Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Early April

6 April 2017

Lynford Arboretum

A brief afternoon stop at the feeders in the Arboretum produced a few birds coming to feed or drink. The best were 3 Brambling, 2 Siskin and 3 Nuthatch.

Female Brambling
Male Brambling



Warham Greens

A late season evening at the harrier roost, produced a good set of species and surprisingly still 3 Hen Harrier, presumably Scandinavian or north European birds yet to return to breed.
3 ringtail (1 juv male) Hen Harrier
5 Marsh Harrier
1 Buzzard
1 Sparrowhawk
1 male Peregrine 
5 Spoonbill
1,000 Brent Goose

A Barn Owl along the lane at Wighton

7 April 2017

Burnham Norton

The drake Green-winged Teal on the flashes by car park, the second Spring in succession this small American duck has been seen here. I walked around the seawall and scanned from the viewpoint, seeing 5 Spoonbill, 1 ringtail Hen Harrier, 7 Marsh Harrier, 1 Swallow and 2  ad Med Gull. 

Male Green-winged Teal at Burnham Norton




Adult Spoonbill on the salt marsh at Burnham Norton
On my return to the car park I stopped to see the GW Teal again and found a stunning summer plumaged Green Sandpiper on the pool. 

On the way home I found 2 Stone Curlew, 4 Grey Partridge and 1 Curlew in a roadside field.

8 April 2017

Great Walsingham

2 Grey Partridge in gardens and a Chiffchaff singing, Red Kite over S, and a large flock of Black-headed Gull flew over and included at least 3 noisy Mediterranean Gulls. 

We walked from Walsey Hills to Kelling via Salthouse seeing/hearing 2 Willow Warbler, 5 Blackcap and 15 Chiffchaff. Kelling Water Meadows held Shoveler, Teal and 2 Avocet. There were lots of butterflies; Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Orange Tip, Speckled Wood, Small White, Green-veined White and Holly Blue. A Sparrowhawk circled over Walsey Hills where the first Willow Warbler of the spring sang late pm. 

The Great White Egret on Billy's Wash at Cley was seen distantly from the Beach Hotel. 

9 April 2017

East Hills, Wells 


Over the last couple of winters I've stared out to East Hill near Wells from the Hen Harrier roost viewpoint at Warham Greens and thought about getting out there to see what it looks like close up. However I know it is not straightforward, with serious considerations around tides and several channels and ditches to cross. I always planned my first visit to be before something good was there, or before I went looking for something good. Just so I know the ropes, how to navigate the salt marsh ditches and creeks, and what obstacles lay in the way - best to be prepared. The tides and weather today meant it was perfect for a reccy so I headed out from Warham Greens across the salt marsh, where small flocks of Brent Geese fed close by, looking at me and wondering what I was doing in their habitat. The very pale male Marsh Harrier, that I often see here, flew low over my head and an immature Spoonbill circled over the marsh.

There is a narrow path, but as I found it soon turns east out towards the rather soft, muddy beach, which itself is the wrong side of a deep and wide flowing channel. Thankfully I saw someone with a dog returning from the direction of East Hills and tracked his path back, which soon led me to a rather deep and wet creek. I'd come this far and really wanted to get out to the Hills so I waded across, in very cold water, getting covered in sticky mud, but found a pool to wash off on the other side and was soon back on my way under the rather warm sun - it felt like summer today. 

Some views along the coast at East Hills
Looking back to Wells
Some of the habitat
I learned the location of several pools and creeks the hard way, but picked a route out and eventually reached the narrow shelter belt that is East Hills, somewhat scratched and dirty from pushing through the suaeda bushes. Not surprisingly I was the only person there, it was absolutely beautiful, peaceful and there were even a few migrants, albeit just 5 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Blackcap, 3 Swallow and a calling Whimbrel on the Saltmarsh. There was a good selection of raptors around including a couple each of Buzzard and Red Kite and a pair of Kestrel. The walk back was easier as I'd now worked out the best route, and the tide had dropped further making the return channel crossing less eventful (muddy), though still needed to wade across. A pair of noisy Mediterranean Gull flew overhead, and the Spoonbill flew over again, as I walked back. 

The dunes to the east of East Hills - the sea is about a mile away!
I noticed a message on my phone saying a flock of 7 Common Crane had flown over Sheringham about 30 minutes earlier, heading West, so I kept an eye open in case they followed the coast. I figured 30 minutes was the minimum time they would take if they pushed along. I reached the mainland edge of the salt marsh about an hour and a half after they were seen. I could see a raptor (Buzzard) circling over the Whirligig and checked it with my binoculars. As I watched it I noticed 7 distant shapes in my field of view - the Cranes! They were a long way off, probably over Stiffkey, but the shapes and grey plumage (coupled with knowledge there were 7 heading toward me) confirmed the ID. I watched them circling hoping they would continue right overhead, but as they reached somewhere over the campsite/fen area they turned and then flapped quite strongly east. I immediately put the news out knowing others to the East would have a chance of picking them up, then walked up Garden Drove, from where I managed one last view before they vanished into the distance. They were picked up over Cley and Kelling about 30 and 45 minutes later.

