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Thursday, 6 April 2017

Norfolk Catch Up

Mandarin, male, River Little Ouse, Santon Downham
Spring in Norfolk has arrived, albeit slowly. There seem to be few real rarities now that Titchwell's Red-flanked Bluetail and New Holkham's juvenile Pallid Harrier have been added to the MIA list. Migrants numbers are growing slowly...Yellow Wagtail, Sedge Warblers, Swallows, Sandwich Terns and Hobby, to name a few, have all made an appearance in recent days.

Pallid Harrier, juv. female, New Holkham

Blackcap, male, Titchwell
Raptor migration has been very visible along the coast on warm days. Good numbers of Red Kite including a flock(?) of 23 over Scolt Head Island. Migrant Common Buzzards have also arrived in similar numbers. A few Merlin and Peregrine have also been noted. Common Cranes too. The local Marsh Harriers have been nest building and they have also been doing some impressive displaying over various reed beds.

Female Marsh Harrier, Burnham Overy Staithe. The two distant blurred blobs on the upper photograph are Red Kites moving along the dunes

Marsh Harrier, male, Burnham Norton
Some of Titchwell's less visible species have been showing quite well recently. Red-crested Pochards have been quite active, as have the Bearded Tits and Cetti's Warbler, especially with the warmer weather. Mediterranean Gull numbers are growing with 6 pairs taking territory on the Fresh Marsh. Finally, Bittern, normally but rarely seen flying over the reeds has been showing well in the new Reed Bed cut.
Cetti's Warblers, Titchwell, very vocal and visible at the moment.

Red-crested Pochards, Titchwell

Bearded Tits, Titchwell
Mediterranean Gull, Brancaster Staithe
Water Rail, Titchwell
A few trips to the Brecks have produced some good birds such as Golden Pheasants, Stone Curlew, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Hawfinch. This hotbed of Goshawk activity never disappoints. At Lynford Arboretum, aside from the Hawfinches, it was good to see the newly fledged family of Common Crossbills and the various Tits and Finches.

Goshawk, immature female, The Brecks

Goshawk, adult male, The Brecks

Male Common Crossbill, Lynford

Great Spotted Woodpecker (+ Great Tit), Lynford

Eurasian Treecreeper, Lynford
At nearby Santon Downham the much visited Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers still play a great game of Hide & Seek. Reptiles were much in evidence with Common Lizard, Grass Snake, Adder and Slow Worm all being seen. Along the river there are several pairs of Mandarin - wear your sunglasses! Nuthatches were seen attending a nest in the Poplars and Long-tailed Tits doing the same in the Forestry Commission car park. A seemingly constant stream of Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and Brambling passed overhead. Finally a pair of displaying Firecrests were found in a small line of road side conifers.
A gravid female Common Lizard, Santon Downham

Mandarin pair, Santon Downham

Nuthatch removing a faecal sac, Santon Downham.
Thank you for reading this, often irregular, blog. It is much appreciated.


Sunday, 12 February 2017

"Blues" & "Greys" in Lincs.

Bluethroat, 1w male, Willow Tree Fen, Lincs.
Howling wind, horizontal sleet, no coffee! Just some of the things that I had to fight off this morning before heading to the Lincolnshire Fens between Spalding & Crowland. Land so flat and, dare I say, boring that I started counting mole hills on the way there just for some light relief.
The birdlife, however, was far from boring. At Willow Tree Fen the damp but dapper, first winter, male, Bluethroat put on a hell of a show, coming within a few feet of the birders braving the rain and freezing temperatures. It mostly fed by the main path and always came back if flushed.

Bluethroat, 1w male, Willow Tree Fen, Lincs.
After getting my fill of Bluethroat I travelled to Deeping High Bank alongside the River Welland catching sight of the local Great White Egret there. I parked at the bridge by Four Bar Bank and crossed the Welland. On the river to the North was the long staying Long-tailed Duck while three Scaup and a drake Goosander were to the South.
The main bird to be seen though, was the Great Grey Shrike. Often reported as distant or elusive, todays rain must have taken the fight out of it because it gave itself up easily and came quite close.

Great Grey Shrike, Deeping High Bank, Lincs.
Goosander, drake, R. Welland, Lincs.
My last stop of the day was at Eldernell on the Nene Washes. It was damp, very misty and there were few things to see except two Common Cranes, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Bewick's Swans.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Divers Down!

