Quay. Me and Andy Gibson from Spurn just looked at each other and said simultaneously “Richard’s Pipit!” much to the hilarity of everybody else. Burnham Deepdale was quiet despite trying every morning, the highlight being the fab breakfast in the cafĂ©. A couple of Lap Bunts flew over me on the wall at Titchwell, and a Spotshank in the harbour at Morston were the only other birds of note.

Saturday 9 October 2010


Wake up, 5 to 6, wierd how that happens when you have an alarm set. Coffee, stroke dog, pile into car. Still dark, drizzling, east wind - excellent.
Painful drive over the Wolds in fog behind very early Sunday drivers. On to the verge by The Viking, North Landing, Flamboro'.

Goldcrests in tiny Hawthorn by the side of the car. A flash of yellow stripes in the grass at my feet - Siskins - wierd! Not the usual view; tired or tame. Or both. The air is alive with bird calls. Wheezing Bramblings, hundreds of Redwings and Song Thrushes. Blackbirds. A tucking Ring Ouzel. A Chiffchaff zips across the road, making my heart beat that little bit quicker. Another birder appears. He has just found a Yellow-brow. Nice.

The sky lightens; it is full of birds. Thrushes coming in-off suddenly drop like stones into the hawthorns and elders, seeking a little respite. A Blackcap skulks, pretending to be something rarer. More Goldcrests. Two more Ring Ouzels. A rather bemused and noisy Great Spotted Woodpecker in-off. Robins 'ticking' everywhere. This is great! First news arrives; a Great Grey Shrike a couple of fields away. I am joined by Russ and John B. A Redstart zips out of the hedge and zips back in again. Fieldfares over. More Siskins feeding in low weeds. A deluge of Chaffinches and Bramblings pours overhead, many unseen, some joining the hordes of Tree and House Sparrows lining the hedges.

We are really grilling everything, really trying hard. Another Redstart, plus a Whitethroat. Down to the landing; looks good for a Black Red. There's one! A cracking jet and red corker with glowing white wing patches. A female Redstart nearby and two Stonechats make fine companions, enjoying the pile of hedge cuttings some moron has dumped in this idyllic spot. More Goldcrests - some just in, feeding in the grass, some along a barbed wire fence in the middle of a field. Two Peregrines overhead make the local Kestrels nervous; one was clouted yesterday. A large flock of Mippits in the clifftop fields fail to harbour anything else. Chiffchaffs tail-dipping in the brambles. Reed Buntings along the wires, teasing me. Song Thrushes all over the place. News of another Great Grey Shrike and a LEO on the head comes through. Disappointment that the cafe is closed. Another Ring Ouzel, this time a fine male.

Where is the Bluetail? They seem to be everywhere else! Late morning, it is slowing, but it seems Goldfinches have arrived (bizarrely!) I have to go. A fantastic four hours. Nothing rare, but heaps of fun. And then somebody jams a Radde's at Filey...Doh!

Sunday 3 October 2010

Yorkshire birding

First morning out in the old county (26 Sept) heralded a stonking passage of Sooty Shears going north past Flaming Bog Horror in a big northwesterly. I counted 151 in 2 hours, plus c25 Manx, 2 Velvet Scoters, 2 Red-necked Grebes, 2 Bonxies, etc. RS later saw a Long-tailed Skua and a Balearic Shear, but I had to scarper home. We did manage a quick romp down to the Old Fall where we mused over the lack of the Eastern olly, enjoying a Redstart instead.

Today, in the pouring rain I checked out a Goldie flock near Naburn, but they had cleared off. Yesterday the same area held a male Peregrine and c50 Goldies. c20 Tree Sparrows and 50 Chaffinches were in a stubble field near Moreby. This field will be worth keeping an eye on. RS tells me that Bank Island has water now, so here we go for the winter LDV action.

Everybody here in the north has been very welcoming!

