Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Holidays

With the previous weekend spent visiting relatives in Yorkshire, it was back to Norfolk for the last visit of 2011, and the final chance to fit in some last minute year ticks. The majority of time was spent at Snettisham, mostly around the RSPB reserve, where the flock of Barnacle Geese increased to 27 birds, and the adult Lesser white front remained in the company of Greylags. Three additional Barnacles were seen roosting with the Pink feet, and an adult Black Brant was seen on two occasions with the Brent flock, coming to bathe at the southern end of Wolferton creak early morning. A new Scaup appeared on the pits along with a drake Red breasted Merganser; an increasingly scarce bird and the first that I've seen on the pits for at least two years.

Black Brant Snettisham RSPB

A Great Skua, seen off of the Coastal Park, was a late patch year tick, with two Velvet Scoter and at least three Little Gulls also present offshore. The most unexpected sight was provided by a juvenile Shag, actively feeding in the bay directly below Sanctuary hide, though a flock of nine Woodlark, seen on the edge of Ken Hill Wood, was perhaps equally surprising. Local breeders, or birds from elsewhere? Seven birds were still present by the end of the week.

Shag Snettisham RSPB

The first that I have seen on the pits, and the final patch tick of the year, bringing the 2011 total to 182. Not bad going when you consider that its all %100 self found. Red Kite, Montagu's Harrier and Razorbill were perhaps the most obvious gaps in the list, whilst the sea failed to deliver the decent autumn seawatch that I had hoped for. Patch ticks this year were provided by Tundra Bean Goose, Hooded Crow, Arctic Tern, Manx Shearwater, Roseate Tern and White-rumped Sandpiper.

Highlights from elsewhere included a Black-throated Diver and Red-necked Grebe together on the sea off of Hunstanton and an excellent count of at least 70 Tree Sparrow at Abbey Farm Flitcham, whilst an adult Yellow legged Gull roosting at Titchwell did its best to make up for the absent 1st winter Caspian Gull. What was more disappointing was missing the adult Iceland Gull that paid a brief visit to the fresh Marsh, whilst I was huddled down on the beach scouring the swarm of gulls feeding along the tideline.

Waxwing Snettisham Coastal Park

One of two feeding on Hawthorns

Tree Sparrows Flitcham

Monday, 5 December 2011

Peeps and Partridges

No prizes for guessing the first port of call this weekend... After feeding out of view on Pats Pool, the Western Sandpiper flew to Simmons Scrape, where it twice came to the near edge of the closest island; not quite as close as it was for those viewing from Daukes hide ("incredible views!"), but close enough for a detailed look. The Green-winged Teal stayed hidden (in fairness I didn't give it that much of an effort...) but a mid morning seawatch proved very productive, with the highlights being a close in (mostly submerged) Black-throated Diver and a single Little Auk flying West. An excellent supporting cast included a drake Goosander West, single Great and Arctic Skuas, a late Sandwich Tern, several Little Gulls and Kittiwakes and good numbers of Guillemots, with several very close Gannets and Red-throated Divers.

An afternoon visit to Burnham Norton (viewing from the roadside pull in) was rewarded with good views of one of the Rough-legged Buzzards over the fields on the South side of the road, with either it or another seen over the grazing marshes later on. A male Hen Harrier flew out towards the marshes and a ringtail flew inland late afternoon, presumably heading off to roost, along with three Marsh Harriers that came up off of the grazing fields, where a single Pale-bellied Brent Goose was with the large Brent flock. At least two Lapland Buntings were with Skylarks in the roadside fields, that also held a group of 15 Grey Partridge.

Grey Partridge Sedgeford

Having found out about a decent mixed flock of Finches/Buntings close to Ringstead village, I decided to spend Sunday walking from Snettisham, via Sedgeford and Ringstead, finishing at Obs at Holme, to try and locate any winter finch flocks. The number of Grey Partridges seen en route provided the highlight of the morning, with at least 40 birds (groups of 12, 5, 14, and 9)seen in one field opposite Sedgeford village. Several thousand Pink feet, viewed from the peddars Way footpath looking back towards Docking, held two Barnacles and a single Tundra Bean Goose, and at least 10 Lapland Buntings gave good scope views on the deck, with about 20 Corn bunting and 80 Skylark. A final group of 12 Grey Partridge, between Ringstead village and the top of the road leading down towards Drove Orchards, brought the days tally to an impressive 103 birds.

