Tuesday, October 28, 2014

North Norfolk

Back again.  This time with The Prof and when I go birding with The Prof, I see things.  And this time I saw a new bird.  It was the SURF SCOTER that had been loitering off Holkham Gap for a couple of days.  Despite the strengthening wind, the light was great and there were Scoters to be seen on the sea.  The bird was associating with three Velvet Scoter, with a few Common Scoter in the vicinity.  Seven Sanderling skipped along the foreshore.

Now the day actually started off at Salthouse where the Grey Phalarope was seen without too much fuss and bother, just a beaut of a bird looking skitty as they always do with those punctuated movements perversely bearing resemblance to a fully wound-up toy on full power.  Diminutive in size, these birds are tough, enduring hard winters out in the ocean in areas that even the shipping forecast doesn't reach.  Seeing it being mobbed by a Jackdaw was a little harsh.

Heading over to Lady Anne's Drive, a large group of birders were assembled looking at a Great White Egret that we later observed from a pull-in along the A149.  In the same area was a very pale Buzzard.  With the presence of a Rough-Leg around Holkham, there were murmurings that this was their bird.

However, a later search for the RLB produced five Common Buzzard, two of which were conspicuously pale and worryingly deceptive to the assembled folk that were leaving convinced they had seen it.

The Prof was also up to his tricks, white flags appeared to be an identification challenge, some were Egrets, some were not.  Then there were Kestrels and Eleanora's Falcons, and we were agast at the whimsy we were creating, conjuring up fictictious birds and nailing them to our mental notebooks.

Norfolk makes you heady.  The sea air is dripping with hallucinogens that make the sane fanciful.  I'm roaring out for Norfolk at the moment.  I've not visited this area as much as I have done this year.

It really has gone to my head and I'm acting like a proper birder.

The video really isn't great so I will call it 'record footage' of the Scoter, Phal, and Egret.


Painted Lady

Great White Egret!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

North Norfolk (again)

So I returned the next day, but I don't want to talk too much about it.  Instead I would like to mention the beauty of the landscape, a truly wonderful place, those beaches and those skies.  We walked from the far side of Wells to Holkham Pines and it was amazing.

I love North Norfolk for everything it provides.  The moderate walk along the beach on a warm afternoon and birding really wasn't the focus, well maybe just slightly out of focus but I could see things clearly enough.

A Red-Throated Diver hadn't realised the tide had receded and sat along one of the channels close to the beach.  A single Greenshank surprised me as it flew along the harbour.  A Common Buzzard flew over the pines and 70+ Pink-Footed Goose flew in a small skein off the sea.

At Holkham Pines, a Yellow-Browed Warbler briefly flew through the trees in among the titmice flock, but it was far too windy to see anything really.  The walk back was great too.

Happy days.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

North Norfolk

When the A11 spat me out onto the adjacent meandering countryside lanes, I had a feeling it wasn't going to be my day.  The week before had seen a decent fall of migrants along the North Norfolk coast swept in by some active weather systems out across the near continent.  The east winds of autumn is what the spiritual birder points to the heavens for, arms aloft in reverence to the ornithological deities, prayerfully sending up requests that a nice slection of eastern vagrants would be our portion.  My atheistic tendencies frankly do not subscribe to the religiosity of the birding gods.

Nature steers its own path, of course I was praying like mad.

So after a frustrating journey northwards bewitched by the uniformity of the Cambridgeshire countryside, I arrived at Warham Greens.  An Isabelline Shrike had been present here for around three days, but starting the walk toward the marsh, the gods were speaking to me.  What I mean is I could tell that there was nothing to be found here.

Of course that wasn't true.

A couple of Brambling in a hedge among a large flock of finches and buntings is nothing to complain about.  Neither was the Red Kite that flew low over the back fields nor the Merlin that hunted in haste low over the freshmarsh.  The sole Pink-Footed Goose in an adjacent field looked a little bemused, and the four Marsh Harrier quartering distantly definitely deserves a mention.  At least ten Goldcrest darting around an old oak shouldn't be ignored, the 22 overflying Golden Plover would attract derision if omitted, and how could I fail to document the sighting of a Rough-Legged Buzzard that flew low over Stiffkey.   Brief joy, among the relative disappointment.