And I must mention my sis who finally got wed on Friday. Congratulations to her and her hubbie!

My last day in Norfolk (17 Sept) was memorable for skiving my last day at work (that showed 'em!) and birding Winterton with Reg - a fine Red-backed Shrike was near Gemma's house, a corking, close-in juv Pomarine Skua, and a few Lap Bunts flitting about on the beach, plus an enjoyable bacon buttie courtesy of Reg, who I will miss.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Goodbye Norfolk, hello Yorkshire

So, after 20 months birding NE Norfolk, it is time to move on. It has been great to get to know a new patch, and to do some coastal birding. I have made a few new mates, some of whom I hope to stay in touch with.

I will take some good memories with me;
first White-fronted Geese of the winter dropping in on a misty December dawn at Buckenham, the many exhilarating Otter sightings, the huge Redwing movement in mid-October last year, finding a second Rough-legged Buzzard at Haddiscoe, nailing Ring Ouzels a few minutes walk from my house in April, Bee-eater over the garden followed by finding three Temminck's Stints the next day at Hickling in May, and the anticipation of something big on the coast this autumn, that never really came off, but was exciting nonetheless.

I will miss the flocks of Pink-feet flying over the house at dawn this winter, and being able to nip up to the coast to do some seawatching before work. The wildlife of the area is stunning and the people on the whole have been welcoming and generous with their news.

But soon I will be back in the north. We move to York on Friday and I look forward to getting back out to my old haunts in the York area and on the coast, especially the Lower Derwent Valley. I just hope Yorkshire's cracking spell continues!

Thursday 9 September 2010

Buckenham wader fest

...must have happened another year. The site looks excellent now with all scrapes full of mud and water. Sadly, apart from lots of Snipe, not a single wader shares this view! A quick walk on Wednesday morning was very disappointing, although a calling Tree Pipit flying north saved the day.

Tuesday morning blues

The weather looked perfect. The time of year was great. I had learnt Advanced Bird ID by heart. Sadly, Waxham was dead! A 6.45am start saw a dejected looking Tim Allwood already leaving having seen nothing - not a good omen.
A Redstart near the car raised our spirits however, as we trudged the familiar paths through rain-soaked marram and phragmites. Sadly, the epic fall was not evident. We found two Redstarts, 10 Wheatears round the pipe dump and a few warblers. Biggest miss was a Firecrest which called once from a thick gorse bush, only for me to ignore it as a Goldcrest. Back to basics for me...
A quick look on the sea at 7.45am revealed a Bonxie and two Arctic Skuas. Later, a message came on of a Long-tailed Skua passed Waxham at 7.45am. Some days are just like that...

fem Redstart hiding on the pipe dump

Reg pleading with the copse

Saturday 4 September 2010

Take 2

With car shennanigans organised, Philip, Reg and me walked from Horsey Gap to the Shangri La at Waxham between 7 and 9.30am. Pretty much the same as yesterday, with a single Lapland Bunting just north of the pipe dump, a Whinchat, a Willow Warbler and 1-2 Hobbies the only birds of note. Views of the Lap Bunt were brief and in flight only, so we are unable to contribute to the whole racial identification debate!

Friday 3 September 2010


An early morning thrash of Waxham revealed none of the goodies from earlier in the week, but a delightful couple of hours was had before work beckoned. We were knee-deep in Whitethroats and tits (Long-tailed and Blue) at times, with the odd Reed and Sedge Warbler thrown in for good measure, plus a handful of Lesser throats, Blackcaps and a solitary Phyllosc; a Chiffchaff. A couple of Wheatears were around the pipedump, where an overflying Lapland Bunt failed to be nailed satisfactorily.
All in all, lots of fun and left us wanting more, which is how birding should be.

Sunday 29 August 2010

Wind 1 - Seabirds 0

A big NW blow this afternoon looked good for seabirds, so I mooched up to Winterton. It was spectacularly rubbish so I came home, to read the reports on t'internet of Long-tailed Skuas and Cory's Shears further along the coast. I had a Fulmar and two Arctic Skuas. Doh!
Same again at dawn?

