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....