So onto Holkham Pines in search of my next monumentous dip. I've never seen a Pallas's Warbler, and as I write, I still haven't seen one.  The main act was present, in fact I was only five metres away from this little gem, but such distances equate to light years when you're so close and yet so far.

The supporting cast was ok though, two to three Yellow-Browed Warbler showed well as they passed through the sallows associating with the flock of titmice, as did two gaudy Firecrest that boldly skitted around a now naked birch tree bereft of foliage.  Three Common Buzzard sallied on a light breeze over the marsh.

No rares, but with faith restored, this is still my Jerusalem.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Patchwatch - Short-eared Owl


Short-eared Owl seen distantly to the east, flying around for 20 mins being mobbed by a corvid and a small group of Starling. A patch first.

Female Bullfinch, first seen flying into bushes along the main path just past the wildlife garden.  It called frequently and then moved toward the trees at the back of the reserve and was seen well from Bay 15.  A patch first.

A calling Green Sandpiper on the reserve but not located.

Two Skylark flew over.

Around ten Redwing over.

Six Wigeon, 15 Teal, Cetti's Warbler calling frequently, an adult Greater Black Backed Gull over, and two Goldcrest.

Walthamstow Marshes

A brief walk round, two Stonechat present in the Cow Field (male and female), Skylark over, c15 Meadow Pipit over, 2cy Common Gull, a Chiffchaff, and three Goldcrest by the entrance to the Riding Stables.

Middlesex Filter Beds

A pair of Gadwall on the Relief channel.

Distant views of the Short-eared Owl as seen from the Waterworks NR

Saturday, October 11, 2014

'Steppe' Grey Shrike

So I saw this confiding little chappy.  The 'STEPPE' GREY SHRIKE showed stupidly well on a still grey morning in Burnham Norton.  What a charming bird this was, flighty and extremely obliging, it was shrikingly active chasing insects while displaying its black and white wing coverts while it darted off treetop perches onto the muddy deck.  Still couldn't get a decent picture but great to experience the character and behaviour of another rare shrike.

Also on site was a family party of eight Bearded Tit of which a male sat up on a reed 'pinging' away imploring me to take a photo.  Of course I failed to get my camera ready in time.

Pink-Footed Goose flocks were witnessed numbering around 70 in two groups as they called loudly over the marshes.  An evocative sound of winter.  A lone Swallow flew through in haste keen to catch up with peers already well advanced in southerly migration.

From here, the plan to head down to Minsmere for the Little Crake hit a snag.  The bird which had been seen over the past ten days or so failed to appear despite a five hour vigil staring at a dubious area of mud and swaying reeds that appeared apologetic in my statuesque efforts to connect with this elusive bird.  Feel a little unlucky it didn't show particularly as it had been seen that very morning,  But that's the way birding goes sometimes.  Watching three Marsh Harrier in a pre-roost display over the vast reedbed was a lovely sight in the fading light, but I left a little disappointed.

I thought back to the Shrike this morning, and all was well again.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


I'm nowhere near a Sibe Rubythroat, a Great Grey Shrike visiting us from far off lands, or a small Crake that I contemplated twitching today until I realised that this was a Sunday and upholding the Judeo-Christian values of the day of rest might not be a bad thing after all.

Stunned by the awful accident in the Japanese GP this morning and coupled with one of those irritating morning afters having indulged in a little wine, I was in no mood to do anything.

It was a stunning day though, so I got myself onto my bike and headed down to the Waterworks where I surprisingly heard a Green Sandpiper - attempts to connect with it were in vein.  It may have alighted from the relief channel as there is no exposed mud as yet from any of the bays.

Also there was a flyover Common Buzzard, a vocal Cetti's Warbler, and a Little Egret flew up channel.

So it's now a long wait till next weekend until I'm able to get out and claim my next target.  An arduous week awaits me.

Air France A380 - AF006 Paris CDG to New York JFK at 38,000ft