The wind at 4pm today...

Early Buckenham

Saturday morning an Osprey carrying a fish flew over me and dropped into Buckenham Carrs. Little else of note save 18 Wigeon, the first decent flock of the autumn. Yesterday's waders had cleared out.

Friday 27 August 2010


A few hours at Waxham this morning in a fresh northeasterly following loads of rain seemed like a good plan. Very enjoyable birding marred only by the thousands of campers preventing me going too far towards Horsey. Little of note really, though a few migrants about and really enjoyable birding: 2 Whinchats, 5 Wheatears, 4 Lesser Whitethroats and a Yellow Wag over. The sea was rough and in a quick look revealed a pair of Bonxies closely followed by a pair of Arctic Skuas. Lots of ducks moving, mainly Common Scoter, though a few Teal and a lone Tufted Duck were seen.

After lunch, checked Buckenham which held two fine juvenile Wood Sands, plus 6+ Common Sands, 2 Green Sands and 3 Ruff. No sign of any Ospreys circling over Strumpet Fen - apparently there were 2 this morning. I picked up 2 Marsh Harriers, a Buzzard and a Hobby.

Intrigue was provided by the garden when a distinct shrill pee-pee-pee-pee-pee call was heard twice from the tall trees at the foot of the garden...

Thursday 26 August 2010

Dorset Adonis

A brief trip to Dorset camping in a very cool place near where the Sibe Rubythroat was a few years ago at Osmington Mills, yielded few birds, but good family fun and some cracking butterflies. Here are a couple of shots of Adonis and Chalkhill Blues.

Thursday 19 August 2010

A few days without the family

With the family stowed safely at the inlaws, me and Willow have been able to get some birding in, despite being stuck at work 9-5. On Monday evening a northwesterly felt promising, so I headed straight to the coast. Huddling behind the huts at Winterton it felt more like mid-October than mid-August, with a stroppy looking lead sea pounding the shore relentlessly. Within minutes I picked up a Manx Shearwater, followed by another minutes later. Waders, terns and ducks were also passing by, all moving north perhaps surprisingly. Ten minutes in, a dark shape arcing high over the waves appeared; A Sooty Shearwater. Making the most of the strong wind, it powered north, outclassing the low-gliding Manxies. A few more Manxies headed north before I was joined by a local. There followed a lull, but before long I picked up first one and then a second Arctic Skua heading north. In the next 15 minutes we picked up a further half dozen or so skuas, all adults and some of which hung out to clobber the passing terns. A few more Manxies passed by, plus single Common Scoter, Golden Plover and Grey Plover, both looking fine in summer plumage.

Wednesday morning I tried Buckenham, which has been bone-dry and birdless of late. With a little rain, I was delighted to see some water in the scrapes. This had attracted a few waders; Greenshank, 3 Green Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and 2 Golden Plover. More rain is needed!

After work prompted a trip to Breydon. The tide was already high and a large flock of mixed waders were huddled in the sea lavendar. Highlights were a huge flock of several hundred Avocet, 2 Spotted Redshank and a couple of Med Gulls. A trio of Little Egrets haunted the creeks.

Thursday morning saw me back at Buckenham. No waders today, save a Redshank and 3 Snipe, but a Wheatear was my first of the autumn here and a fine Hobby cruised around low over the grazing marsh, picking off dragonflies. Lots of passerine activity also, with a large flock of wagtails around the cattle, plenty of Mippits and Starlings and lots of finches. Whitethroats, Sedge and Reed Warblers are jumping around in the bankside vegetation in noisy family groups.

