Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Easter weekend

24 March 2016

North Norfolk

Around Walsingham 2 female Marsh Harrier and 3 Buzzard were hunting the fields in front of the cottage first thing, 2 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing and 2 Mistle Thrush flew over in different directions.

Later we went over to Blakeney for another go at the Lapland Buntings. I was hoping to beat the weekend crowds and was soon enjoying brilliant views of 8 birds on my own. Initially they proved frustrating for the camera, feeding in the grass about 10m away when nobody was around, then deciding to come closer just as a dog walker or jogger came past. With a little persistence their approaches eventually coincided with a little peace and I got some nice images, with a couple of birds coming within 2 metres and too close for the lens. Some of the males were really starting to show off their summer plumage and a couple were singing. They are super little birds, which will all too soon be heading off to far northern Scandinavia or Arctic Russia.

Lapland Bunting

Nearly in summer dress
What a stunner
Amazing fluffy thighs!

Male Reed Bunting

Sky Lark
Other birds attracted to the seeds included several smart Reed Bunting and Skylark, and a smart littoralis Rock Pipit showed well on a close post. Three Marsh Harriers were hunting over the marshes and a brief booming Bittern was heard from somewhere on the marsh.

A couple of hours at Warham Greens in the evening produced 3 ringtail Hen Harrier, 3 Marsh Harrier, a Sparrowhawk, 2 Common Buzzard, several thousand Brent Geese and 40 Little Egret.

It's nearly Spring

19 March 2016

North Norfolk

A walk around some woods and heathland provided some nice late winter birding, and for me a couple of surprises. A singing Woodlark attracted our attention to three birds feeding out on the heath, one of which was colour ringed - left leg white over orange, right leg red over metal. I managed to read the combination with my binoculars. The bird (ring number TT59545) was ringed by Thetford Forest Ringing Group as a nestling, of unknown sex on 04-Jun-2013 somewhere near Emily's Wood, Norfolk. This was the first sighting since it was ringed, 1,019 days and 60km NE of the ringing site. Hopefully a useful and interesting recovery for the ringing study.

Several Siskin were seen and heard flying over and a tame Treecreeper gave good views in a woodland ride. A flock of over 30 Redwing feeding in some paddocks was nice to see, they've been quite scarce this winter. A Red Kite nearby, a Kestrel and 2 Common Buzzard added interest. As we returned to the car a distinctive call from the gorse revealed a superb and slightly surprising Dartford Warbler and his mate close by. All in all a rather nice bit of gentle birding.

Late afternoon I popped down to Warham Greens for the harrier roost. At least 4 (possibly 5 or even 6) ringtail and a stunning adult male Hen Harrier gave some good views over the marsh before dusk. A distant Peregrine hunted along the shoreline and a Common Buzzard flew back from East Hills. Over 60 Little Egret eventually flew east towards their Stiffkey roost, a pair of Grey Partridge fed in the fields and a Little Owl sat on the barn as I departed. Lovely birding.

20 March 2016

The Brecks, Norfolk

We drove south early morning to The Brecks. We spent several hours enjoying views of up to 5 Goshawks, including a stunning grey adult male, a huge 2cy female, a 2cy male, with four birds flying around together at one time. Over 15 Common Buzzard, 2 (rather tiny) Sparrowhawk, a Kestrel and a Red Kite added raptor interest. A small flock of 25 or so Lapwing were getting territorial in one of the nearby fields and Skylark song was everywhere.

The distinctive form of a high flying Goshawk
At Santon Downham we walked along the river, finding a singing Marsh Tit, a few Siskin, heard a couple of Woodlark, two Common Buzzard and a smart pair of Mandarins. After lunch we saw distant views of the long-staying Great Grey Shrike at Grimes Graves, a Stonechat and several more Buzzards circling over the woods.

Adult male Mandarin
Female Mandarin
We finished the day at Lynford Arboretum where four superb Hawfinch were the undoubted highlights in the paddocks. A charm of Goldfinch and a few Siskin flew in and out of the trees, and 10 Redwing were seen pre-roost. As we walked back to the car a smart Marsh Tit showed well on a baited fence post with several Long-tailed Tit. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Lapland Buntings and Water Rails

5 and 6 March 2016 

Norfolk birding

5 March 2016
The wind picked up from the north in the morning and the only option was to check the sea. I opted for the shelter at Cley, being a shorter drive than Sheringham. I was surprised to find the place empty - not a good sign. I set up out of the strong wind and scanned. Over the next couple of hours I was joined by Eddie Myers which at least brought some humour to the watch.

A few Fulmars drifted mainly west, and a few Gannets were fishing distantly off Salthouse. A few Guillemots and about 60 Red-throated Divers flew east. Half a dozen Common Scoter were the only wildfowl. The odd Kittiwake flew by and I checked the various gulls moving west but found nothing unusual. The Eye Field held about 40 Golden Plover, 20 Dunlin, Lapwing, Redshank, a few bathing gulls and a couple of Marsh Harrier were hunting over the reserve. I

A Water Rail showed well along the entrance track

A group of Gadwall enjoy a brief ray of sunshine

In the afternoon we headed over to Titchwell, driving the lanes. On the way we stopped at Brancaster on a rising tide. The Red-necked Grebe performed well. 

The wintering Red-necked Grebe showed well in Brancaster Harbour

Still windy we found a showy Water Rail in the ditch beside the path, another in the reedbed and a ridiculously close one outside the Island Hide. The scrape has been visually ruined by a predator fence put up around the islands to apparently protect the Avocet. Due to the resulting disturbance there was not too much on show. However a large pre-roost gathering of gulls attracted 8 Meds among the mainly Black-headed and Common Gulls.

A Redshank in the mud outside the hide
Another Water Rail creeps around the front of the Island Hide
Almost too close to photograph
A typical view as it walks into the reeds
From the Parrinder Hide a smart female Hen Harrier hunted over the reedbed and five Marsh Harrier gathered for roost. The cold wind had us return to the car rather than venture down to the sea, and we drove home having enjoyed some fresh air.

6 March 2016
We parked on the edge of Cley and walked around the new bank to Blakeney harbour and back. A couple of daytime hunting barn owls again suggested this species has. Struggled this winter with either difficult feeding conditions or a lack of available food. 

A male Reed Bunting feeling the Spring vibe 
A Barn Owl hunts in the fresh marsh

We stopped to watch the Lapland Buntings which showed nicely on the way out before one gave me a surprise by jumping on a post within a few metres then hopped to the next post and finally the one about 1m away. Amazing. Hope they stay until they've got full summer dress. 

Lapland Bunting feeding in the corner of the field
A paler individual

Unbelievably it hops to the closest (seeded) post

After walking back to Cley we drove to the East Bank and walked to the beach and along the shingle. Eventually the 11 Snow Bunting flew along the beach and over our heads, dropping back by the end of the East Bank. We returned but they flushed before we got there and flew back over us to the opposite end of the shingle bank. A dead Porpoise was lying on the beach its eyes and chin eaten away by gulls. 

A Rock Pipit poses on the gate
A Little Egret shimmering in the marsh
After dropping Mac at home I drove to Warham Greens to watch the Harrier roost with Eddie. Three smart ringtail Hen Harriers, a close Barn Owl and a hunting Short-eared Owl and Sparrowhawk were the highlights - as well as some of Eddie's birding stories. Two Common Buzzard on the way down the track and a Peregrine on the way back added interest and ended the weekend on a high.

A Barn Owl sits on an old wild fowling sign at Warham Greens