The wintering Great White Egret was seen on Holkham freshmarsh as we drove along the coast road and 2 House Martin were feeding over the Victoria and Albert in Holkham.

In evening I went to Warham Greens, for what will surely be my last roost watch of the somewhat extended season. Med gulls seemed to be moving west with two groups of 4 adults, and another pair. A single adult male Hen Harrier flew east late evening - a very fitting season finale. A Sparrowhawk, a single male Marsh Harrier and 2 Peregrine were hunting over the marsh, one male quite close along the salt marsh. 

10 April 2017

Burnham Overy Dunes

I walked out to the dunes, west to the pines and then east to Gun Hill. It was pretty quiet, but I found some signs of Spring, including a rather early Lesser Whitethroat singing along the hedge on the track to the sea wall. Also seen were 2 Swallow w, 3 White Wagtail, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Sedge warbler and a Wheatear. Other sightings included 30 Meadow pipit, 40 Linnet, a Bittern, Med Gull, Sparrowhawk and 2 lingering Pink-footed Geese. 

A quick look around New Holkham produced 2 Marsh Harrier, 5 Buzzard, 2 Red Kite, 1 Kestrel and 4 Grey Partridge. I'm not sure where the partridges go in the winter when they can be hard to come by, but in Spring they are a welcome regular feature of the fields in this part of North Norfolk.

11 April 2017

Burnham Norton

There was no sign of the Green-winged Teal anywhere around the marsh. Two Wheatear were hiding from the stiff westerly breeze along the path to the sea wall. The gardens and scrub held a singing Willow Warbler and a Chiffchaff, while 2 Swallow seemed to have returned to the farm. Other than a couple of adult Mediterranean Gulls overhead there were just the usual waders and ducks around the marsh: Avocet, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Teal and Black-headed Gull.

A Whimbrel was feeding in a field nearby, with a Curlew. A single Stone Curlew and several Grey Partridge were also seen on the way home.

12 April 2017

Burnham Overy Dunes


As I checked the fields on the way to Burnham Overy I found a flock of 18 Wheatear feeding in a large stony field to the south of Burnham Market. Hopefully a sign of birds put down by the wind and early morning rain.... 

Looking towards Gun Hill
At Burnham Overy Dunes there were indeed some migrants, including between 6 and 9 Ring Ouzel on Gun Hill. As I walked down to the Hill I found 4 males, when I returned early afternoon there were 5 birds including 2 apparently paired females, so a minimum of 6 with possibly as many as 9 birds if they were separate groups. A single Willow Warbler and 2 White Wagtail, plus 11 Wheatear (5 on Gun Hill and 6 in the East Dunes), though many are now locally breeding birds, some surely were migrants. A single hardy Swallow flew west.

A slightly odd plumaged Meadow Pipit
A male Stonechat with a distinct white rump
A male Wheatear on Gun Hill
4 Ring Ouzel in the coastal scrub
Ring Ouzel

Sedge Warbler
Raptors were in evidence today with 2 Red Kite, 2 Buzzard, 2 Marsh Harrier and 3 Kestrels in and around the dunes. A Med Gull was heard over the salt marsh, 40 Linnet were still flocked in the Dunes, 20 Meadow Pipit included some migrants, and a Pink-footed Goose hung on in the fields. 

Holkham freshmarsh

A single Great White Egret and 8 Spoonbill, Little Egret, Grey Heron, 3 Red Kite, Buzzard,
Marsh Harrier, Avocet, 2 Pintail and 20 Pink-footed Goose.

13 April 2017

Walk from Great Walsingham to Wells and return via Warham Greens

On first section of lane a Red Kite flew very low overhead, almost following us down the road for a while. Pretty superb but better to come. As we reached a gap in the hedge a Red Kite was circling a feeding Buzzard that was surrounded by four more scavenging Buzzards on the ground. The Kite flushed the Buzzards attracting more and more birds to the party. Red Kites came from all directions, a couple from very high overhead, and more Buzzards arrived from the local fields. At maximum levels there were 5 Red Kite and 7 Buzzards, swooping, weaving, fighting, grabbing morsels from the kills and chasing to steal them, dropping and catching, or picking from the ground like a Frigatebird over the sea. Amazing spectacle and an impressive aggregation of raptors. 

Some of the local residents of Wighton
We heard a few Blackcaps and Chiffchaff around the walk and saw two Marsh Harrier over the saltmarsh. Also 4 Grey Partridge in the fields. 

