Sunday, 25 December 2016

Catching up: October - Part 1

October 2016 - Part 1

October is the month for seeing and, hopefully, finding rare birds in Britain. The North Norfolk coast offers some good opportunities due to its geographical position especially in easterly winds - and this October we got lots of easterly winds....

The month began with a sea watch at Sheringham on 2 October 2016 in a 25mph NNW wind.
  • Manx Shearwater 25
  • Sooty Shearwater 18
  • Arctic Skua 4e, 8w
  • Pomarine Skua 2E both adult
  • Great skua 80
  • Long-tailed skua 2 distant probables flew west
  • Grey Phalarope 1w
  • Gannet 800e
  • Guillemot 25e
  • Razorbill 500e
  • Eider 3 males w
  • Red-breasted Merganser 2w
  • Pintail 1w
  • Teal 30w
  • Wigeon 5w
  • Common Scoter 5e
  • Sandwich Tern 50e
  • Arctic Tern 3e
  • Common Tern 2E
  • Short-eared Owl 1w
  • Mediterranean Gull 1ad e

We walked through Holkham Pines seeing 4 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Blackcap, 1 Yellow browed Warbler, 1+ Brambling, 1 Great White Egret and 600 Pink-footed Goose. At Titchwell we found 3 Little stint (1 ad), 1 juv Curlew Sandpiper, 15 Knot, 65 Bar-tailed Godwit, 30 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Spotted redshank, 10 Redshank, 1 Snipe, 12 Avocet, 100
Golden Plover, 3 Ringed Plover, 9 Ruff, 25 Dunlin, 25 Sanderling.

On 6th I was working in Colchester when news broke of a Stejneger's Stonechat at Landguard Point, near Felixstowe in Suffolk. I managed to get there just in time and got brief, but good views of this subtle (sub) species.

Stejnegers Stonechat - Landguard

With the wind now firmly in the East came the first arrivals of passerines, and my attention turned fully to the coastal bushes and scrub. I walked from Burnham Overy Dunes to Holkham seeing a Ring Ouzel, 100 Song Thrush, 60 Redwing, 10 Blackbird, 10 Yellow-browed Warbler, 10 Chiffchaff, 50 Goldcrest, 10 Blackcap, 15 Swallow, 2-3 Wheatear, 5 Brambling, 40 Meadow Pipit, 1 Treecreeper, a Merlin, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, 3 Buzzard and 1 Great White Egret. 

A Goldcrest recently arrived from Scandinavia

The east dunes at Burnham Overy Staithe

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear
Looking out across Holkham Bay
A passing squall over Holkham
In the afternoon I birded Warham Greens seeing 2 Red-breasted Flycatcher, 2 Yellow-browed Warbler, 2 Redstart, 15 Chiffchaff, 10 Brambling, 10 Chaffinch, 2 Redwing, 3 Song Thrush, 2 Blackbird, 20 Robin, 6 Dunnock and 2 Marsh Harrier.

Red-breasted Flycatcher - Warham Greens

Yellow-browed Warbler - Warham Greens
Next morning I started back at Warham in the sunshine. I saw 4 Yellow-browed Warbler, 1 Red-breasted Flycatcher, 2 Ring Ouzel, 3 Redstart, a Jack Snipe that flushed from under my feet along the coastal path, 10 Chiffchaff, 5 Blackcap, 30 Goldcrest, 60 Redwing, 40 Song Thrush, 20 Blackbird, 40 Robin, 20 Dunnock, 5 Wren, 10 Reed Bunting, 3 Yellowhammer, 25 Meadow Pipit, 5 Sky Lark, 10 Brambling, 10 Chaffinch, 4 Greenfinch, 25 Goldfinch, 10 Linnet, 1 Peregrine, 1 Kestrel, 2 Marsh Harrier and 2 Buzzard.  

Red-breasted Flycatcher - Warham Greens 8 October 2016
Red-breasted Flycatcher - a very vocal bird

A walk through Holkham in the evening produced 4 Swallow, 5 Yellow-browed Warbler, 10 Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcap, 50 Goldcrest, 25 Robin and 2,000 Pink-footed Geese.

Holkham Pines, just west of Cross Tracks
Salts Hole, Holkham Woods
Dusk over Holkham Freshmarsh
An early start on 9th October but two cars already in the parking area. There were still a few birds down the garden drove: 2 Chiffchaff, a Yellow-browed Warbler, and 20 Goldcrest, and a few Blue and Long-tailed Tit. The wood held more Goldcrest and a second Yellow-browed Warbler, but it felt like some of yesterday's birds rather than anything new. I walked to the second drove hearing a Ring Ouzel, several Song Thrush, a calling Blackcap, a few Redwing and a couple of Reed Bunting in the quarry.  

