Friday, 19 October 2012


Convolvulous Hawk-moth Strumpshaw RSPB

An unexpected surprise, found upside down on the path next to the railway line!

Other highlights from the reserve included a peak count of 25 Willow Emeralds (Norfolk record?) the lingering juvenile Osprey, several large parties of Bearded Tits (50+) and almost daily Otter sightings. The Baillons Crake put in a brief showing at Rainham Marshes and the Short billed Dowitcher gave obliging views at Lodmoor.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

22nd/23rd September

One of few weekends, where the weather was looking promising enough to encourage me to escape from the broads and head back up to the coast, was something of a mixed bag. Several good birds, but not the fall of common migrants that I had hoped for.   

Saturday started off with a Yellow-browed Warbler in the hand at Holme, accompanied by the Red-breasted Flycatcher performing in the nearby Sycamore.... unfortunately none of the 60+ observers staring into said tree, heard the Little Bunting which flew out behind them calling! After seeing it perched in the Brambles along the East bank and legging it back to the Obs, the bird had (off course) disappeared. A newly arrived Redstart, in the dunes towards Thornham Channel, proved to be something of a short lived hope than an afternoon arrival of migrants might have been on the cards, with a thorough search of the dunes yielding little more than a single Fieldfare and a flyover group of seven Brambling.

After a bonus Hawfinch, outside the bungalow at Snettisham, Sunday morning was spend in Burnham Ovary dunes, where after about two hours I had seen two, yes TWO, other birders. Either everybody else knew it would be rubbish, which it for some reason was (migrants at Gun Hill being represented by a sole Robin) or they were all at Holme looking at the Red-breasted Flycatcher! Good job that somebody else found a Booted Warbler next to the path on the way down. After a stop at Warham Greens to admire the male Red-breasted Flycatcher, the increasingly persistent rain called for a premature end to the day and a retreat back to Norwich for some much needed (and thoroughly enjoyable) steak and ale pie.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The last six months...

Having spent the spring and summer at Titchwell I am now residing at Strumpshaw, as of late August, where I am spending another six months for the 2nd half of my RSPB internship.

Despite spending most days around the reserve, Titchwell failed to deliver a decent find (the reserves first confirmed Otter record in over 30 years turning out to be by far the most notable record!) with the best offerings being an offshore Black-necked Grebe, three Ospreys, a Roseate Tern and a Hawfinch. A moulting adult Black Guillemot was probably the best bird, with other highlights being three Cranes, a June Temminck's Stint, a spring male Pied Flycatcher and the wintering Arctic Redpoll. The Sheringham Alpine Swift and Cley Pacific Golden Plover were the best Norfolk birds from elsewhere (NW Norfolk having a virtually rarity free spring) with nearly all of the best birds being found further East along the Coast towards Cley.

A Black necked Grebe was a Snettisham Patch tick, where I finally managed to see a spring Garganey on Ken Hill marsh, but failed to get over and see the Golden Oriole (It only stayed SIX days!!) A self found White rumped Sand became my 3rd for Snetts, though a Juvenile Purple Sandpiper, present on the same high tide, was perhaps more of a surprise! A Silver-washed Fritillary was an unexpected (but always hoped for) find in Ken Hill wood, where White Admiral numbers appear to be going from strength to strength.

A productive spring visit to Dungeness more than made up for last years poor timimg (everything happening as soon as I had left) with a spectacular arrival of common migrants, overshadowing the Crested Lark and Red-rumped Swallow that appeared on the same afternoon a few days later. After seeing a Wood Warbler in the hand, a walk around the moat found Nightingale, Whinchats, Wheatears, Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Garden Warblers, Blackcaps, Willows, Chiffchaffs, Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats and another Wood Warbler. By the end of the day, the vegetation around the entrance to the heligoland must have held in excess of 150 warblers (mostly Whitethroats) constantly darting back and forth over the vegation, hopping on the bare shingle and filling the thinnest of bramble bushes..... to quote one local birder "ive not seen a fall like this since 1973" Two White Stork were another Dungeness tick and the female Kentish Plover showed well at nearby Rye Harbour.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Spring is in the air

Avocets Snettisham RSPB Aways a special treat to see the first ones back, even if we will see them every day throughout the summer!

With several pairs of Black headed Gulls laying claim to their summer nesting islands and the first returning Avocets, flocking together on the pits, it was easy to imagine that summer was only just around the corner. After recent landscaping work, with two of the spits flattened and a new island placed in front of Shore hide, the nesting Gulls and Terns will hopefully make the most of the new habitat and breed in even higher numbers. A very small passage of southbound Corvids and Siskin made for the first signs of overhead migration, and a single Pale-bellied Brent Goose was the first of the winter period.

Tundra Bean Geese Ken Hill Marsh Six of 13 birds feeding with the Pink feet.

