Monday, 20 February 2017

February 2017

February 2017

4 February 2017 


The female type Black Redstart at East Quay before lunch. 

Black Redstart


A large mixed flock of finches to south of village included 6 Brambling, 60 Linnet, 5 Yellowhammer and 4 Reed bunting. 

A fantastic roost watch from 14:30 to 17:10 produced:
1 Short-eared Owl
2 male and 3 ringtail Hen Harrier
7 Marsh Harrier
3 Common Buzzard
2 Merlin (male and female)
1 male Peregrine
1 barn Owl
1 Imm Spoonbill flying west
1 Great Skua offshore
1 Fulmar offshore
2 Pink-footed Geese w
1 2nd winter Glaucous Gull e
2 Red-breasted Merganser
30 Golden Plover
60 Lapwing
50 Linnet
40 Goldfinch
30 Little Egret

Great Walsingham

1 Bullfinch
30 Linnet
4 Goldfinch

5 February 2017

Very misty start to the day meant a slow start. Tried Wells East Quay for the Black Redstart but no luck. Holkham was too misty so returned to check the finch flock at Warham. About 20 Reed Bunting and 16 Yellowhammer plus 5 Brambling and 80 Linnet. 
Walked from Cley East Bank around the reserve and down the West Bank out around Blakeney freshes and on to Morston for lunch in The Anchor. Then returned similar route but along the road at Cley, c5 hours of walking and 20 km. 

Siberian Chiffchaff
The Siberian Chiffchaff showed well but briefly. A dark Barn Owl seen on Blakeney freshes on the way out , a Pale-bellied Brent Goose, among good numbers of Dark-bellied Brents and 110 White-fronted plus a pale Barn Owl on return. A few Marsh Harriers, Golden Plover, and a heard Greenshank.

Stonechat - female
Stonechat - male

11 Feb 2017

Wells East Quay

1 fem type Black Redstart seen well along the concrete wall.

Grey Plover


Checked the finch flock. Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting numbers increased with c20 and c40 respectively. Also 50 Linnet, 40 Chaffinch and 5 Brambling   

Warham Greens

2 Male and 3-4 ringtail Hen Harrier
2 Buzzard
1 Peregrine
2 Merlin
1 Kestrel
6 Marsh Harrier
30 Little Egret

12 Feb 2017


1 fem type Black Redstart at East Quay showed well in the missle

Female Black Redstart or Grey Orange-end as Mac more aptly renamed it

Cockley Cley

Walked around the wood seeing a Buzzard but not much else.

Linford Arboretum

About 60 Hawfinch came into roost, creating quite a spectacle, looking like funky Christmas baubles in the tree tops.
5 Brambling
8 Siskin
2 Crossbill
4 Marsh Tit
Coal, Blue, Great, Long-tailed Tit
6 Bewick's Swans over

18 February 2017

Murston, Kent

The wintering male Pine Bunting hadn't been reported for the best part of two weeks, however given the amount of grain available from the duck shoot I was pretty sure it must still be around somewhere. So I arrived just after first light and parked the car near the stables. As I drove the last stretch about a dozen Yellowhammers flew from beside the track. On getting the scope set up I could instantly see a flock of Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch and Linnet feeding in the stubble field to the west of the path, so I scanned through them hoping to find the Bunting. However after 30 minutes there was no sign and the flock was rapidly moving away down the field. 

I walked down towards the gate into the duck shoot field and scanned the bushes. There was a Buzzard on the concrete wall and a Kestrel in the Hawthorn hedge, but no finches or Buntings suggesting the food had run out. As I scanned back across the stubble a Bunting flew past me calling, sounding a bit more hoarse. It dropped into the stubble and vanished. I scanned some more, and then there it was, that distinctive dark chestnut throat and white loral stripe. It crept around often in the longer vegetation and never showing in the open unlike the bolder Yellowhammers. I watched it for the next hour and a half as the flock made its way down the field, until suddenly they took flight and dispersed to the east and south. 

Pine Bunting in the stubble

The throat looked almost solid chestnut
As I walked back to the gate the Pine Bunting flew past me on the opposite side of the hedge but I didn't see where it went, and as I reached the gate I accidentally flushed the Yellowhammers which mainly flew off to the south. As the bird had been feeding off the public footpath I was not sure whether I could release the news, and having consulted Frank and learned the field really was private and the landowner far from welcoming I decided to withhold the news.