Not having to leave until Monday afternoon, I took full advantage of the extra morning, with an early visit to the RSPB reserve in order to look through the roosting Pinks in case of any extra hangers on. Luckily the birds were reasonably close in on the mud, though the bitterly cold wind managed to make make for somewhat uncomfortable viewing conditions, with a lone bramble bush doing its best to provide shelter! After being flushed by helicopter, off the fields opposite the pumping station, a flock of at least 50 White fronted Geese dropped down into the pits where they gave good views from Sanctuary hide amongst the large number of Greylag Geese. At least 12 Barnacle Geese were on the nearest island, along with the adult Lesser White-fronted Goose, first seen November 19th and still associating with Greylags, but were all overshadowed my 2nd Snettisham Tundra Bean Goose. White fronted Geese totaled 61 birds and a Green Sandpiper was feeding below the hide.

Tundra Bean Goose Snettisham RSPB
My second Patch Bean Goose, following my first record at the beginning of the year

White fronted Goose Snettisham RSPB An anual winter visitor but normally in much lower numbers

Lesser white-fronted Goose If I hadnt seen it before with Greylags, and it had been sticking with White fronts I might have been rather more exited!

Green Sandpiper Snettisham, RSPB

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The end of Autumn

After the calm autumn weather of the previous week, it was something of a return to winter with low temperatures and blustery winds throughout the weekend. Saturday was spent at Snettisham searching the fields behind the inner bank in the hope of locating the Dersingham Rough legged Buzzard, with highlights for the day including 13 Barnacle Geese, two of the three female Scaup, 60 Snow Buntings and a single Peregrine. After searching the fields between the pits and the A149, it would seem that the most suitable vantage point (assuming that the bird heads out towards The Wash to feed) would be the narrow section of inner sea wall that leads to the pumping station at the southern end of the reserve.

Mealy Redpoll Titchwell RSPB

More obvious in the field, with the low evening sun enhancing the brown colour tones.

After an unsuccessful Bittern watch at Holme I caught the bus to Brancaster, to walk the section of coastal path towards Burnham Deepdale, in the vague hope of locating any Twite. Needless to say that I failed to see any (are there any reliable sites left on the North Norfolk coast other than Titchwell??) with two White fronted and four Barnacle Geese, feeding in the grazing fields opposite Brancaster golf course, providing the highlight of the walk. An afternoon visit to Titchwell produced an obliging Mealy Redpoll, feeding in the Alders behind the feeders, a ringtail Hen Harrier over the reedbed, and an Arctic Skua causing panick over the fresh marsh, with excellent numbers of Teal and a steady procession of Gulls and Lapwings coming in to roost.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Owl fest

A glorious weekend with clear blue skies, warm sunshine and, at times, hardly a breath of wind. Saturday morning was spent at Snettisham to catch the early morning departure of Pink footed Geese leaving The Wash, with the additional bonus of an adult Ross's Goose leaving the roost; the first one that I've seen at Snett that could vaguely be considered a genuine bird. A flock of 37 White fronted Geese were in the fields opposite the pumping station behind the inner bank, along with 19 Barnacle Geese, (not the regular feral flock) whilst two Purple Sandpipers on the pits bought up 180 for the Snettisham year list. Back in July I though that I stood a reasonable chance of reaching 190, but after only three patch year ticks throughout September and October (Wood Sandpiper, Whinchat and Merlin) I will need a fair bit of luck to reach my original target of 185.