After my first record in January 2011, followed by the 2nd in Dec 2012 and the two birds last weekend, it seems hard to believe that I spent the first eight years around Snettisham not seeing a Bean Goose! Woodlarks were making the most of the warm sunshine, with two birds singing over the fields on the edge of Ken Hill Wood, and three Yellowhammers were singing from the surrounding hedges.

Grey Partridge Female

Grey Partridge Male One of five pairs seen around Ken Hill Sunday morning

Monday, 20 February 2012

Feb Half term

A mixed week of weather with bitterly cold temperatures and fresh snowfall resulting in a significant increase in the number of Woodcock, with three birds watched from the kitchen window feeding together in the field at the back of the garden, and a total of 72 birds seen coming out to feed on Ken hill Marsh on the evening of Friday 10th. Prior to last week I had been seeing a fairly consistent average of about 10 birds on each evening visit; much lower than the previous winter, when the heavy snow bought large numbers to the coast at the beginning of the year. In a similar pattern to last winter numbers started to drop, once the snow had begun to thaw, and more areas were opened up for feeding.

A foggy afternoon at Heacham South Beach

Lapwings making the most of the snow free footpath on top of the inner bank at Snettisham Coastal Park

An immature drake Smew, close inshore off of the RSPB reserve, was only my third Snettisham record, on a morning that was so cold (-16 overnight in Holbeach) that the feathers of sleeping Lapwings, Geese and Ducks were all coated in frost! Three Goosander flew south and a Ross's Goose was seen with the Pink Feet on Ken Hill Marsh, that afternoon.

Ross's Goose Ken Hill Marsh

An excellent seawatch off of the coastal park, on the morning of the 12th, produced a record count of Red-throated Divers, with the heavy fog resulting in a total of 115 birds moving North out of the Wash. A Great Northern Diver was only my third Snettisham record, and two Slavonian Grebes (my first multiple sighting) were a most welcome sight after only two previous, and rather distant, records. Backup was provided by Six Little Gull, two Razorbill, and 354 Common Scoter (North)

An equally productive seawatch off of Holme (14th) came up with three Great Northen Divers, two Slavonian Grebes, a single Red-necked Grebe, a close drake Scaup and at least one Long-tailed Duck, whilst a redhead Smew dropped into Broadwater late afternoon.

Tundra Bean Geese Two of Five, in fields East if Ringstead village

Tundra Bean Goose Ken Hill Marsh One of two birds

Only my 3rd and 4th Patch records, and the first that I have seen with the Pink feet on Ken Hill.... finally!

Other highlights from the week included 11 Hawfinch at lynford, feeding in the Alder trees on the edge of the lake, and the Titchwell Arctic Redpoll which showed well in the Alders around the Picnic area. A walk from Sedgeford to Holme produced 47 Corn Bunting (two flocks) and a Little Owl at Courtyard farm, as well as good numbers of Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge, and an abundance of singing Skylark. At least six Woodlark were still present around Ken Hill Wood, and a circular walk from Snettisham village to Sedgeford and back yielded a total of at least 65 Grey Partridge, mostly within a walking distance of not much more than half a mile.

Arctic Redpoll Titchwell Good views with the scope but terrible light conditions for any pictures

Woodlark Ken hill Wood Two birds were heard singing by the end of the week

Monday, 6 February 2012


Dark-eyed Junco Hawkhill Enclosure

A day out and about around the New Forest thanks to the generous company of Sharon O'Reilly who I first met on the October ringing course at Eccles, East Norfolk.

After a picturesque morning drive through the frost covered heaths, we arrived at Hawkhill enclosure, where after a relatively short wait, the Dark eyed Junco showed at close range feeding on the seed that had been put out that morning. An excellent support cast was provided by a flock of six Woodlark, numerous Crossbills, singing and displaying from the nearby pines, and a mixed herd of Sika Deer which crossed the path into the open clearing.

Spanish Sparrow Calshot

After failing to find the Sparrow mid morning we returned in the afternoon, where it was located along the main road opposite the entrance to Calshot Close, staying in the hedge untill at least 16:30, roosting on its own amongst a section of Ivy covered Hawthorn.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

From the archives

Long-eared Owl Dungeness

A recently fledged bird (feather down still visible on head) that I found amongst the open scrub on the eastern side of the Long pits, in early August 2008. Walking alongside one of the clumps of mature sallows, I had to stop myself in my tracks, when I glanced to my right and saw the bird sat on top of the low Blackthorn scrub not much more than 10 feet away!

After raising my bins and slowly creeping backwards, I was able to watch it, still at fairly close range, as it shuffled around on the tops of bushes and made short flights between the stands of willows.