I decided there was little chance of me finding it again, so I made my way to Oare Marshes. The water level was really high and the tide was out so not much on show. After a brief scan and having warmed up I wanted to return to Murston and try again, hoping to find it in a public area. I parked in the same spot and found some Yellowhammers in the corner of the paddock. Most of them flew further away, and then a Yellowhammer arrived in the bush behind me, calling. But behind it I could hear something - something distinctive. A few steps down the path and there was the Pine Bunting, calling away in the next bush. I fired off a few images before it flew south along the track, back towards Little Murston Farm, landed in the trees, before apparently dropping down towards the lakes.

Pine Bunting

The throat appeared paler when fluffed up, showing a chestnut chin and lower edge
I walked around the field hoping I might re-find it, and then heard some Yellowhammers up on the edge of the track. I raced around and found the Pine Bunting sitting in a bush along the edge of the Farm garden. It dropped into the stubble to feed. I waited out of view, and waited, and waited. Yellowhammers flicked up and sat in the bush, and the odd Reed Bunting, but not the Bunting. Suddenly it called and took off vertically flying further south behind the trees and out of view. I searched around towards the solar farm but could not find it anywhere. Having now seen it in public areas I quickly put the news out, then headed towards home.

I decided to check East Malling Research Station in case any Waxwings were still around and was delighted to find 9 birds sat in the trees by the greenhouses. I watched them feeding on fallen apples before another group arrived to join them, with 14  in the trees and possibly more arriving when they returned to the apples. Always fantastic to see and the sun had come out.

Waxwing in the fallen apples
You'd think there were enough to go around

19 February 2017

Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire

A family get together at my parents in Worcestershire meant we had to literally drive through Stow-on-the-Wold where a Blue Rock Thrush has set up its winter territory. It had actually turned up the day after we were last there, so it would have been doubly rude not to stop off. I actually hate twitches in residential areas, always feels awkward looking around someone else's houses. As the bird had been here a while we were the only people, other than a young lad riding his rather cool four wheel electric motor bike around the close. I said to Mac that it was often on the roof of number 9 or 29, and we soon found them opposite each other at the end of the road. There was no sign initially, and Mac and my niece Emma soon decided they'd rather get a coffee in the village. However as they turned to walk away the Thrush appeared on the roof of number 29. I called them back and we got some pretty good views as it fed around the roofs and gardens, before it flew across the road onto number 9 and dropped over the roof.

It recalled the last one I saw in Morocco in December, sitting on the tv aerial of a house in a mud compound in the village of Lalla Takerkoust. In some ways not that different an environment, at that one had the Atlas Mountains and various desert gorges available locally.

The Blue Rock Thrush appears on the roof
And the chimney
It found plenty of food on the tiles
And then showed in a garden tree

25 February 2017, Warham Greens

With overnight news of a probable Pallid Harrier at Egmere I headed straight over to Warham Greens. I arrived a bit late at 07:30 but 3 ringtail Hen Harriers including one that showed brilliantly along the close edge of marsh. Also a showy Merlin seen twice, 8 Bewick's Swan flew east offshore and 2 Marsh Harrier, a Kestrel and a Barn Owl. A Mediterranean Gull flew in and landed on a pool.

In the afternoon returned to Warham Greens for the roost. Three male and 4-5 ringtail Hen Harrier, 4 Marsh Harrier, 2 Merlin, Kestrel, 3 Spoonbill on the marsh.

26 February 2017, Holkham

We walked out to the beach where 35+ Shore Lark were feeding in the vegetation until flushed by a dog walker. We then walked to the west along the edge of the woods seeing 2 Stonechat and a small flock of Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit.

Shore Lark

The marsh side of the woods produced 4 Spoonbill, 500 White-fronted Geese, 1 Great White Egret and lots of Wigeon, Teal and Lapwing. Over the park a Red Kite, 5 Buzzard and 6 Marsh Harrier over the marsh. A Barn Owl hunted around the bush. Along Lady Anne's Drive were just 50 Pink-footed Geese and 100 Brent.

Warham Greens
A 2nd winter Glaucous Gull came off the beach and flew onto the Saltmarsh where it sat in a pool for a while, but disappeared while I was scanning. A Sparrowhawk, 2 Merlin, a Peregrine, a Buzzard, a Kestrel, 3 grey male and 4 ringtail Hen Harrier, including a juvenile showing an apricot wash and reduced streaking to its belly, strong head markings and a weak collar, 7 Marsh Harrier and a Mediterranean Gull.

Apricot washed juvenile Hen Harrier

Thursday, 16 February 2017

January 2017

January 2017

7 January 2017, Great Walsingham

1 Short-eared Owl flushed along lane to Wighton. 2 Grey Wagtail in the ford. 


Walked the East Bank and stood overlooking Arnolds and the ditch. No sign of any Otters today but 1 Peregrine on the bank and flushed from the beach. 1 Sparrowhawk flew across the Serpentine flushing Wigeon. 6 Marsh Harrier including a young male being beaten up by 2 Crows. 