The second drove held far fewer birds than yesterday. Another dozen Goldcrest and a few Tits though the hedge into the field had a Yellowhammer and 20 Redwing. With little happening I decided to relocate to Holkham.

Yellow-browed Warbler - Holkham Pines

A Chiffchaff and a Yellow-browed Warbler were seen in the reeds just west of Cross Tracks. After a while a birder walked by and said we were in the wrong place and that the Raddes Warbler had been showing well all morning. We moved into the reeds and after a few minutes the Raddes could be heard calling. It failed to show. Another Yellow-browed showed several times with a third heard. A Blackcap chacked and a couple of Chiffchaff were seen. Eventually the Raddes hopped up onto a bramble tangle, but remained obscured before dropping out of view. Another 30 mins and I saw a Warbler fly across the reeds and land. It was the Raddes and I managed to scope it for a while before it flicked away. A second and third look followed.

In the afternoon we tried for the Pallas' Warbler in Stiffkey wood but only managed a mass of Goldcrest and another Yellow-browed Warbler. Late afternoon I returned to Warham. A Redstart was the highlight though a single Yellow-browed Warbler flicked down the drove.

A double rainbow over Warham Greens

15 October 2016 Burnham Overy Staithe I arrived just before dawn and set off on the walk out to the dunes. A Marsh Harrier flew inland in the half light. I heard several Robins ticking along the track, Blackbirds, Redwings and Song Thrushes flew from the bushes and Brambling were heard in the Oak. A tired Fieldfare on the path flew into the reedbed. 

The boardwalk bushes held at least five Robin and 2 Blackcap. I headed west to Gun Hill. Several flocks of Redwing dropped in and moved quickly on. Reed Bunting were present in good numbers. A drop in Redpoll landed briefly on the old chimney. A Wheatear was on the point. Several big Goldfinch flocks and Starling on the move in numbers with flocks passing west throughout creating quite a spectacle. Wigeon and Teal flocks were arriving off the sea. Two juvenile Spoonbill were flushed off the saltmarsh by gun fire. About 40 Meadow Pipit around the dunes. Song Thrushes were everywhere and Dunnocks in good numbers were presumably migrants, and encouraged scrutiny. A female Redstart was feeding in the scrub.

I walked back east crossing the boardwalk and into the dunes. A flyover Lapland Bunting circled several times before dropping into the dunes. I flushed a noisy Ring Ouzel and a Woodcock. Two Stonechat were feeding along the fence. Several Goldcrest, more Song Thrush and Blackbird.

I returned west with news of a Dusky Warbler but struggled to relocate it until refound in the boardwalk bushes. Brief views before it flitted over the fence and was lost to view behind the dunes. Another Wheatear was seen on the short turf.

I returned to the car. A Fieldfare feeding with a few Redwing and many Song Thrush in the fields below the new fence. A Little Grebe in the ditch and many Egyptian Geese in the fields. Pink feet calling all around but no big flocks as yet. 

Warham Greens later. The Raddes Warbler was seen really well along garden drove, 2 Chiffchaff, a Yellow-browed Warbler in the wood and three very showy Siskin in the sycamores. A Red Kite flew over.

Raddes Warbler Warham Greens

Red Kite

Next stop wells. We arrived just after the Olive-backed Pipit was flushed, and walked around the wood and returned to the main area late on, just after a brief sighting. Waited for a while and as we were about to leave it appeared briefly. Missed it initially but with some fortune got a view in the reed bases and after it flushed up into the reeds. Good end to a good day. Beats twitching.

Siskin - Warham Gren

Just after dawn on 16 October 2016 I parked at Warham Greens and walked down Garden Drove. A movement in the nettles a few feet ahead of me resolved into the Radde's Warbler, and surprisingly I had it to myself. It gave astonishing views at my feet. As it climbed towards the top of a nettle a hunting Sparrowhawk careered through the gap in the hedge stooping at the Raddes. Fortunately the Sparrowhawk saw me and veered off at the last second leaving the warbler literally cowering motionless at the base of the nettles for some time before it dared venture back out. Over the next half hour before the crowd swelled it gave superb views sometimes right in the open. Brilliant bird.

I checked the rest of Garden Drove and west past the first quarry then back to the east to the end of the second drove and the second quarry but the rain had started and most birds were now sheltering. The other highlights were a Yellow-browed Warbler, 4 Chiffchaff, 20 Brambling, 20 Chafflinch, 20 Redwing, 10 Song Thrush, 10 Blackbird, 15 Dunnock, 12 Robin and 1 Swallow flew east.

Raddes Warbler

With the wind increasing we visited Holkham where we saw Yellow-browed Warbler,
10 Chiffchaff, Blackcap, and a rather colourful brown backed Lesser Whitethroat in brambles at the western wend of the woods, which flew into pines where lost. We also saw 25 Goldcrest, Treecreeper and 100 Redwing.