Scaup Snettisham RSPB

Three Female Scaup showed well on the pits, between the southern end of the challets and the first hide, and a drake Goosander flew south past the sailing club spit, with 55 Snow Buntings feeding on the beach. A count of 13 Little Gulls feeding offshore from the Coastal Park was perhaps not too unexpected, with birds seen on a daily basis feeding just around the coast off of Holme, but was still an excellent figure, roughly doubling the number that I had previously recorded. Two Short eared Owl were hunting Ken Hill Marsh (also seen Friday afternoon) and at least 10 Woodcock were counted coming out to feed on the grazing marshes.

Barnacle Geese Snettisham RSPB

The highlight of the weekend occured Sunday afternoon, with a walk down to thornham Harbour revealing a Short eared Owl sat in the set aside fields beside the bank. Showing the bird to some passers by we watched a 2nd bird fly in and chase it off of the ground, followed in quick succession by the appearance of a 3rd, 4th and the 5th bird! With the sun still shining the birds put on an excellent display, spending a lot of time flying high over the fields, indulging in regular aerial scraps, both with Marsh Harriers and one another, where they were surprisingly vocal (somewhat like a muffled Grey Heron) With the exeption of the group of five that flew west offshore earlier on in the autumn, this was the highest number of birds that I have seen together at Holme (Five birds eventually became Six) in what has been one of the best Autumns/winters for Short eared Owls that I can remember. Lets hope the numbers continue to build!

Broadwater Holme

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Priory Gannet

Juvenile Gannet Priory Country Park

An excellent local record, just a few minutes from home, and the first individual to be recorded on the main lake (the only other sighting for the park involving a bird seen in flight from the sewage works) The bird appeared in good health and was seen to depart the following morning, where it was later relocated on the main lake at Willington.

Sat close inshore on arrival, it was watched diving into the lake on several occasions, and was frequently mobbed by Black headed Gulls whilst sat on the water. Perhaps the strangest sight was of the bird being actively pursued around the lake by a pair of Grey Herons (initially one bird to start off with) with necks fully outstretched in alarm!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Wheatears and Wildfowl

With the daylight hours drawing drawing in, we made the most of the Friday afternoon by leaving Bedford and heading straight for Holme, where we enjoyed good views of the male Desert Wheatear feeding along the strandline in the company of a rather late Northern Wheatear. The light may have been terrible but, with only one other person present, it made something of a change to be able to watch a new bird at close range without the crowds.

Saturday morning was spent ringing in the Coastal park for our last session of the season, with a respectable tally of 76 new birds and 8 retraps, including two Treecreepers that appeared out of the blue, which we had ringed during the summer and autumn. Blackbirds made up the bulk of the tally with 49 new birds, whilst other highlights included a young male Sparrowhawk and another three Bullfinch; a bird which has clearly enjoyed a successfull breeding season in the park with probably close to 30 birds being ringed.

Juvenile male Sparrowhawk Note the heart shaped breast markings and rufous tinged scapulars

Returning to Holme for a second look at the Wheatear, I quickly abandoned the wait for the Hoopoe, which had dissapeared into one of the ditches out on the grazing marshes, and continued onwards to the beach. In the end this proved to be the right decision, with the Wheatear dissapearing overnight and the Hoopoe not putting in another appearance for the rest of the afternoon!

Male Desert Wheatear Holme

Much closer views and in far better light. Not quite bright enough for the camera but still a pleasure to watch, with the bird feeding at a distance of less than 20 feet.

Sunday was a glorious day of warm sunshine and light winds, with a productive morning at Snettisham yielding two patch year ticks, in the shape of a fly past Great Northern Diver (only my 2nd Snettisham record) and a party of five Velvet Scoter. Three groups of Swans included two partys of five Bewicks and a group of six Whoopers, whilst the sea also offered three Scaup, two Guillemot, seven Red throated Divers, and several groups of Shelduck moving south. A party of four Barnacle Geese flew into The Wash off of Heacham, with another bird seen in the company of nine White fronted Geese flying in off the beach between Hunstanton and Holme.