14 April 2017

Burnham Overy Dunes

Looking east from Gun Hill
3 Red Kite were circling low over the lane out of Burnham Thorpe, with two seen perched in a low tree. Also 2 Buzzard and a Marsh Harrier seemed to be attracted to the commotion. 


Red Kites are a now familiar sight in North Norfolk

More familiar, but still stunning
Red Kite at Burnham Thorpe
Another walk out to the dunes produced some typical, even familiar, migrants and a good selection of raptors. Two Blackcap and a Chiffchaff were singing along the track and Sedge Warblers had increased along the sea wall to 8. In the dunes I found 14 Ring Ouzel (11 on Gun Hill and 3 in the East Dunes), 18 Wheatear, 3 Willow warbler, a Yellow Wagtail flew over, a White Wagtail and 7 west bound Swallow.


Ring Ouzel - female (left) and male (right)










Male Northern Wheatear
Willow Warbler

A Sparrowhawk hunted over the fields, 5 Kestrel, 4 Buzzard, 3 Red Kite and 5 Marsh Harrier were around the dunes and marsh. A pair of noisy Med Gulls were flying over the salt marsh, the Pink-footed Goose was still on the fields and Linnets had increased to 150.

15 April 2017

Burnham Overy to Holkham

We walked out to Gun Hill then east through the dunes into Holkham Woods to the Victoria and Albert, and back.

A House Martin flew west as we walked along the seawall, and 2 Swallow flew west over Gun hill. At least 9 Sedge Warbler were singing along the seawall and a Reed Warbler appeared briefly beside the path. There were at least 12 Ring Ouzel (11 Gun Hill and 1 East Dunes) still around, but only 10 Wheatear. The 150 Linnet were still flocking in the dunes. Through Holkham we found a female Firecrest in the western-most scrub, heard 7 Blackcap, 10 Chiffchaff and 5 Willow Warbler along the protected inland side.


Raptors included 2 Sparrowhawk, 4 Red Kite, 6 Buzzard and 5 Marsh Harrier. Seven Spoonbill were seen out on the freshmarsh and 4 Grey Partridge were seen.


16 April 2017

Great Livermere, Suffolk

I headed down to Great Livermere early, hoping for a few hours before the forecast rain brought an end to proceedings. I saw two smart Barn Owls near Fakenham but little else. When I arrived I drove down the narrow lane where the American Herring Gull had been seen last night and was surprised to find no gulls in the pig fields, and even more surprised to find no other birders. I headed to Livermere Lake and walked out to view the water. There was a small group of large gulls, Herring and Lesser Black-backed, plus about 50 Black-headed Gulls, but nothing that looked remotely interesting. With no sign of more birds arriving I decided to drive back up the lane, seeing 2 Wheatear in one of the fields. At the northern end I found a pig field that had attracted a large congregation of gulls. 

Some of the gulls around the pig fields
Scanning through them produced a very large and very pale 1s Iceland Gull among the throng. On the opposite side of the road a huge roost started to gather. In here I found a second, more typical, 1w Iceland Gull roosting at the front of the flock. Through the morning this feel attracted increasing numbers of loafing gulls, while they fed in the pig field on the other side. As well as further views of the Iceland Gulls I also saw 3 Caspian Gulls, all 1w types, and a Tree Sparrow near the farm. Around lunchtime I walked out to another pig farm where a similarly huge group of gulls were feeding and roosting. The pale Iceland Gull was roosting here, and a Caspian Gull was feeding among the masses, but nothing more interesting. 

Very heavily cropped Iceland Gull, Great Livermere

I returned to the main roost, checking smaller groups of gulls along the road and continued to scan and check as gulls came and went, but by 14:30 with no sign I called it a day, just before the first spots of rain, somewhat later than predicted.

17 April 2017

Great Livermere, Suffolk

With late news of a brief reappearance of the American Herring Gull in the pig fields opposite the original field, I decided on a late afternoon/evening visit. The pig fields and main roost were still full of gulls, including 2 1w Caspian and the normal 1w Iceland Gull, and numbers of gulls were moving in and out all the time. However as the evening wore on I decided to join the crowd down the lane where the bird had been seen the last two evenings. However there were no gulls in the roost field and just one Lesser Black-backed in the pig fields opposite, plus the Wheatear pair in the top of a tree. With nothing doing I decided to try the last hour at Livermere Lake seeing if any gulls came in to roost or bathe. I was not disappointed as several hundred large gulls came in, including a very smart little 1w Caspian Gull, and another that showed several features but was more likely a hybrid. There were several Swallow and a few Sand Martin feeding around the pool.

1w Caspian Gull
A very dainty and petite little Caspian Gull
It constantly swam around with its tail raised high