Thursday 12 August 2010

Day out of the office

Very little birding done recently. Checked out Rush Hills last night, but it was flooded out, so no waders sadly. Checked out the fields near Oby; several scruffy looking Golden Plovers and a big gull flock, but nothing of interest.
Much better at Cley today in a quick look on my lunchbreak. Fine Wood Sands, Spotshanks and Ruff on a cracking looking Pat's Pool. Could have spent all afternoon there had I not been working. Nice to see Bernard down there too, who was showing off his head scar gained from trying to open a gate in the marsh with his noggin.
A handful of the 20 or so Spoonbills were huddled behind an island over on North Scrape, visible from the centre.
On to Holme for a chat with Gary and Kelvin who were in fine fettle, having had a Monties earlier on. Nothing for me, even the resident flock of Hummer Hawkmoths failed to show up on the buddleia by the centre.

Thursday 5 August 2010

River Warbler helps wetlands!

Over £1,800 was raised by this little skulker! Thanks to the generosity of the finders, Chris and Alison Allen and assistance from RBA's Dick Filby, much-needed funds were raised for Norfolk Wildlife Trust and BirdLife's Southern Ethiopian Endemic Birds Appeal. This is a fabulous result and will hopefully inspire more finders of birds on private land to organise similar events. Great stuff.
Full stories on the RBA and NWT websites.
See http://www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/Home/News/Rare-river-warbler-raises-funds-for-wetland-conser.aspx

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Monday 5 July 2010


A call from Reg first thing Sunday morning was a surprise, as was the news that there was a River Warbler near Norwich!! Panic - wait - no details of the location have been released. Mad scramble for my phone, and sure enough, this wobbler was present somewhere near Norwich and the details would be released later...
After the longest day ever, the news finally came through that the bird was at Thorpe just west of Haddiscoe - damn, the wrong side of the river and just a few stones' throw from the patch...very close indeed. I promptly joined the traffic jam on the A47 caused by a broken down caravan and wasted the best part of an hour in my slow cooker of a car (broken air con). Eventually got to the back of a small convoy heading up Crab Apple Lane, and shortly arrived at a field which resembled a festival car park, complete with bucket wielding nippers on the door flogging tickets for this exclusive event at £2 a throw. They should have charged a tenner - I would have paid!!
I joined the throng, noting several familiar faces in the crowd. The bird had been singing earlier but had remained out of view in a small alder bush, possibly due to the brisk breeze. A calling Little Owl remained hidden in the oaks bordering the car park, whilst a Treecreeper squeaked from a copse. Out over the marshes at least one Hobby and a Marsh Harrier did fly-pasts and I checked every passing gull hoping for a Barton style Yank. Sadly nothing...
At about 7.15pm the hidden Locustella suddenly let rip with a loud, piercing sewing machine-esque rythym. An awesome song! I moved round to the car park and picked up the dark shape of the warbler sitting motionless on a low twig. The next 20 minutes were a little fraught as we struggled to keep on the bird among the obstructive birders' heads. Luckily nothing got too out of hand. After a while, it stopped singing and scurried down the twig and out of sight. It almost reached 9pm before it cranked it up again and on the exact same twig. A few people had departed and this enabled a much less impeded view. When the bird sang, it literally just gaped and moved its head around. The bird was very dark, particularly at the rear end, with dark undertail coverts. I couldn't make out any pale fringing. The bird had a narrow pale eye ring and short superC, with a neat gorget of streaks on the upper breast. The legs were noticeably pink. A smart little bird.
Big thanks to the finders of this bird and for the efforts they went to to organise this excellent twitch. Thanks too to Dick Filby and others who assisted with the organisation and to all the fellow twitchers who remained patient and well behaved, and generous in allowing initial scope views.

Friday 25 June 2010

Sunday 13 June 2010

Mid June and all is quiet

...at Buckenham this afternoon. The stillness interupted by an unexpected LRP on a muddy puddle opposite the pub, plus c20 Blackwits (presumably non-breeders?) and a Hobby. Lots of Red-eyed Damselflies on the channel by the pump, plus an Azure D.