A late Greenshank and a juvenile White fronted Goose, both on the saltmarsh opposite the boardwalk, offered some compensation for the lack of a visible Hoopoe, which had spent the afternoon hiding out on the grazing fields, whilst two Long tailed Ducks and a group of three Slavonian Grebes, together on the sea proided a fitting end to the day.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Late Autumn arrivals

October 27th: A day of overcast conditions, with light drizzle early morning and a light SE breeze, managed to produce a couple of nice surprises, with a Pallas's Warbler and a very late Wryneck both putting in an appearance at Holme. The Wryneck was first picked up in flight, dropping into the saltmarsh after flying from the sueada bushes below the paddocks, and later relocated feeding around the large patch of Sea buckthorn at the end of the golf course track. After showing well on the deck, it flew over the other side of the path towards Hunstanton and disappeared from sight. Given that there was noeone else around at the time its not that surprising that I was the only person to see it!

Convinced that there must be a Pallas's Warbler lurking somewhere nearby (how often do you find both Pallas's and Wryneck on the same day?!) I had just reached the Forestry when I received a call from my dad to say that he had just beaten me to the prize! Walking across the open dunes, I watched the unmistakable fluffball of green and yellow striped fly across in front of me and disappear into the cluster of Willows and Sea Buckthorn. After a short wait, it was relocated feeding in the Willows, where it remained for the afternoon. Thankfully it was still present the next day, where it gave good views feeding in the same trees in much better light.

October 28th: A relatively early start manage to produce an unexpectedly good seawatch off of Holme, with the following see on of Gore Point between 07:35 - 09:20

Red throated Diver 9W 2E
Black throated Diver 1W
GN/BTDiver 1W
Fulmar 1W
Gannet 67W 12E
Wigeon 2W
Teal 1W
Common Scoter 56W 21E
Eider 2W
Goldeneye 1W
Red-breasted Merganser 11E
Great Skua 3W 1E
Arctic Skua 1W 1 lingering
Auk sp 7W 10E
Kittiwake 5w 3E
Little Gull Minimum 140W with 120 birds later seen in single scan. True figure likely in excess of 300 birds

November 5th: After a mornings ringing in the Coastal Park (a new pair of Bearded Tits being the highlight) we headed out to Holme for the afternoon, where I walked through along the beach from Hunstanton and across the sand bars opposite the end of the Golf course, around to Gore Point. A seawatch from the dunes at the base of the cliffs produced a steady passage of Kittiwakes, with groups heading North out of The Wash close inshore (65 birds in total) along with 16 Little Gulls and a Shag, later seen sat on the sea off of Gore Point. A Short eared Owl flew up from the Sand bars and the first of several mixed flocks of Blackbird, Redwing and Fieldfare came in high off the sea and dropped straight down into the bushes behind the dunes.

Shortly after leaving the forestry (where I had not seen a single other birder) I disturbed a small passerine from the brambles on the edge of the path, that flew a short distance and immediately dived straight back into cover. Though I had only been offered a fleeting glimpse with the naked eye, its small size, dull faintly grey brown upperparts, and distinctive call had me virtually convinced off its identity as a Dusky Warbler. An anxious wait followed before it broke cover again, giving another tantalisingly brief flight view, but once again refusing to perch on the edge of the bushes. In total the bird was seen and heard by four observers that afternoon, but remained extremely elusive throughout its stay, feeding in typical Dusky fashion and staying hidden within the depths of the bushes. After a blank day Sunday it was heard and seen again on the Monday, but remained stubbornly quiet throughout the two hours that I spent waiting for it to show. A further two hours Tuesday morning proved equally fruitless...

November 6th : With a strong North wind blowing, I arrived at Holme before dawn with Connor and Billy, eagerly anticipating a long overdue autumn seawatch (I had only just seen my first Norfolk Great Skua the previous week!) Early signs for the day looked promising, with several thrushes seen along the entrance track in the headlights of the van, and several more heard calling around the car park and Observatory. Once the light had reached a stage of half decent visibility we headed out to the dunes where, between 06:40 - 08:10, we managed to record the following:

Red-throated Diver 4W
Gannet 51W 70E
Brent Goose 19W
Shelduck 245W
Pintail 4W
Wigeon 218W
Teal 42W 9E
Scaup 1W
Eider 7W
Common Scoter 120W
Velvet Scoter 3W
Red-breasted Merganser 3E
Great Skua 9w
Pomarine Skua 2W
Arctic Skua 3W
Little Gull 3W
Kittiwake 34W 19E
Razorbill 3W
Auk sp 24W 3E

Despite spending a couple of hours waiting around the patch of brambles that held the previous afternoons Dusky Warbler (a bird that I was more or less convinced would still be present in the morning) there was no sign throughout the day. Walking out to the far end of the dunes nearest Thornham channel, it was obvious that the morning movement of wildfowl had continued throughout the day, with groups of Teal and Wigeon still moving west close inshore. A 2 hour watch from 11:55 came up with the following:

Red-throated Diver 1W 1E
Gannet 24W 33E
Brent Goose 56W
Shelduck 46W
Mallard 6W
Wigeon 212W
Teal 238W
Pochard 6W
Eider 17W
Common Scoter 5W
Goldeneye 6W
Goosander 1W
Red-breasted Merganser 7W
Dunlin 40W
Purple Sandpiper 1W
Great Skua 2W
Arctic Skua 1W
Kittiwake 6W

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Squacco Heron

With the reserve being just a few minutes from Attenborough train station, the opportunity to finally catch up with a Squacco Heron (something I have failed to see on more than one occasion) was simply too good to resist. After a brief wait, I watched it fly in overhead and land further along the river behind the railway bridge, where it could be viewed from the grass bank below where we were standing, sat in one of the riverside Willows.

Visible as a pale blob, fishing from its favoured spot below the bridge, in the same place as the below pictures were taken

Apart from a brief appearance in the large Willow tree on the other side of the bridge, the bird mainly kept to its chosen fishing platform. Clearly not in the slightest bit bothered by the passing trains, it also seemed fairly tolerant of people, but could have probably done without photographers standing over the top of what would have been an ideal fishing platform below the bridge...

The quality of the scope views more than made up for the amount of vibration on the bridge, which proved something of a challenge when trying to get pictures.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Migration at last...

September... in theory it should be the best month of autumn, with the mixed potential of waders, seabirds, and falls of common migrants. Unfortunately, the now seemingly traditional succession of Atlantic depressions, makes for a very quiet month on the east coast. Good news if you are seawatching off the west coast of Ireland, twitching the far flung reaches of Britain for the latest Yank Mega, or lapping up the flocks of Buff-breasted Sandpipers running around on Cornish airfields, but not so much fun if you are stuck in Norfolk, praying for some Easterly winds!!

October 10th finally saw the wind change to the East, triggering a remarkable arrival of Short eared Owls, with 46 birds recorded off of Titchwell, moving offshore and inland. Seawatching off of Holme we managed to see 11 birds moving west offshore, between 14:05 - 15:05, and carrying on across The Wash, with the last being a group of five birds flying together. Another two birds were watched over the beach on the western side of Thornham channel, with one coming in low over the dunes and passing to within five feet, directly overhead. One of those occasions when you are faced with a bird flying directly towards you, until you have to lower your binoculars, in order to realise just how close it has come! Two Yellow-browed Warblers appeared in the large Sycamore near the Obs late afternoon, and a Long-eared Owl was seen flying across the NOA car park at dusk.

October 11: An excellent vis mig session in the Coastal Park, with a varied morning of heavy overhead passage. With so many birds passing at once the true figures for the morning will be higher than anything listed here, with plenty of high/distant finch flocks escaping identification, and large numbers of Lapwing moving out across The Wash and out of view.

Period of watch 07:00-09:30, Wind SE force 2 Overcast becoming clear by 09:00

Shoveler 4
Golden Pover 180
Lapwing 306 (almost 2000 birds recorded past Hunstanton)
Snipe 10
Woodpigeon 1
Skylark 110
Meadow Pipit 35
Pied Wagtail 5
Grey Wagtail 3
Dunnock 4
Song Thrush 12
Redwing 231
Mistle Thrush 16
Fieldfare 314
Starling 4,213
Chaffinch 3,249
Brambling 240
Linnet 30
Redpoll 21
Goldfinch 25
Greenfinch 389
Siskin 6
Reed Bunting 12
Yellowhammer 23

A party of five Whooper Swans flew North towards Heacham and a ringtail Hen Harrier was seen hunting the scrub behind the sea defence, whilst a sizable female Merlin was only my third sighting of the year, and a much needed patch year tick!