White-billed Diver, juvenile, River Witham. Lincs.

Well here it is! my first post of 2017. I hope you like it.
After beating my target of 300 species in the UK for 2016 I decided that I am not listing competitively for 2017 but just going to see what I want without worrying about dipping. New species are to be a priority but not the only targets.
The beginning of the year was spend at Titchwell trying to come to grips with the exceptional numbers of Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter and Long-tailed Duck and seeing number's of other species not normally associated with the sea such as Northern Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Egyptian Geese. The drake Ferruginous Duck at Holme was a welcome New Year Tick.
Malcolm and I have spent a couple of days outside Norfolk with good results. Seeing the sleepy, drake Ring-necked Duck at Kirkby-on-Bain was my first for a few years. A week later we were at Dunnington scrapping for views of a very fine but elusive and distant Pine Bunting. Lots of smiling faces amongst that crowd. From the Bunting we went South to Woodhall Spa and walked along the Witham to see the awesome, juvenile, White-billed Diver. It was not afraid of us and came quite close at times.

White-billed Diver, River Witham, Lincs.
We finished the day off with another look at the Ring-necked Duck and also a 1st winter Glaucous Gull at the same site. I had to stop myself from racing off to Northumberland for their fine collection of ducks and divers.

1st winter Glaucous Gull, Kirkby-on-Bain
 I decided to rectify the deficit on my Northumbrian Bird List by spending 27th-29th Jan up there and hopefully collecting some goodies along the way. So lunch time on Friday 27th saw me rock up at Skinningrove, Cleveland for the Eastern Black Redstart. What an amazing bird. I know it's been there a while now!

Eastern Black Redstart, Skinningrove, Cleveland
My last stop before getting to Blyth was the fish quay at North Shields to see if the white-winged gulls were present. Lots to see...Turnstones feeding amongst the nets, hundreds of mixed gulls, Guillemot, Shag and Eider. Finally a smart juvenile Iceland Gull was feeding alongside the fishing boats closely followed by two juvenile Glaucous Gulls.
Glaucous Gull, 1st winter, North Shields

Iceland Gull, 1st winter, North Shields
After a good meal and a good nights rest I was up and out. First stop was Ladyburn Lake at Druridge Country Park for a certain Diver. After fighting my way through flocks of Tree Sparrows and Siskins  my target was finally nailed down in the North-east corner of the lake. Pacific Diver! The bird seemed to tolerate birders, runners and dogs alike and it came quite close.

Pacific Diver, juvenile, Ladyburn Lake, Druridge CP. Northumberland.
Once back at the car I decided to come back to see the Shorelarks and drove 30+ miles North to a place I've not visited for a few years, Goswick Sands. North of Holy Island but still part of the Lindisfarne Nature Reserve.
Once on the dunes it was plain to see that the tide was well and truly out. There were big numbers of birds to be seen , such as Gannet, Red-necked Grebe, Auks, Long-tailed Duck, Common & Velvet Scoter and Red-throated and Great Northern Divers. No sign of any Scoter with a large Jaffa Orange stuck to its bill.
I decided to head for Stag Rock. There were a few Slavonian Grebes and Purple Sandpipers there, when the pager came up with Black Scoter at my last site. A quick "U-ey" and I arrived there 20 minutes later and finally saw my second Northumbrian Black Scoter...complete with Jaffa Orange on head.
Undipped (?)
I headed home via East Chevington and had a large flock of Pink-footed Geese with approx. 30 Russian White-fronted Geese also there and a fly past, female type, Hen Harrier.
On Sunday I paid a quick, early, visit to the fish quay. The Iceland and Glaucous Gulls were there again and also a BEAST! of a falcon. With transmitter and jesses it was an obvious escape. Probably a mix of Gyr & Saker. Even the Greater Black-backs flew off when they saw it.

Escaped Falcon, North Shields Fish Quay

Iceland Gull, 1st winter, North Shield Fish Quay.
That's the day almost done. Headed back to Blyth for a fantastic Sunday Lunch and then headed South to King's Lynn via the adult Iceland Gull at Swallow Pond and the Shorelark at Hartlepool, plus yet another Glaucous Gull.

 Shorelark, nr. Jewish Cemetery, Hartlepool