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