The walk to Burnham Overy dunes started off well, with a Yellow-browed Warbler moving through the Sueda bushes beside the coastal path and disappearing off inland, followed by a second bird in one of the clumps of Spindle bushes just to the east of the boardwalk. Two Lapland Buntings and a couple of Crossbills passed overhead, along with regular groups of Chaffinch and Siskin, that had continued moving west along the coast throughout the day, though grounded migrants were almost non existent. A Short eared Owl was hunting the fields opposite the pines at the end of Lady Anne's drive, where I abandoned my decision to carry on through to Wells and continued along the drive to the main road where I caught the coasthopper back to Hunstanton. Wrong decision.... If I had stuck with my vague origional plan I would have been within less than five miles of the Rufous-tailed Robin when the news broke, instead of travelling away from the bird in the opposite direction!

Sitting on the seafront at Hunstanton, it was clear that the mornings overhead passage had continued right through the day, with the odd few Skylarks, Chaffinches and Starlings still passing through. As the light began to fade, groups of Blackbirds lifted from the gardens behind the cliffs and climbed high into the sky, eventually leaving together to the south (42 birds in toal) whilst a flock of 5000 Starling darkened the skies to head south, just as we were coming out of Hunstanton to join the main road. One can only imagine the final totals that must have flown south through the Coastal Park that day...

Monday, 17 October 2011

October catch up

After the pain of missing it on the local patch, October began with a Wednesday morning trip to Boyton Marshes, where the Sandhill Crane had been present since Sunday afternoon, feeding in the open fields behind the sea wall. The 2nd individual in recent years after the 2009 bird on Orkney, which had ended the 18 year wait for British birders, after the previous Shetland bird back in 1991.

Sandhill Crane Boyton Marshes Suffolk

Initially feeding at long range, the bird flew in to the far side of the nearest field, where it remained for much if the morning, before flying to the grazing fields opposite the sea wall where the bottom two pictures were taken. A single Willow Emerald provided an added bonus, resting in one of the Alder trees behind the standing crowd.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Weekend highlights

Sunday morning saw me doing another visible migration watch from the Coastal Park (07:15 - 10:30) with an initially slow start, gradually picking up through the morning, before dropping off around 09:30, with very little moving in the last hour, except small numbers of Skylark and Chaffinch. Totals were as follows:

Grey Heron 1
Lapwing 23
Snipe 4
Skylark 85
Swallow 7
Meadow Pipit 65
Pied Wagtail 3
Grey Wagtail 3
Dunnock 6
Redwing 3
Mistle Thrush 2
Starling 231
House Sparrow 7
Chaffinch 308
Brambing 3
Linnet 111
Redpoll 2
Goldfinch 19
Greenfinch 25
Siskin 9
Reed Bunting 17
Yellowhammer 11

A Whinchat, in the bushes below the inner bank, was a most welcome patch year tick (my 1st since 20th August!) where the three hour watch produced a respectable "big sit" total of 62 species. The warm weather produced a good selection of moths with 8 new species for the trap, pushing the years total to a respectable 235 (all macros) including Dusky-lemon Sallow, and a couple of very smart Merveille du Jours.

Barred Sallow

Blair's Shoulder-knot

Merveille du Jour

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The one that got away...

With the weather remaining unseasonably hot, Saturday mornings ringing session was packed in early, with the first nets being taken down around 10:45, allowing us to leave the Coastal Park before 12:00, at least an hour earlier than normal. The decision to operate with fewer nets (9 rather than the normal 16) proved a wise decision, with the mornings total a meagre 20 birds, more than half of which were in the first net round. Having booked onto the Eccles ringing course this coming weekend (Oct 7th-10th) it was off to Ingoldisthorpe, just a couple of miles inland from Snettisham, where I stayed until gone 14:00 to practice data entry on IMPR with my ringing trainer. Once back at the bungalow, I contemplated a walk towards the direction of the reserve, but decided on a shorter route across the back of Ken Hill marsh, due to the afternoon heat.