Snow Buntings like snow flakes along the shingle ridge

60+ Snow Bunting along the shingle ridge. The adult Glaucous Gull flew west along beach. 1 Kingfisher and a Water Rail. Otherwise usual ducks and geese in good numbers including 5 Pintail and 20 Gadwall. Several Little Egret. 

Little Egret
Checked the Brent in the Eye Field but just a few Canada Geese. 

Adult Glaucous Gull

Afternoon visit to Warham Greens. A ringtail Hen Harrier and a juv Merlin and a Marsh Harrier before the fog rolled in and obscured the marsh. 

8 January 2017

Started just after dawn at Warham Greens. I like being here first thing. So quiet and undisturbed. Just the birds and the noises of the marsh. Wonderful place. A Barn Owl was flying down the lane to Wighton on the way down. 

2 male Hen Harriers, a briefly hunting Merlin, 2 Marsh Harrier and a Buzzard out by East Hills lots of Brent Geese flying off the nighttime roost on the beach. 5 Yellowhammer, 3 Reed Bunting, 30 Linnet and 20 Goldfinch. Usual numbers of Little Egret. A Brambling called and showed in the bush with a flock of Goldies. 

3 Lapland Bunting flew in from the NE calling. Appeared to land out by the barn somewhere and later flew back out to the marsh. 

After breakfast news came through of a Great Grey Shrike at Blunts Corner near New Holkham. Within ten minutes we were the second car on site and within a minute I located it on a distant hedge along the road. It showed well if a little distantly over the next hour. 

Great Grey Shrike - Blunts Corner, New Holkham
We drove to Walsey hills and did the circular walk out to Kelling and back past Salthouse, then along the Attenborough trail before I checked the gull pre roost at the end of the East Bank. 

The immature Spoonbill was feeding on the new acquisition pools at Salthouse before dong a circuit and returning. Nothing odd came in to the roost. A Peregrine terrorised the birds on the Cley fresh marsh. 

14 January 2017, Hythe and Dungeness, Kent

Started the day at Hythe looking for Purple Sandpipers. Gary and I failed to find any on the usual rock groynes, but eventually located a couple quietly feeding nearer Folkestone. The low sun was nice, but right in our photographic faces. Made the best of it.

Purple Sandpiper
Incredible birds, with an amazing ability to grip
And happy in the spray
Or the full on surf
Tough little birds....

We drove on to Dungeness checking a few areas along the way. We watch the grey Stonechat feeding out behind the new pit along Kerton Road. By coincidence today was the day the real results came through on its DNA - it was just a hibernans or rubicola, albeit a rather aberrant one.

The 'Grey' Stonechat

And a normal one
Next stop was the beach where we immediately located a smart first-winter Caspian Gull, which showed really well. 

First-winter Caspian Gull
First-winter Caspian Gull

On the RSPB Reserve we found the two Long-eared Owl roosting quietly in the willows behind the dipping pond.

Long-eared Owl, Dungeness RSPB
And the male Ring-necked Duck was close to Scott Hide, though mainly sleeping.

Ring-necked Duck -  typically asleep
But it did wake up very briefly

21 January 2017

Drove over to Titchwell along the lanes to Choseley. A small flock of Pink-footed Geese from the road looking towards Egmere. No sign of the Shrike at New Holkham. 2 Whooper Swan on a wheat field south of Choseley. 

At Titchwell I walked out to the sea. 160+ Long-tailed Duck, 1 Great Northern Diver, 4 Slavonian Grebe, 55 Velvet Scoter, 1,000 Common Scoter, 40 Goldeneye, 20 Red-breasted Merganser, 30 Red-throated Diver, 60 Great-crested Grebe, 5 Guillemot, 1 Razorbill. Most surprising sighting was a flock of 13 Red-crested Pochard floating around near the Long-tailed Ducks - most incongruous.  

On the freshmarsh 15 Avocet, 2 Golden Plover, 12 Pintail, 2 Marsh Harrier, 2 Water Rail, Bearded Tit heard, Cetti's Warbler heard. A flyover Greenshank headed towards Thornham. 

Late afternoon, Warham Greens
3 male and 3 female Hen Harriers into roost. Also a female Merlin, 5 Marsh Harrier, 2 Buzzard, a Mute Swan flew e, 10,000 Pink-footed Geese flew in from the east and roosted on the sand banks, though many were flushed by a low flying helicopter. 

22 January 2016
Holkham -7C when I left home. Barn owl along lane to wighton. 
Walked out to the beach checking sea duck then around salt marsh for Shore larks. 
24 Velvet Scoter 
400  very distant common Scoter
2 red breasted merganser
GC Grebe and rt Diver
1 fulmar

Beach produced 20 Linnet and 12 Sky Lark, but no sign of any Shore larks. A Jack Snipe was flushed from the marram. 

