Wednesday, 29 March 2017

A surprisingly good end to March

25 March 2017

The Brecks


I arrived at Santon Downham at dawn with the hope of finding Otters. I checked the river to the east of the bridge finding three superb Mandarins in the early morning mist. Great-spotted Woodpeckers were drumming, Nuthatches were calling and Treecreepers singing, but no Otters.

Mandarin

I then walked west along the footpath. As I reached the Poplars a movement in the water gave away the presence of the hoped for Otter and it was feeding just feet from the bank. Brilliant views. When it swam out a small cub was in tow and both gave good views along the far bank. Fantastic!














The cub joins its mum in sprainting the same patch




As the Otters disappeared I walked further along finding Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Siskins and Redpolls. A female Lesser-spotted Woodpecker flew in and was shortly joined by a smart male. As the pair interacted a Great-spotted Woodpecker flew in landing on their preferred dead trunk. What followed was amazing as the two, tiny Lesser's each mobbed the Great, even striking it on the back of its head and eventually driving it away. They then flew to another tree and after a few more minutes faded into the background and away. 

Male Lesser-spotted Woodpecker
Preening after its encounter with the Great-spotted

As the crowds started to arrive I headed back to the car passing a smart Grey Wagtail along the way and incredibly finding another Otter close in to the bank near the bridge.

Grey Wagtail
The third Otter of the morning
Next stop was a nearby Goshawk site. I was there before 08:30 and the weather looked perfect - sunny, light breeze, and warming nicely. It wouldn't be long.....

After an hour I'd seen 5 Sparrowhawks, 10 Buzzards and 3 Kestrels, but not a sniff of a Goshawk. Well last year they didn't display much before 10:00, so maybe they were having a lay in. Another hour passed. Still nothing, though a flock of 62 Fieldfare flew over.

A couple of Red Kite appeared and increasing numbers of Buzzards circled up on the rising thermals, with up to 8 in a single spiral. Woodlarks and Skylarks were singing, occasionally overhead and a Yellowhammer flew over. Eventually he Wood Pigeons spooked hinting at something nearby, and a few minutes later a Goshawk flew out of the close trees, low down and away into the woods. Another 30 more minutes a juvenile Goshawk circled up and over the distant woods, but by 11:30 with the Buzzards settling down and little showing I decided to take a walk through the nearby woods.

I found 6 Marsh Tit, 2 Brambling and a noisy flock of Siskin and Redpoll. I also found a surprise couple of Stone Curlew in a nearby field. On my return I scanned the woods again and found a (presumably the) juvenile Goshawk circling for about 15 minutes before it dropped down and disappeared. 

After lunch I headed out towards New Holkham and scanned the now famous stubble field. A couple of Marsh Harrier, 3 Red Kites, 6 Buzzards and a Kestrel. I was just settling in when I decided to glance down at my phone and check the recent sightings on Birdguides. Just minutes earlier and before the message had arrived a Red-flanked Bluetail had been reported from Titchwell - in March, and just a few miles away! I didn't wait for more news, just jumped in the car and headed straight there. 

I arrived to find a growing group of birders spread around various points of the Meadow Trail. I met Paul Eele who said it had been showing well, flycatching near the pond, but had just vanished into the Willows. After a while someone caught a glimpse and the crowd gathered, but the path was too narrow and viewing difficult. Another 15 minutes and it was glimpsed on the opposite side. I waited back near the pond hoping it might circuit around, but after ten minutes I walked around to where it had last been only for it to appear back at the original spot. Since the infamous Winspit bird I've seen a few Bluetails and all have fed around small circuits, returning to the same spots, so I waited it out. As the crowd gathered near the latest sighting I stood on the boardwalk. Suddenly a movement, a flick and there it was - stunner. 


Red-flanked Bluetail
Over the next hour or so I got several more good views as it settled in one area lit by the last rays of afternoon sunshine. Of all the birds I'd have even dreamed of seeing today, Red-flanked Bluetail was not on the list - this just evidences what makes birding such an exciting and unpredictable hobby.


26 March 2017

I spent most of the day working in the house. After finishing and tidying up we decided to have a long walk from Burnham Norton to Brancaster and back. This took us out across the fresh marsh onto the sea wall and then along the raised bank passing Scolt Head Island and some superb looking fresh water habitat. We saw a couple of Buzzard and two Marsh Harrier, a few Avocet, a Ruff and a good flock of Brent and Wigeon, as well as other common duck - Mallard, Gadwall, Teal and Shoveler. 

On the return a flock of 7 Pintail flew right overhead. Just as we reached the return path I  scanned across the salt marsh towards Scolt Head, hoping I might find a Hen Harrier. As I reached 2/3 of the way across the scan a slim ringtail Harrier incredibly flew into view, flushing Brent Geese and Curlews from the salt marsh. Lit by the lovely late afternoon sun  it turned to reveal those now familiar peach underparts, it's slim wings confirming my first impression - the 1w female Pallid Harrier. It flew quite quickly along the suaeda bank, turned and circled over an area, hovering gently before circling again then dropping behind the vegetation and out of view. 

I walked back to meet Mac who had walked further down the path. As we walked back she asked if the Bluetail was still at Titchwell, and when I said it had been showing she asked if she could go and see it. Well I didn't need to be asked twice and we were soon on the car heading along the coast road. We arrived almost perfectly as the sun dropped, lighting the now familiar bushes at the start of the Fen Trail. I walked down the main path finding a group of disconsolate birders who seemed to have largely given up. I didn't stop, but walked down the Fen Trail for 30m, looked into the backlot bushes and instantly saw the Bluetail flick up to catch a fly. I waited a few minutes and Mac joined me. I pointed to the area I'd seen it and sure enough it appeared. Good views before it moved towards the main path where the remaining birders picked it up. However the best was yet to come. We walked back along the Fen Trail to our original spot and it flicked into the near bushes. Mac encouraged it out saying 'come closer' and it did, and then 'turn around' as it did, showing first its blue tail and then its lovely orange flanks and white throat. We got great views before others caught on and it moved back into cover. What a treat.

The Bluetail flicks into close view
Showing off it's blue tail
Big white eye ring - stunning!
And then turns to show off its orange flanks and neat white throat

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