You can therefore imagine my reaction to hearing the news, Monday morning, that the Sandhill Crane had been watched at Snettisham 13:00 Saturday afternoon, on the mud opposite the Coastal Park. Quite why the news from Rimac took 6 hours to emerge (lets wait till its dark... Cheers!) I have no idea, but its pretty safe to say that events would have created a very different picture. Any normal day and we would have still been in the Coastal Park when the bird was seen... though being just a few hundred yards away, knowing nothing about it, and missing it would have been even more devastating. Perhaps things turned out OK then?? Maybe if I keep telling myself that, then it wont be so bad....

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Watermark testing

Wheatear Snettisham RSPB

Snow Bunting Holme Dunes

Short-eared Owl Snettisham RSPB

Purple Sandpiper Dungeness Kent

Monday, 26 September 2011

Visible Migration

Ask any birder about there most memorable birding experience, and theres a fair chance it will involve migration of one kind or another. Seeing large flocks of Brent geese wintering on the Norfok coast may be a familiar site we almost take for granted, but to see these birds on migration, moving past the south coast on calm spring days, adds a whole new element of exitement. As it would turn out, my most memorable days at Dungeness have not been those involving rarities or twitches, as you might expect, but the days of seabird passage, when flocks of Terns and Little Gulls, mixed groups of wildfowl, and high flying lines of Whimbrels and Bar-tailed Godwits have all been passing offshore in large numbers.

As well as the falls of grounded migrants further along the coast, one of my personal highlights of the autumn is the visible migration of passerines, moving south through Snettisham Coastal Park. As the place is deserted by birders during the autumn, it is very rare that I see anyone else there during a morning watch, other than the occasional dog walker. With Saturday taken up by social duties, a sunday morning watch, from 07:00 till 08:30 managed to produce the following (all flying south)

Golden Plover 10
Lapwing 32
Snipe 5
Collared Dove 4
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Sand Martin 2
Swallow 24
Meadow pipit 80
Pied Wagtail 10
Dunnock 4
Starling 13
Tree Sparrow 6
Chaffinch 43
Linnet 35
Redpoll 4
Goldfinch 8
Greenfinch 65
Yellowhammer 5
Reed Bunting 8

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Grafham double

A return visit to Grafham water was rewarded with excellent views of both the adult Sabine's Gull and the two Grey Phalaropes, which were feeding together off of the dam, sometimes all three in the same telescope view!

Grey Phalarope Always exiting to see, no matter how many times you see them.

Adult Sabines Gull My 1st inland Sabs, and only my second adult, following the summering bird at Lowestoft in 2003.

The bird originally started off, feeding in the bays at the NW corner of Marlow car park, where it spent a lot of time on the wing, dropping down to feed in typical Tern like fashion, passing to within a few feet of the shoreline. Once at the dam, it spent most of its time sat on the water, picking food off of the surface, just out from the breaking waves, but also came in to rest and preen on the dam wall, above the shoreline. An adult Arctic Tern (my first ever inland bird!) made regular close range circuits, and a Peregrine was seen over the surrounding fields.

Little Bittern

Little Bittern Titchwell Norfolk

Although generally elusive, a bit of luck and patience was eventually rewarded with some very close and prolonged views, on the edge of the 1st reedbed pool, where the above images were taken. Difficult to get any pictures through the scope, due to the high viewing angle on the bank and tightly packed crowds, but enough room to stand and get excellent views, just with the bins. The bird is just about visible in the lower image, sat on a floating bulrush stem at the base of the reeds, where it sat in the open fishing, for several minutes.

The juvenile Buff breasted Sandpiper showed well, in the company of a single Ruff and Dunlin on the Brackish marsh, and a Juvenile Red Kite gave some impressively close views, flying low over the grazing fields and circling overhead above the main reedbed.