Saturday 12 June 2010

Acrobatic vocals

Good views of a Marsh Warbler this morning singing in some willowherb and meadow sweet infested dry phragmites. It did some great impressions of Blackbird, Blue Tit, Goldfinch etc and at times conspicuously perched atop reed stems. The bird seemed to be sharing the same habitat as a Sedge Warbler pair, which were busy feeding their young. The Marshy definitely had a cute look, a fairly neutral brown appearance with a slightly warmer rump. The tips to the primaries were a little pale, not hugely obvious, but making the individual feathers separable from a distance. A white throat, short, dull white supercilium and a white eye ring also noted. Mid-afternoon, the bird remained hidden giving occasional bursts of song, unlike a nearby Reed Warbler that was singing away continuously.

Sunday 30 May 2010

Late to bed early to rise

An enjoyable walk at Hickling Rush Hills at 7.15am revealed an adult Little Stint, 3 Greenshank, 3 2cy Little Gulls, 65 Ringed Plovers, 30ish Dunlin. Wader passage still on then, but no White-tailed Lapwing.

Saturday 29 May 2010

Where for art thou Red Foot?

Buckenham was quiet 6.30-7.30am. 16 Blackwits present on the pool by the pump.
And a mystery moth caterpillar which I will investigate.
The man who drives a volvo and is down there every day with his two dogs chained together had left dog muck all over the track near the hide which I was a bit annoyed about, so I cleared it up. Willow and me don't want the blame from others for his antisocial behaviour.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Happy Birthday Reg

Took the day off so I could do a bit of birding with Reg as it is his birthday. Sadly we failed to pull it out of the bag at Rush Hills, with neither the Long-toed Stint or Broad-billed Sand giving themselves up. Try again another day. 40 presumed Tundra Ringed Plovers present on the other side of the scrape, plus a Sanderling and three Dunlin. A smart Greenshank was striding about, but nothing rarer.
Went on to Filby and Ormesby Broads to see if any marsh terns had been blown in by the easterly, but alas we had to make do with a first summer Little Gull. Went off piste with success and found a good new vantage point with which to get a better view of the west end of Filby Broad, which should be useful for better views of the Whiskered Tern I am hoping to find later on...(I wish!).

...well maybe it does!

Went up to Hickling Sunday late morning with my Dad. Stinking hot and disappointed not to see any Swallowtails, though a few 4 spotted chasers were crusing about.
Got to Rush Hills and after a bit of scanning picked up three small creeping waders; Temminck's Stints! Cool! Rang a few locals to let them know and it seems there had been two earlier in the day, unbeknown to me.
The haze prevented any photos. Two first summer Little Gulls were flying around calling frequently.

Saturday 22 May 2010

Does it get any better

After a quiet few weeks punctuated by not a lot, today was simply great!

It was a clear, sunny day with a light northwesterly which turned to the east later. Dad and me went down to Buckenham early morning and were amazed to find 140 Black-tailed Godwits right next to the path. All Icelandic birds feeding furiously, fueling up for their move north. Not a lot else present besides the usual breeding stuff and a fine Barn Owl.

Sitting in the garden at 12.30 waiting for a sandwich and I suddenly heard the unmistakeable call of a Bee-eater. Panic stations! I shot inside and grabbed my bins. I shouted Vicky and told her to come outside and get my Dad. I ran round to the front and scanned frantically. I could still hear the bird as it headed south at height. Sadly, with my restricted view of the sky I could not see it. Despite searching, sadly I could not relocate the bird; it must have headed straight over. I texted Reg just in case he was in the Yare Valley.

After tea, I got a message saying a Bee-eater had been seen at Strumpshaw Fen, only a mile away, mid-morning. Undoubtedly the same bird. So presumably the bird had been around in the area for a couple of hours. If only the news of the Strumpshaw Fen bird had come out immediately, I and others could have searched for it and perhaps pinned it down.