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls Dungeness

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Strumpshaw Fen

A view from Fen Hide (Note the Black Swan on the left hand side of the picture)

A day out at Strumpshaw Fen for an RSPB internship interview, with the added bonus of what was only my second ever Otter sighting, seen swimming behind where the two Mute Swans can be seen in the above picture. After completing the circuit of the reserve (and getting rather muddy in the process...) I returned to spend a few more hours in the hide, with the best offering being a close fly past by a female Hen Harrier. Despite sticking it out untill dusk, the Starling roost failed to appear in any sizeable numbers, with just a couple of small flocks coming in over the main reedbed.

Sunday, 22 January 2012


A young bird which paid a brief visit, sat in the Beech trees at the back of the garden.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


Check out the Moths page for a selection of new images (239 Macros recorded from the Snettisham garden last year!)

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

January 14th -15th

Looking out from the inner bank across Ken Hill Marsh

A glorious weekend of light winds and largely clear skies, reminiscent of the early spring days that you hope for in February or March. Saturday was spent around Snettisham, with an early morning look at a calm sea producing six Red-throated Diver, five Eider, an adult Kittiwake, two Guillemot and a single Razorbill, with a group of four Bewick's Swan flying South overhead.

An afternoon exploration of Ken Hill Wood yielded two pairs of Nuthatch, at least five Treecreeper, three Marsh Tit, a single Woodcock, and a mixed flock of Goldfinch, Siskin, and Lesser Redpoll feeding in the Larch Trees close to the main road. Twelve Woodcock were seen late afternoon, coming out to feed, and at least 17 Bulfinch were recorded throughout the day.

Sunday morning started out at Snettisham, with at least 5 Grey Partridge heard calling in the half light on the way through to Hunstanton, where an adult Black-throated Diver, developing traces of striped breeding plumage along the flanks, gave excellent views from the cliffs feeding close inshore. A Red necked Grebe and an Egyptian Goose (!) flew south and three close Velvet Scoters flew North.

Black -throated Diver My 5th Norfolk record of the autumn/winter period!

Holkham produced decent views of both the Rough-legged Buzzard and four Shorelark, though the sea proved disappointingly quiet, despite the ideal viewing conditions, with just two Great Crested Grebes, three Red-breasted Mergansers and a single Eider on the sea, as well as the usual Scoter flock. A ringtail Hen Harrier was hunting the grazing fields to the East of the pines and 25 Barnacle Geese were seen in flight with at least 250 White fronts.

The Coues's Arctic Redpoll showed on arrival at Titchwell, feeding in the alders alongside the main path, and a Short eared Owl was perched on top of one of the roadside hedges between Chosely crossroads and Docking village on the way back to Snettisham.

A view from the sea wall at Burnham Ovary dunes looking back towards Holkham Park

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Buckenham Marshes

In contrast to the Snettisham bird, which spent all of its time hanging around with the local Greylags, the track record of the Yare Valley, and the birds choice of company (permanently attached to the flock of Taiga Bean Geese) gave the Buckenham Lesser White-fronted Goose as good a credentials as anyone could ask for. Its appearance last winter resulted in it becoming the first accepted British record since the Juvenile at Slimbridge in 2003.

Despite being present with a mixed flock of Taigas and White fronts when we arrived, the dips and hollows of the grazing marshes were enough to conceal the bird throughout the morning. Looking east from the track made viewing conditions somewhat challenging, with the choice of either viewing from nearest the railway line (closer to the birds but looking into the sun) or viewing from the car park at the end of the track (greater distance but viewing under better light) By mid day the sun had moved around enough to improve viewing conditions from the start of the track, where the Taigas had gradually come closer throughout the morning.

At Ranworth Broad, the female Ring-necked Duck showed well with the small flock of Pochards and Tufted Duck, before swimming out to the middle of the broad and flying off towards the main body of water. My first sighting of a female, having seen five different drakes. Arriving back at Buckenham the adult Lesser White-fronted Goose was showing on arrival, feeding with the Beans Geese close to the railway line. Not as close as it could have been, but still better views than a lot of people will have had, and near enough to make out most of the necessary features. Two Chinese Water Deer were running across the fields and a Bittern make a very brief flight appearance, whilst the skies were filled with flocks of swirling Lapwing and golden Plover, possible as a result of the two lingering Peregrines.

As the light bean to fade, several large flocks of Starling made their way across the grazing fields, heading towards the main reedbed at Strumpshaw RSPB, and the first waves of corvids appeared in the distance, heading for the fields behind the car park, where they would roost in the woodland opposite the church. After turning the field into a solid black mass, a second flock, numbering something close to 20,000 birds, appeared over the woodland, looking towards Strumpshaw Fen. With numbers now at their peak (70,000?) the birds from the fields began to lift, joining the flocks already swirling in tight clusters over the woodland, untill the fields were clear of birds, and the skies were turned black with crows.