Thursday, 25 August 2011

Burnham Overy Dunes

With the wind turning to the East Monday afternoon, I made the decision to travel back up from Bedford Tuesday morning, to make the most of the promising weather conditions, by spending the afternoon walking Burnham Overy Dunes, at the western end of Holkham pines. The rain had eased off by the time I had reached Gun Hill, and though it wasn't anything like as bad as I was expecting, it quickly became apparent, that the fall of common migrants which I had hoped for, had failed to materialise. A male Redstart, in the privet bushes around the small red brick tower at the far western end of the dunes, gave a welcome boost of confidence, but proved to be short lived, when a further search of the dunes revealed little more than a couple of Lesser, and a handful of Common Whitethroat. A return visit to Gun Hill found a second Redstart and at least one Garden Warbler, in the Elder and Privet Scrub, below the tallest dunes (an area that had been devoid of birds first time around) before having to make a retreat, back along the coastal path to Burnham Overy town.

Despite the conditions, I never saw another birder, during the 5 hours that I spent in the dunes, something that was even more surprising, given the afternoon arrival of migrants, further along the coast. What more incentive do people need, to get them out in the field?! It would be easy to think that this was a wasted journey, but to demonstrate otherwise, I shall offer up my own positive outlook, on the days events...

Picture the scene... Stuck at home in Bedford looking at the computer... Greenish Warbler, Wryneck and Red backed Shrike on Blakeney Point. Wrynecks at East Hills and Gramborough Hill (2), Icterine Warblers at Wazham and Minsmere.... What could I have found if I had gone to Burnham Overy?! The fact that it proved to be an ultimate disappointment can be forgottton with one simple reassurance... I wasnt stuck with the gnawing though of "what if?"

Monday, 22 August 2011

White-winged Black Tern

Juvenile White-winged Black Tern Grafham Water

Resting on the pontoon opposite the fishing shop, with five Black Terns. Note the contrast between both the dark mantle and scapulars, and the paler grey wing coverts, as well as the shorter, blunter bill. The white on the head extends further behind and above the eye, creating a narrower dark band on the nape, as can be seen in the 4th picture. The short bill and rounder head manage to give a dainty, almost little Gull like appearance, which can be seen just as well in flight.

Juvenile Black Tern for comparison

Friday morning was spent exploring Burnham Overy Dunes, with little reward, though an elusive Wryneck seen by Penny Clarke, in the bushes around Gun Hill, provide some sort of hope, that the planned, afternoon walk out to East Hills may be worthwile after all... As it turned out, migrants were non existent (1 Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whiethroat, 1 Robin) with the highlights being a flyover Red Kite and a couple of Dark-green Fritillary. Better luck next time.

The first Whinchat appeared at Holme, Sunday 21st (only my 2nd of the year) with a male Redstart in the Coastal Park Monday morning, and a flyover Wood Sandpiper, there on the Saturday, bringing the Patch year list to a respectable 175 (all self found!)

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Sandpiper Double

Juvenile Montagu's Harrier North Norfolk

After an absence of six days, I managed to refind the White-rumped Sandpiper on the Saturday evening, feeding on the rising tide at the southern end of the reserve. Maybe not that much of a surprise in itself, given the drop off in observers looking, I didnt expect to find a second bird feeding beside it, amongst the same flock of Dunlin! Both adults, it was interesting to note the clear size difference between the two birds (male and female?) A glorious evening, with an excellent support cast of waders, including three Little Stint, one adult Curlew Sandpiper, three Ruff (an uncommon bird at Snettisham) 14 Common Sandpipers, and at least 400 Ringed Plover, all tucked into the one corner of remaining mud. Both were seen again on the next days evening tide, with one bird remaining untill at least the following Wednesday.

The first Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper of the autumn showed up on the 14th and two Juvenile Peregrine were seen together, hunting over the saltmarsh, whilst the garden moth trap year list, eventually broke over the 200 barrier.

Burnished Brass

Oak Bush-cricket

The aptly named Speckled Bush-cricket (enlarge the image to see why!)

An added bonus from the moth trap

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

5th-8th August

Little Terns Snettisham RSPB

A new reserve record count, with a total of at least 142 birds, roosting, and fishing over the pits at high tide. Judging from the proportion of Juveniles present (maybe as many as two thirds of the total figure) it would appear that some have managed a decent breeding season!