In the evening Dad and me headed back to Strumpshaw on the off chance the Bee-eater would return; it didn't. We did however have fantastic prolonged views of three Otters frolicking in the lagoons and channels on the river side of the reserve. Later, we saw one of them swim across the back of the reception lagoon at dusk. It was a delightful evening to be out, with Bitterns booming, several species of warblers burbling away, Marsh Harriers floating about and pesky Mozzies biting.

A fab day!

Saturday 1 May 2010


A light northeasterly blowing, with showers.

3 Greenland Wheatears on Strumpshaw Hill today. Lots of Swifts around, plus three Turtle Doves on the Hill and one in the garden.

Better was to come on arrival at the Buckenham pump when I noticed a harrier circling low over the marshes on the other side of the river about 4.25pm. I immediately got Philip on to it and we both agreed it was an adult female Montagu's Harrier. Sweet! The bird circled higher westward, over the pub and out towards Wheat Fen. I called Reg who managed to get a brief view from the south side as it headed southwest. The bird showed quite dark secondaries and a dark breast with whitish unstreaked belly, which looked worryingly Pallid-like. Sadly the only photos we got do not help matters particularly- see below.

Shortly after, a large falcon appeared and freaked out everything on the marshes, even making a pass at a Mute Swan! It was a large beast with mid-brown upper tail, rump and back, and pale on the head. Presumably some kind of hybrid with Saker and Peregrine involved. It landed distantly in a tree bordering the railway line, where apart from it's obvious bulk, nothing further could be gleaned.

Wednesday 28 April 2010


Sometimes a little twitch is a nice distraction. A male Woodchat Shrike provided a chance for a quick visit to Winterton. A smart nominate male with large white primary patch and smallish bill.

3 Wheatears and a Lesser Whitethroat on Strumpshaw Hill first thing.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Fen Hide Photographer Convention

Popped into Strumpshaw Fen Fen Hide this morning to find a photographers convention in full swing. Five blokes with five huge lenses all snapping away at a pair of displaying Great Crested Grebes getting five sets of identical photos no doubt. Sadly, nobody bothered to shift up - this was clearly their hide- and so after a few minutes of crouching to see out the front, I left. Selfish buggers! I hope they were a little bit more accomodating to other visitors.

West End

A quick walk around the west end of the patch this morning revealed my first Grasshopper Warbler, Cuckoo and Common Tern of the year. Three Bitterns were booming somewhere in the Strumpshaw Fen reedbed in the distance.

Monday 26 April 2010

Not a lot

25 Blackwits on Buckenham and a handfull of Yellow Wags mid-afternoon. Nothing on the hill first thing.

Sunday 25 April 2010

Good vibrations

Woke up hoping for some good pre-breakfast action. But settled for some birding...:-)
Outside, I was greeted by murky low cloud and a light southerly breeze, mmmm. Then, 5 Whimbrel flew over - Wow! A good start.
Went round to the paddock just north of Strumpshaw Hill and immediately found this:

My second Rouzel in this spot in the last week. A quick look on the hill revealed nothing further. Down into the murk of the valley...this was starting to look good. Steady on fella!
A fab hour was had down on the marshes, though not quite living up to Squacco or Marsh Sand level of expectation, with highlights being my first patch Greenshank and Reed Warblers of the year. Several small flocks of Dunlin headed east along the river along with a few Whimbrel. Birds were obviously moving and being forced down to observable altitudes by the low cloud. Sadly, I had to get back to reality.
An old friend had popped by from Vietnam and I took him round the patch in the afternoon. Three Wheatears had turned up on the hill though we didn't see the Rouzel. A smart Whimbrel was stalking about in the grass down on Buckenham but little else of note and a close male Marsh Harrier gave breathtaking views in the sunlight. I tried to not worry about missing the two Honey Bs that went east over Strumpshaw this morning and the Whinchat at Buckenham. I will find my own one day! Some of the best days seem to be those full of anticipation. And I can't grumble with a second inland Rouzel. Oh and a Blackwit with a ludicrous beak. Good to do some birding with an old mate too.