The field to west of lady Anne's held 30 Snipe feeding openly in the first area to get the sun. The Great White Egret flew across the marsh. A few Pinkies still around. 

Red kite over Brancaster showing a very worn forkless tail. Walked out to the sea where c180-200 Long-tailed Duck were distant. 2,000 Common Scoter and 30 Velvets including a single adult drake.  30 Goldeneye, 10 Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Slavonian Grebe, 30 distant Great-crested Grebe and an immature drake Scaup. Red-throated Divers distantly. 

Water Rail
Beach held usual bar wits and knot. Checking the gulls I found nothing unusual. Walking back the freshmarsh was frozen. A very close water rail and bird of the day - a Woodcock showing well in the boggy pools under the willows. 


Cettis warbler, marsh harrier out over the reedbed. 

Afternoon walked from great Walsingham to Binham loop. Barn owl, 4 buzzard, 15 meadow pipit, grey Wagtail, 4 yellowhammer, a superb barn owl along the road and a woodcock flew along the spring. 

Another barn owl flew low over the car in houghton st giles on the way home. 

27 January 2017
Murston, Kent
Arrived before first light and walked out to the sea wall over looking the duck pond. The male Pine Bunting flew low overhead calling landed briefly but dropped out of view before I got a look. As others arrived it was found sitting in the hedge at the back of the field and showed distantly over the next 30 minutes. It then flew into the field showed in the small hawthorns and then around the feeders for another 15 minutes. Also c10 Yellowhammer, 12 Chaffinch, 6 Reed Bunting. 

28 January 2017

7 Tundra Bean Geese in flock of c600 Pink-feet to east of windmill. 

Tundra Bean Goose, Weybourne

No sign of Glaucous Gull so walked to Funky Mackerel. About 30 Red-throated Diver flew west and 3 Guillemot including one in summer plumage. As I walked back a first winter Glaucous Gull flew in from the west and landed on a groyne where it gave good views before moving further east. 

First-winter Glaucous Gull, Sheringham

2 Stonechat. At least 9 Lapland Bunting in flock of c60 Skylark. Mainly in flight and hard to see in unsettled flock and high stubble. Also 2 Stonechat and a Kestrel

White-fronted Geese fly over the East Bank, Cley
A Sparrowhawk along road by Walsey Hills. East Bank produced 3 Chiffchaff and a Siberian Chiffchaff, a female Smew and a sickly looking first winter Glaucous Gull. Also good numbers of Pintail and Teal. Gadwall and Mallard and 12 flyover Ruff. 3 White-fronts flew low over. 

Siberian Chiffchaff tristis with a normal collybita British type
The Siberian Chiffchaff
Strikingly pale

Warham Greens
3 male (not including the usual dark one) and 4 ringtail (including a super juv male with a grey back) Hen Harrier gave stunning views. Also 2 - 3 Merlin, 2 Peregrine (one chasing a flock of Knot),  2 Red Kite, a Buzzard, and 4 Marsh Harrier. Also a Lapland Bunting flew overhead calling. Managed to scope it as it flew onto the Saltmarsh. 

29 January 2017

One stunning Barn Owl on post beside road at Burnham Norton windmill. 

Walked out to sea, seeing a couple of close Song Thrush and a Water Rail in the usual ditch. 

Song Thrush
Water Rail
The sea produced at least 165 Long-tailed duck, 60 Velvet Scoter, 2,000 Common Scoter, 10 Red-breasted Merganser, 20 Goldeneye, lots of Great-crested Grebe and Red-throated Diver including an apparent passage of birds continually to the west, a Black-throated Diver initially on sea and then in flight to the west and 6 Slavonian Grebe.


Heard a Spotted Redshank as I walked back but couldn't see it. Also a Water Rail flew out of reedbed calling. Several Marsh Harrier over the reedbed. Usual array of wildfowl and waders. 

Checked the orchard to west of Thornham. No sign of Waxwing but hundreds of Fieldfare and 30 Redwing. 

A flock of 250 Brambling feeding largely out of view along edge of field. 4 Common Buzzard. Also a single Tree Sparrow 


Woodhall Spa, Lincs
I just couldn't resist the temptation of a showy White-billed Diver on an inland river. These are stunning birds at the best of times, and to see (another) one so well was just too tempting.

The juv White-billed Diver showed very well on the River Witham. Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer heard. On journey home in rains flock of 25 Red Kite beside road. 

Juvenile White-billed Diver, River Witham, Lincolnshire