An adult Black Tern was also seen Friday morning, fishing offshore, along with a group of three drake Scaup, whilst a ringtail Hen Harrier, hunting over the saltmarsh, Sunday morning, was another early arrival. The White-rumped Sandpiper showed well on the Friday, appearing on the mud behind the second hide, before moving to the edge of the saltmarsh in front of the benches, where it was eventually pushed off, into the pits, by the rising tide.

White-rumped Sandpiper Snettisham RSPB

A Pearly Underwing, was a quality catch from the moth trap Saturday night, pushing the macro total to just under 200 for the season. See the moth page for a selection of other recent images.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Pictures from the weekend

Knot Snettisham RSPB

Just a taster of the amazing patterns, that these birds can create. A magical sight in the early morning sun.

Broad-leaved Helleborine Holme

Not the easiest of plants to photograph, due to its habit of growing in well shaded areas

Southern Hawkers Holme (female top, male bottom)

Making the most of the warm sunshine

Monday, 1 August 2011

Purple Patch!

The start of a remarkable week began on Thursday 26th July, when a routine walk into town via Bedford Park, came up with an out of the blue, double whammy of quality inland migrants. Having not seen any Spotted Flycatchers in the park since the start of May, when a single bird was feeding in the trees around the lake, it was something of an unexpected treat to confirm successful breeding, with at least one youngster present alongside both adults, in a small block of trees close to the bandstand. Watching the adults, feeding from a large Corsican Pine on the edge of the trees, I suddenly realised that they had been joined by a Pied Flycatcher, sat on one of the branches close to main trunk! A county tick, and an excellent bird so close to home.

With time pushing on, I carried on into town, but returned to the park half an hour later, where the Spotted Flycatchers where now showing well with three youngsters. After another brief view of the Pied Flycatcher, I noticed a single Phyllosc feeding in the small Oak tree, part way along the path through the trees. Assuming it to be a Willow Warbler, it emerged from behind the leaves, where I could scarcely believe what I was seeing. After watching for a few minutes (just to be sure that I hadn't made an obvious mistake) I was able to ring Steve Blain (county recorder) to let him know that there was both a Pied Flycatcher and a Wood Warbler, in the same patch of trees in Bedford Park!! An amazing double occurrence, and probably the first time that these two species have been seen together in the county at the same site! Both birds remained in the same area throughout the day, though could often be elusive, with some people seeing either the Flycatcher and not the Warbler, or the Warbler but not the Flycatcher.

After countless hours of looking through waders at Snettisham, I was finally able to add a self found scarce wader to my patch list, when I found a Pectoral Sandpiper, during the evening high tide on Thursday 28th. My second record at Snettisham, following two long staying birds during the autumn of 2004, and a welcome self found tick. Two days later, and my good fortune (as it would turn out) was to continue, although the morning high tide of Sunday 31st, was a day more of frustration rather than joy, despite the morning producing four Curlew Sandpipers, the adult Little Stint, and a Juvenile Spoonbill.

Sitting by the benches behind the second hide, I clapped eyes on a single wader, flying across the mud, which then dropped down amongst a large mixed flock of Knot and Dunlin, and disappeared from view. Although views were relatively brief, I was convinced that it had to be a White-rumped Sandpiper. There was no doubt that it did have a white rump, and I was almost certain that it wasn't just a Curlew Sandpiper. With the tide falling away, birds were steadily moving further out into the wash, but despite scanning as many Dunlin as I could scan, and returning in the afternoon for the evening tide I couldn't relocate the bird. Convinced that it had flown out from the pits, I returned the following morning, and was amazed to find it feeding with Dunlin, on the mud just the other side of the channel, opposite the wooden jetty. After watching it on the mud for about an hour it disappeared from sight, but relocated it on the pits, were it remained on the islands in front of the far hide until at least 09:00.

Note the slimmer bodied appearance, with the longer wings and more attenuated rear end, when compared against the Dunlin on the right.

Adult White-rumped Sandpiper Snettisham RSPB

A strikingly grey bird, particularly on the head, with a prominent supercillium, light breast streaking, and obvious white edges to the dark scapulars. An excellent patch tick, and my second "self found" bird, following a juvenile at Titchwell in 2005.