Saturday 24 April 2010


It didn't really live up to expectations in the 2 hours I was out. A few good birds around nationally, but maybe it will all happen tomorrow...
Most exciting moment was when Lesser Kestrel was reported from Holme, only to be rubbished later. Nevermind, saved me some stress.
Strumpshaw Hill at 7am had 3 Wheatears and a Tree Pipit.
Buckenham at c8am had 3 Wheatear, my first Swift, several House Martins around the pub and 7 Blackwits. Lots of Whitethroats and Sedges in today, really boosting the numbers.
House Martins over Lingwood later whilst performing the inaugural meat cremation of the season*

Thursday 22 April 2010

It's going southeasterly tomorrow!!!

Bring it on!
Rouzel still present on the hill first thing, plus a Whitethroat. No sign of the Wheatear though.

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Mountain Blackbirds

Tuesday 20 April:
Had a quick trip up to Horsey yesterday morning to get Adelaide out of the house for a couple of hours. Went north from the gap and ran into a pair of 'tuccing' male Ring Ouzels, that flew off ahead of us towards Waxham. On the beach, little of note except for a solitary female Northern Wheatear and several Sand Martins and Swallows heading west.

Four Blackcaps in the garden today.

Wednesday 21 April:
Having been checking Strumpshaw Hill for the last couple of weeks to no avail, today finally worked out with a smart (and relatively confiding) female Ring Ouzel in the field just north of Buckenham Road. She was flushed by a male Blacky and went over the road and on to the hill. Later, I got cracking views of her feeding on the short turf. Whilst watching my first Turtle Dove of the year was purring in the hedge in the northeast corner and a Tree Pipit called overhead as it flew north - Sublime! On the south slope a smart male Wheatear was hopping about with the resident Mistle Thrushes. A great start to the day.

Later, a mid-afternoon visit to Buckenham revealed 12 Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel, the male Wheatear near the pub with 2 Yellow Wags and a female Pochard. Still c30 Wigeon present and 80 Mute Swans.

Last thing a Garden Warbler was singing in the garden.

Monday 19 April 2010

East Wind

Monday mid afternoon at Buckenham: Whimbrel over east, 2 Black-wits, c20 Swallow, 2 Sand Martin, male White Wag, 2 Yellow Wags over east.

Sunday 18 April 2010

Sunday morning

...at Buckenham revealed 5 Blackwits still, but no sign of the two Barwits, 5 Curlew, a splendid male Wheatear and a Yellow Wag. Several Sedge Warblers singing and a male Marsh Harrier.

Saturday 17 April 2010

heathaze mini panic

A hazy shot of the male Barwit from earlier and a small Black-headed Gull (on far left, compared to the standard BHG on right) that had me going momentarily, until I decided it was too pale, the bill was a bit long...it then flew revealing white primary coverts and a darkish underwing. One day I will find a Bonaparte's...


A glorious, warm sunny day with the wind having shifted round to the west and a clear sky. Mid-afternoon I got a chance for a walk down to Buckenham where I found to my delight a pair of Bar-tailed Godwits feeding with 5 Black-tailed Godwits on the marshes. Nearby, a Yellow Wagtail glowed like a knob of butter on the grass. Loads of avian activity, but nothing else of note.

Friday 16 April 2010

New arrivals

Main highlight was the arrival of Solomon from hospital last night. So we had our first sleepless night of many! Great to have him home at last.

Managed a quick visit to Buckenham yesterday afternoon, where I found 4 Black-tailed Godwits, 38 Curlew feeding on the marshes and over 30 Avocets. Still c50 Wigeon, c30 Teal etc around.

Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Coal Tit all singing in the garden.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Monday evening

Male Garganey, still present. Several Sand Martins flew south. Apparently there are plenty of summer migrants at Strumpshaw now: House Martin, Sedge and Willow Warbler etc.

Monday 5 April 2010

Monday Water Pipits

After seeing 6 Water Pipits yesterday, I had another look in the same spot this morning and was pleased to see at least 12 mooching about. It was difficult to count them as they were spread over the patch in front of the hide. Some were stonking in full sumplum. Another look round Strumpshaw Hill proved fruitless. Maybe mid-April will be better once the Rouzels start to come through properly.

Sunday 4 April 2010

Easter Eggs

5 Water Pipits, 6 Avocets and a White Wagtail at Buckenham first thing. Had a look for Rouzels on Strumpshaw Hill following belated news from yesterday morning of two nearby (Strumpshaw and Brundall; I mean, why put the news out c16 hours late?!). Sadly, loads of perfect space for a Wheatear, Rouzel or Thick-knee, but little of note except for plenty of dog eggs and Red-legged Partridges. Looks great though...will check this spot again. Seems that there is a hirundine party going on at Strumpet Fen, despite none being seen at Buckenham. I might need to set my scope west...

Saturday 3 April 2010

A long-awaited tick and a few bits

1 April:
Saw a bunch of Swallows and Sand Martins hawking over the water at Whitlingham on a lunchbreak trip with Reg.

2 April
Found ourselves at Kessingland for 6.30am, waiting two hours for the Pallid Swift, which arrived on cue at about 8.20am, arriving from the north, having presumably roosted in the village (on the church maybe?). The bird performed very well at times coming overhead at low altitude. Seemed to be for all intents and purposes like a pale, chunky swift. In good light the sandy inner primaries contrasted with the darker outer two or three (one primary missing on right wing). The pale fringes to the belly were only seen on close views and were not very obvious. The diffuse white throat patch was large and went on to the forehead, making the dark patch around the eye stand out. Whilst hard to judge on a lone bird, the flight appeared slightly more steady and laboured; less flickering than common swift. The bird's blunter wingtips did not seem particularly pronounced, but the wings did seem broader, particularly in the secondary area. A smart, but subtle bird.

Pallid Swift, Kessingland: this is what I call a record shot (not like those pretentious prats who post awesome shots online and call them 'record shots')
3 April:
Dawn at Buckenham revealed the drake Garganey resting on the pool by the hide, where two Water Pipits scuttled about on the grass, one of which was a corker in almost complete breeding plumage, looking like a monochrome Blue-headed Wagtail. Nearby a White Wagtail was with Pieds and Mippits; a big female Peregrine had cleared the floods and was hanging out on a fencepost, and a couple of Little Egrets were kicking about. The air was alive with horny Lapwings and Redshank, but no other waders of note.
Peregrine in the marshes

Sleepy Garganey

Thursday 1 April 2010

Look what the southerly wind blew in

So, last Thursday night our son Solomon David arrived among the southern swifts, lesser kestrels and other migrants. 8 weeks early and weighing in at a mighty 4lb 5, he has stayed in hospital, but is thankfully doing well. This cut my migrant hunting; sometimes other things take priority! Here are a few pics. Thanks to everyone for their support and best wishes.

Friday 19 March 2010

Summer migrant-intastic

At last, a proper summer migrant! After a week of early mornings finally scored a solitary Little Ringed Plover on the scrape by the pump at Buckenham this morning. The water had gone up following the rain last night and the scrape was alive with 10 Dunlin, several Oystercatchers and Redshank, plus Shelduck, gulls etc.
2-3 Water Pipits seen feeding along the slubbings again, though no sign of the Rockit from yesterday. 14 Golden Plover flew east and two Avocet remaining out of the 14 last night. Far fewer Wigeon now, maybe only 500 or so. It will be quieter without these guys around, though the breeding waders and warblers will probably substitute the racket.


Scrapping Shelducks